Friday, July 19, 2019

Fiona Friday - My heart

Please forgive the dirt. I'm using this tablecloth as a dropcloth for painting.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Mini reviews - Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami and The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon

Both of these are books from my personal shelves. As I was writing these two reviews (and planning a third), I realized they were ending up much longer-winded than I expected so I deleted a third cover image and I'll review that final book separately.

If not kept in check, nighttime thoughts are prone to amplification. 

~ p. 131

Confession: The cover seduced me, although a vaguely positive review added to the temptation to buy this book. There isn't anyone flying in Strange Weather in Tokyo, and it's not a book about magical realism. It's just a cool cover.

Strange Weather in Tokyo is about a young woman named Tsukiko who happens across her former teacher when they're both drinking in a bar. He is older, a widower, and recognizes her from his Japanese class, many years ago. She calls him "Sensei" (teacher) rather than his name, throughout the book. They keep bumping into each other at the bar and eventually Sensei invites Tsukiko to his home, where they continue drinking and he shows off his quirky collections of train teapots and used batteries. Occasionally, they go places together but then there will be a vague falling-out or they won't see each other for a few months. And, yet, she's always thinking about Sensei and wonders if he's thinking of her.

I like this part of the cover description: "Their relationship develops from a perfunctory acknowledgment of each other to a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love."

Admittedly, it takes a very long time for the "love" part to arrive. It's clear that there's an attraction between the two, and yet Sensei occasionally chides Tsukiko and treats her like she's still his student. Meanwhile, she sometimes drifts away, almost chained by her loneliness, as if she doesn't feel it's possible to break free from it long enough to encourage affection. It's a slow, thoughtful book but I wasn't sure why I found Strange Weather in Tokyo compelling, when I thought back on it. Very little happens, and yet I liked every little moment in which you caught another spark between them. In flipping through the book, I found myself rereading passages beyond the quotes I'd marked. The ending is moving and lovely. If I were to Marie Kondo the room I'm sitting in, I would definitely say Strange Weather in Tokyo sparks joy when I hold it in my hands. I think I'll be looking for more by this author.

Recommended but not a favorite - A quiet book about a couple who are a study in contrasts and yet somehow find themselves drawn to each other and filling a hole in each other's lives. Lovely writing. An oddly simple yet magnetic story.

In The Confusion of Languages, Cassie Hugo is a military wife who has lived in Jordan for a while. She's a rule follower, a little paranoid and stiff, determined not to offend the Jordanians while she lives amongst them. Margaret Brickshaw is the opposite. When Cassie is tasked with welcoming Margaret and her husband, she at first sees Margaret as a wisp of a woman, tiny and timid. But, Margaret is American to the core and unwilling to bend to the rules. Instead of covering her skin, she wears what she wants. She smiles and chats up the embassy guards and her help around the apartment, looking them boldly in the eye, even when told such behavior is dangerous.

As the book opens, Margaret has been involved in a traffic accident while driving with Cassie in the car. It's no big deal to Cassie. Americans are always found at fault; she just needs to follow the embassy guards and pay the fine. But, instead, Margaret insists on going home and asks Cassie to watch her toddler while she returns alone. When hours pass and Margaret doesn't return home or answer her phone, Cassie becomes anxious. Looking through Margaret's possessions for clues, she finds a diary and begins to read about the past few months.

The Confusion of Languages is told entirely in past tense, jumping back and forth from diary entries to the time ticking away while Cassie awaits Margaret's return.

What does the ominous final entry in Margaret's diary mean? Why is Margaret not returning Cassie's calls? Did she really go to the police station to pay her fine or somewhere else? As Cassie reads Margaret's diary, she will find out what was really in Margaret's heart and mind and the secrets she kept during the months of their friendship.

Recommended - The Confusion of Languages is fascinating for its peek into life as a military wife living in the Middle East, a subject the author knows well as she has lived in Jordan and Abu Dhabi. I learned, for example, that when you live in embassy housing you have a panic room and strict instructions how to stock it and that the embassy of a foreign nation in which an American lives keeps the military residents up-to-date on happenings that may endanger their safety (protests nearby, political upheaval). I knew none of that. The story itself is a melancholy one. As Margaret's story slowly unfolds, there's always that lingering question about where she's gone and why. But, the underlying theme seems to be that there is a time and a place to conform. "When in Rome" and all that. The book also addresses infertility and fertility and the tensions both can cause in a marriage as one of the women has no children and wants them; the other was hastily married after becoming pregnant.

