Friday, February 23, 2018

Fiona Friday - Clearly, there's a story here.



©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, February 22, 2018

Two DNFs, why I stopped reading them, and whether or not I'll give them a second chance

I haven't done a DNF post in quite a while and my friend Sandie just reminded me that I need to get back to one of these books, soon. The other is a recent DNF. Seems like a good time to talk about a couple unfinished books and why I set them aside.

The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker is an unusual DNF in that I was enjoying it immensely when I stopped reading. It's a Viking saga, something I've never read before, and I was absolutely captivated by the story, amazed at the depth of characterization, impressed by what was, I thought, well-researched and unusually convincing writing.

So, why did I set it aside? Time and place. I started reading the book while I was on vacation in Hawaii and I was honestly so distracted by the palm trees, the ocean waves, and the constant packing (we moved quite a bit from one hotel to another on two separate islands) that I was reading in bits and snatches. As wonderful as The Half-Drowned King is, I needed some lighter reading and switched to reading a middle grade book. At home, I was just worn out and decided I'd come back to the story later, when I could give it more attention.

I will definitely return to The Half-Drowned King and hope that will happen soon - probably when I've finished Don Quixote, since The Half-Drowned King requires a bit more concentration than I can probably give it while balancing 4 books. In spite of only having made it 92 pages into the ARC, I can already tell you I highly recommend The Half-Drowned King and look forward to finishing it as soon as I can.

Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down by Anne Valente is a book that has an unfortunate relevance at this moment because it's about the aftermath of a school shooting. I'd read 70 pages when we left for Oklahoma, on Friday, and I opted to leave it at home because I was pretty sure I was going to abandon it but I wanted to let it rest for a few days.

I came home to a reply on Goodreads. I'd asked a reviewer whose thoughts seemed to mirror my own something to the effect of, "Do you regret finishing the book or are you glad you read it in spite of not feeling like you connected with the characters?" He replied that he didn't think it was worth finishing because it was so depressing.

So, what's the problem I had with Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down? Distance from the characters. I wanted to step into the shoes of a person experiencing a school shooting, feel the terror with that person and the grief afterwards. Instead, the author chose to write about a circle of friends using "we" as the subject, part of the time, and then diving into a particular character for certain scenes. I think that was a mistake. While I was getting to know each of the 4 characters' lives slowly, by page 70 I was frustrated about how difficult it was to connect to them. I also thought there was a bit too much focus on what they intended to write about the victims in their yearbook. The 4 friends all were yearbook staff. I was on my yearbook staff and we had some shocking losses during my sophomore year. It wasn't all that difficult -- at least, not enough to make a focal point.

There are also some arsons in the book and only one of the arsons had taken place when I gave up. Will I return to this book? I don't think so. That inability to feel like I really knew and cared for the characters and had a strong sense of what they were feeling just ruined it for me. But, boy is it a book for our time.

©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, February 21, 2018

January Reads in Review, 2018



January Reads (links to reviews may lead to combined review posts):

1. Saving Tarboo Creek by Scott Freeman and Susan Leopold Freeman (illustrated) - A wonderful memoir about a family who purchased an abused plot of land and then set out to restore both the land and the creek that ran through it, making it healthy and supporting wildlife that had disappeared (including salmon).

2. Forty Autumns by Nina Willner - The story of a family divided by the Iron Curtain. One child of this large family escaped to the West. The rest remained in East Germany. Nina Willner is the child of the one who escaped and eventually ended up in America. A terrific family memoir with some tense scenes that took place when the author was a U.S. Army Intelligence officer working in Berlin during the Cold War.

3. The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam - Just as she's preparing to leave Harvard to dig up the bones of a walking whale, Zubaida meets Elijah and they spend her final three days in Cambridge together. Told in past tense, the story is about Zubaida's tragic choice not to follow her heart and her search for her birth mother.

4. Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown - I had a little trouble understanding what this book (nonfiction) was about, but I think it was about being true to yourself and the importance of reaching out to others. Don't quote me on that, though.

5. The Dry by Jane Harper - Aaron Falk returns to his tiny hometown in Australia for the funeral of his friend's family. Everyone assumes Jake killed his family and himself (except for his infant daughter) because of the drought that's causing so many local landowners to lose their livelihoods. But, Jake's parents think he was murdered. The first in the Aaron Falk mystery series.

6. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (e-book) - A very short book of poetry that talks about love, abuse, and other subjects. Trigger warning for those who've been assaulted. Illustrated by the author.

7. If This Isn't Nice, What Is? by Kurt Vonnegut - A collection of a half dozen speeches by Vonnegut, mostly graduation speeches.

8. A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole - Celeste is a basket-weaving mouse who is looking for a home. From her little hole in the wall, she moves to the bedroom of an the nature artist Audubon's apprentice, then to a dollhouse in the attic of the same home.

9. Another Quest for Celeste by Henry Cole - After she goes outside to forage for food, Celeste falls asleep in the wrong place and ends up on a cart and then a steamboat. When the steamboat sinks, she makes it to land and lives in the forest, for a time, then becomes friends with a young Abe Lincoln.

10. Bagel in Love by Natasha Wing and Helen Dardik - Bagel wants to join in on a dance competition but he can't find a partner until he meets the lovely Cupcake.

11. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes - Charlie is profoundly retarded but hardworking and determined. When he's chosen for an experimental surgery, he goes from having a low IQ to way above average intelligence. But, the experiment is doomed to fail. Written as a series of journal entries that show Charlie's progression.

