Friday, May 01, 2015

Fiona Friday and Things I Forgot to Remember

First things first: It's Friday, so you get a cat photo.

This week, I received a flattish parcel that was easily converted into a fabulous cat-house. The girls love it. They've used it both as a resting spot and a tunnel. Fun!

Second: I completely forgot to share a link to a friend's recent release.

Riding With No Hands by Harrison Wilde is the memoir of a single year of his harrowing childhood. The author and I have been friends for many years and he asked me to read it and make suggestions, a few years ago. At the time, I just listed it as a nameless book since it wasn't yet available and he didn't want me to mention it by title (although the title has not changed). He's just recently self-published it for Kindle:

Riding With No Hands by Harrison Wilde

I haven't read the updated version but I can tell you that Harrison Wilde's writing is solid. The story is a difficult read, focusing on abuse and sexual awakening during his 13th year - difficult meaning "gut-wrenching".  I think I found it especially difficult because the author is a friend and I hate it that he went through such horrible experiences; it's hard reading about the horror someone you care for had to deal with. But, he survived and has thrived, so at least I was able to close it knowing, "He's okay."

In other news: It's that nice in-between season when it's not too cold, not too hot. Because we've had a wet spring, we have a limited amount of time to get the deck painted before the real hit descends (too late to beat the mosquitoes, unfortunately), and there's a lot of busy work to do while we can still throw the windows open. So, I'm not finding a lot of time to sit down and write and if Monday Malarkey and Fiona Friday are all I can get to, so be it.

National Poetry Month is over. Darn. I love National Poetry Month. I didn't manage to finish up any more poetry books beyond the three I wrote about, but I still have some checked out from the library. I've got some other books that have priority on my mental reading list, though, so it remains to be seen whether I'll get to them or not.

©2015 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, April 29, 2015

Blast from the Past: The Broken Shore by Peter Temple

Early in my blogging years, there was a wonderful e-zine by the name of Estella's Revenge. I occasionally wrote reviews or articles for Estella's Revenge (now known as The Estella Collective and, I believe, archived but not active) At the time, I didn't cross-post them to Bookfoolery, instead posting a link to the e-zine when it published. I've decided to occasionally move some of those old reviews to Bookfoolery so that I'll have them on my own site for future reference.

One of the books I reviewed for Estella was The Broken Shore by Peter Temple, which I just purchased. I gave away the ARC long, long ago and bought it to reread because it's an Australian title that was discussed in the Australian Lit course I recently took via Coursera. Although I doubt I'll review it a second time when I reread it, I'm looking forward to reading it with notes that will hopefully allow me to read from a fresh perspective.


My review of The Broken Shore, originally published April 1, 2007:

The Broken Shore
Written by Peter Temple
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

"Did it cross your mind," Leon said, leaning on the counter, "that our lives are just like stories kids tell you? They get the and-the-and-then right, and then they run out of steam and just stop."
"You've got kids?" It had not occurred to Cashin.
"Two," said Leon.
Cashin felt a sense of unfairness. "Maybe you shouldn't think about your life that way. Maybe you shouldn't think about life at all. Just make the coffee."

Detective Joe Cashin isn't the man he used to be. Since his brush with death, Joe lives with chronic pain and paralyzing guilt. Sent away from the big-city homicide unit to a post in his quiet little hometown on the South Australian coast, Joe walks his dogs and considers rebuilding the ruin of his ancestral home.

When he's called to the scene of a crime, though, Joe's old instincts take over. Wealthy and prominent citizen Charles Burgoyne has been badly beaten in his own home and may not survive. A missing watch that two Aboriginal boys try to sell in a pawn shop in the city convinces police that they've found their suspects; and, the locals are happy to accept that the boys are to blame. Joe is not so easily convinced. When the investigation is botched, it appears the crime may never be solved. Given time off to let the controversy settle down, Cashin becomes even more suspicious and investigates on his own.

The Broken Shore is a pleasingly complex, if gritty, crime novel that appears to thematically state, "Things are not always what they seem." The story unfolds slowly, layer by layer. While it isn't, in the end, completely mysterious - Temple does pretty much throw the answers in your lap - that doesn't matter. What matters is the way he tackles issues like racial prejudice, life as an itinerant worker, guilt, corruption, compassion, and politics.

