Friday, June 15, 2018

Fiona Friday - Somebody's watching



©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng


At the beginning of Little Fires Everywhere, the Richardson family watches as their house burns, everyone assuming the younger daughter, Izzy, is responsible. Then the author takes the story back in time to the arrival of Mia Warren, a photographer/artist who has lived a bit of a vagabond life with her daughter, seldom settling anywhere for longer than a matter of months. Mia has promised her daughter Pearl that they're finally going to stay in one place and they've moved into the Richardsons' rental. Is Mia running from something or is she simply moving for the sake of her art? What led Mia and Pearl to slide their key into the Richardsons' mailbox and head out of town just before the fire broke out?

I read Little Fires Everywhere for group discussion and I pretty much loved everything about it. It's one of those books in which the characters are so vividly described that you feel like they could step right out of the pages. And, while I have forgotten what I may have thought the theme to be, at the time I finished I felt like I had an understanding of what the author was trying to say when I closed the book.

Other than that, I had little to say about the book and was mostly silent during my book club's meeting. In fact, I was asked why I was so quiet, for once, and I said I liked the book a lot but I just didn't feel like I had anything to say about it -- other than the fact that I particularly loved reading about Mia's photography. One of our members noted that Little Fires Everwhere is mostly about the women: Mia, Mrs. Richardson, Pearl, and the two Richardson girls are the characters you follow most closely. There's a lot of food for thought.

Maybe I was just having an off night because I recall the dilemma about who should end up with a child, the adopted mother or the biological mother who gave her up during a time of stress, as the most interesting thing about the book. I felt torn because I could see both sides of the legal argument and how each of the mothers might feel. But, we didn't really talk about that for long, other than to acknowledge that the book seemed to be a story of motherhood in which the author described a number of different mothers, their desire to have a child, how they reacted when they became pregnant or didn't, what it's like to be a person who gives up a child or who chooses to abort one. Little Fires Everywhere definitely offers a number of perspectives on motherhood.

Highly recommended - When I finished the book, I looked up reviews by friends at Goodreads and found that at least one of my friends felt the opposite to how I felt -- she hated the photography details and didn't find the characterization went deep enough. Huh. I really thought the characterization was amazing, myself. At any rate, Little Fires Everywhere was a 5-star read for me and I haven't read Celest Ng's first book, so I'm looking forward to eventually reading it.

Note on the cover: I've posted the cover of the book I purchased, which was bought from Book Depository and is similar to American paperback covers.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor by Yossi Klein Halevi


However differently we express it, . . . faith shares an essential worldview: that the unseen is ultimately more real than the material, that this world is not a random construct but an expression, however veiled, of a purposeful creation. That we are not primarily bodies but souls, rooted in oneness. For me, the only notion more ludicrous than the existence of a Divine being that created and sustains us is the notion that this miracle of life, of consciousness, is coincidence.  

~ p. 8

I requested an ARC of Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor by Yossi Klein Halevi, in part because I was hoping that it would shed some light on the Israel/Palestine situation. The book is a set of letters addressed generically to the people living near him, any Palestinian who may care to read one Israeli's thoughts on their territorial dispute, his beliefs and those of his people, what he proposes the most workable solution may be and why. It is absolutely not a primer in the history of the area and it is naturally a bit biased toward the Jewish point-of-view, although Halevi does his best to stay open-minded. If you've been reading my blog, you'll know that I did some online research and purchased a couple other books when I realized I just didn't know enough to fully understand this book.

My online research was enough to get a basic understanding and the two books: Israel/Palestine by Alan Dowty (which is very deliberately unbiased) and Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martydom by Norman G. Finkelstein (which may possibly be biased toward the Palestinian side but I won't know till I read it) should fill in the gaps. The only thing I lack, at this point, is maps. I really could use a nice atlas -- online maps just don't cut it. Unfortunately, I haven't owned an atlas for quite a while, so I just had to make do with what I could find online when Halevi mentioned particular locations.

I found Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor thoughtful and carefully written. The author's story alone is quite interesting. Halevi is American by birth, but he's deeply religious and knew by the time he was about 13 years old that he would want to return to Israel (where he had recently traveled) permanently, someday. As a Jew, he would be granted citizenship. He eventually made that move and has been an Israeli citizen for over 30 years. From his home on a hill, he can see his Palestinian neighbors. Halevi believes in a two-state solution, but I think it's best if I share a few quotes from the book that I think do a good job of expressing his thoughts and/or personal beliefs.