12. The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen - Richard has been married, before. Now, his former wife is shattered and only wants to warn his future bride of the dangers in store for her. Will she be able to warn her in time?

13. The Radium Girls by Kate Moore - The true account of the women who painted watch dials, airplane controls, and other items with luminous paint made from toxic radium and how the small industry fought to keep the reason for the painters' deadly health issues secret.

14. Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night by Dee Leone and Bali Engel - A gentle nighttime poem to relax little ones, filled with nature references.

15. A Couch for Llama by Leah Gilbert - The story of a family who goes to buy a new couch. The couch flies off the roof of their car and is found by a llama, who makes it his own. But, the family needs the new couch, so they replace it with their old one and everyone is happy.

16. Artemis by Andy Weir - Jazz is a smuggler living in the moon colony Artemis. When she's offered a huge sum of money to sabotage some machinery, she agrees. But, she's in for more than she bargained for and the entire moon colony may end up paying.

17. Force of Nature by Jane Harper - The second in the Aaron Falk series, this time the story of a woman who disappears while on a company outing with four other women. Will she be found dead or alive? Was her help investigating her employer's dangerous connections responsible for her disappearance or did she simply become lost?

OK, deep breath. This was a fantastic month for quantity, although there were a few books I didn't like or even quite "get".

Absolute favorites were Saving Tarboo Creek, Forty Autumns, The Dry, Force of Nature, Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night, A Couch for Llama, and Flowers for Algernon. All were terrific reads.

I liked Artemis, the Celeste books (especially Another Quest for Celeste), and The Radium Girls, although the latter was tough to read because it's about the willingness of people to let other people die for the sake of the corporate bottom line and the Celeste books contained a surprising number of violent scenes. I liked the writing in The Bones of Grace but found the story lacking. And, while I enjoyed Artemis, it is the typical disappointing sophomore effort and I briefly considered abandoning it. I'm glad I stuck it out for the exciting scenes in the end.

I was often lost while reading Braving the Wildnerness, although it had its moments. Similarly, If This Isn't Nice, What Is? had its moments of wisdom but was repetitive enough that it's not worth keeping. In the future I'll stick with Vonnegut's fiction. Milk and Honey and Bagel in Love were my least favorites but I loved the illustrations in Bagel in Love and simply didn't love the storyline, while I thought Milk and Honey was pretty much the worst thing I've read in ages (and I only finished it because it was short).

On to February!

©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, February 20, 2018

Tuesday Twaddle



Recent arrivals:

Nothing arrived via the mail, but we went to Oklahoma for a long weekend (hence the Tuesday Twaddle -- we were in transit, yesterday) and I did some swapping at Gardner's Books in Tulsa. I opted to stay in the classics section and look for Virago Classics, in particular, and this is what I ended getting with the credit (and about $7.50 -- they charge a minimum on top of credit, just to ensure that they continue making money, according to the clerk).


  • The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck
  • Seducers in Ecuador and The Heir by Vita Sackville-West
  • Plagued by the Nightingale by Kay Boyle
  • The Happy Foreigner by Enid Bagnold
  • Cindie by Jean Devanny
  • The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois


The final choice was for Black History Month but I probably won't get to it, this year. After a fabulous reading month in January, I've nearly skidded to a halt. Hopefully, I'll at least get in one book for Black History Month, though. Fingers crossed.


Books finished since last week's Malarkey:


  • Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth


I also DNF'd Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down by Anne Valente and will write a DNF post about that book, in the near future.


Currently reading:


  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  • The Statue and the Fury by Jim Dees

Book group is this week, so I need to focus on finishing up The Statue and the Fury. I'm a little behind on my Don Quixote reading and everyone else is, as well, so we reevaluated our goals and I added a catch-up week to the reading schedule. Still enjoying it immensely. And, since I've just removed one book from my current reads, I'll start at least one more (probably two), in the next couple of days.


Last week's posts:




Not a big week for reading or posting, but I'm happy to say that I managed to finish reviewing everything I read in January, finally. And, since I haven't read that much in February, I'm not too far behind. Yippee!


In other news:



Since I managed to acquire a few books, this week, I didn't have to put postcards at the top of my blog instead of a book stack. But the two I recently received from Kelly and Carrie are so cool that you get to see them, anyway.

Note: I just updated this post because I completely forgot to add my links to last week's posts, the first time. Long 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Fiona Friday

This was one of those sweet moments that devolved into a spat with Fiona nipping Isabel and Isabel slapping Fi on the nose. Oh, well. At least they get along well most of the time.


©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, February 15, 2018

Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night by Dee Leone and Bali Engel


Moths with powdery wings so soft
gently stir the air aloft.
Their flitter-flutter lullabies
barely whisper, "Close your eyes."

So begins Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night, a gently rhyming book about the sounds of nature at night.

Willow branches bend with ease,
slowly dancing in the breeze.
Back and forth their long arms sweep, 
shushing, shushing all to sleep. 

The title occasionally appears in the verses but I wanted to show you, in particular, the softness of the words in this book because they are truly special. Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night is the perfect, calming bedtime read. You can read it in a hushed voice and it's incredibly soothing. I can easily visualize the sound of a parent's voice calming a fussy child as the book is read. It really is a lovely, relaxing rhyme.

