Friday, July 01, 2016

June Reads in Review, 2016

I'll bet you weren't so sure I'd really return to do those end of month wrap-ups, right? Well, I'm still here, just not on Facebook or blogging regularly. I'm enjoying my time off but sometimes realize that I do, in fact, really miss blogging. There are moments that I think, "I want to write about this!" and have to stop myself. If I hadn't made myself a promise to stay away and force a reevaluation of how I spend my time, I'd be happily plugging away. But, I do think the break has been a good thing, so far, and still plan to eventually return. I hope you're all having a wonderful summer!



June reads (Links to reviews written during my blog break lead to Goodreads):

47. The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler - When an elderly woman meets a teenager who expresses interest in her life story, she begins to reveal the secrets of her past and discovers new hope for her remaining years. Absolutely loved this book.

48. Lonely Planet Australian Language and Culture - A fun guide to all things Australian, a little heavy on the information about indigenous people but otherwise fascinating and entertaining.

49. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu - A very strange book that takes place in a science fictional universe but is really about a young man's yearning for his father. Bizarre but ultimately satisfying.

50. My Brother Jack by George Johnston - The story of two Australian brothers who support each other through the ups and downs of life. WWII serves as the point at which they become aware of their lost hopes and truly learn how much they mean to each other. Dense but excellent reading. I was expecting a WWII story, not a fictionalized life story but it didn't matter.

51. Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: The Little Sister - Illus. by Michael Lark - A graphic novel version of Raymond Chandler's novel, told using Chandler's words and nicely illustrated. Confirmation that Chandler is not for me but I appreciated the clarity of the artwork.

52. Ah-Choo by L.W. Koehler, G. G. Adams, and K. Min - A young boy wants a pet but every time he brings a new animal home his sister sneezes, until he brings home a bearded dragon. Loads of fun for read-aloud.

53. All of Us and Everything by Bridget Asher - When Augusta Rockwell, her three daughters, and granddaughter all gather together after Hurricane Sandy washes away everything in the bottom of their ancestral home, they learn to work out their differences while exposing long-held secrets and let-downs by the men in their lives, opening up new hope and forming unexpected bonds. By far one of my favorite recent reads entirely peopled by female protagonists.

54. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley - When a private jet crashes 18 minutes into a flight from Martha's Vineyard with only 2 survivors, painter Scott Burroughs becomes an unexpected hero. What happened to lead up to the crash of the plane and what will happen to Scott when every aspect of his life comes into question? A gripping read. I goofed off and read all day; didn't want to put the book down.

55. The Secret River by Kate Grenville - (full review at Goodreads is hidden due to spoilers) Beginning with William Thornhill's childhood, the story of Will and wife Sal as they work hard, fall on hard times, are transported to Australia, and eventually become land owners. A raw, sad work of historical fiction, gorgeously written but brutal.

This was really a great month. Although I'm still reading slowly, there were a lot of gems in this lot. Favorites were The Secrets of Flight, My Brother Jack, All of Us and Everything, Before the Fall, and The Secret River -- a nice hodge-podge of historical and contemporary. I loved the only children's book I read, Ah-Choo, and enjoyed learning about Australian culture in the Lonely Planet book. I liked How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe for its uniqueness, although it lost me at times. The only book I didn't like or love was The Little Sister. Although the artwork was great, I'm not sure how I ended up with it. At some point in the past I discovered that I adore Dashiell Hammett but I can't bear Raymond Chandler and, sure enough, I just didn't like it. But, I finished it, anyway. It was short.

This month, I'm continuing to take time off from the computer because my physical therapist says I'm messing up my neck by looking down at my laptop. So, I'm going to avoid pretty much everything but Goodreads and Twitter (also will just be dropping in occasionally at Twitter). I'm planning to participate in #FiremanAlong, a read-along of Joe Hill's latest novel, The Fireman. Otherwise, I have no specific reading plans. Hope you're enjoying your summer!