If I'd read these two books one after the other I would have been dying for a thriller, afterwards. Read them when you're in the mood for a slower, more character-driven novel.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Mini reviews - If I Die in a Combat Zone by Tim O'Brien, Extreme Ownership by Willink and Babin, and Cat Poems by a variety of poets

Hard to believe, but I'm caught up on reviewing books I've read that were sent by publishers, so I have a couple days to write about the books I've read from my own shelves or borrowed. Then, hopefully I will have finished another ARC by the time I'm done catching up on personal reads.

After I read The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, I put a number of his books on my wish list at Paperback Swap and managed to acquire 2 or 3 of them before relinquishing my membership. If I Die In a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home was one of them. I acquired every title I could get my mitts on without bothering to even read what they were about; that's how impressed I was with The Things They Carried.

If I Die in a Combat Zone is O'Brien's memoir. I didn't realize that till I opened the book and started reading. I read it specifically for Memorial Day. It was my little way to keep those who died for our country in my head and heart over the holiday weekend.

O'Brien tells about his life and his plans prior to being drafted, how he waffled about whether to show up for duty or run to another country and made actual plans to escape but then decided to report, his experiences with training and throughout his year in Vietnam, how he managed to go from dangerous jungle duty to a clerical job toward the end of his deployment, and his return home.

I had mixed feelings about If I Die in a Combat Zone. It's every bit as beautifully written as The Things They Carried, but the feeling I got from it was deeply sad and painfully honest. He was witness to some horrible atrocities, watched people die because of stupid decisions by his superiors with inflated egos, and lived with the knowledge that at any minute he could be amongst the maimed or dead. The only real light in the proverbial tunnel of O'Brien's war seemed to be the friendship he had with another man who was well-educated in literature. But, even then, the two of them occasionally got in trouble for having the nerve to sit around talking about poetry. It was a dark experience, overall, and it's hard to read. When he got that clerical job and then climbed on the plane and returned to Minnesota, I felt utterly relieved to have his combat days in the past. I love O'Brien's writing, though, and I still gave it 4 stars. Recommended but will rip out a piece of your heart.
Contains graphic violence.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin is a business book but because it's written by two Navy SEALs, it can be surprisingly gripping as they relate tales of their experiences in training and on deployment in Iraq. My husband has read Extreme Ownership at least twice and wanted me to read it but I'm not exactly sure why. I opened it up when he handed it to me and was surprised at the intensity. It begins with a story of a SEAL mission in which a potential terrorist ran from the building they'd surrounded. Willink pursued him and then realized, when he captured the man, that he had chased the man down without informing anyone where he was going. He had to make a critical decision about how to handle the prisoner and return without getting them both killed. He then applied that decision-making process to a particular business problem. It was fascinating and I was hooked.

The theme of the book, "extreme ownership" is about taking responsibility when things go wrong, the idea being that solid leadership and well-coordinated teamwork are the best ways to solve problems in business, but it's important for leaders to take responsibility when something goes wrong in order to lead well. "There are no bad teams, just bad leaders," is one of the quotes I highlighted after reading what I considered one of the most fascinating illustrations of leadership in the book. I don't recall which author told this story, but one of the men described a particular part of SEAL training in which the soldiers were divided into teams. Each team carried a heavy boat and raced it. He described how one team was consistently winning and another repeatedly came in last or next to last. The leader of the losing team thought he'd just ended up with a bad bunch of teammates. But, then the leaders were told to switch boats and the team that had been coming in last won. The team that had previously won still did well. I would have loved to see an actual film of the leaders of those teams in action.

Highly recommended - I've tried to apply the leadership principles to marriage by explaining to my husband how it benefits him to listen to my housekeeping leadership. Unfortunately, it's not working. I hope the principles do better for him at work than they have for me at home. I'd like to know what Jocko and Leif have to say about stubborn men who just don't get why socks need to be placed in the laundry right-side-out.

Cat Poems does not list an editor but it's an anthology of poems about cats, obviously. I got a copy of Cat Poems for Mother's Day from Kiddo and his fiancée.

The problem with an anthology about a particular chosen subject is that editors don't always go into the selection with the people who appreciate that subject in mind. I read a book of poems for and about children, a few years ago, in which some of them were actually quite dark — about the loss of a child or the horror of abuse, for example. They covered all the bases but it wasn't always pleasant. The same is true of Cat Poems. Some of them are funny or sweet, about the things a cat lover adores. Others are frankly awful, either because they're negative about cats, cruel, or sad.

