Sunday, August 14, 2022

The Museum of Odd Body Leftovers Review, Cool Idea of the Day: Authors for Abortion Rights Event, Spellbound, A Paranormal historical Romance by Allie Therin, Widow's Web and Deadly Sting by Jennifer Estep, and the Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

Hey Book Lovers and Book Dragons! Welcome to the dog days of summer, or as I like to call it, "stay inside with the AC on high and read some good books while avoiding the sun's deadly radiation!" I've been enjoying some ebooks and a couple of regular books, but my reading has been interspersed with medical woes, as my husband was in the hospital all last week, and just got home late Friday. He's requiring a lot of support, so I haven't been able to concentrate on reading as much as I usually do. However, next week I'm having a tooth removed, so that will also eat into my reading time, I'm sure. So here are 4 book reviews from me and some tidbits from Shelf Awareness.


This actually sounds like a fascinating book. I will have to scrounge up a copy.


Children's Review: The Museum of Odd Body Leftovers

"The useless bits. The leftovers. The bad patch jobs." These are the

anatomical exhibits in Rachel Poliquin's brilliant museum for budding scientists. A wisdom tooth and a disappearing kidney guide the audience through a series of intriguingly bizarre wings within the human body, each containing some vestigial structure. The talking molar delivers fascinating background through delightfully witty dialogue, and Clayton Hanmer's illustrations ingeniously reinforce the concepts with clever detail and comic appeal. The Museum of Odd Body Leftovers is an enjoyable tour that will educate the whole family.

Throughout the tour, a mystery unfolds about the wisdom tooth's

assistant kidney. Tooth points out, "You're a kidney. Kidneys are very important. They are not leftovers. You do not belong here." But the kidney insists that it does. It also vanishes periodically during the excursion, leaving nothing but, hilariously, a tiny pair of shoes. Subtle clues lead up to a final reveal of how the organ fits quite appropriately into the museum.


Young readers will find myriad reasons to love learning science in this innovative presentation of the human body's transformation. And readers of any age are likely to learn a fascinating tidbit or two. The Museum of Odd Body Leftovers is the hottest ticket in town, don't miss it. --Jen Forbus, freelancer


This is an awesome idea, and I hope that it helps in the fight for women's right to bodily autonomy. 

Cool Idea of the Day: Authors for Abortion Rights Event

Next week, Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the National Network of Abortion Funds are partnering for an online event in support of abortion rights

Authors Jasmine Guillory (The Wedding Date), Jenny Han (To All the Boys I've Loved Before), Emily Henry (Beach Read), Taylor Jenkins Reid (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo) and Jia Tolentino (Trick Mirror) will join for a night of interviews, conversations, games and fundraising, while Emma Straub, author and owner of Books Are Magic, will host.

The event is ticketed, and money from every ticket sold will go to one of six abortion funds the participating authors have chosen. At any point during the event, viewers will be welcome to send donations to the bookstore's Venmo, which will then be sent to a fund of the sender's choosing or distributed evenly among the six chosen by the participating authors. More information can be found here

Spellbound: A paranormal historical romance by Allie Therin was a bargain ebook that I snapped up on Amazon for two bucks. After reading it, I realize I would have paid full price or more for a book this delightful and full of mystery, romance and adventure, not to mention the gay male protagonists! YEAH! I'm waving my PRIDE flag over that! Anyway, the prose was sassy and fun, and the plot ran off like a runaway horse carriage, but that was just fine with me, as it never felt labored or dull. Here's the blurb: To save Manhattan, they’ll have to save each other first…

New York, 1925

Arthur Kenzie’s life’s work is protecting the world from the supernatural relics that could destroy it. When an amulet with the power to control the tides is shipped to New York, he must intercept it before it can be used to devastating effects. This time, in order to succeed, he needs a powerful psychometric…and the only one available has sworn off his abilities altogether.

Rory Brodigan’s gift comes with great risk. To protect himself, he’s become a recluse, redirecting his magic to find counterfeit antiques. But with the city’s fate hanging in the balance, he can’t force himself to say no.

Being with Arthur is dangerous, but Rory’s ever-growing attraction to him begins to make him brave. And as Arthur coaxes him out of seclusion, a magical and emotional bond begins to form. One that proves impossible to break—even when Arthur sacrifices himself to keep Rory safe and Rory must risk everything to save him.

Rory and Ace are amazing characters whose love story is everything a romance reader could want. I also loved Mrs B and the other paranormals that Ace has gathered to help save the world from magic artifacts. The historical component adds a great deal of depth to the narrative, and the chasm between the classes is highlighted and shown for the cruel game that it is. I'd give this enjoyable book with an HEA ending an A, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys LGBTQ romance/mystery adventures.

Widow's Web and Deadly Sting, books 7 & 8 of the Elemental Assassins series by Jennifer Estep were interesting stories, but unfortunately they remained part of the "color by numbers" pattern set up by the first couple of books, so that readers now know exactly what will happen within the confines of Gin's world. There's also way too much time spent in recapping previous plotlines/story arcs, so that about half the book is taken up with what happened three or four books ago, explaining all the background and history of Gin and her family in dull detail. I think if you've gotten this far in the series, you don't really need an extensive recap, because you've read it all before, again and again. Here's the blurbs: 

Widow's Web:

The seventh book in the hugely popular Elemental Assassin series by New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Jennifer Estep—Gin Blanco is back and ready for action.

I used to murder people for money, but lately it’s become more of a survival technique.

Once an assassin, always an assassin. So much for being plain old Gin Blanco. With every lowlife in Ashland gunning for me, I don’t need another problem, but a new one has come to town anyway. Salina might seem like a sweet Southern belle, but she’s really a dangerous enemy whose water elemental magic can go head-to-head with my own Ice and Stone power. Salina also has an intimate history with my lover, Owen Grayson, and now that she’s back, she thinks he’s hers for the taking. Salina’s playing a mysterious game that involves a shady local casino owner with a surprising connection to Owen. But they call me the Spider for a reason. I’m going to untangle her deadly scheme, even if it leaves my love affair hanging by a thread.

Deadly Sting:

The eighth hotly anticipated book in the Elemental Assassin series by New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Estep: it’s Gin Blanco's party—and you’ll cry if she wants you to.

Red is definitely my color. Good thing, because in my line of work, I end up wearing it a lot.

Most people shy away from blood, but for an assassin like me— Gin Blanco, aka the Spider—it’s just part of the job. Still, it would be nice to get a night off, especially when I’m attending the biggest gala event of the summer at Briartop, Ashland’s fanciest art museum. But it’s just not meant to be. For this exhibition of my late nemesis’s priceless possessions is not only
the place to be seen, but the place to be robbed and taken hostage at gunpoint as well. No sooner did I get my champagne than a bunch of the unluckiest thieves ever burst into the museum and started looting the place.

Unlucky why? Because I brought along a couple of knives in addition to my killer dress. Add these to my Ice and Stone magic, and nothing makes me happier than showing the bad guys why red really
is my color.

