Friday, July 30, 2021



Shadowghast, by Thomas Taylor, published by Walker Books US 

What is this book? Shadowghast is the third book in the Legends of Eerie-on-Sea series, and of course I haven't read the first three. But Taylor does a great job in letting newcomers like me in; I understand the setting and the relationships between the characters. There are references to previous books but just as backstory, and it's not given more weight than the backstory from before the series begins. There's a problem in that the professional magicians who are here to take over the local festival may have darker motives; the local amateurs are out of joint but don't see the same problems our young hero and his friend observe. But these dangers are alongside an emotional problem -- Herbert and Violet's friendship is tested because they each hope for different things -- if the magicians are good they may turn out to be connections to his lost past and family; if they are bad then Violet won't be left alone again. Are they seeing what they want to see, and are they betraying each other with their hopes? So the balance between physical and emotional stakes is well done. 

Who would read this book? This is a middle grade fantasy that has orphaned protagonists with a lot of agency. Herbert himself is not as clever as Violet, so the author has an excuse to explain a lot of things to the reader. So it would be good for kids twelve and under who like adventure stories. As an adult, I found Herbert's full time job a bit shocking, but as a kid it wouldn't have bothered me.

Who would I give it to? I will offer it to a 3rd or 4th grader at my local elementary school. I think it would do well for younger kids who read well.

How did I get it?

I received a copy of this book from the Candlewick Press in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021


It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
Oh no! I usually copy over my status posts from week to week, and somehow this week I forgot to copy and was just editing, so last week's (double) post is gone! I was so mad at myself when I noticed on Monday that I stomped away from my keyboard so this one will be late. 

Also in my stomping I managed to delete parts of this post as well, so I hope I remembered to put everything back. It's now Wednesday so I'd better hurry up and finish last week again if I'm going to. Humph.

Goodreads must have noticed I was sad because they gave me my favorite recommendation ever. I'm very slowly (decades long) reading a teacher manual on reading instruction even though I've never been a teacher. Goodreads noticed that I was reading this 20 year old textbook, and gave me this recommendation:


Because you are currently reading Reading and Learning to Read:

I guess teaching elementary students has aspects heretofore unknown to me! I can't wait to get to the appendixes of this textbook, which I now realize will probably involve naked dudes and maybe some chains!

Anyway, as I have recently typed and lost, I had fun on my birdwatching walk last weekend -- we saw green herons, many great blue herons, assorted ducks (at least 3 varieties), flickers, kingfishers, and some deer. I also wrote down what sort of binoculars I should try, and what I should put on my wish list for a Christmas present. 

When I got home from bird watching I had an online book club for Foolscap, and we discussed Absolution By Murder, and I got to scandalize the club by thinking maybe I'd jump ahead several books when I return to the series. We liked the setting, thought some bits hadn't aged well because our society has moved along in the past 20 years, and also discussed how different authors can draw from the same sparse information about the past and create very different societies when they write about the distant past. 

Earlier that week I had another online book club -- the monthly library Romance Series, this time focussing on Science Fiction Romances. We had fun talking about the line between a romance book with science fiction, and a science fiction book with romance, and how to combine the two in different ways and with different success rates. As usually I picked up a lot of good recommendations; the librarians always start us out with a good list, such as Science Fiction Romance. This is a group that did a good job moving from in-person to online. I'm not sure when the library will start having in person groups again, so I don't know how the transition back will go.

My mom sounds serious about maybe moving to be near her kids, so I did some apartment hunting for her, and some of them seemed likely prospects. I don't want to jinx anything, so I'm not saying much!

My son Alexander had to do some tough stuff this week, so I loaded the weekly menu with his favorites: Lentil stew, pesto lasagna, and homemade bread. I also snuck in a shrimp enchilada night, but he could munch on leftovers as he's not a bit shellfish fan. I am, so I'm glad my younger son was willing to make the extra dish (I made the bread). We've also filled the freezer with ice cream, which is always a good resource when you come down from some tense phone calls and meetings. 

I have been slacking on the laundry, which means that both my Cybils reading and my TV watching have suffered. I need to finish last year's Cybils finalists soon, as the new year is approaching!

I am currently reading 22 books, which almost fits on a single GoodReads page.  I'm still hitting my #bookaday summer target, even without picture books. It's a bit stretched because I read in many places, I'm double reading the Cybils, and I haven't been working out at the gym so I haven't been reading the books I've been meaning to finish any month now.

