Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fiona Friday on the Wrong Day

This is a slightly sleepy, just-woke-up kitty. You can tell by the way she's got her front paws spread for balance that she's not quite with-it, yet. She was giving me her, "Feed me?" look. Yes, it worked.

©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, October 18, 2017

The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy

In 1939, Dutch brothers Jacob and Edwin Koopman are sent to Hitler Youth Camp in Germany. They'd really prefer to spend the summer helping their Uncle Martin, who runs a fishing boat in the North Sea so their father agrees to divide their time, instead. First, the camp, then some time learning how to fish and operate Uncle Martin's boat, and finally some time spent learning about their father's lightbulb factory from the ground up.

At camp, they find that the other boys are fiercely competitive, often violent, and many already know the routine. Some have won a particular prize that Jacob covets. Edwin, an artist, spends all his free time drawing but can be surprisingly competitive, during the games. Although their time is divided, the lessons learned from all three of their experiences will continue to linger.

Back home, their father is determined to get a contract selling lightbulbs to Volkswagen. Against their mother's wishes, the two teenagers tag along with their father to Rotterdam, where the first of many tragedies strikes when Rotterdam is bombed, Holland is occupied by Germans and their hopes to escape Europe quickly become impossible.

From here on out, the major plot points feel like spoilers to me, so I won't mention them. Instead, I'll keep it generic and tell you that The Boat Runner is Jacob's story, the tale of his emotional and physical journey through the war. Faced with numerous tragedies and traumatized by loss, bombings, and the many horrible things he witnesses, he makes a fateful decision. But, has Jacob made the right choice?

I think what I liked best about The Boat Runner was the emotional honesty. At Jacob's age (teenager/young man), many don't have a grip on their emotions and I thought the author did an excellent job of showing the shock, trauma, pain, and (sometimes misplaced) blame that came of his experiences. Also, The Boat Runner is definitely a plot-heavy book - a lot happens. And, I learned a few new things about the WWII era. I'd never heard of potato masher grenades and I didn't know RAF pilots carried barter kits containing gold coins and rings.

I did have some problems with the book like occasionally feeling like the prose was flat, although at other times I found myself stopping to reread a beautiful sentence. It might have been that I simply didn't fall in love with the author's writing style, coupled with the rawness of the story. There are some gruesome scenes; it's worth mentioning that The Boat Runner is not for the faint of heart.

Having said all that, I liked the point-of-view and I think The Boat Runner would make an excellent discussion book. The decisions Jacob made, the emotions he experienced, the historical perspective, and the situations in which he was placed are all ripe for conversation. I wondered, for example, if at times certain situations were resolved a little too easily, or the consequences didn't necessarily fit the actions, or even if other people squirmed at some of Jacob's conclusions - and a couple times, whether a scene was plausible given the surroundings.

Recommended but not a favorite - A very good WWII book, extremely emotional, sometimes beautifully written and sometimes a little too descriptive for my taste, definitely worth discussing. I would have preferred to know precisely when the events were occurring without having to look them up. Dates at the chapter headings would have been helpful. My copy was an ARC sent by Goodreads, so I can't say for sure dates were not added but the only date I saw was in the cover blurb.

Note: I looked up a lot of images while reading The Boat Runner and I found it particularly interesting that there were images of boys in Hitler Youth Camp doing exactly the activities that the author described. If you read the book, I highly recommend looking up images from the time period. While the author has been called out for some inaccuracies, I found a lot of what I looked up matched the descriptions and seeing the images always adds an interesting dimension to the reading.

©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, October 16, 2017

Monday Malarkey

We're celebrating our first really autumnal day (although, of course, it's not apparently going to last) by throwing open the windows. The cats and I are in total bliss and I decided I must rush outdoors to photograph the latest book acquisitions. Fiona kindly posed.

Recent arrivals (top to bottom - all were purchased except for The It Girls):

  • Moon travel guide to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island
  • Slade House by David Mitchell
  • The It Girls by Karen Harper - from HarperCollins for review
  • The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit
  • A Bigger Table by John Pavlovitz
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Slade House, The Faraway Nearby, and Big Magic (which I checked out from the library and have wanted to own, since) were all purchased on Wednesday evening when I spent the night in Oxford, Mississippi, where I was needed to sit in Kiddo's apartment and wait for a delivery, the next morning. We went to Off-Square Books after eating dinner:

I love Off-Square Books.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  • The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy

I was focusing exclusively on The Boat Runner when I saw a friend's review of Dark Matter and decided I needed to take a break and read something suspenseful. I bought Dark Matter several months ago and, wow, Debbie was right. It was almost impossible to put down. The only reason I managed to set it down at all was because I started reading late enough at night that my eyes grew heavy. Dark Matter is a terrific read. I finished up The Boat Runner, last night, a WWII novel about a young Dutch man who is sent to Hitler Youth Camp with his brother just prior to the occupation of Holland by Germans and his experiences during the war.

Posts since last Malarkey:

Not a big week for blogging, since I was gone in the middle of the week, but boy did I have fun reading in a hotel room alone!!

Currently reading:

Hmm, I'm between books and not sure which to focus on, next. A Bigger Table just arrived this afternoon and I immediately sat down to read the introduction (so excited about it that I didn't even fetch my reading glasses; I just read it blurry). so I'll undoubtedly add that to the current reads. I'd also like to get back to The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker and get that finished up but I'm well aware that it's a slow read so I might, instead, focus on finishing up The Goddess of Mtwara (a book of prize-winning African short stories). Whenever I take the time to read a story in The Goddess of Mtwara, I'm always frankly blown away by the quality of the writing, although a couple of stories are so very, very African that I just had to read between the lines. At any rate, there's nothing I feel like totally abandoning, but I'm not entirely sure what I'll pick up when I climb into bed, tonight. We shall see.

In other news:  

I'm so excited about the cool air I can hardly stand it. I completely forgot we were expecting a cool front until about noon and then I rushed to open the windows and the cats were happy as clams. Then I had to shut the windows to go to the gym. When I arrived home, they were sleeping but they came running when they heard the kitchen windows go up. Opening the windows has the same effect as popping the top of a can of cat food. We have so little open-window weather that it's just as exciting for me but I don't fit on the window ledge so I guess I'll have to go out and trim bushes to enjoy the air. Or sit outside reading!!! Oooooh. There's a thought!

©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, October 13, 2017

Fiona Friday

You can't tell they're snuggling but the lengths of their little fur bodies were pressed together and it looked super sweet. Unfortunately, I took this photo and my phone battery promptly died, so I didn't manage to get a view that showed how close they were. Still sweet, though, yes?

