The Middle Sister is Made of Meh – CannonballRead #8 – Review #1


Read – Review – Fight Cancer

The Songbird’s Call by Rachael Herron Book 2 in the Songbird Trilogy

Romance – Contemporary – Smut level: Pretty hot.

Why this book? I have been following Rachael Herron since before she was a published author and was just a somewhat random knitting blogger. I had the opportunity to join her review team and got a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for posting a review (full disclosure).

This is the second book in the Songbird Trilogy series. The Darling Songbirds are a fictional musical trio of sisters –think Dixie Chicks from Bolinas. When we start our story, the band has been broken up for the better part of a decade and the sisters are slowly making their way back to Darling Bay. This book focuses on Molly, the middle sister.

Molly is chunky. Is she actually fat or is she just not super Hollywood thin? I couldn’t really get a picture of her in my head. A lot of Molly’s character is wrapped up in her weight, controlling her weight, people commenting on it, etc. It’s the chain that other people use to yank her around – regardless of their intentions. It’s very definitional for her and I understand that for a lot of women in the US weight is a huge _thing_ in their lives and identity. It’s not in mine. I have a really hard time connecting to contemporary female characters who are weight focused. I hate the propensity in “light” women’s fiction for female characters who are presented as psychologically normal to think about food in a pathological way. Molly knows that she doesn’t have the healthiest relationship with food and her self awareness helps to mitigate how much I was put off by her food talk.

So Molly has come home for Christmas after having been away from Darling Bay for more than ten years. The sisters have inherited a bar with attached hotel and cafe from their uncle. Adele, the eldest sister (and subject of the first book) is running the bar. Molly returns home from working on a cruise ship for six years and decides to re-open the café.

While poking around the abandoned café in the middle of the night she meets Sheriff Colin McMurty when he tries to arrest her and she throws her phone and hits his head.

This almost killed the book for me. It seems like every week I hear about another black person being gunned down by police while doing absolutely nothing wrong and this little bitch (the character) can fucking assault a sheriff and get a date out of it? The fucking privilege of even being able to conceive of this scene in this day and age literally made me nauseous.

To be honest, if I was not committed to writing a review, I would have stopped reading right there.

Now, knowing the author’s background helped me back up a step. She was a 911 dispatcher for more than a decade. Her perception of and relationship to law enforcement as a whole and individual members of LEOs is much different than mine. She was illustrating a side of law enforcement that she has seen and values.

Colin’s big issue is that he is bossy. It’s sort of his job to tell people what to do but it gets in the way of his ability to have functional relationships. His father was also the sheriff and for a guy who doesn’t want to be like his father he sure doesn’t seem to have tried to steer himself very far from the tree. There is a lot of fatalism in Colin that reflects a fatalism in Darling Bay. People from certain families end up in one way or another. It’s part of the small town trope that Herron uses but it’s depressing as fuck to think of all these poor people trapped by destiny.

Not the fun kind either

Molly and Colin feel instant attraction and that’s all very well and good. Because I don’t have a lot in common emotionally with either of them I had a hard time connection with their conflict. Colin’s bossiness, which is a deal breaker for Molly, wouldn’t be for me. Molly’s internal journey felt very jerky. They dance around each other. Or really, Colin sort of boils in his own skin and Molly weebles until they come together.

The lead up to the climax felt like it was tacked on, or maybe it was the start that was tacked on to the climax. Everything is moving along with Molly and the café and then BAM! She decides to start a second, far larger, far more ambitious project and it was jarring. I thought “Where the fuck did that come from? You can’t do both of these things!”

Spoiler: You are not going to start and run a national domestic abuse assistance hotline and website within six months of starting your own restaurant business.

It really felt as though Herron was trying to fulfill her theme of each sister running part of the old family business and at the same time create huge stakes for Molly and Colin to come together over. It didn’t work for me. Either Molly is a small town woman who had some time being larger than life but was fine going back to where she started or she is fully embracing that she is a world renowned music star and goddamnit she’s going to use her powers for good.

I think she might have used this while writing…

Wrap Up: There are one of two laugh out loud moments but this was not Herron’s best effort.

Grade: C

Cannonball Read 6 – Review #11 – A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Laugh-out-loud-while-reading-on-public-transit funny.  (Please head to the Cannonball Read 6 Blog to have fun and fight cancer!)

I read this book because I am very slowly working my way through all the books that have won the Pulitzer Prize for FictionDunces won in 1980. There is a certain anticipation when starting an award winning novel. I wonder  “What is so special about this work? Why did it win?” I wonder if I am up for the challenge, if I can do the work justice as a reader. Continue reading Cannonball Read 6 – Review #11 – A Confederacy of Dunces

Cannonball Read 6 – Review #10 – Dr. Toy’s Smart Play/ Smart Toys

Dr. Toy’s Smart Play/ Smart Toys by Stevanne Auerbach (Click to link to visit the awesome Cannonball Read blog and help raise money to fight cancer!)

Non-Fiction guide to buying developmentally appropriate toys for children, from babies to teens.

Note: This review was written about a previous edition of the book.  

There are a lot of books on parenting out there. As a first time parent, I wanted to do the best job I could without getting caught up in the feeling of failing because I wasn’t doing it right according to Sears or Spock or whoever.  I read technical books on how often babies needed to eat and when I might need to call 911 but avoided most behavioral texts.

