rosalita (Julia) ROOTs around in 2022 - Page 3

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rosalita (Julia) ROOTs around in 2022 - Page 3

Redigerat: aug 20, 2022, 5:56 pm

I work at my alma mater, the University of Iowa, so my thread topper features seasonal images (it's a little early for this autumn pic from 2021, but this might be my last thread of the year) from the campus, often including the Old Capitol building at the center of campus. OPTIONAL HISTORY LESSON: It’s called the Old Capitol because Iowa City was briefly the capitol city of the Iowa Territory (1839-1846) and later the state of Iowa until the capitol was moved to a more central location (Des Moines) in 1857. After that, the Old Capitol hosted the entire State University of Iowa (1857-1863) and later the law school (1868-1910) until being restored as a historic monument in the 1970s. /HERE ENDETH THE LESSON

My name’s Julia, and I have too many books. Well, that’s not really possible but it’s fair to say I have too many books I haven’t read yet. I’ve participated in the ROOTs group for two years, and managed to read a total of 100 books. I started fast last year but the fall was a rough patch for me and I just managed to meet my goal of 48 books. I’m going to aim for that same target in 2022, just 4 per month. We’ll see how that goes.

That’s enough of the blather — on to the books!

Redigerat: aug 20, 2022, 6:04 pm

ROOTed in 2022
January through June

Top reads from the first half of the year; two fiction and two nonfiction

1. The Fingerprint by Patricia Wentworth.
2. Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind the Lanai by Jim Colucci.
3. The Mystery of the Green Ghost by Robert Arthur.
4. The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie.

5. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.
6. The Alington Inheritance by Patricia Wentworth.
7. The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure by Robert Arthur.
8. Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout.

9. A Game of Fear by Charles Todd.
10. All Systems Red by Martha Wells.
11. The Secret of Skeleton Island by Robert Arthur.
12. Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! by Max Shulman.

13. The Girl in the Cellar by Patricia Wentworth.
14. Taken at the Flood by Agatha Christie.

15. Dark Tort by Diane Mott Davidson.
16. When the Corn Is Waist High by Jeremy Scott.
17. Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham.

18. Trouble at the Brownstone by Robert Goldsborough.
19. The Mystery of the Fiery Eye by Robert Arthur.
20. Citizen Cash: The Political Life and Times of Johnny Cash by Michael Stewart Foley.
21. The Mystery of the Silver Spider by Robert Arthur.

Redigerat: dec 30, 2022, 3:47 pm

ROOTed in 2022 (cont'd)
July through December

Top reads from the last half of the year.

22. The Locked Room by Elly Griffiths.
23. Dog Days: A Year with Olive & Mabel by Andrew Cotter.
24. Greetings from Asbury Park by Daniel Turtel.
25. Amongst Our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch.
*26. You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam.
27. The Lone Pilgrim by Laurie Colwin.
28. The Rubber Band by Rex Stout.
29. The Mystery of the Screaming Clock by Robert Arthur.
*30. The Appeal by Janice Hallett.
*31. An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn.
32. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman.

*33. Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig.
34. Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be by Marissa R. Moss.
35. The Barrakee Mystery by Arthur William Upfield.
36. Artificial Condition by Martha Wells.
37. Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke.
38. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik.
39. God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney.

40. The Sands of Windee by Arthur W. Upfield.
41. Hell and Back by Craig Johnson.
42. The Mystery of the Moaning Cave by William Arden.
43. Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert.
44. The Red Box by Rex Stout.

45. The Defector by Daniel Silva.
46. Wings Above the Diamantina by Arthur Upfield.
47. The Hand in the Glove by Rex Stout.
*48. No One Goes Alone by Erik Larson.

49. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier.
*50. The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man by Paul Newman.
51. Mr Jelly's Business by Arthur Upfield.
52. The Burglar Who Met Fredric Brown by Lawrence Block.
53. The Mystery of the Talking Skull by Robert Arthur.
54. Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths.

55. Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy.
56. The Fields by Erin Young.
57. We Heard It When We Were Young by Chuy Renteria.
58. Winds of Evil by Arthur W. Upfield.
59. Mrs. McGinty's Dead by Agatha Christie.
60. The Copper Beech by Maeve Binchy.

*Denotes books not from my shelves; usually library books but occasionally borrowed from a friend.

Redigerat: sep 3, 2022, 2:40 pm

Added to the shelf in 2022
January through June

✔︎ 1. Rally Round the Flag, Boys! by Max Shulman. (free ebook/Kobo)
2. K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches by Tyler Kepner. ($2.99 ebook/Kobo)

✔︎ 3. A Game of Fear by Charles Todd. ($14.99 ebook/Kobo)
4. They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 5. The Cereal Murders by Diane Mott Davidson. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 6. Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy. ($2.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 7. In the Best Families by Rex Stout. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)

8. The Magician by Kathleen Shop. (free ebook/Kobo)
9. The Orphans of Davenport: Eugenics, the Great Depression, and the War over Children's Intelligence by Marilyn Brookwood. ($4.85 ebook/Kobo)
10. The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine by Serhii Plokhy. ($19.99 softcover/Prairie Lights)
✔︎ 11. The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
12. All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister. ($3.99 ebook/Kobo)
13. The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry. ($4.00 ebook/Kobo)

✔︎ 14. When the Corn Is Waist High by Jeremy Scott (free ebook/LT Early Reviewers)
✔︎ 15. Amongst Our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch. ($14.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 16. Dark Tort by Diane Mott Davidson. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 17. Greetings from Asbury Park by Daniel Turtel. (free ebook/NetGalley)
18. They Do It with Mirrors by Agatha Christie. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
19. Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols and Other Typographical Marks by Keith Houston. ($2.69 ebook/Kobo)
20. The Ernest Lamb Mysteries by Patricia Wentworth. ($2.69 ebook/Kobo)

21. Housekeeping by Design: Hotels and Labor by David Brody. (free ebook/University of Chicago Press)
22. A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers. (free ebook/
23. Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome by John Scalzi. (free ebook/
24. An Unnatural Life by Erin Wagner. (free ebook/
✔︎ 25. Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be by Marissa R. Moss (free hardcover/LT Early Reviewers)

✔︎ 26. Trouble at the Brownstone by Robert Goldsborough. ($2.69 ebook/Kobo)
27. The Bad Lands by Oakley M. Hall. (free ebook/University of Chicago Press)
28. Ian Rutledge: A Mysterious Profile by Charles Todd. ($2.69 ebook/Kobo)
29. SPQR by Mary Beard. ($2.69 ebook/Kobo)
30. Scents and Sensibility by Spencer Quinn. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 31. The Locked Room by Elly Griffiths. ($15.99 ebook/Kobo)
32. Short Tails: Stories of Chet & Bernie by Spencer Quinn. ($2.99 ebook/Kobo)

✔︎ indicates books that I have read, either this year or previously.

Redigerat: dec 30, 2022, 3:49 pm

Added to the shelf in 2022 (cont’d)
July through December


33. The Call by P.D. Viner. ($0.89 ebook/Kobo)
34. Raise Your Hand: Adventures of an American Springsteen Fan in Europe by Caryn Rose. ($1.61 ebook/Kobo)
35. A Drive into the Gap by Kevin Guilfoile. ($8.96 paperback/Field Notes)
✔︎ 36. Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke (free ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 37. The Barrakee Mystery by Arthur W. Upfield. ($5.66 ebook/Kobo)
38. Call for the Dead by John le Carré. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
39. The Steel Kiss by Jeffrey Deaver. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 40. Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)

41. Americanon by Jess McHugh. ($4.99 ebook/Kobo)
42. Limited by Body Habitus by Jennifer Renee Blevins. ($2.50 ebook/University of Chicago Press)
43. On Revision: The Only Writing That Counts by William Germano. ($5.00 ebook/University of Chicago Press)
44. Around the World in 80 Words by Paul Anthony Jones. ($4.50 ebook/University of Chicago Press)
45. The Country House Revisited by Tereza Topolovskà. ($3.50 ebook/University of Chicago Press)
46. Fish and Chips: A History by Paniko Panayi. ($3.50 ebook/University of Chicago Press)
47. Soda and Fizzy Drinks: A Global History by Judith Levin. ($4.99 ebook/University of Chicago Press)
✔︎ 48. The Sands of Windee by Arthur W. Upfield. ($5.66 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 49. Evening Class by Maeve Binchy. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)
50. The Crime of Our Lives by Lawrence Block. (free ebook/Kobo)

✔︎ 51. Hell and Back by Craig Johnson. ($14.99 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 52. Wings Above the Diamantina by Arthur W. Upfield. ($5.66 ebook/Kobo)
53. The River Jewel by Kathleen Shoop. (free ebook/Kobo)
54. Hotel by Arthur Hailey. ($1.79 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 55. The Copper Beech by Maeve Binchy. ($1.99 ebook/Kobo)

56. Sides by Peter Straub. ($2.69 ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 57. Mr. Jelly's Business by Arthur W. Upfield. (free ebook/Kobo)
✔︎ 58. The Burglar Who Met Fredric Brown by Lawrence Block. ($9.99 ebook/Kobo)
59. Raspberry Danish Murder by Joanne Fluke. (89¢ ebook/Kobo)
60. Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America by Michael Ruhlman. (89¢ ebook/Kobo)

✔︎ 61. Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths. ($12.99 ebook/Kobo)
62. A Catalogue of Catastrophe by Jodi Taylor. (99 cents/Kobo)
63. Eventide by Kent Haruf. ($2.99 ebook/Kobo)
64. Christmas Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke. (89 cents/Kobo)

✔︎ 65. Winds of Evil by Arthur W. Upfield. ($5.99 ebook/Kobo)
66. Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder by Joanne Fluke. (89 cents/Kobo)

✔︎ indicates books that I have read, either this year or previously.

Redigerat: aug 21, 2022, 8:48 am

Currently Reading
(as of August 20)


The Barrakee Mystery is the first in a Golden Age mystery series featuring Australian detective Napoleon "Bony" Bonaparte. This will be a shared read once I catch up to Liz, replacing our beloved Miss Silver.

Artificial Condition is the second book in the Murderbot sci-fi/fantasy series.

Firefly Summer is my "car book" so not getting a lot of attention (but plenty of affection) these days.

aug 20, 2022, 6:36 pm

I loved the Murderbot series; I listened to them, and the audiobooks were great.

I'll watch for your comments on the Upfield books.

Happy new thread.

aug 20, 2022, 6:45 pm

>7 BLBera: Thanks, Beth!

aug 21, 2022, 4:39 am

Happy new thread, Julia. I'll be looking out for the comments on Upfield, too. I read those in German translation as a teenager (that's nearly half a century ago) and loved them.

aug 21, 2022, 8:31 am

Happy new thread, Julia. We seem to have followed a very similar reading slump/path in the spring, with a nice summer recovery :) It feels so good to be back in the groove.

aug 21, 2022, 8:45 am

>9 MissWatson: Oh, that's interesting that you've read the Upfield books, Birgitt! I had not even heard of them until I started hanging out on Liz's thread. But to be published in German translation suggests to me that they were quite popular in their day.

Redigerat: aug 21, 2022, 8:56 am

>10 katiekrug: It really does! Yay for both of us getting back in the groove. And now I can't stop singing "Back in the groove and it feels so good" like I was auditioning to be a member of Peaches & Herb. :-)

(You can click the photo to go to the YouTube video)

aug 21, 2022, 11:47 am

Happy new thread from me, too. Cheers!

aug 21, 2022, 5:51 pm

Happy New Thread, Julia! Yes, this looks much more manageable than your previous, out of control, insanely chatty one. :D

aug 21, 2022, 7:16 pm

>14 lyzard: Sarcasm does not become you, Liz. :-D

aug 21, 2022, 7:40 pm

Currently Reading
(as of August 21)

Can I squeeze one more finished book into August? I'm sure going to try! Amber read Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (the first in a series) recently and made it sound like just what I've been looking for since Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy Schulz culinary mystery series skidded off the Cliff of Quality. And I was able to snag it with a free book credit from Kobo recently, which is even more delicious (sorrynotsorry).

aug 21, 2022, 9:17 pm

aug 22, 2022, 11:17 am

Happy first day back at school. (Not gloating.)

aug 22, 2022, 2:24 pm

Happy new thread! I'm not sure whether to wish you more excellent ebook sales, or none!

Redigerat: aug 23, 2022, 1:47 pm

>18 BLBera: It was a busy day! Which is good, except I simultaneously was having some computer issues with connecting to our student database while also juggling lots of calls from students fresh back on campus, so that part was less good. But I think we've got it all sorted now (without ever fully understanding what went wrong), so we'll start fresh again tomorrow morning and hope for the best.

aug 22, 2022, 9:31 pm

>19 Jackie_K: Oh, Jackie. I bought two more ebooks on sale today — not from University of Chicago Press but Kobo. Sigh.

aug 23, 2022, 12:50 pm

>16 rosalita: Woot!! I hope you enjoy it! I need to get to the second book soon...

aug 23, 2022, 2:04 pm

>16 rosalita: Years ago, the Diane Mott Davidson series put me totally off ALL mystery series for a very long time. Thankful, I’ve gotten over it, but I still cringe when I see other culinary mystery series. I’ll be very curious how this one goes for you. And that cover is very cute.

aug 23, 2022, 2:59 pm

>23 Copperskye: I thought the first four or five of that series were good, but around the time Davidson turned Goldy's ex-husband into some sort of psycho they really went downhill and never recovered. The only inexplicable thing is why I kept reading them for so long! It must have been even worse for you since they are set out there in your neck of the woods.