I find myself, once again, wondering why Gin has so many friends/relatives and a boyfriend who are all pretty worthless when it comes to saving the day or dealing with threats to everyone's life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Even her supposedly "accepting" boyfriend Owen, who loves her knowing that she's an assassin, turns on her the minute she kills an INSANE ex-girlfriend who clearly is a sociopath and set to kill everyone Gin and Owen have ever cared about, along with a lot of innocent civilians. But Owen, who is normally pragmatic, seems to think that his crazy ex can be redeemed by therapy, though she will have murdered a ton of people by the time they get her in handcuffs, if that is even possible. Gin, as usual doesn't care about some fantasy of redemption, and she finally does what needs to be done and kills the bitch, but Owen decides to break it off with her because his feelings are a big pouty baby. Ugh. Anyway, I hope Gin dumps Owen and moves on with her life, and only keeps her sister around because Bria seems to be the only person with the balls to kill the bad guys and back her sister up (the two dwarf ladies are good for healing and helping get rid of bodies, so I'd keep them too). Finn is a sexist creep and keeps getting his "sister" into life-threatening danger while he's busy messing around. Anyway, I'd give these two volumes a B- and recommend them to the patient folks who waded through the redundancies of books 4-6. 

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill is a mystery within a mystery wrapped in a meta-mystery/thriller. It's one of those books that British people would call "Too clever by half" and I think the conceit of the book being written while the books being written and the characters interacting about the books being written about their characters can be fairly confusing just for the sake of style. Still, the prose was good, if a bit arch, and the plot, though labyrinthine, eventually gets the job done in fairly good time. Here's the blurb:  

"Investigations are launched, fingers are pointed, potentially dangerous liaisons unfold and I was turning those pages like there was cake at the finish line." —Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times must-read books for summer 2022

Ned Kelly award winning author Sulari Gentill sets this mystery-within-a-mystery in motion with a deceptively simple, Dear Hannah, What are you writing? pulling us into theornate reading room at the Boston Public Library.

In every person's story, there is something to hide...

The tranquility is shattered by a woman's terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who'd happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.

Sulari Gentill delivers a sharply thrilling read with The Woman in the Library, an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship and shows us that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.

The reason this book becomes a page-turner is that it's like a runaway freight starts moving at a regular pace but picks up speed and complications so that by the time you look up you've been reading for several hours straight and are almost at the end. After all the complex plot points, death and mayhem, the ending was something of a disappointment. I was expecting something explosive, but what I got was a creepy letter and two women who are stupid enough to fall in love with murderers. So of course all their common sense and logic flies out the window and they immediately become whining, obsessed, desperate, giggling cretins. It's so cliched and weak that I wanted to barf. I realize it's a trope that love makes fools of us all, but still, women don't automatically become brainless dogs, following around at their master's heels, willing to die for them, when they fall in love. I didn't become a blushing ninny when I fell in love with my husband, and I know a number of other women who managed to maintain their sound minds after being in a relationship. Still, I'd give this novel a B- for the attempt at a novel within a novel. Now if the author could just ditch the sexist stereotypes.


Sunday, August 07, 2022

Bookstore Romance Day Set for 8/20, The Wager on TV, Review of Dinners with Ruth by Nina Totenberg, A Man in Full on TV, Jamie Ford at Third Place Books, John Williams is WAPO Book Editor, Obituary for Melissa Bank,Devil in the White City Comes to TV, Real Bad Things by Kelly J Ford, By a Thread by Jennifer Estep, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Greetings fellow bibliophiles! I hope you're all withstanding the heat by staying indoors in the AC and reading good books! I know that I am, while also binge-watching the entire first season of Neil Gaiman's Sandman on Netflix. It was, though way too gory for my tastes, a wonderfully philosophical, magical viewing experience...I laughed, I cried, and I found myself hungry for more, like now! Meanwhile, I've read three sizable books and will review them after some cool and spicy tidbits, below. Hang in there, reading friends, it's almost Autumn, when cooler temps prevail.

What a delightful idea, a day for bookstores to celebrate the many colors of romantic love. I can hardly wait!

Bookstore Romance Day Set for August 20

The third Bookstore Romance Day is set for Saturday, August 20.

Independent bookstores around the country will be celebrating the romance genre through a variety of in-store activities, and throughout the afternoon there will be live-streamed panels about various romance sub-genres, including YA romance, queer romance, historical romance and more. Bookstore Romance Day was founded in 2019 to help strengthen the relationship between indie bookstores and the community of romance readers and writers.

This sounds really exciting, and I hope that it splashes across the Apple+ streaming service like a tidal wave.

TV: The Wager

Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are teaming up again to adapt the upcoming David Grann nonfiction book, The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder.

The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Apple Original Films "has landed the rights to the book, due out in April 2023. The project reteams the key players and companies behind the recently wrapped adaptation of Grann's true-crime tome Killers of the Flower Moon."

DiCaprio and Scorsese "are one of the great pairings in cinema," THR wrote, adding that "in the last 25 years the two have worked together on six movies that have generated multiple Oscar wins. The list includes Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island and The Wolf of Wall Street, with Flower Moon next to be released."

I loved all the biopics that came out about three years ago about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, supreme court justice and all around bad-ass feminist lawyer. She was amazing right up until the end, when she lost her battle with cancer. She is seriously missed, since now the Supreme court is packed with idiots who want to remove all women's rights, including the right to our own bodies/abortion rights and voting rights. I will be looking for this excellent book by NPR's Nina Totenberg.

Book Review

Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendship

Longtime NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg met Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the 1970s, early in both their careers. Totenberg's thoughtful first book, Dinners with Ruth, traces their five-decade friendship. But it also provides broader meditations on friendship and building community, as well as a candid glimpse into Washington insider politics and the challenges of being a woman in that male-driven environment.

Totenberg begins at the end: "The last time I saw Ruth, it was for supper." She gives a brief overview of her long bond with Ginsburg, which lasted through grief, professional challenges, health struggles and the Covid-19 pandemic, and included many meals together. She then takes readers on a tour of her early life and family history as well as Ginsburg's, noting their similarities along with the deep differences in their backgrounds. The book continues in this way: it is primarily Totenberg's story, but she shares biographical information about Ginsburg, weaving the facts together with anecdotes from their friendship. Totenberg also emphasizes her ties to NPR colleagues Cokie Roberts and Linda Wertheimer, and the ways they supported each other personally and professionally: "natural allies as well as friends."

While the book centers on the relationship between Totenberg and Ginsburg, the chapter titles hint at its broader range of insights: "Unexpected Friends," "Fame and Friendship," "Friendship Is a Choice." Totenberg muses on her parents' friendships, which she witnessed as a child; her own budding friendships as a young woman and early-career reporter; and the longtime connections that have sustained her through subsequent years. She shares stories from her first marriage to a much older man, and the ways her friends carried her through his illness and death. Totenberg also writes joyfully of her second marriage to Dr. David Reines, a surgeon who became a close friend and medical adviser of Ginsburg. She explores the different aspects of friendship against the backdrop of highly educated, highly political Washington circles, emphasizing the simple acts of care that deepen a bond: listening, sharing meals, showing up.

