Witch And Famous by Angela M. Sanders

I do so love how this mystery series goes from strength to strength, as our librarian heroine Josie Way learns how to control her witchy powers while helping out the citizens of the small town of Wilfred, Oregon. Bibliomancy isn’t just about recommending the right books to the right people at the right time, but it certainly is a large part of the duties that she gladly embraces as a truth-telling witch.

Her library is actually in a bit of a tizzy as Witch And Famous opens. The owner of the local watering hole has taken off for a tour of the South, leaving Wilfredians with few options for congregating. As Patty, owner of the This-N-That store, has decided to specialize in home appliances this season, she’s happy to host the occasional cookout on her store lawn, where her enterprising grandchildren Thor and Buffy squeeze as many dollars and cents from the adults stopping by as possible. But the hot weather also spurs the townsfolk to spend time in Josie’s library, which was converted from a manor house after a generous bequest. Josie doesn’t mind lively conversation and light refreshments during open hours, but draws the line at gambling tables and hard alcohol in the library’s kitchen fridge, no matter how many attempts at both are made in contravention of her rules.

Things get even more calamitous when a movie star and her entourage roll into town. Hollywood actress Daphne Morris has selected a romance novel pseudonymously written by Roz, Josie’s assistant librarian, as her next book club pick, a selection that is sure to boost Roz’s sales. Daphne is even more gorgeous in person than on-screen, and soon has Wilfred’s men swooning at her feet. To Roz’s chagrin, this includes her taciturn boyfriend Lyndon. Even Sam, the local sheriff — as well as Josie’s neighbor and long-time crush — seems to have had his head turned by the superstar’s arrival.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2023/05/31/witch-and-famous-by-angela-m-sanders/

Ava’s Demon, Book One: Reborn by Michelle Fus

The hallmark of a great graphic novel is that even in the wordless panels, you can still hear precisely what’s going on. There’s a big, climactic battle scene near the end of this book that’s entirely devoid of the written word, yet I could hear every single thing that was happening and to loud, orchestral effect. It was an absolutely stunning cap to an absolutely brilliant graphic novel.

In fact, the art throughout this first volume of Ava’s Demon is so freaking good! Michelle Fus Can Do Hands, y’all. It’s actually really odd that the cover looks so juvenile/rudimentary in comparison. The art inside is way more sophisticated than the weirdly flat cover images.

In addition to Ms Fus’ amazing art, I also love how she pokes fun at her own style with her joke about the bad drawings inside Wrathia’s journal. Objectively, they’re gorgeous drawings, but the meanings are 100% too opaque for Ava, so in that sense they definitely fail. It’s a wonderful little commentary on art and audiences that I greatly admired.

Anyway, this story is about Ava, a seemingly young girl who’s been plagued by a demon for the last fifteen years of her life. Her demon is an asshole who’s made her very existence miserable, constantly urging her (successfully) to say awful things and (less successfully) to kill herself. Just as the demon is about to get her kicked out of her Titan-run school, a cataclysm occurs. Ava runs after a former friend, who’s being either rescued or kidnapped by a besotted stranger, and thus manages to escape the destruction of her planet.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2023/05/30/avas-demon-book-one-reborn-by-michelle-fus/

I Have Something To Tell You―For Young Adults: A Memoir by Chasten Glezman Buttigieg

I’d never had any interest in reading the memoirs of a political spouse till after I picked up this book. It’s an adaptation of Chasten Glezman Buttigieg’s 2021 autobiography, originally written for adults, but with a message that’s so, so necessary for younger readers, too.

I mean, even for a grown person like myself who is older than both Mr Buttigieg and his more famous husband, this was a much needed look at how much better life has gotten for queer people in the United States in the last fifteen to twenty years alone. The author candidly discusses how he went from being a closeted, unhappy teen in a Traverse City, Michigan high school that had no out queer students, to returning as an adult to speak to their LGBTQ+ Club. Mr Buttigieg’s honest recounting of his own experiences and feelings underscores just how awful things used to be only a very short time ago.

