Welcome to another installment of Recent Reads! I have been reading up a storm during my blogging break, especially since I have started listening to audiobooks while working out and doing other tasks.
Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett is a book that I have been meaning to pick up for a long time, and when I was looking for another cozy mystery to listen to while working out, I decided to finally give it a try. In this first book, we follow Tricia Miles, who lives in the small town of Stoneham and runs a mystery bookstore called Haven’t Got a Clue. Business is doing well, except for the fact that someone is hiding pamphlets for a nudist commune in her books, and her sister has just come into town. However, a fire breaks out at a neighboring bookstore that kills the owner, and the police suspect that Tricia is the culprit. In order to clear her name she sets out to find who the real killer is. I liked this introduction to the series, although it was a little slow at times, and I found there to be a lot of focus on size and fatphobia. There is also use of the r-word in reference to someone with Downs Syndrome, which really rubbed my the wrong way. However, there was something about it that, despite these two glaring flaws in the story, made me want to continue with the rest of the series – I think I wanted to find out what happens to the characters, except Tricia…honestly she kind of annoys me.
Right after I finished listening to Murder is Binding, I started listening to the next book in the series Bookmarked for Death. This time, Tricia is hosting the author, Zoe Carter, however things become disastrous when Tricia finds her dead in her own store, and once again she must find out who the culprit is in order to clear her name. I liked this installment a bit better than the previous one, however I still found Tricia to be judgmental especially about people’s sizes. I enjoyed the mystery and I enjoyed getting to know Mr. Everett, Grace and Jenny (or Ginny?), as well as watch the relationship between Tricia and her sister, Angelica, start to change in a positive way. The author does a good job of making the reader keep guessing until the reveal of who the culprit is, and while it seemed slightly out the blue, it also made sense.
In between listening to the abovementioned, I physically read The Sea in Winter by Christine Day. This was a touching middle-grade that follows Maisie Cannon, an aspiring ballerina who recently suffered an injury and how she tries to cope and remain strong on the outside, even though inside she feels a tumult of emotions. When her family goes on a midwinter trip to visit sites near the Makah community that her mother grew up in, she starts to feel even more alone and isolated, despite her family’s support and encouragement, especially when her injury starts to flare up again. I really appreciated how the author broached different topics such as blended families, injuries, mental health, as well as the recent history of Native Americans. I feel like I learned quite a bit about some of the communities, as well as their struggles, especially their recent struggles as far as being oppressed by outsiders who don’t understand their way of life, or refuse to understand. Along with this, is Maisie’s struggle to feel like she belongs and not knowing what her place is in the world, since so much of her identity has been in dancing for so long. I think this is a great book, and in some ways an important book that many should read, if anything just read from someone’s perspective and background that is different from one’s own.
Next, I listened to Bookplate Special by Lorna Barrett and I will say that the series seemed to finally get better with this book. In this mystery, Tricia Miles has just kicked out her former college roommate who has been crashing on her couch after she steals money from her. However, shortly after their interaction, Pammy is found dead in a dumpster in the alley behind Booked for Lunch, Tricia’s sister, Angelica’s restaurant. In order to have a piece of mind, as well as clear her name, Tricia tries to find out who could possibly have wanted her “friend” dead and why. Like I mentioned before, this third installment in the series solidified my wanting to continue on with this series. Sure, Tricia is still as flawed and judgmental as ever, but I also appreciated how those closest to her put her in her place when she makes snide remarks. Also, I enjoyed learning more about Freegans, my only knowledge of Freegans up until this point was the passing comment made in an episode of Parks and Rec of one of the characters being a Freegan Vegan. I felt like the author did a good job of explaining it and showing it in a way that wasn’t derogatory, as well as some of the reasoning behind why someone would want to be a Freegan. It was fascinating and an interesting addition to the overall mystery!
After I finished reading The Sea in Winter I decided to pick up a graphic novel that I had heard about recently on BookTube called Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken and illustrated by Leigh Dragoon and Kit Seaton. This is a graphic novel based on one of Alexandra Bracken’s first books that she originally wrote for middle-grade readers, but when it got adapted into a graphic novel, they decided to target Young Adult Readers. We follow Syndelle Mirabel who is a talented weaver, and one day she meets a young wizard named North, who is being followed by an army that does not want him to get a message back to the queen of his kingdom. She joins him on his journey to help him find the city, as well as mend his magical cloaks that help him perform magic. On the way they encounter strange weather and a traitorous wizard that will do what he can to stop them. Overall, this was just okay, the illustrations were pretty decent, but I felt that there was too much dialog in each panel, I think it could have easily been increased by a few pages, as well as maybe cutting out some more of the dialogue by showing instead of telling the reader. I liked the concept of the story, but it felt rushed and somewhat cliched at times. I know part of that is because it is the graphic novel, but I can imagine that the actual novel wasn’t any better.
Janelle L. C.