I'm happy to say that so far this one is much better — fewer pratfalls and ridiculous situations that you know a caterer would never actually get involved in. So a cautious thumbs up at this point.

Redigerat: aug 27, 2022, 2:17 pm

34. Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be by Marissa R. Moss.

You wouldn't necessarily know it if you listen to country music radio stations today when three out of four songs are male singers belting out homages to dirt roads, pickup trucks and girls in tank tops, but not so long ago there was a golden era of success for female artists in the genre. The late 1990s and early 2000s saw an explosion of high-charting singles by women like Shania Twain, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Martina McBride, and of course The Dixie Chicks. But it didn't last, and journalist Moss lays out a case for why that starts with brute capitalism and ends with our old friend sexism with the obligatory soupçon of racism.

The consolidation of radio stations around the country under the umbrella of just a couple of big corporations — primarily Clear Channel Communications — meant that instead of local deejays at each station choosing music that most appealed to them and their listeners, programming was centralized. And the use of computer algorithms to construct those playlists made things worse. A programming operations manual spelled it out clearly:
I don't want more than two ballads in a row. I want to avoid having more than two female singers in a row.
When you limit the number of tracks by women in any given hour to just a handful, that leaves a lot of talented artists fighting for just a few seats at the table, and it means especially that women of color are largely left standing out in the hall, not even in the room.

The sexism aspect was best illustrated in 2015 by a deejay who said that women were the "tomato" in the country radio salad, while the biggest male stars were the "lettuce." It's a bad sign when an industry is so sure of its monopoly that it no longer has to hide how the sausage gets made.

The answer, so far, has been for female artists to stop trying to appeal to the chauvinists in the country-music establishment and especially the all-powerful country radio wing (where they were expected to endure men ogling them and making crude remarks about their physical attributes, and occasionally looking for other "favors") and to appeal directly to audiences through Spotify and other streaming services as well as live shows. Moss gives readers a look at how some of the biggest names today (Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, Miranda Lambert, Mickey Guyton) have found success by refusing to compromise their artistic visions to placate an industry that wouldn't want them even if they followed all the rules.

This is an engaging read, very breezy in style, and I would have finished it much more quickly if I hadn't kept stopping to open up Apple Music and search for tracks by women artists that I wasn't familiar with. I'm not going to lie: While I found a lot I like, others of these women make music that doesn't particularly appeal to me, for all I admire their ability to create their own success. But that's sort of the point: When you make room for more women, you make room for music that doesn't all sound alike and doesn't cater to the same narrow band of listeners.

The biggest critique I have is that this book really could have used an index. Moss tells the story of the artists she features in roughly chronological order, but that means any one person's story is scattered across the whole book. It would have been useful to have a way to hone in on a particular artist or song or event without having the skim the whole book.

For me, as a fan of country music who has no interest in modern country radio, the lesson was to stop thinking of radio or chart success as the harbinger of quality. There's lots of great music getting made out there, and pretty much all of it can be found on streaming services. And when you listen that way, you don't have to put up with constant advertising interruptions or inane deejays breaking the spell.

(I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for an unbiased review.

aug 27, 2022, 5:54 pm

This book sounds interesting, Julia.

Reservations for Book Festival made! Fingers crossed.

aug 28, 2022, 10:38 am

>26 BLBera: So excited you are coming for the Book Festival, Beth!

Redigerat: sep 4, 2022, 6:48 pm

35. The Barrakee Mystery by Arthur W. Upfield.

In the early decades of the 20th century, an aborigine named King Henry returns to a remote area of New South Wales, Australia, after a long absence. He had left home in a hurry more than 10 years ago when he learned a white man had vowed to kill him. When word reaches King Henry that the white man is himself dead, he returns only to almost immediately suffer the same fate himself. But who killed him? Were the rumors of his original threatener's death mistaken, or did someone else have a reason to murder him?

This is the first book in a series that spans nearly 40 years (1929-1966) and features a most unusual protagonist: The half-caste Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, who has become one of the most valuable police detectives in Australian law enforcement. Even after he appears to have identified the murderer of King Henry, he is content to let his colleagues undertake the massive search through an empty inland area filled with more sheep than humans, while he remains at Barrakee Station, the sheep station where the crime was committed to puzzle out the killer's motive — a much more interesting subject for his quick, insightful brain.

There's the usual complement of racist stereotypes and casual use of slurs by various characters, something that's all too common in books of this era. If it were a modern book I would find it unacceptable, but I make allowances for the standards of the time, while nonetheless deploring the ignorance.

I don't know that I've read any mystery series with such a fascinating and compelling detective at its center, and I'm looking forward to continuing with this shared read with Liz. "Bony," as Inspector Bonaparte is known, has little in common with our last shared Golden Age mystery series featuring retired English governess turned private enquiry agent Miss Silver, but I am already hooked. Besides the setting, the detective and the plot, there are unexpected flights of lyrical poetry like this:
The glory of the dying day laid over the surface of the river a cloth of crimson patterned with shimmering silver rings where the small perch leapt for flies. The colour of the cloth dimmed magically to that of glinting steel. A kookaburra broke off his laughter and slept.

aug 28, 2022, 10:27 pm

>28 rosalita:

Well done!

The series from this point shifts more into Bony's head and gives us his perspective on the other characters, rather than the other way around. I would also say that he perhaps encounters less racism than you might expect, though it never goes away.

But nor does the lyrical writing (though it comes accompanied by some of the natural horrors that are Australia).

aug 28, 2022, 11:03 pm

>29 lyzard: I felt like we got some glimpses into Bony's thoughts toward the end of this one, which I quite enjoyed. I'm glad to hear there's more of that to come. I suppose for the first book Upfield felt it necessary to present him from the white point of view, to establish his bona rides and perhaps as a way of emphasizing just how well-respected he is among his colleagues.

aug 29, 2022, 12:13 am

>30 rosalita:

Or even just feeling his way, in that he was trying something no-one else had really done before.

Redigerat: sep 3, 2022, 2:47 pm

>31 lyzard: That's a really good point, actually. Sometimes I forget that the authors of long, successful series might not have had it all planned down to the last detail when they wrote Book 1. When you know the formula (for lack of a better word) worked, how it came together starts to seem inevitable.

Redigerat: aug 29, 2022, 9:24 pm

Currently Reading
(As of August 29)


I still owe y'all three reviews, but I'm plowing ahead with new books anyway. God Spare the Girls looks like it could be pretty intense, so I'll balance it with The Sands of Windee, the second Bony mystery as I try to catch up to where Liz is in the series so we can continue on together.

aug 30, 2022, 6:06 pm

>33 rosalita:

Go, Julia, go! :)

The Sands Of Windee is a more challenging book in a number of ways and probably a better gauge of how you will get along with the series.

aug 30, 2022, 9:03 pm

>28 rosalita: Nicely done. This sounds interesting.

aug 31, 2022, 8:15 am

>34 lyzard: That sounds intriguing!

>35 BLBera: Thanks, Beth. I'll keep you posted on how the series develops.

sep 2, 2022, 1:13 pm

Strange, Julia. I finally caught up with your threads (I'm way, way behind on threads) and ended up with BBs for two books about country music. Who'd have thought!

sep 2, 2022, 1:25 pm

>37 Familyhistorian: It's so good to have you visit no matter when or how often, Meg! I gather that you are not generally a fan of country music, then? :-) I promise these two books will still capture your interest, especially Citizen Cash.

sep 2, 2022, 1:35 pm

>38 rosalita: My relationship with country music is not exactly fandom, Julia. I'm very familiar with as my ex was into it and was a musician. So, it's not an interest that came naturally but is a draw because of its familiarity.

sep 2, 2022, 2:47 pm

Daily Deals


Full disclosure: I've not read either of these, although I have Station Eleven somewhere in the depths of my reader and I have seen a staged production of The Piano Lesson. They are both $1.99 at all the usual US ebook retailers: Kobo, Kindle, Nook, Apple Books and Google Books.

sep 3, 2022, 5:50 am

Belated Happy New thread, Julia!

sep 3, 2022, 8:27 am

>41 connie53: Thanks, Connie!

sep 3, 2022, 9:49 am

>40 rosalita: I've read both and they are worth reading! Thanks Julia.

sep 4, 2022, 6:58 pm

36. Artificial Condition by Martha Wells.

Having given its human owners the slip in the first novel of this series, Murderbot is traveling through space from way station to way station, careful to make sure it doesn't trip anyone's radar as what it really is — a rogue SecUnit that has hacked its governor module and is no longer controllable by humans.

Murderbot's mission is simple: Make her way back to the planet where the disaster happened that gave it that nickname. Ever since it happened, its memory has been spotty, partially destroyed by either the events of the day or the humans who were involved. To get there, Murderbot hitches a ride on an unmanned spaceship, only to find that its bot pilot has a mind of its own. Murderbot also acquires some human companions to use as a cover story only to find itself drawn into their problems, putting itself into multiple layers of danger.

The narration by Murderbot makes this series for me. After getting hints at its past in the first book, here we get a fuller picture of what happened, which deepens the connection to what is otherwise a deeply confused android. I look forward to finding out what's next for our favorite rogue SecUnit.

Redigerat: sep 5, 2022, 12:23 pm

37. Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke.

Hannah Swensen is back in her hometown of Lake Eden, Minn., where she fills her time running a bakery and dodging her mother's tireless efforts to get her hitched to any available eligible man. You wouldn't think there would be so many in such a small town, but Ma Swensen is relentless.

Between those two jobs and serving as an occasional child minder for her annoyingly beautiful sister, Hannah has her hands full. But when the town's milkman turns up dead, she gives her brother-in-law the sheriff's deputy a hand with his investigation and soon turns up all sorts of clues and suspects.

This is the first in a series, and as such it's pretty good. It's a nice uncomplicated story and the author has a light touch that doesn't let the plot descend into the melodramatic. The notion that a bakery owner would be a more adept investigator than the police is a bit far-fetched but I appreciated that the author didn't let Hannah get too far out over her skis by putting herself into constant danger or ridiculous situations. The investigating seemed mostly organic to her regular routine. And the cookie recipes are a nice bonus — if only the book came with a chef to bake them for me!

Thanks to Amber for putting this series on my radar. I liked it well enough to keep an eye out for the second entry.

sep 5, 2022, 12:26 pm

38. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik.

An English boarding school for the children of wizards from around the world? Gosh, where have we heard that setup before? But it's clear from the first page Naomi Novik's latest series is a much more dangerous and sinister place than Hogwarts.

For starters, there are no adults at Scholomance; students arrive as freshman and graduate after four years — assuming they can pass their coursework in languages, incantations, and artifice (building magical things) while dodging the endless parade of bloodthirsty monsters who infest the school and prey on the vulnerable students. Even if the students make it to their senior year — and only about half do from each class — they have to make it through the final gauntlet of killer critters who lay in wait in the graduation hall. The only chance for survival is to form alliances with other students who have different skills than yours to provide maximum fighting power and protection.

I was fairly bewildered through the first couple of chapters of this book. Novik drops the unsuspecting reader smack dab in the middle of the story without explaining anything (the previous paragraph's summary was gleaned over the course of the whole book; you're welcome), trusting her readers to be able to go with the flow and piece things together. If she wasn't such a good writer, that might seem like a slog. But even when I had no idea what the hell was going on, I was hooked by the first-person narrative by Galadriel, who after nearly three years at Scholomance finds herself a an outcast among her classmates and completely lacking in the sort of allies that will be her best chance for survival at graduation.

Fortunately, I was already a big admirer of Novik's work, having read her Temeraire fantasy series (the Napoleonic Wars with dragons) and her standalone retellings of Eastern European fairy tales, Uprooted and Spinning Silver. I had faith that she wouldn't leave me hanging forever, and she didn't. In some ways, that aspect reminded me of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane, where he makes no attempt to explain how the magic works — it's just there, and the wise reader who goes along for the ride is rewarded with a thumpingly good read.

There are two more books in the series (the third will be published next month), and I'm definitely on board to visit Scholomance again.

sep 7, 2022, 12:18 pm

>45 rosalita: Woot! I feel pretty much the same about it as you did.

sep 7, 2022, 12:56 pm

I've noticed that the ebooks in this series tend to go on sale pretty often, so I'm keeping an eye out for the next time that happens. Of course, all those months of ignoring the sales means there probably won't be any more now that I'm interested!

sep 8, 2022, 9:46 am

Currently Reading
(as of September 7)

Hot off the press, the new Longmire mystery was just published Tuesday. This is one of a very few authors whose books I will pre-order and pay (gasp!) full price for. The opening chapters are super-trippy with Walt suffering from amnesia and I can't wait to see where things go from here.

sep 11, 2022, 10:22 am

I should read Novik. Where is a good place to start?

I read the first Longmire and liked it; here's a reminder to continue. Or I could just watch it on Netflix. :)

Hi Julia.

sep 11, 2022, 11:10 am

>50 BLBera: Hi Beth! I think you might enjoy the standalone books, Uprooted and Spinning Silver. They are both inspired by or retellings of Eastern European folk tales.