But the memoir isn’t just a stark, if necessary reminder of how things were (and, obviously, what any person with an ounce of empathy and human feeling should seek to avoid going back to.) It’s also a great example of how much we can change things for the better in only a decade or so. While the book doesn’t go into the kind of activism necessary for such change, it does set a mostly good example in being true to yourself and following your dreams, as young Chasten figures out who he is and what he truly wants to do with his life. It’s a tough road and he inevitably stumbles along the way, but he navigates it with heart and a hell of a lot more forgiveness than I’m personally capable of.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2023/05/26/i-have-something-to-tell-you%e2%80%95for-young-adults-a-memoir-by-chasten-glezman-buttigieg/

Tell-Tale Bones by Carolyn Haines (EXCERPT)

Read an excerpt from the newest book in Carolyn Haines’ sassy Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery series! Tell-Tale Bones is the latest spooky installment, involving cold cases and a reputedly haunted grave. We were graciously given permission to let you take a look inside this 26th book in the series, with a passage from Chapter 2!

From Tell-Tale Bones by Carolyn Haines. Copyright © 2023 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group.


Since Zinnia didn’t have a bookstore, my first stop was the library. I was tempted to call Tinkie to meet me there with Maylin, but I resisted the impulse. I’d tell her all about it later. It didn’t take me twenty minutes to find an anthology of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories and to open it to “The Tell-Tale Heart.” I’d remembered the visceral power of reading the story in high school and the chilling effect of the beating heart. The guilt—or insanity—of the narrator. How the heart, buried beneath the floorboards, made them tremble.

It was as though Tammy had shared the dream of a murderer with a long-dead writer.

Tammy was incapable of any unkindness, especially murder. But if my hunch was correct, then she’d dreamt a portion of Poe’s chilling short story. But why? Of all the people I knew, Tammy had no reason to carry guilt, and she certainly was sane. Why was she dreaming of the beating heart of a murder victim?

And why had she chosen to tell me about it?

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2023/05/24/tell-tale-bones-by-carolyn-haines-excerpt/

Peculiar Woods: The Ancient Underwater City by Andrés J. Colmenares

Oh gosh, I immediately fell in love with the beautiful colors of this whimsical comic book even before I began to enjoy the fun story it tells. The art feels very cartoony in a modern way — I wish I was more cognizant of current trends in animation so I could explain it better, but the art here feels very on trend with today’s pop culture.

The story itself follows young Iggie as he moves away from the parents who raised him to live with the woman who gave him to them to raise. Jill is his birth mother but was unable to care for him after his birth, asking instead that her sister and brother-in-law take over until she was ready to do so herself. That time has come, and Iggie, understandably, doesn’t know how to feel. It’s not just that he has to learn to live with this woman he’s always privately thought of as Aunt Jill. He also has to navigate life in a new town and school where he has no friends.

A misadventure on his very first night has him running into weird objects that should be inanimate but disconcertingly come to life and talk to him. An acquaintance he makes at school the next day informs him that their town, Peculiar Woods, is known for its poltergeists. Is that what he keeps encountering as he tries to figure out his new home?

Befriending a baby blanket and a curmudgeonly chair soon prove wise, as he’s drawn into a royal adventure that has him exploring a part of town he’s been even more expressly forbidden from than anything else so far (Jill is not the most experienced parent, and doesn’t do the best job of weighing her words when trying to tell him what he can and can’t do.) Will Iggie’s investigations uncover more about this strange place he’s found himself in? Will they also put him in the crosshairs of a sinister force with a grudge against people like himself?

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2023/05/23/peculiar-woods-the-ancient-underwater-city-by-andres-j-colmenares/

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

In contrast to Doreen, I do not feel perfectly suited to review Black Water Sister. I’m basically none of the things that the protagonist is, starting with Malaysian and ending with haunted by my maternal grandmother’s ghost. (To be clear, Doreen is not haunted by her grandmother’s ghost either. As far as I know.) None of that got in the way of enjoying the book. Once I got past a slightly shaky start, I started grabbing little snippets of time wherever I could to find out what happened next, through all the danger and reversals to the gripping, lovely ending.

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

Let me back up a moment, and borrow Doreen’s introductory summary of Black Water Sister. “Jessamyn Teoh grew up in America but moved back to Penang as an adult with her aging parents. Closeted and unemployed, she’s still trying to find her footing in an unfamiliar country where the weather alone can drain the unaccustomed into lassitude. Her girlfriend wants her to get a job in and move to Singapore where they can be together, but Jess is worried that her parents are too fragile for her to move that far away. The last thing Jess expects or needs is to suddenly start hearing a voice that claims to be the spirit of her recently deceased, estranged grandmother.”

