Thursday, February 23, 2017

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

There are WWII-era planes flying over the British estate on the cover of In Farleigh Field, so it should come as no surprise that I wanted to read the book. I am hard-pressed to ever say no to a WWII book of any kind.

In Farleigh Field is a story that takes place partly in Kent, home to the Sutton family's large estate, Farleigh; Bletchley Park, where one of the Sutton daughters translates German messages; and London, where the son of the local vicar and friend to the Sutton daughters, Ben Cresswell, works for MI5.

There's a prologue that takes place in 1939 at a cricket match on the grounds of the village. While prologues are something I can take or leave, I think the author did a nice job of introducing the characters in the prologue: Jeremy, the daredevil aristocrat, his more mild-mannered friend Ben, and the woman they both adore, Pamela "Pamma" Sutton. After Jeremy lands his plane on the cricket field and spirits Ben away, the real story begins.

In 1941, Jeremy is an RAF pilot who has been captured by the enemy. Ben has a metal knee that he acquired in a plane crash, and Pamma is working a night shift at Bletchley Park. There's a child named Alfie, an evacuee from London, who discovers the body of a man whose parachute didn't open on the grounds of Farleigh. The Sutton family now lives in a single wing of their estate while soldiers have taken over the rest and are billeted in their home. The dead parachutist wears the uniform of one of the soldiers on the estate but the billeted soldiers don't jump from planes and there's something off about his uniform. The only clue as to why he may have arrived at Farleigh is a single photograph.

Without interacting, a number of different people and agencies are set to work solving the mystery of the soldier who died in Farleigh Field. Will they figure out the mystery in time to stop a nefarious plot?

There is a large cast and a number of other minor storylines, but the heart of the book is the story of the deceased parachutist and what he may have been up to with young love as a secondary storyline.

Recommended - Unfortunately, there were some plot holes and I don't think the ending quite worked, apart from the romantic storyline. But, I liked the main characters (a few of the more minor characters were a little too stereotypical) and enjoyed the interaction between them, so I didn't mind the book's flaws. As is often the case with mysteries -- and I would not call this a mystery novel but a novel with a touch of mystery -- I didn't always understand how those investigating came to their conclusions or even why they felt obligated to pursue a particular line of reasoning. But, since I thought of the dead body as only one strand of the story, which was a mix of mystery and romance as well as a family story set during a short stretch of WWII, I just went with the flow and enjoyed it. If you're a WWII fan, you may find the book flawed, as I did, but I still found it an enjoyable read and well worth my time.

©2017 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, February 21, 2017

Tuesday Twaddle

It's just after 9:00 PM and I've suddenly remembered that I'm a blogger. Ha. I guess after 10 1/2 years you get a little lax, sometimes.

Recent arrivals:

There was only one arrival, this week, and it showed up this afternoon.

  • The Mermaid's Daughter by Ann Claycomb - from William Morrow for review

Sounds a bit on the tragic side, which is interesting because I don't usually request books that are described as tragedy. I do prefer sweetness and light. And, yet, I'm definitely still intrigued. I think the word "mermaid" may be one of those things that grabs my attention, much like a cover illustration with a beautiful red dress.

Books finished since last week's Malarkey:

  • Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang
  • In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen 

You might be interested to find out that after all the hair-pulling just getting through Dragon Springs Road, I thought it was an excellent read. I think it's just that I'm a little bit slumpy. In Farleigh Field took me almost as long to get through. Again, I liked it. I thought there were some plot holes but it was well written; I'm just reading slower than usual. 

Currently reading:

  • The Good Daughter by Alexandra Burt

There are other books with bookmarks in them but since I haven't recently read a single page from any of them I'm not going to bother listing them, here. I just started The Good Daughter, this morning. I haven't gotten very far into it so I can't say whether or not it will stick. Fingers crossed.

