Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Reckless Rescue (The Explorers #2) by Adrienne Kress

Change of pace! I've just finished The Explorers: The Reckless Rescue at 12:39 AM, my time (I know . . . good grief) so I'm opting to use a format I used waaaaay back in 2007. Yes, really, I've been blogging for-freaking-ever. The idea is to make it easy reviewing because I'm beat. Either way, I'm going to tell you about the book, so whatever works, right?

What led you to pick up this book?

I read the first book in the series The Explorers: The Door in the Alley in June of 2017 and loved it. Adventure! Humor! Danger! It's crazy fun, enough so that I was not even put off by the cliffhanger ending. And, I hate cliffhanger endings. So, when a thoughtful publicist offered to let me review the second in the series, I jumped at the chance. Here's a link to my review of the first book:

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. 

Sebastian has been kidnapped by three dangerous men because he holds the key to an important map in his photographic memory. Evie has promised to rescue him. When Sebastian ends up running from his kidnappers after landing in Korea, Evie travels with Catherine (one of the Filipendulous Five explorers) to Australia to find someone who can help them locate a man who has part of the map whose key Sebastian has memorized. But, wherever they go, danger follows.

What did you like most about the book?

Adrienne Kress has a knack for combining silly humor with fast-paced scenes -- lots of running, climbing, jumping, dodging, racing around corners, etc. I love it all. I also loved the way the author used a K-Pop band -- something I'm sure young readers will appreciate -- to add a little unusual flavor to Sebastian's story.

What did you think of the main character?

There are really two main characters: Sebastian and Evie. The book alternates between their two stories and I like them both. Sebastian is a rule-follower and in this story he must break rules, now and then, to save his hide. Evie is every bit as smart as Sebastian but her brain works a little different and they tend to complement each other. I appreciate a smart heroine.

Share some quotes from the book.

Oops, I didn't mark any quotes. But, the chapter headings are every bit as fun as the story, itself (and so are the footnotes), so here's a chapter heading:

Chapter 38: In which everything comes to a head. Or whatever body part you feel like, really. 

See? Silly. I love silliness. The storyline is really so fast-paced that I didn't take the time to mark anything. Talk about silly.

Share a favorite scene from the book:

I love the action scenes -- all of them -- and there are quite a few. At the beginning, for example, there's a bit of turbulence on the plane (which is why Sebastian ends up in Korea . . . not the final destination) and when they land, Sebastian does something daring and runs for his life. The author does a fantastic job of writing just enough description that you understand exactly what is happening but it's minimal, at the same time. So, the pages just fly. And, that probably was one of my favorite scenes.

Highly recommended - At the end of my review of the first book in The Explorers series, I reiterated my hatred for cliffhangers. Oh, how I loathe them. Did I tell you I'm not a fan of cliffhangers? I like a book to stand on its own. These don't, sorry, and I do dislike that. But, this series is so fiercely, hilariously entertaining that I'm not entirely peeved that there are clearly two more to come and The Reckless Rescue ended, again, on a cliffhanger. In fact, this cliffhanger made me literally laugh out loud. Best cliffhanger ending ever. I hope I'm still on somebody's list of reviewers when #3 comes out. I did have trouble understanding what was going on, at first. It took a while for my memory to warm up. But, the author just throws you into the active volcano of her imagination and you can't help but get blown right into the action, so . . . who cares what happened in the first one? OK, yeah, at some point you need to figure it out. But, while you're remembering, you'll be having an awful lot of fun, I promise.

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Regrets Only by Erin Duffy - from HarperCollins for review
  • The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold - from Penguin for book tour

I love the pop-art psychedelic look of that Noah Hypnotik cover, don't you? So eye-catching.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
  • Isosceles' Day by Kevin Meehan
  • Tin Man by Sarah Winman
  • Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle

Currently reading:

  • Don Quixote by Cervantes
  • The Explorers: The Reckless Rescue by Adrienne Kress

I committed to doing a review of The Explorers: The Reckless Rescue tomorrow and I've barely begun to read it, so wish me luck and quick reading. As to Don Quixote . . . I'm not even going to set goals, for now, I'm doing so badly. I'm considering taking a week off of everything else (reading other books, blogging) to finish it up, soon. We shall see. I'm ready to be done with it.

Last week's posts:

In other news:

I just accidentally discovered the show Psych. I know I'm behind the times but I was trying to look up one thing and happened across Psych, instead, so I played the first episode of Season 1 and I'm totally hooked. For a few years, my niece used to make excited posts every time Psych came on or was about to come on and I just ignored them. I had no idea what the show was about and we tend to have pretty different taste in TV. I might pay a bit more pay attention to her posts, in the future. Wow, what a fun series! I'm also enjoying the third Doctor in Dr. Who. We actually met Jon Pertwee many, many years ago when he came to the Big City to speak (and brought the car, Bessie).

Fiona loves TV time because it's her lap time, so I'm sure she'll appreciate the fact that I've found something new to watch.

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

Fiona Friday - Biscuit making in progress

Cooking is very serious business. 

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Having never loved or been loved in that previous place, they were frozen here in a youthful state of perpetual emotional vacuity; interested only in freedom, profligacy, and high-jinks, railing against any limitation or commitment whatsoever. 

~from. p. 118, description of three young male ghosts

Well, what of it. 
No one who has ever done anything worth doing has gone uncriticized. As regards the matter at hand (as regards him), I am, at least, above any--
Thus thought Mr. Lincoln.
But then his (our) eyes shut, in a slow remembering sorrow-wince. 

~p. 236

Lincoln in the Bardo is a tale of life and death, ghosts and letting go. Willie Lincoln has just died and his father has taken him out of what the ghosts in the bardo call his "sick box" (his coffin). In his grief, President Lincoln attempts to will his son back to life. Now, Willie's trapped between life and whatever comes next. I had to look up the word "bardo" and found that it's a Buddhist term for the place between death and the next life. I'm not sure that's how Saunders uses the term. It feels more like a place to avoid heaven or hell, one in which it requires some effort to stay or into which one is thrown when someone refuses to let go (as in Willie's case).

I've heard people describe Lincoln in the Bardo as "weird, really weird" and that's true. It's certainly offbeat and unusual. But, Saunders is pretty much the King of Weird, in my opinion. His imagination is boundless, his use of the English language masterful, his storytelling strong, his use of metaphor mind-boggling (I'm thinking mostly of his other work when referring to metaphor), and his characterization beyond reproach. So, while the story may be an odd one, I always got the sense that Saunders knew exactly where he was taking the reader and why -- and he did it with flair.