©2016 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Malarkey and Promises, Bloggiversary and Blog Break


First things first: It's my 10th bloggiversary. I cannot believe an entire decade has passed since I began blogging, although so much has happened! I've made some incredible friends who share my passion and some who authored favorite books, said goodbye to my mother and two cats, been adopted by two new kitties, become a mother-in-law and a grandmother. I've read hundreds of books and discovered that I really, really do not like reading them in electronic form (good old paper for me, baby). I've watched both children graduate from college and get jobs and traveled to some fabulous places -- some of which would not have happened if not for the blog. It's been a good run . . . so far. On to malarkey before my farewell.

No arrivals, this week.

Books finished since last malarkey:


  • The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
  • The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler


Currently reading:


  • I haven't actually decided what to read, next. Eeks. Will update that on Twitter, when I do. I'm @Bookfoolery


Last week's posts:




And, now, it's time for a break but not for any of the reasons you might expect. At the beginning of 2016, when I lost a friend suddenly to cancer, I made a promise to myself to stick it out till my 10th bloggiversary and then take a significant break. I'm not tired of blogging or frustrated or worried about the fact that not as many people visit my blog as they did in the beginning. While I miss the close relationships I had in the early blogging days, some of those have matured and moved on to Facebook, letter-writing, visits in person. In some ways it's better to have fewer visitors at the blog; it was a little overwhelming when my blog was kind of popular, early on.

Nope, I just made myself a promise to take a big break and I've decided to keep it. It's possible that I'll reevaluate whether or not I want to continue blogging while I'm away. But at this point I fully intend to come back. And, I still plan on writing the monthly review posts because I'm not going to quit recording my reads, here. I have an end-of-year-post that I update every time I finish a book. However, this is going to be a long break, anywhere from 2 to 6 months. I won't know till I get there. If I'm not back by the end of the year, apart from the monthly posts, I'll return at the beginning of 2017 with an update.

In the meantime, I'll continue reading, of course, and writing brief reviews at Goodreads. I'll update my personal Facebook timeline. I'll tweet about my reads on Twitter. I sit down at the computer to tweet so I'm just a drop-in tweeter but I'll work harder at updating there, hopefully with photos. If/when I return, I will have a different home email address, but my gmail site will continue to function if anyone wants to get in touch. Have a fabulous summer!


©2016 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tales of Accidental Genius by Simon Van Booy


After being alone for a few days, she would feel some pull of inspiration. It could come from anywhere: lemons in a bowl were enough; the blowing trees in the park were enough; the migration of clouds; the color of water; words from a passing conversation she carried with her like loose stones. 

~ p. 52, from "The Muse"

And that was the problem with Michael Snow's screenplay, she realized, seeing the manuscript on her desk--that it worked so hard to conjure love, when love was most felt in its absence.

~ p. 58, from "The Muse"

When they landed at LAX, a uniformed driver from the hotel was holding a sign. "We should have told him our last name was Godot," David said. "Just for fun."

~ p. 73, from "Infidelity"

Let me just get the swooning part out of the way . . . Ohmygosh, how I love Simon Van Booy's writing.

OK, I can go on, now.

I read Tales of Accidental Genius in January, so this is a reread but not a second review. I don't know why I do this, but I always blast through Simon's books when I first get them and then I take my time slowly reading and absorbing, a second time. And, then I return to favorite short stories when I need an upper. I love his writing that much.

Tales of Accidental Genius is every bit as wonderful as Simon's other short story collections but a tiny bit different in that the last story is long enough that it appears to be a novella. On the blast-through reading, I was so surprised to find that the last story was the last story that I kept flipping to see when it would end. That final story begins about 1/3 of the way into the book . . . and yet, the stylized printing with fewer words on each page is maybe slightly deceptive (so I'm not certain that it's a novella). I think, for that reason, I loved it the second time in a way that I couldn't the first, simply because the surprising length of the final selection unbalanced me.