©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, October 10, 2017

An American Family by Khizr Khan

I read An American Family by Khizr Khan near the end of September so there are details I've forgotten. But, the one thing that really sticks with me is the sense of admiration I felt for the author and the experience of reading about how much pain the family went through after losing their son to a bomber in Iraq.

Let me back up a little, in case there's anyone out there who is unaware of who Khizr Khan is, since I spent many years refusing to talk politics or vote. Khizr Khan and his wife are gold-star parents (meaning parents who lost a son or daughter during his or her American military service) who spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2016. He had harsh words for Donald Trump, who had criticized both Muslims and John McCain, the congressman known for his many years as a Vietnam Prisoner of War. After Khan's speech at the DNC, Trump verbally attacked Khan.

I was impressed with Khan's speech and his measured response to Trump's attacks, although reading the speech in the book, it really does appear quite harsh. Still, I found what little I heard about Khan and his story compelling, so I was very excited to get an Advanced Reader Copy of his book, An American Family.

The author goes all the way back to his youth to tell his story. As a child in Pakistan, he lived in poverty but he was determined to become a lawyer. Because of his financial situation, it took a lot of hard work and faith to get to law school and then neither he nor his parents could come up with the money for him to take what we call the Bar Exam (I don't recall if it's called that in Pakistan, but it was clearly the same - a test that allows one to practice law), although a leap of faith and a dollop of courage led to that opportunity. The story of how he acquired his education and the words of wisdom that were repeated to him as a child are fascinating enough alone. But, you also get to read about Khan's love story - how he met his wife, Ghazala, and why her mother wanted her to marry someone else in an arranged marriage but Khizr won out. It's a truly beautiful story.

He talks about the decision to leave the country for a job, rather than staying in Pakistan, where he knew that bribery had a lot to do with the outcome of a trial, and the steps in his career and further education that eventually made his family financially secure. He talks about his three children, their differing personalities, and son Humayun's decision to join the military. You really get to know and admire the family. While Khizr Khan was strict enough that today he'd probably be referred to as a "helicopter parent", it's clear that he and his wife raised children with strong principles and a deep love of their country.

Near the end of the book, the focus is on Humayun and his death - and it is heart-wrenching. The author also talks about how Ghazala eventually worked through her pain by hosting young military recruits for a dinner and giving each a gift, encouraging them in service in spite of her own loss. I could hardly breathe through the last part of the book for all the tears. While his Muslim heritage is a huge part of his life, faith mostly comes into the book in a soft way, in moments when he explains how his beliefs figure into certain decisions and actions, although it's a huge part of his life. This quote, for example, explains how he came to give Ghazala a certain gift that impressed her:

Islam teaches that the Creator made nothing in a cage, and that to release one of His creations back to the wild was an act of kindness and mercy. 
~ from p. 53 of ARC (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

Highly recommended - A deeply moving and admirable story of the author's life and that of his family. Every now and then you read one of those rare memoirs that makes you think, "I wish I knew the author. I would love it if he was my neighbor." That's how I felt while I was reading An American Family. They sound like absolutely lovely, giving people and I wish I knew them. Near the beginning of the book, you find out about how the author discovered the U.S. Constitution and why he carries a copy of it around with him. While he didn't actually intend to end up in the United States, it's quite interesting to read about that early connection and how his understanding of our Constitution has influenced him, over the years, and how his home country compares. A new favorite memoir. I can't think of a single negative thing to say about this book, although it's worth mentioning that it's a very emotional read.

©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, October 09, 2017

Monday Malarkey

Quite a change after last week's pile but this time only a week has passed and look at the cover of Gertie Milk and the Keeper of Lost Things! Is it cool or what?

Recent arrivals:

  • Memoirs of a Public Servant by Charleston Hartfield
  • Gertie Milk and the Keeper of Lost Things by Simon Van Booy

I read about Memoirs of a Public Servant in a news article about the victims of the Las Vegas shooting. Charleston Hartfield, a former police officer, was among those killed and the article I read mentioned his book. I used to read quite a few books by or about police officers back in the days when I thought I wanted to be a mystery writer so I figured it would be an interesting read. It's got some slight formatting issues but looks like a quick gulp of a book and I'm looking forward to the reading.

I read every book Simon Van Booy publishes, of course, so I pre-ordered Gertie Milk and the Keeper of Lost Things when Simon told me about it. It's the first in a Middle Grade series and I've already read it, although it took me 5 days because I was still recovering from my recent trip and kept falling asleep. I napped a lot, this week, too. More about Gertie Milk will be coming soon, but I can tell you it's a wild and wacky ride.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Iowa: Poems by Lucas Hunt
  • My Little Cities: London by J. Adams and G. Pizzoli
  • My Little Cities: Paris by J. Adams and G. Pizzoli
  • My Little Cities: New York by J. Adams and G. Pizzoli
  • My Little Cities: San Francisco by J. Adams and G. Pizzoli
  • Goodnight, Little Bot by Karen Kaufman Orloff and Kim Smith
  • Dough Knights and Dragons by Dee Leone and George Ermos
  • Rufus Blasts Off by Kim Griswell and Valeri Gorbachev
  • Gertie Milk and the Keeper of Lost Things by Simon Van Booy

Almost all of my reading was chosen with my current state of fatigue and slumpishness in mind, although I was very excited about Iowa and Gertie Milk because they're both books I've been waiting on for quite some time. The last couple of months, between and during travel, my reading took a serious beating. Children's books and poetry just happen to be two of my slump breakers and I had plenty waiting for me. And, they did the trick! Sleep might have helped a bit, too, but it took me all week to recover from both Hawaii and the long night of watching the news about Las Vegas (I just happened to be up when that horror occurred).

Posts since last Malarkey:

Currently reading:

  • The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy
  • The Goddess of Mtwara and Other Stories
  • The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker
  • Spies in the Family by Eva Dillon

OK. You know I've been listing some that I have bookmarks in but which I'm not currently reading, right? Well, this week was an improvement. After all those children's picture books and the one MG broke my post-vacation slump, I managed to pick up The Goddess of Mtwara and read two stories, both of which were excellent (they are prizewinners, of course, but sometimes African stories are so heavy in African names and local references that they can totally lose a reader from Elsewhere). Then, I started The Boat Runner because I wasn't yet in the mood to pick up The Half-Drowned King, knowing how dense it is. But, I no longer feel like tweeting instead of reading, so I'm feeling very positive about the coming week's reading and have the sense I'll probably finally get back to the books I've set aside. 

