My October Reading Log

Homicide and Halo-Halo by Mia P. Manansala is second in a cozy mystery series; I have not read the first book, but was easily able to follow the story. Protagonist Lila Macapagal has returned to the cozy small town of Shady Palms (Somewhere in the Vicinity of Chicago) to live near her family, who own and operate a Filipino restaurant; Lila and two friends, a lesbian couple, are in the process of opening a coffee shop that also sells plants and Filipino-inspired baked goods. As you might imagine, there’s a lot of food detail, which I enjoyed. The plot revolves around a local pageant for teen girls, and had some interesting detail on how this event was being updated to be more modern and rounded. Of course, all of this is happening around a murder investigation, and Lila’s lingering trauma from book one. I would have liked more of her gossipy aunties and their kitchen…they should meet. I will likely read more by this author.

My October #TBRChallenge book was Exile by Lisa Bradley.

Influenza 1918: The Worst Pandemic in American History by Lynette Iezzoni is copyright 1999, which is its most salient point so far as my reading went. (I have a couple of much more recent books on this topic in the To Be Read pile.) So, Worst Pandemic Ever? Anyway! This book was written as a companion to “Influenza 1918,” a PBS tv documentary broadcast as part of The American Experience series. It focuses, as you might imagine, on the United States. There were some first person accounts, mostly from people who were children in 1918, and reference to Katherine Anne Porter’s story “Pale Horse, Pale Rider.” Philadelphia had a chapter pretty much to itself, given the carnage there likely following on the several huge Liberty Loan parades/rallies in late September (before the danger of Flu was evident). The author does a good job of explaining why and how doctors and scientists had little recourse: viruses had not yet been discovered, and everyone thought influenza was caused by a bacterium, which meant all the varying attempts at vaccines were futile. Masking happened, but masks were made of surgical gauze, which cannot stop viruses. And of course the United States had recently entered World War One, and though thousands upon thousands of soldiers were dying in Army camps, jam-packed troopships to Europe did not stop because the need for soldiers was considered a higher priority.

What I noticed again and again were the parallels between reactions to the Influenza pandemic then and reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic now. People complained bitterly about mask mandates; some schools closed, others didn’t; people tried all types of folk remedies to try and prevent transmission and death; bodies piled up and there was a shortage of coffins. In the final chapter, the author summarizes how viral transmission was identified, advances in Flu vaccines, and how viruses shift and drift. “The question is not if another deadly shift will occur, but when,” (p. 214); she doesn’t mention coronaviruses, but does describe how interactions between humans and animals constantly contribute to new viral mutations, just as we’re are currently experiencing firsthand. So, it’s not the most up-to-date book on the topic, but I definitely feel it has lessons to impart.

As a final note, there was one incorrect fact which really annoyed me: “…Philadelphia City Hall, although capped with a statue of the city’s venerable architect, Benjamin Franklin…,” (page 133). No. The statue at the very top of City Hall is William Penn, please and thank you.

The Unspeakable Mind: Stories of Trauma and Healing from the Frontlines of PTSD Science by Shaili Jain was published in 2019, so it’s also pre-pandemic. It’s a well-organized overview with short chapters on the causes, types, and treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, written by a specialist in that field. I found it very useful for its overview of recent research and new types of therapies. A particularly good section focused on the Partition of 1947 (in which members of the author’s family were killed) and the effects of its knock-on trauma that are still felt today.

chaos, yet harmony by rain_sleet_snow is a massive alternate universe mixing three flavors of Star Wars: the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy; Star Wars: The Clone Wars; and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The novel, which occurs between the canonical events of Clone Wars and Rogue One, posits that Jyn Erso (Rogue One) meets Ahsoka Tano (The Clone Wars) long before the events of Rogue One, and they subsequently team up, find trust in each other, fall in love, uncover secrets, and forge new paths. Despite the length, and knowing practically nothing about the animated Clone Wars series, I was completely engaged from beginning to end as two wary, hardened characters very slowly grow closer. I am assuming that Jyn’s future in this alternate universe is far different than in canon.

this town is a song about you by synecdochic is another alternate universe, this time for Stargate: SG1. Though I’ve seen some episodes, I’m not hugely familiar with the details of this canon, but this story, featuring a disabled Cameron Mitchell and a teenaged clone of General Jack O’Neill (who has all the memories of his older counterpart), did not seem to require much canonical background. I assume Mitchell’s large family were all original characters. The story begins after a crash has left Mitchell invalided out of the Air Force; he ends up working with the clone, named J.D., creating military software and forging a romantic relationship. But their old lives are still lurking, and waiting to drag them back in to save the world. This story is first in a series.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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