Those last few pages definitely make it clear what the author was trying to say in his unique way: Life is grand, enjoy it while you can.

Highly recommended - I gave Lincoln in the Bardo 4 out of 5 stars because it was not a book that grabbed me and held on, but I can't take off more than a point. The writing is so skillful that it's hard to criticize anything about Lincoln in the Bardo beyond saying that it's weird and jumpy. If only for the fact that Saunders set his story in a place that required the creation of dozens of different voices, you have to admire the craftsmanship involved.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

March 2018 Reads in Review

March reads (click on title to read full review, with one exception):

26. The Brontë Sisters by Catherine Reef - A biography of the Brontë family for younger readers (YA, I think) that is comprehensive enough for adults to enjoy and will make the reader eager to read or reread the Brontës. Includes some wonderful photographs to help fill out their story.

27. Black Fortunes by Shomari Wills - The intertwined biographies of the first six black millionaires in the United States. I've struggled with reviewing this book because it faded from memory quickly (also, I didn't get to it soon enough), but I do recall both enjoying it and wishing the stories had been told as separate bios rather than jumping around from one millionaire's story to another.

28. Nothing Left to Burn by Heather Ezell - A wildfire, a mystery (Who set the fire?), guilt, depression, and a relationship that seems outwardly strong but may be dysfunctional are at the heart of this gripping but immensely disturbing YA. I couldn't put it down.

29. The Broken Girls by Simone St. James - Two murderers have left bodies on the same property, near Idlewild Hall: one in 1994 and one in 2014. Are the murders connected? And, does a girl who went missing in 1950 have anything to do with the murders? A wonderful suspense.

30. Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen - A YA set in WWII about a Jewish girl with Aryan features but no papers who is on the run after her mother is killed. After finding a friend who is also in danger, she goes undercover in a Nazi girls' boarding school, charged with befriending a scientist's daughter to find important information about a terrifying new bomb. Another fantastic book.

31. The Saboteur by Paul Nix - The true story of a French aristocrat who joined the Resistance and heroically risked his life on a number of important missions. He also was captured several times. The action scenes are movie-worthy.

32. The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso - The story of two elderly women who hate each other. One is black, one white. Both experienced painful rejection but neither can see what they have in common. When disaster strikes, the women are thrown together. Will they ever learn to get along? A reread and even more wonderful the second time. F2F discussion of this book was amazing.

33. Supergifted by Gordon Korman - A gifted boy, challenging himself by joining a cheerleading squad in the normal school he attends (after being kicked out of the academy for gifted children) pretends to be the hero who stopped a disaster from potentially killing a family when he realizes his friend needs to keep his heroics a secret. But, when his fame gets out of hand and his friendship with the real hero is threatened, what will happen? A smart, funny book for middle readers.

34. Good Behavior by Blake Crouch - Three novellas about Letty Dobesh, a meth addict and thief who wants to break free from her addictions but is constantly tempted and ends up in several very dangerous situations. Loved the tense pacing in these stories.

35. Bus! Stop! by James Yang - A children's picture book about an unnamed boy who misses his bus and then finds that all of the buses that show up at his stop are very, very odd. Low on words, high on fun, each bus that passes is crazier than the last. Absolutely delightful.

36. Up in the Leaves by Shira Boss and Jamey Christoph - The true story (picture book) of a boy who lived in New York City and hated the crowds, so he escaped to Central Park and built tree houses to hide out in. Each year, they were taken down in the fall and each spring he built a newer, more elaborate treehouse, till he was offered a job working in the park, trimming trees. A wonderful story!

37. Gloria's Voice by Aura Lewis - The true story of Gloria Steinem's life for very young feminists, this picture book uses age-appropriate wording for the very young but also includes a more detailed bio and page-by-page descriptions of what's happening in each spread, so that it also offers further information for older children, a really great way to make a book grow with a child.

March was such a fantastic month it's hard to believe. I can't even pick favorites. I pretty much loved everything. Even Black Fortunes, which I found difficult to read because of the way the various bios were intertwined rather than separated, was fascinating and well worth reading. The Saboteur was the other book I found rather slow, because the exciting action scenes were buffered by a great deal of background. But, I'm glad I read them. Everything else was so fantastic there's hardly any purpose to saying much more about them.

At any rate, it was a terrific month for quality. In case you're wondering, the stamp at the top of the book pile is there because Bus! Stop! is a long book but the shortest in height. So, I put Bus! Stop! at the top because of its size but then needed something to weigh it down so it wouldn't topple off the pile.

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

February 2018 Reads in Review


18. Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi - A very unique YA about an Iranian American, Saaket (also called Scott), who has not found his passion and goes on a road trip to find the professor he thinks can help him find the "grit" he needs to stick with something long enough to determine what exactly it is he wants to do with his life. I liked the uniqueness and how the author pulled the strands of the storyline together, although I found the storytelling sometimes a bit uneven.

19. Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken - More than a funny book by a satirist, Al Franken tells the story of how he became a Democrat and then a senator and all about learning how to work for the people without embarrassing himself or his family. An amazing book, both entertaining and educational.

20. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (e-book) - The story of a black girl who witnesses the senseless shooting of a friend by a police officer and must make the decision whether to stay quiet about the injustice or become an activist in memory of her friend. Deeply moving and especially great for discussion. I had trouble with the vernacular and that made the book slightly lesser for me, but discussing it helped me to understand it in ways that I couldn't through the fog of language frustration and expanded its meaning for me.

21. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande - One of the best nonfiction works I've ever read, the story of the author's slowly growing understanding of how we need to change our way of looking at end-of-life decision-making. His own father's decline and his life as a doctor both informed the author's perception of how we should treat the elderly and the dying -- with focus on quality of life and making sure family understands and supports the individual's wishes for fulfilling what's most important during their final years. Everyone should read this -- truly, everyone.

22. Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth - A brutal fictional tale about two boys who experience tragedy and make the mistake, in their grief, of joining up with a group of men who claim to be in search of revenge for the sake of the teenagers but really have their own cruel ends in mind. Set in Australia, I found the setting vivid in both good and bad ways (some scenes were almost unbearable). I particularly enjoyed the ending, which is immensely satisfying after many pages of hideous violence.

