Monday, April 24, 2017

Monday Malarkey

How to make the words "Happy Monday" sound odd when paired with a book cover:

Recent arrivals:

  • The U. S. Armed Forces Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Survival Manual by Dick Couch

Weird arrival, eh? A friend recently posted about his purchase of potassium iodide tablets for radiation emergencies (he is understandably freaked out by Trump's posturing and Kim Jong Un's escalation of hostilities, in response) and one of his friends posted in reply that he'd bought potassium iodide tablets, as well, but also the above book, a straw that filters toxins from water, and a gas mask. Naturally, I zoned in on the book. Can't hurt to know what to do in the event of some sort of attack or a cloud of radiation heading your way, right? The U.S. Armed Forces Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Survival Manual was my only arrival, last week, and it was a purchase. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Plague by Albert Camus

Only one book finished, last week, and that came as no surprise. I knew the two books I was reading would take me some time to get through. The Plague is focused on feelings and relationships and what becomes important to people when faced with the likelihood that they or their loved ones will die, so it wasn't often as gruesome as it could have been. Still, I occasionally had to take breaks from it. I also fell asleep without reading at all, twice (very unusual) and since I usually only read at night, I probably read a bit less than I do in a more normal week. 

Last week's posts:

Clearly, last week was a good blogging week. That's because I actually pre-posted reviews, for once. I don't normally do that because I don't have the patience to sit long enough to type a full week's worth of posts, but I had other things to accomplish, last week, so I knew I needed to write a bunch of posts at once or I wouldn't likely post at all. I'm still a month behind on reviews, but last week's posting certainly put a nice dent in the backlog.

Currently reading:

  • My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
  • Mister Monkey by Francine Prose

I misplaced Mister Monkey, last year, but finally located my ARC about a month ago, and it looks like it's going to be a nice, light read -- which I needed, after reading The Plague. I'm still enjoying My Life on the Road but I think I'm only about halfway through with it. I also started a book of Maya Angelou's poetry (the complete works, I think) but the first section was kind of a downer, so I set it aside and haven't returned to it. I may not finish it during National Poetry Month (this month) but I plan to pick that back up, this week.

In other news:

I watched two movies based on books, this weekend.

 A Man Called Ove has made it to Amazon Prime. It's another Swedish movie with subtitles, so Husband was in and out of the room while it was on. He's not into subtitles, although the movie clearly interested him. I thought it was handled very well! Since I read the book so recently, I knew exactly what was missing from the movie. For one thing, the cat's role was smaller than I thought it should have been. Once Ove takes the cat into his care, it goes absolutely everywhere with him, in the book. Not so in the movie. Maybe they thought it would be too much trouble trying to get a cat to sit still in a car. At any rate, I thought the movie was every bit as touching as the book and I did exactly the same thing as I did with the book -- sat with tears streaming down my face for the last 10-15 minutes.

I happened across Ella Enchanted while flipping through the movies that have just been added to Prime. Like A Man Called Ove, I've read the book. Unlike A Man Called Ove, the movie is way different from the book. The spell cast on Ella hasn't changed but the movie is goofy, with a modern bent: a medieval shopping mall with an escalator, music by Electric Light Orchestra and Kenny Loggins, etc. It's fun, but very, very silly. On the plus side, since Ella Enchanted is probably the Gail Carson Levine book I like the least, there was no dismay over Hollywood damage to a favorite. I just enjoyed the silliness.

My future daughter-in-law arrived toward the end of the movie and she said, "It's cute, but nothing like the book." Nod, nod. We agreed that The Two Princesses of Bamarre is a better book and one we'd like to see made into a movie.

In other movie news, we've been watching our local listings for Their Finest to show up in a local theater and it's finally within driving distance, if you don't mind driving 3 1/2 hours to see a movie (it's in Memphis and New Orleans), but hasn't arrived locally (down to a 30-minute drive). So, we may take a jaunt to Memphis, soon. We both really want to see the movie. I was on the list to get an ARC of the book it's based on, by Lissa Evans, but that never showed up and it turns out I already have a copy of the British printing, which I'd forgotten I owned. So, I'm also hoping to read that, soon.

©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, April 21, 2017

Fiona Friday - Her own yoga mat

What do you mean, "You're doing it wrong?"

©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, April 20, 2017

The Mermaid's Daughter by Ann Claycomb

The Mermaid's Daughter by Ann Claycomb is a retelling of the original fairytale "The Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Andersen and, as such, is a bit dark. Kathleen lives with constant stabbing pain in her feet, like she's walking on glass. The pain is only soothed by immersing her feet in water and this same problem has been passed down for generations. No physical cause has been found and there's concern about her mental health, as Kathleen comes from a long line of women who have taken their lives after giving birth to a daughter.