Last week's posts:

I'm almost embarrassed about my wordy review of The Wars of the Roosevelts because chances are good that people who are the most interested in it already know a great deal of what I babbled about learning, but that kind of rambling is definitely indicative of enjoyment. My Fiona Friday post of Isabel is a phone photo and therefore not high quality but it's become a new favorite. I love the way she has that little paw curled, ready to reach out. Even when she's being feisty, I can actually hold out a hand, even touch her paw without getting clawed - something that's true of both of my kitties. I love that about them. They are pretty much terrified of everyone outside the family but such amazingly gentle animals.

In other news:

There's a lot of finger crossing going on, around here. Will I get around to reading a classic, this month? Fingers crossed. Will I locate the book I chose as my feminist read of the month? Fingers crossed. Will I manage to read it before the month ends? Oof. Probably not.  But, boy, have I learned how to pep talk myself through all these things. I remember when I would have been absolutely stressed out of my mind over the facts that I've not only read a mere 5 books with a week left to the month but also have utterly failed at my other goals. Not anymore. I may cross my fingers a lot and try to stay up longer so I can read a few more pages but I just can't be bothered to lose my mind. I'm too old for that. I guess that's one of the really great things about aging.

©2017 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, February 17, 2017

Fiona Friday

Someone has been in a very playful mood, today!

©2017 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, February 16, 2017

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

After yesterday's rambling post, you deserve a nice, short one. And, that should be easy enough as We Should All Be Feminists is a very quick read - the first for my personal Feminist Reading Challenge in 2017.

Written originally as a speech, We Should All Be Feminists is a mix of Adichie's personal experiences and observation. I don't think I can beat the description at Goodreads, so I'm going to share a paragraph of that and then tell you my own thoughts:

With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike.

I found We Should All Be Feminists incisive and revealing, particularly for her unique view as an African woman who has spent a lot of time in America. I especially enjoyed reading about the differences between life as a woman in Africa and in the United States. Having said that, a lot of what she had to say was familiar. Where I may have read similar thoughts, I can't say. I've only read a few books about feminism or by feminist authors. I didn't mind the repetition at all because her perspective is a unique one and who knows? It may be the only book about feminism some people read. If so, it's a good choice because of its brevity and clarity.

Highly recommended - Especially recommended if you're looking for a very quick read about feminism and why treatment of women as equals is healthier for all concerned.

Surprise! Because the book was short and I was in a hurry (January was well under way when I decided to challenge myself to read feminist works, whether fiction or nonfiction), I opted to buy and read the book in electronic form! I know, shocking. Well, it's shocking to those who know about my aversion to e-books.

I asked for suggestions of feminist titles at Facebook and when I went back to collect the titles, I couldn't find the post. I'm going to look again because sometimes things disappear from Facebook and then reappear, presumably due to those annoying algorithms. I know I didn't delete it. But, I figure it doesn't hurt to ask for more suggestions, so please let me know if there are any feminist titles you highly recommend. I broke my book-buying ban to order a couple that were recommended on Twitter. I figure that's legit, buying books for my personal reading challenge, right? Right.

©2017 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, February 15, 2017

The Wars of the Roosevelts by William J. Mann

I've always been fascinated by the Roosevelt family, so it was a no-brainer that I'd want to read The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America's Greatest Political Family by William J. Mann when it was offered to me for review.

The Wars of the Roosevelts is about the infighting within the Roosevelt family that went on for decades, including both political backbiting as well as the horrible things they did to each other personally in the name of rising to political power. Warning: This is a long review because I shared a few things I found fascinating. It's not as general as my normal review. Feel free to skip down to my recommendation, near the bottom of the post.

The Wars of the Roosevelts begins with Theodore Roosevelt's concerns about his brother, Eleanor Roosevelt's father Elliott. Elliott and his wife were the partying type and Theodore was concerned that Elliott and his wife Anna's exploits would interfere with his political aspirations.

After Elliott was rude to guests at a party thrown by Theodore's "chief booster and unofficial adviser," Bye, Theodore said, "I am distressed beyond measure."