Highly recommended - Gentle nighttime images and soothing rhymes make Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night a book that will undoubtedly rock a few fussy little ones to sleep. I read it to my cats, of course, since my grandchild is over 1,000 miles away. Izzy and Fi have never loved being read to but they blinked happily, a good sign that the book is relaxing even to fussy furballs. Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night is another new favorite. I closed it wishing I had a child to read it to.

©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.

A Couch for Llama by Leah Gilbert



The Lago family's couch was very well-loved
It was the perfect spot for snuggling and reading,
card playing, fort building, and hiding and seeking!


Unfortunately, the couch had lived out its useful life and it was time to buy a new couch, so the family went shopping. They looked for a couch that was just right, found the perfect one, and strapped it to the roof of their car. On the way home, though, the couch went flying.

It's a little difficult to see the words in this image unless you enlarge (if you can, do), but it says:


Llama found a couch. 


Photo credit: Leah Gilbert

I love the expression on the llama's face. Llama sniffed the couch, said hello to it (it didn't reply), tried to share his lunch with it and took a bite out of it. Meanwhile, the family discovered their couch was missing while Llama ignored it and then bounced on it, discovered he loved it, and made himself comfortable.

The finale to this wonderful book: The family finds the couch and takes it back but they bring their old couch back for the llama. And, everyone's happy.

Highly recommended - Adorable! The story is a simple one: lost and found, old replaced with new, both people and an animal wanting the same thing, and a compromise reached in the end. But, it's the illustrations that make A Couch for Llama a new favorite, at least for me. I adore the llama and the field of wheat. This may be a personal thing; I'm from Oklahoma and a field of wheat is home. But, I enjoyed the story, too, so it's not just the crazy llama and the wheat that make this book a winner. Any book that I close with a smile on my face is going to become a favorite and A Couch for Llama definitely makes me grin.

©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, February 14, 2018

Bagel in Love by Natasha Wing and Helen Dardik


Bagel wanted to join a dance contest but had trouble finding a partner.

Poppy told him his dance steps were half-baked. 

He asked Pretzel, who was at the spa getting a salt rub. She told him his moves didn't cut the mustard. 

Matzo flat out told him no. 

Continuing with loads more puns, Bagel kept looking for a partner, unwilling to give up. The dance contest was already beginning at the Cherry Jubilee and Bagel had decided to try again, next year. But, the music had him tapping his foot. Someone tapped back. Cupcake admitted to not being a very good dancer, but they gave it a whirl and liked each other's style. They were barely in time for the dance contest, where they won the grand prize trophy. But, winning was "just icing on the cake."

Well, huh. There are two ways to look at this story. One way is to look at it as a fun book of puns in which a bagel's determination pays off. The other is to find the rejection up front frustrating and the abrupt ending a little weird. I fell halfway in between. The first time I read the book, I thought, "Wait. What?" The ending was a little too abrupt and maybe even a little too perfect, after all that rejection. But, I did love the puns. The second time, I still didn't love the abrupt ending but this time I was all about the puns and the determination. And, I suppose one could get used to the ending.

Iffy on recommendation - Bagel in Love is an average read, in my humble opinion, but if you happen to be a big fan of puns . . . this is your book. It's chock full of them. And, I did appreciate Bagel's can-do attitude. He didn't let a little rejection (well, a lot of rejection) get him down. The illustrations are bright and bold; and, for fans of shiny things, there's a nice touch of glitter on the slipcover. I received a copy of Bagel in Love for review from Sterling Children's Books and it came with a page of 6 Valentine's cards and a bookmark. I don't know if those are included with a purchase or if they were publicity material, but they're super cute.

Happy Valentine's Day!

©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, February 12, 2018

Monday Malarkey



Recent arrivals:


Nothing, nada, zero, zippo, zilch. So, you get a kitty pic. After all those books that I posted last week, I'm thinking it's good that I had a no-arrival week, but it was kind of miserable in its way. I'm so used to at least one book showing up on my doorstep that I strongly considered making a panic purchase, just so something would arrive. I talked myself out of it. Whew!

The kitty pic, by the way, is a shot of one of my favorite Fiona quirks. When I pet her head, she likes to turn her face and stick her little nose in the palm of my hand. It is so trusting of her. I just love that. I finally got a shot of her doing it, this weekend, and I was so excited. Sometimes it's hard to capture those cute, quirky little things they do.


Books finished since last Malarkey:


  • Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Being Mortal by Atul Gawande


This was a pretty terrific reading week. Al Frank, Giant of the Senate was miles better than I expected it to be, The Hate U Give is an online discussion book and I finished it ahead of schedule so I'm enjoying just sitting back and reading the comments by other readers and learning a bit from them, and Being Mortal is one of those rare, meaningful books about life and death that falls into the "Everyone Should Read This" category.


Currently reading:


  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  • The Statue and the Fury by Jim Dees
  • Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down by Anne Valente
  • Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth


An interesting variety, eh? Week One, 204 pages of Don Quixote down, roughly 800 pages and 4 weeks to go. It's an easy read but I think spreading it out over 5 weeks is going to work well. It's a bit repetitive and, as Bryan of Still an unfinished person has mentioned, it's going to be "a long haul". So, having buddies to read with also keeps me going.


In other news:

I found Lost in Austen on Britbox, yesterday, and I told my husband that I just wanted to watch a few minutes to see what it was like. He nodded. An hour or two later, we agreed that it's loads of fun and we're glad we watched the whole episode. Huzzybuns said, "I knew you'd watch it all." Yeah, I kind of knew it, too, but I thought I should at least try to only watch a little bit.