Kathleen and her partner Harriet, aka "Harry", are studying to become opera singers. Kathleen's father is a composer. Her mother drowned herself by walking into the sea with rocks in her pockets when Kathleen was quite young.

When Kathleen and Harry spend a week vacationing in Florida, the sea begins to call out to Kathleen when she steps into it. Will she give in to the call of the sea and drown or try to stop the call by taking her life in some other way, like the women before her, or is there a way to break the spell? To find out Kathleen decides to travel to Ireland, the place of her birth.

My reading of The Mermaid's Daughter was one of those rare experiences in which I felt torn, partway through the book. It dragged for a time and I became weary of Kathleen's drama. She is, of course, in horrible pain so she has good reason to be a bit melodramatic. She's also an opera singer; drama is her life. At one point, I considered abandoning the book. But, I couldn't do it and I think that just goes to show you how compelling the book was, the fact that I continued even though I found the reading a bit slow. And, it was well worth sticking out. In the end, all the little strands of the story -- the opera, the father who is a composer, Ireland, the call of the mermaids -- come together brilliantly. I was a little stunned by how much I loved the book, after I'd considered giving up on it!

Highly recommended - Because the book is so dark and Kathleen's drama/Harry's patience can get on one's nerves, I can imagine even people not going through a slump might tire of The Mermaid's Daughter too soon. But, it is definitely worth sticking out. I loved how everything came together in the end with a touch of magic and the way, as you close the book, you realize, "Wow, all those things that I thought were filler . . . every bit counted." I was impressed.  I also liked the way Kathleen's homosexuality was just a part of the characterization. In fact, it helps her relate to another character who is crucial to the plot, in the end, a further example of how every little bit counted. There are a few sex scenes and you know I'm not a fan of those, but they were not overly graphic so I just skimmed a bit. Also, I adore that cover and the further I read, the more I realized even the cover is absolutely fitting to the story.

©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, April 19, 2017

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline is about Christina Olson, the subject of Andrew Wyeth's painting Christina's World. I've always loved the painting and thought of the subject as a young woman enjoying the land, feeling free in the Great Outdoors. It wasn't till I read about Christina, a couple years ago, that I realized the subject was a real person, not just a random model. And, it wasn't till I read the book that I noticed certain details.

Christina lived outside a small town on the coast of Maine and her world was truly limited almost entirely to the area around the house. Stricken by a crippling disease in her childhood, Christina's limbs became deformed. The disease was progressive, later causing her a great deal of pain and robbing her of her ability to walk. Eventually, she dragged herself wherever she wanted to go.

A Piece of the World takes you through Christina's life, describing her illness, her relationships with the other members of her family and how they all gradually either died or went off to live their own lives, the brother who sacrificed aspects of his own life to care for Christina, and her friendships with Andrew Wyeth and his wife. The painting itself isn't actually mentioned till nearly the end of the book, when it's painted. But, by then the reader knows the artist and his subject well enough to feel a depth of meaning in its details.

Recommended - While not as engrossing as Orphan Train, A Piece of the World is a fascinating read. I enjoyed learning about Christina, Andrew Wyeth, and the setting of the painting Christina's World. The tone is haunting and generally melancholy. Christina was not a happy person and her life was difficult, even excruciating. But, Christina Baker Kline's writing is lovely and I'm very glad I read A Piece of the World. I'd recommend saving it for when you're okay with a melancholy read if you're affected by the tone of a book.

Side note: My F2F group loved Orphan Train so much that they've been eagerly awaiting the author's latest work. I'm not sure whether or not I'd recommend it as a discussion book, so I asked our group leader if she'd like to borrow my copy to judge for herself and she replied with a very enthusiastic "yes". If we end up eventually discussing it, I'll post about the discussion (but that would be after it comes out in paperback).

Bonus: There's a copy of the painting in the back of the book. I kind of wish I'd flipped ahead and realized it was there as I was reading the description of it, but it's nice to have a copy of the painting! I've loved it for many years. Reading about Christina may have changed the way I see it a little bit, but it also made the painting even more special.

©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, April 18, 2017

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

This time I'm going to keep my review as short as possible (a relative term, that word "short") because A) It appears that everyone on the planet read this book before me, and B) I can't remember B. Oh, well. There was a reason but I forgot what it was.

At any rate, I bought A Man Called Ove and it arrived literally the day before someone recommended it as a selection for F2F discussion. I bought it partly because a friend told me Ove was a curmudgeon. Having had a bit of experience with curmudgeons, I'm aware that they can be misunderstood and, in the long run, more likeable than you might expect. Just because you're a little grumpy doesn't mean you don't have a heart. And, that was definitely the case with Ove, a widower who has decided to take his life so that he can join his wife in the Great Beyond (my wording).