The Book Date does a weekly roundup of what people are reading, want to read, or have read each week called "It's Monday! What Are You Reading" and I'm going to go sign up. Ditto for the children's lit version at either Teach Mentor Texts or Unleashing Readers


Vampire Trinity (Vampire Queen, #6)From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding HomeDancing at the Pity PartyAbsolution by Murder (Sister Fidelma, #1)
Aurora Blazing (Consortium ...The City We Became (Great C...The Last DragonDramacon, Vol. 1

Vampire Trinity, Joey W. Hill. I received this as a SantaThing gift and I'm finally getting around to it, thanks to the GoodReads challenge: Read the 2nd book on your TBR pile that starts with the letter V.

From Scratch, Tembi Locke. My meal companion book.

Dancing At the Pity Party, Tyler Feder. Cybils finalist.

Absolution by Murder, Peter Tremayne. For Foolscap bookclub.

Aurora Blazing, Jessie Mihalik. Continuing a series.

The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin. Hugo finalist.

The Last Dragon, Silvana de Mari. Cybils finalist. 

Dramacon, Svetlana Chmakova. Part of a series a series. 


The Galaxy, and the Ground Within (Wayfarers, #4)When Stars Are ScatteredA Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction
Dancing at the Pity PartyShadowghastAbsolution by Murder (Sister Fidelma, #1)Dramacon, Vol. 1

The Galaxy and the Ground Within, Becky Chambers. This was a cosy book to read while eating a solitary lunch. This is the fourth in a loosely related sequence (I think one character is is the long-distance romantic partner of a character in the first book), but the commonality is that most people are decent, and that regular people often deal with problems by working together and communicating to find a solution. The fun part is that most of the people aren't human, so the cultural assumptions they have to deal with have real biological differences. One character can't breath the same air as the others, they all have to deal with various food affinities, and the differing grown rates means the definition of childhood can vary. It's a lot of fun and also basically heartwarming; the characters are stuck together because of a kind of traffic accident (and it is an accident and not sabotage) and they are strangers but rally together and provide support and reassurance for each other. Perfect companion for my meals.

When Stars Are Scattered, Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. 2020 Cybils Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novel finalist. Lovely and moving. The stubborn kindness and loyalty Omar shows to his little brother is beautiful and heartbreaking, and the tensions in the found families in the refugee camp is delicately drawn. They support and help each other, but there is also a zero sum competition for places in the school, for access to food and supplies, for chances at resettlement elsewhere. Can friendships survive one boy getting a chance at an interview for an American VISA? Or when that chance falls through but is extended to a different boy? It was also an interesting pair with the book A Thousand Darknesses, which is interested in the line between fiction and fact in a memoir, where a person's history is organized into literature. Events have to simplified, reorganized, or borrowed in order to make sense of what happened; truth is not as simple are a video of what happened. Omar's story is lovingly told and makes me feel I know the refugees.

A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction, Ruth Franklin. Sometimes I like reading books that could have started as someone's school thesis. This is a fascination exploration of what it means to create art about the Holocaust, what victims and survivors thought about this art, and what it means to be a "true story" about it -- where true and story seem to make that an oxymoron. Franklin looks both at specific authors (Weisel, Levy, etc) and the general idea of writing a memoir, novel, or story about events that may have happened to you or to people you knew or people you saw, and why it's hard to draw lines around memoir and story, and when that might matter or might not. She also has an interesting look at the children and descendants of survivors, and what their relationship to these stories might be, which had an interesting overlap with the generational trauma explored in works such as the Cybils finalist Displacement that I read a few weeks back. It's nice to stretch myself with literary analysis a bit.

Dancing At the Pity Party, Tyler Feder. 2020 Cybils YA Graphic Novel finalist. I really liked this. I read it as a mother to young adults, and I think that if I died in the next year or so it would be really hard on them, so reading about a young woman whose mom dies from a rapidly developing cancer was very powerful. I could appreciate the humor and grief that the family mixes, how the rituals of their faith help them but can't ever be enough, how happiness can sneak in and almost feel like a betrayal, how each sister handles their grief different, and how the bond between people who have lost a parent too young is something universal. I'm not sure I'd enjoy this book as much as a young adult thinking about (or experiences) this kind of loss, but from my older standpoint it was a moving experience. 

Shadowghast, Thomas Taylor. I like jumping into the middle of series, and this is #3 in the story of Herbert, the boy in charge of Lost Property at the hotel where he lives and works. The author does a good job of welcoming new readers -- I felt confident I understood the setting and the relationship between the characters; they mention some previous adventures but in a comfortable backstory kind of way. My only confusion was why Herbert had to work full time for a living -- the book felt vaguely modern enough for this to be a thing but there were no cell phones so maybe I was off by a hundred years or so. I liked the balance of danger, both in the sense that the danger was realistically kid-sized -- they were kidnapped and threatened but that's pretty much standard, and also the physical and emotional stakes were balanced -- sure they were lost in an underground maze and menaced by a mythical shadow creature, but equally important their friendship was under siege from conflicting desires -- was Herbert about to find a true family and leave his still orphaned friend behind, or was he blinded by the hope of a real connection and leaving himself vulnerable to nefarious influences? The pacing of these two kinds of concerns worked well, giving the book both emotional weight and lots of adventures.

