Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Everything I Read in October, 2023


121. We Are the Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade - I've wanted to read this children's book for ages and knew it was available at Book Outlet, so when I went there to make a birthday purchase, this children's book was the first to be tossed into my cart. We Are the Water Protectors is about Native American beliefs that require them to be stewards of the Earth and how those beliefs led them to protest (unsuccessfully) the Dakota Pipeline, which began leaking even before it was finished. Spectacular illustrations and meaningful, lovely text make this book a winner. Reading about the Dakota Pipeline took me back to the cruelty protestors experienced. I'm still sad that they were not able to protect their water. 

122. The Borrowers by Mary Norton - Another purchase for my birthday was the boxed set of The Borrowers books, chosen so I could revisit my childhood. As a child, I was so fascinated by the story of The Borrowers that I would often dream (at night) and imagine (during the daylight) that there were little people living in our house. But, as it turns out, I pretty much remembered nothing about this first book, apart from the fact that the Borrowers were very small and used everyday items like matchboxes and spools to furnish their house. This first book is narrated by an older woman remembering her brother's story about seeing the Borrowers when he was sent to stay with an elderly relative in the English countryside after becoming ill while in India. The ending is quite harrowing and a bit on the cliffhangery side, so I'm pretty eager to read on and hope I'll be able to fit the next book in, soon. 

123. Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch - The second in the Rivers of London mystery series begins with the suspicious death of a jazz musician. Cyrus Wilkinson died of an apparent heart attack. But, when both Dr. Walid and Constable (and magician-in-training) Peter Grant hear the sounds of the jazz classic "Body and Soul" while observing his body, they know this was no ordinary death. Peter sets to work cross-referencing the deaths of other jazz musicians while also dealing with an unusual murderer he calls  the Pale Lady. There's a lot going on in the Rivers of London mysteries and I found that in both of the books I read, I had a little trouble keeping track of all of the characters and threads of the various magical things happening, but Peter Grant is such a fun, witty character that I think what I'll do in the future is just try to slam through the books as fast as possible so that I don't forget elements. I will definitely keep reading this series. 

124. The Museum House Ghosts by Judith Spearing - This story is the second in either a series or duology about a family of ghosts. In the first book the children (the entire family was apparently killed by lightning) went to school and made friends, so in the second book the living children are unfazed by the fact that their ghostly friends fade in and out. Now, the house they live in is going to be turned into a museum and the ghosts will continue to live in the house as caretakers and run the museum after a parade and dedication. Hijinks ensue as the family accidentally keeps driving away contractors working on preparing the house and the children occasionally spook people while playing with their friends. I'd love to read the first book but this was a 50-year-old library discard so it may be difficult to find the previous book. A fun, silly, entertaining read. And, it had an actual card in the library pocket with signatures dating back to 1972. Cool!

125. So Late in the Day by Claire Keegan - The story of a single day in the life of a man in Ireland begins with a mistake made while he is working. He's clearly flustered and upset. As he finishes his work day and spends the evening alone, the story of a former relationship unfolds and you understand why this particular day is having such a profound effect on him. I'm a Claire Keegan fan but this 47-page story is a bit on the depressing side so it wasn't my favorite. However, I found myself wanting to discuss it with someone, especially one scene that I found very disturbing. I wondered if it was the key to the entire story or I was just mistaking it for being so because it was so unsettling. I will continue to read Claire Keegan, in spite of not really enjoying this novella, which I gave a slightly above average rating on Goodreads. 

126. She's a Killer by Kirsten McDougall - Things are changing rapidly for Alice and her countrymen in New Zealand. With the world in the midst of a climate apocalypse, wealthy refugees known as "wealthugees" are buying their way into the country, using up resources and buying stolen land with the help of a corrupt government. Alice is a genius and easily bored. She and her mother don't get along well so they communicate by Morse code. And, her one and only friend is getting ready to move to a protected compound where they'll grow their own food and hopefully stay safe as things decline. When Alice meets a wealthugee and then he offers to pay her to watch his teenager, she finds that there is more to the story of 15-year-old Erika than she could have imagined. Now, she's caught up in events that are quickly spiraling out of control, her only friend wants nothing to do with her, and she's not sure she's going to get out of this mess alive. Not that she cares; Alice is a bit of a sociopath, as well. A very dark, twisted satire that will make you think about what could happen if we don't get climate change under control. 