Ginsburg herself appears much as readers may have already seen her: a fierce intellect with a wry sense of humor and a deep commitment to the law. But Totenberg's warm recollection of their years together reveals a different side of Ruth: her love for shopping and French bouillabaisse, her appreciation of gossip, her tenacity in being there for friends despite illness, work and other challenges. Readers will come away with a fuller portrait of RBG, but also a wonderful rendering of Totenberg's friendships and perhaps a deeper appreciation for their own. --Katie Noah Gibson

 I had a period of time in the late 80s and 90s when I binge-read all of Tom Wolfes novels, though they were sometimes more than a bit sexist. Still, Wolfe's prose was just so cool and smooth and modern that I felt like, after a lifetime of vanilla ice cream, I'd discovered lemon, chocolate cherry or cantaloupe much rich flavor, so many colors, it was a thrill for a budding writer to gobble these novels down. It's not a coincidence that this all happened after I met John Updike in grad school, and after reading all his works, I was looking for another male writer who made sexy sentences and plush paragraphs. I look forward to seeing A Man in Full on Netflix, but I don't know how they'll get that special something inherent in his prose to translate to the screen.

TV: A Man In Full

Additional cast members have been named for A Man in Full, Netflix's six-episode limited series from David E. Kelley and Regina King based on Tom Wolfe's 1998 novel, Deadline reported.

Joining previously announced stars Jeff Daniels and Diane Lane are William Jackson Harper (Love Life), Tom Pelphrey (Ozark), Aml Ameen (Boxing Day), Sarah Jones (For All Mankind), Jon Michael Hill (Widows) and Chante Adams (A League of Their Own).

Kelley serves as writer, executive producer and showrunner, with King directing three episodes and exec producing as part of her first-look deal with Netflix via her Royal Ties production company. Matthew Tinker also executive produces.

Jamie Ford is a local author turned superstar author, and I've loved all his novels and movies made from them. I've not gotten my hands on "The Many Daughters..." yet, but hopefully one day soon I will.

Image of the Day: Jamie Ford at Third Place Books

Tuesday evening, Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Wash., hosted the launch event for Jamie Ford's The Many Daughters of Afong Moy (Atria Books). Events manager Spencer Ruchti reported, "135 Seattleites came to see the author talk about his fourth novel since Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet."

 This lucky man gets to read and review books for a living...I am green with envy. Honestly I am glad that the big newspapers are still able to afford a books editor and a book review/recommendation section, considering how hard it is for so many papers to survive in this online economy.


John Williams Joins Washington Post as Books Editor

John Williams is joining the Washington Post as books editor, effective September 6. In his new position, Williams will be "helping to reinvigorate this important coverage area" by leading the nonfiction and fiction books team, hiring new writers and working with colleagues to reach new audiences, the Post noted, adding: "We believe in books coverage that revels in the life of the mind and big ideas and is also consumer-oriented, giving book lovers the information they need as they choose what to read."

Since 2011, Williams has been on the Books desk at the New York Times, first as a web producer and often as a writer. Starting in 2016, he became the editor of the paper's staff book critics and has also been a mainstay of the Book Review's weekly podcast, producing and, more recently, hosting the show.

Before joining the Times, he spent six years in the editorial department of HarperCollins and later worked as a freelance writer and editor. In 2009, he started a literary website called The Second Pass, which featured reviews of new books, essays about older ones and a blog that he anchored. "I couldn't be happier that it's all led me to the Post," Williams said.

 I read and loved "Girl's Guide" and I am stunned that Ms Bank has passed at the age of only 61 (I'm 61 myself, and not nearly ready to take the dark journey). May she rest in peace and love.

Obituary Note: Melissa Bank

Author Melissa Bank, best known for her 1999 bestseller The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, died August 2, USA Today reported. She was 61. In a statement, her publisher, Penguin Books, called Bank "a writer with a distinctive minimalist style and boldly hilarious voice," adding that "she captivated generations of readers with her warmly piercing takes on relationships, family and adulthood."

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing is a collection of linked short stories about Jane Rosenal, "starting at age 14 and following her adventures and travails in sex, love and work with a relatable, comic touch." Bank followed it up with The Wonder Spot (2005), a novel "about another young woman, Sophie Applebaum, and her quest to forge her own identity," USA Today wrote. 

A Philadelphia native with a master's degree from Cornell University, Bank "needed 12 years to finish The Girls' Guide in part because of a bicycle accident that damaged her short-term memory and ability to think of words," the Associated Press noted. Two stories from the book were adapted into the 2007 romantic comedy Suburban Girl, starring Alec Baldwin and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

 Devil in the White City was a book that I read with my library book group last year, and most of them loved it, while I felt it got a bit bogged down in historical detail. I'm also not a huge fan of Keanu Reeves as an actor, but I plan on watching this adaptation anyway.

TV: Devil In the White City

Keanu Reeves will star in the "long-gestating adaptation" of Erik Larson's 2003 bestselling book The Devil in the White City Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, Deadline reported, adding that Hulu has put in a limited series order for the drama. This marks first major U.S. TV role for Reeves, who will also serve as an executive producer. The eight-episode series is targeted for a 2024 release, with production not expected to begin until next year.

The project "has been in various stages of development since DiCaprio bought the film rights to the book in 2010 and previously set it up as a feature at Paramount with Scorsese to direct," Deadline noted. "In 2019, Hulu announced that it was developing the project as a big-budget series with DiCaprio and Scorsese exec producing."


Real Bad Things by Kelly J Ford was a mystery thriller that was given to me for free as an ebook because we subscribe to Amazon Prime. I'd read a small sample and it seemed like an interesting, albeit dark book, but I was unaware that it would only get more grim and dark as it went on. The title should have clued me in. Here's the blurb:

From the author of Cottonmouths, a Los Angeles Review Best Book of 2017, comes an evocative suspense about the cost of keeping secrets and the dangers of coming home.

Beneath the roiling waters of the Arkansas River lie dead men and buried secrets.

When Jane Mooney’s violent stepfather, Warren, disappeared, most folks in Maud Bottoms, Arkansas, assumed he got drunk and drowned. After all, the river had claimed its share over the years.

When Jane confessed to his murder, she should have gone to jail. That’s what she wanted. But without a body, the police didn’t charge her with the crime. So Jane left for Boston—and took her secrets with her.

Twenty-five years later, the river floods and a body surfaces. Talk of Warren’s murder grips the town. Now in her forties, Jane returns to Maud Bottoms to reckon with her past: to do jail time, to face her revenge-bent mother, (editors note, the mother is a murderous psychopath, bent on killing, not just revenge) to make things right.

But though Jane’s homecoming may enlighten some, it could threaten others. Because in this desolate river valley, some secrets are better left undisturbed.

If you are the kind of person who hates stereotypes, particularly Southern stereotypes of the abusive, ignorant gun-toting, beer-guzzling sexist men and the stupid, pearl-clutching gossipy passive-aggressive women (and the older Southern women who won't go to the store without full makeup and dress with hose and heels, accompanied by lots of self-loathing and vicious words), this is not the book for you. Because while the protagonist is that rarity in fiction, a lesbian who doesn't hide or hate the fact that she's a homosexual, (she grew up in a severely abusive household with a brother who was half Asian and a psychopathic alcoholic mother who had many boyfriends who also treated her children like garbage) and is noble enough to try and get her brother off of a murder charge by confessing to it herself, there are still layers of awful in each character, and by the time you get to the end, you might have a case of horror and disgust fatigue. I wanted them all dead by the end, and I found Jane's ending very unsatisfying, because it was all for nothing. I'd give this bleak and horrific novel a C, and only recommend it to people who enjoy Southern horror fiction.

