Monday, August 13, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • I Survived The San Francisco Earthquake, 1906 and 
  • I Survived The Japanese Tsunami, 2011, both by Lauren Tarshis, both purchased
  • Mac B. Kid Spy: Mac Undercover by Mac Barnett and Mike Lowery - from Scholastic for review
  • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy - purchased
  • The Forbidden Door by Dean Koontz - from Bantam Books for review
  • How to Be a T. Rex by Ryan North and Mike Lowery - from Dial books for review 

I broke my no-purchase rule twice - on a whim, as usual. A friend mentioned how much her granddaughter enjoys the "Who Was?" series (from which I recently read two books) and that she also likes the "I Survived" book series. Being a childhood fan of Reader's Digest's "Drama in Real Life" articles, I thought maybe the "I Survived" books would be similar first-person accounts -- written using quotes from primary sources, perhaps? Bad assumption. They're fiction. But, I read one and it was a good story, even if it was not told by an actual witness to the event (the San Francisco earthquake). The Snow Child has been on my wish list for ages and I ordered a used copy when I read a list of books to read in the summer if you want to cool off. I often will read wintry books when it's hot outside, so that was my thought process. But, I have a huge list of books to get to in August so it remains to be seen if I'll be able to squeeze it in. Mac B. Kid Spy and The Forbidden Door were acquired via Shelf Awareness. I haven't read a Dean Koontz book in ages. Fingers crossed it's a good one.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Unpunished Murder by Lawrence Goldstone
  • How to Be a T. Rex by Ryan North and Mike Lowery
  • Six Weeks in the Sioux Tepees by Sarah F. Wakefield
  • I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906 by Lauren Tarshis
  • The Muse by Jessie Burton

Definitely an interesting reading week. Of this week's completed books, Unpunished Murder is the one I feel is the most important so I hope to get around to reviewing it before Friday. How to Be a T. Rex and I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906 are both children's books. I'll save the "I Survived" book for a Children's Day; T. Rex is a tour book. The Muse is my F2F group's discussion book for August and I'm praying I'll make it to the discussion because I really want to hear what everyone else thought of it. 

Currently reading:

  • From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein
  • Death of the Snake Catcher: Short Stories by Ak Welsapar
  • Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson

I got really caught up in The Muse and didn't touch From the Corner of the Oval till I'd finished, but I'm now about 1/3 of the way into Dorey-Stein's memoir of her time working as a stenographer in the Obama White House. It's a nice, light read - a bit on the fluffy side. I've only read the intro to Death of the Snake Catcher but that alone is worth the price of the book because it's such a fascinating tale about the author from Turkmenistan, his decision to emigrate after being declared an "enemy of the state", and how his experience has informed his storytelling. And, I'm not far into Sons and Soldiers, either, but I was a bit blown away by the similarity of the description of life in a German concentration camp (I've read about how prisoners of the Nazis were housed for decades but was still taken aback at similarities) and the descriptions of the cages for immigrant children being held in America. Maybe I just didn't want to think of them as similar in any way?

Last week's posts:

All three of those books were excellent but in very different ways. I've read so many terrific books, lately.

In other news:

It was a movie-watching kind of week.

It's been so long since we've seen Four Weddings and a Funeral that all I really remembered was the poem by W. H. Auden and a few other minor details. I'd forgotten what a fun movie it is. We watched it during a break from emptying some ugly bookshelves that used to be in our youngest son's apartment and shifting most of the books to a set of shelves that weren't being used as effectively as they should have. Into the trash go the rickety book cubes. Four Weddings and a Funeral gave us a nice laugh break, although I will never be able to watch John Hannah reading "Funeral Blues" without snuffling. Four Weddings made me want to revisit a bunch of other movies: Notting Hill (Hugh Grant), Sliding Doors (John Hannah), Framed (Kristin Scott Thomas). I couldn't find any of them, so the next movie we watched was a totally random choice.

UHF has the rare distinction of having been filmed in Tulsa, and it's nuts (which we like) so we watch it on occasion to enjoy the crazy. Another fun choice and one we hadn't seen in quite a while.

Husband wasn't around when I watched the last movie, The Final Countdown. It's an old family favorite that we watch fairly regularly and I just happened to find it when I was flipping through movies labeled "SciFi". I noticed a few idiosyncracies that I've never noticed, before, this time. Like, when they sound general quarters, everyone gets dressed up for war but the captain calls a meeting and nobody is wearing their guns or helmets, after a scene in which everyone dresses for battle. I need to go back and watch the "general quarters" and "urgent meeting" scenes to see if I'm wrong and the most senior people did not, in fact, strap on guns like the rest of the crew. At any rate, things do start to jump out at you after you've seen a movie a couple dozen times.

A fun reading and TV-watching week, in general. And, wow, did we get a lot of work done between movie breaks. Our guest room is looking much better.