I received an ARC from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Absolution by Murder, Peter Tremayne. For Foolscap bookclub.  I know Foolscap is a SF/Fantasy genre convention, but the book club reads what it wants. Also, I made a good case for all books set in the past, especially the distant past (600s definitely counts as distant) being fundamentally fantasy since the author has to invent the society and the people's understanding of themselves and their place in the universe. Comparing this world with that of Griffith's Hild, which both involve someone based on a historical figure (Hild/Hilda). This one has the fun flavor of how the Irish were better at almost everything -- laws, women, distaste for torture, bathing, and the English are losers! I think I would like to hang out more with Sister Fidelma in some later books. The conclusion did not age well -- this was written over twenty years ago so the author probably didn't notice that having the villain be a crazed and jealous lesbian is probably not a good way to introduce diversity. Yuck. But I think that's not a big part of the story, and the author is not really better at heterosexual attraction either. (The last sentence is an incredibly clumsy attempt at coy sexual tension -- the main character is given a chance to spend more time with the cute dude, and she muses to herself "I wonder why I'm so excited about this?" But since "this" was an opportunity to travel to Rome, something she would have been wildly excited about anyway, it is a bizarre thing to muse about.) So, a B- for the book, but it shows potential.

Dramacon Vol 1, Svetlana Chmakova. Finishing a series. I read volume 2 of these as a Cybils finalist, and I'm glad I started there. The protagonist, being younger, is a lot less mature in this one, so she was rather oblivious and annoying. I mean, her boyfriend was a jerk, as expected (that was mentioned a lot in the one I read) but she was as well. And then the bf moved beyond jerk to assaulter, which I had not gleaned from the later one, which was a bit of an oof. Also, there were even more stylizations that I assume are common manga things, with characters being drawn in odd cartoony ways that I think I was supposed to recognize as expression various emotions, but when I didn't get it I just felt like I was failing the translation. I'll probably eventually go pick up volume 3, but I'm not in a huge rush. 

Bookmarks Moved (Or Languished) In:

Black Leopard, Red WolfThe Pleasant Profession of Robert A. HeinleinThe Luminaries
The Bourne Supremacy (Jason Bourne, #2)The Wine-Dark Sea (Aubrey & Maturin #16)The Seven Sisters (The Seven Sisters, #1)
Sharks in the Time of SaviorsLast Night at the Telegraph ClubGardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1)

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James. Ancient Sword and Laser pick. Didn't touch it. 

The Pleasant Profession of Robert A Heinlein, Farah Mendelson. Hugo finalist. Made progress.  

The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton. Read some pages. It's my book to read while walking on a treadmill. Sadly, I have not gone to the gym at all this week.

The Bourne Supremacy, Robert Ludlum. Didn't touch it.

The Wine-Dark Sea, Patrick O'Brien. Didn't touch it.

Seven Sisters, Lucinda Riley. The library brought it back, but I pushed for another week.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors, Kawai Strong Washburn. A little progress.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club, Malinda Lo. A little progress.

Gardens of the Moon, Steven EriksonTuesday book club pick.

Picture Books / Short Stories:

Old Mikamba Had a FarmThe Inaccessibility of HeavenI Hate Reading: How to Read...I Hate Reading: How To Get Through 20 Minutes of Reading A Day Without Really Reading

Old Mikamba Had a Farm, Rachel Isadora. Cute picture book; I liked the illustrations (torn paper?). But this is a terrible farm -- Mikamba is going to starve! He doesn't have any domesticated animals, and I'm not seeing any signs that he lives on a safari camp type of place. 

"The Inaccessibility of Heaven," Aliette de Bodard. 2021 Hugo novelette finalist. Although I usually like de Bodards stuff, this didn't work for me. I never really liked the world building, and I found the protagonist rather whiny in her relationship, and distracted by concerns about her girlfriend while dealing with a gruesome mass murderer, which seems oddly inappropriate. 

I Hate Reading, Arthur Bacon & Henry Bacon (and probably their parents, at least their mom). I read two versions of this, both credited to two brothers who apparently wrote this while caravanning around the country with their parents so I assume being homeschooled. It's a great send up of the 20 minutes required reading beloved by schools across America. Even my bookwork kids disliked the idea of timing themselves; I remember bribing them with books to get them to do their reading. The first one is very simply illustrated, possibly by the mom, and I think it's my favorite version. The second has real illustrations but that left me not knowing these guys were brothers for a while. In either case, a charming book either for preschoolers or young readers whining about the 20 minute rule.

