Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Malarkey - Arrivals and reads, drawing winner, lingering thoughts on banned books

It's Monday so it must be time for a cat lounging on a glass table.

I've opted not to get out the camera to photograph arrivals, today. This week I only received 4 books and I'm not in the mood to snap and load. Haven't double-checked the back-up, lately, so I've got over 1,000 photos on my memory card and loading takes forever. I know. Get with the program, Bookfool, check your back-up and empty the memory card. Soon, soon.

Recent Arrivals:

  • Falls Like Lightning by Shawn Grady - Ever go to a swap site thinking, "I hope I have a slot for this book because I really want to put it on my wish list," and the book is there, available for request? It's a rare and wondrous experience. That was what happened with Falls Like Lightning, which I wanted to read after finishing Tomorrow We Die by the same author. So exciting! 
  • Not My Father's Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming - from Dey St. books for review (I forgot this one was coming)
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson - purchased for read-along
  • Momosas: Fun, Alcohol-Free Drinks for Expecting Moms by Paul Knorr - from Sterling for review (I'm not the target audience but I don't drink alcohol, so . . . ). This is one of the two books I told you I was excited about. We're going to play with recipes, this week!

Last week's posts:

Last week's reads:

  • Lock In by John Scalzi
  • Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  • Boxers by Gene Luen Yang
  • Saints by Gene Luen Yang
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Currently reading:

  • Me On the Floor, Bleeding by Jenny Jagerfeld - a Swedish YA! 
  • Momosas by Paul Knorr

Just ditched:

Daring: My Passages by Gail Sheehy - When I haven't picked up a book for 3 weeks, it's time to move on. I'm not getting rid of Daring, though. I was enjoying it; I just got sidetracked. I'll return to the book when it calls to me. It's definitely a fascinating read, if only for the historical perspective.

This week:

Lord only knows what I'll get around to on the blog, this week. Since I took a little time off, considered giving up the blog and came back with a resolve to change, my reading has gone from "a bit of a drag with regular slumps," to "I am having so much fun!" It does mean there's a serious backlog of review posts but I'm just not worrying about that. I'll get to them. There will probably be a lot of mini reviews in my future. My ARC shelf has some gaps that aren't filling, even though only one of the 18 books I've read, this month, was sent to me. That's because I've plunked the latest on the piano bench. It's cheating, I know. I'm telling myself I'll read them sooner if I have to walk past them a dozen times, every day. We'll see if I'm right.

About the drawing:

Petite was the winner of the drawing for a copy of Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston-Gannon. I haven't apparently done a drawing in at least two years because I couldn't figure out how to close comments when it was time to draw a name. So, instead, I simply removed the drawing info to keep anyone else from seeing it and trying to sign up. *shrug*  Whatever works. Thanks to those who participated! I enjoyed your jokes and haikus!

Addendum to my comments about Fallen Angels:

Kiddo came home, this weekend, so we got to talk a bit more about Fallen Angels. I said something about it being very "raw", that the dialogue was unflinchingly real and unfiltered. The soldiers talked about social diseases and sex and racism and fear. They lost their heads under stress and became more violent when they'd initially hesitated to kill, turned away from death or cried openly. Son replied, "I think that's why I loved it so much," and commented that the realism was what captured him during a time when (in my words) his world was filtered by the adults around him.

Kind of profound, the thought that it's through reading scenes that some people see as too disturbing that youngsters begin to understand the world. Maybe banning books, keeping kids in the dark about life only makes it more difficult to cope with the world when they're faced with hard truths? Especially when we read with our kids, books that challenge our comfort and beliefs can be the opening for dialogue about their questions and concerns, an avenue to helping them navigate those uncomfortable years when they're straddling youth and adulthood. That's the best reason I can think of to stop banning books. I know the last thing I wanted to do to my children was make those years more difficult.

Back to dealing with Monday.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers - My Banned Books Week read

The noise was terrible. Every time a mortar went off, I jumped. I couldn't help myself. The noise went into you. It touched parts of you that were small and frightened and wanting your mommy.