This was the part of the book that I had trouble with. Jess doesn’t initially believe that what she’s hearing is her grandmother, Ah Ma, talking to her from a spirit world beyond death. My problem was that there wouldn’t be much of a book if Ah Ma turned out to be some sort of hallucination. Black Water Sister is not about the psychological tension between what is real and what is not; it’s not a story about how a person’s mind maybe plays tricks on them and gets them to experience things that aren’t real. The author knows that Ah Ma is real within the context of the story; readers coming to this book from Cho’s other fantastic stories are expecting a supernatural element of some sort; in short, everyone involved except Jess knows where this is going. So why does Cho spend fifty pages or so futzing about with something that’s a foregone conclusion? Yes, it’s important to Jess’ development that she comes to believe the evidence of her own senses and experiences, but I think the question of Ah Ma’s reality could have been dispensed with much more quickly.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2023/05/21/black-water-sister-by-zen-cho-2/

Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal

Forest of Memory, a novella from 2016, finds Mary Robinette Kowal writing in a very different mode from her two well-known series, the Glamourist Histories and the Lady Astronaut books. Two hundred or so years into the future, material abundance and pervasive interconnection have left some very wealthy people hungering for the real, for the unique. Katya Gould, Kowal’s first-person narrator, deals in Authenticities — objects with provenances traceable to a past that readers will recognize but that seems lost to the story’s world — and in Captures — unusual moments recorded and sold onward. The tale is Katya’s account, for a client about which she knows very little.

Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal

As you’ve requested, to guarantee this is a unique document, I’m typing it on the 1918 Corona 3 typewriter that I had in my bicycle cart when I was abducted by the man known as Johnny. You will receive both these pages and the typewriter.
And all of the typos that accompany this account. (p. 11)

Katya’s account relates a visit to a winery, a normal encounter in her line of work, and her plans to bicycle through a section of forest to catch a train to her home in a different part of Oregon. Readers get a glimpse of the relative positions of humans and wildlife when Katya gets a warning from the net that deer are expected to cross her path, and that she should keep sufficient distance to leave them undisturbed or face a fine large enough to give her pause. She decides to wait, and in due course the deer cross the road in front of her. She’s recording the event — it might turn out to be a valuable Capture — little realizing that she has already lost connection to the net and is filling the last bits of her onboard cache.

That will turn out to be crucial when a gunshot rings out, “as if a firecracker had gone off next to my ear. One of the deer jerked and fell. The crack came again, and another fell, and —” (p. 25) Katya finds herself in a dark wood, and the straightforward path has been lost. The rest of the story is part meditation on memory, part tense tale of kidnapping, and part mythical exploration of people, nature, and technology.

If bicycling too close to wild deer is grounds for a hefty fine, how much worse is shooting them? Even if, as Katya soon learns, the man with the gun is just tranquilizing them. Why is he taking that risk? And how does he have enough technology to block her net connections? As Katy recounts her experiences for her mysterious clients, she returns again and again to the unreliability of memory. She’s used to a world where sight and sound are continuously recorded, retrievable anytime. For the events in the forest, she only has her own resources. It unnerves her, this time in the unconscious.

She returns, obviously, or there would be no manuscript on a Corona 3 typewriter, but the circumstances of her return leave as many questions open as they answer. Kowal’s portrayal of Katya’s return leads readers to reconsider everything she has told them. I enjoyed Forest of Memory‘s various levels, its strangeness, and its brevity. The novellas that Tor.com was publishing at that time were about 80 pages for about $10, and I liked both that length and that price point. I wish there were more of them.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2023/05/20/forest-of-memory-by-mary-robinette-kowal/

The Literary Tarot: Classics Edition by The Brink Literacy Project

Being a small-time collector of Tarot decks who is really and truly not trying to own tooooo many of them, I absolutely could not resist picking up this set. Firstly, it’s themed on classic literature, with each card pairing contributed by a famous (or famous enough) author. Secondly, it’s overseen by the Brink Literacy Project, a non-profit dedicated to improving literacy in underserved communities. The Kickstarter promised a bargain price for the deck and guidebook, so I was super happy to pledge for my copy, knowing that proceeds were going to a worthwhile cause.

And the deck is a beauty, gilded throughout, from box to book to card. As an older person with tired eyes, I think there might actually be a little too much gilding of this lily, but it is undeniably a beautiful product. The cards do tend to stick a little bit to one another due to the slight lip on the gilt edges — something to keep in mind when dealing — but the cards are sturdy and of extremely high quality.