The Longmire series on Netflix is very, very different from the books. There are new characters added and some familiar characters from the books are missing or radically different. I enjoyed the first few seasons, but it got increasingly outlandish as it went on. I watched all of it, and it wasn't terrible (I liked the character who played Walt, especially), but it's really nothing like the book series.

sep 11, 2022, 12:00 pm

Thanks for the Novik recommendations, Julia. We talk tomorrow, right? I'm going to stop by my mom's in the afternoon, but I should be home in plenty of time.

It's been a while since I read the first book in the series, and I did watch the first couple of episodes. It seemed like there were some similar plot points in the first episode. But I imagine that they get away from the books as the series moves along.

sep 11, 2022, 12:11 pm

>52 BLBera: I've got you on my calendar for tomorrow!

The first few "Longmire" episodes were a mishmash of plot lines from several books, along with things that weren't in the books. And then the two series diverged widely from there.

sep 11, 2022, 5:14 pm

39. God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney.

Caroline and Abigail are the daughters of an evangelical pastor, deep in the heart of rural Texas. As older sister Abigail's wedding approaches, the girls discover a shocking secret about their father, one that will have repercussions on their entire family and the megachurch congregation that he leads.

At heart this is a book about love — for God, for family, for community — and whether we can ever really know another person, no matter how close they are to us. My only siblings were brothers, so the bond between Caroline and Abigail fascinated me, as it was described in passages like this:
Abigail opened her mouth, closed it again. "Okay," she said, rolling her eyes and raising her hands, pretending to let it go. Caroline knew she hadn't, really, though. To have a sister is to watch the same movie on repeat until the end of time. You've seen every scene, every musical interlude, every action and reaction is predictable. You know which phrases are catalysts and which are checkmate. Abigail had merely decided to bide her time.

The glimpse inside the evangelical Christian religion also held some fascination for me, as I don't have any close contacts within that community. The author McKinney walks a fine line, presenting the religious aspects fairly while being clear-eyed about the gap between "what I say" and "what I do" and how it can contribute to a loss of faith.

Rural Texas itself also plays a supporting role, with the bulk of the action taking place on the ranch that Caroline and Abigail jointly inherited from their maternal grandmother. It's hard not to draw parallels between this description of the landscape and the contrast between their father's public and private actions.
To Caroline, the day was bright and full of spite. Weeds with purple heads and scarves of green leaves grew on lanky, smooth stalks, their roots slithering underground, choking out the other life until they alone remained — malicious and dominating, albeit pretty if you really looked at them. The grass shifted in small ways, tiny creatures trying to survive. The air was quiet all around her.

This book may not be a good choice for anyone who has a deep-seated hostility toward reading about Christianity in general or evangelicals in particular. For me, the emphasis on the interpersonal relationships and family dynamics were the main attraction, and I'm glad to have read it.

sep 12, 2022, 6:19 am

>46 rosalita: You're so right about the Novik book, Julia. I had the same feeling in the beginning but could not put it down. Part 2 will be read soon(ish) and part 3 gets published in translation in November.

Redigerat: sep 12, 2022, 8:48 am

>55 connie53: I'm glad I wasn't the only one confused at the start of A Deadly Education, Connie. I'll look forward to seeing how you get on with the second one.

Redigerat: sep 13, 2022, 5:52 pm

40. The Sands of Windee by Arthur W. Upfield.

The Australian half-caste detective inspector Napoleon "Bony" Bonaparte is back for his second case. He has once again strayed from his home turf in Queensland, again traveling to a remote bit of New South Wales in order to investigate a missing persons case — or at least, a case which everyone except Bony is convinced is a simple matter of a man unfamiliar with the territory wandering away from his car and getting "bushed" — or lost in a sandstorm. Bony is convinced the man was murdered, although no body or any physical evidence at all has been found, and he sets out to prove it by once again going undercover at a nearby sheep station, this time the titular Windee.

The mystery here is much more complex and layered than that of the first book in this series, and the entirety is told (in third person) from Bony's point of view, so the reader gets real insight into how this most unusual policeman thinks and processes the evidence and information he gathers. In the end, even though he solves the murder entirely to his satisfaction, he finds himself in a moral quandary about it. The discussion of said quandary ends the book, which does somewhat detract from an absolutely blockbuster climactic section involving Bony on horseback, trying to outrun a bush fire that threatens to overtake him at any moment. Overall, it's an unusual mystery plot and a most unusual detective, but I very much enjoyed both.

I'll leave you with a couple of short but sharp quotes:
"There's pleasure in wishing, but less pleasure in having."

If as much thought were given, when transferring the unemployed of Great Britain to the Dominions, as a successful squatter is obliged to give to his flocks, the British Empire would be far more prosperous than it is.

sep 12, 2022, 6:27 pm

>57 rosalita:

Well done!

You will understand now what I meant about this being, in several respects, a more challenging book; but since you seem to have taken it in your stride, you should be fine going forward (although there will be several more challenging things thrown into the mix along the way).

That particular moral quandary will raise its head a few times going forward, since Bony remains somewhat haunted by the choice he makes, and use it as a touchstone in comparable situations.

My problem with it, apart from its impact on Bony's track-record, is the uncomfortable note of "A white girl was nice to me and not racist, therefore I must sacrifice myself for her." For me, the fact that in this respect, Bony actually takes himself at other people's assessment and agrees with the general view of his standing - in spite of everything else - is the hardest thing to take about this series.

Redigerat: sep 12, 2022, 7:27 pm

>58 lyzard: Yes, your spoiler also struck me as implausible, given the lengths to which this and the previous book go to present him as supremely confident in himself to the point of arrogance. The psychological battle between his white and aboriginal ancestry has been referred to fairly frequently but I had never gotten the impression that part of that battle was feeling inferior to whites.

sep 12, 2022, 8:08 pm

>59 rosalita:

This is what hurts: he buys into the sociological argument of the time that being of mixed blood, he is automatically inferior, despite his justified conviction that, *as an individual*, he is superior to almost everyone.

I find it very hard to tell where Upfield stood on that point, given that elsewhere he effectively argues against the prevailing views.

sep 13, 2022, 6:38 am

>60 lyzard: Yes, well put. It will be interesting to see if the viewpoint evolves over the series in reflection of (perhaps) changing contemporary attitudes.

While we're on the topic, I find myself at a loss writing my reviews about how to refer to him. I've defaulted to "half-caste" because that's how Upfield describes him but I don't want to impose American terminology onto another culture.

Redigerat: sep 13, 2022, 5:51 pm

Currently Reading
(as of September 13)


I intended to read another of David Rhodes' books, Driftless, but in starting that one I realized it was the sequel to this one, so of course I had to dig this one up and start from the beginning. As one does. I've not gotten very far, but I'm intrigued at the setting, an actual small town very near where I live in Iowa, so we'll see how that goes.

I enjoyed the first book in Hibbert's contemporary romance trilogy about The Brown Sisters (Get a Life, Chloe Brown) when I read it in 2020 but never managed to snag the sequel, Take a Hint, Dani Brown from the library until recently.

sep 18, 2022, 6:02 am

>56 rosalita: That will take a while, Julia. I'm currently reading a rather big doorstopper with 955 pages. But I will get there eventually.

sep 18, 2022, 9:58 am

Notable Quotable
And though it would take a very long severe winter to daunt the spirit of those Iowa women, this once-a-week social occasion offset many days wherein no confessions were held to acknowledge secret morning terrors and evening tensions, where people lived together like enraged animals and the sound of families arguing and cursing wailed unobstructed over the frozen land, howling into other homes through brown cracks in the walls.

My current read, Rock Island Line, opens in the late 1800s in a small Iowa town that is quite close to where I now live. It's a bit of a slow burner but I'm enjoying it so far. I enjoyed this passage about the "joys" of rural living in the days before electricity and modern transportation eased some of the worst isolation.

sep 18, 2022, 10:13 am

41. Hell and Back by Craig Johnson.

The 18th entry in this series about Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire continues the author's recent experimentation with structures outside of the standard mystery genre. The whole series has been steeped in Native American culture, particularly of the Cheyenne and Crow tribes, and individual books have dabbled in the mysticism that these cultures embrace.

Hell and Back goes even further, going so far as to create a sort of parallel universe where Walt — who wakes up lying in the middle of a Montana highway with no memory of how he got there or who he is — encounters people from his forgotten past who regular series readers know (but amnesiac Walt does not) are no longer alive. The answers are bound up in a tragic 19th-century fire that occurred at an infamous Indian boarding school in the town, and it seems that Walt may need to solve that mystery before he can resume his previous life.

I think people familiar with the series who enjoyed the previous forays into Indian spirituality will find this one intriguing and enjoyable. If those aspects of previous books were a little too "woo-woo" for you, this may not be your favorite of Walt's many adventures. I'm in the former camp, and above all I appreciate how Johnson has been willing to explore storytelling techniques that raise this series a cut above most mysteries that I read.

sep 18, 2022, 11:37 am

>65 rosalita: Great comments, Julia. I read and liked the first one; I should continue with this series. The "woo-woo" bit interests me.

sep 18, 2022, 7:29 pm

>65 rosalita:

It occurs to me that if you're okay with the woo-woo elements here, you'll probably be okay with the more out-of-left-field elements of the Bony books, too. :)

sep 19, 2022, 7:20 am

>66 BLBera: I hope you're able to give it another go, Beth. I do think you'd like it.

sep 19, 2022, 7:20 am

>67 lyzard: I'm all about the woo-woo, Liz!


sep 19, 2022, 5:32 pm

42. The Mystery of the Moaning Cave by William Arden.

The Three Investigators are on the job once again, this time staying on a California ranch where The Moaning Cave has once again found its voice. The cave's legend says that it used to moan all the time after a El Diablo, famous 19th century Mexican outlaw, disappeared into the cave while being pursued by the law and was never found. Fifty years ago the cave abruptly stopped making noise. This renewed creepiness coincides with a series of minor accidents to ranch hands, who are convinced that it's the spirit of El Diablo causing both. Can Jupiter, Pete and Bob figure out the true cause before the ranch owner loses all his workers and is forced to sell the property?

This is the 10th book in this middle-grade mystery series, and the first written by William Arden. (Many juvenile mystery series were written by a series of authors, sometimes under a shared name and sometimes not.) The ebook version I have is apparently the British one, as the word "licence" is misspelled :) and Alfred Hitchcock, who introduces the boys' adventures in each book, is back to being a famous film director. Thanks to Liz and Steve, who are also reading along in this series, for spotting the differences in previous books.

The mystery here is ... fine? It felt a little flat to me, with the various plot lines being held together by the thinnest of threads. But it's still a fun read and is good inspiration for youngsters of the value of applying logic and observation to everyday problems. Hopefully those problems don't include haunted caves and staged accidents, though!

sep 19, 2022, 6:11 pm

>70 rosalita:

'c' = noun, 's' = verb? :D

Redigerat: sep 19, 2022, 7:55 pm

>71 lyzard: We use "s" for both, though. The way god and Noah Webster wanted it. :-p

sep 19, 2022, 6:59 pm

>72 rosalita:

The 11th Commandement:

"Thou shalt dumb it down." :D

sep 19, 2022, 7:55 pm

sep 20, 2022, 1:14 pm

>73 lyzard: I admit, I did laugh! :D

sep 20, 2022, 1:32 pm

>75 Jackie_K: That Liz is a funny lady, Jackie!

sep 20, 2022, 6:02 pm

>75 Jackie_K:, >76 rosalita:

Just a pedant. :)

sep 25, 2022, 12:19 pm

sep 25, 2022, 12:54 pm

>78 BLBera: Yep, that's the story I was referencing during our chat! Utter madness.

sep 27, 2022, 12:59 pm

New Book Alert

Well, this is weird but tempting. A new cookbook is being published next week, Castle Rock Kitchen: Wicked Good Recipes from the World of Stephen King. It includes recipes for food and drink mentioned in a wide swath of King's work, from his first novel Carrie (Homemade Root Beer) to Pet Sematary (Crab Canapés) to Cujo (Dog Days French Toast) and more.

The author has apparently also published cookbooks inspired by Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, fwiw.

sep 28, 2022, 1:31 pm

>80 rosalita: Oooh, YAY! For whatever reason, I LOVE cookbooks based on shows or books. Onto the wishlist it goes!

sep 30, 2022, 9:39 pm

>81 scaifea: Maybe Santa will bring it for you!

okt 6, 2022, 1:06 pm

43. Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert.

The second in a series spotlighting the Brown sisters, a trio of young women navigating the dangerous waters of dating and other interpersonal relationships in contemporary UK. The first book, Get a Life, Chloe Brown, was a delight for its centering of a heroine who refuses to let her chronic health condition dictate how she will live her life.

Dani is her younger sister, a preternaturally focused graduate student determined not to let personal relationships (ugh!) distract her from her professional goals. She's not opposed to some uncomplicated tension relief, however, and she thinks she finds the perfect candidate in a security guard at her university. Zafir has his own issues, chiefly his ongoing struggle with anxiety since the sudden deaths of his father and brother several years earlier. When a video of Dani and Zaf goes viral, they realize a fake relationship could get them both what they think they want.