©2018 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, August 10, 2018

Fiona Friday - Was it something I said?

©2018 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, August 09, 2018

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ada is 10 years old and has never set foot outside her apartment. Because of her club foot, Ada is confined to the indoors, where she is trying to learn to walk and spends most of her time looking out the window, watching her younger brother Jamie play and waving to the neighbors. When the children of London are evacuated to the countryside, only Jamie is going to be sent. But, Ada's tired of a life of abuse and sneaks away to be with Jamie.

When they arrive at their destination, nobody chooses the two children so they're left with a single woman who doesn't want them. Susan Smith is depressed after a devastating loss but she's kind. She keeps the children well-fed, clean, and nicely dressed. Both children are traumatized and lacking in education. Ada has never even felt a blade of grass, much less learned her ABCs. While Ada teaches herself to care for Susan's horse and ride it, Susan begins to instruct the children in life and eventually teaches them to read, showing them what it's like to be cared for in the process. But, what will happen when the war ends? Will they have no choice but to go home to their abusive mother?

Highly recommended - I can see why The War that Saved My Life is a Newbery Honor Book. It's a lovely, emotional story and you can't help but get caught up in the lives of the children and admire Susan for her gentle way of caring for them and dealing with their response to trauma. She's flawed but immensely patient. I know it's fiction but I've read so many tales of how evacuated children were badly treated that it was refreshing to read a story that's about how much difference kindness and patience make in the lives of children. You also get a good feel for the experience of WWII in their little village: the airfield nearby, the fear of German spies and potential bombing, the sheer terror when the bombs finally fall. A wonderful story with a beautiful ending.

There's a sequel to The War that Saved My Life and I hope to read it, someday. I learned about the books in reverse order. A friend mentioned reading The War I Finally Won on Facebook and when I looked it up, I discovered that not only was it a WWII book (my favorite time period!) but a sequel. So, I backtracked and read about The War that Saved My Life. And, then, of course I bought it because of the WWII setting. Another book that made me cry happy tears and a new favorite children's WWII book, one I'll be thinking about for a long time, no doubt.

©2018 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, August 08, 2018

The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar is a sequel, so first things first . . . here's my review of the first book:

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

If you haven't read The Space Between Us, the ending might be a bit of a spoiler but it's necessary to mention the general concept before moving on. So, fair warning . . . I'm going to skip a line before talking about The Secrets Between Us to avoid spoiling it for anyone.


Bhima has always been treated kindly by her long-term employer but at the same time she's been treated as if she's dirty, never allowed to sit on the furniture and made to squat on the floor while she had her tea. She cared for her employer's family as if they were her own. But, then she made a shocking discovery and she no longer works for Sera Dubash.

Now, she must find a way to support herself and her granddaughter, Maya. To do so, she finds not one but two new jobs, cleaning for a crazy woman she calls "Mrs. Motorcyclewalla" and a young woman. As with her old job, there are challenges. Mrs. Motorcyclewalla increasingly makes irrational demands of Bhima and seems to be growing more delusional each day. And, when her younger employer, Sunita, moves in a surprisingly open and untraditional roommate who has lived outside of India, Bhima is horrified by her unconventional nature.

When a neighbor in the slum is unexpectedly widowed, Bhima takes on a third job. Her neighbor's deceased husband had purchased some fruit. It can't be returned for cash; it must be sold to be of any value. So, Bhima agrees to find a way to help her sell the fruit. But, to do so, Bhima must find space at the market and a way to balance her other jobs -- and that means humbling herself to pay a bitter old woman to share her space. But, there's more to that older woman than meets the eye. As Bhima gets to know Parvati and work with both her and the man who used to carry her basket when she went to the market for her former employer, they slowly find that each has secrets from her past and pain that can never be fully vanquished. But, they also begin to forge a surprising friendship.

Highly recommended - I feel privileged to have read both The Space Between Us (12 years ago!) and The Secrets Between Us as ARCs. Both are harsh but uplifting stories, but The Secrets Between Us is extra special because it is the story of a makeshift family, one of my favorite types of story. The ending is so utterly perfect that I closed the book with shoulder-heaving sobs. It was everything I had always hoped for for Bhima and Maya. I recommend reading the two stories back-to-back as The Secrets Between Us picks up Bhima's story just days after the first book's ending and then jumps forward by a year. You'll understand Bhima and care for her deeply by the end of The Space Between Us and The Secrets Between Us will be much more meaningful if you read them together.

©2018 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, August 07, 2018

Nightbooks by J. A. White

"Is it like you said yesterday?" Yasmin asked. "You afraid people will think you're weird?"

He nodded.

"Well, you don't have to worry about that happening with me," Yasmin said. "I already think you're weird. You can't make it any worse."