[...] Theodore was keenly aware of decorum and discretion, as any man with his eye on the presidency would be. He knew careers could be derailed in the drawing rooms of New York society, where Elliott and Anna had made themselves infamous. People would be very reluctant about backing a candidate with a black sheep such as Elliott in his family.

~fr. pp. 10-11 of Advance Reader Copy of The Wars of the Roosevelts (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

It's notable that every generation and every branch of the family managed to cough up at least one black sheep. The author goes on to describe the years of Theodore's attacks on Elliott -- how he constantly tried to separate Anna and Elliott and repeatedly attempted to have Elliott locked away in sanitariums for "moral insanity". The author talks about the impact Theodore's cruel ambition had on Eleanor, who was an outcast even when staying with Theodore's family, the Oyster Bay Roosevelts, and how his determination to physically challenge his own children affected their lives.

In addition to direct family ties, the author also follows the progress of Elliott's illegitimate child, also named Elliott, who was never acknowledged by the family but who was every bit as intelligent and ambitious as the relatives he never got to know. There's a very satisfying conclusion to his story, late in the book.

I have a dozen flags marking passages in The Wars of the Roosevelts. I found it utterly fascinating, not only for the in-depth view of the Roosevelts but also for the political insights. For one thing, I was completely unaware that Progressives were originally a faction of the Republican party. Since Theodore was a Republican Progressive and Franklin a Democrat who became politically active after the Progressives vaulted to the opposite party, you'd think the two sides of the family would have banded together. Instead, they competed with each other and it was for personal reasons that Theodore's daughter Alice spent many years viciously attacking Franklin Roosevelt's policies, even though they were essentially the same as those of her father. By the time Alice's opinions were being regularly published, the Oyster Bay Roosevelts and the Hyde Park Roosevelts (Franklin and Eleanor) had become opponents who were more focused upon their own ambition than their shared interests.

Sometimes, while reading The Wars of the Roosevelts, I was taken aback by the consistency of political arguments. So much of what politicians disagreed about in the early part of the 20th Century has not changed at all. 100 years later, our politicians are still using the same exact wording to make their points.

Theodore's love of the natural world, acquired as a young boy trying to overcome his asthma, was being codified into national policy.

Not everyone saw this as a good thing. Progressives, their critics charged, were all about regulation and control. It was overreach, they argued, to deny Americans the right to develop lands for their own individual gain. 

~p. 126

Sound familiar?

The book continues to describe the various family members who were involved in politics, how their political ambitions were rewarded or quashed, how alcoholism and illness affected their aspirations, and the effects of relationships with friends, lovers, or political connections on the family. I'm most addicted to anything and everything about Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, both of whom I admire, although they certainly made their share of mistakes and had their personal flaws. I knew less about Alice and her brothers and how their political ambitions played out. Nor did I realize that Eleanor was encouraged to run for office in 1940.

Citing some of the great warrior queens of the past, [The New York Times] demanded of its readers, "What sound reasons can be advanced against a woman for President of the United States?" 

~p. 450

In 1940! And, we still have never elected a female president. I could quote The Wars of the Roosevelts all day, but I'll end with a favorite comment made by Theodore:

This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in if it is not a reasonably good place for all of us to live in.

~Theodore Roosevelt, quoted on p. 200

Highly recommended - Not including notes, bibliography, and index, The Wars of the Roosevelts is a little over 500 pages long and it's a dense 530 pages, so it took me quite a while to get through the book but it was never an effort. As always with any book about the Roosevelts, I kept my iPad handy and spent a lot of time looking up photos of the various characters and their homes, so that I could picture them when they were described and imagine their interactions. That added to how slowly I plodded through the book but I was always, always absolutely engrossed when I picked the book up to read. The author doesn't just describe the lives and ambitions of the four characters pictured on the cover, incidentally; the author described the political ambitions of any and all Roosevelts who became politically active, including the women who were unable or unwilling to run for office but whose influence was widely respected, often behind the scenes.