We talked about quite a variety of topics at the F2F discussion. One of our members passed around a page listing all the ways the name Ove can be pronounced. It turns out there pretty much isn't a right or wrong way. Even within Sweden, the name is not pronounced the same by everybody. This came into play during the discussion as one member mentioned how the name is pronounced in the movie and some of us stuck with the movie pronunciation while the rest just decided to go with whatever way we'd pronounced it in our heads as we read.

We talked about how the book begins a bit slapstick but then takes a more serious turn. And, we talked about the neighbors, Ove's personality, specific scenes and what they revealed about the main character, how and why he might have been misunderstood and whether or not we liked him. The one thing we didn't talk about -- and I didn't realize this till the next day -- was the cat. And, I thought the cat was rather crucial, actually. Also, I liked the cat because it was a cat and I'm a cat person, but that's neither here nor there. What I loved most about A Man Called Ove was the fact that it's the kind of book in which a group of strangers form a kind of surrogate family, which just happens to be my favorite kind of book.

Highly recommended - Heartwarming, sometimes funny, simply a wonderful story. Everyone in my F2F group enjoyed A Man Called Ove. Some found it a little sad but most found it uplifting and enjoyed getting to know Ove, a crotchety old man with a big heart. I loved A Man Called Ove enough that I want to read everything Fredrik Backman has written. At the same time I'm a little nervous about reading his other work because I loved Ove so much. It's worth mentioning that we all thought the translation was brilliant and several of us agreed it's a book we'll revisit. If you're one of the rare people who haven't yet read A Man Called Ove, go forth and purchase. It's definitely worth owning.

©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.

You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

I don't particularly like writing negative reviews, so I'll keep this one as short as I can and be sure to tell you what I liked about it . . . which wasn't much, but you know. I try.

You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein was recommended to me when I asked for feminist title suggestions on Twitter. I looked it up and found that the reviews were mostly positive and the blurb claimed it was funny. At the time, I was coming off two depressing books in a row, The Handmaid's Tale being one of them, so "funny" was definitely appealing. And, it did start out well. Klein described herself as someone who never quite grew out of the tomboy stage, coining the term "tom man" to describe a grown-up tomboy.

But, then the essays segued into what the author, a comedian, is apparently known for (I was unfamiliar with her): tales of her sex life. There is probably very little I like less than reading about someone's sex life and I have, in fact, skipped a lot of books that were described as humorous for just that reason (even though I enjoy humor). I don't even like fictional sex scenes unless, of course, what happens in the bedroom is relevant to the plot. I'm not a prude; it's just a personal preference. So, the fact that a good portion of You'll Grow Out of It is dedicated to stories about various boyfriends was a guarantee that I wasn't going to love the book. Had I known about Klein's style of comedy, I would have avoided it entirely.

Having said that, I thought the book had its moments. I enjoyed reading about Klein's search for her wedding dress. I think most married women can probably relate to that experience in some way. I also loved it that she compared that particular shopping experience to the feeling she gets when she tries to explain why she doesn't find Brad Pitt appealing - primarily because I don't find Brad Pitt appealing and nobody gets that. I also occasionally enjoyed her descriptive capacity. If she'd avoided using it on body parts, I would have appreciated it even more.

Neither recommended or not recommended - Not for me, but as I was reading You'll Grow Out of It, I thought of a couple friends who would probably enjoy it. If you dislike reading about someone else's sex life, avoid it. I also found the "not a girly girl and not attractive" theme somewhat disingenous. Klein had a lot of boyfriends, plenty of girlfriends to call or get drunk with when a relationship ended, and an affection for designer clothing. Those all sound pretty girly to me. Also, I looked her up. The wedding dress she said her friends turned their nose up at was gorgeous and so is she. Once you've seen what the author looks like, the whole concept of being not girly enough just seems ridiculous.

Again, I laughed a couple times and enjoyed her descriptive capacity to a certain extent. So, while this book is not for me, I would not tell people not to read it. I would say it depends entirely upon your taste in memoirs/essays. I would also definitely not classify this book as a feminist read at all because it doesn't deal with feminist issues, unless you consider "not looking girly enough" an issue. I do not. To me, feminism is about everyone, women included, having the same rights in work and in general daily living. While in some professions that may apply to such issues as dress code (forcing women to wear high heels, for example), that didn't appear to be the case.

©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, April 17, 2017

Monday Malarkey

Happy Monday! Hope everyone had a terrific weekend. Mine was uneventful, but I did get in some nice reading time. Wahoo for that!

