Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Unpunished Murder by Lawrence Goldstone

OK, bummer. I've been staring at the computer screen because I feel like Unpunished Murder is so important that I want to get it right, but the pressure is making me draw a blank. So, I'm going to make this review a self-interview to see if I can get the words out. Today, I will be interviewed by a Sharpie pen. It's the handiest thing.

Sharpie Pen (SP): I'd rather be writing.

Bookfool (BF): Me, too, but it's not going well.

SP: Well, then, shall we?

BF:  Yes, please.

SP:  Tell me about Unpunished Murder. Who was massacred and where is Colfax?

BF:  Colfax is a town in Louisiana that was founded in 1869. In 1873, a white supremacist militia attacked the town, the home of former slaves or "freedmen". About 100 blacks and 3 of the white militia members were killed, most of the blacks gunned down after they surrendered.

SP: And, why are you having so much trouble describing this book?

BF:  I think I waited a little too long and should have written about it immediately, like the moment I closed the book. Having said that, the book describes a fairly complex background situation.

SP: What was complex about it?

BF: It goes into details about Reconstruction and the balance of political parties, the choice of a white supremacist for vice president, the slow changeover from Abraham Lincoln's party to domination by the Democrats (who were then the party of white supremacy) and how that change of party balance altered the course of Reconstruction, closed off legal rights that freedmen had obtained, and led to the rise of white supremacist groups and state laws that restricted black rights. It goes into some detail about states' rights and laws versus federal and the why federal law was not always enforced.

Basically, the slaves were freed and the Southern whites were angry but Reconstruction was on the road to being a positive thing and blacks were happily exercising their new rights. And, then the political pendulum swung, rights were suppressed through violence and intimidation, and lawlessness and cruelty took over. I guess it's a bit complex to me because so much of it is new. I'm a fan of history but I really never have read about Reconstruction, apart from snippets saying that it was a disaster. The author argues that Reconstruction was not quite what many historians have claimed. I feel like I need to reread it for the details to fully sink in, to be honest.

SP: What's the point of the book?

BF: The dual goal is both to spread the true story about what happened in Colfax (an incident I, for one, had never heard of) and to set the record straight about the fact that this particular incident was stone cold murder. Toward the end of the book, the author talks about how the slaughter of 150 black men was reframed as a riot, the whites declared heroes, and even a monument dedicated to the white murderers placed in the town.

SP: What else does it describe?

BF: It goes into great detail about how and why only a few of the men responsible for the slaughter were tried and then, eventually, nobody was punished. One man even went on to murder again and was still not brought to justice. In fact, he ended up being quite prosperous.

SP: You mentioned in one of your Monday Malarkey posts that you didn't know the correct age range for Unpunished Murder. Have you found out who the book is geared toward?

BF:  Yes, the author kindly wrote to me after he happened across my post and he clarified the age range. He said it's geared to high school, "maybe higher middle school for more advanced readers".

SP: You found it a challenging read. Why?

BF: Two reasons. So much of the information was new to me that I had to take my time to keep the political strands straight. I don't know if my education in history was awful or I just memorized instead of absorbing the information, as a kid, but till recently I'd forgotten that the parties flipped and Democrats used to be dominated by white supremacists. I found my brain didn't want to accept Republicans as the people who were trying to make sure freedmen were able to function in white society -- attend schools with whites, vote, etc. Anyway, that was the first reason.

Reason 2 is the fact that it's such a distressing story. Much like women's history (men getting credit for women's accomplishments), Black history has been rewritten or suppressed for far too long. It was only a handful of years ago that I found out about another incident, the so-called Tulsa Race Riot. That, too, was not really a riot at all but a slaughter. There are loads of contemporary illustrations and some of them describe blacks in horrifyingly demeaning terms. Reading about cruelty is miserable. Realizing that we haven't progressed that much is even more deflating. Now and then, I had to put the book down and just catch my breath. But, toward the latter half of the book I was so gripped by the story of how a bunch of men got away with murder that I stopped setting it down and read late into the night. Obviously, I knew how it was going to end (thank you, obvious title) but I had to know how and why. I knew I wouldn't get to sleep till I'd finished.

SP:  So, what's your recommendation?

BF:  I highly recommend Unpunished Murder and feel like it's a very important book -- one that needs to be taught, shared, and talked about. I'll pass my copy on to a school so that more people will have access to it because I feel like it's so necessary for as many people as possible to really understand this terrible tale from our American history.

SP: Any final remarks?