23. I Am the Boss of this Chair by Carolyn Crimi and Marisa Morea - An adorable picture book about a cat whose territory is invaded by the newly adopted kitten in his home. When he can no longer stand watching the kitten take over his toys, his door, and his chair, he chases the kitten around the house, unexpectedly discovering that it's fun having a companion around to play with and cuddle.

24. The Statue and the Fury by Jim Dees - The host of Oxford, Mississippi's Thacker Mountain Radio Show and a local journalist, Dees describes a single year in Oxford, when the residents were fighting over the downing of trees, whether or not to put up a statue in honor of its most famous resident, William Faulkner, and where to put it. Especially fun for locals and fans of Faulkner.

25. Our Native Bees by Paige Embry - An excellent nonfiction book about one woman's quest to learn all about the bees that are native to North America. Packed with gorgeous photos of bees and written with humor, the author talks about what she's learned from interviewing and hanging out with various experts, including how to identify the many different species of bees, the challenges to their existence, which bees are the best pollinators, how they're studied, how farms in need of pollinators purchase their services, and what ordinary people can do to encourage bee populations.

February is invariably my slumpiest month because I start the year with kind of a bwwwoooom noise behind my reading glasses and then at the end of the month I'm a little bit fizzled out. And, yet, it was not a bad month, quantity aside.

I particularly loved Our Native Bees, I Am the Boss of this Chair, Being Mortal, and Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. I Am the Boss of this Chair was just pure fun -- a cat book! A story that mimics my own experience with the cats in my home! I loved it. The rest of the books were learning experiences and I hope to reread Being Mortal and the Al Franken book, some time. The bee book would go on a coffee table if I had one (but I don't, so onto the good shelves it goes).

I had some issues with Down and Across. Toward the beginning of the book I was uncertain I'd finish it, but the farther I got into it the more I enjoyed it and I ended up really appreciating it for its uniqueness. It also ended well. The Statue and the Fury is fun but, again, it's not a very cohesive piece of writing. So, it wasn't a favorite but I enjoyed it very much and I know my kids will love it because they both have lived in Oxford and can appreciate the unique personalities of the local crowd.

Only Killers and Thieves and The Hate U Give were both rough reads. Violence and grief permeate both, but Only Killers is just relentlessly vicious, whereas The Hate U Give is more emotional. Only Killers is, however, a fictionalization of real-life historical events. So it's not violent for no reason; its purpose is to show a horror of the past, just as The Hate U Give is a fictionalization of the reality of "death by cop" similar to the many that have taken place in recent years. Both will gut you a bit, but both end on triumphant notes so I felt like they were well worth the horrifying scenes, although I confess there was one point in Only Killers that I just had to skim, it got so brutal.

All in all, a slow reading month but a good one, in my humble opinion. You can click through to my full reviews via the link in the title of each.

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

Monday, April 16, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals are very, very pretty:

Top to bottom:

  • Tin Man by Sarah Winman - from Penguin for review
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng - purchased for F2F discussion
  • The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino and
  • Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day - both from William Morrow for review
  • Vintage Hughes by Langston Hughes - purchased for National Poetry Month
  • Era Emilia by I. I. Mendor - from Glagoslav Publications for review
  • Mad Boy by Nick Arvin - from Europa for review
  • Boots on the Ground: America's War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge - from Viking Books for Young Readers for review

Clockwise from top left:

  • But the Bear Came Back by Tammi Sauer and Dan Taylor and
  • Albie Newton by Josh Funk and Ester Garay - both from Sterling Children's Books for review
  • Sleep Train by Jonathan London and Lauren Eldridge - from Viking for review
  • Isosceles' Day by Kevin Meehan - from The Cadence Group for review

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Rocket Men by Robert Kurson
  • If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Sleep Train by Jonathan London and Lauren Eldridge
  • But the Bear Came Back by Tammi Sauer and Dan Taylor
  • Albie Newton by Josh Funk and Ester Garay
  • How to Forget a Duke by Vivienne Lorret

This was absolutely not what I expected my week to end up like! I was already reading Rocket Men and anticipated finishing that and then reading If You Come Softly, yes. But, then I planned to finish Lincoln in the Bardo and read 200 pages of Don Quixote. I never did feel like reading either of the latter two, although I managed 50 pages of Lincoln in the Bardo and I like what I've read. It's just not grabbing me the way I'd hoped. Then, 3 children's books arrived and I gobbled them down immediately, as always. Still couldn't talk myself into reading either of the two books I planned on making my focus books, so I decided maybe I was in need of something radically different. Fortunately, I had a romance ARC just waiting for me. How to Forget a Duke (amnesia, strapping duke, Emma fan) sucked me in. And, that capped off my week nicely. It was a really good reading week.

Currently reading (or trying to):

  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
  • Don Quixote by Cervantes
  • Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods by Tania Del Rio and Will Staehle

Honestly, none of these books got touched often, even though they sat in my "Current reads" section at Goodreads, all week. But, hopefully, they'll get the attention they deserve, now.

Last week's posts:

In other news:

Here is a cat with a sexy romance novel cover.

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

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Fiona Friday on the Wrong Day - Peaceful

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

Friday, April 13, 2018

Gloria's Voice by Aura Lewis

Gloria's Voice by Aura Lewis is the story of Gloria Steinem: "Feminist, Activist, Leader," as the subtitle says. I read one of Gloria Steinem's many books, last year, for my feminist reading project and never got around to writing a post about it, but I was fascinated by Gloria and thrilled to see that someone has written a children's book about her.

Here, little ones can get an introduction to her life. Beginning with childhood, the book talks about her wishes and dreams, how she wanted to be famous and help others, and how she was sidelined by her need to take care of her mother when her parents separated and her mother's mental illness meant Gloria had to act as the adult. It then moves on to her trip to India, followed by her decision to become a journalist and the frustration about having to write about things she didn't consider serious, how she came to realize that women everywhere just wanted to be heard, and the creation of Ms. magazine.

Gloria's Voice is for ages 4 and up, so it's told in very simple terms with gorgeous illustrations that have "flower power" coloring similar to the stage prop in the Sixties show Laugh-In (we've recently started occasionally watching an old Laugh-In episode, now and then, or I might not have recogized the similar coloring). But, there's a  more in-depth one-page bio at the end of the book, followed by a page of references for further reading and page-by-page notes on the details of each spread. So, even after one has grown past the picture book phase, there's a lot more learning material and ideas to read further for young feminists.