Palate Cleansers

These books I'm barely reading; lately I use them bribes to get me to deal with the mail. Hmm. I should get back to that. 

The Educated Child: A Parents Guide from Preschool Through Eighth GradeWool (Wool, #1)Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal, #1)
Under the Eye of the StormDates from HellReading and Learning to Read

The Educated Child, William Bennett. 

Wool, Hugh Howey. 

Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho. I sympathize with his good intentions, although she is definitely having more fun.

Under the Eye of the Storm, John Hersey. 

Dates From Hell, Kim Harrison & others.  

Reading and Learning to Read, Jo Anne Vaca. Individualizing reading instruction.

Reading Challenges
  1. Cybils 2020. Finish a graphic novel. Picked up a lot from the library. 
  2. Early Cybils: Started The Last Dragon
  3. Hugos 2021: Finished a novelette (big short stories) and some podcasts. 
  4. KCLS 10 To Try: 9/10. Planning to finish next month.
  5. Tacoma Extreme Reading Challenge. 45/55. Last week's Sunshine could count as Alternate History.
  6. Reading My Library. Haven't started my new book yet. 
  7. Where Am I Reading 2021: 26/51 states. No change.  11 Countries. 

Future Plans

I'm putting this at the end because I suspect it's complete fiction, but I feel I should attempt some structure.

I am reading: 
  • Book I own: Vampire Trinity Next: Ghost Talkers
  • Library Book: Theodore Goss short stories  Next: Kidlit book about camping.
  • Ebook I own:   Gardens of the Moon. Next: Profession of Heinlein.  
  • Library Ebook: Reckless Guide . Next: Bourne Supremacy
  • Book Club Book: Consider Phlebas Up Next: Bollywood Affair.
  • Tuesday Book Club Book: Gardens of the Moon. Next: I need to finish The Wind Dark Sea
  • Review Book: The Queer Principles of Kit Webb  Next: Back Home
  • Hugo Book: The Pleasant Profession of Robert A Heinlein. Next: Joanna Russ.
  • Rereading: None
  • Meal Companion: From Scratch
  • Audio: None  Next: I have a book on CD I'll start listening to if I ever catch up on my podcasts.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021


It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
Well, I didn't manage to post last week, and my only excuse is that was during the HEAT DOME OF DOOM, when temperatures around my house reached 109 and hung there. Luckily I built-in air conditioning, which I activated. Most summers I refuse to turn it on because it doesn't get that hot; this day I was determined to keep my house below 80 degrees (26 C or so).

The heat also delayed my bird watching clubs, although I managed to slip through several layers of notification and spent the morning looking for the rest of the club as well as the birds. I did see some birds though! After the worst of the heat was over, so Wednesday or so, my son and I went to the movies to see Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard, which was silly and so violent that it sorta came out the other side. We had extra fun because it was all free -- my Regal Card is active now, I had kept watching previews during the pandemic so I had a bunch of free points for my ticket, they were handing out free sodas, and the whole purpose of the visit was to get my free birthday popcorn (from 2020) before it expired. I still wear my masks inside when I go out in public, but I felt fairly safe in the theater. I think it will be a while before I go to any showings where I expect more than ten people to show up, though.

At home I've managed to watch another few Star Trek shows; I'm continuing to alternate Voyager and Deep Space Nine while folding laundry. And Wednesday after dinner we make a big batch of popcorn and watch Loki, which we are enjoying. 

I also did my own shopping inside the store once, since I had forgotten to order online for pickup. Our current rules are that vaccinated people don't have to wear masks, although I figure I might as well. I am baffled by the people I saw wearing their masks under their noses; do they still not know how it works? If they are being rebels, why not just skip the mask altogether? Anyway, I brought home food from the store and from the farmer's market, and my younger son cooked it, and we had delightful roasted tomato and chicken pasta, and lentil stew, and lemon gnocchi, and chicken burrito bowls made in the instapot. Which did not explode, which is always a bit of a relief. I made bread twice, mostly showing off. We had leftover tomatoes and feta, so I made a tomato salad which was great with the last of my bread on the 4th of July, which we spent at home with family. 

It was fun talking about Uprooted as our example of a fairy tale retelling at the Foolscap book club. I really liked it when it came out, so this was a reread for me, and I liked seeing how I could pick out how everything was set up. We talked about how even without knowing the story it's based on it still felt like a fairy tale, and what that meant, and what worked as myth and what worked as character, and where those worked together vs where those clashed. I look forward to next months discussion of fantasy historical mystery. 