BF: Here's a website where you can read a little about the Colfax Massacre: - The Colfax Massacre

Any mistakes in my review are my own. In spite of living for decades in a city whose downfall was an important turning point in the Civil War, I honestly haven't read much about the Civil War. My lack of understanding was definitely brought home while I was reading Unpunished Murder.

SP: Thanks for the fun. I'm going to go hang out with a scratch pad and some googly eyes, now.

BF: These self-interviews really expose me as the knife in the drawer that fell into the garbage disposal, don't they? Thanks Sharpie Pen. You're an inanimate object and yet you managed to help. Amazing.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day

Before his death, Eden Wallace's husband made a reservation at a dark sky park, a place that's kept deliberately low-light so that visitors can enjoy the night sky. Eden has been both an insomniac and afraid of the dark for a while, jobless and unable to talk herself into actually taking a photograph with the camera she carries everywhere. She thinks that perhaps being forced into the darkness for a few nights will help her face her fears. But, there's only one problem.

The cabin in which Eden plans to stay is a large one with room for a number of guests. She is far from the only person planning to stay. A group of twenty-somethings has also arrived, and they're college friends. Eden's room is at the back of the cabin and separate, so she decides to stay for a night and go home. She awkwardly hangs out with the group of friends and then finds herself surprised to actually fall asleep.

Of all the nights to succeed at battling her insomnia, this was definitely not the right one. In the middle of the night, one of the other guests is murdered. Eden wakes briefly and hears some odd noises, sees someone running away after a door slams. But, then she falls back asleep and is surprised to find out there was a murder in the night. Worse, she is a suspect.

Eden knows the best way to get herself off the hook is to understand the strange friendship between the other guests and figure out who committed the crime. But, she also has to deal with her own problems and fears. When she finds out she may be sleepwalking during the rare moments she drifts off to sleep, she even must question herself. Is it possible Eden murdered a perfect stranger? If not, can she move on from the pain of her marriage and loss?

I didn't realize it would be so difficult to write briefly about Under a Dark Sky. It's a little more complex than I thought, as I was reading it. I'm not quite sure what it was about the book that sucked me in (whether it was the story or the author's voice) but Under a Dark Sky really grabbed me hard. It's a fairly slow-paced read, and yet I found it utterly captivating. I liked the slow reveal of the personalities, the tensions between the people in the group, the interaction between them and the local police, what we found out about Eden, the way mishaps continue to plague the group and each one reveals something about the people involved. And, I loved the ending.

Highly recommended - Apart from one particular element that I thought was so obvious I wanted to yell at Eden to remember what so-and-so said and she'd know the answer, I found the mystery in Under a Dark Sky just out of reach enough to suit me and the complexity of the characters satisfying. I gave the book 4 stars because that one element annoyed me a bit, but I highly recommend it because I truly, thoroughly enjoyed the reading and had trouble putting the book down. Be aware, though, that it's not a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat read but more of a slow burn.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

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

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

Books finished since last Malarkey:

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

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

Currently reading:

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

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

Last week's posts:

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

In other news:

It was a movie-watching kind of week.

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

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

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

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

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Fiona Friday - Was it something I said?

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

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

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

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

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

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

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

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

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


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

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

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

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

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Nightbooks by J. A. White

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

He nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

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

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

Books finished since last Malarkey:

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

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

Currently reading:

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

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

Last week's posts:

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

In other news:

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

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

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

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

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Fiona Friday - Peekaboo

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Never Satisfied: The Story of the Stonecutter as told by Dave Horowitz - from Nancy Paulsen Books for review
  • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See - Purchased for F2F discussion
  • News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail DeWitt - from HarperCollins for review
  • Homespun by Lorilee Craker - for book tour
  • I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan - from HarperCollins for review
  • The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson - purchased for online discussion in Open Canon Book Club

I didn't photograph these in any particular order but 2 are for discussion, 1 for book tour, 3 for review. So, a nice hodge-podge of personal purchases and review/tour books. Once again, Izzy helped me with the book photography. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Nightbooks by J. A. White
  • The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

Nightbooks is for middle readers: a nice, spooky read about a child who gets trapped in an enchanted apartment by a witch. It would make great fall reading for either a creepy/atmospheric reading challenge or a cold-weather readathon.

The Secrets Between Us is the follow-up to The Space Between Us and while there are plenty of challenging situations for the impoverished characters, Bhima's continuing story is slightly more upbeat and it has that "creating a family of your own through friendships" aspect that is among my absolute favorite types of storyline.