For the uninitiated North American, there's a glossary of Australian terms in the back. Australian English is a little mind-blowing if you're not accustomed to it. The glossary is immensely helpful; it doesn't cover every strange word, but there are enough definitions to keep the book from pitching into utter incomprehensibility.

Also of note is choppy prose; I don't read a lot of crime novels but that seems to be fairly common, not wasting words. Sentences can be as brief as, "Bobby waited." Often, the clipped dialogue of several characters comes in such a tumble of phrases that reading occasionally feels much like translating code. Yet, it somehow works. Real people don't always speak in sentences; often, in fact, having their own private language.

Joe Cashin is a likeable character: witty, tenacious, haunted by past experiences, hopeful but often overwhelmed by guilt or pain, kind and nonjudgmental. He's worth spending time with. His language and that of those he works with or interviews is at least "R-rated". There was one frequently used term I consider "X-rated" and I found myself repeatedly wondering, "Is this not as bad a word in Australia?" For those who like harsh realism and crusty language, it's an excellent story; others should bear in mind that the language is definitely rough.

The Broken Shore is Peter Temple's eighth crime novel. His books have won numerous awards in Australia. U.S. release date is scheduled for June, 2007.


Some updated notes:

The British copy of The Broken Shore that I just purchased does not contain a glossary. However, thanks to "Australian Literature: A Rough Guide", I now know there is a convenient online dictionary: the Australian National Dictionary.

Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past!

©2015 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, April 27, 2015

Monday Malarkey

It's actually nice and cool outside, so I have to make this quick. As soon as husband gets home, I'm going to coat myself in mosquito repellant and dash out to work on painting the deck. 66 degrees! I can handle that.

Recent arrivals, all purchases:

  • Children of the Great Depression by Russell Freedman
  • The Broken Shore by Peter Temple 
  • Romeo and Juliet, Annotated by William Shakespeare
  • Winger by Andrew Smith
  • The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

And, two that just walked in the door this minute:

Sleepy Kitty and Sleepy Puppy - both board books without a credited author, sent for review by Sterling Kids. I just read both books and they are so freaking adorable. I'll share those as soon as I can.

Last week's posts:

Last week's reads:

  1. House of Light (poetry) by Mary Oliver
  2. The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey
  3. The Great Depression and WWII 1929-1949 by George E. Stanley
  4. On the Bus with Rosa Parks (poetry) by Rita Dove
  5. Children of the Great Depression by Russell Freedman
  6. For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke

Currently reading:

The Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen

In other news:

I read 48 pages of The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker and decided to return it to the library. It wasn't grabbing me and there are too many other books calling my name. However, I liked what I read so I may return to it some other time.

We bought an umbrella for our outdoor table, even though it sits on a covered patio, specifically so we could get a moquito net that's made to fit over the top of the umbrella. The resulting bug-free zone is being referred to by Huzzybuns as "The Cabana".  We tested it during supper and found it worked wonders. Just the day before, I'd sat outside watching the birds for a short time and came inside with 4 mosquito bites. So exciting that we'll be able to enjoy the outdoors a little bit longer, now that we'll be protected from bites. The only downfall is that I won't be able to take photos of birds while inside -- I'll still have to use insect repellant or take my chances if I'm out specifically to snap bird pics. But, on the plus side it appears the wildlife can't see us as well with that little bit of sheer cloth in the way so we got to see a pretty wide range of bird life while eating our supper.

What are you reading, this week?

©2015 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, April 25, 2015

Fiona Friday on the Wrong Day - Isabel with flower

I was posing books with this flower when Isabel came to check things out and I let her bat the flower around. I'm always impressed by how graceful she looks when she's playing, like a dancer.

©2015 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, April 24, 2015

Three for National Poetry Month - On the Bus with Rosa Parks by Rita Dove, House of Light by Mary Oliver and Where Robot Mice, etc. by Ray Bradbury

My subject line is out of order specifically because I didn't want Where Robot Mice and Robot Men Run Round in Robot Towns by Ray Bradbury to get priority placement. It's that bad. At Goodreads, I described it as "hackneyed, uninspiring, egotistical,  often clearly envious of others." It's not unusual for a poet to use another poet for inspiration but there's often an unsettling undertone of envy or current of braggadocio when he refers to literature.