By A Thread, Book 6 of the Elemental Assassins series by Jennifer Estep was looking like it would be a fun "vacation from assassination" novel that I had hoped would be a break for readers and the characters in the series alike. But it was not to be, apparently, because trouble and death and pain find Gin Blanco wherever she is. Other than her dwarven friends who can heal and get rid of bodies without a trace, all her other friends and family (her sister Bria and her foster brother Finn) are pretty worthless when it comes to helping her when the shit hits the fan and she's being tortured or beaten or drained of life and powers by a vampire. They're always around at the end to greet her after she's been healed, but that just makes them seem more interested in saving their own hides and their significant other's skins than Gins. This same thing happens in all of Seanan McGuire's October Daye series, where Toby is getting gutted like a fish and all of the "protective" boyfriends and exs and family members are never around to help her fight the bad guys, ever. It's pathetic, and I would think the authors would have more respect for their B-team characters and sidekicks than to sideline them and let the protagonist nearly die in every volume. Anyway, here's the tiny blurb:

The sixth book in the USA TODAY bestselling Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series featuring Gin Blanco, who by day owns a Tennessee BBQ joint, and by night is a tough female assassin known as the Spider.
I never thought I’d need a vacation from being an assassin….

My name is Gin Blanco, and I’m the assassin the Spider. All the Ashland’s lowlifes are gunning for me and trying to make a name for themselves by taking out the Spider. So I think it’s a good idea to get out of Ashland for a while until things cool down.

So I’m headed south to a swanky beach town, along with my baby sister, Bria, for a weekend of fun in the sun. But when an old friend of Bria’s is threatened by a powerful vampire with deadly elemental magic, it looks like I’ll have to dig my silverstone knives out of my suitcase after all. But this time, not even my own Ice and Stone power may be enough to save me from coming home in a pine box.

Though Estep's writing is bright and crisp as her plots are slick and quick (so much so that they're like potato chips, you can't eat just one...I find myself jonesing for each new book in the series, because they're so easy to read), by this point in the series at least 1/3rd of the book is spent flashing back to previous books in the series, and going over her feelings about the original "bad/terrible tragedy that happened to the protagonist which propels them into a career that sets a course for revenge. This redundancy is mind-numbingly boring, especially if you've read all the other books and you're well aware of the protagonist's history and former tragedy. I honestly do not think that readers start a series on books 6-10, so much of this space wasted on flashbacks could be put to better use getting on with the new plot, new villain, new battles/fights, new characters, etc. I was particularly sad to see Gin's former hookup, the nasty and arrogant Det. Donovan, make another appearance after I assumed he was out of Gin's life for good (especially since she is now in love with Owen). So I'd give this book a B, and recommend it only to those who have read the first five books, that way you can skip the redundant recaps.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin is a science fiction/fantasy/romance novel that has been chosen by The Tonight Show's Jimmy Fallon as the book of the month for their On Air book club. I'd chosen to purchase this book months before Fallon made his announcement (to huge cheering from the audience, who all got free copies), so I settled down with this book on Saturday morning and finally finished it by 3 am this morning. The prose was lyrical and engrossing and the plot seemed massive, though it managed to be straightforward enough that it doesn't drop you off into dull detail or redundancies and scientific info-dumps. Here's the blurb:  

In this exhilarating novel by the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, two friends—often in love, but never lovers—come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster,
Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.
Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before. 

Underpining the plot of this novel is the story of how horribly women are treated in the videogaming industry and the computer industry (especially software coders), from the early years to the upsweep in the 90s of new gaming companies arriving on the West Coast (mainly in Seattle/Redmond, Washington and Silicon Valley, California) to the huge conglomerate companies of today who have a lock on gaming technology, and who still don't recognize women as the powerful creators/gamers that they are.

 It's heart-wrenching to watch Sadie, a brilliant MIT grad have to continually take a back seat to her Harvard educated disabled friend (and frenemy) Sam, whose games are nothing without her fantastic creative mind and hours of hard work. I found Sam to be a rather immature, whiny bastard who can't seem to get over the fact that Sadie doesn't want to have sex with him. Like most incels, he seems to feel it's his birthright as a male to be able to use any and all women around him as his own personal sex slaves and long term lovers...never mind what the woman wants. Sadie falls in love with her teacher (who is more than a bit creepy and an abusive asshat in the end) and then falls for their gaming business manager Marx. One thing that really bothered me was that Zevin fell into a cliche trope of "women who break up with or lose their lovers" becoming nearly catatonic with depression, as fiercely bright Sadie somehow can't function without a man in her life to tell her how smart she is....really, Zevin? She's smart and independent as a woman except when it comes to her "fragile heart" because we all know how fragile women's emotions/egos are, right?! UGH. What a shame. All that tough feminism goes right down the toilet the minute a needy man shows up. The ending was also a watery compromise that came off as weak. Still, I did enjoy this inside look at the computer gaming industry, and though I had to ask my computer game-loving son what some of the acronyms meant, I felt like seeing how the sausage was made was really enlightening. I'd give this book an A-, and recommend it to anyone who wonders what it takes to make it in the gaming industry.




Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Sandman is Nigh on Netflix! White Noise Movie, President Obama's Summer Reading List, Eragon on TV, Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, Spider's Bite, Web of Lies, Venom and Tangled Threads by Jennifer Estep

Hello sweaty bookdragons! It's freaking HOT out there! Here in the PNW, it got to 103 degrees today, and there wasn't a drop of rain in the sky, which is unusual for us. I didn't want to risk incineration, so I stayed inside in the AC and read a lot and watched some great new shows on streaming services. It only got to be slightly below 70 degrees indoors (we had it down to 68 for a little while) but that's certainly better than the Mojave Desert temps of over 100! Anyway, as you can see via the tidbits below, I have more good viewing to come, especially this upcoming week.

I've loved Neil Gaiman's graphic novels and regular fantasy novels and TV shows/movies for decades. He is, frankly, a genius, and though he's my age (61) he has become more prolific as the years have marched on. I continue to delight in his work, and his interviews and sublime take on ancient characters/gods/monsters. Of course he's British, which only makes him that much better at everything. Sigh.

TV: The Sandman

Netflix has released the first full trailer for The Sandman, a 10-episode series starring Tom Sturridge and based on the DC Comics series by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg, Deadline reported. Produced by Warner Bros. Television, the project was developed and executive produced by Gaiman, showrunner Allan Heinberg and David S. Goyer. It starts streaming August 5 on Netflix.

The cast also includes Boyd Holbrook, Patton Oswalt, Vivienne Acheampong, Gwendoline Christie, Charles Dance, Jenna Coleman, David Thewlis, Stephen Fry, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Mason Alexander Park, Donna Preston, Vanesu Samunyai (fka Kyo Ra), John Cameron Mitchell, Asim Chaudhry, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Joely Richardson, Niamh Walsh, Sandra James-Young and Razane Jammal.