This week is my in-person book club, but we have some immuno-wary people so it might still be virtual, but we are reading Robin McKinley's Sunshine, which is a great excuse to reread it. Again. I need to get some chocolate for the meeting. 

On a more somber note, my mom finally got an explanation for the pain she's been having, and it's rather scary news but means that they can start treating it. But it also means she will need some support for the next few months, so all us kids will be going to stay with here and help with doctor's appointments and stuff. My turn will probably be either the end of July or the end of August, but we are waiting to see more information before signing up for slots. The youngest brother flew out immediately so he's there now.

I am currently reading 23 books, which seems a bit of a lot but doesn't reflect that I'm about to start about four more. It's down from last week though. I'm still hitting my #bookaday summer target, even without picture books. 

The Book Date does a weekly roundup of what people are reading, want to read, or have read each week called "It's Monday! What Are You Reading" and I'm going to go sign up. Ditto for the children's lit version at either Teach Mentor Texts or Unleashing Readers


UprootedOne Perfect Kiss (Hope, #8)The Art of Growing Up: Simple Ways to Be Yourself at LastShow Me a Sign
Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries, #5)The Last Council (Amulet, #4)Encyclopedia Brown Carries On (Encyclopedia Brown, #14)A Handful of Earth, a Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (The Singing Hills Cycle, #2)America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United StatesThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRueEmiko Superstar
How to Raise an Honest Rabbit (Granby Knitting, #2)Curse of the Night Witch (Emblem Island, #1)Yang the Youngest and his Terrible Ear (The Yang Family, #1)Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2)

Uprooted, Naomi Novik. Reread, for Foolscap book club.

The Art of Growing Up, Veronique Vienne. A book from my shelves that I've been lugging around for decades.

One Perfect Kiss, Jaci Burton. From library grab bag. My new dinner table book. 

Show Me a Sign, Ann Clare LeZotte. Cybils finalist.

Network Effect, Martha Wells. This will complete my audio reread, in chronological order.

The Last Council (Amulet 4), Kazu Kibuishi. I'm working my way through the series.

Encyclopedia Brown Carries On, Donald J. Sobol. Going for #bookaday means reading a lot of the thin books from my to-read bookcase.

Handful of Earth, Handful of Sky, Lynell George. Hugo finalist. 

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When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, Nghi Vo. For Tuesday Minecraft book club.

America For Americans, Erika Lee. For Torches & Pitchforks book club.

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue, V.E. Schwab. For Cloudy book club.

Emiko Superstar, Mariko Tamaki. Cybils finalist. 

How to Raise a Honest Rabbit, Amy Lane. Reread. 

Curse of the Night Witch, Alex Aster. Cybils finalist. 

Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear, Lensey Namioka. Recommended by my elementary book club.

Artificial Condition, Martha Wells. My read-aloud club is doing this.


The Art of Growing Up: Simple Ways to Be Yourself at LastPaladin of Souls (World of the Five Gods, #2)Paladin's Strength (The Saint of Steel, #2)
The Last Council (Amulet, #4)UprootedEncyclopedia Brown Carries On (Encyclopedia Brown, #14)A Handful of Earth, a Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (The Singing Hills Cycle, #2)Show Me a SignThree ShadowsThe Girl Who Drank the Moon
Yang the Youngest and his Terrible Ear (The Yang Family, #1)Murder Must Advertise  (Lord Peter Wimsey, #8)America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States
Emiko SuperstarAll Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)The Invisible Life of Addie LaRueThe Whim of the Dragon

The Art of Growing Up, Veronique Vienne. This is a small book of essays and photographs that extol the worth of growing into confidence in oneself, to enjoy both the comforts of maturity and to resist the limitations of the elderly. The idea is to embrace joy and beauty, and try to walk away from self-consciousness or limitations based on fear. The black and white photos show people being fully themselves, whether making tea or chatting with colleagues or wearing a hat. It's a very New York feel for me; I can see how my New York based aunt really exemplified what they are going for. I've grown in a less sophisticated way, but by the time I read it I've achieve most of what they are going for -- I'm comfortable with who am I, and don't change automatically when faced with other opinions. So I could read this with a faint smugness rather than as a road to travel. If I had read this when I acquired this, lo these many decades ago, maybe I would have gotten here more quickly! Or maybe I would have tried to get there by imitating, which would have actually delayed my path.

Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold. The Five Gods books do an excellent job of looking at how religion works, given a prism of reliable miracles. Of course, a few hundred years ago, Christians also thought that there were reliable miracles (I mean, some do even now), so this is not really an esoteric thought experiment. And Bujold has a deep understanding of characters, so in this one we see this through an intricate problem for Ista and the others to work through, with the characters and their actions in the front, and the beauty is in seeing them wrestle with and adapt and change as they learn and experience the world, and that casts light on the ideas and morals themselves. It's good to read a book that works on so many levels, and I really like audio books now for these kind of rereads. I also like seeing glimpses of myself in the past, as I remember how the book affected me back then, and how that differs or informs how I read it now.

Paladin's Strength, 
T. Kingfisher. Well, I corrected the title. This was, of course, a lot of fun, with two idiots falling in love, being awesome, being clueless, and saving the day for a lot of people. I didn't like it quite as much as the first Paladin book in the series, but that is a really high bar. In this case, Istvan's wobbling about whether to proposition a nun ran on a bit long, especially at his age. I could respect her qualms about him, because she did bite a man's head off in front of him, and that is often not sexy, and when it is sexy, that in itself might be disturbing. It was fun to read two books with central religious content side by side, with two fantasy religions that the characters take deeply seriously but in a way that feels authentic to how people today would handle things. I will keep supporting Kingfisher and enjoying everything she tosses over the publishing wall. 

The Last Council (Amulet 4), Kazu Kibuishi. Action sequences are still hard for me, as is remembering which character is which. This is not usually a problem here, since even I can tell a fox from a robot, but there's an extended sequence where a bunch of human kids deal with a problem, and a lot of the tension was because one of them wasn't trusted, but it was a bit hard to follow since I couldn't reliably pick out the baddie. But I am enjoying the art work and I like most of the characters, so I will keep working on this series and someday I will be a proficient graphic novel reader. 

Uprooted, Naomi Novik. Reread, for Foolscap book club. The first time I read this I was furious that it was a romance, because I didn't like their dynamic at all and I was creeped out by the teacher/student and other power dynamics. This time that didn't bother me as much; I saw more of how she wasn't caught in the hierarchies and also how his actions were not nearly as annoying as his speech. I also really enjoyed how much everything came together, that even what seemed like unimportant diversions actually were part of the whole story, but without a feeling of a puzzle. Some members of the book club found the beginning a bit slow, especially since it's not clear how much of that will be important, and some people who pay closer attention to things found a few inconsistencies in the spells. But overall I still love this book.

Encyclopedia Brown Carries On, Donald J. Sobol. I like the endless feel of these. Summers come and go, but Encyclopedia is still ten, Bugs Meany is a bit older, and petty crime is easy to stop. These are a bit stretched -- one rests on knowing the length of a dollar in inches, one on knowing the letters that relate to numbers on a phone, and I have purged that from my memory. Also, I got distracted in one by the idea that fat pigs can't swim. I think they would swim more slowly, but they wouldn't sink, would they?

Handful of Earth, Handful of Sky, Lynell George. Hugo Related Works finalist. This is a biography based on the boxes of documents Octavia Butler left to a museum, lovingly poured over. They include journals so that we see her ruthless ambition as well as her despair and dogged determination alongside worried looks at bills and rent; we see her plans for stories as well as her plans for managing her mental health. There are also smaller bits of evidence; receipts and travel documents and library cards, showing the importance of other books and other people. She talks about the tension between being a Black author and being an author, of being the only Black person in many spaces but having even more to say than just Black testimony. Everything she wrote was from herself, so even the parts about aliens were part of that. 

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When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, Nghi Vo. For Tuesday Minecraft book club. This was a free download from the book club, and we all enjoyed it. We did discuss how we liked reading it, but didn't approve of all the characters -- the tigers were very murderous, which our club generally disapproves of, and they also eat people, which most of our club frowns upon. But the stories-inside-the-story were well done, and the people were clever and the world interesting, from the tigers to the mammoths and the professional story wrangler. So I'm looking forward to other books by this author -- I think there is another novella that is on the current Hugo ballot. 

Show Me a Sign, Ann Clare LeZotte. 2020 Cybils Middle Grade finalist. This was a really interesting book, and I learned about a fascinating language called Martha's Vineyard that existed as the common language of a town with a high percentage of deaf people. Apparently this language was a significant ancestor of ASL and the last fluent signer died in the 1950s. The book didn't quite work as a novel for me; the main character had that feel of a modern kid transported to the past -- she was careful to align herself with all our modern opinions on Native Americans, slavery, social justice, etc. in a way that felt a bit more like ticking off checkboxes rather than natural disclosure. The story itself also felt a bit staged, with the plot working more to show off what we needed to know about Deafness in the early 1800s, which was fun but not what I want in a book. Less practiced kids probably don't have the same qualms about anachronistic protagonists, and the sign language stuff was great. 