I'm still watching Doctor Who, also. I guess that will go on for a long, long time, since I started at the beginning of Dr. #1's episodes, although a lot of the early episodes are either missing or unavailable. Still, I'm a little less than halfway through the first Dr.'s years. So exciting to be able to see them, bad as they often are. The series of episodes that I watched this week took place in a space ship and down on the planet of the Sensorites. It had a few hilarious moments in which the cheap sets gave themselves away and the hairstyles of the women changed just a touch. "Ah," you may say to yourself, while watching the two episodes,"so, this is where they broke for the day, came back, and everyone's hair was styled." Hahaha. I love it for the quirks, for sure.

I got two postcards in the mail and meant to snap their picture but didn't get around to it, so if there aren't any arrivals next week, maybe I'll manage to get a picture of them to show off. Thanks for the postcards, Kelly and Carrie!


©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, February 09, 2018

Fiona Friday - Sleepy beans



©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.

More minis - Flowers for Algernon by D. Keyes, The Radium Girls by K. Moore, and Artemis by A. Weir

In my continuing quest to catch up with myself, I've sorted out three books that I purchased and decided to give them mini review treatment. I liked all three for dramatically different reasons.


I opted not to write a post about my 2018 reading goals but one of my goals is a continuation of my "one classic per month" goal for a third year. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes was my January choice.

Charlie Gordon has an extremely low IQ but a surprising amount of determination, so he's been chosen to be the first human in an experimental treatment. Only tried previously on mice (and not always with good results), the experimental surgery made a mouse called Algernon extremely smart. The book is told in journal form from Charlie's perspective as he goes through the surgery, quickly gains intelligence, falls in love, and then things fall apart.

I've seen a movie version of Flowers for Algernon, long ago, but this is my first time reading the book. All I could remember of the movie was that it was both moving and sad. And, as it turned out, the sadness toward the beginning almost overwhelmed me. Charlie has always been a happy man, in spite of his limitations. He has a job and people who watch out for him. But, after his surgery, he starts to become aware that people have been teasing him for years. Maybe they weren't his friends, after all.

At this point, my friend Kelly told me that it's one of her favorite classics. I was planning to finish the book, regardless, but I'm glad she gave me hope to help me push through the hardest part. Regardless of how it tugged at my emotions, I was really blown away by the writing. I knew the book was going to end sadly, all along. But, the way it was handled was perfect.

Flowers for Algernon is brilliant and heartbreaking and beautiful and awful and maybe even a little hopeful. And, definitely kind of deep, the way it makes you think about how we treat each other and how crucial friendship and love are to having a meaningful life. Highly recommended and a new favorite. I gave Flowers for Algernon 5 stars. I looked up Daniel Keyes and found that he wrote quite a few books, so I'm hoping to eventually find and read more of his work.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore is even sadder than Flowers for Algernon because it's a true story. Subtitled "The Dark Story of America's Shining Women" -- the shining part is literal; they got radium all over their clothing and hair and faces, so they glowed in the dark. The Radium Girls is the story of women who painted watch dials and other instruments. Because they used paint brushes and the work was delicate, they used their lips to bring the brushes to a fine point each time they dipped into the paint. This meant they were actually ingesting little bits of radium all day, every day, at work. Because the paint had to be mixed from a powder, it also got all over their hair, clothing, and bodies.

At the time The Radium Girls took place, in the early 20th Century, radium was considered healthful. People drank radium concoctions and handled it without gloves, completely unaware of the damage it was doing to them. But, it didn't take long before the women at the first radium dial-painting establishment began to have serious health issues.

There were several companies involved in the painting of clock dials, over the time span covered. All went to great lengths to hide what they knew about the connection between the health problems their formerly-healthy and vibrant young female painters were experiencing (and then their deaths) and the paint they were using. And, the health problems were appalling. The vast majority of the early employees began losing teeth, getting infections in their jaws that would not heal, and even losing pieces of jawbone. Some had legs that shortened, giving them a dramatic limp, some developed back problems. All were in horrendous pain. When they died, their deaths were generally attributed to something entirely different from the actual cause. It took years and years, scores of deaths, miscarriages, and dismemberments, and a number of lawsuits before the surviving women successfully proved their case.

Highly recommended - While the descriptions of the health problems these young women experienced (and their equally horrific deaths) were heart-rending to read, The Radium Girls serves as an excellent reminder of why we have the "burdensome regulations" the current presidential administration is trying to do away with. When given the opportunity to do what's right, corporations do not regulate themselves but will fiercely fight to defend the bottom line, even to the extreme of letting people die to keep a company from losing money. It was particularly horrifying to find that even doctors were involved in the subterfuge. A heartbreaking read but an important one. It's notable that the author deliberately researched the individuals and described them in depth because she wanted to make it clear that they were living, breathing human beings. Getting to know them made it even harder reading about their deterioration, their hideous pain, and their deaths. I admire the author for that choice.

Artemis is the story of Jazz, a woman who lives on the moon colony Artemis. Her father is a welder and she's a smuggler. When she's offered a huge amount of money to sabotage four large machines, she agrees because she's perpetually broke -- her living quarters are so small they're known as a "coffin", a place to sleep and store her things with a low ceiling and a shared bathroom.