At any rate, I loved Tales of Accidental Genius on the first reading and I adored it the second time around. And, this happens every single time I read a book of Simon Van Booy's short stories. I always end up appreciating the nuances and rhythm and depth of heart even more when I reread. But, I just have to do the blast-through read, for some reason.

Counting the story that serves as an introduction to the final maybe-novella, there are 7 stories in Tales of Accidental Genius. Some favorites:

"The Menace of Mile End" - Elderly Mr. Baxter goes through the motions of living, occasionally bitter about the young people who make noise outside his solitary London flat, the back part of a former church wedged in an upscale business district. But, when a homeless man is attacked outside his home, Mr. Baxter discovers that he isn't such a curmudgeon, after all.

"The Goldfish" - Piper, an old man's goldfish, has gone belly up in his tank. Concerned, he goes to the aquarium and the vet but is unable to find answers. So he stops at a pet shop, where the compassion of a young man who understands pain leads to a beautiful ending.

Really, there's only one story I don't consider a favorite. But, I liked it. So, Tales of Accidental Genius is a 5-star read. The only problem I've really have had with the book, lately, is that I keep sitting down to write my review and as I'm thinking about the stories I think, "Wait. I want to read that, again," and dash off down the hallway with the book in hand. That's why I decided I'd better stop after describing two of the stories.

The "Genius" in the title is not regarding intelligence, at least not the kind that's measured with tests and numbers. Instead, it's about the genius of finding the perfect way to show compassion. I'll give you an example but since it tells what happens to Piper, the goldfish, I'm going to set it off with a spoiler warning . . .

*****SPOILER - SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED*****

The perfect way that young Akin finds to show compassion to an elderly man who doesn't realize his fish is actually dead? He tells the man Piper had twins and died in childbirth after slipping two new fish into the tank.

*****END SPOILER*****

It's those moments of brilliant emotional genius that make the book such an uplifting read, of course.

Highly recommended - One of my favorites, so far in 2016. I've read it twice (some stories 3 times) and I know I'll return to Tales of Accidental Genius many, many times. There's at least a little heartbreak in every story, but there's also an act of kindness. Tales of Accidental Genius is the kind of book you press to your heart when you finish it. Also, I think it's notable that Simon's sense of humor really shines through (as in that comment by the character, David, that he should have told the driver their name was Godot, so he'd have been waiting for Godot).

©2016 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

May Reads in Review, 2016



May reads (links to full reviews can be reached by clicking on title/author):

36. In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis - The follow-up to Not a Drop to Drink, a Young Adult dystopian novel, in which the two main characters walk from Ohio to California to escape disease and seek a community where there is ample water. I liked the story but disliked the quantity of violence, although expected, and was not thrilled with the ending.

37. Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit - An exquisitely written tale of a man and a young girl who must keep walking through Poland and into other countries before and during WWII to avoid being captured and killed. One of my favorites of the year, it's both heartbreaking and beautiful.

38. One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis - When something tragic happens, Emily leaves her life behind and takes on a new identity and life in London. I had trouble getting through One Step Too Far. It's the only book I read in May that I suspect I should have abandoned. Well written but too implausible for me.

39. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki - A Hello Kitty lunchbox with a diary inside becomes a fascination for Ruth when it washes up on the beach of her island home in the Pacific Northwest. Was the diary part of the debris from the Japanese tsunami? And, what happened to its young author, Nao Yasutani? Another favorite. I absolutely loved this book.

40. Feather Brained by Bob Tarte - The author of several animal memoirs has returned to share the story of his passion for birds and how he learned about birds, photographed them, and went on field trips while attempting to spot a rare bird. Loads of fun.

41. Raising Ryland by Hillary Whittington - The story of a family that has allowed their child to transition from girl to boy and why. I found myself fighting the urge to judge the Whittingtons as I was reading but I feel like I learned a lot, upon reflection.

42. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark - My classic choice of the month, the story of a teacher and the set of female students she favored, told upon reflection, years after she was betrayed by one of the girls she trusted. It's been forever since I've seen the movie but the book had a lesser impact on me. I still want to see the movie, again, to find out if I feel the same way about it.

43. Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera - A translation by a Mexican author, the story of a young woman who is sent across the border to locate her brother, facing violence and other hardship along the way. Loved the minimalist writing and the story is powerful. I disliked the translator's decision to make up a word of her own.

44. Tales of Accidental Genius by Simon Van Booy - A collection of heartwarming short stories (and possibly one novella) about times when people came up with the perfect way to show compassion. Absolutely loved this book, a reread. Yet another favorite and one I'll return to repeatedly.

45. Love Wins by D. Cenziper and J. Obergefell - The true story of how the case for marriage equality began and made it all the way to the Supreme Court. Average writing was offset by some incredibly emotional true stories.

46. The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney - When a tragic automobile accident leads to the draining of a family's nest egg, due to be distributed upon the 40th birthday of the youngest, siblings Bea, Jack, and Melody turn to their brother Leo, hoping he'll reimburse them. Addictive reading.

A terrific month. I loved almost everything. Favorites were Tales of Accidental Genius, Anna and the Swallow Man, Signs Preceding the End of the World, and The Nest. I liked everything else, although I didn't think In a Handful of Dust was as good as the first book by McGinnis. The only book that I found a slog was One Step Too Far.

©2016 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Aim True by Kathryn Budig, The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler, and A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

I've got to quickly whip out a few last reviews (and will also be posting a separate review that I've been working on for days . . . you'll find out why) because I'm about to go on a blog holiday. More on that, later. First, let's talk about books. All three of these are books that I highly recommend.

Aim True by Kathryn Budig doesn't seem to be getting a lot of attention and that's a shame because it is a wonderful book. Subtitled, "Love Your Body, Eat Without Fear, Nourish Your Spirit, Discover True Balance!" the amazing thing about Aim True is that the author actually does more than just talk about all of the items in the subtitle. She illustrates.

A combination memoir, exercise book, cookbook, and guide to meditation, Aim True begins with an introduction that describes what the author means by the words "aim true" and then goes on to talk about loving your body. She relates her own frustrations about her body, which I found both surprising (because she's pretty much perfect, if you ask me) and amazingly humble. In fact, one of the things I absolutely adored about the book was the author's humility throughout. Similar books are often written with an "I'm so wonderful!" tone. Not this one.

Kathryn Budig is a yoga instructor, so there is a section dedicated to yoga poses. She's a clean eater so the section on healthy recipes is almost entirely free of dairy and gluten, and she shares how she's found balance in her own life, along with advice on how to meditate. The book is beautifully and creatively illustrated. It's a gorgeous book with something for everyone seeking to improve life.

The only problem I found with this book was that some of the wording in the yoga descriptions and meditation is going to offend people who are afraid that they'll turn Hindu if they repeat certain words. But, you can always alter the wording. That's what I would do. The bottom line is that Aim True is one of the best, most well-rounded guides to health that I've ever read and I highly recommend it. I've done yoga with another book propped open, many years ago, and it wasn't easy so you might want to get some help (a buddy to read through the exercises with you) or view some of her yoga videos online, before doing the yoga. Everything else is self explanatory.

We only managed to try one of the recipes, incidentally ("Quinoa Egg Power Bites"), although we fully intend to do more. We had mixed results. The flavors appealed to my husband but the quinoa bites had a muffiny texture and I told him I kept biting into them and expecting a sweetness rather than the spicy flavors. I think I could get used to them, though. I didn't dislike them; they were just surprising.

The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler is the story of an elderly woman named Mary Browning who was in the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII (WASPs). She has kept her story secret, including the fact that she used to go by an entirely different name. One evening, a young girl named Elyse shows up at the library to join her writers' group, a group that consists entirely of other elderly men and women. Elyse reminds Mary of her beloved sister, Sarah, who died long ago. And, Elyse is curious about Mary.