The notion of a people chosen by God wasn't intended to bestow privilege but responsibility. Jewish history attests that this role carries more burden than glory. The classical way Jews understood their own history was as the story of a people failing to live in the intensity of God's presence. This is the story told by the Hebrew Bible -- a national epic astonishing in its relentless criticism of the people it is supposedly intended to celebrate. 

~ p. 60

Even as we seek a two-state solution, we will likely remain with a two-narrative problem. But that historical divide must not prevent a political compromise. I honor history--up to the point where it no longer inspires but imprisons. Accommodating both our narratives, learning to live with two contradictory stories, is the only way to deny the past a veto over the future. 

~ p. 88

We are trapped, you and I, in a seemingly hopeless cycle. Not a "cycle of violence" -- a lazy formulation that tells us nothing about why our conflict exists, let alone how to end it. Instead, we're trapped in what may be called a "cycle of denial." Your side denies my people's legitimacy, my right to self-determination, and my side prevents your people from achieving national sovereignty. The cycle of denial defines our shared existence, an impossible intimacy of violence, suppression, rage, despair. 

That is the cycle we can only break together. 

~ pp. 115-116

"Justice, justice, shall you pursue," commands the Torah. The rabbis ask: Why the repetition of the word "justice"? My answer has been shaped by our conflict: Sometimes the pursuit of justice means fulfilling two claims to justice, even when they clash. 

~ p. 124

With the notable exception of Jordan, which granted Palestinian refugees citizenship, the Arab world has kept Palestinians as refugees, stateless and in camps, politicizing their misery as permanent evidence against Israel. 

Meanwhile, other humanitarian emergencies demand attention. There are, at last count, some sixty million refugees around the world, many of them from new crises in the Middle East. The special status for Palestinian refugees is unsustainable. And given the certain opposition of any Israeli government to right of return to Israel proper, the issue has become one of the main obstacles to your hopes for national sovereignty.

~ pp. 132-133

The biblical prophecy is that, in the end of days, the nations will gather in pilgrimage to the Mount, and God's House will be "a House of Prayer for all people." I don't know how that will happen. Nor is it my religious obligation as a Jew to plan that moment. There is a wise rabbinic parable about how the future Temple will appear: in a cloud of fire, descending from Heaven. The parable is a warning, especially to Jews today who once again conrol Jerusalem: Rebuilding the Temple is not in your hands. Leave the Mount to God. 

~ p. 141

Recommended especially to those who have a working understanding of the Israel/Palestine situation - I went into the reading of Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor knowing essentially nothing about Israel/Palestine. I had a lot of questions. I didn't understand the history, why many of my Christian friends blindly side with Israel, or what the potential options for solving this unique land dispute might be. I'd just started reading the book when the new American embassy was opened in Jerusalem and violence broke out, leading to the deaths of a substantial number of Palestinians. Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor reflects the opinions of one person, but it's a book that anyone knowledgeable about the situation can learn from.

If you're as unknowledgeable as I was (things are improving), I highly recommend reading up on the Israel/Palestine situation before diving into Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor. What you'll get from the book is a particularly pointed understanding of the Israeli side. The book is not meant to be neutral but he does his best to describe his beliefs with empathy. The whole idea is to share his side and to explain that he believes a solution is feasible. Read it with an open mind and heart. I think Christians can learn a great deal from this book, as well. The final quote, above, particularly resonated with me. I'm really glad I read this book because it has led me to dive into a new learning experience that I'm enjoying.

Note: I'm in the market for an atlas, now. Suggestions are welcome.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tuesday Twaddle

Happy Tuesday! Forgive the absence of a Monday Malarkey post. I was a mess, yesterday, thanks to a change in air pressure (migraine) and the after-effects of migraine med (sucky).


Recent arrivals:


  • Unicorn Food by Kat Odell - from Workman Publishing, and
  • Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech - from Harper - both for review via Shelf Awareness

I was kind of stunned to see Saving Winslow, a Sharon Creech book, offered via Shelf Awareness. She's a many-times-published Newbery Award winner and I've read quite a few of her books. I think I was even more surprised to receive a copy, since you don't always get the titles available for request. I would happily read it right this moment but it's a September release, so it's probably best if I wait. We'll see if I can contain myself. 

Unicorn Food's subtitle is "Beautiful Plant-Based Recipes to Nurture Your Inner Magical Beast" and it looks like a fun cookbook. The only problem I could see in flipping through the book was a big one, though: I have a feeling many of the ingredients will be difficult for us to acquire. I'll write a list, though, and see what I can come up with. It's an August release, so I have a couple months to see what we can gather to play with in the kitchen. 