"For well over 30 years, my part in Sandman adaptations was just to try and stop bad ones from happening," Gaiman said. "And fortunately, I was always successful in this.... The determination everywhere to make this and get it right has been absolutely a breath of fresh air. This is Sandman being made for people who love Sandman, by people who love Sandman, and that is so incredible for me. It's been so special. I feel like I'm on the cusp, and I cannot wait until people see this show."

 I remember reading this DeLillo novel way back when. I can only imagine what a great film it has become, with a magnificent cast.

Movies: White Noise

The Venice Film Festival (August 31-September 10) will open with the world premiere of Noah Baumbach's Netflix drama White Noise, adapted from the novel by Don DeLillo. Deadline reported that the project, written for the screen and directed by Baumbach, is produced by Baumbach, David Heyman and Uri Singer. It marks the first time a Netflix movie has opened the festival.

Starring Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig, the film's cast also includes Don Cheadle, Raffey Cassidy, Sam Nivola, May Nivola, Jodie Turner-Smith, Andre L. Benjamin and Lars Edinger.

Festival chief Alberto Barbera said: "It is a great honor to open the 79th Venice Film Festival with White Noise. It was worth waiting for the certainty that the film was finished to have the pleasure to make this announcement. Adapted from the great Don DeLillo novel, Baumbach has made an original, ambitious and compelling piece of art which plays with measure on multiple registers: dramatic, ironic, satirical. The result is a film that examines our obsessions, doubts, and fears as captured in the 1980s, yet with very clear references to contemporary reality."

Oh how I miss President Obama and his calm brilliance in the White House! I love a president who reads, and Obama, being the smart guy he is, reads a lot now that he's retired from the presidency. I've put a couple of the books on his list onto my own list of books to buy in the future (or get from the library).

Obama's Summer Reading List 2022

Barack Obama has released his summer reading list. On Facebook, he wrote, "I've read a couple of great books this year and wanted to share some of my favorites so far. What have you been reading this summer?" Obama's list:

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Why We're Polarized by Ezra Klein

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

Silverview by John Le Carre

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson

The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure by Yascha Mounk

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks by Chris Herring

 I remember this book when it was being hand-sold as a self-publishing miracle (it sold a ton of copies) by it's young and charming author, Christopher Paolini. I interviewed him several times for the Mercer Island Reporter, where I was on staff for 8 years, and he was a delight (he gave me a copy of Eragon, signed, that I still treasure). Once Scholastic bought the rights to Eragon, CP's work took off, and I gather he's now a rich and famous author...good for him! There was a movie that wasn't well received, and now they're taking another shot at it via a live-action TV series for Disney+. I hope that all goes well and I will be watching for its debut.

TV: Eragon

Disney+ is developing a live-action TV series adaptation of Eragon, based on Christopher Paolini's popular YA book series the Inheritance Cycle, Deadline reported. Paolini will co-write and executive produce with Bert Salke executive producing via his Co-Lab 21 banner as part of his deal with Disney Television Studios. The studio is 20th Television.

"This has been a long time coming," said Paolini in a blog post. "I can't tell you how many conversations, meetings, and messages were needed in order to reach this point. And we're still just at the beginning! However, none of this would have been possible without everyone who has read the books, supported the tweetstorms, and participated in this fandom over the years. So a huge thank you from me to every Alagasian out there. You brought the thunder."

Salke added: "It's thrilling  to be working with Christopher on a Disney + adaptation of Eragon. Like with Percy Jackson, 20th and D+ are providing a chance for us to translate these stories to film in the way their millions of fans deserve. We're incredibly excited to find the showrunner/partner who will help us bring the Eragon story to screens around the world."

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is a quirky novel that I'd read and watched the movie based on it a year ago in 2021. I forgot all about it until I started reading it again and found myself being bored because I knew what was going to happen in the end. This doesn't mean that this isn't a good book, it's funny and sweet and odd, as all Backman's best books are, its just that I don't generally like going over old ground. Still, this is for my August book group meeting, so I plowed through it anyway, and found myself laughing and crying like crazy. Here's the blurb: 

An instant #1 New York Times bestseller, the new novel from the author of A Man Called Ove is a “quirky, big-hearted novel….Wry, wise and often laugh-out-loud funny, it’s a wholly original story that delivers pure pleasure” (People).

Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.

Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.

Proving once again that Backman is “a master of writing delightful, insightful, soulful, character-driven narratives” (
USA TODAY), Anxious People “captures the messy essence of being human….It’s clever and affecting, as likely to make you laugh out loud as it is to make you cry” (The Washington Post).

Backman's prose is always smooth and even, though it's translated, and his plots careen along like a roller coaster, swift and breathtaking. Though he does tend to put too much attention to detail in his books, his characters are so fascinating you hardly notice. I'd give this big hearted book about relationships of all kinds an A, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys revelatory fiction about things that go awry in all the right ways.

Spider's Bite, Web of Lies, Venom, and Tangled Threads by Jennifer Estep are the first four paranormal fantasy novels in her Elemental Assassins series, which I've been obsessed with all week long. I got the first book for a song as an ebook, and I could NOT put my Kindle Paperwhite down! Estep's Gin Blanco reminded me of Lilith Saintcrow's Dante Valentine and Jill Kismet, with some of Seanan McGuire's Toby Daye and a touch of Sookie Stackhouse (Charlaine Harris) thrown in for good measure. So I immediately bought Web of Lies after whipping through Spider's Bite in record time (3.5 hours) and after finishing that one, I dowloaded Venom and Tangled Threads because I couldn't wait to read what happened to Gin and the gang next! Seriously, don't start reading these books if you're not going to be able to binge at least the first few'll be addicted and jonesing for the next installment and you won't be able to concentrate on anything else until you've at least finished book 4, Tangled Threads. I'm already into the first few chapters of Spider's Revenge, and hoping/praying that my husband doesn't notice that I'm spending money on ebooks every couple of days. Here's the blurbs, in order:

Web of Lies

I'm Gin Blanco. You might know me as the Spider, the most feared assassin in the South. I’m retired now, but trouble still has a way of finding me. Like the other day when two punks tried to rob my popular barbecue joint, the Pork Pit. Then there was the barrage of gunfire on the restaurant. Only, for once, those kill shots weren’t aimed at me. They were meant for Violet Fox. Ever since I agreed to help Violet and her grandfather protect their property from an evil coalmining tycoon, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m really retired. So is Detective Donovan Caine. The only honest cop in Ashland is having a real hard time reconciling his attraction to me with his Boy Scout mentality. And I can barely keep my hands off his sexy body. What can I say? I’m a Stone elemental with a little Ice magic thrown in, but my heart isn’t made of solid rock. Luckily, Gin Blanco always gets her man . . . dead or alive. 


What kind of assassin works pro bono?

It’s hard to be a badass assassin when a giant is beating the crap out of you. Luckily, I never let pride get in the way of my work. My current mission is personal: annihilate Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who murdered my family. Which means protecting my identity, even if I have to conceal my powerful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most. To the public, I’m Gin Blanco, owner of Ashland’s best barbecue joint. To my friends, I’m the Spider, retired assassin. I still do favors on the side. Like ridding a vampire friend of her oversized stalker—Mab’s right-hand goon who almost got me dead with his massive fists. At least irresistible Owen Grayson is on my side. The man knows too much about me, but I’ll take my chances. Then there’s Detective Bria Coolidge, one of Ashland’s finest. Until recently, I thought my baby sister was dead. She probably thinks the same about me. Little does she know, I’m a cold-blooded killer . . . who is about to save her life.