The author's attention to detail and heavy use of primary sources is admirable. I appreciated the fact that when quotation marks were used, the reader knew that whatever was quoted was actually said by the various individuals. There was some conjecture (why Alice likely kept the baby who was undoubtedly not her husband's when abortion was illegal but obtainable for women of means, for example) but not a great deal. I'd especially recommend The Wars of the Roosevelts to anyone who has a particular interest in the Roosevelt family or the time periods covered (from Theodore's youth to Eleanor's post-Franklin life, with a jump forward to a modern Roosevelt gathering). Although some of what I've read elsewhere about specific events was glossed over because the focus was on the actors and relationships within this political family, I really enjoyed the additional perspective.

©2017 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, February 13, 2017

Monday Malarkey

Yes, it's true. I have no lovely book stack to share, this week, thanks to a dearth of arrivals and a successful week of not purchasing anything new.  And, since I didn't post much but didn't read much, either, this may be the most pitiful Monday Malarkey, ever. Oh, well. Some weeks are like that.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Geekerella by Ashley Poston - which I absolutely loved and will gush about, soon.

That's it. Since I finished Geekerella, I've been struggling with a single book, all week. Why? Why haven't I just set the book aside? Well, I definitely want to know what's going to happen. In spite of that, It has never fully grabbed me and I actually went to bed without even picking the book up to read a single paragraph twice. If I don't finish it today, I'll probably poke my eyes out with a fork or jump off the roof or something. No, I won't. But, I don't understand why I can't seem to give up, this time.

Currently reading:

  • Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang

So, yes, that's the book I can't get through. It's a dilemma. The story is actually quite compelling; it's about a young girl who's abandoned by her mother in the early 20th century. She's in China and mixed race, her mother Chinese and her father completely out of the picture. After she's abandoned in the Western Residence of a 3-residence compound, the new owners take her in as a bond servant. She becomes friends with the daughter of the family but her future is uncertain. What will happen to Jialing? Will she end up begging in the street? Will she be able to keep moving with the Yang family, all her life? I'm a little over halfway through and I still want to know where it's going. But, I'm just not in love with this book and I'm presuming it's a timing issue. So, I really don't know why I haven't set it aside to finish later. Weird. It is also the only book I've even looked at, this week. Double weird.

Last week's posts:

Well . . . one book review is better than none.

In other news:

Seriously, there is not even any other news! So, I'll tell you about a dream I had, last week. I dreamed it was WWII and I was a shop owner in a French village. A few Nazis had arrived and we knew the German army was coming so everyone was packing up to leave. As I was leaving town, I walked through the town square and noticed a toddler girl who didn't seem to be with anyone, running around on her own, so I asked around and nobody claimed her. I took her with me. The refugees of the village were leaving when bombs began raining down around us. I wondered if I should dig a hole. Would that protect us at all, burrowing in? Then, I looked behind an outcropping of rocks and noticed that there was a cave behind them. I climbed up a small hill and went down into the cave, where quite a few other villagers were sheltering, and set the toddler down so she could run around. The cave was safe from the bombs and that's where my dream ended.

Everyone I've shared that dream with has said, "It has to do with all the news about the refugee ban." More than likely. I didn't include all of the details but there were some oddities to the dream, like the fact that I packed a deck of cards and that occasionally I was distanced from the characters, briefly, while someone narrated a single line, as if I were watching a movie instead of participating in the evacuation. One of those lines was particularly funny, "As usual, Sonny Bono saved the day." Don't ask me where that came from!

Have you read anything fabulous, lately? Please share, if you have. I spent most of my week buried in my Twitter feed. Bad idea.

©2017 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, February 10, 2017

Fiona Friday

Cuddle bunnies! They had their little heads almost touching until I fetched the phone and disturbed Fiona.

©2017 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.