I love the increasing diversity found in contemporary romances, and this series does a great job of presenting characters with complex lives and diverse backgrounds acting like, you know, normal human beings who want love and respect just like "regular" people. If I have a criticism, it's a gentle one: While the characters certainly encounter their share of obstacles on the way to HEV, the unconditional love and support from their family and friends seems a bit too perfect. But that's not enough to keep me from recommending the series to readers who like to see romance heroes and heroines who look more like the world we see around us every day.

okt 8, 2022, 12:21 pm

>83 rosalita: I keep meaning to pick up this series. Soon...

okt 8, 2022, 5:37 pm

What Amber said.

Redigerat: okt 9, 2022, 10:00 am

>84 scaifea: >85 katiekrug: I think both of you would enjoy these!

okt 9, 2022, 3:52 pm

>83 rosalita: This does sound good, Julia. Great to see you yesterday. I wish you would have been feeling better. I hope this week goes well.

okt 10, 2022, 9:16 am

>87 BLBera: It was great to see you, too, Beth. I'm glad you got home safely with all your booky treasures.

okt 12, 2022, 9:23 am

I subscribe to the "Poem-a-Day" email from the Academy of American Poets. This was today's poem, which celebrates the discovery of books and National Coming Out Day all at the same time.

Barnes & Noble, 1999
Jesús I. Valles

I was a boy in a bookstore, “a bathhouse,” I’ll joke
when I am older. But then, I wasn’t. I was in a gallery
of things to be cracked open; all their spines & mine.
I tell you, I was a hungry pickpocket, plucking
what language I could from books & men who stood hard
before me. This is what it means to be astonishing;
to thieve speech and sense from the undeserving.
I tell you, I was a boy and they were men, so all
the words I know for this I made into small razors,
some tucked between my teeth, under my tongue,
and when they said what a good mouth I had,
I smiled, the silver glint of sharp things in me
singing, “I’ll outlive you. I’ll outlive all of you.”

okt 12, 2022, 12:33 pm


okt 12, 2022, 1:42 pm

okt 12, 2022, 4:07 pm

Currently Reading
(as of October 12)


The Defector is the ninth book in Silva's series about Israeli assassin Gabriel Allon.

Wings Above the Diamantina is the third book in Upfield's series about aboriginal detective inspector "Bony" Bonaparte.

My Cousin Rachel is my first "spooky season" read of the year. I've got at least one more lined up after this, but you'll have to wait and see what it is. :-)

Not pictured: I guess I'm still technically reading Rock Island Line but it's been a bit of a slog and I've been looking for excuses to read other things instead. Not ready to mark it as DNF just yet ...

Redigerat: okt 13, 2022, 9:40 am

44. The Red Box by Rex Stout.

Moving right along in my shared chronological re-read of the Nero Wolfe series with Liz and Steve, we are up to Book 4, The Red Box. The recurring characters are starting to assume the shape and personality that they would wear for the remaining 43 books, which makes this the first story that recalls for me at least a little of the familiar warm feelings I have for my most favorite series of all time.

The plot finds rotund genius Nero actually leaving his beloved New York City brownstone on business, a thing that almost never happens. Readers get a taste of how he feels about the idea from this response to his prospective client's suggestion that he visit the scene of the crime:
" 'Sir, I would not enter a taxicab for a chance to solve the Sphinx's deepest riddle with all the Nile's cargo as my reward!" He sank his voice to an outraged murmur. 'Good God. A taxicab.' "
The client prevails (though with Archie at the wheel, not a NYC cabbie), and Wolfe begins a desultory investigation into the poisoning of a fashion model. The death blow was delivered in a box of candy, but was Molly Lauck the intended target, or did she bite the Jordan almond meant for someone else?

That's about all I have to say about the plot, but I did collect a few random nuggets of information about how this book fits into the series that will probably only be of interest to Liz (and quite possibly not even to her). :-)

1. Wolfe is prodded to leave the house on business because the client produces a letter pleading with him to do so, signed by the leading orchid growers in the NYC area. Interestingly, Lewis Hewitt is not listed; Hewitt serves alternately as friend and foil to Nero in a number of later books.

2. There is what might seem like a surprising amount of fashion-related talk, even allowing for the fact that the crime is set at the studio of fashion designer Boyden McNair. But it's less surprising if you know that Rex Stout's wife, Pola, was a noted designer of textiles. Stout even uses the name "High Meadow Loom" for one of the fabrics mentioned; Rex and Pola lived in Brewster, NY, on an estate called High Meadow. (Brewster itself comes up later as the site of McNair's country home.)

3. All three of the cases depicted in the previous books in the series are mentioned in passing, in reverse order: Inspector Cramer mentions the events of The Rubber Band in Chapter 5. In Chapter 9, someone refers to Paul Chapin from The League of Frightened Men. And Wolfe himself points to his interrogation of a young cleaning woman in the first book, Fer-de-Lance, as evidence of his genius in Chapter 11.

4. Throughout the series, Wolfe has an impressive vocabulary, but here it's Archie who stumped me when he mentions in Chapter 8 that the chair in Wolfe's office occupied by Boyden McNair is known as "the dunce's chair, yclept that by me on the day that District Attorney Anderson of Westchester sat in it while Wolfe made a dunce of him". (I'm sure you all know that yclept means to have named something, right? Right?!)

5. Wolfe has an ... interesting ... theory about why England was so successful at colonizing other countries; apparently it was "her repulsive climate, on account of which Britons with any sense and will power invariably decided to go somewhere else to work".

6. Archie tells us how he views his professional responsibilities:
Aside from my primary function as a thorn in the seat of Wolfe's chair to keep him from going to sleep and waking up only for meals, I'm chiefly cut out for two things: to jump and grab for something before the other guy can get his hands on it, and to collect pieces of the puzzle for Wolfe to work on.
Later he describes his distaste at the fawning manner of the clergyman at a funeral:
With me a little unction goes a long way. If I have to be slid up to heaven on soft soap, I'd just as soon you'd forget about it and let me find my natural level.

7. One last choice quote from Wolfe:
Everyone has something at home they don't want anyone to see; that is one of the functions of a home, to provide a spot to keep such things.

okt 13, 2022, 12:35 am

You just reminded me that I should get back to the Nero Wolfe books, Julia. I started out well, reading the first two then started reading them out of order. I'll have to work on the ones I missed out on.

okt 13, 2022, 3:20 am

>89 rosalita: Amazing poem. I looked for a book but no luck - I think I will watch performance poetry videos (usually avoid that) instead.

I thought I'd read Hibbert, but I think it's might be just a case of seeing so many ads for her books on the kindle site. I'll add to the wishlist!

okt 13, 2022, 6:53 am

>94 Familyhistorian: Yes, do! This is absolutely a series that can be read out of order (except for three books that are a sort of mini series-within-a-series known as the Zeck trilogy) so you can just dive back in wherever you like.

Redigerat: okt 13, 2022, 6:59 am

>95 charl08: I'm glad you liked the poem, Charlotte. Poetry is a bit of a black hole for me, so I like the daily email for getting a small dose every day. Just making a habit of reading a poem every day is helping me feel more comfortable with the form.

I think you'd like the Hibbert. It's set roughly up in your neck of the woods — Manchester, if I remember correctly.

okt 13, 2022, 9:36 am

Great comments on the Nero Wolfe, Julia. I read them years ago. I should give one a try again.

okt 13, 2022, 9:44 am

>98 BLBera: I am adamantly unobjective about this series, Beth. It's just perfect in nearly every way, especially the characters and world-building. And as I mentioned to Meg, they can be read in pretty much any order.

okt 13, 2022, 10:55 am

New Book Alert

This popped up in my Twitter feed today. I am not familiar with Tom Gauld's work, but his new book of "literary cartoons," Revenge of the Librarians, looks promising based on this strip:

You can see a PDF excerpt of some of the other cartoons from the book and find information about price and availability at the Drawn & Quarterly website.

okt 13, 2022, 3:55 pm

>100 rosalita: Tom Gauld is never anything other than wonderful! You have a real treat in store discovering his work!

okt 13, 2022, 4:05 pm

My favourite Tom Gauld is Department of Mind-Blowing Theories :) Really looking forward to Revenge of the Librarians!

Redigerat: okt 14, 2022, 9:29 am

>101 Jackie_K: >102 rabbitprincess: With a couple of ringing endorsements like these, I will definitely have to look for some Tom Gauld books at the library!

okt 14, 2022, 9:27 am

>100 rosalita: That is funny. I'll check out Gauld.

okt 27, 2022, 1:59 pm

Currently Reading
(as of October 27)


It's the spooky season, and I've picked up a couple of mood-setting reads.

I believe it was Joanne who recently read My Cousin Rachel and reminded me I have it on the shelves. I'm enjoying it but haven't gotten too far because ...

... my library copy of No One Goes Alone became available. This is the first foray into fiction by one of my all-time favorite narrative nonfiction writers, Erik Larson, though it's at least somewhat grounded in history. A group of psychical researchers travels to an island off the coast of Cornwall in 1905 to investigate the mysterious disappearance of an entire family. This book is only available as an audiobook — Larson has said on Twitter that he chose to release it that way because ghost stories are better told aloud. I'm listening to a few chapters each night (alone! in the dark!), and it is appropriately atmospheric with signs that things are about to ramp up quickly.

okt 29, 2022, 12:04 pm

I keep meaning to read more de Maurier and just haven't yet. She's fabulous!

okt 29, 2022, 2:48 pm

The Larson sounds interesting!

okt 29, 2022, 4:31 pm

>106 scaifea: I've only read Rebecca and the short story collection that contains The Birds and liked them both. This one is starting out well.

>107 katiekrug: so far, so good!

okt 29, 2022, 6:43 pm

Oh, did duMaurier write "The Birds"? The movie terrified me; when I "let" my kids watch it, they laughed through it. I guess special effects have improved over the years. :)

okt 29, 2022, 7:50 pm

>109 BLBera: Yeah, the special effects are a little hokey now,but it also scared the bejeebers out of me when I watched it years ago. :-)

The interesting thing is that the movie doesn't bear much resemblance to the story, which I didn't know until I read it. The story was also spooky but in a more slow-burn, realistic sort of way. I really liked it.

okt 29, 2022, 9:56 pm

>105 rosalita: Oh, I hope you’re enjoying My Cousin Rachel, Julia! More unsettling than scary, but still great for the spooky season.

Unsurprisingly, The Birds short story is so much better than the movie, creepier and more coherent.

okt 30, 2022, 10:29 am

>111 Copperskye: I am enjoying it, Joanne, even if it's not jump-scare spooky. Totally agree about the birds story vs movie.

okt 30, 2022, 12:04 pm

I'll look for the story.

okt 30, 2022, 1:16 pm

>113 BLBera: I hope you can find it, Beth. My library had it in a collection called "The Birds and Other Stories" if that helps.

nov 2, 2022, 4:47 pm

45. The Defector by Daniel Silva.

Israeli spy/assassin Gabriel Allon is living quietly in Italy with his wife Chiara, retired from the Israeli intelligence service in all but name. When a Russian spy, Grigori Bulganov, whom he helped smuggle out of Russia in an earlier book in the series (Moscow Rules) goes missing from his London home, the British assume he was a double agent all along, while the Israelis think he's been kidnapped by the Russian oligarch whose downfall was orchestrated by Gabriel and Gregori. The Israelis draft Gabriel into investigating and rescuing Grigori if needed.

Silva's plots are always very intricate and meticulously detailed, and that along with the characterization of Gabriel and some of the other regular characters are the highlights of this series for me. The downsides are the extreme graphic violence and the quick use of torture to extract information even though it's been proven that in reality the information obtained in this way is often bogus (a lesson the US learned much, much too late, if indeed it actually has). In Gabriel's world, torture always works and it's always the first resort, not the last. Gross.

So I don't love those aspects of the plot at all, and I'm tempted to give the rest of the series a pass except that I own several of the upcoming books. It will be a while before I feel moved to pick another one up, though.

Redigerat: nov 3, 2022, 11:59 am

46. Wings Above the Diamantina by Arthur W. Upfield.

Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte is called in when a small plane is found abandoned on a sheep station in a remote area of Queensland. The plane doesn't appear to have crashed, but there's no pilot inside (or footprints outside to indicate anyone climbed out of the plane). There is a young woman strapped into the passenger seat but she's no help in solving the mystery: She's conscious but incapable of movement or speech.

The plot's fine as far as it goes, though perhaps a bit far-fetched with all the flying around and some questionable interpersonal relationships. But there are two set pieces that showcase some spectacular aspects of the Australian bush climate — one a giant sandstorm and the other a climactic rainstorm that is apocalyptic in nature. We see both of these through the eyes of Bony, who is caught out in the elements both times and must use his intelligence guided by experience to survive.

One question for Liz or any other Aussie or Aussie-adjacent reader: In Chapter 22, a character estimates that "forty points of rain" fell during a storm (not the storm, just a storm). What's that work out to in new money (so to speak)?

Redigerat: nov 2, 2022, 9:06 pm

>116 rosalita:

Yes, a bit stretchy on the credibility front that one, but the material dealing with the natural disasters is compelling.

"Points" were the imperial measurement for rain, which were used most commonly where you didn't get much rain and needed a smaller unit. A point was 1% of an inch, so that 100 points = 1 inch of rain.