In other news:

There's not much news but there's one question I've been asked 3 times since we returned from Hawaii: "Is the water pretty?" To answer that, here's a photo I took just off the coast of Oahu from the air:

Clearly, the answer is "yes". We didn't do any snorkeling on this trip (although, if you go back and look at posts I made in November of 2007, you will see that we once went snorkeling off Oahu) but the water is lovely and I did see a lone sea turtle, at one point. So, that's cool.

©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, October 06, 2017

Fiona Friday

Isabel has to come into the bathroom with me, but she also has to consider going out.

©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, October 05, 2017

A few minis - Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans, Defining Moments in Black History by Dick Gregory

There are a few books I've been thinking about not reviewing (and one I loved but don't want to give full review treatment) so I've decided to do a few mini reviews. Most of these were read some time ago, at least long enough that plenty of the details will probably escape me.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson is a beautifully written story about a young girl and her family after their move to New York. Told in reflection after she meets an old friend on the train and refuses to speak to her, the story describes the fiction she told herself about her mother and how eventually the missing mother would show up, the friendships that she formed after she was finally allowed to roam outside her apartment, and the horror when one of her friends was raped. I read Another Brooklyn in July and that's about all I can remember, apart from how it made me feel.

And, here is where the surprise comes. Most everyone seems to love this book but it simply did not resonate for me. Jacqueline Woodson's writing is impressive, evocative, a little dreamy and very honest. It wasn't so much that I couldn't relate because that doesn't necessarily matter to me. It was that I couldn't always follow; in other words, sometimes the book was a little too lyrical or metaphorical and I wasn't entirely certain what she was trying to say or what had just happened. And, in the end, I was left with questions. I no longer recall what those questions were, but I definitely would have loved to talk to someone about it when I closed the book. Maybe that would have made it a better read for me, having someone to discuss with. But, I found it just an above-average read because of the confusion. Apparently, it was just me. The book gets rave reviews. All of my friends have given it either 4 or 5 stars at Goodreads and I love Woodson's writing so I still recommend it. I may even reread Another Brooklyn, someday; it's very likely I missed something.

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans is a book that's been on my radar since Andi of Estella's Revenge talked about it. Till then, I was unfamiliar with the author or her blog (where she appears to now seldom write an entry) and her heartfelt posts about her struggle between the Christian beliefs that have taken a sharp direction away from those of the evangelical church in which she was raised and her yearning to be a part of a church community. Subtitled, "Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church," the book tells about Evans' childhood in a Southern Baptist church, her devotion to learning about the Bible and saving people, her Bible-scholar father's calm explanations, and then . . . the questions, the creation of a new church with friends, and the gradual changes in her beliefs that led her to search for a new church home.

With the exception of having a Bible scholar as a father (mine was an accountant) there were some striking similarities between Evans' church history and mine. I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church (a cheerful, small-town church where I always felt happy and loved). I was an eager student of the Bible, although maybe not a very good one, and I wanted everyone to feel the kind of acceptance and love I felt at church so I was constantly trying to convert people. I can only hope I wasn't too much of a prig, but it all boiled down to the fact that my home church was a joyful place. Like Evans, I also went through a stage when I finally began to seriously question the church's stance on particular modern issues, although I had long since moved to the Methodist church and my move away from the church was decidedly slower. Still, the similarities stunned me and I found Searching for Sunday an incredibly affirming and comforting read.

Highly recommended, especially to those who find themselves questioning the church but not their Christianity.

In the opposite vein, I'd really like to say as little as possible about Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies by Dick Gregory because I have such mixed feelings about it. It starts out great. Gregory, who recently passed away, lived quite an interesting life as an actor, comedian, and writer, and appeared to know just about every black person of fame that you can think of. He was around during the Civil Rights Movement and was knowledgeable about the events, the people, the movement itself and the many organizations working for change. At the beginning, he shares a great deal of history in fairly short chunks. They're not necessarily cohesive, but they're interesting and revealing. The audience he addresses is black; he talks as if he's talking to a young person, offering his knowledge as well as advice.

However, as the book progresses, Gregory begins to occasionally contradict himself and dig deeply into conspiracy theories. While I felt like some of them were absolutely plausible, there were many others (particularly involving the deaths of celebrities) that simply didn't make sense to me, even when I sat back and thought about them and twisted them around in my head.  He believed, for example, that Tiger Woods' downfall was not due to his infidelity but due to generic white supremacists who didn't want him to surpass the success of Jack Nicklaus. How he came to that conclusion in spite of Tiger's own confession and decided that Tiger's back surgery was a fiction forced upon Tiger by these unknown white supremacists is beyond me. That's simply one example. I'd like to give Gregory the benefit of the doubt and say that perhaps the contradictions and conspiracy theories were due to the fact that he was aging and died shortly before publication but I haven't read any of his other books so I can't compare to know if there's been any change.

At any rate, I liked parts of Defining Moments in Black History and found some of the history particularly fascinating (music, movies, movements, you name it - he spoke broadly). Iffy on recommendation but I wouldn't tell you not to give it a try. I'd love to hear other folks' thoughts about this book.

©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, October 04, 2017

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

I read Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore while I was on vacation in August, but I'm pretty sure it was the only book I finished that week and I remember it well because I was so immensely entertained. Milo is close to reaching his limit of lifetimes. He's had 9,995 chances to reach perfection and a soul only gets 10,000 tries before being cast into . . . well, nothingness. If you achieve perfection, you get to move on to the Afterlife and become a part of the cosmic soul, but it's not looking good for Milo.

There's a particular obstacle to his success. Milo is in love with death . . . or at least one of the eternal beings who harvest souls. Her name is Suzie and if Milo achieves perfection, he will no longer be able to spend time with her between reincarnations. While Milo does his best to figure out how to achieve perfection without sabotaging himself, you get to experience his attempts and also glimpses into past lifetimes. Meeting the different Milos who live in different times and places (including outer space) makes for a very entertaining read. Each lifetime is an entirely different experience, so it's almost like reading an interconnected series of stories.

As Milo gets closer to his final chance, he and Suzie realize they can't fathom eternity without each other. Because Suzie is already immortal, she will have to break some rules if they're going to be together. But, is it even possible? And, will Milo be able to reach perfection before it's too late?