~p. 243

I remember buying Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers for Kiddo at a Borders. I had no idea it had been challenged or banned. It was published in 1988 by Point, an imprint of Scholastic, so it was around before Kiddo was born. Had I known it had been challenged, would that knowledge have changed anything? Probably. I would still have bought it but would more than likely have read the book with him or after he read it so that we could discuss it. That was my practice during the tender years. If you read a book with your child, you can talk with him or her about anything that disturbs you or clashes with your beliefs or morals. But, tell a kid not to read something and they're going to do everything in their power to get away with it. I'd already learned that lesson with my eldest.

What's it about? From the cover:

On a jungle battlefront where one misplaced step could be any soldier's last, every move can mean the difference between death and survival.

Richie Perry, Lobel, Johnson, Brunner and Pewee are all in Vietnam. They came there for different reasons, but now they share a single dream -- getting out alive.

My thoughts:

It took me at least a good 50 pages to get into Fallen Angels. Myers' style is minimalist, which can come off as awkward during everyday scenes but lends the story an immediacy during action. Richie narrates the story and he is an African-American (although that term isn't used; they're either "black" or "brothers") with a bum knee. At the beginning of the book, he's lamenting the fact that his paperwork has not come through. He shouldn't be going to Vietnam at all because of his knee, but he's on his way.

It's 1967 and there are talks of peace, hopes that the war will end before Christmas. If you were alive during the Vietnam war, as I was, you know those hopes were futile. I was very young but I remember when it ended in the 1970s.

As the book progresses, the men are thrown into greater danger, going on more frequent missions, watching their numbers fall. The book is about war but it's also about poverty and racism, politics, fear, horror and loss. It's about what it's like to be a part of something so terrifying that you know you'll carry those scenes with you forever while, back in the "World", people have no idea what you're going through and often don't even talk about it. What should Perry share with his family? What should he keep to himself? Will he and his brothers in arms survive their year or die horribly and for no good reason?

Fallen Angels is a gut-punch of a book. It's pretty clear why some people might challenge it. There's talk of sex and social diseases, descriptions of graphic violence, challenges to authority. At one point, Perry is aware that people are uncomfortable because he and his best friend, Peewee, are holding hands. There's no implication of homosexuality, but I can see how people who are homophobic might read "gay" into that scene and one or two others.

Highly recommended - A deeply meaningful and powerful read. I wish I'd read this when my son first read it, years ago. War, racism, lack of mercy in a dangerous situation, why someone would choose war over poverty . . . so many topics to talk about. Fallen Angels would make a great discussion book.

Kiddo and I have, in fact, been talking about it by phone as I've been reading. He told me what he loves about it the most is that you come to care for the characters and want them to live. That's exactly how I felt. I know writing from death is a fairly recent conceit but I was still concerned that I was going to find that Perry was writing from beyond the grave, in the end. I didn't want him to die. I cried a little when one of my favorite characters was killed. Fallen Angels isn't a beautiful literary work like The Things They Carried but it leaves you with that same, "You were there," feeling.

 To close, one of my favorite passages (because it made me smile):

"Man, this ain't even Boonieville," Sergeant Simpson said, "This is the suburbs of Boonieville." He threw his gear on the small folding cot in the hooch that was our new home outside of Tam Ky.

~p. 190

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston-Gannon

I'm a little late getting around to talking about Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston-Gannon because of all that recent blog angst but I don't want to skip it because I adore Preston-Gannon's lighthearted storytelling and cheerful illustrations. I also very seldom hold drawings at Bookfoolery but Dinosaur Farm is worth sharing. Page down for info about the giveaway. It will be a short one so sign up quickly if you're interested and please pass it on if you've got friends with little ones.

Dinosaur Farm is just what the cover indicates, the story of a farmer's day in which the livestock are dinosaurs, perhaps farmed for their eggs:

The reader follows the farmer's day as he feeds his livestock, gives the dinosaurs a scrubbing, cleans out his pond and shovels up dino manure.

He also has a garden to tend and the garden has a unique, prehistoric look.

There are hatchlings to attend to and the evening meal to deal with.

Then the farmer gets to go home and take a bath, knowing his animals are safe and happy. The farmer forgets to close the gate, though, and some of the dinosaurs sneak inside to sleep with him. Such a cute ending!

You will be happy to know this book is Isabel-approved, meaning it smelled good. I'm sure she'll enjoy it if I ever read the book to her, as well. Cats love it when you read to them.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Some of my favorite books have been banned

Foyle's Books tweeted this and I love it.