When Elyse offers to help Mary type her memoir, Mary realizes she's finally ready to share the story she thought she would never tell.

I had an afternoon alone, yesterday, and I fell in love with The Secrets of Flight immediately, so I took advantage of the quiet time to bury myself in the book. I got so caught up in the story, in fact, that I forgot to eat lunch and had to finally give in at about 4:45 and saunter out to the kitchen. I love it when that happens.

The Secrets of Flight is another book that I highly recommend. I'm going to share what I wrote at Goodreads upon closing the book:

There's a twist in this book that felt a little too convenient but it made for the most beautiful, uplifting ending. I loved the relationship between Mary and Elyse, loved the honesty of their frustrations (so true to life), loved learning the history of the WASPs and adored the way Mary's friends rallied around her when she really needed them. A lovely story. 

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki is another book that I adored. I've put off writing about it because it's a little hard to describe, even in my head, but I'll try.

When Ruth finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox sealed inside two plastic bags on the shore of her Canadian island home, she's curious about its contents. Inside, she finds the diary of a 16-year-old Japanese girl named Nao (pronounced "now") and a another small book hand-written in Japanese. Suspecting the diary is part of the debris from the tsunami of 2011, Ruth begins to read the book and finds herself so drawn into Nao's story that she begins to believe it's still happening, that Nao is considering suicide and Ruth needs to find a way to stop her.

Nao spent her entire childhood in the United States, till her father lost his job and was forced to return to Japan. In Tokyo, still unable to find a way to support his family, her father has fallen into a deep depression and attempted to take his life while Nao is an outcast at school, brutally bullied. She plans to take her own life, as well, but first she feels obligated to write her 104-year-old great-grandmother's story, a tale of WWII, tragedy and how she became a Zen Buddhist nun.

There is, of course, a lot more to the story. The journal written in Japanese must be translated, Nao's story slowly unfolds as Ruth reads it, and there's a touch of magical realism and some hints of Nao's future. At times, the story is so sad that it left me feeling gloomy but it ends on an upbeat note. A Tale for the Time Being is just such a spectacularly unique book that you have to read it to understand its complexity. And, really, you must if you haven't already.

©2016 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Fiona Friday - Kitty in a crystal ball

Confession: I bought a cheap crystal ball strictly for photography purposes. This is my first photo and it totally cracks me up.


©2016 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney


I'm sure you've heard about The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney if you haven't already read it. There are a gazillion cover images online and that usually means the book buzz worked. Clearly it worked on me. I was curious what it was about The Nest that merited the huge advance and the heavy publicity but it didn't sound like my typical book choice, so I put a hold on it at my local library.

You probably also know what The Nest is about but I'm going to tell you, anyway, and there will probably be spoilers. The short version: The story of a dysfunctional family in which the siblings have all relied upon a monetary fund that was to be distributed amongst them, now drained due to a disastrous accident.

***WARNING***SPOILERS***WARNING***PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK***

The Nest is multi-faceted but rests mainly upon the draining of the family's fund. Leo, Jack, Bea, and Melody don't really have much to do with each other; their father is dead and Mom was always a bit flighty and inattentive. Before he died, Dear Old Dad set up a fund (a "nest egg" of sorts, hence "the Nest"). It was meant to only be a token amount to be divided amongst the 4 siblings upon the 40th birthday of the youngest, Melody. However, it grew and grew, thanks to a decent market and wise investments. And, even though their father didn't want it to be something they would come to rely upon, they've all gotten into a wee bit of trouble due to the anticipation.

Leo has made a lot of money and he's blown a lot, as well. He hasn't worked since he sold his company for a small fortune. He's weak of character, a drug addict, and a bit of a sleaze when it comes to women. It's his fault the Nest has been drained.

