So it's December, and I always read Christmas books in December. All the rest of the reviews are in Holiday Harbour for end of November through December 2020 and until January 6, 2021. But I make an exception for "Rivers of London" graphic novels. I've been waiting for this for ages as the publication was delayed, then it got lost in the mail!
31 December 2020
30 November 2020
In Germany, Tobias Winter is also a young magic practitioner and part of the German police force. He is called to the Moselle Valley area when a corpse is found completely covered by a fungus that is also used in winemaking, and detects traces of magic ("vestigia") at the murder site and from the corpse. Now all he has to do is find out why the man died in such an unusual way.
Tobi is a pleasant character, although I didn't think his background and experience were as interesting as Peter Grant's. However, I enjoyed learning more about the German magic discipline, and Tobi's investigation with his partner (Vanessa Sommer, assigned to him by someone with a puckish sense of humor) not only turns up river spirits of a type Peter Grant would be familiar with, but another esoteric member of the community as well as a vengeful spirit. The wine-making lore was interesting as well, although I was a bit grossed out to learn that there are wines made using mold! The usual touches of Aaronovitch humor enliven the story, and I loved Vanessa's encounter with a young child who's more than she appears.
31 October 2020
30 September 2020
Two plots are running here concurrently: the mystery of who might be sabotaging things at the brewery (a recent new beer was fouled with dirt and rubbish) and also a mystery surrounding one of the workers. It's possible they are both linked, but when two different murders happen, Kate and Sykes discover there are no simple answers in this one.
Brody addresses PTSD (Ruth's dad was not a brute before his war service) and spousal and child abuse against the colorful traditional goings-on in the Great Britain of that era of crowning a pretty young girl "queen" of a certain industry (cloth mills, railways, coal mines) to perk up tough times in industrial towns. Brody reverses the usual "the mysteries are connected" plot in this story, so there are several different endings to several different crimes, leading to several different cliffhangers, and once again Kate's niece Harriet and landlady Mrs. Sugden prove themselves equal to being part of the solution. The local characters (Ruth, George, Annie, Parnaby, Joe Finch, Miss Crawford, William and Eleanor Lofthouse, Miss Boland the music teacher) are all interesting characters in their own right, and several of them will have your sympathy before the story is concluded.
This Old Man, Roger Angell
All I knew before I read this book was that Roger Angell was E.B. White's stepson, the son of White's wife Katherine Angell and her first husband, and that he had worked at "The New Yorker," which kept his stepfather and writers like Dorothy Parker, James Thurber, Robert Benchley, and others in the public eye for years. He was, in fact, both a "New Yorker" writer and editor, and this book collects his most famous essay "This Old Man" along with several dozen other essays, profiles, verse, book reviews, and more from his career at the magazine.
I complained in a previous month that Our Boston had way too many sports references. Well, Angell was a sports fan, and I expect sports essays here, but yet in his case I never minded them. When he wrote about sports it was always interesting or compelling in some way, or portrayed a sports figure in a different manner in which I thought of them before. Some of the essays are funny, some brought a tear to the eye, but all of them are a delight to read. I found this for a $1.50 at the book sale, but it's well worth full price.
As I've said previously, I'm not fond of police procedurals, but I love the Longmire books, and especially love Johnson's supporting characters in each book; in this one it's the boy Benjamin and a wonderful horse who is introduced about halfway through the story. (Henry Standing Bear is understood. I love Henry with all my heart.) This one is a thrill-a-minute between the bully boy Cliff Cly that Walt meets in Absalom, a chase through the hills, and the real villain of the piece. The only mystery that remains is how Walt can get beaten up so many times and still manage to function!
Betsy and Billy, Carolyn Haywood
In a fit of nostalgia I picked this up at some sort of used bookstore on one of our New England vacations, as it was a discard from the Seekonk (MA) public library. Haywood, a prolific children's writer and illustrator who studied under Howard Pyle, had two different series, Betsy (begun 1939) and Eddie (begun 1947), as well as many stand-alone books. I believe by the 1970s the Eddie series was more well known, although the last Betsy book was published in the 1980s.
The Betsy series was one of those "slice of life" (middle class) kids books I ignored when I was of the age to read them, being more crazy about books with animal protagonists. It covers Betsy's second grade school year, with a Hallowe'en party at school, the birth of her little sister on Christmas day, making cookies for the second-grade class' mothers on Valentine's Day, having a Mother Goose exhibition on May Day, and a bazaar to earn money for playground equipment during the last week of school. There's also a couple of funny chapters revolving around Betsy's best friend Billy's dog Mopsie-Upsy Downsy and Betsy's own dog Thumpy. While there are no minority children pictured, the stories are very simply told with a "Mister Rogers" flavor: gentle lessons about accepting yourself as you are, doing your best, forgiving friends who hurt you. Haywood's numerous illustrations are simple and evocative, and several of them, like Betsy wearing leggings to visit Santa Claus, open a window to another era. (As well as one that would make parents gasp now: in the Valentine baking chapter, Billy gets to light the gas oven!)