Continue reading Cannonball Read 6 – Review #10 – Dr. Toy’s Smart Play/ Smart Toys

Cannonball Read #9 – Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks

This book was read and reviewed as part of the Cannonball Read, click through to read more reviews and help fight cancer!


I have been a musician for thirty years. I sing and play a variety of instruments. I’m the kind of person who can pick up just about any instrument and have a basic capability to play within a few minutes. I have never felt like less of a musician than when I read this book. It’s not that it shows me to be technically insufficient but that he tells of a world of music which I can never hope to experience.

Continue reading Cannonball Read #9 – Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks

To Infinity and Back – Cannonball Read #8

The Wind’s Twelve Quarters by Ursula K. Le Guin (Please visit the Cannonball Read blog for many, many more book reviews and to help raise money to fight cancer.)

Sci Fi fantasy short story collection by the Earthsea lady. Some of it entertaining, some weird, all thought provoking.

Continue reading To Infinity and Back – Cannonball Read #8

Review: Magpul Industries iPhone 5 Bump Case


Having finally made the leap to a smart phone earlier this year, I wanted to protect my fancy-ass new pocket computer as best I could. I’m not a coordinated or attentive man when it comes to things in my pockets, so I did some research and settled on the Magpul Bump Case, largely on the strength of a very positive review from The Wirecutter. I’ve been using the Bump for around three months now, and I have some thoughts.

The Bump is a single-piece snap-on case that covers the back and sides of the phone. It doesn’t particularly shield the screen, but the case does have a lip that comes up around the screen on all sides; if you lay the phone face-down on a flat table the screen is a millimeter or so off of the surface. The case has holes for all of your cables and for the phone’s speakers, and it has nice integrated buttons that allow a user to click the volume and power buttons under the case easily.

Does the Bump actually protect your phone? In short, yes. I’ve carried out several accidental drop tests with the Bump: having it slip out of a jacket pocket to land corner-first a tile floor; having it fall from the edge of a sink and hit a different tile floor face-down; and another jacket drop to land on its back on concrete. The bump protected my phone completely through this inadvertently comprehensive gauntlet, and at this point the only thing I wouldn’t trust it to handle would be dropping or crushing the phone on its unprotected screen.

The rifle is from Austria, but that magazine is all Belgian.
The rifle is from Austria, but that magazine is all Belgian.

Other than its raw durability, the main selling point of Magpul’s product is the ribbing that runs up and down the sides and back. This is the same sort of pattern that Magpul uses on rifle magazines in order to make them easy to grip when the user is wearing gloves, or when the magazine is wet. In my experience the Bump feels very slightly rubbery, with just enough flexibility to give a good grip. The ribs help with holding the phone securely, so the overall effect is that when I’m looking at a video or making a call I feel as though I have an incredibly stable grasp of my device. The material isn’t actually sticky, so it doesn’t pick up lint in your pocket or anything like that. However, the bump won’t actually grip itself for you, so if you leave it on the edge of a sink (like a dummy) or dump it out of a hoodie pocket while grabbing for your keys (like a dummy), Magpul’s case cannot save you from yourself.

The Bump is available from Magpul for around $30 and only fits iPhones; as usual Amazon has it for somewhat less. There’s also a very similar case from Magpul called the Field that fits a much wider variety of devices, including tablets and Samsung phones.


“Please by my vampire wife, mmmmkay?” – Cannonball Read #6

Immortal Ever After by Lynsay Sands. I read this so you don’t have to.

Valerie Moyer is kidnapped and held captive in a basement with several other women. She frees herself and manages to call 911 before jumping out of a window. Anders (his first name will be addressed a little later) is an Immortal who works to contain other immortals who rick exposing themselves and all their kind by preying on humans for blood.  Anders and his team respond to Valerie’s 911 call and our romance is off to the races.

Continue reading “Please by my vampire wife, mmmmkay?” – Cannonball Read #6

Music Chat: The Thermals “Desperate Ground”

Fyrehaar: New Thermals album
Fyrehaar: sounds so samey
Fyrehaar: wish they would play around with their sound profile
Sonic Rob: yeah 🙁
Sonic Rob: I remember the songs being a lot of the same tempo as well
Fyrehaar: there are some good lyrics in here
Fyrehaar: I just want a wider audio range
Fyrehaar: lo fi is cute and all but they did that
Fyrehaar: I want to take this and mess with it
Fyrehaar: change some tempos
Fyrehaar: like, turn one of these into a ballad
Fyrehaar: do another one as punk rock
Fyrehaar: maybe an acoustic
Fyrehaar: it just sounds like B sides from BBM
Fyrehaar: same fucking rhythm
Fyrehaar: Jesus
Fyrehaar: it’s just so unoriginal
Fyrehaar: Thermals, I am disappoint
Continue reading Music Chat: The Thermals “Desperate Ground”

I Play Video Games: Uncharted

Heya Fyre,

I finally cracked open the PS3 I got for Black Friday in earnest and had a go at Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. I did this as much to set the stage for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves as to experience the first game; Uncharted is known as a hit, but Uncharted 2 is known as a PS3 all-time classic and I wanted to go in with the first game under my belt so I’d be able to understand what’s so great about it. Having started UC2, I can say this was absolutely the right thing to do, as the opening of the sequel is entertaining without the backstory, but blackly hilarious once you know what Drake has already been through.

But first, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

Box art for Uncharted - A white man with several guns, in a jungle.
Continue reading I Play Video Games: Uncharted