The art is exemplary throughout, with illustrative duties divided between five artists, one for each suit of the Minor Arcana and one more for the Major. The latter, Samantha Dow, was also the Tarot Creation Consultant on this project, so it wasn’t just a bunch of authors choosing their favorite books/characters willy-nilly for their assigned cards. In fact, there were six other volunteer Tarot experts who lent their skills to ensuring that this deck is as perfect a marriage as one could hope for of Tarot and literature. Unsurprisingly, the experts’ card choices sync best with the characters depicted on each.

Which leads to the one major flaw of this deck. While the pairings for the most part make sense — tho Temperance is a deeply weird choice to pair with The Cold Equations since it’s less exemplification than cautionary tale — the guidebook for the most part centers the entire work regardless of the actual character choice, making for some really strange moments. For example, The High Priestess references Cordelia from King Lear but her name isn’t mentioned at all in the text, which seems like a really odd oversight given that she’s the focus of the card art in addition to the literary character whose path is most congruent with the card’s meaning. If you weren’t familiar with the details of the story, there’d be a lot of “King Lear is wisely silent, wut?” And while The Age Of Innocence is an excellent choice for The Lovers, the description in the guidebook leans heavily into the romance angle when neither card nor novel is really about that.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2023/05/19/the-literary-tarot-classics-edition-by-the-brink-literacy-project/

Gamer Girls: Monster Village by Andrea Towers

with fun retro gaming illustrations by Alexis Jauregui.

Oh, my heart! This second book in a series about middle school girl gamers just hit me so hard in the feels that I’ll even forgive the (admittedly appropriate) cliffhanger ending.

It’s been a few weeks since Nat came out to her middle school best friends as a gamer. She and Lucy have a fierce rivalry going on in Alienlord, a battle royale shoot ’em up, and the two of them, along with Jess and Celia, have a weekly livestream showcasing their efforts as Gamer Girls. Jess is one of those people who’s good or at least competent at everything, so she plays from time to time, too. Artistic, creative Celia is pretty terrible despite her best efforts, but she and Jess and Lucy all want to support Nat’s dream of being a famous video game streamer, and gather weekly towards this end.

When Celia discovers a new cozy game by MegaBox, the makers of Alienlord, it’s like a dream come true for her. Monster Village is a game where you can design and create your own town and assets, and collect the monsters who come to visit, a la Animal Crossing. Celia gets really into the game, and gets really good. Finally, she thinks, she can be a gamer in her own right and contribute more to the friends’ gaming channel.

So she’s pretty surprised when Nat and Lucy don’t seem anywhere near as enthused as she is about the new game, despite Celia’s best efforts to include them. When MegaBox announces a big Monster Village competition, Celia absolutely wants to do it, and feels hurt by what she sees (correctly) as her friends’ lack of interest and, worse, lack of support. Will her efforts to find common ground only serve to drive a greater wedge between them?

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2023/05/17/gamer-girls-monster-village-by-andrea-towers/

What If? 2 by Randall Munroe

What If?, this book’s predecessor, hit the sweet spot of serious science mixed up with deadpan presentation, and proved a (periodically dangerous) garden of delights. The second book exploring “serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions” does just that, boggling and amusing in nearly equal measure. If the leitmotif of the first volume is “What if we tried more power?” the two of this one are creating black holes and eradicating all life on Earth. For a book with as many apocalypses as this one, though, it’s very cheerful, probably because practically all of them can be avoided by just not doing extremely silly things. Or at least hoping that geological disasters from Earth’s past don’t repeat anytime soon.

What If 2 by Randall Munroe

For example, in one of the short answer sections, reader Ian asks what would happen if Mount Everest suddenly turned into pure lava. Not to worry, says Monroe, even though Everest is large for an individual human, it’s small on the scale of the earth and outside of the local area, life would be undisturbed. Monroe’s reassurance, though, is limited. Much larger lava events — up to three orders of magnitude larger than an Everest of lava — have happened in Earth’s history, and

These outpourings, which create massive rock slabs called “large igneous provinces,” are bad news for life. There are five big mass extinctions in the fossil record, and all five of them were accompanied by large amounts of lava blorping onto the surface.
Eyes first evolved about half a billion years ago, and in that time, the Permian extinction is probably the worst thing they’ve seen. A large eruption of lava in what is now Siberia injected huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, causing temperatures to spike. The oceans deoxygenated and acidified. Clouds of poison gas rolled across the land. Most plant life was wiped from the continents, leaving Earth a sandy desolate wasteland. Almost everything died. (pp. 138–39)

Fortunately for humanity, large igneous provinces seem to form over geologic time scales.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2023/05/14/what-if-2-by-randall-munroe/