My favorite was a poem by Muriel Spark, "Bluebell Among the Sables." The poem is about a visit from a friend wearing expensive sables. Muriel was bored by her social obligation to entertain the friend. Then, Bluebell began to attack the tails of the sables on the woman's coat and it diverted her. It's a cute story but short enough to relate through poetry. It was those poems in which the cat is recognized and appreciated that I obviously liked best, being a cat lover.  No surprise there. I'm iffy about recommending Cat Poems because I found some of the poetry downright upsetting, but I will definitely reread my favorites.

©2019 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.

The Unspeakable Mind by Shaili Jain, M.D.

UPDATED: I pre-posted my review of The Unspeakable Mind last night and when I reread my review, this morning, I didn't like it. So, I've updated my review to try to clarify a couple things I think I muddled in the original description. 

PTSD rates skyrocket in children who endure traumatic events that ravage their communities. How parents respond to the trauma and how close (geographically) the child is to the epicenter play a crucial role in determining outcome. Parents and caregivers who are able to be emotionally supportive and are not traumatized themselves exert a protective effect that reduces the odds that a child will develop PTSD. 

~fr. p. 114 of The Unspeakable Mind, Advance Reader Copy (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

When a woman has a traumatic birth, there was something subjective about the birth that was distressing. This does not have to be life-threatening or medically traumatic. We are thinking of the psychological impact of that birth experience on the mother. 

Birth Trauma definitions include "a negative and disempowering physiological and emotional response to a birth." Common themes include feeling unheard or not listened to, a lack of compassion from medical professionals, and feeling out of control or helpless. 

~fr. p. 168 of The Unspeakable Mind, ARC

I'm going to mention the things that bothered me about The Unspeakable Mind, up front, and then work my way into why I highly recommend the book, anyway. First, something I've mentioned in previous posts is that I often have difficulty with psychology books because they don't give you the full story. They'll describe a case but not tell you how it concluded. Did the patient improve? How is his illness being managed? Is it likely he'll relapse? Often, you'll only hear about what led up to the psychologist's involvement and some of the treatment without any form of resolution, whatsoever. In The Unspeakable Mind, there was an additional problem: one particular treatment method was referenced repeatedly but never fully described. There's a glossary, but even in the glossary it made little sense, at least to me. But, in general, the writing was clear enough that a few minor issues weren't enough to lessen its readability overall, nor its importance.

It wasn't till I'd set aside the book in frustration and given it time to sit before I was ready to deal with what I saw as its challenges. Then, after finishing The Unspeakable Mind I found out it's not even actual cases that are being described but composites — a made-up patient is described with a particular inciting incident that brought them in for treatment. For example, a former soldier who was traumatized during his deployment found that drinking helped him cope with social situations, which made him particularly uncomfortable. He showed up already drunk to a family barbecue and the smoke from grilling meat triggered his PTSD, making him think he was under attack. Without realizing what was happening, he flew into self-defense mode and started attacking his own family. The author describes these events as if they really happened and then what would have happened to him after he sat down with her. But, he's a composite of several patients, not a real person, and you don't ever find out whether he recovered because . . . well, you can't, since he's not real, although occasionally there may be a satisfactory conclusion to one of the stories. It's still false, but at least it gives you the sense of completion.

It wasn't till after I finished The Unspeakable Mind and had some time to let it roll around in my head that I really understood the need for the conceptual nature of the illustrations: to protect individuals — clearly, it's hard enough to keep anything private in today's electronic world. It's not necessary to describe actual cases in order to explain the concepts: how or why certain events can be traumatic, how people may react (burying the memory, having nightmares, becoming violent or depressed) and what the treatment options are, whether or not they've been shown to work, what new treatments are being tried, etc. In other words, The Unspeakable Mind gives you a well-rounded overview of trauma and its treatment. You really don't need to know about any actual individual's experience; it's only necessary to illustrate how trauma could have occurred and treatment may been handled. I'd prefer that the author mentioned that up front, though. I put the book down because of frustration with the lack of conclusions, not because of the writing, which is solid. Understanding the reason they might not have a conclusion might have helped a bit.