Three Shadows, Cyril Pedrosa. 2008 Cybils Young Adult Graphic Novel finalist. OK, I'm always going to struggle to enjoy a book about the death of a child, and the better the book is the less I'm going to like it. This book does a lot of really interesting things with the art and the plot to show a family dealing with the impossible, but with metaphor and fantasy elements. If I hadn't been dragging my mental feet and refusing to engage with the idea of losing a young child I would have been willing to be impressed with the delicate handling of the theme, with enough action and a success as a bad guy is eliminated. But it will be a few more years before I can handle the idea of seeing the death of your young son and being unable to avert it no matter how hard you try. Ouch. So, great book, but not for me.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill. For 4/5 grade book club. I forget what my excellent excuse was, but I did not finish my reread before the book club. I skipped to the end so I would know what had happened, but this is a rich book and the journey matters. I still like it a lot, as the the book club. We talked about all sorts of details, and I really like how it challenges kids to think not only about the child's perspective, but the parents, and the community, and how people can try to do the right thing but mess it up, or how people can try to do really bad things but sell them as good things. It's about poetry, and beauty, and lies, and love. A really good children's book.

Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear, Lensey Namioka. This is the kind of book I devoured in my youth, by which I mean between 6 and 36. A nice kid, with a good family, has problems, and mostly resolves them as everyone he cares about tries their best but often has conflicting goals and methods. The Yangs are immigrants, and they face some racist pushback, but they aren't afraid of it, and the people making assumptions tend to learn better. Friendships are made, kids get a bit more agency, but family is still respected and authority remains trusted and benevolent. Good stuff, I say complacently, since I'm that authority now. 

Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy L. Sayers. Read-aloud book. I really liked the cricket scene, which had me convinced that the person reading understood cricket (this was not actually true). We have a core team of three who took turns reading, and they all brought good stuff to the story, and then there'd be a few great comments before we all had to get back to work. I really like Peter Wimsey stories, and I hope we read a few more. I admit I didn't pay much attention to the mystery, just to the interactions of the people. My dad worked in advertising, so that part is jam to me.

America For Americans, Erika Lee. For Torches & Pitchforks book club. This is a book about the history of xenophobia in America, and shows how it's been imbedded in our culture since before we were a country. Nothing was really new to me, but it's still powerful to see how it's all laid out, along with a throughline on how whiteness was defined to include "us" but not "them", whether "them" meant Germans, the Irish, Italians, or Arabs. Or Native Americans, Blacks, or Hispanics. The final chapters look at the anti-immigrant policies of the Obama administration, which echoed the sudden outpouring of xenophobic and racist cries from the Trump campaign and presidency, and how, as in the past, how little logic or facts lay behind the anti-immigrant complaints.

Emiko Superstar, Mariko Tamaki. 2008 Cybils Young Adult Graphic Novel finalist. I'm such a wimp! I cringe when I see teens doing stuff that could end up terribly, or that I know they'll regret. So this was a tough reed for me, as Emiko takes some shady detours on her path to taking on agency in terms of what she was to do and become. She learns a lot, and it feels very true, and this was a really neat combination of pictures and text. 

Murderbot series, Martha Wells. I finished the audio of Network Effect, which completes my audio reread of the entire series. I enjoyed the narrator, and I find that my inner voice of ART has shifted to match his reading a bit more. Somehow some of the action scenes in this last one finally made sense to me when someone else read them to me, which was a bit surprising. I'm not one really to pay enough attention. I enjoyed watching Murderbot win Amena's trust, and the ending was great with the interactions of both crew. And all the relationship advice from Murderbot's friends. 

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue, V.E. Schwab. For Cloudy book club. I finished all three books for the Saturday Triple Book Club! This one with almost thirty minutes to spare! I liked the idea behind Addie's curse, and how she learnt to deal with it, especially in the early years, and I liked how she and Henry fitted together, and I especially liked how she worked her final bargain. I enjoyed how it wasn't really a romance -- there wasn't a HEA, but that love and trust played a big part. One club member mentioned that she thought Henry was a little dull, and she was on Team Darkness, and I countered that I was on Team Sleep With All the Artists, because I'm kind of a cynic about love. I found the timelines a bit hard to follow, but mostly because I was too lazy to read the chapter titles and then would have to go back to look at them a few times. Oh, I thought there were echoes of Seanan McGuire in a lot of the themes, which isn't something I've noticed in Schwab's books before, but that is definitely a complement. 