Basic storyline: Things go wrong, blah-blah, murder, danger, science stuff I didn't understand, everyone is going to die (literally, everyone on the entire moon colony). Will Jazz save the day?

Artemis is very entertaining (ignore the "blah-blah") but I didn't follow the science in Artemis as well as that of The Martian and I thought Jazz sounded more like a guy than a gal. In fact, I didn't realize Jazz was short for Jasmine for the first chapter or so, so I was picturing a male protagonist till I found out that was wrong. Jazz sounds a lot like Mark of The Martian -- lots of expletives. But, Artemis is a fun story and after a little initial boredom when the author was setting the scene, I really began to enjoy the book. At some point, it became can't-put-down exciting and I may have had a little reading hangover after the night I finished it.

Highly recommended - While Artemis didn't grab me from page one as The Martian did, I still found the idea of a moon colony captivating and hung in there. In the end, I liked Artemis enough that I wish I had my own copy to save for a reread. I read a borrowed copy. I just hope Andy Weir manages to vary his characterization a bit, next time out. There's only so much one can stand of protagonists who constantly swear. I did appreciate the fact that he tried to make his whip-smart, rebel character female but he should probably stick with males.

©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.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen


Vanessa used to be married to Richard. Nellie is getting ready to become his bride. And, someone has to warn the new bride before it's too late. But, wait . . . who is whom in this twisted thriller? You won't know for sure till the end.

And, since that's what makes The Wife Between Us a thriller (the rush to find out what's really going on and whether or not the future wife can be warned in time) I can pretty much tell you nothing about this book without giving everything away. So, instead I'll just tell you that what you think is happening at the beginning of the book is totally misleading. In Part Two, the perspective shifts and you realize that the narrators in Part One were unreliable. Who is the wife-to-be and what happened to the wife before her to make her such a nervous wreck? Will Richard's former wife succeed at her mission to warn the bride-to-be? Or will some other twist throw everything in Part Two into question.

Yeah, it's twisty, all right. Unfortunately, I thought The Wife Between Us was just a little too similar to another book I read recently. And, I didn't like the way the author played head games with me. Still, I found the authors propelled me along nicely. Apart from a slightly dull beginning and a jarring shift at the beginning of Part Two when I was so confused that I almost abandoned the book (I took a brief break from it, came back, and it made sense after I'd had time to let the story roll around in my head), I found that the pages flew.

Recommended but not a favorite - In general, I'd say The Wife Between Us was an average to slighty above-average read. I had trouble getting into the book, at first, and part of that was because it was immediately apparent to me that Richard was a controlling jerk. I couldn't understand why Nellie was even interested in him, much less why two women would have fallen for him during his charming moments but not run after seeing his dark side. But, the main problem was that I disliked the shift from Part One to Part Two and never fully managed to get those wives straight in my head after picturing them a certain way and then having it all mixed up, as if images of the wives had been turned to confetti, tossed into the air, and then settled into different pictures when reformed on the ground. If you like that kind of confusion, this is definitely the book for you. Unreliable narrators, twists and turns, a surprise ending, and a quick pace (at least, after the first section) will make you race to the end to find the answers.

©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, February 08, 2018

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi




In Down and Across, 16-year-old Scott (real name Saaket) is an Iranian American with helicopter parents and a focus problem. Because he hasn't found his passion, he has a tendency to give up on everything he tries. He's distressed about it but doesn't have any idea what to do to change himself until he finds out about a professor who has dedicated her life to studying "grit" (determination). She's found that people with a high level of grit are more successful.

Scott's parents are traveling to Iran for a month because his grandfather is ailing and his father has arranged for Scott to spend the month doing an internship in which he has zero interest. After giving the internship a try, Scott quits and takes a bus to Washington, D.C. to seek out the professor. Maybe she can teach him how to discover grit. On the bus to DC, Scott meets Fiora Buchanan. Fiora is spontaneous, whimsical, and fun but her delightful personality hides the darker side of her life. While Fiora and a friend of hers from Charleston help Scott navigate the area, Scott pursues his search to discover grit and learns some surprising things about himself in the process.

Recommended - Within the first 50 pages of Down and Across I was almost certain I was going to have to painfully force myself through it or give up. But, eventually the author began to woo me and in the end I found it quirky, surprising and endearing. I loved the uniqueness of its plotline, using crossword puzzles as a metaphor for life, and the fact that I never knew quite where the author was going to take me, next. I'm quick to abandon books that don't grab me up front but I'm glad I stuck this one out.

©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, February 06, 2018

A Nest for Celeste and Another Quest for Celeste by Henry Cole

A Nest for Celeste and Another Quest for Celeste were both sent to me by HarperCollins for review and are both written and illustrated by Henry Cole. I thought it would be best to review them together. A Nest for Celeste was copyrighted in 2010 and Another Quest for Celeste is a February, 2018 release. Since I read these toward the beginning of January, I apologize if there are any inaccuracies in my memories of the two books.

A Nest for Celeste begins Celeste's story. Celeste is a mouse who has lost her family in a tragic accident. Alone, she's found her way to a plantation home and made herself a nice little room behind the floorboards, where she makes baskets from salvaged bits of dried grasses, wildflowers, and strands of colored thread. Now and then, she goes on a journey to the dining room to collect food dropped by the human inhabitants of the house. There are two vicious rats and a house cat, among other dangers.