~from p. 80 of Nightbooks Advance Reader's Edition (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

Alex is in trouble. After sneaking out of his family's apartment in the middle of the night, he's been lured into the apartment of a witch named Natacha. Now, he's trapped in an enchanted apartment. One other child is stuck in the apartment. Yasmin has been trapped for a long time and she knows to work hard and keep her head down. Escape attempts are far too dangerous, and so is doing anything at all that makes Natacha angry. But, Alex can survive as long as he does what Natacha asks of him. He must read a scary story to her, every night. Alex has a ready supply of stories in what he calls his "Nightbooks". But, fear and the determination to escape are keeping him from writing more. When disaster strikes and most of his stories are destroyed, Alex knows time is running out. Can Alex and Yasmin find a way to escape? Or will escape lead to an even worse fate?

What a fun, creepy read. Nightbooks is for middle grade readers (Grades 3-7, ages 8-12, according to the publicity info on the back of the ARC) but this older adult found the book both creepy and delightful. I enjoyed the stories within the story -- the tales that Alex told Natacha to keep her and the magical apartment happy -- and the surprises that gradually unfolded as Alex finally learned why Yasmin avoided talking to him, the meaning behind certain objects, and the connection of Natacha to an age-old fairy tale.

Highly recommended - Children and adults alike will enjoy reading about Alex, who is charmingly weird, the incredible library in which he's tasked with writing stories, the stories within the story, and the tale of Alex and Yasmin's daring escape attempt. A great book for spooky fall reading.

©2018 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, August 06, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash and 
  • Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, both from HarperCollins for review
  • When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer from Harlequin Teen for review
  • No Frogs in School by LaFaye and Ceulemans,
  • If You're Going to a March by Freeman and Kim,
  • How to Feed Your Parents by Miller and Aly, and
  • Allie All Along by Sarah Lynn Reul, all from Sterling Children's Books for review

The Last Ballad got the biggest squeal, but the package of 4 Sterling children's books was the most fun to open. Who doesn't love a fresh, crisp, parcel full of new books?

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day
  • Allie All Along by Sarah Lynne Reul
  • No Frogs in School by A. La Faye and E. Ceulemans
  • If You Go to a March by M. Freeman and V. Kim
  • How to Feed Your Parents by R. Miller and H. Aly
  • Never Satisfied: The Story of the Stonecutter by Dave Horowitz

I had a seriously fun reading week: two novels, 5 children's books, liked or loved everything. 

Currently reading:

  • Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice by Lawrence Goldstone
  • The Muse by Jessie Burton
  • From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

I'm enjoying all three of these and have bookmarks in a few more (but didn't touch them, this week). The Muse is this month's F2F discussion book. I was reading a scene set in a Spanish mansion in 1936, at one point, and became so immersed that when I looked up from the book I was surprised and disappointed to find that I was not really, in fact, in a Spanish mansion at all. Unpunished Murder is great but I need to figure out what age it's geared toward. I'm finding the book is filling in some gaps in my historical knowledge base but it's a little heavy for younger readers, in my humble opinion. However, I don't know what the intended age range is. I just started From the Corner of the Oval, this weekend, and haven't gotten far but I'm looking forward to learning a little about what it was like to spend time working alongside President Obama. 

Last week's posts:

Only one post because I was feeling that creeping addiction to social media that I sometimes get. I decided maybe it would be best just to walk away from the computer completely, so I did. Staying off Facebook was about 95% successful. Twitter, not so much. I enjoy Twitter more than Facebook, though, and I did reduce the amount of time I spent reading tweets so I'm happy. Of course, this does mean I've thrown myself behind on the book review front, but I'm almost always at least 2-3 books away from catching up so I'm not worried. 4 of the 9 books I need to review are children's books that arrived, last week; they'll be quick and easy reviews.

In other news:

Last week's television watching was a little strange. I decided I really wanted to see my favorite Doc Martin episode and I was sure I knew how to find it. I was wrong, unfortunately. I kept looking for it and watching episodes that were not the right one. The net result was about 6 hours of Doc Martin viewing without ever finding the episode I was looking for. But, I like Doc Martin, so it wasn't exactly painful.

The only other television I watched was a show I watched specifically because it was advertised as one of Benedict Cumberbatch's early roles. The two-part movie series was called Fields of Gold. From IMDb:

A two-part conspiracy thriller about an eager young photographer and a bitter tabloid hacker who are sent to investigate mysterious deaths at a cottage hospital.

The bitter hack journalist is played by Phil Davis (at right in the photo), who plays Jud in Poldark. If you watch it only looking for Benedict Cumberbatch playing an exciting role, you'll be disappointed. I was a little stunned when he finally appeared and was on-screen for maybe 10 seconds. Not quite as advertised. But, there's an urgency to the story, which is about a young man trying to make a point about genetically modified plants and instead setting off a plague, so I really enjoyed it. Just don't watch it looking for Cumberbatch. He hardly appears at all.

©2018 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, August 03, 2018

Fiona Friday - Peekaboo

©2018 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.