127. Jane and the Final Mystery by Stephanie Barron - The 15th and final mystery in the Jane Austen Mystery series takes place with Jane's health in decline. When her nephew informs her that there has been a death at Winchester College and her dear friend Elizabeth Heathcote's son is implicated, Jane summons her strength and goes to stay with her friend. After attending the inquest, where young William Heathcote is accused of murder and taken away, Jane is determined to prove his innocence. I have got to read this entire series. I've only read the last two and they're fabulous, both with a convincing Jane as heroine and sleuth but also a learning experience as each story is placed in the historical context in which Jane lived. In both cases, there was familiar information (I've been to some of the locations in the two books I read) and plenty of info that was new to me. I spent a lot of time looking up photos of locations and particular sites described. A great series for fans of cozy mysteries, Jane Austen, and Anglophiles in general. 

128. The Way of the Househusband, Vol 5 by Kousuke Oono - Tatsu is left alone with the cat when his wife goes away on business and has big plans till his young friend shows up. In another story, he has a rap battle with a butcher. And, when he and his wife visit family, they get a little too enthusiastic about cooking hot pot. I can't remember which of the stories made me laugh out loud, but if you make me laugh, you're likely to get 5 stars and this series is such fun that it's difficult not to go with 5 stars, anyway. Another great entry in this hilarious series. 

129. McSweeney's Issue 71: The Monstrous and the Terrible, ed. by Brian Evenson - Like it sounds, the 71st issue of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern is a collection of short horror stories that range from a little funny to the mildly creepy to gruesome. My favorite was "The Haunting of the Wilsons by Me and That Bitch Todd," a funny ghost story about a couple who died by murder-suicide and are stuck haunting their old house together. As always, there were a few stories that didn't work for me and I even abandoned one halfway (very unusual) but the vast majority of the stories were surprisingly entertaining to a gal who is prone to nightmares and usually avoids horror. I love McSweeney's

130. The Masterful Cat is Depressed Again Today, Vol. 2 by Hitsuji Yamada (ebook) - The second in this manga series was a surprise as I found the ebook on sale and had enough credit to cover it — I had not planned to read on, due to my book-buying ban. Saku's boss has a niece who adores Saku's giant cat, Yukichi, and she has invited them to her birthday party. But, very few people have seen Yukichi and there's really no way to disguise a giant cat. What will they do? Saku feels obligated to go. You'll have to read to find out their clever plan. This is the first of the stories, some of which are told as flashbacks to when Saku found Yukichi freezing in the snow and took him in. I laughed a couple of times and loved the fact that each chapter is called a "can" with a sketch of a can of cat food. 

131. The Premonitions Bureau by Sam Knight (nonfiction) - 'The world is full of people who claim to have seen something coming but they always speak out after the event,' Fairley said. This man, quoted in The Premonitions Bureau, was a science and math journalist who got involved with two psychiatrists interested in premonitions and whether they could be used to prevent tragedy. The idea came about shortly after a disaster in which a coal mining tip (dump) slid down a mountain and killed over 100 children in Aberfan, Wales. Dr. John Barker worked in a mental hospital and wrote a book about the possibility of being frightened to death while his concept, The Premonitions Bureau, was collecting data. Did collecting predictions to prevent tragedy work? That would be telling. I read about this book on Instagram and bought it because I wanted to find out if other people had the same kind of premonitions I have had most of my life. The writing is jumpy and sometimes frustrating but what I wanted to hear about was other people who've had similar experiences to my own and I enjoyed it for the descriptions of some of their premonitions and the actual events that they were tied to, so I'm glad I read it. 

Looking at this list, it appears that the only book I was kind of disappointed with was the Claire Keegan. But, even that was a book that is worth rereading and discussing, so I'm going to declare October a very fine month. 

Jane and the Final Mystery and She's a Killer were ARCs. The rest came from my personal library, although they all arrived or were purchased within the past few months. We Are the Water Protectors and The Borrowers were in the most recent Book Outlet purchase, which led to my current book-buying ban. The Premonitions Bureau broke the ban and so did So Late in the Day, but I have no regrets. My book-buying ban is causing the desired result in that I'm buying very few books and I'm choosing with greater care. 

In November, I'm hoping to finally get one of my 2023 goal books, East of Eden by John Steinbeck. We're doing a lot of packing and shifting in this house as we're repurposing a room and have emptied it almost entirely (wow, that's been a job) so I need to figure out what I've done with another of my goal books, the Complete Illustrated Sherlock Holmes — one of my all-time favorite library sale discoveries. I've just dipped into it and read a story on occasion, thoughout the year, so I'm only halfway into it. I'd like to finish it before the end of 2023. 

Happy Reading to all!

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