Joseph is learning his master's art, drawing bird illustrations, while Mr. Audubon is instructing young Eliza Pirrie in dancing, drawing and painting. While Mr. Audubon teaches, hunts, and mounts the birds for his illustrations, Joseph practices drawing. After Celeste has a close call with the cat, Joseph discovers she's made a home for herself in his boot. He's always wanted a pet mouse, so he carries Celeste around in his pocket, talking to her throughout the day (although the author does not go so far as to let the human and mouse communicate with each other). But, even with Joseph to protect her, Celeste keeps getting into all sorts of binds. Will Celeste ever find a home?

I had such mixed feelings about A Nest for Celeste that I'm not sure whether or not I'd recommend it, although I think children can handle a lot more than we often give them credit for. Still, some of the things Celeste sees and experiences in this story (which is tangentially a view into John Audubon's world) are harsh. She sees one of the rats being killed by the house cat, just after being taunted by them, views a massive pigeon hunt in which thousands of birds are killed, and witnesses the slow death of an ivory-billed woodpecker after he's shot by Audubon to pin up, as if in flight, for illustration purposes. Adults will probably be aware that both the pigeons and the woodpeckers mentioned in the story have become extinct and that there's a message in each of these plot points.

There are also plenty of adventurous moments in A Nest for Celeste. I particularly enjoyed her friendship with an osprey who takes her for a ride in one of her baskets when she's in need of help, and a thrush who keeps her company in Joseph's room. Eventually, Celeste finds a safe and comfortable home in the attic, living in a dollhouse.

Iffy on recommendation - I'd recommend finding a copy through your library and reading it, before buying for your children. If you think it's not to scary and that the adventure offsets the violent bits, great. The illustrations are beautiful and look very much like Brian Selznick's illustrations. By the end of the book, I was glad I followed Celeste on her adventures but the first half of the book shocked me so much that I was surprised how pleasantly the book ended.

Another Quest for Celeste takes Celeste on an unexpected journey. After spending some time living in her dollhouse home in the attic of a plantation house, Celeste makes the mistake of falling asleep in a bale of cotton when she goes to fetch some food outdoors. The cotton is in a cart and the cart goes to the Mississippi River, where it's put on a steamship. Thus begins another adventure that leads Celeste from the steamship, where she is befriended by a kind old dog, to a forest, where she meets a delightful squirrel couple and settles down temporarily, to the log cabin home of young Abraham Lincoln.

There are a few really frightening moments that are in the same vein as those in A Nest for Celeste (the steamship sinks, a tree with a nest is felled) but the dangerous moments were, I thought, much milder in Another Quest for Celeste and her experience with young Abe Lincoln gives you a better feel for the historical aspect than the first book. You learn about Abe's passion for books and reading, what his home life was like, and his integrity when a borrowed book becomes soaked after a roof leaks during a storm. An author's note at the end of the book adds to the historical perspective.

Abe is kind to Celeste and she enlists her friends to help him out when he must work to replace the damaged book. And, then Celeste eventually returns to life in the forest. Although at the beginning of the book she yearns to return to her attic dollhouse, by the end she realizes she has found a happy new home, surrounded by friendship, in the forest.

Recommended - A much sweeter story, shorter, more focused on the history and friendship, I thought, than its predecessor, I really enjoyed Another Quest for Celeste. Both books are for elementary level, I'd say 3rd to 5th grade, depending on the child.


©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, February 05, 2018

Monday Malarkey

I've got lots of book stack photos, today, since a few people asked me to post my final bookstore purchases. The first stack is arrivals that came in the mail.



Recent arrivals (top to bottom):


  • Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue, and
  • We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter, both purchased
  • Obscura by Joe Hart - from Thomas and Mercer for review
  • Nothing Left to Burn by Heather Ezell from Penguin Young Readers for review
  • Black Fortunes by Shomari Wills from HarperCollins for review
  • Francis I by Leonie Frieda from HarperCollins for review
  • Our Native Bees by Paige Erbry - from Timber Press for review
  • The Statue and the Fury by Jim Dees for book group discussion


From this batch, I was most excited by Black Fortunes and Our Native Bees. I'd just been fretting about the fact that I couldn't think of any titles I had on-hand to read for Black History Month when Black Fortunes arrived on my doorstep (literally, the day I was thinking about it). Our Native Bees is about a subject that I consider incredibly important: the fate of our native bees. It is a stunningly beautiful book, chock full of gorgeous photos.


And, the final book purchase from our local bookstore closing (several images!):


Stack 1 (top to bottom):


  • Sicilian Carousel and Prospero's Call, both by Laurence Durrell
  • Black Hearts in Battersea and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, both by Joan Aiken
  • Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
  • Two Days in Aragon by M. J. Farrell (Molly Keane)
  • The Happy Foreigner by Enid Bagnold
  • The Cats of Roxville Station by Jean Craighead George, illus. by Tom Pohrt
  • Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  • Native American Place Names in Mississippi by Keith A. Baca
  • Long Ago in France by M. F. K. Fisher



Stack 2 (top to bottom):


  • Kangaroo by D. H. Lawrence - This title was one we discussed in the Australian Lit class I took, a couple years ago, so it was an exciting find.
  • Letters from Russia by Astolphe de Custine
  • Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters
  • I, Claudius by Robert Graves
  • Provence by Lawrence Durrell (I sure hope I like this guy's writing - I think I bought a total of 4 of his titles)
  • Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth
  • And Both Were Young by Madeleine L'Engle
  • The Madness of King George (screenplay) by Alan Bennett



And, the last two books, I confess, were bought solely because I thought the covers were cool. They're two of the three books in the The Studs Lonigan Trilogy:


  • Judgment Day, and 
  • Young Lonigan by James T. Farrell


I know you can see the titles just fine but I would feel weird not listing them. I've heard of this trilogy, but I don't know why. Maybe they were made into movies or a TV series? Studs Lonigan is definitely a familiar name. I will probably read them, not just admire them, but it will be interesting to see if I can find the third book in the trilogy.