Highly recommended - One of the things I love about Gloria's Voice is that there are almost no men illustrated in the pages of this book. It's about a woman trying to bring attention to women's voices and that's reflected in the illustrations, which are gorgeous, by the way. The exception is a single man standing in a line to get a copy of Ms. magazine. The page-by-page notes at the end of the book explain that the image is of Gloria's husband, to whom she was married for three years (till his death). Those details and their explanations take the book from a picture book about a feminist leader to an educational book that can long be used as a reference or a starting point to learning more. I love that.

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

*GIVEAWAY* - I Am the Boss of This Chair by Crimi and Morea - ENDS FRIDAY!!!


The winner of this drawing is Petite. I will notify you by email. Thanks to all who entered!

THIS IS A QUICK GIVEAWAY: Please note dates and times.

Click on the following title to read my review of I Am the Boss of This Chair

I'm giving away one copy of I Am the Boss of this Chair by Carolyn Crimi and Marisa Morea because I loved it so much that I want to spread the joy. Please read the rules carefully.


1. This is a quick drawing with only 3 days to sign up. Sign-up ends Friday at noon, Central Standard Time in the US.

2. Drawing is only open to residents of US or Canada.

3. Comment and leave me an email address for contact purposes. You may put spaces between the name portion and the @ in your email address to prevent passing bots from adding you to mailing lists, but you absolutely must leave an email to qualify.

You do not have to follow my blog or Twitter to enter, but if you're interested in following me on Twitter, I'm @Bookfoolery. Unfortunately, I must warn you that while I attempt to keep this blog free of political posts (apart from book reviews), I'm politically inclined on Twitter. I also post about books, art, photography, history, and travel, retweet anything that makes me laugh or smile (lots of cat and scenery photos) and post links to all reviews.

Good luck!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Up in the Leaves by Shira Boss and Jamey Christoph

Up in the Leaves by Shira Boss and Jamey Christoph is the true story of Bob Redman, a New Yorker who disliked the city crowds as a boy. He liked to climb and loved to escape to Central Park for the quiet. Bob began to climb the trees and hide out in them.

Up and down and up, he explored the trees: the fluffy
pink cherry tree . . . the sticky, pokey pine . . . . 
He slipped through the door of a wide beech.
He stepped up the staircase of a tall oak. 
Each tree was its own world, every limb an adventure. 

Bob liked being up in the trees so much that he started to gather salvaged parts and built himself a treehouse. He'd read in his treehouse, feed the squirrels, sometimes even stay at night to map the stars. Each year, when the leaves fell, his treehouses would be exposed and they'd disappear, taken down by park employees but when the leaves returned he'd build a new one. Over time, the treehouses became more elaborate (the final one was 5 levels) and his friends helped him find salvaged materials and joined him up in the trees.

Eventually, Bob was caught by park employees but the book has a happy ending. He was offered a job as an arborist in the park, climbing trees and trimming them.

Highly recommended - What a terrific story! Lovely prose and cheerful illustrations bring this inspiring true tale to life. While the book is geared to young children, there's an epilogue with a bit more detail and a photo of Bob on the final page so children can see Bob in real life (sitting in a tree, of course!) and tie illustration to reality. On the book flap, you'll also discover that the author is married to Bob. How cool is that? I absolutely love everything about this book. I smiled all the way through 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Bus! Stop! by James Yang

Bus! Stop! by James Yang is the delightfully fanciful story of an unnamed boy who misses his bus. "Bus! Stop!" he shouts as the bus pulls away. The bus doesn't stop and he has no choice but to wait for another bus. As a series of strange buses and people (or even creatures) file to the bus stop, each picks up its unique passengers and leaves, the boy making brief observations about each:

"This does not even LOOK like a bus!" he says about a bus that picks up sailors and is shaped like a ship.

Each bus is unique: a bus with its wheels on stilts whose passengers who fly up to the door, a stagecoach-type bus with a horse and passengers who look like they arrived via the 19th century, a domed bus that may have bouncy seats as the passengers all appear to be bouncing or floating, and possibly a bus full of aliens. I found an interior spread of the domed bus (which I hope you'll be able to enlarge if you click on it):

After regretfully watching it leave and wondering if he should have taken the bus shown above because it looked like a fun one, the boy climbs onto the next bus and is taken into outer space. As the bus flies away, it passes an outer-space bus stop where a girl with a cat shouts, "Bus! Stop!" and the boy seems to empathize with her predicament.

Highly recommended - I absolutely loved this book. It has few words, relying instead mostly upon the artwork to show the boy's dilemma and the totally unique buses and passengers that arrive. Full disclosure: I received a copy of Bus! Stop! for review from Viking (in return for my unbiased review) and I went to high school with the author and artist, James Yang. I appreciated his art and sense of humor back then, when he had a comic strip in our school newspaper. James' art has matured and he has long since found his personal style as a commercial artist. Bus! Stop! is classic James Yang. I love the detail of the cat in the background that moves from one window to another, the variety of crazy buses and passengers, and the simple idea of how it feels to miss one's bus and then have to wait and wait and wait for the right bus to show up.

Note: I'm dedicating this week to children's books. If you've got a little one to read to (especially if you or the child in your world is a cat lover), don't forget to sign up for my Giveaway of I Am the Boss of this Chair. The winner will be announced on Friday, which also means Fiona Friday will be shifted to Saturday, this week.

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

Monday, April 09, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • The Lost Family by Jenna Blum and 
  • Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor by Yossi Klein Halevi - both from Harper for review
  • How to Forget a Duke - from Avon for review

Variety is clearly my watchword. I'm excited about all three of these books. The Lost Family is my #1 Most Wanted summer title (release date is in June) and Vivienne Lorret wrote one of the stories in the Christmas romance anthology I read in December. I remembered her name when I saw How to Forget a Duke on offer and jumped at the opportunity to request it.  I don't read romance often, but I do enjoy it for the change of pace.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
  • The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody by Matthew Landis 
  • Look for Her by Emily Winslow

I finished the latter two books this weekend, thanks the fact that I had such an awful reading week that I told my husband I was going to read until my eyes crossed. I ended up only reading between chores, but I still managed to finish the two books and get all of our intended weekend tasks finished, so I'm declaring the weekend a success.

