Online Reading Challenge – July

Welcome Readers!

This month the Online Reading Challenge travels back in time to the 1980s. Our main title for July is Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman. Here’s a quick summary from the publisher:

André Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference. But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them. What grows from the depths of their spirits is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy.

The psychological maneuvers that accompany attraction have seldom been more shrewdly captured than in André Aciman’s frank, unsentimental, heartrending elegy to human passion. Call Me by Your Name is clear-eyed, bare-knuckled, and ultimately unforgettable. – Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Looking for some other books set in the 1980s? Try any of the following.

As always, check each of our locations for displays with lots more titles to choose from!

The Jane Lawless Series: Hallowed Murder by Ellen Hart

After loving Devil’s Chew Toy by Rob Osler (you should read it!!) I was on the lookout for more LGBTQ mysteries, and discovered that Ellen Hart created a cult classic lesbian detective in Hallowed Murder, published 1989. Best of all, most of this series is still available through Rivershare at our local libraries.

In Hallowed Murder, we meet restaurateur Jane Lawless (and her theatrical friend Cordelia Thorne) and learn that she has started volunteering at her old college sorority, against the objections of Cordelia, who feels that Jane gives the sorority too much loyalty, considering it would have rejected her outright if it had known Jane’s sexuality. But then one of the senior students at the sorority dies suddenly, and while the police are dismissive (especially after the girl’s relationship with another woman comes out), Jane feels there’s more to the story and starts to investigate. Soon she finds herself drawn into a world of religious fanatics, blackmail, and fear, but remains determined to find out the truth.

As a longtime Agatha Christie reader I loved that this book paired a vintage tone and writing style with LGBTQ-inclusive characters. Like Christie’s work, it’s a product of its time, but in this case its time was the 1980s and 1990s, so it’s more aware of modern sensibilities and ethics. Unlike other modern cozy  mysteries, however, it doesn’t have that (apparently compulsory) formulaic storyline of the feisty heroine getting drawn into a turbulent relationship with a strong but sensitive local man or two — yawn! Instead there are slow hints of a relationship in Jane’s past that still haunts her, which is truer to Christie’s Poirot (as most recently shown in the recent Poirot films Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile by Kenneth Branagh) than to a modern cozy detective.

It’s definitely fascinating to read a work of 80s queer literature in 2022 and see how the language has changed around identity, not to mention social perception. The religious abuse and general scandal that the LGBTQ characters face in this book paints a stark picture of what it was like to be queer at that time, and remind us that some places still feature this kind of social and religious persecution toward LGBTQ people. At the same time, Hart also chooses to have one toxic character begin to realize how flawed religious ideas are, which lends the whole thing a hopeful air.

I’m excited to see where this series goes and how Jane Lawless develops as a character – if you’re looking for an inclusive cozy mystery series to try, come along with me on this journey!

Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang

PaperGirls_Vol01-1In the early hours of the day after Halloween, four teenage girls set out on their paper routes. “Hell Day,” they call it, as erstwhile teenage trick-or-treaters (emphasis on “trick”) still roam the streets and most do not welcome girl paper carriers, especially the very first paper girls. But what they encounter that morning is something much worse, much more deadly, than teenage bullies.

Set in 1988, Paper Girls follows Erin as she is saved from bullies by the very first “paper girl” Mac – a tough-talking cigarette-smoking 12 year old – and her paper carrying friends KJ and Tiffany.  They pair off for safety, but soon Tiffany and KJ are confronted by three boys in strange costumes who steal Tiffany’s walkie-talkie. The four resolve to find the boys responsible, ultimately following them to the basement of an unoccupied house. But instead of Tiff’s walkie-talkie, they find an incredibly strange, almost alien, capsule. It suddenly activates, the girls run outside, and see the three men who robbed Tiff. Confronting them, the girls discover that they are not in fact teenage boys, at least not as 1988 America would call them.

As the girls try to make sense of what has happened, the find that they world has abruptly and radically changed. The sky is pink, lightning flashes and what appear to be pterodactyls fly across the sky. Most people have disappeared, and communication technology no long works. Confronted by the radically unknown, the girls do what they do best – stick together, protect each other and never, ever back down.

Brian K. Vaughn (Saga, Y: The Last Man) creates yet another fantastic mystery in Paper Girls, capturing the defiance, fearlessness and loyal friendships of young teens as they face what may very be the end of the world.

We Sing 80s

we sing 80sI love karaoke, but I’m not fond of the whole “getting up in front of other people and embarrassing yourself” part of karaoke. Let’s be honest: when you go to do karaoke, you’re stuck in front of people in a semi-awkward situation, and unless those people are all your relatives or you are a professional singer in disguise, you’re going to be nervous. Conquering these nerves can be accomplished through practice. A new way to practice, besides spending money on lessons or singing in the car or around the house, is to play a singing videogame. My favorites are the ones similar to Rock Band that show you note length and highlight varying changes in pitch, so you’re essentially learning the songs without having to pay for sheet music.

Some of the most popular songs to play on karaoke nights are songs that almost everyone in the audience is familiar with. I have noticed that songs from the 1980s seem to be picked a lot, so I was excited when I found We Sing 80s, a videogame available for the Wii, that provides players with 30 of the biggest songs of the ’80s (21 worldwide No. 1 hits!) along with their music videos for the ultimate 80s experience. Players will be able to play three different modes, from solo to party to karaoke with up to four people jamming together. If you’re unsure how a song goes, you can even take singing lessons and figure out how to add different effects to your voice. You can also change the level of difficulty to make everyone comfortable. So grab your friends and get ready to rock out to a night of Queen, Culture Club, Tears for Fears, Cyndi Lauper, and many more.