Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • As You Wish by Cary Elwes 
  • Blitzkrieg by Len Deighton

Both of these were purchases. I ordered As You Wish after seeing Cary Elwes on an old episode of Psych. He played an art thief and he was every bit the charming rogue with a twinkle in his eye as Westley in The Princess Bride. I've wanted to read the book since it came out and the Psych episode motivated me to purchase it. Blitzkrieg is a book I saw recommended on a WWII site and I love Len Deighton. In the 80s and 90s, I read tons of his spy novels and then stupidly gave them away. I'd love to reread them, someday. I've never read any nonfiction by Deighton so Blitzkrieg should be interesting.

Books finished since last week's Tuesday Twaddle:

  • Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue by Jeff Seymour

Yep, just one book, again. I'm in a summer slump. I just haven't felt like reading. I had a terrible time getting into Nadya Skylung, in fact, even though it's an adventurous tale with a strong young heroine -- one of my favorite types of book. Fortunately, I enjoyed it; I just had trouble getting through it because I wasn't in a reading mood.

Currently reading:

  • As You Wish by Cary Elwes
  • Siracusa by Delia Ephron
  • High Season by Judy Blundell
  • Israel/Palestine by Alan Dowty

I was not really getting into anything at all (although I think I've read about 80 pages of Siracusa, this week's F2F discussion book) then As You Wish showed up. I sat down and opened it on Saturday and 65 pages later I came up for air. It's a fun read. I probably would have finished it last night, had I not found out that a friend died yesterday morning. Back to not feeling like reading.

Last week's posts:

In other news:

This is the friend who died, Enver Antonio Ávila, from Stockholm by way of Peru. He was a talented musician who taught music and math, spoke at least 5 languages (I'm pretty sure he was up to 7), wrote poetry and music, and took beautiful photographs. He was a health nut so it was more than a little surprising when he found out he had Stage 4 stomach cancer. We were internet friends only. He followed me on Twitter and then we became Facebook friends; I don't even remember when this happened, it's been so long ago. He was a voracious reader, particularly of poetry, and loved to travel. Tomas Tranströmer was his favorite poet. I don't know who took the photo; we never met in person so I snagged it from his Facebook page and hope the photographer won't mind. He will be missed.

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

Friday, June 15, 2018

Fiona Friday - Somebody's watching

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

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor by Yossi Klein Halevi

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

~ p. 8

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

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

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

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

~ p. 60

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

~ p. 88

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

That is the cycle we can only break together. 

~ pp. 115-116

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

~ p. 124

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

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

~ pp. 132-133

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

~ p. 141

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tuesday Twaddle

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

Recent arrivals:

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

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

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

Books finished since last malarkey:

  • Goodbye, Sweet Girl by Kelly Sundberg

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

Currently reading:

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

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

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

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

Last week's posts:

In other news:

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

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

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

Friday, June 08, 2018

Fiona Friday - Pay attention to me

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

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

Thursday, June 07, 2018

It's my bloggiversary!

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Hollywood Beach Beauties: Sea Sirens, Sun Goddesses, and Summer Style 1930-1970 by David Wills

Hollywood Beach Beauties by David Wills is a book of photographs, advertisements, and movie posters from the Thirties to early Seventies. Its subtitle does a good job of zoning in on the topics described in the text of the book (which was minimal, the book is mostly images and is divided by decade): "Sea Sirens, Sun Goddesses, and Summer Style, 1930-1970".  I'll admit up front to ignoring the subtitle because I was mostly in it for the vintage photography. I was curious about how the photography was done. For example: the changing poses and settings over the years. So, let's talk about the photography, first.

There were some really interesting things to note about the photography, but there were three things that really jumped out at me:

1. Poses have changed but not all that much - There are some photos, like the cover image, that look ridiculously posed and unnatural. And, I don't recall seeing models posing in bathing suits with high heels, before. But, there were also casual poses that have become more common in our era: the joyful beach photos in which models (the vast majority were also actors, not just models) jump in the air or splash in the water, for example, but there was a mix of happy and sexed-up photos. Note: from a fashion standpoint, it's extremely fun to see shoes of the various time periods.

2. Huge change in the body styles of models - While models in all 4 decades described were slender and beautiful, they were also curvy in earlier days, particularly in the 50s. And, quite a few of the early starlets who modeled bathing costumes were short. So, a good portion of them would be considered overweight by today's ridiculous modeling standards. It's notable that they looked every bit as terrific. You can't help but quickly note tricks to extend the length of legs, like the high heels, standing on tiptoes, toes pointed. I also noticed that the models tended to hunch their shoulders and clearly were pulling in their stomachs in many of the photos.

3. Almost no touch-ups - While some of the movie posters and advertisements were clearly manipulated (and many of the advertisements were artistic renditions rather than photographs), the vast majority appear unretouched. Some of the color photos, in fact, show that the models had skin that was burned in places. Poor Grace Kelly looked burned to a crisp in a beach photo from To Catch a Thief. A couple images also showed tan lines.

