Monday, September 16, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman - purchased

It was not that long ago that such a thick book (nearly 1,000 pages) would have intimidated me so thoroughly that I wouldn't have even remotely considered tackling it. I think maybe Don Quixote has made me cocky — or, at least, broken the spell. At any rate, I'm looking forward to Ducks, Newburyport but I will not read it till after I've succeeded at reading Gone With the Wind. Priorities.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Rent Collector by Camron Wright
  • Collage and Construction by Harvey Weiss
  • After the Flood by Kassandra Montag

The Rent Collector (link to review, below) is my F2F discussion book for September and I went ahead and reviewed it while it was fresh in my mind, rather than waiting till after the discussion. I enjoyed it and I'm sure the discussion will be a good one. Collage and Construction (an instructional art book) is an old library sale find that I've had for ages, published in 1970. I found it while looking for books to donate and since it was only 62 pages long, I decided to just give it a quick read before donating. It's ugly and water-stained but the content was fascinating! I finished After the Flood at a little after midnight, last night. It's an interesting read but it's fairly slow of pace (apart from some heart-pounding action scenes) so I was just ready to be done with it, to be honest, but don't get me wrong . . . I enjoyed it. More on that, soon.

Currently reading:

  • Summary of the Mueller Report by Thomas E. Patterson

Since I just finished After the Flood, I haven't started my next novel. I'm not far into the Summary of the Mueller Report. One nice thing about it, though, is that the author/professor who abridged the report totally eliminated all of the footnotes. Much appreciated. I think they're important, at times, but if you just want an overview not having to constantly look back and forth makes it a lot more readable. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

I watched a movie, this weekend! It was an old one, but other than The Royal (which I also viewed and finally finished), it's one of the few things I've seen on TV in a while. The movie is Three Days of the Condor, a 1970s-era movie starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway. It has me thinking I might want to have a Robert Redfordathon. There are quite a few Redford movies that I love.

Out of curiosity, I just looked up Three Days of the Condor and found that it was released in 1975 and has an 86% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

As to that newly-updated review policy, between that and my book-buying ban (which has lasted at least 10 days — I know, but it's hard, people!) there should be relatively few books to photograph in the near future. And, at some point I'll be going on an extended blog break, which will mean shuttering the blog for at least a month, possibly much longer. I'm not thrilled about it but you do what you have to do and I have no control over what's to come. I'll let you know what's up when the time comes. At any rate, till then it'll be business as usual but I'll just be working from the ARC backlog.

©2019 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.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Review Policy - Updated 9/15/19

Update: I am not currently accepting books for review. 

I'm going to keep the previous listed conditions in place at the bottom section of this post so that I have the old policy handy if/when I return to reviewing a broad variety of books, but at this point I have a backlog of ARCs and I'm expecting to have to take from 6 weeks to several months off, soon, due to events beyond my control. 

Effective immediately. 

Best to all,

September 15, 2019

Ignore the following, please.

1. No e-books, PDFs or self-published books will be accepted, ever. I tried electronic books and discovered that I need and desire a solid book in hand, the ability to mark passages with Post-its, the feel of placing a bookmark inside a book and the satisfaction of closing a book when done. The only exception to this rule is self-published, bound books by friends or relatives. If you don't already know me, sorry.

2. I do not review books that require a post on a specific date, aka "book tours" or any other scheduled reviews, nor will I post specified content. My blog, my content.

3.  Any books accepted for review are subject to being ditched if they don't work for me. If I choose to DNF (Did Not Finish) a book, I reserve the right to say nothing at all about the book.

4. This is a new condition: If I accept a book for review, a "review" may consist of something as minimal as a single paragraph. You can say quite a bit in less than 50 words; I've discovered that during the times I've written "month in review" posts. But, don't ask me to review a book at all if you're not willing to accept very brief thoughts.

5.  I reserve the right to change this policy at any time.

Thanks for visiting my blog!


Friday, September 13, 2019

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright

I had to ponder The Rent Collector for a bit before even considering writing a review. There were things about it that felt a little off to me. It's the story of a little family in Cambodia (based on real characters but heavily fictionalized). Sang Ly and Ki Lim live in a dump and pick through trash to find items they can sell. Their baby, Nisay, has been sick all his life. Even when they occasionally manage to get treatment, once the antibiotics run out he goes right back to being sick.

Sopeap is a drunken woman who collects the rent monthly. When Ki Lim finds a children's book in the garbage, Sang Ly is excited. Nisay will have a little treasure. But, something remarkable happens to Sopeap when she sees the book and Sang Ly realizes the rent collector knows how to read. She asks Sopeap to teach her, so that she can better their lives. Gradually, Sopeap's former life (before the Khmer Rouge slaughtered the educated) comes out through her teaching.