Currently reading:

  • Rocket Men by Robert Kurson
  • If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
  • Don Quixote by Cervantes

Oh, man. I am getting so tired of typing "Don Quixote" every week, at this point. And, I didn't read a single page, last week. This week, I'm going to shoot for 200 pages. Wish me luck. We're now about 10 days away from F2F group discussion, so I'll focus on Lincoln in the Bardo as soon as I finish Rocket Men. Rocket Men is about the Apollo 8 mission, the first to orbit the moon, and it is written in a way that makes your heart literally beat faster. I was alive during that Apollo moonshot, although young enough I was unlikely aware of it, but even in spite of the fact that I know it was a success, the reading is stunningly exciting. I will likely finish reading it tonight (mostly because I can barely stand to set it down). If You Come Softly is very short (YA, I think) so I'm sure I'll finish that pretty quickly, too. I'm enjoying it but it's a bit slower paced than I expected.

Last week's posts:

I almost had myself convinced I wasn't going to get around to reviewing anything at all, last week, and then I finished Princesses Behaving Badly and felt like writing. And, I just continued to sit at the desk till I'd finished writing about Good Behavior, as well. If not for that one day, I probably would have only posted a cat photo because I had a few sleepless nights, last week, and was just not in the mood to read or write much.

In other news:

Because I had a bad blogging week, I didn't get around to posting my drawing for the cat book I Am the Boss of this Chair. I'll try to get that up, tomorrow. I've never used Rafflecopter, so I have to read up on it to see if that's what I want to use. TV-wise, we hardly watched anything because we were too busy emptying cabinets and replacing old drinking glasses and dishes with new ones (same dish design, although they're more off-white than the originals). I know, so exciting. But, actually, it was kind of fun clearing out all the old stuff -- dishes with cracks and chips that were no longer microwave safe -- with fresh replacements. And, the drinking glasses we had left were just a hodge-podge of leftovers from various sets in which most had been broken, over the years. With the exception of a few one-offs that we're attached to, all of those partial sets of glasses are going to be donated or passed on to Kiddo if he wants any of them. It's nice to start out fresh.

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

Friday, April 06, 2018

Fiona Friday - Hashtag kitty

Well . . . her feet look close to an impression of a hashtag.

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

Good Behavior by Blake Crouch (The Letty Dobesh Chronicles #1-3)

Good Behavior by Blake Crouch is not a novel but a collection of three novellas starring the same heroine, Letty Dobesh. Letty is a meth addict and a thief. Her behavior is so far from anything I've ever known or experienced that it's worth mentioning up front that you may find her a character impossible to relate to. That doesn't matter. The point is the taut plotting, the tension, the exciting action scenes, and Letty battling with herself, her needs, and her desire to stay clean and crime-free long enough to find and become mother to her son, again. While Good Behavior collects three Letty Dobesh stories under one title and the same title has been used for the TV series about Letty (which I have not seen), the stories don't all directly match up to the television episodes.

I read the Kindle in Motion version of Good Behavior, which was available from the Amazon Prime Library when I checked it out, a couple months ago. "Kindle in Motion" means there are some features you wouldn't find in a typical e-book, like gifs from the TV series, still photos, and the neon title flashing on the cover image. There is also some extra text describing the creation of Letty, the writing of both the stories and the series, which stories appear in the series and in what order, and the differences between the stories and the script.

The Pain of Others - In the opening novella, Letty Dobesh has recently been released from prison and gone straight to robbing hotel rooms with the help of someone who works in the hotel and has acquired a master key card. All is going well, for a time. Letty happily stuffs her bag full of electronics, jewelry, and the contents of the mini bars. Then, she hears a key card in the final lock. Unable to escape, Letty hides in a closet and overhears plans for the hotel patron to do a hit job. Should she call the police or stay out of it? Her decision will put her in danger, either way. What Letty decides is both fascinating, terrifying, and shocking. The ending will make you rethink the entire story and Letty's decision.

Sunset Key - The most heart-pounding of the three stories shows Letty with an everyday job, at the beginning. But, then she loses her job and is bang out of luck. Where will she go and what will she do? Whenever things go wrong, her first thought is getting a fix. But, then a dangerous man named Javier offers her an opportunity. A fabulously wealthy man is about to go to prison for the rest of his life and he wants to spend a single night with a beautiful woman. He owns a valuable painting. If Letty can snatch the painting and get off the island in the Florida Keys quickly, the payoff will be substantial. Letty is hesitant because it sounds more like prostitution than anything else, but she agrees when she hears her job is theft. Everything seems to be going well, but then the job is turned on its head and Letty realizes nothing she was told was the truth. Will Letty get off the island or will she die at the hands of a truly evil man?

Grab - Letty is tired of living from one drug fix, theft, or prison sentence to the next and decides it's time for a major change. So, she hits the road, intending to drive from the South to where her young son lives, in the Pacific Northwest. But, then she realizes she's being followed. Letty confronts the man and finds he's been tracking her because he heard she's good at what she does and he needs a very good thief to help him pull off a heist in Las Vegas. She's not that far from Vegas and the heist is a high-dollar theft. The only thing that keeps Letty from getting high when she's down is stealing. So, she agrees. But, things don't go quite as planned. Their getaway driver disappears and Letty's former therapist is in town, so she asks him to drive for them. He's suicidal. Will he show up at the right time? A surprising twist at the end of this story explains that absolutely nothing was as it appeared.

Highly recommended - I have not yet felt like Blake Crouch let me down. His stories are tense, his characters well-developed, the action thrilling. There's always something that isn't quite what you think it will be, but Crouch really used that to heart-pounding advantage in all three of these stories. Letty is a character that you don't have to relate to and don't even desire to. She's intruiging, kind of a nightmare, and a walking contradiction. You just want her to survive. But, you never know for sure if she will.

