Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Everything I Read in July, 2023 (in brief)


85. Harry and Sue by Larry Baker - Harry and Sue were in love but a single, fateful decision ended their romance. 40 years later, Harry is a taxi driver living in a boarding house. He still isn't over Sue. On a rainy night, someone waves him over and invites him into the closed Centre Theater and gives him a tour. Inside the theater there are many ghosts and the manager wants Harry to move in. But, one of the ghosts (Houdini) warns Harry that it's a trap. Why does the theater manager want Harry to move in? Will Harry ever see Sue, again? And, what's up with all the cats? Suspension of disbelief is required and the middle is a little big saggy but ultimately, I found the ending of this story so satisfying that I was very glad I read it. 

86. The Railway Children by E. Nesbit - How have I missed out on this incredibly warm, sweet, funny, sometimes frightening classic? I have no idea, but now that I've read it I'm certain it will stay in my heart forever. Roberta, Phyllis, and Peter are surprised when strangers arrive at their door, their father hastily leaves, and their mother goes pale. What has happened? They're accustomed to a life with servants in a large house but shortly after bad news on the doorstep, they pack up their things and move to a house in the countryside, where they must do with a single woman coming to help and Mother is now feverishly writing stories. Left mostly to themselves, the children become captivated by the nearby railway. They make friends, have adventures, and are courageous when necessary. The ending had me in tears. I would have eaten this up as a child and read it over and over again. 

87. Heartstopper, Vol 2 by Alice Oseman - The continuation of Nick and Charlie's story. Reminder: Nick has dated a girl in the past, while Charlie was outed as gay before he was ready. Nick was surprised to find himself attracted to Charlie in the first book. In the second volume of Heartstopper, Nick is trying to figure out what's going on. What does his attraction to both males and females mean? He reads up on bisexuality and then slowly comes to terms with who he is with the help of his ex-girlfriend and Charlie. This book is mostly about how individuals often have to go through the process of accepting their sexuality if it's confusing to them, but also then must figure out when and how to come out as gay, bisexual, etc. Charlie and Nick's ex, who also happens to be gay, are very helpful and encourage Nick to take his time and only let people know when it feels right. Another sweet entry in this series. 

88. Eloise and the Big Parade by Lisa McClatchy - Eloise and Nanny go to their 4th of July parade, where Eloise is so excited that she is a bit of a troublemaker, climbing where she shouldn't, stepping out into the street, catching as much candy as she can. An easy reader that was sent to me by mistake and which I will find a new home for but definitely a cute book for a new reader if you're looking for something specifically related to Independence Day celebrations in the US. 

89. Firefly: The Unification War, Vol 2 by Greg Pak, et al - The second in the series has Mal captured by Boss Moon (the Unificator who was trying to kill Zoë and Mal in Vol 1) and then crash-landing on a planet with some pretty creepy giant bug-looking critters, Zoë running a rescue mission, and the rest of the crew trying to help in different ways. There was a lot going on in this particular storyline but it was fun. The author, Greg Pak, does a great job of sneaking in some of Mal's typical wit and when Jayne is captured, the Tams do a great job of briefly convincing his captors that Jayne is Wash, which is also quite funny. Very entertaining. 

90. Heartstopper, Vol 3 by Alice Oseman - In Volume 3 of the Heartstopper graphic novel series, Charlie and Nick go on a school trip to Paris. While there, they discuss whether or not they should tell their friends they're dating. Meanwhile, other relationships are brewing. One of Charlie's friends is falling for a trans girl and the two adult male chaperones are eyeing each other. In a new development, Nick is worried when he realizes Charlie hardly eats at all. The thing I particularly love about this series is that it's about the emotional impact of being LGBTQ and it also focuses on LGBTQ relationships so there's a lot of unique representation. And, in spite of the fact that Nick and Charlie's relationship is progressing, this volume still doesn't go beyond a little kissing, hand-holding, and fully-clothed playful wrestling. 