Tangled Threads:

The fourth book in the “outstanding”  Elemental Assassin fantasy series featuring Gin Blaco, who by day is a waitress at a Tennessee BBQ joint, and by night is a tough female assassin.

I’d rather face a dozen lethal assassins any night than deal with something as tricky, convoluted, and fragile as my

But here I am. Gin Blanco, the semi-retired assassin known as the Spider. Hovering outside sexy businessman Owen Grayson’s front door like a nervous teenage girl. One thing I like about Owen: he doesn’t shy away from my past—or my present. And right now I have a bull’s-eye on my forehead. Cold-blooded Fire elemental Mab Monroe has hired one of the smartest assassins in the business to trap me. Elektra LaFleur is skilled and efficient, with deadly electrical elemental magic as potent as my own Ice and Stone powers. Which means there’s a fifty-fifty chance one of us won’t survive this battle. I intend to kill LaFleur—or die trying—because Mab wants the assassin to take out my baby sister, Detective Bria Coolidge, too. The only problem is, Bria has no idea I’m her long-lost sibling . . . or that I’m the murderer she’s been chasing through Ashland for weeks. And what Bria doesn’t know just might get us both dead. . . .

Sorry for the underline of the first blurb, I have no idea why it's there or how to remove it. Anyway, Gin is just the best, a protagonist who has been through hell and back, and still manages to live a decent life and "do what has to be done" when it comes to killing bad guys. I'm not too fond of her foster brother Finn, who is a sexist creep and what used to be called a "player," but I do love that he has Gin's back, and I also love the dwarf sisters who help Gin as a cook, body disposal expert and as a healer/seer. Estep's prose is as bright as a new penny, yet it never gets too bogged down with details, though she could lighten up on the gruesome descriptions of death and decapitation. That said, I also love the romance in the books, and I'm glad that Gin has finally found someone to accept her in Owen, instead of the "uber boy scout" and resident a**hole Donovan Caine, who was fine with having sex with Gin, but was still a judgemental jerk when it came to actually accepting her work and having a lasting relationship with her. Like he was blameless himself. Ugh. I hate men who get on their moral high horse about women, when they're far from perfect themselves. Sexist idiot. Anyway, I'm glad that Gin has gotten her sister Bria on board, at least a bit, though I'm surprised her sister is also being a judgemental jerk, when she knows that Gin watched the rest of their family die and was tortured at the hands of Mab, the fire-elemental crime boss. At any rate, the plots of these novels are fast-action bullet trains and a thoroughly enjoyable ride to the final battle. I'd give them all an A, and recommend the series to anyone who is a fan of kick butt female protagonists who don't apologize for their skill or moxy. This is a long series (more than 15 books) so strap in, urban fantasy fans, it's going to be a deliciously bumpy ride!

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Nook & Cranny Books Opens in Seattle, Pennie's Pick is Back, Happy 50th HPB, The Buccaneers on TV, The Graveyard Book Movie, The Clear Lake, IA Book Project, Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller, Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn, The Bluebonnet Battle by Carolyn Brown, The Witch Collector by Charissa Weaks, My First, My Last, My Only by Denise Carbo, and Neuromancer: a Novella by Lish McBride

Greetings fellow bibliophiles! It's nearly the end of July, and I've been reading and binge-watching and procrastinating about reviewing books on this blog for nearly 10 days. But I figure it's summertime, and I deserve a slower, vacation-like vibe for awhile.  So here's a bunch of bookish tidbits and at least 5 reviews. Enjoy the sunshine under a beach umbrella with a good book!

I would really like to visit this bookstore in Seattle, it sounds delightful.

Nook & Cranny Books Opens in Seattle, Wash.

Maren Comendant opened Nook & Cranny Books earlier this month at 15th Ave E. in Seattle, Wash., formerly the site of the Oh Hello Again bookshop. The Capital Hill Seattle blog reported that in March, Kari Ferguson had announced she was seeking a new owner for Oh Hello Again "after just over a year of business at the little bookstore where she introduced the idea of retail bibliotherapy to Seattle with a shop organized by topics--'mental health, everyday problems, bettering yourself, relationships, travel and many more.' "

Comendant purchased the business, including Ferguson's stock, and set about shaping her own shop. She has stuck with the bibliotherapeutic organization, saying she and Ferguson share "a very similar literary aesthetic.... They are books I wanted to read, mostly."Active in the city's arts and drama scene, Comendant is still working as a catering chef. Although her original dream was to have a book cafe where she hoped to mix her love of the written word with food and drink, after learning about the bookshop's availability she decided to build from the book side of things.

Comendant said she is happy to see regulars returning, and that the space has turned out to be a perfect starting point for her journey in bookselling, with a steady stream of passersby and foot traffic in the busy commercial neighborhood. Thoughts of a book cafe still linger even in this smaller, simpler form."I want to celebrate the stories in my community," she said. "More than what is printed in the books.... My mission has not changed."

I used to really enjoy the Costco newsletter, mainly for Pennie's Picks, which were always intriguing. Now she's started her own book newsletter, and it sounds delightful.

Pennie Inspired: New Venture from Pennie Clark Ianniciello

Pennie's Pick is back. Pennie Clark Ianniciello, longtime book buyer at Costco who retired last year after 32 years at the company, is launching a new venture, Pennie Inspired

She noted that during her time at Costco, "I was able to help shape the narrative for reading by launching many new writers, highlighting favorites that needed some attention and creating compilations of my favorite works all while increasing sales and working hands on with both sides of the industry, publishers and writers."

And so Pennie Inspired will "bring my insights" and help "re-engineer the way books are created, sold and read. I have been fortunate to have wonderful relationships with writers who have become family and will continue to work with them in all areas along with offering consulting service and new ways to share great content. From the start to the end of creative process, the hands on approach is the best formula for success."

She is offering monthly picks to "build upon the great audience we've built over the years to launch talent, create new conversations and reinvent the discussion.

"I'm passionate about books and will be looking for great literature in a variety of genres, including diversity of both subjects and authors. I hope you will add me to your publicity, marketing and mailing lists, as I want to know what you're promoting.

"Finally, I will be sending out a fun but informative newsletter in the near future to elaborate on Pennie's Picks with opportunities to announce new releases. So please keep me updated." For more information, contact Pennie via

My husband and I used to live not too far from a great HPB store in the U District, but that one, along with several others, closed down, though there's still one HPB left in Tuckwilla, near the Southcenter Mall. I've not been there in at least a decade, but I do enjoy perusing all the good deals that they have on their shelves. Sadly, HPB doesn't give much in the way of credit or money for the used books and memoribilia that you bring in to trade, so I haven't used that part of their business since I can get a much better deal at Powells City of Books in Portland, OR. Still, I am glad that there's that one lone store left, and I hope to visit it again sometime this year or next. Meanwhile, Happy Birthday HPB!

Happy 50th Birthday, Half Price Books!