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

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie is a nonfiction book with short biographies of princesses real and fake (apparently, pretending to be a princess is a thing) across many centuries. It's divided into the following sections:

Warriors: Princesses who fought their own battles
Usurpers: Princesses who grabbed power in a man's world
Schemers: Princesses who plotted and planned
Survivors: Princesses who made controversial and questionable choices
Partiers: Princesses who loved to live it up
Floozies: Princesses notorious for their sexy exploits
Madwomen: Princesses who were likely mad, or close to it

Some of those categories interested me more than others and some princesses were more interesting or appealing or weird or just plain fun to read about than others. I enjoyed reading about Hatshepsut, for example, because I'd read about her being erased from Egyptian history and then rediscovered later but knew very little about her, beyond that. Rodriguez McRobbie explained the erasure in a different way than I'd read about in the past and I learned a lot more about the actual person. Princess Margaret's story was interesting, too, as I knew she was always considered a troublemaker and a jealous sister but apparently I didn't pay much attention to the details of her life. For those who aren't familiar with her, Princess Margaret was Queen Elizabeth II's younger sister.

It took me a while to get into Princesses Behaving Badly because of the writing style, which is a bit dry and inaccessible (and slow). I didn't consider abandoning it, but I just wasn't enjoying the book, at first, and then at some point I realized what it's problems were and got used to the pace. Then, I started to enjoy reading about the princesses and the courageous, evil, crazy, etc., things they did. I looked up a few of them online to see images or photographs of them and some of them interested me enough that I'd like to read more about them. A handful were people I'd read about peripherally and got to know a little better and some were the wives of famous men I was familiar with (the Prince Regent, namesake of the Regency Period, for example).

My biggest problem with Princesses Behaving Badly is the problem I had, In general, with history in school. History requires a bit of storytelling flair to be fully accessible, in my humble opinion. Throw too many names, dates, and/or locations at a person (at least, this person) and it all just goes over their head. Occasionally, this author would not only throw in a date where the age of the princess would have done, but then would also give her age in the next paragraph when referring to something that happened at another time, so that you knew her age in one case but not the other. Sheesh. Just tell the reader how old the heroine was when each event happened, rather than make us subtract to figure it out. Even saying, "When Ignatia was 27, in 1543, the ceiling fell on her head" would have worked fine and added few words. The result is a bunch of bios that alternately make your head hurt and mesmerize.

Recommended hestitantly - I enjoyed Princesses Behaving Badly more, the farther I read. But, I still found it stiff and dry. It could have been a much more interesting book. So, mixed feelings on this one but I would say if you like reading about women who broke the mold and don't mind a book of historical bios that's a bit slow, go for it. Just don't expect sparkling descriptions and a quick read. 

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

Monday, April 02, 2018

Monday Malarkey

This week's recent arrivals require two separate photos, thanks to the fact that a couple of the books have plastic covers and black spines (and, therefore wouldn't show titles if stacked up).

Arrivals, left to right:

  • The Aftermath of War by Jean-Paul Sartre - purchased  (In case you're wondering, it's weighed down by a small, brass abacus due to a slightly bent cover)
  • The Not-so-Boring Letters of Private Nobody by Matthew Landis - from Penguin for review
  • From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein,
  • High Season by Judy Blundell,
  • Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg,
  • Crux by Jean Guerrero, and 
  • Providence by Caroline Kepnes - all from Random House for review

I don't know how I came to receive that raft of books from Random House (I don't recall entering any drawings, so I suspect they're unsolicited) but it's quite an interesting variety. Of the five, I'm most interested in From the Corner of the Oval, a memoir by a stenographer in the Obama Administration. And High Season certainly looks like a nice, beachy read. The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody is a middle grade book and I think I'm going to have to read it immediately. It's screaming at me. And, The Aftermath of War is one I ordered after reading some excerpts from the book. I've never read anything longer than an excerpt or letter by Jean-Paul Sartre, but I doubt it will be as challenging as something on the order of Being and Nothingness.

Children's books!

  • Bus! Stop! by James Yang - from Penguin for review
  • Up in the Leaves by Shira Boss and Jamey Christoph, and 
  • Gloria's Voice by Aura Lewis - both from Sterling Children's Books for review

As always, I sat down to read the children's books the moment they walked in the door. This particular trio is unusual in that I loved all three enough to give them 5 stars. They're all so very different - a fanciful story about a boy who misses his bus, a true story about a fellow who built treehouses in Central Park to escape the city bustle, and the children's bio of a feminist icon. All are terrific in their own ways and I can't wait to share them with you.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Good Behavior by Blake Crouch
  • Bus! Stop! by James Yang
  • Up in the Leaves by Shira Boss and Jamey Christoph
  • Gloria's Voice by Aura Lewis

While there were nights I didn't read at all (I didn't finish a single book till Thursday night and the book I most wanted to complete is still in progress), the arrival of all those children's books really made my week and Good Behavior was an entertaining, fast-paced read. So, last week ended up being a good reading week, if a bit different than anticipated.

Currently reading:

  • Don Quixote by Cervantes
  • Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
  • Look for Her by Emily Winslow

I'm now on Book 2 of Don Quixote. I only sat down with Don Quixote twice and it took a while to warm to the second book, but I read 100 pages. So, that's good. And, I'm 2/3 of the way through Princesses Behaving Badly. It was the book I wanted to finish, last week -- what I call my "focus book" of the week -- and I enjoyed the reading but sometimes I needed to let one or two of the bios roll around in my head. So, it's not the quickest read and at some point I decided, "Eh, whatever. I'll finish when I finish." I'm not far into Lincoln in the Bardo at all. That one fell by the wayside. No hurry; I have two weeks to finish reading it before discussion. And, I started Look for Her, last night, because I wasn't in the mood for any of the other books I'm reading. The pages are flying and I needed the feeling that I'm accomplishing something in my reading, so I'm glad I picked it up.

Last week's posts:

Not a big posting week, but it didn't matter at the time. I only had a single book left to review on Thursday. And, then I finished Good Behavior and the children's books arrived. The concept of "catching up on reviews" is such an elusive thing, isn't it? 

In other news:

I finished the William Hartnell Dr. Who episodes and have moved on to Doctor #2, Patrick Troughton. I am loving Patrick Troughton and his companion, Jamie, so far. There were so many missing episodes in the final William Hartnell season that two of the companions only can be seen in a single episode (Polly and Ben), which is disappointing because it didn't take long to fall for Ben. And, the transition from Hartnell to Troughton is completely missing. But, I liked Troughton from the get go. He's a much more upbeat Dr. Who than Hartnell and lacks the arrogance of the first incarnation.