Currently reading:

  • Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice by Lawrence Goldstone
  • The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Unpunished Murder is about a massacre of black "freedman" in a Louisiana town by white supremacists. It took place in 1873 and the book is directed at younger readers but I'm learning a great deal. If white supremacy gets you riled up, you'll find yourself wanting to throw things while reading the book. It's very upsetting, not only to read about how blacks were murdered but how they were generally suppressed and hardly really "free" because a bunch of old white men ran the government. Worst part: so little has changed. 

The War that Saved My Life is a Newbery Honor Book that I ordered after seeing a friend's post about the follow-up book and going back to read about its predecessor. It tells the story of a disabled British girl who becomes determined to learn to walk, in spite of her ruined ankle, and what happens when she and her brother are sent to the country to escape the Blitz. I'm enjoying it immensely, so far. 

Last week's posts:

Yay, I had a terrific posting week! At the end of the week, I had only one book remaining on my list that has not been reviewed: Don Quixote. Of course, now I've added a couple more but I've been keeping caught up in a way I don't normally do and I'm happy about that.

In other news:

I had a second day of binge-watching Our Girl and finished it up. Our Girl is pretty binge-worthy because of the exciting action scenes and serial storyline. While I felt like the introduction to the new starring soldier, Georgie, was somewhat lacking, by the time you've watched her two-part intro you have a good feel for the character and know that she's every bit as spunky as her predecessor. Captain James, Molly Dawes' commanding officer and love interest in the first season, is still the commander and occasionally mentions Molly. But, there's a new love triangle. Lance Corporal Georgie Lane was abandoned at the alter. When she goes on a humanitarian mission in Kenya and is kidnapped, Special Forces comes to the rescue. But, the team leader just happens to be the groom who backed out of marrying Georgie. Georgie is now engaged to a doctor back home in Manchester. Bit of tension, there.

Wow, that Manchester accent is challenging! I always turn on the subtitles but I still had to rewind, occasionally, because the words I was hearing didn't sound anything like I'd heard them before. "Fear" was the one word I kept rewinding and rewinding to hear again. It doesn't sound like fear at all, to me. I finally began to get a hang of the accent as the season was ending and there's no Season 3 available, yet, so I may actually watch it again for the fun of getting to know a new accent.

Husband was gone most of the week, so we didn't watch anything together till this weekend. We opted to continue 800 Words and enjoyed the second episode. We also watched an episode of Death in Paradise, which we've decided we may return to watching regularly, now that the second detective (whom neither of us liked) has moved on.

I never mention it, but Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives is a favorite show that we dip into, whenever we can't make up our minds about what to watch. My eldest son says he can't tolerate the show, but we both enjoy it because we like seeing what's put into the various dishes and storing up ideas for places to go when we travel. Huzzybuns does more traveling than I do, of course, so he's tried several restaurants he's seen on DDD. I think I've only tried one and I wasn't thrilled with it but it was pizza that we brought back to the hotel room and it likely would have tasted better fresh out of the oven. We also watched a little of The Barefoot Contessa and picked out a couple recipes we want to try.

I almost forgot our last TV indulgence! I started watching The Quatermass Experiment without knowing any of its history and finished it up with Huz, after he got home from travel. He'd read up on it and was able to tell me that it was originally a 1950s serial that was redone as a live television film in 2005. It was the 2005 production with David Tennant that we watched. Very fun and creepy. I had no idea it was a live production until Huz blurted out that little bit of info while we were watching. He also told me they used the exact same script, which I didn't find surprising at all. You can definitely tell.

Other than TV, we cleaned all weekend because we're expecting guests in a little over a month and need to get serious about de-cluttering. I was a KonMari failure, so we're doing our own thing. So far, so good. I managed to get together with a teacher to give her a couple sacks full of children's books, last week and I did some trading when we were in Tulsa, but I'm going to have to work harder at weeding out old books that I'm no longer interested in reading.

How was your weekend?

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Fiona Friday - Inspection

Inspector Izzy must approve of the books before they're photographed. They passed.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans

It's been a few weeks since I read Wed Wabbit and I remember it well but I'm going to default to the cover blurb before going on to elaborate in my own words:

Fidge is having a bad week. She's been flung into a bizarre world alongside three companions: two are deeply weird and the third is her awful cousin Graham. 

She has to solve a series of nearly impossible clues, defeat a dictator who can't pronounce the letter 'r' and deal with three thousand Wimbley Woos (yes, you read that sentence correctly). 