Recent arrivals:

  • The Explorers: The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress - from Random House Children's Books for review
  • BBC Dr. Who Coloring Book - from a blogging friend who knows me well!

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains by Jon Morris
  • The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day
  • Little Known Tales in Oklahoma by Alton Pryor

Good reading week. The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains is tremendous fun and I liked the uniqueness of the heroine in The Day I Died (she's a handwriting analyst). Little Known Tales of Oklahoma was terrible, but it's a very thin book so I opted to finish it and I did learn a few things. But, the overall effect was like reading a book composed of someone's research notes on recipe cards after they'd been dropped. Literally, some of the paragraphs needed to be swapped. Still, I had a fun reading week. Unfortunately, I tried to start this week's F2F discussion book and it didn't click. So, I'll be quiet during discussion if I make it to this week's meeting.

Last week's posts:

Currently reading: 

  • The Plague by Albert Camus - My classic selection for the month. I'm 1/3 of the way through and enjoying it but occasionally a bit grossed out. 
  • My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem - I am loving this book so much that I've elevated Steinem to the category of "People I'd like to have dinner with if I could choose anyone in the world". 

In other news:  

I haven't yet read the book, but we had a lonely Easter (no family came - not even Kiddo, who is about a 3-hour drive away) so Huzzybuns and I decided to buy taco fixings and watch a movie while we ate the end result. We found The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. I don't even own a copy of the book, but I've been curious about it for years. And, I didn't realize there was a movie! It's loads of fun, although Husband did wander off because he got tired of reading the subtitles.

I think I may have mentioned that last week I was shut down for a few days when I got a pop-up claiming my computer had been hijacked. It took three attempts to shut down my windows and then I just set the computer aside until Husband came home from travel and confirmed that the message was a fake. Fortunately, we had two separate back-ups, but it still gives you an uneasy feeling when a message like that appears. On the plus side, I had a really productive week. Not having access to a computer makes an amazing difference in how one's time is used. Last week's computerless days and a story from My Life on the Road have got me thinking about changing how I do things (not to impact the blog, I should add). I periodically take social media breaks but I'm thinking about taking a break but still using Facebook and Twitter to update blog posts - just not visiting FB and Twitter, otherwise, because I like the way my time opens up when I avoid social media. Anyway, still thinking about that. We shall see.

©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, April 14, 2017

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson and a Fiona Friday pic

I realized what I most enjoyed about The Almost Sisters when I wrote the brief description of it for my March Reads in Review: its complexity. There's a lot going on in The Almost Sisters.

Leia is a successful illustrator of a graphic novel series who's been pushing men away for a long time. You don't find out till well into the story what caused her trauma, but she has good reason for her hesitation to commit. At a comic convention, she has a one-night stand with a man who was dressed as Batman and then promptly loses touch with him. But, it turns out her encounter has left her pregnant.

Leia steels herself to tell her sister about her pregnancy, only to find herself stepping into the middle of a marital meltdown. Similarly, she goes to her grandmother's house to help out and discovers that the timing is just not right. Her grandmother is suffering from a form of dementia and it's stressful enough just dealing with the everyday. When a secret that has been tucked away in her grandmother's attic comes to light, the situation is further complicated.

And, here is where I go off the rails and admit that I waited too long to review this book. So, I don't remember the characters or details as well as I'd like. But, I do remember that what's important about The Almost Sisters is the relationships. Grandmother, who is known as "Birchie", has a best friend who lives with her. Birchie is white, her best friend is black and they have been hiding that secret in the attic for decades. Leia is white, Batman is black, and since Leia is currently stuck in Alabama, she can't help but ponder the difficulties her unborn son will face as a child of mixed parentage. Not to mention not knowing how to find his father, even if she wanted to.

Again, so much happens in The Almost Sisters that it's hard to fit in everything that's probably worth sharing, so I'm just going to skip ahead to the bottom line.

Recommended - Bittersweet, uplifting, mysterious, and a little romantic. I liked the fact that there were so many strands to this story but what I really enjoyed most about The Almost Sisters was the relationships between Birchie and her bestie, Leia and Birchie, Leia and Batman, and the way Joshilyn Jackson tackled the complicated world of racism in the South. Jackson handled racial issues with grace and a depth of understanding and the result is seriously heartwarming. I got a bit teary at least once. I found The Almost Sisters a rather slow read, but one can't judge based on the speed of my reading, this year. It's just been another weird reading year. The book is a good one.

And, since it's Friday . . .

I don't know what the appeal is, but I have to be careful about setting down the iPad. Izzy thinks it's hers.

©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.