I was most fascinated by the mystery of Sopeap. Who was she? How did she end up in a dump if she was an educated woman and why did she drink heavily? What had happened to her to make her such a mess?

The story is told a little like a fable and very much like the stories that Sopeap teaches Sang Ly to read. Inside the story, there are lessons. They aren't always what you want to hear. Heroes and villains may have elements of evil or humanity in them, respectively. Things may not turn out the way you expect. But, somewhere in there are the universal themes and similar tales that continue to be retold — always a journey, whether internal or external.

I glanced across a few reviews and noticed that people spotted the same things I did. Sang Ly does not sound like a poor person who lives in a dump. She has a pretty substantial vocabulary and she learns to read at a startling speed. But, I think if you focus on such details, you're missing the point.

The Rent Collector is about literature, about life, about finding the meaning in both that may or may not be hidden. If you look at it too literally, what the author is attempting to say will just buzz right past you. One of those themes was obviously that you should find beauty wherever you are. Kind of a "bloom where you're planted" thing. A little trite, maybe, but I loved the unfolding mystery of Sopeap's past, the growing friendship between Sang Ly and Sopeap, the way Sang Ly helps Sopeap find redemption, the quest for a cure for little Nisay, and the general loveliness of the storytelling.

Highly recommended - While not a 5-star read because I did occasionally have trouble with clinging to reality instead of sinking into the story itself and allowing it to envelope me like a dream, I thought it was a terrific read and it makes me want to learn more about Cambodia and its people.

I bought The Rent Collector for group discussion and I'm looking forward to my next book group meeting. I think we'll have a lot to discuss. If I feel like anything said during the discussion is worth mentioning, I'll return to post about it, after the meeting.

I didn't get any great cat photos, this week, so if I manage to snap anything tonight, I'll post it on Saturday. If not, Fiona Friday will return next week.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Invisible as Air by Zoe Fishman

Either he did this all the time or he would make a one-time exception for a friend; she didn't care. She just wanted the pills. So badly. 

Just these few hours without them in her system, her world was too much. Edges were sharper, the sun was hotter, her unresolved emotions too present. Sylvie much preferred the alternative. She would do what she had to do. 

~ fr. p. 252 of Advance Reader Copy, Invisible as Air

Teddy stopped eating, his stomach suddenly full. His parents didn't so much argue when they argued; his mom just lobbed firecrackers while his dad retaliated with water balloons. 

~ fr. p. 260 of ARC

In Invisible as Air, Sylvie has been privately grieving her stillborn daughter for 3 years but she has been unwilling to even say Delilah's name aloud. She's become distant and snappish. Her husband, Paul, has channeled his grief in a different way, exercising vigorously and becoming a shopaholic. He's purchased so much unneeded exercise equipment that credit card debt has become a problem. Their son Teddy is on the cusp of turning 13 and Sylvie is nervous about planning his bar mitzvah while dealing with work, the PTA, homemaking, and a homebound husband who has broken an ankle in a biking accident.

As a newish health nut, Paul has decided to battle through the pain of his broken ankle rather than taking the prescribed painkillers and one day Sylvie decides to take one of his pills. Just this once, she'd like to feel a little lighter. The pill makes her feel relaxed, happy, and less stressed. It even makes her kinder to the people around her. So, she starts taking one a day and then two. It doesn't take long before she's hiding the pills and then stealing to keep from having to stop taking them. While she's sinking into addiction and spiraling out of control, her new attitude actually seems to be a good thing from Paul's perspective. But, when Sylvie can no longer bear the thought of doing without the pills, can she stop taking them? Or, will her family find out and intervene?

Recommended - Unputdownable. at least for this reader. An easy read with great flow, nicely paced, which is told from three separate points-of-view: those of Sylvie, Paul, and Teddy. While I was slightly surprised by some errors (bearing in mind that I have an Advance Reader Copy) that I tend to think of as typical of newer writers, which Zoe Fishman is not, they were blips. I just had to know what was going to happen with Sylvie and stayed up way too late finishing the book. There's also one possible research flaw that I consider significant. But, again, because I found Invisible as Air so gripping, I only knocked off a point for the things I found questionable.

I think it's worth adding that Invisible as Air could be triggering for anyone who has lost a child to stillbirth as it really digs into the lasting grief felt by each of the family members and how they responded to it.

I received a copy of Invisible as Air from HarperCollins in exchange for my unbiased review. The paperback has some extra features: a conversation with the author, reading group guide, and information about other books by the author. My thanks to HarperCollins!

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling is the second in a series and — full disclosure — I haven't read the first: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus. But I loved Momentous Events (I'm going to shorten the title, from here on out, to save time) and there were only a couple minor confusion factors, once I got into it.