And the whole situation - the whole entire thing - is her fault.

So, let's unpack that a bit. Fidge is a British girl because Lissa Evans is British and I ordered this book from across the pond, since I was ordering another of Evans' books (a new book, Old Baggage) and it seemed like as good an excuse as any to throw one of her children's books into the cart. Fidge's little sister, Minnie, has a favorite book -- a book about the Wimbley Woos. They're tube-shaped creatures (maybe a bit like hotdogs with arms and legs) and each color of the Wimbley Woos has specific characteristics. Minnie also has a set of stuffed toys, one of which she calls "Wed Wabbit" because she can't say the letter 'r', or maybe just doesn't want to because everyone thinks her pronunciation is cute.

Something terrible happens to Minnie and when it does, Fidge is sent to stay with her cousin Graham. Graham has problems of his own. He's pretty much afraid of everything, so he's homeschooled and babied and really annoying. It's not entirely clear how this happens (and it really doesn't matter how) but there's a flash of lightning and Fidge and Graham are transported into Minnie's favorite book, along with a couple of toys. In Wimbley World, the Wimbley Woos are in loads of trouble since an evil creature crashed into the castle and ousted the king.

As you've already read in the cover blurb, Fidge has to unravel a series of clues to save the day and escape from Wimbley World. In the process, they have to work with the Wimbleys, who speak only in rhyme. Graham is the character who grows the most during the book, as he learns to face his fears. I think watching him change and realize that the world isn't really so scary at all is one of the most gratifying things about Wed Wabbit. But, I also love Fidge's clear love for her sister. Sure, she's an adorable nuisance and really irritating, but Fidge still adores Minnie.

Highly recommended - The main reason I'm besotted with Lissa Evans' storytelling is her sense of humor. Everything she writes is imbued with her sparkling wit and Wed Wabbit is no exception. The king, who was lazy about rhyming and not particularly interested in being a king, especially had me laughing out loud. Incidentally, I delayed reviewing Wed Wabbit until I'd checked to see if it's available in the US. Yep, it is. Lucky Americans. Wed Wabbit is such a delight that I found myself imagining young me in my beanbag chair, reading it over and over again. I would have devoured it as a kid and I hope someday I'll be able to share it with my grandchildren.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

First things first. I've already read Born a Crime and reviewed it, once. So, here's my 2016 review of Born a Crime. This time, I read the book for group discussion and then it rained on the night of the meeting. I won't drive the 30 miles to my book group when it rains because the traffic is a little too dangerous driving through our God-kicked-over-the-bucket downpours, but I did get to talk to our group's host to see what people thought.

The general consensus was that everyone loved the book and thought it was a nice, light read for summer. I didn't get to hear any specifics, otherwise, but my friend Jeanine gave me permission to quote her thoughts from an email:

"This was one of the most entertaining books I have read in a long time. I thought it gave an interesting take on what it's like being on the inside of Apartheid while still managing to keep things moving and sparing us the most agonizing details. That's good for a summer read. At the same time, it's a good lesson about the resiliency of the human spirit in difficult circumstances." 

I had some thoughts that were a bit different, this time around, and I'll just mention one thing that meant a bit more to me. The first time I read Born a Crime, I had not yet been to South Africa. So it was interesting, the second time, reading about Trevor Noah's time in the townships and actually having a frame of reference. We would call townships the poor side of town or maybe something like the "projects". He does a great job of describing what they look like. You see a lot of tin shacks and small houses built from blocks, stores set up inside shipping containers, and sometimes just a random wall or set of walls. I wondered about the walls. He said people will at first build a shack and then they'll slowly build on by adding a wall at a time and then eventually putting on a roof. But, they're people who have very little money so it takes time to build and that's why you'll see these really random looking walls beside the shacks.

I flipped through my pictures from Langa, a township in the Cape Town area and found a shot of some smaller tin homes next to houses:

Langa doesn't look slummy; it's a poor area but really a fairly tidy, functioning community. The thing that interested me the most was the fact that it's pretty much an island unto itself, according to the man who took us on a tour through the township. Some people leave to work jobs in the city but you can do all of your shopping, get a haircut, order phone service, and go to school, etc., within the township. It's a necessity for the township to function that way because not everyone has access or the money to afford transportation to the big city, which in this case was Cape Town. That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Born a Crime:

People always lecture the poor: "Take responsibility for yourself! Make something of yourself!" But with what raw materials are the poor to make something of themselves?