Books finished since last malarkey:


  • Goodbye, Sweet Girl by Kelly Sundberg

Yes, just a single book finished and it was a difficult one, the true story of escalating domestic abuse and the author's eventual escape. I'd hoped to finish up my middle reader, Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue, this morning, but I couldn't find it after waking up from a particularly vivid nightmare (I'd already been killed once and was trying to escape to avoid being killed a second time, in the same way, on a separate timeline -- huh, sounds like it would make an interesting book). It was in a perfectly obvious place. Oh, well. Already up and at 'em when I located it, so no early-morning reading for me, but hopefully I'll finish that one tonight.


Currently reading:


  • Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue by Jeff Seymour
  • High Season by Judy Blundell
  • Israel/Palestine by Alan Dowty

Nadya Skylung is a middle grade fantasy adventure that takes place in a world in which people travel in the clouds because it's safer than travel by land or sea. The crew of the Cloudship Orion has been invaded by pirates and the children, who hid while the adults were taken captive, must go on a rescue. 

High Season is the beachy book I said I was going to start, last week. I've read about 1/4. It's a summer story about a woman who lives on the North Fork of Long Island and is forced to rent out her home during the summer months to stay afloat, the North Fork being the laid-back, less snobby end of Long Island (as opposed to the Hamptons). 

I didn't read much of Israel/Palestine, this week -- maybe 10 pages, at best. But, I'm finding that the information sticks just fine and hopefully I'll find the time and energy to read at least a few chapters, this week. I have quite a pile I want to read in June and not a lot of time left to fit them all in. Wish me luck. 



Last week's posts:




In other news:

I watched Small Island, the 2-part series based on Andrea Levy's book, this weekend. I've yet to read the book, but I can see my copy from my desk. I just looked it up and found out Small Island (the series) was released in 2009, which means the book must be at least a couple years older. That just goes to show how long I hold onto some books without getting around to reading them. I would never have guessed I'd had Small Island on my shelf for a decade.

And, we've just finished the 3rd season of Foyle's War. Also, my lunchtime obsession is back on. I was watching Psych on a small device that decided to go on the fritz but I figured out how to correct the issue and I'm back to watching an episode of Psych with lunch, when I can fit it in.



©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Fiona Friday - Pay attention to me

Isabel has things to say (and very dark lipstick).


©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

It's my bloggiversary!

Technically, yesterday was my bloggiversary but I was too tired to go buy the cake and candles, so I'm celebrating, today.


In case your math is fuzzy, I began blogging on June 6, 2006. I've been blogging for a dozen years! True, I took a couple breaks during which I thought I'd given up for good but they ended up not lasting all that long.

I had a bit of a snafu during the photography process:


It turns out Fiona likes frosting. Yes, she licked the cake. I wiped the frosting off, shooed her away and gave her some dental treats. It was nice of her to try to help, though.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino



In The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino, a dying writer moves into a retirement home for writers, a converted mansion casually known as "The Pen". When the writer meets a young orderly named Cecibel, he's inspired to write one last story and joined in the project by two other writers who reside at the home.

Half of Cecibel's face is badly damaged from an accident. She hides the "monster" side from view and keeps to herself. But, when she meets Alphonse and becomes his muse, he inspires her, as well. Slowly, Cecibel's courage and willingness to expose her scars grows as Alphonse is writing his final words and taking his last breaths. Will Cecibel finally learn to face the world and take a chance on love?

Interspersed with the main story about the authors in the retirement home are the chapters of the book being written, a story of star-crossed young lovers living in the post-WWII era. She is the daughter of a powerful man, her marriage pre-arranged at the age of 12. He is one of two survivors of a terrible accident, separated from the only family he knows. They promise to love each other forever; but, when he joins the military and tragedy forces him to cut off communication, will she wait for him or marry the man to whom she's promised?

Recommended but not a favorite - I liked Cecibel's story and growth and there were times I was so completely swept into the story within the story (the one being written by Alphonse, et al.) that I would forget it was a second story within the book and then find it jarring when the tale of the retirement home resumed. One of the main things I disliked about both stories was the fact that there was a lot of lust and sex, little genuine affection and love. That bothered me because I like reading about relationships that begin with mutual attraction but grow into something deeper. Even Cecibel's story, which is the loveliest part, by far, felt like it was missing a little something, although it was definitely the most satisfying and I thought the ending was slightly far-fetched, yet gratifying.


©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.