Books finished since last Malarkey:


  • Force of Nature by Jane Harper
  • Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi

Sometimes my first thoughts (written by email to friends in an internet book group) are worded best but I can't find them in that mess known as my "outbox" when I get around to reviewing. I just came across my thoughts on Jane Harper's writing (written as I was reading one of her books) while cleaning my outbox, so I figure they're worth sharing:

I'm enjoying the fact that the author tells you just enough to leave you room to form your own theories but still feel like you have no idea where she's taking you. I'm also finding that it's easy to hear the Australian accent in my head. It just seemed to come naturally from the beginning. 

I would have shared that thought in my recent dual review of The Dry and Force of Nature if I'd come across it, last week.

Down and Across is a tour book and the review will be posted on the 8th of this month.


Posts since last Malarkey: 



I came across some immediate thoughts about Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown, as well: 

It's a book about being true to yourself and the importance of connecting with others. 

Followed by, "At least, I think it is." I waited too long before reviewing to recall what exactly I thought the book was about, as I was reading, so I thought that was worth sharing.



Currently reading:


  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  • Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


Don Quixote and The Hate U Give are both group reads. When friend Ryan mentioned the fact that he'd not yet gotten around to reading Don Quixote, I asked him if he'd like to buddy read it and he replied with an enthusiastic, "Yes!" We asked if anyone wanted to join us and two more people said they'd like to join in, so I created a closed Facebook group. Bryan of Still An Unfinished Person posted about joining in in this post: Tilting at Windmills, which includes the schedule. So, you can see I'll be reading that one for quite some time (the schedule spreads over 5 weeks). It's one heck of a chunkster but loads of fun.


In other news:

I hope Brit Box doesn't turn me into a TV junkie, but boy am I enjoying watching old British shows. We've dipped into quite a few: Dr. Who, Not the 9 O'Clock News, Upstart Crow, and the old Dirk Gently. I watched the entire Dirk Gently series, which only consisted of a pilot and three episodes. Kind of disappointing that they didn't take it any further. I like the recent Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, which is mind-bendingly bizarre but the older version falls closer to what I remember of the book by the same title -- the only Douglas Adams book I ever actually disliked, actually. Strange that I've so enjoyed the TV versions.



©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, February 02, 2018

Fiona Friday - Cross my paws and hope to have a nice nap


©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, February 01, 2018

The Dry and Force of Nature by Jane Harper

I got an Advance Reader Copy of Force of Nature by Jane Harper via Shelf Awareness after reading many gushing reviews, comments, and tweets about Harper's first release, The Dry. Knowing Force of Nature was the second in a series, I asked friends for advice about order. Did I really need to read The Dry, first? Would I miss important background that would likely feed into the next novel? I've read series books out of order, in the past. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. The advice I received was mixed but leaned toward the likelihood that I'd miss out if I didn't read The Dry, first, so I ordered a copy and have decided to review them together.

In The Dry, when Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns for his best friend Jake's funeral, it's his first visit to his hometown since he and his father were driven away. Luke, his wife, and son have been killed. But, did Luke murder his family and commit suicide or did someone else kill the family? Why was their baby daughter left alive but their son killed? Falk doesn't plan to stay in town to find out. But, then Luke's parents ask for help.

The title comes from the drought conditions in the area, as the story is taking place. Farmers are losing their livelihood because of the lengthy dry spell and nobody appears surprised that Luke may have killed most of his family. Since The Dry is the first in a series, you get to know Aaron Falk and the story of how and why he and his father were driven out of town in tandem with the unfolding investigation.

While there were some moments when I felt myself pulled briefly out of the story because I thought a particular element was weak, those were rare moments and the book was almost impossible to put down. I liked Aaron Falk and that feeling grew throughout the reading. And, I loved the way the author steered you toward believing someone was guilty, eliminated them entirely, and then did it all over again. The ending was surprising, tense, exciting, and believable. An excellent read. The book is set in rural Australia, west of Melbourne, and the setting is almost a character in itself. I love a very vivid setting, so The Dry was a 5-star read for many reasons. Highly recommended.

In Force of Nature, the weather has taken a 180° turn. It's winter, now. Months have passed since Aaron Falk solved the mystery of his best friend's death. He has a new partner named Carmen and the two of them have been working with Alice Russell to uncover money laundering at her place of employment. Alice has disappeared while on a team-building hike that lasted three days. The other 4 women made it out of the bush alive but some were injured. They claim Alice took her phone and hiked out on her own after they became lost and spent the night in a cabin. But, did she? Is it possible her disappearance is related to the investigation into the company's finances? A serial killer used to operate in this part of the Giralang Ranges and his son has disappeared. Could he have something to do with Alice's disappearance? Will she be found dead or alive -- or, not at all, like one of the victims of the serial killer?