People love to say, "Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll eat for a lifetime." What they don't say is, "And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod."

~from p. 190 of Born a Crime

Highly recommended - One of my top 5 memoirs of all time. I need to find a copy of this book on audio because I've heard it's even better hearing it read by Noah. It would definitely be helpful to hear some of the African words pronounced. A wonderful true story of life as an outsider in his own country, life during Apartheid and after, life as a poor person who learned that humor makes anything bearable. I just can't say enough positive things about this book.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar is a book that I reread to familiarize myself with the story before moving on to The Secrets Between Us, the follow-up by the same author. Because I read The Space Between Us in 2006, just before I began blogging, I've never reviewed it anywhere beyond the website for HarperCollins' long-defunct First Look program, so I'm unable to link back to my thoughts at the time I first read it.

The Space Between Us is the story of Bhima and her relationship to her employer, Sera Dubash. Bhima has been working for Sera for 30 years. During that time, she has helped raise Sera's children, tended to the bruises inflicted by Sera's cruel husband and helped her through his death, cooked, shopped, cleaned. She's been a part of Sera's life and Sera has treated her well, yet looked down at Bhima as a resident of a Bombay slum, at the same time. Now, Bhima's granddaughter, Maya, has fallen pregnant. Sera has been paying for Maya's college education as a kindness to Bhima.

As Bhima tends to a granddaughter who is both depressed and suffering from morning sickness, she is often late for work and Sera is gradually becoming frustrated. The Dubash family encourages Bhima to take Maya for an abortion, the only way she can be saved from ruining her chances at finishing her education and hopefully improve her lot in life. While the present dilemma is described, the stories of both women unfold -- their marriages, hardships, and how the two women comforted each other through many crises. But, resentment is growing on both sides and when Bhima makes a shocking discovery, what will happen?

Highly recommended - Masterful storytelling. When I started reading The Space Between Us for the second time, I remembered more the feeling of the book than the story itself. I knew it had left me moved and uplifted, but beyond that I didn't remember a thing apart from where it was set and the fact that the main character had a rough life. So, I wasn't sure what to expect at all. Bhima's story is a tale of someone whose life gradually falls apart. She didn't begin her marriage in the slums and it's hard reading about the family's downfall. But, it ends on a glorious, hopeful note.

I think the most outstanding thing about The Space Between Us is the power of its shifting perspectives and the use of memories. Umrigar unfolds the two women's stories brilliantly, taking you back and forth in time to show their unfolding stories so seamlessly that you never get the sensation that you're leaping back and forth so much as the impression that the colors and dimensions of their lives and personalities are being filled in. Wonderful writing and I'm glad I had an excuse to revisit this story.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (purchased)
  • D-Day: The World War II Invasion That Changed History by Deborah Hopkinson,
  • The Grand Escape by Neal Bascomb, and 
  • Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice by Lawrence Goldstone - all from Scholastic 
  • Buttermilk Graffitti by Edward Lee,
  • The Other Woman by Sandie Jones, and 
  • How to Walk Away by Katherine Center, all from my delightful friend, Paula

This always happens. I declare myself budget-conscious and ARC-avoiding and a pile shows up. Yes, I'm laughing. At least I only bought one book (although, actually, there's another on the way). The three books from Scholastic were totally unexpected but I'm pretty sure I signed up to read them via Shelf Awareness. I just didn't know if anything would show up, as is often the case with SA. To be honest, it's been very difficult keeping my hands off those three -- especially D-Day. I may just have to read early and pre-post my reviews (they're late August releases). The other three books are ARCs that my friend Paula got duplicates of, as I recall. I completely forgot they were coming, even after she reminded me.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar 

The latter two books were both rereads. Once again, I missed book group due to rain, but I enjoyed rereading Born a Crime immensely. It's such a terrific book and a great learning experience about Apartheid, the concept of "divide and conquer" and how it can be used to turn people against each other so that those in a minority can grab political power, and the amazing power of humor in difficulty. I could not be more impressed with Trevor Noah and his mother.

I just finished The Space Between Us, last night, and went straight into the reading of its follow-up, The Secrets Between Us. I thought I'd need a break between the two but instead I wanted to keep reading to see what will happen to Bhima and Maya, an elderly woman and her granddaughter who live in a Bombay slum. The Space Between Us has the most beautiful ending. It's a harsh book but I can see why -- even after forgetting the details of Bhima's story completely -- I still had a little warm corner of my heart that remembered the feeling the book left me with.