Now, on the cusp of Melody's birthday, the other siblings have learned that 90% of the Nest is gone. Melody was counting on the funds to help pay off the house that was overvalued when they purchased it and to fund her twin daughters' college educations. She thinks her husband doesn't know about her reliance on the money; but, Walt has always told her not to rely upon the Nest, convinced that her family was way too flaky to come through.

Jack has a business that is not profitable and . . . hmm, I think he's gotten a reverse mortgage? I can't recall what exactly Jack has done but he's siphoned money off the second home he and his partner, Walker, own, and then covered it up with lies.

Bea still grieves the love of her life, who died three years ago. She's a writer but she got a sizable advance for two books, many years ago, and has only managed to finish one. Her publicist has rejected Bea's latest attempt.

Leo is a greedy, self-centered jerk who doesn't feel all that bad about the disaster that used up the Nest. He's decided he'll try to make another fortune and then divide it. But, he hasn't worked in so long, where will he even begin to find the money?

There are plenty of details that I won't share. Will Leo come through with the funds and divide them amongst his siblings or will he choose to take care of himself? When he moves in with Bea's publicist, Stephanie, will he be able to maintain the relationship or ruin it, as he has in the past? Bea feels like an absolute failure and she will need to pay back half of her book advance. When she begins to write, again, will it be worthy of publication or will she continue to trudge on, humiliated and just a bit lonely? If Leo doesn't save the day, what will happen to Melody's family? Will they be able to keep the house and send the girls to school? What will happen when Walker finds out about Jack's deception?

There are a lot of other plot threads involving the twins, Stephanie (my favorite character), and the people Leo used to work with before he sold his company. Suffice it to say, The Nest sucks you in and doesn't let go.

I loved the way the book ended because (highlight if you want the ending completely and irredeemably spoiled):

Only Leo is unhappy and it's because he chose greed over doing the right thing. The other siblings manage to each find their own solutions to the trouble they've caused and become closer in the process. I liked the clear sense that money corrupts and you're better off finding your own way in life than relying upon an inheritance, even if it's a struggle to do so. Maybe that's a bit on the cliché side, but it felt perfect to me. 

Highly recommended - A compelling plot with a number of interesting subplots and well-developed characters. At it's heart, The Nest is about a group of people who aren't necessarily likeable but they are realistic, particularly in the way they justify their debt or greed to themselves. I think we all lie to ourselves a little, in that way.

©2016 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Feather Brained by Bob Tarte

I reviewed Feather Brained by Bob Tarte at Goodreads and Amazon (the latter at the author's request) so I felt a little tapped out on reviewing the book after that first round. Sorry, Bob. I don't cut and paste. All three reviews are a shade different. Of course, I had to review it here for my permanent records, once I got over myself.


A door had burst open to reveal a secret world that had been hiding in plain sight. These birds were the mouthpieces for the seasons. They were what we had lost when we learned to speak. They were themselves and nothing more in the same way that we were ourselves and something less. Just by being, they made me happy. 

~p. 50

All of this new information about birds was a good news/bad news thing. The good news was that habitat, behavior, species migration dates, and thousand-mile detours all played major roles in birding, so that finding birds wasn't just a matter of blundering into them. The bad news was that habitat, behavior, species migration dates, and thousand-mile detours all played major roles in birding, and with so much to absorb, I was better off just hoping to blunder into birds. 

~p. 65

Feather Brained is a memoir that tells of author Bob Tarte's interest in birds, how it developed, and why it took him several attempts before he regularly began going on field trips to locate interesting birds while hunting for a rare bird (not a specific rare bird but any rare bird). It took me a long time to read the book because I kept stopping to Google various birds as I was reading about them. Fortunately, about halfway through the book, Bob informed me that he has a photo section dedicated to the birds he discusses in the book at his website. Here's the easy link:

Feather Brained photo section at Bob Tarte's website

Each link takes you to two chapters' worth of photos. Fortunately, what I'd already read was so vividly described that I had no trouble remembering what the chapters were about when I belatedly flipped through the photo sections.