I had two concerns when I first started reading Force of Nature: 1. Will it be as good as The Dry or a disappointing sophomore effort? and 2. Can she pull off yet another "5 women go into the woods and only 4 come out," storyline? It's a plot that has been done to death and I was definitely worried that it would be same old, same old.

Well, good news on both counts. I thought Force of Nature was actually even better than The Dry. As with the first novel, I found the book almost impossible to put down. The Giralang Ranges are, as I suspected, based on The Grampians (a few hours' drive from Melbourne, where Falk is based -- you can take a bus tour into The Grampians from Melbourne) and, again, the setting is practically a character unto itself. Whereas I felt the intensity of the heat and craved water while reading The Dry, I shivered along with the characters and grew weary of the rain in Force of Nature.

Highly recommended and I absolutely cannot wait to see what Jane Harper comes up with, next. I'm not a big mystery fan but I am fond of Aaron Falk, love the Australian settings, and find Harper's writing both competent and believable. I liked where she took her main character emotionally and thought Carmen was a nice addition as a sidekick.

Note on order: Force of Nature stands alone fine, but I'm glad I read the two books in order because I do believe that the events of the first book feed into the second one, mainly in the way of character development. There are some references to Falk's father, his burned hand, and his hometown. However, the storyline in Force of Nature doesn't depend in any way upon events in The Dry. So, no worries if you can't read The Dry, first. You can always catch up, later.


©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.

Mini Rvws: If This Isn't Nice, What Is? by K. Vonnegut, Braving the Wilderness by B. Brown, Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, and a note about a buddy read

All three of these books were purchases and none of them were particularly special, so they get the quick mini review treatment.

I bought If This Isn't Nice, What Is? by Kurt Vonnegut at our local bookstore's Going Out of Business Sale. It's a book of speeches given by Vonnegut and I'm aware that gesture and tone can make a difference when it comes to listening to a speech versus reading it, so I tried to bear that in mind. But, I still found Vonnegut's speeches a little on the hodge-podge and inconsistent side. He talked about life, shared bits of advice from his own years and advice that had been given to him, along with warnings about what's out there in the real world (particularly in the graduation speeches -- there are a couple speeches that are not to grads, but only 2 of the 7, as I recall).

I'm a Kurt Vonnegut fan so I enjoyed the reading but it's not a book I'd highly recommend because it's so repetitive. He tended to reuse his material. Still, it was occasionally entertaining. He passed on the only advice he ever got from his father: Don't ever put anything in your ear. There, I've shared some great advice. This book was responsible for the thoughtful (not impulsive, no way) purchase of two of Vonnegut's books, so there will hopefully be more Vonnegut reading in my near future.

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown is a book I purchased after a new friend told me how much the book meant to her. She said it wasn't the best writing but it was encouraging. I was not familiar with Brown's blog.

This new friend (whom I've only talked to a couple times, since, but hope to get to know better) thinks a lot like I do, so I bought the book out of curiosity and I really enjoyed it. However, I had a great deal of difficulty figuring out what Brown meant by the metaphorical "wilderness" - a thematic metaphor that she hammered home pretty heavily. Eventually, I figured it out. And, now I've forgotten.

Although the general concept may not have stuck with me and I had a little difficulty with it, at first, there were other things about the book that I loved, particularly when she talked about collective joy and collective pain. She mentioned, for example, her experience driving along the highway as the news of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion broke. Since the author was living in Houston and Houstonians are very connected to the space program, they took this tragedy hard and people suddenly began pulling over. Not knowing why so many cars were stopping, she drove slowly past one and saw someone crying at the wheel, I presume she turned on the radio because she figured out what was going on pretty quickly, after that. Brown used this story as an illustration of collective pain. This entire section kept me in tears. I liked what she had to say about it and I also appreciated her comment about constant negativity being detrimental to friendship; meaning, if you only ever talk about things that are bad in your life, you're less likely to build a real bond. You need positivity in your friendship, as well.

An interesting book. I didn't fully understand her purpose but I enjoyed it.

I discovered Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur was available for free download in Amazon's Prime Reading (e-book - shock!) shortly after seeing an interview with her on TV. The book is extremely popular with girls of high school age and she draws a huge crowd for her readings. I found the author very poised and enjoyed hearing her talk about how surprised and pleased she was at the success of her book and her thoughts about its success.

Unfortunately, I pretty much thought the book was crap. It's a book of "poetry" but it sounded more like the kind of thing you'd read on a poster than poetry to me. It also had entire sections that were about abuse/rape and even her line-drawing illustrations could be pretty graphic. Still, it had its moments. I photographed a few pages I liked off my iPad and then I discovered that you can look up images from the book online, so here's a favorite, snatched from the Interwebs:

Milk and Honey has so few words per page that it can be read in a half hour or less. I'm not sure whether I'd recommend it or not. I guess it depends on the individual. A teacher friend, Melissa, told me her students absolutely love it and I wondered what the appeal is. She told me they think it's about love and they find it romantic. I did not find it even vaguely romantic, so perspective is apparently everything when it comes to this book. 

And, about that buddy read . . . 

I mentioned that friend Ryan and I are going to be buddy reading Don Quixote, when the book arrived, and a couple other people have decided they may join in. Anyone else who is interested is welcome. We've chosen to read this particular version, translated by Edith Grossman, for the convenience of being able to refer to specific pages. But, any version will probably do. I'm hoping to get a Facebook page set up, so let me know if you want to join in and once that's up I'll be glad to add you.


©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.