Currently reading:

  • The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar 
  • Nightbooks by J. A. White

So far, so good on The Secrets Between Us. It picked up right where The Space Between Us left off and then jumped forward by a year.

Nightbooks appears to be a middle grade story and it has a nice, creepy beginning. I only read one chapter before my eyes became heavy (after finishing The Space Between Us and reading about 40 pages of The Secrets Between Us) but I'm looking forward to reading more, tonight.

Last week's posts:

Last week was a great blogging week because I was able to get everything pre-posted and then just put up links at Facebook and Twitter, each day, and walk away. That works so much better for me than getting up in the morning to write each day's posts, but I don't always get around to pre-posting.

In other news:

Huzzybuns was away on business, last week, so I just guessed at which show he was least likely to care about missing out on if I went ahead and watched it and I settled on Our Girl (it turns out I was correct -- he felt no attachment to the show and didn't mind that I watched without him). I finished the entire first season and thought they did an excellent job of wrapping up Molly's story. If the actress who played Molly had chosen to return, it would have worked fine. But, the fact that she was unable to continue the series meant an entirely new starring role. Georgie Lane is now our girl and it took a while to warm up to her. You don't get to know her backstory -- why she joined the army, that is -- the way you do with Molly Dawes. But, the first episode was a two-part episode in which she was kidnapped by the bad guys and that served to introduce her as the new, plucky, resourceful, and tough replacement that one would hope for. I'm looking forward to more, this week.

That's really the only thing I watched and I kind of binged on Our Girl, on a day when I had a migraine, it was raining, and I knew I was going to miss my book group so I was feeling gloomy. I'm not a big binge-watcher, but it's nice to do that, now and then, when you need to put your head in a different place to get over yourself.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Fiona Friday - Comfort kitty

I took this picture of Isabel on a day when I was in a terrible mood. I was cleaning house, doing laundry, tidying corners. Wherever I sat down to work, she curled up nearby and every time she settled near me I felt just a little bit better. Cats are the best.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

Pencils sharpened in their case.
Bells are ringing, let's make haste.
School's beginning, dreams to chase.
All are welcome here. 

All Are Welcome is a cute rhyming book that takes place at a school and shows the children arriving, doing their everyday schoolwork, going to lunch, playing on the playground, being read to, drawing, raising their hands to be called on, playing musical instruments, etc. Each verse ends with, "All are welcome here," and the characters portrayed show a vast diversity, as you can see from the cover image.

This is one of my favorite spreads (you should be able to click on the image to enlarge it):

The inside of the book jacket is also a poster that says "All are welcome here" and shows a diverse range of children holding hands, great for classroom use.

Recommended - A lovely story about embracing diversity with bright, cheerful illustrations that show happy children enjoying learning. I love it!

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Bi-annual reading update


1. Saving Tarboo Creek - Scott Freeman and Susan Leopold Freeman
2. Forty Autumns - Nina Willner
3. The Bones of Grace - Tahmima Anam
4. Braving the Wilderness - Brené Brown
5. The Dry - Jane Harper
6. Milk and Honey - Rupi Kaur
7. If This Isn't Nice, What Is? - Kurt Vonnegut
8. A Nest for Celeste - Henry Cole
9. Another Quest for Celeste - Henry Cole
10. Bagel in Love - Natasha Wing and Helen Dardik
11. Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
12. The Wife Between Us - Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
13. The Radium Girls - Kate Moore
14. Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night - Dee Leone and Bali Engel
15. A Couch for Llama - Leah Gilbert
16. Artemis - Andy Weir
17. Force of Nature - Jane Harper


18. Down and Across - Arvin Ahmadi
19. Al Franken, Giant of the Senate - Al Franken
20. The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas
21. Being Mortal - Atul Gawande
22. Only Killers and Thieves - Paul Howarth
23. I Am the Boss of this Chair - Carolyn Crimi and Marisa Morea
24. The Statue and the Fury - Jim Dees
25. Our Native Bees - Paige Embry


26. The Brontë Sisters - Catherine Reef
27. Black Fortunes - Shomari Wills
28. Nothing Left to Burn - Heather Ezell
29. The Broken Girls - Simone St. James
30. Orphan Monster Spy - Matt Killeen
31. The Saboteur - Paul Nix
32. The Woman Next Door - Yewande Omotoso
33. Supergifted - Gordon Korman
34. Good Behavior - Blake Crouch
35. Bus! Stop! - James Yang
36. Up in the Leaves - Shira Boss and Jamey Christoph
37. Gloria's Voice - Aura Lewis