Honestly, Katie John!, Mary Calhoun
This was the third in another series I missed as a kid, so I grabbed it up for a dollar to see what I'd missed. I know I have read the first book, when the Tucker family temporarily relocated to a riverfront home in Missouri to repair and then sell their great-aunt's four-floor house. Instead they decide to stay and run the big place as a boardinghouse. In the second book, apparently Katie John, an irrepressible 10-year-old, helps her parents run the boardinghouse, deals with going to a new school, and gets a beagle puppy she names Heavenly Spot.
In the third book, Katie John enters sixth grade and is immediately put off by the other girls in her class talking about boys. She is still as happy-go-lucky as ever, riding her bike, playing with Spot, and hunting geodes with a boy in her class, Edwin. But when the boys and girls both tease her at the annual fair, she declares she hates boys, hurting Edwin's feelings, but rallies the girls around her briefly. But the girls one by one drift back to their friendships with the boys, and Katie feels increasingly left out. One week she tries being madcap, another day she tries being a lady instructed via an 1896 etiquette book she found in her great-aunt's library, and finally she moves her bedroom to the very top of the house, all the time confused about who she is and what she "should" be.
Katie John's emotional experiences touched me closely. I remember that age, being scornful of the silly romance talk from the other girls. Having watched my mother and my aunts, I was convinced at that age, and throughout my teens that boys (and, later, men) were just simply too much work! And all they talked about were cars and sports! Boring. I felt the most badly because Katie's confusion over her own self nearly messed up her friendship with Edwin, which was a true partnership in exploring and discovery of the world around them rather than silly pre-sexual feelings. But in the end Katie gains some insight in the old house she and Edwin explored together, and they become friends again.
The second book is available to borrow on the Internet Archive, but I'll probably skip the last of the four, which has Katie John developing a crush on a boy in seventh grade after reading Wuthering Heights. Yawn.
The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, annotated by Leslie S. Klinger
I remember exactly where it used to be at the Akers Mill Borders Books: on top of the endcap of the mystery aisle, sitting there taunting me in its slipcovered glory. Klinger's annotated Sherlock Holmes, all fifty-six canon stories and the four novels, in three volumes, $120 for the set. Even with Borders' legendary 40 percent off coupons, it was just Too Much. And then in April 2008, A Miracle Occurred. Amazon was selling all their annotated books at eight dollars per volume. $120 worth of books for $24? Let me at it! (For the record, I also bought the annotated Secret Garden.)
St. Nicholas, Volume LIX, November 1931 through October 1932, St. Nicholas Publishing Company
Holy cow, this was the most difficult bound volume of "St. Nicholas" I've ever had to go through. If I thought the changes from The Century Company to Scholastic were bad (St. Nicholas, Volume LVII, May through October 1930, reviewed a few months back), the changes throughout this year were even worse: "The Watch Tower" disappears completely by May, replaced a few months earlier by "The St. Nicholas Handicrafters." The League is whittled down to four pages, and by the time October 1932 rolls around there are only fifty pages (half of it in teeny-tiny print) and eight stories/poems in each issue. Plus, oddly enough, suddenly in May half the ads in the issues are for New York hotels rather than for boys'/girls' schools, bicycles, utilities, toys, etc.
Not to mention "The Young Ravenals" is possibly the worst serial ever to grace the pages of the magazine (seriously, I thought that was "Driven Back to Eden" from the 1880s). Very strange story of a mother who must leave her family to teach in another city when her husband, a muralist, isn't paid due to the Depression. She leaves the family in the capable hands of their "colored" cook, Judy, who breaks her leg right after Mother leaves. So the four kids, from high schooler Randolph down to perpetually hungry eight-year-old Bobby, and artist dad try to cope with little success since apparently not one of them knows a thing about keeping house. The two sisters, one an aspiring concert pianist, have a problem with the same boy, who's a pilot, with a denouement that involves a laundry basket and a mud slide. Other serials are better, but just marginally: "The Return of the Ruby" is obnoxiously imperialist, "Tommy Dane on the Royal Road" chock full of violence, and the only hope comes from "The White Feather," the serial which is left hanging when the volume ends, which has a topping heroine named "Bobby" with a strong sense of justice.