Highly recommended - An immensely creative read with a lighthearted tone, sometimes funny, often tragic. Milo has to keep dying, of course, so there's plenty of hardship and a number of tragic ends. But, at the same time, the book has this wonderful, playful tone that you can't help but love. Because each of Milo's lifetimes is so very different, I had favorite lives in the book and I would often groan in frustration when one ended. Yet, I was always excited to see what would happen next. Life is clearly rough; Milo goes through some harrowing experiences. But, what a delightful read. Reincarnation Blues is a book that makes me feel warm inside when I think about it. Definitely one of my favorites of the year.

©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, October 02, 2017

Monday Malarkey

Back to Malarkey! I was in Hawaii, last week, although I managed to pre-post some reviews, for once. I'm generally not a pre-poster, but I wanted to get as many reviews up as possible, since our August trip already threw me behind.

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • My Little Cities: London,
  • My Little Cities: New York,
  • My Little Cities: Paris,
  • My Little Cities: San Francisco, all by Jennifer Adams and Greg Pizzoli - board books from Chronicle Books (Hatchette) for review
  • When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele - from St. Martin's Press for review 
  • Iowa (poetryby Lucas Hunt - from the author for review
  • A Bold and Dangerous Family by Caroline Moorehead - from Harper for review
  • Rufus Blasts Off by Kim T. Griswell and Valeri Gorbachev, 
  • Dough Knights and Dragons by Dee Leone and George Ermos, and
  • Goodnight Little Bot by Karen Kaufman Orloff and Kim Smith, all from Sterling Children's Books for review

I had a little trouble getting myself to stop obsessing over the news about the Las Vegas shooting and Tom Petty's death, today (and now I'm hearing Tom Petty is "clinging to life" - I'll be the first to celebrate if he lives), and it was the fact that the My Little Cities books were sitting right next to me that helped pull me away from the news. I read all four and I'll read the three Sterling Children's books, in a bit. Children's books are a definite upper. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • An American Family by Khizr Khan 
  • Alan Cole is Not a Coward by Eric Bell

Yes, only two books in two weeks. Ugh. I'm clearly the exception to the Vacation Reading Rule. I just can't concentrate on a plane or even in an empty hotel room while my husband is off working. Or, on the beach. I have to watch the waves and the people. I did read. Just not much. Alan Cole is Not a Coward is going down as one of my favorites of the year, though. When I finally got around to opening it, I could not put that book down. I can't wait to tell you more about it. Khizr Khan's memoir is also wonderful - very inspiring and, of course, heartbreaking.

Posts since last Malarkey:

Currently reading:

  • Iowa by Lucas Hunt (poetry)
  • The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker
  • Spies in the Family by Eva Dillon
  • The Goddess of Mtwara

Misleading, again. I'm focusing on Iowa because I was in the mood for poetry and nothing else was appealing to me, a couple days ago. I will tell you more about it, later, but while there are poems I don't "get" (almost always true in any volume of poetry), the vast majority of the poetry in Iowa is about things that remind me of home (Oklahoma, not Iowa - there are some major similarities): corn, wheat, gravel and dirt roads, empty beer cans, lying in a field at night watching the stars, working under a hot sun, etc. It just feels like a slice of home and I'm sure a lot of Midwestern poetry lovers will especially get a kick out of it. I'm reading it deliberately at a slow pace, even though I'm kind of in the midst of a slump and would probably read slowly, anyway.

The Half-Drowned King is what I spent most of my time on in Hawaii. I'm enjoying it but I'm only about 1/4 of the way in. I don't know if that's because I was tired at the end of the day or it's just a slow read but it is, in my opinion, solid storytelling and worth the effort to forge onward, slump or not. I haven't touched The Goddess of Mtwara because I left it at home. And, I read a mere 27 pages of Spies in the Family (but, again, I was enjoying it) before I decided to focus on The Half-Drowned King. So, we'll see what I manage to finish besides children's books.

In other news:

I had trouble finishing this post because I was glued to the news, today, so I'll leave you with a single photo from Hawaii, a phone pic of a sunset on Maui (I took a lot of Toes in Paradise shots, on this trip).

©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, September 29, 2017

Fiona Friday - My napping buddies

©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, September 28, 2017

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

***Spoiler alert! I mentioned a couple plot points that I personally enjoyed having revealed to me during the reading. I dislike knowing much of anything about what's going to happen in a book before I read it. If you also feel that way, please skip down to the highlighted recommendation line to avoid spoilers.***

The Woman Next Door tells the story of two women in South Africa - one black, one white. They're next-door neighbors and they hate each other.  Marion, the white woman, is casually racist and not self-aware, so she doesn't realize she's racist,, although it shows in even the little things she does. Like buying one-ply toilet tissue for her housekeeper and two-ply for herself (until she finds out the housekeeper is buying her own three-ply and rushes out to get some of her own).

Hortensia, the black woman, has become hardened since her husband's affair, 40 years back. When Marion finds out she's going bankrupt and will have to sell her home, she digs in her attic for a valuable painting purchased specifically as an investment. She wants to hide it from the bank because it's valuable enough to at least keep her in a decent home for the rest of her life.

When Hortensia's husband dies and the will instructs her to call her deceased husband's daughter from his affair, she resists and starts on a project to remodel her house so she won't have to think about it. But, there's an accident on the first day. Hortensia's leg is broken and Marion's home is damaged. The painting disappears. They still hate each other, but through shared tragedies, the two women slowly get to know each other and share their broken pasts.

Highly recommended - I adored the characters. They're both nasty in a curmudgeonly way, having been broken by life, somehow. But, at the same time, you can't help but be utterly charmed by their dialogue. The story really is a delight. I chose to read The Woman Next Door because of the word "delightful" on the cover, having just finished a suspense. It was absolutely the perfect follow-up to a darker read. I think The Woman Next Door would also make a pretty good discussion book. The racism and misogyny experienced by the two women should be excellent fodder for group discussion.

©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, September 27, 2017

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

***Potential spoiler alert: The second paragraph contains potential spoilers. If you're concerned about potential spoilers, please skip to the highlighted recommendation line***

I'm just going to admit how I felt about Pretty Girls up front so you can decide if you want to read on. When I finished the book, I was taking my blogging break but still writing quick reviews at Goodreads. I opted not to give it a rating at all because I disliked it so much. However, if I were to rate the book only on the quality of writing, I'd give it a 4/5. Karin Slaughter is clearly a pro. Her characters were nicely fleshed out and some of the women were very clever, with terrific senses of humor. I found myself wishing the author would use her skill to write something less gruesome.