I learned a bit of bookish trivia while looking up various companions, this week. Dr. Who's Jamie, who came from 18th century Scotland and wore a kilt, was the inspiration for Jamie Fraser in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. She was unaware that the actor's first name was Frazer when she named him, but liked the look of a man in a kilt and the time period and location from which he hailed, so that was the genesis of her hero. How cool is that?

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

Friday, March 30, 2018

Fiona Friday

Happy Easter!

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

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Supergifted by Gordon Korman (Ungifted #2)

I want to make a note of the fact that this is the second in a series but it stands fine on its own, up front, because I'd hate for anyone to miss out on the reading of Supergifted merely because they can't find a copy of the first book.

Ungifted was the story of Donovan Curtis, an average boy who was accidentally sent to the Academy for Scholastic Distinction, where he met his friend Noah Youkilis. I missed reading Ungifted, but I've read Gordon Korman's writing, before (unfortunately, I didn't review Schooled, but I remember it well), and I had a feeling I wouldn't have any problem reading the second in a series by Korman.

I was right. Korman nicely gives you just enough information to let you know what happened in Ungifted without totally giving away the plot. So, you never get that, "something's missing" sensation that you can get from series books that don't stand alone well, while reading Supergifted.

Donovan's friend Noah is supergifted, with an extraordinarily high IQ. But, what Noah really wants more than anything, now that he's been kicked out of the Academy for Scholastic Distinction, is to fail. And, Donovan's school is definitely the right place for him to fail because it's normal. They do things Noah never would have imagined doing at the Academy. Not only does he want the opportunity to fail, but Noah likes a challenge. And, he's tremendously clumsy, so signing up to be a cheerleader will certainly challenge him.

Donovan's worried about Noah, but he's even more worried about his brother-in-law's dog. She has bitten a child, in the past, and when Donovan moves to protect Noah from getting a beating from "Hashtag" Taggart, the dog takes a bite of his arm. When Noah decides he must fight Hashtag, Donovan follows. But, then something surprising happens and Donovan stops a freak accident from becoming a disastrous inferno.

Nobody knows who the "Superkid" that saved the lives of head cheerleader Megan Mercury and her family is. But, when Noah steps forward to say that it was him, Donovan's half jealous and half worried. Noah is supergifted but not at lying. What if Noah tells the truth and Donovan's heroics are found out? Hashtag has told Donovan to stay away or the dog will be turned in as a menace. The farther the story of heroism goes, the more Noah is lauded as the Superkid, the worse things become. Will Noah give Donovan's secret away?

Recommended - It took me a while to warm up to this story but there's a lot more to it than I mentioned in my way-to-long synopsis and once I got into it, I really enjoyed it. For example, Donovan's sister, her military husband, and their infant daughter are living with Donovan's family, so he has to deal with a crying baby and advice from a marine, in addition to school and concerns about his best friend. Donovan and Noah are in a robotics group at the Academy and something has gone wrong with their robot. And, Donovan has a puppy, which means loads of crazy puppy antics. What's most important about Supergifted, though, is that Noah and Donovan are both terrific kids who mean well. And, the book will definitely make you or the middle reader in your life smile.

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

I Am the Boss of this Chair by Carolyn Crimi and Marisa Morea

In I Am the Boss of this Chair, Oswald is an only cat and the king of his household, the "boss" of the chair, sole owner of his mouse, Bruce, guardian of the back door, and the one who decides when it's feeding time. He also is in charge of the toilet paper roll (playing with it, that is). So, when a new kitten named Pom-Pom arrives, his world is turned upside down.

Suddenly, he has to deal with someone playing with his toilet paper, walking through the pet door, demanding meals at the wrong time and even sitting in his chair! Oswald tries everything to wake up Pom-Pom when he takes over Oswald's chair, without success. But, it's when Pom-Pom starts playing with Bruce that Oswald's unhappiness boils over.

I chase Pom-Pom over the sofa,
under the coffee table, 
and up the curtain. 

Both kitties get in trouble for making a mess. But, it's time for Oswald's favorite program. He climbs onto his chair and stretches, then he starts thinking.

Is it possible that we can share the chair?
Dare I ask, is it also possible that it's even more fun
when we share the chair? And more snuggly?

The two watch Chef Andre sauté salmon on TV and they head-butt each other. Now that they've learned to share, they play together, eat together, go in and out the back door and share Bruce the mouse. Oswald keeps his favorite pillow to himself, but they're friends.

Highly recommended, especially to cat lovers - A cute and surprisingly accurate account of what it's like to bring a new kitten into a one-cat household (although, I should add, throwing a new kitty in with the old immediately is a no-no -- gradual introduction is key). In fact, as I was reading about Oswald and Pom-Pom, I was reminded of how Fiona, who had been "Only Cat" for 6 months, gave up playing with her jingle balls and began playing with quieter toys when she realized tiny Isabel was just going to jump in and steal any noisy toy she played with. But, at the same time, she gradually learned that snuggling and playing together was fun, although she's always kept some special toys or favorite sleeping spots to herself. Cat lovers will especially enjoy reading this one to their little ones.

Giveaway coming: I was going to do a giveaway of I Am the Boss of this Chair, this week, but I have just been reminded that the coming weekend is Easter weekend. So, I'm going to wait and hold the drawing later. It will be a quick drawing, so watch this space, next week, and, if you do Twitter, also watch my timeline. My @ name is Bookfoolery at Twitter. The drawing will be open only to those in the US and Canada. I'll get back to you on the date. .

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

Monday, March 26, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson, 20th Anniversary edition from Penguin
  • Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor - purchased
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman - purchased
  • Look for Her by Emily Winslow - from HarperCollins

Finally, a book stack! So exciting, after three weeks of no arrivals. Norse Mythology is the book I checked out from my library that had such a short check-out time that I decided to just go ahead and buy a copy. Gaiman has gradually grown on me, over the years. Although I still dislike some of his writing, what I do enjoy I love. So, it's likely one I would have wanted to end up owning, anyway. And, don't you love that cover?

Just One Damned Thing After Another is one that I looked up after seeing it rated by a friend on Goodreads. I hope it's as fun as it sounds. Look for Her is from HarperCollins and it may or may not be an ARC that I won in a drawing for a random ARC. I suspect it is because I don't recall requesting it and there was no publicity material included in the envelope. I haven't checked my ARC file to verify that because, whatever . . . I'm going to read it, either way.