Having said that, there were a few random poems that I got something out of, if only conceptually. The poem about a man reflecting on the childhood games he played with his friends while looking at the landscape in which their young imaginations soared is one anyone reflecting on a lost childhood can appreciate in spirit. But it turned a little angry in the end when he noted that there were no children outdoors because they were all watching TV (and he even got in a little dig on Walter Cronkite -- funny, from our perspective, as most people now look back fondly on the days when there was a newscaster they could trust). What would he think of children now, with their iPhones, video games, home computers and TVs?

Another poem I liked was about a drunken uncle that the family was happy to bury but who then came back to haunt them till the author, a young boy, shouted at the ghost to go away. Humorous, yet definitely one of those poems that came off as egotistical. If he's in the poem, you can bet his part is inflated. 

There were some similar themes to Bradbury's prose work. Lots of mentions of dandelions, dandelion wine, science, the future. Honestly, he should have stuck with prose and just hidden this collection away. It's amazing that anyone was willing to publish it, even given Bradbury's name power. Where Robot Mice and Robot Men Run Round in Robot Towns was published in 1970 and went through several printings, though. Mental shrug, verbal reject. Not recommended.

On the Bus with Rosa Parks by Rita Dove is more typical of a volume of poetry, at least to this reader, in that I found poems I loved, poems that perplexed me, poems that made me think. It's a nice mix. 

One of my favorite poems is "Homework." I can't duplicate the way the poem is laid out on the page perfectly but here's an excerpt:

"The Negro and his song
are inseparable.
If his music is primitive
and if it has much that
is sensuous, this is simply
a part of giving
pleasure, a quality
appealing strongly
to the Negro's 
entire being. Indeed,
his love of rhythms
and melody, his
childish faith
in dreams . . . "

he'll take Science, most
Exacting Art.
In school when the teacher
makes him lead
the class in song,
he'll cough straight through.
columns of figures, the thing
dissected to the bone.
the clear and incurious drip
of fluid from pipet
to reassuring beaker.

~from "Homework", pp. 20-21 of On the Bus with Rosa Parks

Such a nice way to show how humans have a tendency to diminish each other, to narrow our viewpoint of each other by categories like race or sex or income. Some other favorites are "Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967," which any booklover will appreciate and "Dawn Revisited," about the glory of rising in the morning, which ends:

To hell with wisdom. They're all wrong:
I'll never be through with my life.

I also love "Ghost Walk," about a haunted castle. And, of course, the title poem. 

Recommended - a lovely little collection about life in general, some of the poetry more specifically about being African American. There are several poems like "Homework" that would be especially fitting for Black History Month. I'll be looking for more poetry by Rita Dove, a Pulitzer-winning, highly feted former Poet Laureate of the United States.

I snatched up House of Light, in spite of the fact that I'd just ordered a volume of Mary Oliver's poetry, for the usual reason: to get a taste of her writing without a huge time investment. I figured I can then go back and spend more time really immersing myself in her poetry, later.

I've been pondering Mary Oliver for a while. Her poetry has been highly recommended whenever I've asked for recommendations, but I honestly knew nothing at all about her. Best to just dive in with poets, I've found. And, what I discovered is that she is a nature lover, like myself. It took some time to adjust to her poetry, which is often a little startling and graphic; but, in the end I found myself absolutely loving the sensation of drowning in the beauty. Just before I picked up House of Light, I read a line from "The Summer Day" quoted in Find the Good by Heather Lende:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?

What a wonderful line to think about, frame, put to work in your everyday world. And, "Summer Day" is in House of Light, so I was thrilled to see it in context. Another favorite excerpt is in "The Ponds," as Oliver observes that life is imperfect, physically and otherwise:

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing 
to be dazzled--
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing--
that the light is everything--that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

~ from "The Ponds", pp. 58-59 of House of Light 

Isn't that beautiful? I'm so glad I bought a nice-sized volume of Mary Oliver's poetry. I'm going to enjoy it, I'm sure.

Recommended - Sometimes harsh, sometimes beautiful, with special focus on nature. I think Les of Prairie Horizons was the first to recommend Mary Oliver to me, although I'm not entirely certain. Thanks, Les!

©2015 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, April 22, 2015

Find the Good by Heather Lende

The capacity for love in a human heart is not limited by its size. Rather than divide the heart's chambers into smaller rooms as the family grows, love multiplies them

~ p. 37

I believe gratitude comes from a place in your soul that knows the story could have ended differently, and often does, and I also know that gratitude is at the heart of finding the good in this world.