Congratulations to Half Price Books, which is turning 50 this year. Founded in 1972 in Dallas, Tex., by Ken Gjemre and Pat Anderson, the company now has more than 120 stores around the country that sell new and used books, DVDs, CDs, magazines, video games and more.

D Magazine has a long tribute to Half Price Books, now headed by Pat Anderson's daughter Sharon Anderson Wright, better known as "Boots." The article includes interviews and photographs of a range of customers, who love to buy--and sell--at Half Price Books.

"Half Price Books is a 50-year social experiment," D Magazine wrote. "By design, the store you visit Sunday won't be the same Monday. It's a living organism in a continuous state of evolution. One man purges, another consumes, each Half Price location a creation of its own unique community."

And in the words of co-founder Pat Anderson, the Half Price motto remains, "Be fair to customers and our employees, promote literacy, be kind to the environment and remain financially viable so we may continue."

 Oooh, I loved the Kate Beckinsale version that was on TV about 25 or 30 years ago! This one looks to be just as fascinating, and I adore Christina Hendricks, who is gorgeous.

TV: The Buccaneers

Christina Hendricks has been cast as Mrs. St. George in a TV series adaptation of Edith Wharton's unfinished final novel, The Buccaneers

Deadline reported that the six-time Mad Men Emmy nominee joins buccaneers Kristine Froseth, Alisha Boe, Josie Totah, Aubri Ibrag, Imogen Waterhouse and Mia Threapleton in the Apple TV+ drama series. Written by Katherine Jakeways and directed by Susanna White, the untitled series is produced for the streamer by the Forge Entertainment. Production is under way in Scotland.

I love Neil Gaiman's books, and this one was a good read for both myself and my son, who was 8 when it came out. I bet that the movie will be sublime.

Movies: The Graveyard Book

Marc Forster is set to direct the Walt Disney Studios adaptation of Neil Gaiman's 2008 novel The Graveyard Book, Deadline reported. His producing partner, Rene Wolfe, will produce through their 2Dux2 banner along with Gil Netter. Ben Browning is also producing. David Magee is adapting the script.

Disney, Forster and Wolfe previously worked together on the Winnie the Pooh live-action movie, Christopher Robin, which 2Dux2 also produced. Forster is currently in post-production on two films he produced and he directed: White Bird, the sequel to Wonder, written by R.J. Palacio; and A Man Called Ove, based on the novel by Fredrik Backman and written by Magee, who also penned the script for Forster's Finding Neverland.

 I love that there's a bookmobile in Clear Lake, Iowa! What fun! I wish they'd had something like this in Ankeny when I was a preteen.

The Clear Lake Book Project Comes to Clear Lake, Iowa

The Clear Lake Book Project <, a mobile bookstore based out of a renovated 24-foot trailer, has opened for business in Clear Lake, Iowa. According to 3 News Now, owner Ashley Bruce Lumpkin carries predominantly used titles with a small selection of new books and sets up shop weekly at Clear Lake's Thursdays on Main event.

The Book Project carries titles for all ages in a wide selection of genres. Bruce Lumpkin has started a book club that meets on Mondays; the club's first selection is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. While the mobile bookstore is open only one day per week at the moment, Bruce Lumpkin is looking to expand her hours. As the school year approaches, she also plans to start donating books to local teachers.

Bruce Lumpkin found the trailer that would become her bookstore on Facebook Marketplace while on a trip to Minnesota. She and her husband, Sean Lumpkin, had to drive home to Iowa and borrow someone's truck to return to Minnesota and bring the trailer home. Renovations and redecoration took several weeks. She noted that it takes only about 15 minutes for her to set up and break down the bookstore during appearances.

With the nearest bookstore about an hour away, the Clear Lake Book Project has seen a strong community response. "It's just been really cool to see all the people excited," Bruce Lumpkin told 3 News Now.

Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller is a remarkable YA fantasy that includes a neurodiverse heroine who is a blacksmith and doubtless has some form of Autism. The writing is fresh and engaging and the plot slick and quick. Here's the blurb:

In Blade of Secrets, a new YA fantasy adventure from the author of Daughter of the Pirate King, a teenage blacksmith with social anxiety is forced to go on the run to protect the world from the most powerful magical sword she's ever made.

Eighteen-year-old Ziva prefers metal to people. She spends her days tucked away in her forge, safe from society and the anxiety it causes her, using her magical gift to craft unique weapons imbued with power.

Then Ziva receives a commission from a powerful warlord, and the result is a sword capable of stealing its victims' secrets. A sword that can cut far deeper than the length of its blade. A sword with the strength to topple kingdoms. When Ziva learns of the warlord’s intentions to use the weapon to enslave all the world under her rule, she takes her sister and flees.

Joined by a distractingly handsome mercenary and a young scholar with extensive knowledge of the world’s known magics, Ziva and her sister set out on a quest to keep the sword safe until they can find a worthy wielder or a way to destroy it entirely.

I enjoyed Ziva and her sister Temra looking out for each other and trying to keep their magical weapons out of the hands of evil warlords (in this case, it's a warlady who is evil, so points to the author for making sure that there's equality of jobs in this universe) while also dealing with their feelings for various guys in their life, including the handsome mercenary Kellyn and the scholar Petrik, whom it turns out is the evil warlady's neglected son. My only problem was that it took the entire book for them to even admit to having feelings for each other, and even then, we're left on something of a cliffhanger at the end. Still, I'd give this spritely fantasy a B+ and recommend it to those who liked The Black Cauldron and LOTR and the Hobbit.

Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn is a contemporary romance featuring yet another child-like, overly shy and wimpy heroine who is afraid of her own shadow and yet manages to use passive-aggressive writing to thwart the marriage of a couple whom she's jealous of (she can hardly admit that she finds the guy attractive). Of course, the male protagonist is emotionally unavailable, stoic and grim, tense and has a job as a quant mathematician on Wall Street. Reid didn't know he needed the Manic Pixie Dream Girl in his life to shatter the stone around his heart, of course, until he confronts Meg about the coded message that she drew into his wedding announcement that no one but a big genius like himself could see (It spelled MISTAKE in fairies, so I find it hard to believe no one else could see it, even those of average intelligence). Throughout the novel, Meg grows less wimpy at the behest of her friends, but she's still childlike, even during sexual encounters with Reid, where she admits she's (GASP!) never had an orgasm! Big granite-like Reid to the rescue, because again pedophile fantasies of deflowering child-like women is a huge trope/cliche in romance novels, and apparently turns some people on... BLECH. Here's the blurb: In this warm and witty romance from acclaimed author Kate Clayborn, one little word puts a woman’s business—and her heart—in jeopardy . . .
Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing custom journals for her New York City clientele. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Knowing the upcoming marriage of Reid Sutherland and his polished fiancĂ©e was doomed to fail is one thing, but weaving a secret word of warning into their wedding program is another. Meg may have thought no one would spot it, but she hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid.
A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other, both try to ignore a deepening connection between them. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late.

Sadly, there was very little wit in this overly detailed and glacially plotted novel. The prose was so riddled with every stray thought and redundant anxiety spiral from Meg that I had to put it down before reaching page 100, because it was so boring it was putting me to sleep. The plot slows to a snail's pace every time the author starts on one of her descriptive info-dumps, usually details about letters and terms used to describe them, including point size, and kerning (spacing between letters) and on and on....if you're not a typography/lettering expert, all these paragraphs of jargon are going to make you nod off. Hence I'd give this book a B-, (mainly because it picks up in the last quarter of the book, and has an HEA), and only recommend it to those who pore over font sizes and lettering styles.