91. The Castle of Adventure by Enid Blyton - The 2nd in the Adventure series stars the children from the first book (Phillip, Dinah, Jack, and Lucy-Ann) along with a new girl, Tassie. During summer break, Phillip and Dinah's mother rents a cottage with a castle on the hill above. When Jack spots a pair of golden eagles, he's convinced that they must be nesting in the castle and the children go to investigate. Their new friend Tassie helps them find their way into the castle. But, when Jack spends the night at the castle so that he can photograph the eagles in their nest, he discovers that he's not alone. And, when the children arrive and discover something strange is going on, they are all in peril. This is such a fun series. Childhood me is sad that Enid Blyton's books were not available to read at the time. Adult me is happy to catch up. 

92. Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagen - During the summer of 1959 in Wisconsin, someone is molesting and murdering young girls. Sally O'Malley thinks she knows who the killer is. But, during a summer in which she and her sister Troo are mostly left on their own after their mother becomes dangerously ill, their stepfather stops coming home, and their older sister is too busy with beauty school and her boyfriend to look after them, Sally will uncover a lot of surprising secrets. Really enjoyed this book and hope to read more by Kagen. It was my stationary biking book and it's worth mentioning that the characters and scenes were so vividly drawn that I never had any trouble remembering where I was in the story, in spite of reading it in small chunks over several weeks.

93. The One by John Marrs - The world has been revolutionized by the discovery of DNA-matched romance. But all is not as perfect as it seems in the world of matched souls. What will happen to each of the individuals matched in The One, including a woman who is matched to a serial killer? I'm not a big fan of thrillers and don't particularly find murder entertaining (although the unraveling of clues can be fun) but I reviewed a John Marrs book, a few years ago, and enjoyed it enough that I wanted to read more. There are a lot of characters to follow in The One and a good half to two-thirds of this book I kept wondering where the author was taking me, although I was thoroughly engaged in the various couple stories. The last third pulled everything together in a satisfying way. 

94. Heartstopper, Vol 4 by Alice Oseman - In this 4th volume of the Heartstopper graphic novel series, Charlie and Nick are separated during the holidays. Meanwhile, Nick is becoming more concerned that Charlie has an eating disorder and he researches what to do about it, what to say, and how to help Charlie get treatment. I was planning to stop at #4, figuring this series would continue on for a long time, but then I read the author's note saying that #5 would be the last in the series. So, I've pre-ordered it and am very much looking forward to the last entry in the story of Charlie and Nick. As always, the book remained clean and was more about emotion than physicality. Any tussling is done fully clothed but there's mostly just kissing and hand-holding. It's a nice, clean series that I'd recommend to anyone. 

95. Firefly: The Unification War, Vol 3 by Greg Pak - The final entry in the Unification War series is again chaotic and, admittedly, my least favorite. The former Browncoats are worried about an upcoming land war and their enemy has landburners, a device that was outlawed after they were used to destroy entire planets. To save their own hides, they'll have to try to capture the landburners. Also, Mal's mother shows up and she's one tough cookie. To be honest, I absolutely hated Mal's mother being brought into the story. Plus, I found this entry a bit harder to follow, although the art in this series is wobbly and it's often hard to tell the characters apart. I'm still glad I read them. It was nice to revisit Firefly. 

This month was not my best because I was, and am, immersed in a 500-page book that's a bit dense and also has such appalling characters that I've had to routinely take breaks from it. I'm a little over 2/3 of the way into that, so it will show up in my August post. Meanwhile, most of the rest of my reads were books that were read on the side (as breaks from the dense book), with the exceptions of Harry and Sue, which I read at the beginning of the month, and Whistling in the Dark, my stationary biking book. Having said that, as usual I liked or loved everything I read. I have gotten very good at abandoning books that I'm not enjoying. The only one that was iffy was The One. The first 2/3 of it were just baffling. I thought it was a serial killer book . . . and there is a serial killer. But, it was about the couples who are matched and the serial killer just happens to be among those who are coupled. Once the author began to show the consequences and it began to make more sense what the book was about, I really enjoyed it. 

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