Points were transitioned into mm in the 70s. A point is about 1/4 mm; 40 points is therefore about 1 cm.

nov 3, 2022, 9:23 am

>117 lyzard: Interesting. I've never lived in an arid climate, so perhaps that's why the "points" usage is unfamiliar to me. America, of course, is still using the imperial system of measurements in defiance of common sense and the rest of the world, but I generally hear rain amounts expressed in fractions of an inch, with anything under a tenth or so simply called a "trace".

Although as climate change leads to increasing drought conditions even here in the breadbasket of the US, I may soon become more familiar with this sort of terminology than I'd like to be!

nov 3, 2022, 11:36 am

Great comments, Julia. I am squeamish so will pass on the Silva. The Upfield books do sound interesting.

Redigerat: nov 3, 2022, 5:03 pm

>118 rosalita:

We're the opposite---at least just now. While I say "not much rain" we are currently experiencing our third consecutive La Niña, and while this one hasn't been as bad (yet) as the preceding two there's been severe flooding in some country areas.

Technically we're still arid but the description of the storm towards the end of that novel shows you what can happen here when conditions change.

Redigerat: dec 12, 2022, 7:39 am

>119 BLBera: Thanks, Beth.

>120 lyzard: We are supposed to be experiencing the La Niña this winter, but the main effect I've heard of for us is lower-than-usual temperatures rather than more precipitation. We'll see.

Redigerat: nov 5, 2022, 5:04 am

47. The Hand in the Glove by Rex Stout.

Rex Stout is best known for the magnificent series of mysteries featuring Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, but early on he experimented with other detective characters. One of them was Tecumseh Fox, who rated three books between 1939 and 1941, including one (Bad for Business) whose plot was lifted nearly wholesale by Stout and re-set in the Wolfe universe. I've only read one of these and it was fine; no match for the majesty of Nero and Archie in my eyes.

The other detective Stout created, Theodolinda Bonner, only has one book in her own name, but she lived on as a supporting character in several of the Wolfe stories. There are enough promising elements in this, her one star turn, to make me sort of wish she had gotten another shot at the spotlight later on. "Dol" is a young woman whose life takes an abrupt left turn when her affluent father loses all his money and kills himself. Determined to never again rely on a man for anything, Dol sets herself up in business as a licensed private detective, with the help of her friend and partner, the still-affluent (though not yet of age) Sylvia Rattray.

Sylvia's guardian, P.L. Storrs, disapproves of her foray into such a tawdry occupation as private eye and pressures her to give it all up. She reluctantly agrees to do so, and when the guardian turns up dead suspicion falls on Dol, who would seem to be the main victim of his social prudishness. But it turns out there are other folks scattered around the wealthy enclaves of upstate New York who might have had their own reasons for wishing themselves rid of Mr. Storrs.

To be honest, the plot in this one is a bit of a mess but the characters of Dol and Sylvia were engaging enough that I would have willingly read more of their adventures. Alas, it was not to be, and I had to settle for making Archie Goodwin my first and still favorite literary boyfriend.

Some random thoughts, for Liz and anyone else who might be interested:

1. Stout's physical description of Sylvia Rattray is a bit over-the-top but I was following along just fine until the end of the sentence:
She was intellectually unpretentious but not vapid; physically a fair focus for dreams but not a gasper — though a viscount stale from Oxford and dubbed her so; ...
OK, I get that "gasper" refers to someone so beautiful she makes men gasp when they see her. But even granting that the "and" there at the end is a typo and should be "had" — what does "stale from Oxford" mean?!

2. If you read Golden Age mysteries you're going to encounter a fair bit of sexism, certainly. But this passage of Storrs talking about his grown daughter Janet is really something:
I am a complete failure with my daughter. I have never yet understood one word of anything she has ever said, and only my own vanity has kept me persuaded that she may be sane. And yet she has poetry published in magazines, and she graduated from a college ... but she can't add, I've noticed that.
*cough* What a dingus. *cough*

3. And then there's the narrator's description of Janet's mom, who granted is portrayed as a ditz of the first order, but does she deserve this?
She was not young nor slender, but neither was she unwieldy or misshapen.
Gee thanks, Rex.

4. Words I Had to Look Up:
"Detective? Piffle. She was nothing but a darned female quidnunc." — Dol self-assesses her activities as less investigatory and more those of a gossipy busybody.
"They were eating in the shadow of death, but not with the reliquiae under the roof with them." — The murder victim's body has been hauled away by the coroner.
"All of you. I'm sorry to interrupt, but it won't take long. I'm doing an experiment. Please don't ask me to explain, and don't think I'm a Pulcinella." — Pulcinella was a stock character in Italian commedia dell'arte puppetry who is said to have evolved into the British "Punch" of "Punch and Judy" fame. Which is all very interesting, but I still don't understand the reference in this scene.

nov 5, 2022, 4:04 am

>121 rosalita:

We've had two years of almost constant rain with no summer at all last year; this phase is supposed to be ending in December but it's also supposed to be getting worse before it gets better---so as you say, we'll see. ATM we're having a very strange November, feels like we're sliding into autumn not summer!

nov 5, 2022, 4:14 am

>122 rosalita:

Yyyyyes, I also have Thoughts, some of which coincide with yours. The tone really is all over the place, like he wanted to buck convention with his female characters but then found out he didn't really like it! - he does feel more in sympathy with the disapproving males than the defiant females, I think.

Also as you note some very strange language choices---and honestly, I'm only guessing! Perhaps the viscount was suffering a bit of arrested development, stuck in his college days? As for Pulcinella, I can only think she's saying "I'm not just performing or putting on an act, I'm here on a professional basis"---but I can't think of a specific reason why you'd choose Pulcinella for your analogy (although using a male point of reference might be significant, I suppose).

Anyway---you haven't touched on my main problem, so I'll keep that for If And When. :D

nov 5, 2022, 11:45 am

>124 lyzard: Well, you've whetted my curiosity to find out what your main beef is! Someday, someday. :-)

Redigerat: nov 5, 2022, 5:02 pm

>125 rosalita:

It's a plot-thing, so I'll have to get out the spoiler tags out. :D

It did occur to me as an afterthought that the more exasperating male-attitude stuff should have played as a vindication of Dol's choices but it doesn't really.

nov 5, 2022, 8:02 pm

>126 lyzard: The plot! There's certainly plenty of material for criticism there.I normally like to give a little more detail of the plot in my reviews, but I finally just threw up my hands and gave up. Every time I tried to explain it, I got more and more confused! :-)

nov 5, 2022, 11:43 pm

>127 rosalita:

Yes, I've already been thinking about how on earth to tackle that!

nov 6, 2022, 8:24 am

>128 lyzard: I'll look forward to seeing where you land!

Redigerat: nov 6, 2022, 11:22 am

Currently Reading
(as of November 6)


I'm still reading and enjoying the du Maurier, even as I increasingly want to bang the two main characters' heads together. This book is Exhibit A for the thesis that I don't need to like the characters to enjoy the book. But I am now alternating it with a library book ...

A few weeks ago I started watching The Last Movie Stars on HBO Max. It's a multi-episode documentary looking at the life and marriage of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, based entirely on hundreds of hours of interviews that Newman and his friends and family did with a writer friend in preparation for writing a memoir. I can't say I had a huge interest in Newman/Woodward before, but the documentary is fascinating in its raw honesty. Newman never got around to writing the memoir, but I learned that the transcripts of the interviews were compiled and edited into a manuscript, which was just published as The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man. My local library didn't have it but I requested that they purchase it, and they did. So I have put watching the rest of the miniseries on pause while I read this.

Redigerat: nov 6, 2022, 2:39 pm

48. No One Goes Alone by Erik Larson.

This year's spooky season read is a historical fiction novella by one of my favorite narrative nonfiction authors. It was released only on audio because, as Larson explained, ghost stories are meant to be told aloud. I was happy to get this one from my library just in time for Halloween, and I listened to it for an hour or so each night, in bed with the lights off for maximum effect.

The cast of characters is a mix of real-life historical figures, like William James (brother of novelist Henry), who really was a psychologist who pioneered research into "psychical phenomena," and fictional creations who are either loosely based on real people or entirely made up for the purposes of the plot. The story is narrated by Josiah, a young scientist who is working for the General Post Office on the nascent technology of wireless communication. In 1905, Josiah joins James and a group of researchers on a trip to the Isle of Dorn off the Cornish coast to investigate several mysterious disappearances over the years, including an entire family of four.

The researchers are a nice mix of skeptics like the infuriatingly smug Adam Winter, true believers like the son of a famous medium and the lovely Catherine, and those with an inquiring but open mind like James and the lovely Madeline. (Indeed, the sheer number of romantic pairings-off in this short novella would do a 21st-century teen comedy proud). The island and the house that stands upon it are beautiful and serene, making it hard to believe that anything evil could lurk within. But mysterious things start happening from the first night the researchers spend on the island, and Josiah and the rest must figure out whether someone is playing pranks or if there's a more sinister force at work.

This is not the sort of hair-raising horror that will make you afraid to walk down the dark hall to the bathroom (Stephen King, I'm looking at you). But it's nicely atmospheric and the tension ratchets up in a satisfying way. Carrying on past the climactic scene seemed to be a miscalculation, as it's a bit deflating to read a summation of what happens to each of the main characters in the years following their experience on the Isle of Dorn, but then right at the end there's a secondary twist that kind of pulls it all together and ties the story off neatly.

In terms of audiobook quality, the narrator Julian Rhind-Tutt is fine, though the American accent he attempts for William James is a bit wobbly. It's far from the worst I've ever listened to, though, and didn't really detract from getting engrossed in the narrative.

nov 6, 2022, 12:46 pm

You have a higher tolerance for spooky stories than I do, Julia. And right before bed? The Paul Newman series sounds good.

nov 6, 2022, 1:22 pm

>132 BLBera: It's more suspenseful than scary, Beth.

nov 7, 2022, 2:51 am

BTW my dear - since I've had some luck in the past luring you into new sports! - are you familiar at all with wheelchair rugby league? The USA is currently competing in the World Cup in England: they beat Scotland first up, then lost to Canada, and their third pool game against Wales is tomorrow (6.30am my time, not sure when that is yours but later in the day). I'd be very interesting to know what you make of it! The team has a Twitter account that probably has highlight footage if not the full matches.

nov 7, 2022, 5:08 am

>130 rosalita: The Paul Newman book sounds like a perfect gift for my best friend. Thanks!

nov 7, 2022, 7:01 am

We really enjoyed watching The Last Movie Stars, Julia. Like you, I didn't think I'd be as interested as I was although I love Newman as an actor. I thought the way they used actors to deliver the interviews was brilliant. I eagerly await your thoughts on the book.

nov 7, 2022, 7:29 am

>134 lyzard: I know nothing about wheelchair rugby but I'll see if I can find it playing somewhere. Thanks for the tip! I remain interested in cricket but ESPN+ appears to only show matches live, which often occur in the wee hours of the morning here. I wish they would make the full broadcast available for replay later, but all I've been able to find "on demand" is highlight packages.

nov 7, 2022, 7:33 am

>135 MissWatson: I hope your friend enjoys it!p, Birgit!

>136 lauralkeet: Hi, Laura! Yes, the way they've structured the Newman documentary works much better than I expected, to be honest. And of course all the movie clips are fantastic. I ended up rewatching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid last night, which was highly enjoyable. It reminded me that when I first saw it in my 20s, I thought Redford was much sexier than Newman. Somewhere along the years I seem to have changed my mind. :-)

nov 7, 2022, 7:43 am

>138 rosalita: I thought Redford was much sexier ... I seem to have changed my mind

Give me Newman as Hud or Cool Hand Luke any day.

nov 7, 2022, 7:54 am

>139 lauralkeet: Or in The Long Hot Summer. Hubba hubba!

Redigerat: nov 7, 2022, 3:36 pm

>137 rosalita:

Apparently it's being streamed on something called - oops, right now!

Yes, this has been a particularly difficult tournament to follow, all of it between midnight and dawn here; and harder still since it's been expanded this time, with wheelchair and physical disability rugby league in addition to the men's and women's games.

nov 7, 2022, 3:58 pm

>141 lyzard: I don't know and my browser doesn't find it but I've made progress and discovered that apparently it's being streamed on Peacock here in the States. Check that: Peacock streams other rugby, including Premiership and Six Nations, but not the Rugby World Cup. Also: Googling "Rugby World Cup 2022" brings up scads of links to the 2022 Rugby World Championship that was apparently held in Denmark earlier this year.

I got as far as finding the National Rugby League website, so I know that USA is getting shellacked by Wales at the moment (I think? The score is 50-26 Wales but I can't work out if that's an insurmountable lead or not — or even how much time is left in the match). But I'm striking out on finding it streaming anywhere over here.

nov 7, 2022, 4:14 pm

>142 rosalita:

Rugby LEAGUE, not just 'rugby' (which is rugby union; confusing I know but bottom line, two different games!). The Twitter handle for the US whhelchair team is @USAWhRL

It's not an insurmountable lead by any means, scoring is very high in this rather crazy sport. :)

nov 7, 2022, 4:47 pm

>143 lyzard: I beg your pardon, ma'am: Rugby LEAGUE. I knew there were two kinds of rugby but that information doesn't always stick in my brain. :) Do you have a preference for Rugby LEAGUE over Rugby Union? And what about Australian Rules Football? My understanding is that it isn't particularly popular in NSW, which prefers rugby.

The punter on my university's American football team is from Melbourne, and he played Australian Rules FB as a kid. Australian kickers are becoming quite the thing here in US football. Apparently your legs are stronger than ours — must be living next to all those kangaroos! :)

And Wales held on to win, so better luck next time for the US team.

nov 7, 2022, 4:54 pm

>144 rosalita:

...and just to complete the confusion, everyone calls their own preferred code "football". :D

Yes, I much prefer league over union (we tend to dispense with 'rugby' here to at least avoid that particular confusion), more running, less kicking, fewer stoppages and penalties. Australian Rules is a completely unrelated sport (and very kicking-heavy as you note). The various codes overlap geographically but AR is biggest in Victoria and league in NSW and QLD.

Anyway! - sorry that after all that the US lost but they've done very well in qualifying for this World Cup and did manage to win their first ever international game when they beat Scotland, so it's all good. :)

nov 8, 2022, 3:42 am

>138 rosalita: >139 lauralkeet: My friend and I have been on Team Newman from our salad days. Hombre!

Redigerat: nov 8, 2022, 1:59 pm

nov 9, 2022, 12:22 pm

nov 9, 2022, 3:41 pm

>147 rosalita:

So I'm hearing a few bad road bumps but overall much better than expected / threatened? How are things in your neck of the woods?

nov 9, 2022, 3:51 pm

>149 lyzard: Yes, nationally things went *much* better than I dared hope. There are some real bright spots around the country, and more importantly the crazypants candidates who bought into the Big Lie about election fraud have seemingly all conceded their races instead of trying to stir up unrest. Fingers crossed it stays that way in the races that have yet to be decided.

Here in Iowa, not so good. It was a Republican bloodbath. All the bad guys won and things are going to get really grim over the next couple of years. I'm currently scouting out new locations for my retirement — anything you can recommend in your neck of the woods?!

nov 9, 2022, 4:34 pm

>150 rosalita:

This is interesting to me because of the history of bad mid-term wipe-outs and then two years of stagnation: this seems a weird time for that not to happen, but hopefully it signals people paying more attention and taking action. (Or as Steve put it, the kids are all right.) I'm sorry things went badly for you, though, that's tough.

nov 9, 2022, 4:58 pm

>151 lyzard: You're right that historically the president's party loses ground in the midterms, but I think this year the Republicans nominated such a wide swath of completely ... what's the technical term? Batshit crazy ... candidates who were very open about planning to subvert democracy however they could if elected that voters actually got alarmed about that. Which somewhat restores my faith in humanity.

And yes, voters of color and young voters in particular were the decisive factor for many Democrats. Black and Latino voters have always been so, but the huge turnout among young voters — who I think were motivated not only by the threat to democracy but also the climate crisis — were an incredible boost. Working with university students every day, I no longer am cynical about the future of this country — those kids have their heads screwed on straight for the most part. God bless 'em.

Redigerat: nov 9, 2022, 7:53 pm

>151 lyzard: and >152 rosalita: I'm also reading that reproductive rights, in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling and Republican threats on the state level, had a major impact in getting out the Democratic vote. The Republicans have so far made historically small gains for an opposition party during a mid-term. I think the smallest gains in this situation in at least 50 years, again according to what I read this morning.

In her NY Times column today, titled "Republicans Did Not Read the Room," Times Op Ed columnist Michelle Goldberg wrote, "Because I’m an anxious person traumatized by 2016, I mistook my own sense of dread for insight and assumed the people predicting a Democratic wipeout must know something." That more or less describes me, as well.

Redigerat: nov 9, 2022, 9:33 pm

>153 rocketjk:

That's exactly where we were with our recent federal election: by all reasonable measures there was no way it couldn't work out exactly as it did but in the lead-up you were just sick with fear and imagining the worst.

Partly it was because it went so wrong the time before---and that was chiefly because one section of the country believed the lies the Murdoch press was telling them. That's where the real change has happened for us: between then and now people have stopped listening to the mainstream media and started seeking their information elsewhere. While the media has, in effect, dropped any pretence of reporting facts, and engage only in opinion pieces, propaganda and more lies (and yet are outraged at being ignored).

nov 9, 2022, 11:56 pm

Well, you can come to Minn., Julia. Dems now have both houses and the governor! Good election for us -- and the crazies did not make it on the schoolboard!

nov 10, 2022, 8:25 am

>155 BLBera: I love everything about Minnesota except the winters, Beth!

nov 10, 2022, 12:10 pm

Well, you got me there. Although I am enjoying a balmy 60-degree November day right now. I'm going for a walk without a jacket. The bad news is that the temp is supposed to drop 40 degrees by the end of the day. We have blizzard and tornado watches today. :)

nov 11, 2022, 4:30 pm

49. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier.

Philip Ashley is raised by his older cousin after his parents die when he is three years old. It's a nearly idyllic life for the two bachelors, except that Ambrose's ill health forces him to go abroad to escape the damp, cold Cornish winters. But everything changes when Ambrose, while spending a winter in Italy, writes to Philip that he has met and married a distant cousin, Rachel, and plans to stay in Italy. Soon the tone of Ambrose's letters changes into incoherent ravings that seem to indicate Rachel may not be the ideal wife. Philip travels to Italy to see what's happening, but when he gets there Ambrose is dead and Rachel is gone. He goes back home and when Rachel shows up in England a few weeks later he grudgingly invites her to stay on the estate. His ulterior motive is to somehow humiliate her in retaliation for what happened to Ambrose, but he finds himself drawn to her beauty and charm despite himself. But is she simply weaving the same sly web that she ensnared Ambrose in, with the estate's riches as her ultimate goal?

I said earlier that this novel is Exhibit A for me that I don't need to like the characters to enjoy the story. Both Philip, an impossibly young and naïve man, and Rachel, a woman who never says what she means, are infuriating in their own ways. More than once I contemplated how satisfying it would be to just knock their heads together with a solid thunk. Philip acts like a jealous brat and Rachel acts by turns like a patronizing older sister and a coy lover. The only character I had any sympathy for was Louise, the daughter of Philip's godfather. She's clearly in love with the stupid oaf Philip, and has to first suffer his oblivious dismissal and then his growing infatuation with Rachel without recourse to a big rock to throw at both of them.

The ending is ambiguous in terms of deciding once and for all whether it's Philip or Rachel who commit the greatest sin, which I thought worked perfectly. And the descriptions of the Cornwall seaside are lovely and make me want to visit someday. I think I'll pass on any offers of tea, though. Just in case.

nov 12, 2022, 6:30 am

Great review, Julia. Have you read Rebecca?

nov 12, 2022, 8:42 am

>159 lauralkeet: I have, though a long time ago and at a traumatic time in my life (my mom was dying). So I don't remember much of it. There are some similarities here, though overall I preferred Rebecca, though I couldn't point to specific reasons why.

nov 12, 2022, 10:34 am

>158 rosalita: Great comments, Julia. I think I read this a long time ago but don't remember it.

nov 12, 2022, 12:13 pm

>160 rosalita: Well, you did one thing right and that was putting a lot of time between each novel. I read Rebecca first and loved it, and read My Cousin Rachel just two months later (I was on a bit of a Daphne jag). There are indeed similarities, and read so close together it seemed like MCR was just Rebecca with the genders reversed. I ended up feeling really annoyed and frustrated, and my opinion of MCR suffered as a result.

nov 12, 2022, 5:22 pm

>162 lauralkeet: Ooh, yeah. I would not have wanted to read those close together. I suspect I would have had the same reaction as you did.

nov 15, 2022, 3:46 pm

>150 rosalita: Ugh. I'm sorry about Iowa. I'd *love* to have you here in Ohio, but, well, we're not in much better shape over here...

nov 15, 2022, 4:02 pm

nov 15, 2022, 5:18 pm

Arizona? That seems like an interesting place at the moment... :D

nov 15, 2022, 6:13 pm

>166 lyzard: Arizona has turned out to be a bright spot! They called the governor's race for the Democratic candidate last night, and there was a clean sweep of the other statewide offices and Senate. The only real question is whether the Republican gubernatorial candidate will concede or try to bang the election fraud drum. She hasn't yet, but she's also completely bonkers so who knows? So far all the candidates who refused to say they would accept the results if they were defeated have, in fact, accepted the results when they were defeated.

Not gonna lie, I'm a little jealous seeing all these states elect functional governments while I sit here in Trumpland-owa. :-(

nov 16, 2022, 10:08 am

>167 rosalita: Just come back across the Mississippi; we feel a bit like an island right now.

nov 16, 2022, 10:18 am

>168 kac522: That is definitely under serious consideration, Kathy! I loved living in Rock Island for 12 years and would not at all mind moving back to the Quad-Cities or somewhere similar. Illinois and Minnesota are the two beacons of hope in the region at the moment.

nov 16, 2022, 10:35 am

But you do have Prairie Lights, Julia. :)

nov 16, 2022, 10:38 am

>170 BLBera: Prairie Lights might be what I miss most, Beth!

nov 16, 2022, 4:25 pm

*sobs*Prairie Lights!!*sobs*

Redigerat: nov 17, 2022, 10:01 pm

50. The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man by Paul Newman.

If you are reading this thread, I'm guessing you already know who Paul Newman is (if you don't, please post and tell me I'm wrong!) so I won't waste words on an introduction other than to say he is considered one of the greatest movie stars of the past century, starring in a slew of iconic films. He was also renowned for a more than 50-year marriage to fellow actor and Oscar-winner Joanne Woodward. Their relationship was idealized as the perfect romantic union, but as this new compiled memoir (and the accompanying HBO Max docuseries The Last Movie Stars) makes clear, neither of those accomplishments — a stellar career and a loving relationship — were enough to make Newman feel like he deserved all the acclaim.

Indeed, what stands out in my mind after reading this book is that a man casually assumed to "have it all" could have felt like such a failure to himself. It was a jarring discovery and made me feel sad that he couldn't enjoy his success as we did. Early in his career, Newman studied at The Actors Studio, renowned for producing Marlon Brando, among others, who drew upon their own memories and emotions to inform the characters they portrayed. Newman said he felt like a fraud in those classes, calling himself an "emotional Republican" unable to feel anything very deeply. It's a small consolation to read that as he grew older he did start to become more in touch with those deepest feelings, a rewarding development for himself and his friends and family.

Indeed, without that inner thaw, this book probably wouldn't exist. It initially consisted of hundreds of hours of taped interviews between a writer friend and Newman, his friends, family and colleagues. At some point a few years before his death, Newman abandoned the project but left behind all the transcripts for his daughters to do with what they wanted. They chose David Rosenthal to go through the transcripts and cobble together a somewhat unconnected series of chapters on various topics, with Newman's own words forming the backbone of the narrative interspersed with sometimes lengthy commentary from others relevant to that particular topic. The result is raw but restrained, comprehensive but leaving the reader wanting more, and ultimately an important corrective that reveals the real-life man beneath the myth and the legend.

nov 17, 2022, 9:47 pm

This sounds great, Julia.

nov 17, 2022, 10:01 pm

>174 BLBera: I'm really glad I read it, Beth.

nov 19, 2022, 12:10 pm

>173 rosalita: Did Kenyon get a shout out in there?

nov 21, 2022, 11:36 am

>176 scaifea: Yes! There is a whole chapter on his time at Kenyon. He starts by saying that coming out of the Navy he chose a non-coed school because he intended to be a serious student and he thought having girls on campus would be a distraction. "Problem was, without women there, women became the obsession. Your every waking hour was spent figuring out how you could get yourself a Gambier, Ohio, town girl."

That led into this passage I marked while I was reading to share with you:
I had also neglected to research Kenyon College's reputation as a party school.
The very day I arrived there, dropped off by my parents on a Sunday afternoon in June at about three, I got distracted by a beer keg. By six o'clock, I was crocked. That was how long it took me to get in with the wrong crowd at Kenyon. So much for discipline. By the time I left Kenyon, I had no real education but owned the school's beer-chugging record. The caption under my yearbook photo said: "Prone to getting out of hand on long tiring evenings."
And of course he talks about being part of the theater department and playing football until he got kicked off the team for getting in a bar fight in Mount Vernon. :-)

nov 22, 2022, 11:03 am

Currently Reading
(as of November 13)


It's Mysterious Month over here. I'm just finishing up the fourth book in Arthur Upfield's Golden Age series about aboriginal detective Inspector Napoleon "Bony" Bonaparte, but I couldn't resist jumping into a brand-new release, The Burglar Who Met Fredric Brown in a series by one of my favorite authors. And as I wrap reading about Bony the detective, I'm reading about a chatty namesake in The Mystery of the Talking Skull, the 11th in the Three Investigators series.

nov 22, 2022, 12:58 pm

>177 rosalita: Thanks for posting these quotes from the book, Julia. As a two-time "Kenyon parent" I was interested in that aspect, too. The recent documentary made only a passing reference to Newman's time there.

nov 22, 2022, 1:17 pm

>179 lauralkeet: Yeah, the documentary focuses on his relationship with Joanne Woodward, which didn't start until several years later. The Kenyon chapter also mentioned his business, Newman's Laundry, which involved opening a storefront in Gambier where students could drop off their laundry, which he would schlep to an actual laundry service and then split the fee with them. I guess he was getting good practice for selling salad dressing later!

And he also talks about a big fire in 1949, I think, in one of the dorms or frats at Kenyon that killed nine students. Apparently he and his friends were evacuated out the front of the building and didn't realize that the first was on the backside and that some students hadn't gotten out. What a terrible thing to experience.

nov 25, 2022, 12:56 pm

>177 rosalita: Oh, very cool!! His legacy was still a bit of a problem when I was on faculty there. Students would have raging parties in his honor, and there was some particular day that they'd celebrate as a Paul Newman day, quoting one of his lines in a movie (something like, "24 beers in a case, 24 hours in a day..." Yeesh.

Redigerat: nov 25, 2022, 1:05 pm

>181 scaifea: Yes, he mentioned Newman Day, and apparently asked at least one university (I don't have the book handy to check, but I think maybe Princeton?) to publicly discourage their students from celebrating it, but to little effect.

Redigerat: nov 28, 2022, 5:11 pm

51. Mr Jelly's Business by Arthur W. Upfield.

Book #4 in the Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte series finds Bony in Western Australia for a change, working undercover to investigate the disappearance of a local farmer. There's no evidence of foul play, but Bony's instincts tell him it was murder and he sets out to prove there was a crime, to begin with, and then to find the culprit. Along the way, he takes on the puzzle of figuring out where another local farmer, Mr Jelly, goes when he disappears periodically, leaving his young daughters at home for days or a week at a time. The two cases seem unrelated, but are they?

Highlights in this one were the key role played by Australia's famed "rabbit-proof fence" and the twist ending that I at least did not see coming but found supremely satisfying in tying up a number of loose ends. Overall, a fine outing for our favorite half-caste detective.

dec 1, 2022, 12:00 pm

Daily Deal

The ebook of The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, one of my most favorite writers of narrative nonfiction, is on sale today for just $1.99 at all the usual places in the U.S. It was a read for me in 2020.

dec 1, 2022, 12:08 pm

>184 rosalita: - Thanks for the tip, Julia! I have a hardcover copy but I'm more likely to read it as an e-book :)

dec 1, 2022, 12:15 pm

>185 katiekrug: I don't want to count how many ebooks I've bought on sale that I already own a hard copy of, for the same reason!

dec 3, 2022, 12:18 pm

>184 rosalita: I've wanted to read that one.

dec 3, 2022, 12:31 pm

>187 BLBera: It's very good — maybe your library has it?

dec 3, 2022, 5:09 pm

>184 rosalita: That is a good one!!

Redigerat: dec 4, 2022, 12:16 pm

>189 Copperskye: Glad you enjoyed it, Joanne! One of the things I like about Larson is the way he can focus in on a small segment of a huge, well-known event and reveal things that haven't been written about to death.

dec 4, 2022, 12:15 pm

>188 rosalita: I'm sure my library has a copy. I will get to it one day. >190 rosalita: Great observation.

dec 5, 2022, 9:38 am

Thanks, Beth!

Redigerat: dec 10, 2022, 5:56 pm

52. The Burglar Who Met Fredric Brown by Lawrence Block.

Gentleman burglar and bookseller Bernie Rhodenbarr is back in the 12th installment of this superb mystery series by Lawrence Block. It's a book I never expected to read, because Block (who turned 84 earlier this year) has said for a while that he was done with the series. So when this book was announced, it was like a little gift to everyone who loves spending time with Bernie; his best friend Carolyn, a dog groomer; and his nemesis, police detective Ray Kirschmann.

Block throws readers a curve by incorporating a science-fiction element into the normal wisecracking mystery we expect from Bernie, but somehow it works. The full review I wrote for this one is long, so I won’t subject you all to it here. But if you’re interested, you can find it on my blog, American Bluestocking.

dec 10, 2022, 4:56 pm

>183 rosalita:

Nice! So, you're only one behind me now, I think? We're almost at the point of making A PLAN. :D

(BTW your link in >193 rosalita: is wrong.)

dec 10, 2022, 6:01 pm

>194 lyzard: Is it just one? I was thinking your next one was #7.

And what a sad commentary on how (un)popular my thread is, that a link was wrong for a week and no one noticed. It does make me wonder why I bother. :-)

dec 10, 2022, 6:29 pm

>195 rosalita:

Oops, you're right! - Winds Of Evil and The Bone Is Pointed still to go.

A feeling I know all too well. :D

dec 11, 2022, 7:18 am

Well, I never use the links to get to your blog; I get the email notifications. So, ...

dec 11, 2022, 9:10 am

>197 BLBera: And you even leave a comment sometimes, bless your heart!

dec 11, 2022, 9:53 am

I don't neglect your thread, I just rarely comment because I'm a bad person :) I missed that link, so will go back and read it now.

dec 11, 2022, 10:32 am

So, you read the comments. Good to know. :)

dec 11, 2022, 10:58 am

>199 katiekrug: - Back again with 2 comments, neither of which has to do with that particular book review...

1) I really like how clean and easy to read your blog is.

2) I also read the Midnight in Chernobyl review and have moved it up my nonfiction list for next year :)

dec 11, 2022, 12:16 pm

I still visit and read your thread! I don't always feel I have anything to add to the conversation, but consider me (and no doubt others) as a will'o'the wisp in the corner, enjoying the ambience :)

dec 11, 2022, 2:59 pm

>200 BLBera: I even respond to them! But I guess you don't get notified when someone responds to your comments. :(

>199 katiekrug: >201 katiekrug: Thanks, Katie. I blame no one but myself — I don't have the knack for inviting conversation. I hope you enjoy the Chernobyl book.

>202 Jackie_K: Thanks, Jackie. You're too kind.

dec 12, 2022, 3:57 am

I am usually lurking on your thread but rarely comment because I can't think of something interesting to say. But I did look at your blog now and was intrigued to see a review of Rally round the flag, boys which I only know as the title of a Paul Newman movie. And I hope to become a regular visitor once I am retired. Right now my own books take preference over anything else...the days are too short.

dec 12, 2022, 6:57 am

I didn't know you had a blog, Julia! When did you start? Probably forever ago, but I'm curious. I had a book blog from 2007-2012. Like Katie, I really like your theme/design.

dec 12, 2022, 9:41 am

>204 MissWatson: Hi, Birgit! I've been trying to find a way to stream the Newman version of Rally Round the Flag, Boys! since it was mentioned in his memoir, but haven't had any luck so far.

dec 12, 2022, 9:46 am

>205 lauralkeet: I have had various blogs over the years, from a traditional "all my random thoughts" version to a different books-only version. I started this version in 2019 but I haven't posted very consistently. I had high hopes for writing more broadly about books than just reviews but I can't seem to swing it while working full-time. Maybe when I retire ...

I'm glad you and Katie like the design. It's been a journey to find something that isn't impossibly complicated looking. I'm not totally satisfied with it, but I'm tired of faffing about with it. :-)

dec 15, 2022, 9:17 am

Currently Reading
(as of December 10)

We Heard It When We Were Young is a memoir about growing up Latino in small-town Iowa. The author works at the same university I do and I have interacted with him professionally but I wouldn't say I really know him.

dec 15, 2022, 9:22 am

>208 rosalita: - It's fun to have that kind of connection to a book/author, regardless of how strong the connection is.

I'm surprised you're only reading one - I think of you as a multiple-book-at-a-time reader...

dec 15, 2022, 9:34 am

>209 katiekrug: You know, I never used to be but I certainly have been lately! I started this one while I was finishing up my last book and then just didn't get around to adding in another new one.

dec 15, 2022, 9:37 am

>210 rosalita: - Makes sense. I usually have at least two, a print/Kindle and an audio. But that's about my limit because of my pea-sized brain :)

dec 15, 2022, 9:40 am

>211 katiekrug: Sometimes but not usually my concurrent books are in different formats (print and ebook, generally), but it only works for me if the two books are very different in content — a nonfiction and a mystery, or something similar.

dec 15, 2022, 11:01 am

>212 rosalita: - Same. I once tried to listen to a mystery while reading another one on my Kindle (I mean, not at the same time but I had them both going) and I got thoroughly confused.

Redigerat: dec 15, 2022, 11:56 am

Please enjoy this Tom Gauld cartoon, posted by the artist on Twitter today. I think many of us will see ourselves here:

dec 15, 2022, 10:31 pm

>214 rosalita: Oh, I like that! I have the book on library hold. It’s a digital copy, if I remember correctly, so I’m not sure how it’ll look. I guess fine on my iPad.

>195 rosalita: I didn’t realize you had a blog, it looks great! And your thread isn’t quiet because you’re uninteresting - your visitors are quiet! I love reading your thoughts on your books. Oftentimes, there is a discussion going on and I don’t comment so as not to interrupt. My thread on the other hand.... :)

dec 16, 2022, 4:14 am

>214 rosalita: Oh yes, that looks familiar. Thank you!

dec 16, 2022, 6:59 am

>208 rosalita: do you think you'll connect with the author after you read the book? Or will you just cast knowing looks his way when you pass him in the halls of academia?

Redigerat: dec 16, 2022, 8:09 am

>215 Copperskye: I wish my library had any of Gauld's books, Joanne. I've liked everything I've seen of his work. And thanks for your kind words — I am a bad hostess because I seem to be lacking the small-talk gene. And I'm a hypocrite because I visit many threads and read everything but don't comment. I'll try to do better in the New Year.

dec 17, 2022, 10:42 am

>214 rosalita: I love this!

>208 rosalita: This sounds interesting. I will watch for your comments.

I can only read one fiction book at a time unless they are very different. Sometimes I'll have one going on audio, but I do tend to have going a collection of poetry and essays or other nonfiction along with fiction.

dec 17, 2022, 12:00 pm

>219 BLBera: Thanks, Beth. I hope I can finish Chuy's book today. Of course I'm behind on my reviews...

dec 17, 2022, 3:52 pm

53. The Mystery of the Talking Skull by Robert Arthur.

The Three Investigators — Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, Bob Andrews — don't have a case to investigate, so Jupiter decides they will visit an auction of luggage abandoned at a hotel, just for practice. They end up buying an old trunk, which turns out to contain the belongings of a magician, who has since disappeared. If you've put two and two together and deduced that the trunk contained an allegedly talking skull, congratulations! You are now eligible to join Jupe, Pete and Bob on their adventures.

The boys soon learn that a number of strange people are also interested in the trunk, and shenanigans ensue involving a long-ago bank robbery, a house full of gypsies and some mild home demolition, but all's well that ends well.

I know what you're wondering: Julia, how does the skull actually talk? I wouldn't want to ruin the mystery for you, so you'll have to read the book!

dec 17, 2022, 4:03 pm

>221 rosalita: That one sounds like a lot of fun!

dec 17, 2022, 4:14 pm

>222 Jackie_K: I first read this series (or at least some of it) in junior high (grades 7 & 8, for reference) and it's been fun to revisit them.

dec 19, 2022, 4:46 pm

54. Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths.

I've been thinking of Bleeding Heart Yard (2022) as the third book in Griffiths' series featuring Detective Inspector Harbinder Kaur of London CID, following on The Stranger Diaries (in which Kaur has a very small part) and The Postscript Murders (in which she plays second banana to a motley crew of amateur detectives. But the bibliography printed in the back of this book lists the previous two books as standalone novels, making me wonder if Griffiths thinks she's started a third series or not?

Leaving aside that question for the moment, I'm happy to say that whether it's a series entry or a standalone, Bleeding Heart Yard more than meets the standard of quality that Griffiths has established in her previous novels.

The full review is posted on the book page here on LT and will appear next month on my blog.

dec 19, 2022, 4:52 pm

Currently Reading
(as of December 19)


I'm reading this series about half-caste Australian detective inspector "Bony" Bonaparte as fast as I can to catch up to Liz so we can proceed with a shared read of the rest. Winds of Evil is No. 5; I'll read one more in January and then we'll be in sync.

I've had Wonder Boys in my reading queue for a while, and I'm tired of looking at it there so it's time to read it and move it off the list. :-)

dec 19, 2022, 5:15 pm

Skimmed right past your review of Bleeding Heart Yard, noting only the 4 stars. My library has 3 copies which are all checked out until around 1/2. I am #3 in line. *taps foot impatiently*

dec 19, 2022, 6:26 pm

>226 lauralkeet: I've been there, Laura, avoiding reviews until I get my grubby hands on my own copy! The good news is the full review will post on my blog on Jan. 3, so it will be there waiting for you when you're ready. :-D

dec 20, 2022, 3:52 pm

Trying to remember why I live in Iowa ...

✔︎ Total snow accumulations of 4 to 7 inches
✔︎ Winds could gust as high as 55 mph
✔︎ Blizzard conditions are possible, with extreme cold wind chills of -30 to -40F

Nope, that's not it. Still thinking ...

dec 20, 2022, 5:35 pm

>228 rosalita: Trying NOT to remember why I've always lived in Chicago--that storm is supposed to gather steam and dump a foot of snow on us with similar wind chills.

dec 20, 2022, 5:56 pm

>229 kac522: Every year. Every. Single. Year. I let myself be lulled by the lovely autumn days and end up feeling like Charlie Brown when Lucy yanks the football away.

Redigerat: dec 20, 2022, 6:01 pm

>230 rosalita: And then there's the Lake effect snow that invariably comes at the end...and then there's the whole parking thing, with chairs and crates and strollers, etc. to hold "your" shoveled-out space. I'll bet you don't have chairs to hold your parking space in Iowa. Only in Chicago.

dec 21, 2022, 10:38 am

>231 kac522: The parking-spot reservation system that Chicago has is not a tradition here, although I have seen it occasionally in Iowa City. The town I live in is only a couple of thousand people, so parking isn't at quite the premium as it is in the Windy City. I always get a kick out of people posting images on Twitter of the various ways Chicagoans have to claim their spot. :-)

dec 21, 2022, 10:45 am

>232 rosalita: Yeah, sorry for grumbling. Actually I'm fortunate that after today I won't need to drive anywhere until next week, so I don't have to worry about it until then.

dec 21, 2022, 10:51 am

>233 kac522: Any and all grumbling is welcome here, especially if it's about the dang weather!

dec 21, 2022, 12:52 pm

Brrrr looks like it will be quite a storm! It’s coming our way Thursday/Friday.

dec 21, 2022, 1:53 pm

Ooh, stay safe everyone! That doesn't look fun at all.

dec 21, 2022, 3:05 pm

Well, it’s 51F now and sunny. I ran some errands and sat on the back patio for a few minutes and enjoyed the sunshine while I threw the ball to Skye. This evening, though, the bottom will drop out and this time tomorrow it’ll still be below zero. I think we’re supposed to get 2-4” of snow. I don’t think we’ll have blizzard conditions like you will, but it’ll be bad on the plains. I’m glad I don’t have horses to worry about.

One of my errands was a stop at the library to pick up Bleeding Heart Yard. :)

Stay warm!!

dec 21, 2022, 3:23 pm

>235 rabbitprincess: I suppose as a Canadian you are used to this sort of thing. I should be, too, but somehow I'm not. :-)

>236 Jackie_K: I may have to start spending my winters in Scotland, Jackie!

>237 Copperskye: I remember when it was 50F, she said wistfully. And I do worry about folks with livestock who have to try to keep them safe during these conditions. I had a sizable grocery order delivered yesterday, so I am prepared to ride it out. And hooray for getting the Griffiths book — I look forward to your comments.

dec 21, 2022, 3:55 pm

>238 rosalita: We have quite a lot of wind and floods to deal with in winter, and sometimes heavy snow too! Not so much in the way of blizzards though, usually.

dec 22, 2022, 12:12 am

LOVE the weather talk. ;)

dec 22, 2022, 4:24 am

I'm not going to read 136 new posts. That is far to much.

I want to wish you Happy Holidays and all the best for 2023!

dec 22, 2022, 8:28 am

>240 BLBera: If you know, you know. And you definitely know, Beth!

>241 connie53: Thanks for visiting, Connie! Happy new year to you and Peet.

Redigerat: dec 22, 2022, 4:31 pm

>221 rosalita:

That's a MUCH better summary than mine. :D

>225 rosalita:

You're burning through them! I'll have to stop and have a serious think about scheduling for next year, as Helen and I are once again trying to get the Albert Campion series moving which would take it to four shared series reads---eep!

>228 rosalita:


Hmm...I'm gunna guess it is once again not going to the post office weather...?? :)

dec 24, 2022, 8:47 am

Hi Julia! One of my New Year's Resolutions is to keep in better touch with my LT friends.

dec 25, 2022, 12:23 am

I hear you about the weather but I'm usually sitting pretty on the Pacific Coast. Not this year. A week of snow (about 2 feet or so) but now it has warmed up and there is torrential rain - can you picture it? I waded to the store today!

Catching up with your thread I've been hit by a few BBs. Not sure that it will be safe to check out your blog.

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Julia.

dec 29, 2022, 1:25 pm

56. The Fields by Erin Young.

The body of a young wife is found in an Iowa cornfield. Her wounds make it a clear case of homicide, but why? Complicating the investigation is that the lead detective, Sergeant Riley Fisher, was a childhood friend of the victim, though they became estranged as adults for reasons that are only hinted at through the first two-thirds of the book.

As Sergeant Fisher and her team search for clues, they discover disturbing evidence that seems to indicate an outside-the-box motive: The cornfield where the victim was found is owned by an upstart farm cooperative who have developed an organic corn hybrid that could threaten the corporate agriculture interests that dominate the state's economy and politics. Is it just a coincidence that the victim's husband is a research scientist for one of those Big Ag companies?

This is a decent thriller/police procedural, a fair bit more gory than most of the genre that I've read lately. The author created some compelling characters, and Riley was an appealing protagonist. As an Iowan, I loved the idea of a storyline that sets up Big Ag as the possible villain, but unfortunately the potential was more potent than the reality. The plot got a bit convoluted and increasingly melodramatic in the final section, and that diluted its impact for me.

All indications are that this is the opening book of what will become a series centered around Riley Fisher, and I think it sets the stage well for a continuation. I think there are a lot of possibilities in the character and the setting, and I look forward to seeing what Erin Young brings us next. Perhaps the next scenario could make use of the fact that hogs outnumber people 7:1 in this state, with all the good and bad that entails.

A final, minor observation: I'm pretty familiar with the area that is depicted in the book (Black Hawk County) and I thought it was portrayed realistically by the author. But there were several instances where some of her dialogue and exposition about farming rang a false note. For example, one of the Iowa farmers refers to the crops he grows as "vegetables, soy and dent corn." Iowans might calls them soybeans, or most often just beans, but I don't think many would refer to the staple crop as "soy". (I also mostly hear people refer to "field corn," but dent corn is also used frequently.) This particular mystery was solved for me when I saw the author is from England. The on-site research she mentions in her Acknowledgments section clearly paid off in most ways, but it's those pesky details that are hard to pin down. Still, no one who isn't intimately familiar with American agriculture would (or should) be fazed by these very minor slips.

dec 29, 2022, 2:05 pm

>246 rosalita: Those little local details really stand out when you're the local. I remember reading a book a few years ago that took place in Colorado and the main character said something about driving on "the I70". No one from Colorado would ever put "the" before a highway number. The author was from California.

dec 29, 2022, 2:21 pm

>247 Copperskye: Yep, it can take the reader right out of a story. I still remember one of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books had the big climactic scene set at Wrigley Field in Chicago (it was a duel between a vampire and a wizard) and the author described it as being set in a vast concrete parking lot. Which is true of a lot of major-league baseball stadiums, but Wrigley of course is nestled right into its neighborhood. I had a hard time taking it seriously after that.

dec 29, 2022, 3:11 pm

>248 rosalita: It was a duel between a vampire and a wizard that you had a hard time taking seriously because it took place in a parking lot you knew wasn't there? I have to admit that that made me laugh, even though I know exactly what you mean and I've been meaning to get around to that series one of these days myself.

Redigerat: dec 29, 2022, 3:12 pm

>248 rosalita: a vast concrete parking lot

Good grief. Did he throw in any vine leaves for authenticity's sake at least?

dec 29, 2022, 3:55 pm

>249 rocketjk: When you put it like that, Jerry, I guess I did kind of bury the lead there! :-) The series is worth checking out if you're into wizards and vampires and such.

>250 kac522: I don't remember any mention of the vine-covered outfield walls, Kathy, but it's quite possible I was too shell-shocked about the parking situation to notice. I do remember (or think I do) that the vampire stood at second base for the duel. ;-)

dec 29, 2022, 4:24 pm

>248 rosalita:, >249 rocketjk:, >251 rosalita:

I'm with Julia on that one: I think if you want your readers to buy into your supernatural elements, you have to get the surrounding realistic elements right. :)

dec 29, 2022, 4:36 pm

>252 lyzard: You (we) are exactly right, of course. Although I have to admit that Jerry's post made me laugh right out loud — I hadn't re-read what I wrote before posting to realize how silly it sounded.

Redigerat: dec 29, 2022, 5:51 pm

>253 rosalita: "You (we) are exactly right, of course."

And I agree as well, as I was hoping my comment would make clear. It's the difference between willing suspension of disbelief (wizards, vampires, "secret" bat caves that clearly took 100s of man-hours to build, warp drive, etc.) and plot and/or continuity flaws (a large parking lot outside Wrigley Field!).

On the other hand, does anybody remember the wonderful movie "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" and the hilarious scene where Pee Wee gets hooted down and scorned for asking to see the basement during a tour of the Alamo. "A basement in the Alamo? There's no basement in the Alamo!"

dec 29, 2022, 5:57 pm

>254 rocketjk: Oh, you did make that clear, Jerry! I just appreciated the witty way you expressed it.

I have never seen "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" — at the time I didn't appreciate Paul Reubens' style of humor though I think I've mellowed in that regard here in my dotage. A basement in the Alamo! What will people think of next. :-)

dec 29, 2022, 8:11 pm

Lol. Just lol.

dec 30, 2022, 6:28 am

This reminds me of when my then small daughter was watching an episode of Peppa Pig where they go to a dinosaur theme park, and my husband was chuntering away about the inaccurate dinosaurs. Not about the family of talking pigs, and their talking animal chums.

dec 30, 2022, 9:13 am

>257 Jackie_K: Talking pigs and other animals is not nearly as important as inaccurate dinosaur info, Jackie!

dec 30, 2022, 5:25 pm

57. We Heard It When We Were Young by Chuy Renteria.

Beginning in the final decades of the last century, West Liberty, Iowa, gained a certain amount of national notoriety as the first majority Hispanic town in the state. A lot of those media reports are idealistic in their tone, portraying the town as an example of how disparate cultures can work together. Left unsaid was the fact that while the population was multi-cultural, the power structure of the town remained firmly in white hands. (That finally changed last year, as West Liberty became the first town in Iowa with a majority Latino city council.)

Chuy Renteria grew up in West Liberty as the youngest son of first-generation Mexican-Americans, and he knows the truth is both simpler and more complex than those drive-by media stories. His memoir is bracingly honest about the racism he and his friends (both Hispanic and Laotian) experienced, as well as some of the things they did as youngsters that were less than wholesome. He writes honestly about the conflicts and tensions within his own family, and the awkwardness he felt because his father spoke little English and Chuy spoke little Spanish.

He never tries to make excuses or justify the things that he did, but it's clear that they have caused him some ongoing emotional baggage that he still carries.
There are two questions I ruminate on in my passing age. One is whether I had a "good" childhood. Which is such a complicated question for anyone, but for us growing up the way we did in West Lib, it's all compounded. We had a unique, celebratory, maddening, surreal, horrific childhood — often all at once.

The other question is whether or not I am a good person. Writing it here brings up a spark of anxiety, because I want to excuse all the bad things I've done. I want to scream out about all the horrible things that have happened to me. I want to convey what it was like to be a little kid and have a grown up call me a "wetback" and a "spic". But in that same breath I need to also scream out about Eric {a friend who was treated poorly by the rest of their group}. It would be easy to let the incriminating stuff fall by the wayside, to paint this picture of utopia in small-town form. Or to color ourselves as forever victims. We were the scrappy kids fighting against boredom and racists. ... But that's not the whole truth, right? We were also fighting against innocence. We were fighting against ourselves. And in that fight we hurt a lot of people.

I really appreciated the opportunity to learn more about a lived experience that exists right down the highway from where I live, especially the ways that there is no universal "minority experience" here or probably anywhere. I know better than to think I now understand all first-generation immigrants because I know what a group of Hispanic kids experienced in 1990s Iowa. But knowing what you don't know is the first step toward true understanding.

The way that Chuy found his way back to himself, so to speak, was his participation in high school and beyond in the break dancing scene. I felt like I learned quite a bit more than I needed to about the intricacies of break dancing moves and competitions, but at the same time it gave me the sense of how completely he immersed himself into that culture, and that ways it helped him focus on what his future could be.

I'll finish by saying that I was unhappily surprised by some pretty sloppy editing throughout, especially considering the book was published by the University of Iowa Press. I wish Chuy had been better served by his editor and publisher, which could have helped his story have even more impact. But even in its imperfect state, it still delivers an emotional payoff that will stay with me for a long time.

dec 30, 2022, 9:55 pm

Happy new year, Julia. Will your thread be in the same place next year?

dec 31, 2022, 7:42 pm

>260 BLBera: The 2023 ROOT Challenge group hasn't been created yet, which I find quite refreshing. But yes, that's where I plan to hang my hat in 2022

dec 31, 2022, 8:08 pm

Got it. Drop me a note when you are up and ready for visitors. I'll work on mine tomorrow, when it is the new year.

jan 1, 2023, 5:56 am

Happy new year Julia, I look forward to your 2023 thread (and mine, for that matter!) :D

jan 1, 2023, 7:35 am

Happy New Year, Julia. I, too, am looking forward to your 2023 thread. Will you post a link to it here so we can find you?

jan 1, 2023, 11:44 am

What Laura said!

jan 1, 2023, 11:46 am

What Laura and Katie said.

jan 1, 2023, 2:03 pm

Attn: Beth, Jackie, Laura, Katie & Mamie

You all (and everyone else reading this) are cordially invited to join me on my new ROOTs Challenge thread:

rosalita (Julia) ROOTs around again in 2023-Chapter 1