I've read some of Bob Tarte's other books and loved them, so I was thrilled when Bob asked if I'd like to review Feather Brained

Feather Brained is lighthearted, informative, and filled with Bob's trademark humor. In Feather Brained, he admires the encyclopedic knowledge of birders while describing his own efforts to learn and making it sound like he's a complete disaster. I've been following Bob on Facebook for a while and I'm impressed with his knowledge of birds, so don't let him fool you.

The two things I loved most about Feather Brained were his growing understanding of animal life  (something I've mentioned in reviews of his other books) -- the surprising intelligence and memory of birds, for example, which were aided by his wife's agreement to help with bird rehabbing -- and his relationships with his wife, Linda, and his somewhat curmudgeonly friend, Bill (whom he refers to as "book character Bill Holm" on Facebook). I was well into adulthood before I got over my misunderstanding of animals as purely creatures of instinct, myself, so I always appreciate reading about Bob's learning experience, which bears some similarities to my own. I also absolutely adored what amounted to Bob and Linda's love story. And, Bill Holm is a hoot. While Bill is a little wary of the obsessive side of birding, Bob seems gobsmacked by birders' knowledge. He does, however, share some hilarious interactions with them, which are not always flattering but definitely will make you smile.

Recommended - Subdued by comparison with Bob's other books, humor-wise, but every bit as entertaining, Feather Brained made me appreciate the effort that goes into identifying birds. And, it made me feel better about never being quite sure what kind of hawk I'm looking at, if they don't have the obvious red tail. Whew! I feel so much better about that.

Scanning the frozen wastes with binocs I caught a ripple of brown and white on the ground. Gotta be a bunting, I decided. Switching to the scope, I twiddled with the focus knob to sharpen the view of a Snickers wrapper impaled on a twig.

~p. 106 

Ha! I guess that's similar to the hawks I've spotted that turned out, upon closer observation with the use of a 300mm camera lens, to be plastic bags snagged on a high branch. You might be surprised how often that happens.

Click through to read my reviews of past books by Bob Tarte:

Enslaved by Ducks
Kitty Cornered

I have not yet read Fowl Weather, even though I mentioned wanting to, when I reviewed Enslaved by Ducks. That's because it's partly about dealing with his mother's Alzheimer's and I was so stung by my mother's death that I couldn't bear to read about a mother in decline, for a long time. It was long enough ago, though, that it's no longer an issue. I really need to track down a copy of Fowl Weather.

Also of note, there is a set of discussion questions in the back of the book, and that's where Bob really let his sense of humor run loose. I closed the book laughing at the final question:

Bob says about his favorite bird, "No bird was a better bird than a bird I saw with Linda." Isn't he a prince? What is the extent of your injuries from swooning over this line? 

What a great way to end a book!


©2016 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Love Wins by Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell



Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality by Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell has not yet been released, so I'm jumping the gun a bit, but the scheduled release date is the 16th of this month, so it's coming soon.

In Love Wins, the story of how and why the case for marriage equality began and how it ended up in the Supreme Court is told. The story begins with Jim Obergefell, how he met John Arthur and they ended up living and working in Ohio, their home state. Ohio was not friendly to gays and it wasn't till John Arthur was near death that the two finally decided to marry in Maryland. Their marriage was not recognized by Ohio, and when Obergefell found out his name would not be put in the spouse box on Arthur's death certificate, that was when he sued the state of Ohio. They were together 21 years.

Al Gerhardstein was the lawyer who took on Jim Obergefell's case and, later, the cases of several sets of gay parents who wanted to both be recognized as parents. In the case of females, only the biological mother was considered a parent and in the case of adoption (usually by males), the same was true; because marriage between gays was not legal, only one person was considered the parent.