As always, I didn't realize Banned Books Week was coming till it was upon us but better late joining in on the fun than never. I've just been perusing various banned book lists and it never fails to surprise me just how many books on those "most frequently banned" lists I've not only read but loved. I did find one I've never read that I knew I could pluck off a shelf. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers happens to be among Kiddo's favorites but I didn't realize it had been banned or challenged. It's on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books List: 1990-1999. I'm going to add that to my reading list for the week. Kiddo will probably be thrilled. He's been talking about it for years and loves to share his favorites with me.

A few of my favorite banned or challenged books:

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck (New favorite! I also love The Grapes of Wrath)
Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson
Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Back to Malarkey

I'm not going to photograph the books I bought when I went stress shopping because they'll be showing up as I read them but plenty of non-purchased books have arrived since my last Monday Malarkey post. I like doing Monday Malarkey posts, by the way, so I'll continue to write them unless I feel compelled to skip one, for some reason.

Recent Arrivals:

Top to bottom:

  • Me on the Floor, Bleeding by Jenny Jagerfeld - sent by friend
  • The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag - via Paperback Swap
  • Your Perfect Life by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke - via Paperback Swap
  • Oil! by Upton Sinclair - via Paperback Swap
  • In Perfect Time by Sarah Sundin - sent by friend
  • The Precious One by Marisa De Los Santos - ARC from Harper Collins
  • A Sudden Light by Garth Stein - Unsolicited from Simon & Schuster 
  • It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (not shown - just arrived via Paperback Swap)

Last week's posts:

Last week's reads:

  • Tomorrow We Die by Shawn Grady
  • Puzzlehead by James Yang
  • I am neurotic (and so are you) by Lianna Kong
  • Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During WWII by Martin W. Sandler
  • Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne
  • Monument 14: Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne

Clearly, letting go of the rigidity of my former blogging method has helped restore the joy of reading.

Currently reading:

  • Lock In by John Scalzi 
  • Daring: My Passages by Gail Sheehy - long story but I was planning to dive back into Daring on Saturday night and couldn't get to the book without disturbing my husband so I read the two Monument 14 books, instead. They were nearby and super-quick reads.


The casual approach is really clicking for me. I'm going to continue to write without using any format and only when I feel like it, reserve weekends for family time, read whatever calls to me. I've grown accustomed to not receiving regular parcels; I missed them when I first stopped requesting ARCs. Some will probably still trickle in and I'm now allowing myself to request, again, but I'm capping requests at 2 per month. I've been surprised to find that limiting the arrivals has seriously ramped up the anticipation. I can't wait for my two September requests to get here!

Time for a selfie in a cat's eyeball:

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fiona Friday - Isabel helps with the washing-up

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Random reading thoughts and a bit of utter coolness

I'm reading this:

I'm having trouble focusing on Lock In, which is surprising because I love Scalzi's writing, in general. You know how sometimes you can recognize the genius in a book but you're just not feeling it? That's Lock In. And, yet I don't want to give it up. I'm reading it as an e-book and wondering if that's part of the problem. I have this horrible tendency to read fewer pages at a stretch than I do with a paper book. I will actually set down my reader, walk away and then completely forget I'm reading an e-book. That's one reason I don't read them often. I may buy the paper book, eventually.

Also reading this, and it is a gut-kick:

I've read a few books that were either centered upon (novels) or about (nonfiction) Japanese Americans interned during WWII but I'm realizing just how little I knew. Such a dark and frightening passage in American history and a testament to the courage and creativity of those who were deprived of their rights as American citizens.

It's been probably 5 or 6 days since I picked up Daring: My Passages by Gail Sheehy (see sidebar), but only because I keep finding other distractions.

This book is very suspenseful:

I read Shawn Grady's first book, Through the Fire in 2009, and thought it was exceptional so when I happened across Tomorrow We Die whilst book shopping (stress shopping -- husband was about to leave the continent; I hate that), I tossed it into the cart. So glad I did. I'll tell you about it in more detail, later. Brief descriptors:

Emergency medical action (yes, another paramedic book)
Family drama
A touch of romance

Bit of utter coolness:

I found a book by an author/illustrator from my high school! James Yang and I worked together on our high school newspaper and yearbook staffs. So very cool to find a book by someone from my younger days.

More about Puzzlehead, later. Gotta go read.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.