If You Come Softly arrived unsolicited from Penguin in a metallic green bubble wrap envelope. You guys, I just love that envelope so much it's a wonder that I noticed there was a book inside. But, I did and the book is striking, too. I've only read two books by Jacqueline Woodson, so far. One I loved, one I didn't. I got to see her speak at our local book festival and she is amazing. I loved hearing what she had to say about writing and life and have been wanting to read more of her work, so I'll be gobbling this one down, soon. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso 
  • Supergifted by Gordon Korman 

I enjoyed The Woman Next Door even more, the second time, and discussion was great (I've already written about it -- if you missed that post, see links below). And, Supergifted is loads of fun.

Currently reading:

  • Don Quixote by Cervantes
  • Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I'm going to shoot for finishing Princesses Behaving Badly, this week, and I also am dying to get started on the second book in the Warren the 13th children's series. Lincoln in the Bardo is the April selection for my F2F book group and I already owned a copy. So far, I'm finding it a bit bizarre but fascinating. Having said that, I've read two other George Saunders books and, let's face it, "bizarre" is his specialty. I'm trying to follow my own advice, given to friends in my book group before I started on the book, myself: "Relax and embrace the weird." 

Last week's posts:

Whew! My weekend onslaught leaves me with exactly 3 books to review, one of which will also include a giveaway (a children's book). And, of course, I'll do my best to finish more books before I catch up with myself. But, I'm happy to be so close, at this point. Just in looking back at the links, I can tell you that none of those books were duds, not one. 

In other news:

I watched a handful of episodes of Dr. Who, this weekend, and a couple episodes of the original Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series (which I prefer to the more recent movie because it sticks closer to the storyline). I'm still on William Hartnell's Dr. Who, but there were so many missing or unavailable episodes between the two episode series that I watched, that we lost one companion and got a new one. I'm going to have to look online to see what happened to Vicki. I've heard some of the early Dr. Who episodes were filmed over but there have also been times in the available episodes that the quality has suddenly gone bad -- the film goes dark or blurry. So, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the episodes that are unavailable have simply deteriorated over time.

Otherwise, we only watched bits and pieces of various movies when we sat down to take a break from cleaning or to eat, including Independence Day. Otherwise, we did thrilling stuff like finishing the utility room cleaning and sweeping the dust out of the back of the piano. And, you thought your life was exciting.

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

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Brontë Sisters by Catherine Reef and a reread of The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

There were two books that helped break my February book slump: Our Native Bees and The Brontë Sisters. It was at my worst moment, when I could absolutely not bear to read another word of anything with a bookmark in it, that I decided to just let something call to me. I'd been glancing at The Brontë Sisters for days, by that point. It's an ARC that I got at my former library, back in the days when I'd occasionally drop by and find that they'd set out a cart full of ARCs for anyone to take, free of charge. I happened across my copy while doing a book purge and set it at the top of a bedside stack, thinking eventually I would get to it.

Then, I let it call out to me. The Brontë Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, is a children's biography of the sisters, but I can't say what age it's geared toward, although I think a middle schooler could easily handle it. The Brontë Sisters is also certainly comprehensive enough for an adult to enjoy -- a read that can be quickly gobbled up in an afternoon but not one that's lacking in any way because it's geared to a younger crowd. The Brontë Sisters includes a nice range of photos of documents, paintings, and other memorabilia.

I am not, in fact, really a Brontë fan. I liked Jane Eyre but detested Wuthering Heights. And, that's the limit of my exposure to the Brontës. But, Catherine Reef describes the lives of the Brontës and the events that were occurring during the writing of each book, including the plots of the books, in a manner that intrigued me enough that I would have immediately picked up a Brontë book to read, had I not already written a list of books that I needed to read in the coming month. It's likely I'll return to the book to read whatever section happens to be about each title, when I eventually do read more Brontë works. Reef definitely gave me an appreciation of the stories that I lacked while I read the two. Recommended for readers who are intrigued with the tragic Brontë family and/or their books.

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The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso is a reread and I've already reviewed it (click on the title, above, to hop to my review) but I think it's worth mentioning the reread because it was quite a different experience. The first time I read The Woman Next Door, I did so because I wanted to read something set in South Africa before going on vacation there. The second time, I read it because I recommended it for discussion with my F2F book group.

What made the second reading different was the fact that this time I'd already been to South Africa. The Woman Next Door is set in a fictional neighborhood called Katterijn in Cape Town. It's about two elderly women who hate each other: one black, one white. But, there are some subtleties of characterization that you miss if you aren't familiar with Cape Town. I found that the book was even more enjoyable when I read it knowing the history of those areas.

Marion, the white woman who is racist but not self-aware, lived in District 6 for a short time, early in her life, for example. I had no idea what the significance of District 6 was, of course, having never been there when I first read it. But, while we were in Cape Town, we went on a tour that included the District 6 museum. District 6 was a part of Cape Town that was known for its diversity. A community that had attracted people from a large variety of races, backgrounds, and religions, the people of District 6 lived in blissful harmony till the Apartheid government kicked everyone out and plowed it down (unity being something that collided with the concept of control by minority, which is facilitated by division).

The area was an island unto itself. It wasn't necessary to go into Cape Town proper to buy groceries, go to school, or join in on activities. So, had Marion stayed in District 6, she undoubtedly would have grown up appreciating diversity. But, her parents were Jewish and escaped the Holocaust (this is more implied than stated), gave up their religion when they fled, and moved out of District 6 as quickly as they could. When Marion finally realizes how racist she is, it appears to startle her to think back on the fact that she was once a resident of the same neighborhood that spawned anti-Apartheid activists such as Nelson Mandela.

As to the discussion . . . it was fabulous. It's worth noting that I'm in a group in which the average age is probably about 20 years above mine (and I'm no spring chicken). A story about two elderly women, aged 88 and 82, with richly developed characterization was very much appreciated in that group. Only one of the women present disliked The Woman Next Door and she said her problem was the bitchiness of the characters. Well, there's no denying they're not pleasant people. But, there was purpose to their sharp tongues (they were wounded souls) and a meaning to their slow arrival at the realization that they were more alike than they could have imagined.

It's also notable that one of the group members observed the negative reviews at Goodreads appear to mostly have been written by younger women. Maybe it takes a bit of hard living and long years to truly appreciate the depth of meaning in The Woman Next Door. But, it definitely was a hit in my book group.

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