So, what's the problem with a gay marriage or gay parenthood not being recognized legally? Primarily, it has to do with issues like insurance, ownership of possessions, ability to approve medical treatment, and similar rights that those of us who are in heterosexual marriages often don't give a second thought. I was aware of that when the Obergefell case went to the Supreme Court, but I didn't know the background -- the specific cases that led to those which became the combined case known as Obergefell v. Hodges. All of them are very moving. It's a very emotional read.

Imagine you have a child that is gasping for air. Your pediatrician is concerned enough to tell you to rush the child to the emergency room. You're the only parent available, so you hasten to the hospital with your child and there you are told that you're not your child's parent so you can't approve medical treatment. You're standing there with a child gasping for air in your arms, but still you are told, "Sorry, we can't do anything unless we get permission from the child's parent." You have nurtured this child since birth and yet you're not considered his parent because you're a lesbian and your partner or wife is the biological parent. This is one of the true stories in Love Wins. It ended well. The child had croup (which can kill but is not usually deadly) and eventually permission was granted for treatment. But, what if it had been something even more life-threatening? What if he had begun to turn blue because he wasn't getting enough oxygen? What if he stopped breathing entirely?

The problem was that not acknowledging marriage meant not acknowledging that a spouse was the next of kin, a technicality that led to legally sanctioned discrimination. That's what marriage equality changed and Love Wins walks you through the legalities from the side of those who were discriminated against and the lawyers who worked to change that.

Recommended - The writing was, in my opinion, a little above average but not fabulous. At times, I had to reread a sentence or paragraph to figure out who was being referred to when two people were mentioned and then the author referred to one or the other in pronoun form. But, the emotional impact is huge. I lost count of how many times I teared up. Whether or not you believe marriage between gays is a moral issue, what you really need to understand is the human side of being blocked from the legal benefits of marriage. While I enjoyed Love Wins for the legal details, it's the way it shows the human side that really makes Love Wins an inspiring read.

Clearly, marriage equality is still a divisive/controversial issue and it should be noted that there are times Christians who consider homosexuality a sin or Republicans might consider some of the discussion frustrating, but I think the author(s) were careful not to jump all over the opposing side. This quote, for example, is by Lee S. Dreyfus, a Republican governor who spoke when Wisconsin became the first state in the country to prohibit discrimination against gays:

"It is a fundamental tenet of the Republican Party that government ought not to intrude in the private lives of individuals where no state purpose is served, and there is nothing more private or intimate than who you live with and who you love."
~Quoted on p. 69 of ARC (changes may have been made to the final, print version)

Similarly, the Roe v. Wade decision was based on privacy, not on morality. I didn't realize that until recently, when I read about Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Notorious RBG. At any rate, I really enjoyed learning about the basis for the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality and definitely recommend the book to those who want to understand how and why it came about.


©2016 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday Malarkey

After doing a little yardwork in the heat, this is exactly how I feel:



Only one arrival, this week:


The Woman in the Photo by Mary Hogan was sent by HarperCollins for review. Looks nice and creepy, doesn't it? It's a combination historical and contemporary. I like that kind of book if it's done well. I'm looking forward to seeing if this one is as entertaining as it looks and sounds.


Books finished since last Malarkey:


  • Tales of Accidental Genius by Simon Van Booy - Loved it even more, the second time!
  • Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality by Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell - A very emotional read.


Currently reading:


  • The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney - To see what all the fuss is about. So far, I'm loving it. I'm a little less than halfway through. 
  • I've set aside Mongrels, for the moment, but haven't decided whether or not I'll return to it. And, I need to choose my next non-fiction read. Since I just finished Love Wins last night, I haven't even looked, yet, but I have plenty of non-fiction from which to choose.


Last week's posts:




In Other News: 

Huh, can't think of any other news. Surely there's something going on? Nope, can't think of a thing. It's all cats and yardwork and housework and reading till I can't keep my eyes open, lately. And, cleaning the garage. Ew. That is so not fun.


©2016 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fiona Friday - Caught snuggling


©2016 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.