However, the storyline is about men (not just one) who torture women to death, a woman who finds out her husband was evil, and a family in which loss and not knowing what happened to a missing daughter/sister has torn them asunder. Had it not gone into such graphic detail about the torture and murder of kidnapped women and instead been the story of a family working together to solve a decades-old crime without the gore, I might have been okay with it. I was quite impressed with the author's skill in storytelling and characterization - and I loved the dialogue between them. Most of the family had a dry wit, so when some of the characters were interacting, the dialogue was often quite fun.

Having said all that, I just can't handle this kind of book and a part of me desired to rate it 1/5 just for being so damned revolting. I considered giving up around page 225 or so. The only reasons I continued: I wanted to see it through so I could know that the worst of the evil men would never hurt anyone again (it was predictable that something would happen to him in the end) and read the resolution in which the family finds its answers. And, yes, those two aspects were satisfying.

Not recommended unless you have a really strong stomach - If you can handle horrifically graphic detail, great. If not, avoid this book. The torture was just too much for me. I will not read Karin Slaughter, again.

©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, September 26, 2017

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

I had a little trouble getting into The River at Night, partly because I had just finished three utterly brilliant books in a row (this was back at the end of July) and partly because the beginning is a bit slow. A suspense about 4 women who get together yearly for a getaway, the book begins with a concept that's a little hard to buy into. Pia wants to go somewhere remote and challenging - a "get back to nature" type of trip - and she's chosen whitewater rafting in Maine. Rather than finding a place that's safe with trained tour guides, she's found a 20-year-old who has mapped out a remote section of river in Maine that he'll guide them down after a night of camping in the wilderness. Win (short for Winifred) narrates the trip.

There's some painfully overdone foreshadowing via Win's fears, at the beginning. But, once the women arrive at the river and begin their journey, the pace of the story picks up. Rory, their guide, seems competent enough. There was just never a point at which I was able to say to myself, "Yeah, sure, I believe 4 women would be willing to go to this remote area with a single guide and no knowledge of their own." It just didn't make sense to me. Why not go somewhere safer? I've been whitewater rafting. You can choose a trip every bit as challenging as what Pia chose (a weekend trip) but without the added danger of going somewhere so ridiculously remote without any kind of emergency plan. It's almost like you can sense the author plotting, "Where can I send my characters to make sure they're in the worst possible situation?" Setting up the plot in this way ensured that the characters in the book fall into the "too stupid to live" category.

Recommended but not a favorite - The author did a great job of changing the scenery, keeping the geography fairly fresh as the group traveled downriver; her descriptions of the river were beautiful. And, once things started to go horribly wrong and the storyline in The River at Night went a little big Deliverance, I considered the challenge the women faced unexpected and therefore interesting. I give the author credit for uniqueness of the specific dangers she created and the fact that I did find the story suspenseful, if a bit predictable. But, the overall result was average to a bit above average. Points off for overdone foreshadowing and a story that never fully allows one to suspend disbelief.

©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, September 25, 2017

No malarkey

I haven't been reading or receiving enough books to feel like a Malarkey post is worthwhile, this week, so Monday Malarkey will return next week, October 2. In the meantime, here is cat photo of apology (one that just happens to make me smile):

©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, September 22, 2017

Fiona Friday - Cover girl Isabel

This is a new favorite image. I discovered that if I get the phone camera to focus on Izzy's dark bits (her eye or the tabby patches on her face), the camera will overexpose everything else when she's in the window, giving a photo a stylish, edgy look. She had no idea she was modeling. Should I pay her in treats?

©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, September 21, 2017

Noor's Story: My Life in District Six by Noor Ebrahim

Noor's Story: My Life in District Six by Noor Ebrahim is a book I bought in Cape Town, South Africa when we went on a tour of District Six, Langa township, and Robben Island (the island on which Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years). The District Six Museum is pretty much all that's left of the once-thriving community in which Ebrahim once lived.

The name "District Six" has to do with the fact that Cape Town was once subdivided into districts and it just happened to be the sixth district. There's nothing particularly special about the name. But, the district was unique in that it was a melting pot, its residents diverse but living vibrant lives in harmony. In the 1960s, the residents of District Six were informed that their district had been designated an area for whites only and that they'd have to move. However, nothing happened for nearly a decade. Life went on as usual until the government finally got around to forcing people out in the 1970s. And, then they literally bulldozed almost every building.

In Noor's Story, the author talks about his childhood and young adulthood in District Six. Although his family was impoverished, they lived a happy life and always knew that if they were short on money, they could ask the neighbors for a little help and count on them to provide a little bit of bread or vegetables. They would never starve. The district was self-reliant, so while some of the residents commuted to other parts of Cape Town to work, they had everything they needed in District Six - food, schools, churches and mosques, a theater, etc. Noor had a variety of interests including athletics and choir. He talks about various holidays, religious and otherwise, and the parades that everyone looked forward to. And, he tells about how and why he gave up his schooling and sought employment to help finance his siblings' education.

The sad part, of course, is the destruction of the district and the way the community was divided as everyone was forced to move. For some, life was never even remotely the same. Once that community was gone, many of its traditions and connections disappeared, as well. Those who lived in District Six will tell you they believe the district was destroyed because it served the government's purpose to have people of varying backgrounds divided. Apartheid still existed and whites could only stay in power if they encouraged division. Trevor Noah made similar comments about the way blacks were divided into differing factions during Apartheid. It's fascinating and definitely a lesson worth studying.

Highly recommended - If you're interested in what life was like in this unique community, I definitely recommend it. I found myself looking up a lot of words that were unfamiliar (or looking them up again if I'd read them, before - "koeksisters", for example, are a confectionary that looks much like our donuts and I read about them in another book but promptly forgot the word). While sometimes I couldn't find a definition, I found reading about the community so enjoyable that I just shrugged it off and continued when that happened. No biggie. The bottom line was that District Six was a place where people of different colors, religions, and backgrounds lived in joyful harmony. I loved immersing myself in Noor's world.

©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, September 20, 2017

Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

Cassandra Harwood lives in 19th-century Angland, where men work as magicians and women are in charge of politics. But, Cassandra has never fit into any mold.

4 months after Cassandra tragically lost her ability to cast spells, she has accompanied her brother and sister-in-law to a gathering in the elven dales. But, even as they were traveling, they knew something was wrong. The unseasonably harsh snowfall has continued, leaving them snowbound. Not all of the guests will be able to arrive. And, Cassandra is in deep trouble. During the search for missing members of the party, she uttered a few words overheard by a manipulative elf lord, words that committed her to a task. Obligated to find out who caused the strange change of weather, Cassandra will suffer a horrible fate if she fails.