~ p. 62

Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende appeared on my doorstep on Friday and since I loved the other two books Lende wrote, I sat down to read it the moment I opened the package. Don't you love that lovely lemon cover?

Find the Good follows the same pattern as Lende's other books, this time with a focus on seeking out the good things in life. Heather Lende has been an obituary writer in small-town Haines, Alaska for many years and most of her stories revolve around the people she writes about -- discovering the good things in their lives worth mentioning when she writes their obituaries and applying what she's learned about how they lived to her own life. She's so hyper-involved in her community that I always feel a little adrift when I close one of her books. I don't live in a place where "Outsiders" (as we're known) are particularly welcome. But, at the same time I feel inspired to keep trying to find my place.

The only two negatives about the book are the fact that it's so short (which is also a plus if you're just looking for a quick read about looking for the positive in life) and the fact that it's so heavily focused on people who died. I always end up wondering how it's possible that there's anyone left at all in Haines when I close one of Lende's books. But, as I said, I love her writing. She zones in on love, family, spirituality, living your days in the best way possible. She reminds me a bit of Anne Lamott.

Recommended - I laughed, I cried, I will read anything Heather Lende writes.

Other books by Lende (links to past blog posts):

If You Lived Here I'd Know Your Name 
Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs (page down for one-paragraph review)

Many thanks to Algonquin Books for sending me a copy of this little gem!

©2015 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, April 21, 2015

Belated Malarkey

I haven't done a Monday Malarkey post for so long (nearly 2 months) that I almost forgot the concept entirely. But, yesterday I was at least thinking about it. I just didn't feel like sitting down to write a post. There will be a few skipped books because I've been using my local library more and don't always think to pose the books I check out, but here's Friday's library haul:

Top to bottom:

  • Where Robot Mice and Robot Men Run Round in Robot Towns by Ray Bradbury
  • House of Light by Mary Oliver
  • Nine Horses by Billy Collins
  • On the Bus with Rosa Parks by Rita Dove
  • There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do by Michael Ondaatje
  • Aimless Love by Billy Collins
  • Orphan Trains by Stephen O'Connor

All but Orphan Trains are poetry books that I found while checking out the Eudora Welty Library, which is one of the 11 libraries in the county we moved to, a couple years ago. I love the library as it's large enough to happily wander around making serendipitous finds but I specifically wanted poetry to read before National Poetry Month ends and had to get help finding that. The poetry is tucked away in a dark little corner. I've read the top two titles. The Bradbury was horrendous, the Oliver lovely. I'm now reading On the Bus with Rosa Parks and enjoying it, so far.

Not pictured is a library book I got from my local branch and just finished, last night: The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. I also checked out Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid by Nikki Giovanni locally.

Recent arrivals:

Top to bottom:

  • Find the Good by Heather Lende - from Algonquin Books for review, unsolicited. I love Heather Lende's books, so I sat down and read this one immediately.
  • The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith - purchased
  • Notes by K. B. Dixon - from the author for review
  • New and Selected Poems, Vol. 1 by Mary Oliver - purchased
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir - sent by friend
Not pictured:

Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi and 
Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945 by Max Hastings, both purchased at Off-Square Books when we went up to Oxford, MS to visit youngest son, this weekend.

Posts since last malarkey:

Currently reading:

  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (library check-out, also not pictured above)
  • On the Bus with Rosa Parks by Rita Dove 
  • For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke (hacking away at this slowly via a free Australian lit site -- husband often runs off with my iPad and winds down the battery before I can get to it in the evening)

In other news:

It turns out Huzzybuns knows someone who has goats and makes his own cheese, but the spouse is not willing to ask if we can borrow a goat (out of fear of the homeowner's association). So, I'm trying to slowly get a grip on the poison ivy. At the moment, I'm just clipping it back, which is a bigger job than you might imagine. There's even some growing up through the middle of our camelias and twisting its way through the gigantic shrubs below our deck. When I went after the poison ivy in the camelias, a red wasp gave me 3 warning buzzes and I got the hint. I'll skip that area, for now. After I get it clipped back, I'm going to try to suffocate it out by covering it with cardboard and mulch. Wish me luck. It's probably an all-week job.

What's up in your world?

©2015 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.