At the beginning of the book, PTSD is described as a trauma brought about by an experience that threatens either one's life or the life of one they care for. If you see your daughter being held at gunpoint, in other words, you're just as likely to get PTSD as the daughter with the gun pressed to her side. But, later on in the book, other traumas like the Birth Trauma that's mentioned above are described. So, you don't always have to have a near-death experience to be traumatized and, in fact, even unborn children can be damaged by the trauma experienced by a pregnant mother.

The contents include a description of how and why the author decided to study and treat traumatic stress, the history of how trauma has been described and treated, mistakes in diagnosis ("overdiagnosis and underrecognition"), what happens to a traumatized brain, how trauma can be passed on through generations, the meaning of dissociation, physical effects of PTSD (addiction, cardiac disease), danger to those around the traumatized, types of trauma experienced specifically by women, suicide prevention, treatments, and preventing trauma itself (by immediately treating those who have been through known traumatic incidents), and more.

Highly recommended - I learned a great deal from The Unspeakable Mind. Throughout the book, the author shares the story of her father's trauma, which occurred during the Partition of India in 1947. I particularly enjoyed that personal touch. I also appreciated the writing for the broad overview of different ways in which people can be traumatized, how they've been treated in the past and what new treatments are being used, what exactly is considered traumatic enough to fall under the category of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and what helps or hinders treatment that may actually lead to a cure.

The bottom line seemed to be that the most important factors in prevention and recovery are acceptance that a person has been traumatized (by friends, parents, and police in the case of rape, for example) and a good social support network to help them through the aftermath. I lead kind of a sheltered life but still know several people who could have been featured within the pages of this book, so that speaks to me of how easily one can be traumatized and the fact that all of us are probably related to or friends with at least one person who has PTSD. For that reason, I recommend it to everyone because it may help readers learn the importance of being in someone's support network.

A side note: I deliberately included the first excerpt because it describes the danger of separating children from their parents and then mistreating them. Not only does the separation enable the development of PTSD by removing the supportive network that anyone needs in a traumatic situation, the book also describes the physical damage done to a child's brain when traumatized. This seems an important and timely subject in America.

I received a copy of The Unspeakable Mind from HarperCollins in exchange for an unbiased review. Many thanks!

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Swim That Rock by John Rocco and Jay Primiano - purchased

Yep, that's the only arrival. And, it was one of those, "Oh, I'm here anyway (at the evil online megastore, sorry), I might as well just toss this in the cart," things. I read an Instagram review that described Swim That Rock as a marvelous adventure. I love adventure! Action! Excitement! Should have bought it when it was discounted, though. Do you realize that if you put something in your cart at Amazon and don't immediately buy it, the price will go up? And, then if you take it out of the cart but save it for later, the price still won't go down? However, if you leave it for months, there's a possibility the price will drop. It's not likely, but sometimes it happens. Usually, when the price goes up on something after I return, I abandon it forever because jacking the price up ticks me off. Amazon might want to rethink that practice.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
  • The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon
  • The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

All three books were solid reads. I started typing this up on Friday because we were expecting Tropical Storm (then Hurricane, Tropical Storm again, and finally Tropical Depression) Barry to menace us, over the weekend, but it turned out that it was just rainy, not stormy, so I'm back to work on it on Sunday. Saturday was brilliant. If you're in just the outer bands of a hurricane or tropical storm, often what you'll get is light rain and cool temperatures. And, that's exactly what happened. The temperature dropped 25° — from 101° to 76° — in two days. We were excited to have an unexpected opportunity to sit outside. Today, though (Sunday), the rain has been heavy and occasionally blown in sideways so that the covered patio is too wet to enjoy, although we tried once and were driven in by a gust that got us good and wet. Ah, well. The cats and I have been happily reading indoors.

Currently reading:

  • Nothing. 

I'm in between books. But, I plan to read a little of The Mueller Report, today, and then I'll decide on a fiction title to start, next. I thought I had a book tour, this week, but the publicist never contacted me and a book did not arrive, so my week is clear of any specific reading obligations. I'm happy about that, hoping that will give me the opportunity to focus on finishing The Mueller Report. I'd like my next fiction read to be one that can tolerate being a side read till I'm done with Mueller. At this moment, I'm waffling between starting Searching for Sylvie Lee or Rosie Colored Glasses. Or, maybe Never Have I Ever. We'll see what grabs me.