While Cassandra searches for answers she must also deal with the presence of her former fiancé, who still does not understand that she left him for his own good. Will Cassandra discover the answer in time to save herself from the wily elf lord? What will happen between Cassandra and Wrexham, the man she still loves but desires to protect?

It took me a couple chapters to figure out exactly what was going on in Snowspelled and really get into the book. And, then I was unsure who the audience was meant to be, since Stephanie Burgis writes across age ranges and the book is quite short at a mere 153 pages. After I arrived at a scene that was very adult, I decided I'd better ask. The author confirmed to me that Snowspelled is an adult fantasy novel, hence the recommendation for a specific crowd in my labels. There are no particularly graphic scenes so I wouldn't worry if a child walks off with your copy, though. The "adult" bits are  limited to a bit of innuendo.

At any rate, once I got into the storyline, I really enjoyed it. There's a great cast in Snowspelled but even though Cassandra (called "Harwood" by her former fiancé) is staying at a large estate with a sizeable cast of characters, you only get to know those who are entirely necessary to the plot; the author doesn't overwhelm you with characters (much appreciated). And, I particularly loved the characters who were closest to the heroine. Brother Jonathan is a bit of a rebel, himself, and sister-in-law Amy is quite simply delightful. Ex-fiancé Wrexham is the kind of man you really want your heroine to fall in love with. And, the ending scene is both clever and satisfying. The story is fully wrapped up, no cliffhanger ending.

Highly recommended - A quick, delightful read, first in a series, that is both romantic and adventurous. Read it for a change of pace, a touch of magic, a taste of romance, especially if you're looking for a light, charming read to break a dark mood or a slump. I found myself smiling a lot and I was definitely in the mood for something light since I've been a bit slumpy, post-vacation.

©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, September 19, 2017

The Way to London: A Novel of WWII by Alix Rickloff

Lucy Stanhope is a wicked young lady with icy manners and The Way to London is a romantic quest. Lucy is a wounded soul because her mother never paid attention to her and flitted from one romance and marriage to another. The story opens in Singapore, where Lucy's scandalous affair with an exotic man has come to light. She's pressured to return to England by her mother and stepfather, who are concerned that her affair will damage her stepfather's business.

But, Lucy is unhappy in her aunt's huge estate in Cornwall, where soldiers are billeted and Aunt Cynthia expects Lucy to abide by strict rules and standards, yet is also too busy to spend any time with her.

Then, Lucy meets a 12-year-old boy named Bill who has been evacuated from London. Bill is frustrated with the family who took him in and wants to return home to London's East End. Lucy has heard there's a Hollywood filmmaker in London, a man she met in Singapore, and she wants to see if she can become his next starlet and escape England and the war. So, Lucy and Bill decide to travel to London together. The war interferes with their travels and they meet a number of challenges.

Along the way, they meet up with another acquaintance of Lucy's, a former soldier she met in Singapore who was released for medical reasons. He sees through Lucy's caustic personality - even thinks she's kind of funny. Can Lucy accept the fact that she may be falling for a man who is neither wealthy nor exotic? Or, will she stick to her escapist plan and attempt to become a starlet?

Highly recommended, particularly to lovers of romantic adventure - The Way to London is very plot-driven, which I love, but I think what I liked about the book most is the way Bill softens Lucy. The relationship between the two is a little odd and a lot heartwarming. There are other people who add to the sweetness of the story as they help Lucy and Bill through challenges, as well, giving the book that sort of "hodge-podge family" feature that I adore. Because Lucy's wounded soul is reflected by her rebellion and biting personality, she requires a good bit of patience. But, eventually, she does redeem herself, the story is worth sticking out, and I closed it with a warm, fuzzy feeling. I really loved this 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.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday Malarkey

This was not a big week for reading or arrivals, even though I enjoyed the reading that I managed.

Recent arrivals:

  • Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis and 
  • What Happened by Hillary Rodham Cinton (both purchased)

Books finished since Tuesday Twaddle:

  • The Way to London by Alix Rickloff
  • Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

I enjoyed both of these books. My review of The Way to London has been pre-scheduled to publish tomorrow. Since I'm so far behind on reviews, I figured I'd better write about it while it was still fresh in my mind. I hope to do that for Snowspelled, as well. It's going to take me a while to catch up on the backlog of reviews but I'm not worried. If I have to, I'll do a few catch-up mini review posts and I'm planning to do a children's book review week, soon, as well. 

Posts since Tuesday Twaddle:

Currently reading:

  • An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice by Khizr Khan
  • The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  • The Goddess of Mtwara and Other Stories

OK, this is misleading. I'm really only reading An American Family - and definitely enjoying it. I meant to use the hashtag #ConstitutionDay to mention how much I enjoyed reading about how Khizr Khan discovered the American Constitution and his appreciation of it, yesterday, but I blew it. It's a good story, though.

I haven't touched The Goddess of Mtwara since I got home from vacation, although I love the variety of stories in this book of African prizewinners and haven't given up on it, by any means. And, I got 50 pages into The Invention of Wings but then didn't open it back up after the first night's reading. I was enjoying it but I'm not going to make it to my F2F discussion so I just haven't felt compelled to pick it back up. I think, instead, I'll read it another time and start one of my ARCs, since I have a substantial pile of them to tackle and I keep looking at those ARC piles longingly.

In other news:

Huh, can't think of any other news. We had some fall weather (really, closer to winter weather with a high in the mid-50s) just after we returned from vacation but we're back to normal, now (upper 80s, low 90s, heavy humidity) and I am definitely missing that cool weather. It was fun while it lasted. The news fades quickly but you never forget living through a devastating hurricane, so I've been thinking a lot about those who are recovering from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and hoping that the punishing experience of living without power in the Southern heat has ended for most. I'll be keeping the hurricane survivors in my thoughts for a long 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.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Fiona Friday - Spot the cat

This was adorable. Fi was rubbing against the wooden carvings we brought back from S. Africa. Thank goodness she did something cute. It's the first time I've managed to take a cat picture since we got back from vacation. I was starting to worry that I wouldn't find a decent photo for Fiona Friday.