38. Princesses Behaving Badly - Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
39. The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody - Matthew Landis
40. Look for Her - Emily Winslow
41. Rocket Men - Robert Kurson
42. If You Come Softly - Jacqueline Woodson
43. Sleep Train - Jonathan London and Lauren Eldridge
44. But the Bear Came Back - Tammi Sauer and Dan Taylor
45. Albie Newton - Josh Funk and Ester Garay
46. How to Forget a Duke - Vivienne Lorret
47. Lincoln in the Bardo - George Saunders
48. Isosceles' Day - Kevin Meehan
49. Tin Man - Sarah Winman
50. Warren the 13th and The Whispering Woods - Tania del Rio and Will Staehle
51. The Reckless Rescue (The Explorers #2) - Adrienne Kress
52. Daddies Do - Lezlie Evans and Elisa Ferro
53. Boots on the Ground - Elizabeth Partridge


54. Mad Boy - Nick Arvin
55. The Endless Beach - Jenny Colgan
56. Obscura - Joe Hart
57. Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng
58. Out of Left Field - Ellen Klages
59. Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor - Yossi Klein Halevi
60. The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik - David Arnold
61. The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) - Terri-Lynne DeFino


62. Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes
63. Hollywood Beach Beauties - David Wills
64. Goodbye, Sweet Girl - Kelly Sundberg
65. Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue - Jeff Seymour
66. As You Wish - Cary Elwes and Joe Layden
67. Siracusa - Delia Ephron
68. Abridged Classics - John Atkinson
69. Wed Wabbit - Lissa Evans

I'm usually pretty awful at doing the end-of-year round-ups, these days, so I decided to do a 6-month wrap-up, instead -- and, hopefully, I'll also do this at the end of the year. As of this point in time, I've written at least a line or two about every book except Don Quixote and Wed Wabbit, so you can click on the links to see either my reviews or a short description in a monthly reads-in-review post, depending upon whether or not I reviewed them.

My goal in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2018 is 100 books so every book is a percentage point and that means I finished 69% of the books I've challenged myself to read this year, by the end of June. Admittedly, I did set the goal line deliberately low. My average tends to fall around 125 books in a year with a peak of 202 in 2009. Roger Ebert actually tweeted a link to my complete "Books Read" list when I posted the 2009 list in 2010, so it was a peak in more ways than one.

As to the first half of 2018, I think it's been pretty terrific, in general. Because I devoted several months to Don Quixote, I've only read two classics in 2018: the other is Flowers for Algernon. Both were marvelous in entirely different ways. I was both depressed and impressed by Flowers for Algernon. I was alternately entertained, horrified, bogged down and delighted by Don Quixote.

Some favorites: 

  • The Dry and Force of Nature by Jane Harper are my favorite mysteries. 
  • Forty Autumns by Nina Willner, Saving Tarboo Creek by Freeman and Freeman, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken, Our Native Bees by Paige Embry, The Saboteur by Paul Nix, Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, Rocket Men by Robert Kurson, Boots on the Ground by Elizabeth Partridge (a children's book), and As You Wish by Cary Elwes are favorite nonfiction titles.
  • Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night by Leone and Engel, A Couch for Llama by Leah Gilbert, The Brontë Sisters by Catherine Reef, Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen, Bus! Stop! by James Yang, Up in the Leaves by Boss and Christoph, The Not-so-Boring Letters of Private Nobody by Matthew Landis, If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson, and Wed Wabbit are favorite children's books (for a variety of ages, from preschool through YA). 
  • Some other fiction favorites (again, a variety) are Artemis by Andy Weir, The Broken Girls by Simone St. James, The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso, Tin Man by Sarah Winman, Mad Boy by Nick Arvin, and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.

Of all those books, the ones I seem to think about the most are Mad Boy by Nick Arvin, Tin Man by Sarah Winman, The Saboteur by Paul Nix, Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, and Al Franken, Giant of the Senate -- all for different reasons. Mad Boy was unique, made me smile and cringe, and I would say definitely is my favorite of 2018, so far. Tin Man had a character who was a little obsessed with Vincent Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" series and I keep seeing references to those paintings that take me back to the book. I learned about the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in The Saboteur and it was frequently mentioned in Foyle's WarBeing Mortal keeps coming to mind because I've been thinking about the future and how we'll handle both retirement and end-of-life decisions, one day. And, I just loved Al Franken, Giant of the Senate

A good first half of the year, I think. Onward!

