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Month in review

Reviews
Avatar: The Last Airbender: North and South, Part Three by Gene Luen Yang
Books of a Feather by Kate Carlisle
Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel
CatStronauts: Robot Rescue by Drew Brockington
Country Matters by Michael Korda The Dashwood Sisters Tell All by Beth Pattillo Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Flaming Iguanas: An Illustrated All-Girl Road Novel Thing by Erika Lopez
The Football Girl by Thatcher Heldring
Froodle by Antoinette Portis
Goddess Boot Camp by Tera Lynn Childs
House Held Up by Trees by Ted Kooser and Jon Klassen
Inside Hudson Pickle by Yolanda Ridge
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Love Lies Bleeding by Susan Wittig Albert
Love, Penelope by Joanne Rocklin
Melena's Jubilee by Zetta Elliott and Aaron Boyd
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
The Once Upon a Time Map Book by B.G. Hennessy and Peter Joyce
Poisoned Pages by Lorna Barrett
Questions Asked by Jostein Gaarder
The Sea Lady by Margaret Drabble
Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil, Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire
Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army by Enigma Alberti
Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley
Thornhill by Pam Smy
Tim Ginger by Julian Hanshaw
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Winter Wonders by Kate Hannigan

Miscellaneous
Favorites of the first half of 2018
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (July 02, 2018)
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (July 09, 2018)
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (July 16, 2018)
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (July 23, 2018)
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (July 30, 2018)
June 2018 Sources
June 2018 Summary

Road Essays
Are small towns uhoric or utopic?
An update on the road narrative reading
Road Narrative Spectrum
What isn't a road narrative: towards an ontological understanding of the road's importance

Previous month

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5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish


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Books of a Feather: 07/18/18

Books of a Feather

Books of a Feather by Kate Carlisle is the tenth of the Bibliophile mysteries. The focus this time is the work of John James Audubon, or more precisely, people who worked under him. There are two books in play, a folio of Birds of America: Audubon's famous life sized watercolors that were painted from 1820-1824 around the United States and then engraved and printed in England, a smaller collection sketches, also by Audubon, but of a lesser calibre. At the gala unveiling of the restored Audubon masterpiece, the man who hired Brooklyn to restore the book of sketches is found dead.

In the middle of all of this are two brothers who her boyfriend claims as friends. They are British-Chinese but one of them goes by his Chinese name and the other goes by the translation of his name, Crane. These two brothers are the weakest link in the book. Although one brother is now living full time in China and the other remains in Britain, they were both raised and educated in Britain, meaning their mastery of English should be equal and on a par with Stone.

Crane's decision to go by the translation of his name seems off to me. Sure, he's living in Britain and his translated name sounds like a common English surname but it still strikes me as a decision to link him to the bird theme of the book and to open him up to numerous awkward introductions where people call him Mr. Crane.

Outside of fiction where Crane's approach happens all the time, I've never met a person who will go with the translation of their name as their English language name. Instead, they either pick something that sounds enough like their actual name but is easier to spell and say in English. Or they go with the Pinyin transliteration of their name. So for Crane, 鹤, he'd be something like Hugh, or he'd be Hè (using Mandarin as an example).

The fact that he has a bird name (as do his other siblings) could have been better worked into the plot. Brooklyn lives and works in San Francisco. Finding someone who could read Chinese wouldn't be that difficult. Or she could rely on Google translate which is decent in a pinch.

The other weakness of this book is the way Audubon is presented. He is a lot more famous now than he was when his Birds of America was printed. The entire mystery hinges on assistants Audubon might have had. Yes — big named artists did have apprentices who would learn how to paint in their masters' style, thus allowing a single artist to take on loads of commissions that a single artist would never be able finish. At the time that Audubon's book was first finding a printer and was first being serialized, there is no evidence that he was that level of artist. He is said to have had a young assistant while he was out doing the initial sketches but that was in the Ohio Valley and southwards, not in England.

One last complaint, though this is with the book design itself. The bird on the cover is a blue jay. We don't have them in California yet the book is set in California. A California scrub jay or a Stellar's jay would have been more appropriate.

Four stars

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