Aven is starting high school and her friend Connor has moved away. It's hard enough dealing with the change of schools and all the new people but there's an extra complication for Aven: she's armless. In the first book, she moved from Kansas to a Western amusement park in Arizona. Now, her buddy Connor's absence has left her with a single friend at the new school, Zion. When a good-looking football player takes an interest in Aven, Zion warns her that he's bad news. But, Aven is friendly and she likes the attention. When things turn out badly, the experience causes Aven to lose trust and retreat from people who genuinely care for her. Who can she rely on? Who is just being nice because she has no arms or pretending to like her? Aven is a positive thinker and self-reliant, but even with her terrific attitude, the humiliation of how she's treated by people at her new school gets her down. Can she learn to trust, again, and even find love?

Highly recommended - I adored this book. Aven is a great character with realistic challenges and a terrific sense of humor. Momentous Events is entertaining and upbeat with valuable lessons and terrific characters.

I had a tiny bit of trouble with reading the books out of order, although never enough to slow me down for long and it just had to do with characters who were introduced in the first book. It took me a while to realize that Joe and Josephine were one and the same, for example, and to figure out the relationship between Joe and Aven (Josephine, aka "Joe", is Aven's grandmother). There should be no problem if you read the two in order, but at most the book could have used an introductory sentence or two to clarify who various characters were.

Momentous Events still stands alone fine, otherwise. What's important to focus on is Aven, her closest friends, and the challenges that she faces. It's easy to get behind Aven because she's so likable and interesting. I kept imagining myself in her shoes. She is tremendously adaptable — playing the guitar, eating, and doing just about everything you can imagine doing with your hands with her feet, instead. Aven is used to being stared at by curious people but it's still uncomfortable. And, yet, she is such a happy, positive little clam. You can't help but love her. I wish there were more books that portrayed people with unique challenges as just humans like anyone else, the way Momentous Events does. Reading about a character like Aven is a fantastic way to learn about what it's like to live with a disability.

I received a copy of Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus from Sterling Children's Books for review and it is by far one of the best children's books I've read, this year. My thanks to Sterling! Momentous Events would work equally well for middle grade or high school readers, in my humble opinion. Aven was in middle school in the previous book. Which, ugh, I so want to read. This book-buying ban already sucks.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas - purchased
  • You Were There Too by Colleen Oakley - from Berkley for review
  • This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone - purchased
  • Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli - purchased 

This is an interesting assortment, yes? The Count of Monte Cristo has long been one of the books I list in my top 5 and it's my #1 favorite classic, but guess what? I have been reading the abridged version without realizing it for . . . well, a long time. I've read it several times. I only found out my version is abridged about a year or two ago (it's not stated prominently, inside or out) and have planned to get the complete story, since. Then, someone reminded me, about 10 days ago. Timing is everything. I've been thinking about rereading but decided I really needed to get that chunkster instead of reading the old abridged version. So, I did.

This Is How You Lose the Time War is a book I saw someone post about on Instagram but it wasn't a review so much as a mention and an endorsement. I went off to read about it and it sounds like my cup of tea. Lost Children Archive . . . no idea. I remember reading about it, but where? I think it might have been one of my favorite Instagrammers who mentioned it, but I'm just not sure. At any rate, it sounded fabulous and I hope I'm right about that. I'm going to continue to work on not buying books (or anything online) in the near future but I'm not going to kick myself around the room if I slip up, occasionally.

You Were There Too was sent unsolicited. I received a request to review it and ignored it because I still have a backlog of ARCs, but as always I'll try to fit any unsolicited book into my schedule. It's a January release, fortunately, so no hurry. My backlog is a little embarrassing. At this point, I'm putting the books closest to publication at the head of the queue and fitting in one from the backlog, now and then. I'll just keep hacking away at it.

Kiddo kindly held the books for the photo above. He's in town for a job interview, today, hence the nice shirt cuff.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
  • Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill 
  • Invisible as Air by Zoe Fishman

Reviews to come. 

Currently reading:

  • The Rent Collector by Camron Wright 

I just finished Invisible as Air at 2:00 in the morning, last night, and immediately started The Rent Collector, this month's F2F selection. So far, so good. I plan to add a nonfiction title, tonight, probably the abridged version of The Mueller Report that I recently received.

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

I think I totally forgot to mention that I recently turned a year older. Huh. You'd think that would be memorable, but maybe birthdays aren't the big deal they used to be. I got flowers, a strawberry cake (cooked by my future daughter-in-law), a bunch of cards, pizza, and some Japanese munchies. I liked it.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Fiona Friday - A girl and her carrot

Catnip, of course.

©2019 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.