The Bluebonnet Battle by Carolyn Brown was a cheap Southern romance ebook that I thought might prove to be a fun and distracting read. Alas, it was not to be. This book is so cliche-riddled it reads like a comic book from the 50s or early 60s. The tropes and stereotypes dominate the entire text, from the spiteful, grudge-keeping, trash-talking hidebound old biddies who insist on "family tradition" no matter how outdated, to the younger/middle aged crowd who are just as vicious, but more subtle about their brutal family feuds.  Of course the older grannies cook the most deliciously destructive cuisine that no one in town can stand to be without at every occaision, especially funerals, which seem to happen frequently in small towns. It's also right on stereotype for these sweet-tea drinking, gun-toting mamas and grandmamas to wear tacky bling-encrusted clothing with makeup and sky high heels, even to the grocery store, because it's all about showing off in this idealized southern small town.  Here's the blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Carolyn Brown’s heartwarming novel about old rivalries, young love, and a lemon meringue pie to die for.

In Bonnet, Texas, Liddy Latham, the queen of funeral dinners, keeps a southern comfort-food tradition alive—until fancy-schmancy Matilda Monroe moves back to town. She wants room at the table for her own style of consolation and closure: healthy, modern, and vegan. But this is about more than fried chicken versus tofu turkey. Matilda’s return is also stirring up their volatile, unresolved history. And just when they thought it couldn’t get more personal…

Matilda’s son, Nick, and Liddy’s niece, Amelia, have met and the sparks are flying. For Matilda and Liddy, their precious kin’s romance is their worst nightmare. Now, it’s all Nick and Amelia can do to survive a family feud that has the whole town talking.

The battle for the funeral dinner crown is on. As two strong-willed women wrestle for control, making peace with the past may be the only way to serve the star-crossed lovers a happy ending.

I found very little heartwarming scenes in this book, and in fact, if I were a Southern person of either gender (the men are mostly just stupid, gluttonous and horny) I'd be insulted by this ridiculous depiction of a small Texas town that hasn't an ounce of nuance in it's characters or originality in its plot. So grab a sweet tea, bless your heart, and put on your best prejudiced sneer (and loathing of any vegetables that haven't been cooked in bacon grease, or any modern cuisine like tofu) and whip though this Romeo and Juliet re-telling that holds no surprises at all and sets the women's rights movement back 70 years. I'd give it a barely competent C.

The Witch Collector by Charissa Weaks was a delicious fantasy romance that, as an under 5 dollar ebook, I was surprised to find sturdy, bright and well written, with enjoyable three dimensional characters. Here's the blurb:

Every harvest moon, the Witch Collector rides into our valley and leads one of us to the home of the immortal Frost King, to remain forever.

Today is that day—Collecting Day.

But he will not come for me. I, Raina Bloodgood, have lived in this village for twenty-four years, and for all that time he has passed me by.

His mistake.

Raina Bloodgood has one desire: kill the Frost King and the Witch Collector who stole her sister. On Collecting Day, she means to exact murderous revenge, but a more sinister threat sets fire to her world. Rising from the ashes is the Collector, Alexus Thibault, the man she vowed to slay and the only person who can help save her sister.

Thrust into an age-old story of ice, fire, and ancient gods, Raina must abandon vengeance and aid the Witch Collector or let their empire—and her sister—fall into enemy hands. But the lines between good and evil blur, and Raina has more to lose than she imagined. What is she to do when the Witch Collector is no longer the villain who stole her sister, but the hero who’s stealing her heart?

Raina is a tough-but-fair and righteous woman who soon realizes that her long held beliefs don't coincide with the facts, and instead of whining or lamenting having her world-view spun on it's axis, Raina grows up and goes into battle, getting her hands dirty to protect the people she loves. In fact, she's often too good, insisting that those who can't be saved be put on ice until she can find a way to save them. The prose is crisp and evocative, and the plot sings along with nary a bump in the long road through battles and bereavement. I enjoyed this book, though I'm not a fan of gory, bloodly battles. Still, it's well worth an A, and I'd recommend it to those who liked the LOTR books or other magical fantasy adventures. 

My First, My Last, My Only by Denise Carbo was a cheap ebook romance that was lightweight, beach-read that I was expecting very little from, and therefore only slightly disappointed when that's what I got. Here's the blurb:

A second chance at love or heartbreak…

Socially awkward and prone to accidents, Franny Dawson has a brand new project—herself. Owning the local bakery, The Sweet Spot, has taken all her time and energy and she's neglected the social aspects of her life. The small lakeside town of Granite Cove, New Hampshire is full of quirky residents eager to help and hinder her new plan.

Mitch Atwater, an award-winning director, returns to town. He has an agenda of his own and is wreaking havoc with her goals and her heart.

Can Franny outwit her nemesis, overcome her perfect sister's surprise return, and escape the cocoon of her own insecurities to take a chance on love and get her very own happily ever after?

 Though it wasn't as poorly written or plotted as some of the other romances I've reviewed, there were still a few too many tropes that got in the way of me enjoying it to the fullest. The heroine is a klutz (but in a cute way, of course) who prat falls and drops things and dumps liquids on herself and anyone nearby at every opportunity. I think the author was modeling her a bit after Lucile Ball of I Love Lucy fame. But perhaps because of this, Franny was infantilized by her inability to deal with mean girls (one in particular whom I would have smashed in the face), or her crappy unsupportive parents or even her own ambitions to own her bakery outright and move out of her parent's house. Instead she hides away, keeping her desires secret from everyone and allowing the world to treat her like a doormat. Once you're past your teenage years and into your late 20s or early 30s, I just don't understand this type of behavior...GROW A SPINE already! And why manly men find this kind of immature and shy, wimpy and clumsy woman so appealing sexually is beyond me...what is sexy about being a wee timorous cowering beastie? The prose was decent and the plot easy-breezy, but I couldn't give this book anything above a C+, (maybe a B- in a pinch). I'd recommend it to anyone who is looking for a lightweight beach read.

Necromancer, a Novella of Death And Waffles/Hold me Closer Necromancer by Lish McBride is basically a collection of a few dark fantasy short stories from a series. I got this collection for free as an ebook, so I was delighted that it was fairly well written and plotted, and not a complete waste of epages. Here's the blurb:


Matt's childhood friend, Ashley, has been stopping by a lot lately. That might seem pretty normal, but Ashley died years ago and now she's Death.

And tonight she wants waffles and fries.


Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he's doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak.

Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he's a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces . . . or else.

With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin?

I enjoyed the Seattle background of these tales, and I liked the witty asides and the realistic characters. I also liked that Death was/is a young gal, ala Neil Gaiman's teenage goth Death in the Sandman series. The prose, though workmanlike, had some lovely silly bits and the plot was much more complex than I thought it would be...yet both flow really well, enough so that I finished this collection in about 3 hours. I'd give it a B- and recommend it to those who are into paranormal tales that often cross the line into horror genre fiction.