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris

Brace yourself for something rare. I finished a book I confess I should have abandoned. That doesn't happen often!

Bring Me Back is the story of Finn, a man whose girlfriend disappeared at a rest stop in France 12 years before the book begins. Layla was in the car when he left; when he returned she was gone and so were two of the other vehicles that were parked when they arrived at the rest stop. Was she kidnapped or did she run away? No sign of her has been found.

Now engaged to her sister, Ellen, Finn is disturbed when a former police officer who became his friend phones to say that the elderly man who lives next door to the old cottage Finn and Layla shared, which has been locked up since a short time after her disappearance, has spotted Layla. Then, small Matryoshka dolls start showing up in places that Finn and Ellen will easily find them. Finn and Ellen both know the meaning of the dolls. Finally, Finn begins to receive emails asking about his cottage in Devon and then clues about Layla after Finn realizes the emails are too much of a coincidence and questions the sender. What's going on? Is Layla alive? If so, why doesn't she just show up instead of dropping hints? Is it her kidnapper toying with Finn? Or, could the emails be the job of an ex-girlfriend of Finn's, now that he's engaged to Ellen?

Not recommended - I gave this book 3 stars and I'm rethinking that rating. Midway through the book, I considered abandoning it. It had become repetitive -- another doll found, another email, the sender is off his or her rocker. Finn theorizes, Finn walks back his theories after eliminating people from the suspect list, another doll is found, and another and another and another. I found it less compelling than exhausting. And, the ending was simply impossible to buy.

Would I read this author again? Oddly, yes, but only if the book comes highly recommended. I was quickly immersed in the story, even if I later decided it wasn't going anywhere and the ending was implausible. I've heard B. A. Paris's first book was excellent. If I do ever read it, I'll check it out from the library. I would definitely give her a second chance. But, I just don't feel like Bring Me Back was worth the time I spent on it.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman (purchased)

Only one arrival, this week. I'm on a strict budget (thanks to needing to replace our deck) and also not requesting many books, right now, so there may very well be a dearth of arrivals in the near future. If so, this is a good thing. I'm completely surrounded by books. I trip over them, my cats knock them off tables. It's ridiculous. I really need to not acquire (like that's going to happen). OK, I need to try hard not to acquire. Anyway, I gave in to temptation after Sara Ackerman made a guest visit to a Facebook book group I'm in. I was intrigued by what she had to say about her book, its setting, and her inspiration. Plus, it's WWII and you know my weakness for anything set during WWII, right?

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Who Was George Washington Carver? by Jim Gigliotti
  • Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris
  • Who Was Genghis Khan? by Nico Medina

Currently reading:

  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

Both books are rereads. I'm rereading Born a Crime for F2F discussion. The Space Between Us I'm rereading to jog my memory because it's been 12 years since I read it (pre-blog); I decided I needed to reread it before moving on to the new follow-up book. My copy of The Space Between Us is one of the few ARCs from the HarperCollins First Look program that I hung onto because I loved it too much to part with it. 

New "Current Reads" policy: I will only mention the books I've read during the past week. If I've got a bookmark in other books but didn't touch them, I'll just skip mentioning them till I've actually read a few pages. It doesn't bother me a bit that some books sit idle for weeks and end up taking me a month or more to read because I set them aside for lengthy periods of time, but I do get weary of mentioning them when I haven't read a single page during the previous week. 

Last week's posts:

In other news:

We finished Foyle's War! I'm sad to be done with it, but we've found a couple other things to watch. Besides Our Girl, we started from the beginning of Doc Martin. The original two movies that inspired the series caught us a little off-guard as we had no idea there were any such movies and at first thought we were watching a pilot episode.

We watched both movies and will probably alternate between Our Girl and the Doc Martin series. Next up should be the pilot to the series, which I can't recall seeing, although Huzzybuns is certain that he's viewed it and I probably have, too. We've seen about 4 seasons of Doc Martin but not necessarily all in order because it used to be shown at an awkward hour -- something like 9PM on a Friday night.

And, this week I joined The Open Canon Book Club (click on the name to go to the site describing it), a new book club created by author Wiley Cash for the purpose of reading diverse American voices. The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson is the first selection. A number of North Carolina bookshops (and one in South Carolina) are offering a discount on the selections to members of the group -- you can find out all about it by clicking the link.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.