The Whim of the Dragon, Pamela Dean. Read-aloud book. I read these decades ago, and really enjoyed having them read to me by a friend of Pamela Dean's, and someone who also really likes them. It's fascinating to me how well I remember the feel of the books even while I've forgotten almost every plot point. A few things I remember haven't happened yet; clearly I read the other book set in this world. I like how Dean takes all the kids seriously, and how we see both their childishness and their capacity for greatness. And I expected the turn at the end to feel much more shocking to me-the-adult, but instead I love it even more. Great books, and I hope we keep reading her work aloud.

Bookmarks Moved (Or Languished) In:

Uncompromising Honor (Honor Harrington, #14)Black Leopard, Red WolfThe Pleasant Profession of Robert A. HeinleinThe Luminaries
The Bourne Supremacy (Jason Bourne, #2)The Wine-Dark Sea (Aubrey & Maturin #16)An Extraordinary Union (The Loyal League, #1)The Seven Sisters (The Seven Sisters, #1)
Sharks in the Time of SaviorsThe Lost OrphanLast Night at the Telegraph ClubThe Secrets of Star Whales

Uncompromising Honor 70-72/??, David Weber. Baen Free Radio Hour's serial. Since I finished Network Effect I got back to this.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James. Ancient Sword and Laser pick. Didn't touch it. 

The Pleasant Profession of Robert A Heinlein, Farah Mendelson. Hugo finalist. Didn't touch it.

The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton. Read some pages. It's my book to read while walking on a treadmill. Sadly, I have not gone to the gym at all this week.

The Bourne Supremacy, Robert Ludlum. Didn't touch it.

The Wine-Dark Sea, Patrick O'Brien. Didn't touch it.

An Extraordinary Union, Alyssa Cole. Didn't touch it.

Seven Sisters, Lucinda Riley. The library brought it back, but I pushed for another week.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors, Kawai Strong Washburn. A little progress.

The Lost Orphan, Stacey Halls. A little progress.

Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells. Got the last one on this audio reread.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club, Malinda Lo. A little progress. 

The Secrets of Star Whales, Rebecca Thorne. A gift from LibraryThing. Timeliness is a lost cause. 

Picture Books / Short Stories:

"Open House on Haunted Hill," John Wiswell. 2021 Hugo Short Story finalist. An endearing story of a haunted house that wants a family, and a family that needs a home. Oh, and a realtor that needs a sale. 

Palate Cleansers

These books I'm barely reading; lately I use them bribes to get me to deal with the mail. Hmm. I should get back to that. 

The Educated Child: A Parents Guide from Preschool Through Eighth GradeWool (Wool, #1)Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal, #1)
Under the Eye of the StormDates from HellReading and Learning to Read

The Educated Child, William Bennett. 

Wool, Hugh Howey. 

Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho. False responsibility makes happiness hard, but how to determine how valid a sense of responsibility is?

Under the Eye of the Storm, John Hersey. Aftermath of the storm.

Dates From Hell, Kim Harrison & others.  

Reading and Learning to Read, Jo Anne Vaca. Examples of teachers in action. 

Reading Challenges
  1. Cybils 2020. Finished Show Me a Sign, started Curse of the Night Witch.
  2. Early Cybils: Read to more YA graphic novels, which finished of the 2008 category. 
  3. Hugos 2021: Finished short stories, and also read one of the Related Works. 
  4. KCLS 10 To Try: 9/10. The librarian whose recommendation I will be using to finish pointed out that journal entries count as epistolary novels, so Piranesi counted!
  5. Tacoma Extreme Reading Challenge. 39/55. No change. I have been replacing kidlit with adult qualifiers. 
  6. Reading My Library. Reading another romance. The library has closed to prepare for reopening!
  7. Where Am I Reading 2021: 24/51 states. Mostly read in fantasy locations this fortnight.  11 Countries. 

Future Plans

I'm putting this at the end because I suspect it's complete fiction, but I feel I should attempt some structure.

I am reading: 
  • Book I own: Eleventh Gate. Next: Educated Child
  • Library Book: The Lost Orphan Next: ??
  • Ebook I own: Shining Game  Up Next: Extraordinary Union
  • Library Ebook: Luminaries. Next: Bourne Supremacy
  • Book Club Book: Sunshine Up Next: Bollywood Affair.
  • Tuesday Book Club Book: Mazalan book. Next: I need to finish The Wind Dark Sea
  • Review Book: Secrets of Star Whales  Next: Back Home
  • Hugo Book: The Pleasant Profession of Robert A Heinlein. Next: Joanna Russ.
  • Rereading: Artificial Condition
  • Meal Companion: a romance set in Oklahoma
  • Audio: I have a book on CD I'll start listening to.  Next: