Sunday, April 02, 2023

Everything I Read in March 2023 (in brief)

29. A Man and His Cat #2 by Umi Sakurai - The second in the manga series about a man who adopts an exotic cat is written as a series of vignettes rather than a single storyline. While about half of A Man and His Cat #2 is about how happy Mr. Kanda has become after bringing Fukumaru into his life (a lot of gushing about how cute his cat is and lots of stories about snuggling), it does delve a little more into Mr. Kanda's marriage, his wife's love of cats, and why Mr. Kanda had never even petted an animal before he adopted Fukumaru. 

30. Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan - My second read by Shaun Tan and I noticed I used the same word when writing about both books on Instagram: "quirky". Tan's stories are fantastic, unique, and a bit magical. One of my favorites is a story in which everyone in a board room turns into a frog and the secretary must decide what to do. Call the police? Take them to a pond? Another is the cover story, in which a group of children go fishing on the top of a building. In this world, there are fish in the sky. What will happen when Pim hooks a coveted Moonfish? The illustrations are so gorgeous that I find myself studying them to figure out, "How did he do that?" Just wondrous.

31. Space Cat and the Kittens by Ruthven Todd and Paul Galdone (e-book/hoopla) - The last in the Space Cat children's series has space cat Flyball and his Martian partner Moofa with their two kittens accompanying two astronauts to Alpha Centauri. They travel 9000 light years in a mere 3 hours and then find a small planet with an Earth-like atmosphere. After landing they discover tiny animals that appear to be the same prehistoric animals Earth had but on a smaller scale. However, the book is mostly about the two kittens creating havoc and it's definitely fun reading for a cat lover. I'll miss this series. This final title was published in 1958.

32. Charlie Savage by Roddy Doyle - Charlie is getting old. He groans when he gets out of a chair; his best friend down the pub has decided he identifies as a woman (although not in a transgender way but more like "getting in touch with your feminine side"), and his wife has declared she's bored and joined her sister's band as a drummer. A book about aging, questioning your life, and finding the good in it. A total joy and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. Published in 2019, there are numerous references to the U.S. President at the time (Doyle was clearly not a fan). 

33. Lost & Found by Shaun Tan and John Marsden - Three books formerly published individually, presumably children's because of the minimal text but such a visual feast that it would be a crime to leave it to just the kids. The first story is (these are my opinions) about depression and hope, the second about being different and finding your place in the world while most people get so wrapped up in work and obligation that they can't see outside their own little spheres, and the third has rabbits as a stand-in for the humans who occupy a relatively undisturbed land with peaceful people and ravage it (Marsden had been reading about Native Americans when he wrote the story). There are some wonderful authors' notes about the stories in this edition. Highly recommended. I can't get enough of Shaun Tan. 

34. Nala's World by Dean Nicholson - Author Dean Nicholson, a Scot, was not far into his trip biking around the world when he came across a scrawny kitten in an area so far from civilization that he knew she couldn't possibly have a home nearby and adopted her. Nala's World is the story of approximately their first 2 years together, the ups and downs, the challenges and surprises as Nala and Dean became Internet famous and he began to have enough influence to raise funds for various pet charities. Absolutely lovely. I've followed @1bike1world for years, probably since the Dodo video of how he found her showed up online and went viral, but only half-heartedly. It was a joy reading about their adventures and I admire him even more, now that I've read about his passion for both animals and the environment.

35. The Nanny by Evelyn Piper - Published in 1964, The Nanny was my stationary bike book till I decided I had to know what was going to happen. 8-year-old Joey has been in a psychiatric facility after being blamed for his younger brother's death. Once home, he's convinced that the nanny is trying to kill him. Suspenseful enough for me to pluck off the bike and finish that evening but I must admit it was difficult setting aside disbelief after a certain point. Still, I enjoyed the tension and it's a rare suspense/thriller that can hold onto me till the end. Ridiculous and implausible or not, I didn't throw The Nanny at the wall and I'm glad I read it.

36. Spy School at Sea by Stuart Gibbs - I believe this is the 9th in the Spy School series, a favorite middle grade series that I will follow to its bitter end (if there ever is one). In Spy School at Sea, Ben, Mike, Erica, and Erica's divorced spy parents are posing as a family going on the largest cruise ship in the world, a virtual floating city. The objective is to track down Ben's nemesis, Murray Hill, and find out what kind of no-good scheme he has brewing, this time. But, first they have to find him and on a ship that holds tens of thousands of people, that's easier said than done. This particular entry in the series had a slow start but once it got going, it was every bit as entertaining, adventurous, and heart-pounding as the rest.

37. Thames Mudlarking: Searching for London's Lost Treasures by Jason Sandy and Nick Stevens - I found this book on mudlarking by chance when I was placing a Book Outlet order. I'm in a Thames Mudlarking group with the authors (although I'll probably never actually go mudlarking, myself) and have been fascinated not only by the amazing variety of objects the members find but also by their knowledge of history and ability to identify those items. In Thames Mudlarking, the authors talk about different eras of London's history and show items that have been found from those eras. They often theorize about how they may have ended up in the Thames. While the book is a slender 94 pages, it is packed with beautiful photos of finds from the Thames. My only complaint is that I didn't know what some of the items were; the book would have benefited from a glossary. Meaning, they might say, this "blah-blah" is a type of [doohickey-type word I've never heard] and I'd be thinking, "I need you to define doohickey. Is it a container, a candle holder, etc.?" Strange, undefined objects were not frequent; in most cases they tell you what something is and the history behind it. But, there were enough question marks for me to knock off a point at Goodreads.

38. The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn - An Agoraphobic psychologist watches the world outside her windows until she witnesses a murder. Or, did she imagine it? She definitely drinks too much and she's on a large number of medications to help deal with her agoraphobia. Some elements of this story were a bit predictable but the story is nicely written and tense enough that the pages flew. I really enjoyed it.

39. Cicada by Shaun Tan - A cicada (or its larva) works for humans for 17 years then gains its wings and flies away, laughing. Another weird, wonderful children's book by Tan. Am I done with my Tan phase, at this point? I'm going to say no.

40. Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu - At 14, the future Dr. Chen is celebrating his birthday when a strange ball of light enters his home through the walls and incinerates his parents. Thus is born a mission to determine what exactly ball lightning consists of and how to capture it and prevent tragedy. But, there are many roadblocks along the way and Dr. Chen is caught up in the study of ball lightning for military applications when it becomes his only option. Very heavy on the science and sometimes a bit of a yawn because of that, but if you have no problem understanding the general science concepts Ball Lightning quite a fascinating (admittedly far-fetched) read and I loved the denouement. If you have difficulty with the science aspects in books like The Martian and Recursion, I'd avoid this title.

41. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave - Hannah and Owen have only been married a couple years and his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, mostly speaks to Hannah in monosyllables. But, when the the head of the company Owen works for is arrested for fraud Owen disappears, leaving only a two-word note and a bag of cash. As Hannah tries to figure out what's going on, she slowly comes to the realization that Owen was not the man he claimed to be. But, in her attempt to track down his past, she may be putting herself and Bailey in danger. While not brilliantly written, The Last Thing He Told Me kept me happily entertained on a day when we had a power outage.

This was such a great month that if you asked me to choose a favorite, you'd have to pinch me hard to get me to comply. But, then I'd probably say Charlie Savage by Roddy Doyle was my favorite because it was just such an utter delight. One unusual thing about March was that I read not one but three suspense/thrillers (a genre I tend to skitter around because I find that they tend to be a little too far-fetched -- and two of them definitely were, although I enjoyed them anyway). Of those, The Woman in the Window was my favorite. I enjoyed both of the nonfiction books I read, Nala's World and Thames Mudlarking. And, while the sci-fi, Ball Lightning, was occasionally difficult and some of the science talk a bit dull, it was compelling and outlandish enough that I found it quite fun in the end. I also had a great deal of fun diving into the Shaun Tan books. His books are so beautiful that I'm convinced I need to own them all, although I don't currently have any more to read. I'm looking for books to remove from my taller-books shelf so that I can give my Tan books a permanent home.

I neglected to take a flat-lay photo and immediately began moving books to their new locations (get-rid-of box, shelf, pile to ponder) after taking a stack photo and I have an ear infection that's making me mildly sluggish so I've decided not to go back and do that but there is only one book not pictured, the Space Cat book, which I read via Hoopla.

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