There's something deeply satisfying in the realization that women can still look utterly fabulous when nobody has gone in and removed the little pooches of skin that pucker above a bathing suit, thinned their thighs or made skin flawless with a computer program. I didn't expect to notice such details; as I mentioned, I was more interested in the changing photography than the human form or style. But, everything about the images ended up fascinating me.

Less interesting was the text, which I thought was a hot mess. While mostly about the crossover between modeling and acting and the changing styles of bathing suits, the author had a tendency to bombard the reader with names of actors who modeled, photographers, artists, and bathing suit designers . . . but then most of the photographs didn't show the specific suits or images described. At first, I went looking for particular images. One of the first models mentioned was not, in fact, shown at all. So, that baffled me. Then, I realized the author had chosen photos that matched the particular styles described without choosing the exact images that he had decided to highlight. I didn't care for that at all and I found the text really clunky and frustrating. But, at the same time I managed to learn a bit about changing styles, which was more interesting than I anticipated. I had no idea that early one-piece bathing suits of the type we wear today were knit and therefore very heavy when waterlogged. Nor did I realize that the early versions of stretchy bathing-suit material were quick to lose their shape. You couldn't just buy a swimsuit for the season, wear it for your daily dip in the pool, and expect it to last all summer.

Recommended to a specific audience - If you're interested in the photography alone, you might find this book a bit disappointing. But, I still enjoyed it. I just found that it held my interest for different reasons than I anticipated. It's more fascinating for the view of cultural and fashion changes than for the photography (my chief interest). So, I'd particularly recommend Hollywood Beach Beauties to people who are interested in fashion, with focus on bathing suits (although there is one photo of Audrey Hepburn in shorts -- totally out of place, I thought). It's also of interest for how women in movies were the models of most of the time period covered. And, if you have a fascination for old movie posters, you might enjoy how the beach images were incorporated into movie posters.

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

Monday, June 04, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • I Felt a Funeral in My Brain by Will Walton - purchased
  • 1968: Radical Protest and Its Enemies by Richard Vinen - from HarperCollins for review

I Felt a Funeral in My Brain was a pre-order that I'd forgotten about. I kind of love those. Sometimes I change my mind about a pre-order and cancel it but most are exciting surprises. I Felt a Funeral in My Brain was recommended by YA author Andrew Smith, whose recommendations have so far been impeccable. 

1968 is a year I've been reading about in other books, lately, so I jumped at the chance to read more when 1968: Radical Protest and Its Enemies became available for request. I'm looking forward to reading more about the year. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  • Hollywood Beach Beauties by David Wills

I finished Don Quixote!!! Yippee!! As Tina said, now I can return to regularly scheduled programming. More importantly, I've finally made it through a chunkster classic that I've been trying to conquer for decades. Woot!

Currently reading:

  • Israel/Palestine by Alan Dowty
  • Goodbye, Sweet Girl by Kelly Sundberg

Except, I haven't touched either book in almost a week. So, that should say, "currently have bookmarks between their covers". I'm planning to start a beachy read, tonight, also. Jenny mentioned that my reads have been awfully heavy for summer (good point - the latter book is a memoir of domestic violence) and I decided she was definitely right about that. So, I hope to lighten up the reading a bit by adding a beachy read and maybe a middle reader that's on the stacks.

Last week's posts:

So glad I was able to pre-post two reviews. That really helped allow me to relax and focus on finishing up Don Quixote. At the moment, 5 unreviewed books remain (all of which I've just gotten started, in some way, even if only to open a new post and add the cover image). I may double up on reviews to get those out of the way, this week, because I love the sensation of being all caught up. 

In other news:

I'm still watching episodes of Psych, now and then (now on Season 3) but Huzzybuns and I have also begun watching Foyle's War from the beginning. I've always liked Foyle's War but felt like I was missing something and, sure enough, it's much better in context -- watching the series in order really makes a difference. Now, I've seen Sam arrive, heard why Foyle needed a driver and why his driver is not a police officer, seen his son Andrew go off for training and nearly get framed for something his superior officer did. I know that Foyle didn't want to stay in Hastings (in fact, I don't know if he remains in Hastings -- if so, I never realized that's where the series was set). And, we're seeing the events of the war unfold in order. It makes so much more sense when you watch this series from the beginning.

Psych is still fun as ever. I watch an episode when I'm in the mood for an upper. Foyle's War episodes are much longer and more of a time investment, so we have to plan the viewing rather than just turn it on randomly.

I haven't watched any Dr. Who in weeks. That's mostly because the last episode I watched was particularly boring -- so boring that it totally drove me away. Maybe I need to just go back and skip past that episode. I'm really looking forward to getting to the Tom Baker years. Tom Baker was my introduction to Dr. Who and he will always be my favorite.

What are you reading and watching?

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

Friday, June 01, 2018

Fiona Friday - How to relax

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