©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, September 14, 2017

The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones

The Salt Line begins with a group of people who are preparing to go on an expedtion. The world is dystopian, a near-future world in which a deadly tick has caused the United States to be subdivided into zones. The characters we're following are mostly wealthy people from the Atlantic Zone who are going to an Outer Zone in the region that used to be known as the Smoky Mountains. In this future world, people are presumably crammed into cities in the regions that are safe from tick infestations and have little to no exposure to nature. Some zones only experience periodic outbreaks but that's enough to make their inhabitants poorer, their zone less desirable and populous.

We get to know the characters while they're doing their training. Edie is a former bartender who is partnered with the man she's been dating, an online pop star named Jesse. Wes is a fabulously wealthy tech start-up genius who came up with what I presume is a banking system and his partner (on the expedition, each has to have a partner to "stamp" them in the event of a tick bite) Marta is the wife of a mob boss with political aspirations. There's a brother and sister, a married couple who are both lawyers, and some others who have lesser roles. Tia and Andy are their guides.

After the training, the participants don suits that are designed to protect them from ticks and hike to their first campsite. At this point, I was still convinced I was reading a survival story. But, not long after, there's a surprising plot twist that changes the entire character of the novel and the question is no longer, "Will they survive the dangerous Outer Zone or will some die of Shreve's, the deadly illness carried by the ticks?" but "Will anyone survive?" There is some violence and plenty of deaths but fortunately The Salt Line is not too gory, although there is at least one totally gross infestation in which the ticks reproduce and then explode out of one of the adventureres' skin. Ewww.

I found The Salt Line riveting most of the time, but there were moments of exposition that I found tiresome. I'm not sure I always needed that extra bit of character development that came via flashbacks and storytelling by characters. But, that was one of only two complaints I had. The other was the fact that I did have a little difficulty buying into a world in which an entire country had been subdivided on the basis of the presence of a disease-brearing tick. Granted, the author did explain that there was no foolproof defense - no preventive cream or suit had a 100% success rate and the ticks burrowed so quickly that even using the so-called stamp that pulled them out and burned the eggs was no good if you didn't act fast. Would that be enough to drive people into the most crowded regions to survive? I don't know. It felt like there needed to be some other driving factor to explain the mass migration.

Regardless, I enjoyed the reading, the uniqueness of the world building and storyline, the character development (bearing in mind that there were a lot of characters and not all were in need of the same depth of treatment), and the surprising plot twists. There were a couple major plot points that I anticipated but I didn't find the book generally predictable so they were not bothersome. I did sense the author's presence in the "Who will live and who will die?" aspect. But, she did a good job of developing characters with flaws, some more likable than others, and I liked where she took the characters who were the kindest.

Recommended - Surprising in many ways, The Salt Line is a very good read with well-developed characters, unique world-building, and an unusual storyline that shifts dramatically, partway in. I will be looking for more by this author.

©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, September 13, 2017

Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi

I purchased Woman at Point Zero to read as part of my personal Feminist Reading Challenge after reading an award-winning author's description of it as one of her all-time favorite books. A book described as "fictionalized nonfiction", it tells the story of a woman who grew up in Egypt and was calmly awaiting her death when the author met her. It's a rough read and hard to even think about, but when I wrote about it at Goodreads, I felt like I needed to spill. What happened to the subject of this book, Firdaus, happened because of the culture in which she lived. And, she was tough but it was a horrible life.

My review may contain spoilers. Please don't read it if you're concerned about spoilers. 

Firdaus grew up poor, with a father who insisted on being fed every night, even if that meant the rest of the family starved, and an uncle who would stick his hand up her skirt while he sat beside her, reading. After her parents died, Firdaus moved in with her abusive uncle and eventually was sent away to boarding school, where she proudly received her secondary school certificate (the equivalent of a high school diploma). When she returned to her uncle's home, she overheard him saying he didn't want to spend the money it would cost to send her to university.

Without a university education and with nobody to recommend her, Firdaus had few options. She tried to make it on her own and was repeatedly raped and abused. She learned to dissociate when she was forced into prostitution. She tried working a regular job and found herself constantly sexually harassed and even poorer than she had been as a prostitute. Eventually, she killed in self-defense. By that time, she was well aware that the odds were stacked against her and always would be. She was ready to die and rejected offers to help her escape the death penalty.

I found Firdaus's story shocking and powerful. Have things changed in Egypt since the book was published in 1976? Are women still routinely abused and held back? I don't know. It was not that long ago that American reporter Lara Logan was shoved to the ground and sexually assaulted in Egypt, so I'm guessing the answer is no. Woman at Point Zero is a stunning story of how a lack of education and resources combined with dangerous misogyny can create a society that perpetuates its own horrors. A stirring reminder of why women in the Western world must keep fighting to maintain and expand our rights to equality and the ability to choose what happens to our bodies.

Highly recommended - I gave Woman at Point Zero 5 stars but on reflection I think I'd lower it to 4 stars, if only because I recall the dreamlike quality of the writing; it's beautiful but the story is brutal. That is a style issue, though, and I liked it as I was reading it. The subject matter is powerful as it shows just how dangerous it is to let men dictate how women are treated. When women don't have a say, they're less likely to be educated, more likely to be abused, less likely to be able to find a way to support themselves and live independent lives. Firdaus was simply doomed to a horrible life, no matter what she did to try to improve it. Difficult as Woman at Point Zero is to read, it's a thought-provoking book that gives insight into what a male-dominated society in which abuse of women is commonplace looks like. If you've experienced sexual assault and are easily triggered, I recommend avoiding Woman at Point Zero. I have a feeling it could send even the hardiest survivor into a depressive tailspin.

©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, September 12, 2017

Tuesday Twaddle

It's late Monday night and I just realized I keep forgetting to finish this post so I'm going to turn it into a Tuesday Twaddle. I think I managed to gather all of the remaining books together. I sure hope so! There were an awful lot of books that walked in my door during my summer break. My last Monday Malarkey post was July 18, so I have a good deal to cover.

Recent arrivals (continuing with the blog break arrivals - nothing at all arrived, last week):

  • The Goddess of Mtwara: The Caine Prize for African Writing, 2017 - Purchased
  • The Way to London by Alix Rickloff - from HarperCollins for review
  • The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC's (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell - from Little Brown for review, via Shelf Awareness (SA)
  • Noor's Story by Noor Ebrahim - Purchased
  • Defining Moments in Black History by Dick Gregory - from HarperCollins for review
  • Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore - from Random House for review via SA
  • Amazing Animal Friendships by Pavla Hanackova,
  • Ally-saurus and the Very Bossy Monster by Richard Torrey, and
  • Cap'n Rex and His Clever Crew by Herz and Schipper - all from Sterling Children's Books for review

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Brave Deeds by David Abrams
  • Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
  • The River at Night by Erica Ferencik
  • The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
  • Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
  • The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones
  • Amazing Animal Friendships by P. Hanackova and L. Pao
  • Cap'n Rex and His Clever Crew by H. Herz and B. Schipper
  • Ally-saurus and the Very Bossy Monster by Richard Torrey
  • Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
  • Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
  • Defining Moments in Black History by Dick Gregory
  • The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABCs (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell
  • Noor's Story: My Life in District Six by Noor Ebrahim

Posts since last Malarkey:

Currently reading:

  • The Way to London: A Novel of WWII by Alix Rickloff
  • The Goddess of Mtwara and Other Stories - by various authors

I've been reading both of these books for quite some time. While I haven't felt that "I just want to sleep all day" sensation of jetlag, I've been waking up early and going to bed earlier than normal, most days, and my reading time is in the evening. So, I find myself reading a few pages and falling asleep. Hopefully that will end soon. I'd like to finish these two and move on.

In other news:

After I left the blog for my summer break, I continued to write book reviews at Goodreads until I started to pack for vacation. So, I will work on posting a mix of the reviews at Goodreads (which I usually alter a bit for the blog) and new reviews from more recent reads until I feel caught up. I love the feeling of stepping away from the computer for a few weeks, but the catch-up after can be a bit of a pain. I didn't read all that much, though, so it's manageable.

Onward! And, I'll try to remember Fiona Friday, this week. :)

©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, September 08, 2017

August Reads in Review, 2017

Not a great month for quantity because of a busy vacation, August was an interesting month with a few outstanding reads, some that were very good or so-so, and one that was utterly gripping but absolutely not an author I'll read twice.


72. The River at Night by Erica Ferencik - A suspense about 4 women who get together for a yearly getaway, this time whitewater rafting in rural Maine, the book starts slowly and becomes more suspenseful. Though some of the challenges faced by the women were unexpected, I found some aspects of the story predictable and the concept of four women going to such a remote location with a single guide and no backup plan implausible.

73. The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso - The story of two women who are next-door neighbors in an upscale neighborhood in Cape Town, South Africa. Marion is white, Hortensia is black and they can't stand each other. Neither is aware of the racism and misogyny the other has experienced. But, when both have to deal with disasters that throw them into even closer proximity, they start to reveal pieces of their history and are surprised to find they have more in common than they could have imagined. Utterly delightful reading.

74. Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans - A former evangelical Christian (Southern Baptist) tells the story of how she went from an extremely conservative background to drifting away and even starting a new church with friends as she gradually became more liberal and realized the scriptures she spent so many years studying spoke to her in a different way than they do to evangelical friends. I'm a former Southern Baptist with similar frustrations so I found Searching for Sunday a bit of a comfort read.

75. The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones - A group of adventurers in a dystopian, near-future world travel into a tick-infested part of America where disease-carrying ticks burrow into the skin so quickly that people only have seconds to use a stamp that pulls out the tick and burns the area around it. I expected a survival story but a plot twist midway turned the story sideways. A unique read.

76. Amazing Animal Friendships: Odd Couples in Nature by P. Hanackova and Linh Dao - A children's book (for ages 5 - 9) about symbiotic and companion relationships between different types of animals. The illustrations are cheerful, the spreads are a bit busy. A book packed with fascinating information, a lot of which was new to me.

77. Cap'n Rex and His Clever Crew by Henry L. Herz and Benjamin Schipper - A group of dinosaur pirates are constantly faced with challenges and their captain refuses to let them say they can't find a solution. A picture book about problem solving that I liked for its theme, although sometimes I had difficulty figuring out what was happening in the illustrations.

78. Ally-saurus and the Very Bossy Monster by Richard Torrey - Ally-saurus (a girl who likes to pretend she's a dinosaur) and her classmates are frustrated when a bossy new girl arrives and wants to do everything her way. The second Ally-saurus book, every bit as charming as the first.

79. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter - A terribly disturbing story about a man who tortures and kills women and the search for a missing sister who has been presumed dead for 20 years. The cruelty and gruesomeness of this book was just too much for me. I will not ever read another book by this author. I did find the writing sharp and the characterization exceptional. Some of the women were incredibly witty.

80. Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore - The story of a man who has been reincarnated nearly 10,000 times but not yet achieved perfection in any of his lives. Is he sabotaging himself to spend time with his true love, a grim reaper by the name of Suzie? Can they end up together, even though one is human and the other immortal? Both delightful and, at times, deeply sad, Reincarnation Blues takes the reader through some of the protagonist's experiences as he nears the limit of his lifetimes and attempts to find a way to spend eternity with Suzie. Loved this one.

©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, September 07, 2017

Books, Books, Books - Arrivals, Part 2

Just one big stack to finish up, although I know I have a few other books scattered about - some in my pile of finished books for August. I'll try to gather those on Monday.

Not going to go completely in order because I wanted to stack the books by size and then, since I have completely hit the proverbial wall today, I didn't even manage to pile them neatly. Oh, well. I'll still start at the top.

Montana Heat: Escape to You by Jennifer Ryan - from Avon Books but I think this may be unsolicited. I sure don't recall requesting a romance. I like the occasional romance, though, so I'll read it when I'm in the right mood.
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit - purchased for my feminist reading project
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd - purchased for F2F discussion
Eve of a Hundred Midnights - pre-ordered and I had no idea it was coming till Amazon informed me
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter,
Bitter Lemons by Lawrence Durrell,
Broken Homes & Gardens by Rebecca Kelley,
The Last Empire by Gore Vidal, and (way down there near the bottom)
Babel Tower by A. S. Byatt - all from my delightful friend Sandie
Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller - from Delacorte Press for review (maybe via SA?) - Youngest son is really interested in this one but he's got a tough semester ahead so he probably won't get to it till he has a holiday. If possible, I'll share his thoughts, though, when he gets to it.
The Underground River by Martha Conway - from Touchstone for review
Torchwood: Station Zero by John & Carole Barrowman and Neil Edwards - purchased. And, I also have the first of this series, which I may have neglected to photograph but I just don't remember. Both were ordered so far back (about 2 years ago, I'd guess, not long after I watched the entire Torchwood series) that their arrival was also completely unexpected.

That's all for today. Tired Bookfool is going to crash, maybe read a little, maybe stagger out to the kitchen and unload the dishwasher.

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