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

Since we've finished the last available season of The Heart Guy aka Doctor Doctor, we're back to watching Season 3 of The Royal. And, I've begun to watch Tutankhamun, which I primarily began watching because Sam Neill is in the cast. He plays Lord Carnarvon, the man who financed Howard Carter's search for Tut's tomb. I would describe Tutankhamun as "bland, but watchable," and I confess I just like seeing events that I've read about brought to life, so I'm willing to put up with a little bit of "Yeah, sure." Plus, Sam Neill. He isn't always in the picture but I like him.

I also still occasionally watch an episode from Star Trek: The Original Series, Season 1. I'll be watching the original series, off and on, for a long time. I've maybe managed to watch 11 or 12 episodes out of the full 79, so far.

We passed the danger zone for Fiona kitty and she is back to her energetic self. It took her a couple of days to get her energy back. And, it took about 2 1/2 days before Isabel stopped hissing at her, 3 days before Izzy began to tentatively approach Fi and give her a sniff and a little head bump, 4 days before Isabel was begging Fi for a cuddle and Fiona started brushing her away. To Fi's credit, when Isabel was hissing at her she remained totally passive and once even rolled over on the rug where she was sleeping, turning her back on Izzy. That was kind of a funny moment. Isabel just stood there looking at her like, "Wait, what? I'm hissing at you! Aren't you going to react?" Cats are like comedians wrapped in fur. So entertaining.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Fiona Friday

This picture cracks me up. Izzy followed me into the room and then immediately wanted back out, the second I closed the door. She stuck her paws under the door to try to dig her way out but then she rolled over onto her back and kept it up. I have a whole series of pictures but this one, when she stopped to look away from the gap under the door for a second, is my favorite. Funny girl.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

"That was luck. I've seen you play a hundred times, and that was the first time I've seen you beaten." He paused. "Well, apart from the semifinal last year."

"Oh, you saw that?"

He blushed deeper. "Yeah. We got knocked out in the semis, too. By the Spanish In-quiz-ition." He grinned. "Nobody expected it."

~p. 142

In The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman, many readers will find a kindred spirit. Nina is the only child of a single, traveling photographer. Mostly raised by a nanny, she's introverted, organized, a lover of books and trivia, and a bookstore clerk who takes great joy in the many bookish activities that she hosts. She's on a trivia team, in a book group, and happy with her quiet life alone.

Then, Nina's well-organized life becomes crowded with new people when she falls for one of the members of an opposing trivia team and finds out she has a large, extended family by way of a lawyer who informs her that her father has passed away. Can Nina fit all the new people into her carefully ordered life? And, what will happen to her when the landlord of the bookstore in which she works decides that he's got no choice but to find a new tenant?

Highly recommended - Ohmygoodnessgracious, I loved this book. Nina is the kind of people a bookish person can't help but love to read about. She reads avidly, loves storing up facts, has a cat, makes frequent references to books, characters, and movies, and has serious anxiety issues. Mostly with people. People are really scary. The only complaint I have about the book is that just about everyone Nina interacts with is equally witty. She may not think she's a people person but she has quite a rapport with just about everyone. But, at the same time, that makes the book a light-hearted, smart, amusing, and engaging read. I adored the witty banter. It made me happy. Totally a five-star read.

I received a copy of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill from Berkley Books in exchange for an unbiased review and it's going on that favorites list I mentioned yesterday. Wow, two 5-star books read in less than two weeks! How often does that happen? I'm going to want to press this one into the hands of a lot of people.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

Andrew rubbed his eyes and yawned. "All I want is to live in a converted train station on top of a mountain with sea views and Wif-Fi and easy access to central London, is that so much to ask?"

"Have another cookie," Peggy said, patting him on the top of the head. 

~ from p. 314 of How Not to Die Alone

Andrew's job is a strange one. He's tasked with finding relatives or friends of those who die alone in London. He digs through their possessions, searching for clues to where he might find someone who knew the deceased and any financial accounts the deceased may own. Barring the discovery of both, the public health will pay for what amounts to a pauper's funeral, of sorts, which Andrew feels obligated to attend so that nobody is buried without at least one person present.

But, Andrew has a tricky problem. When he applied for the job, he wasn't actually listening to his future boss when he was asked a particular question. Andrew played along, giving a couple of vague answers before realizing he'd just claimed he had a wife and two children. Andrew lives alone. He has a sister but no other relatives and is probably destined to die alone, just like the people whose funerals he attends. Instead of confessing to his mistake, Andrew has drawn up an elaborate spreadsheet to help him keep all his lies straight. And, 6 years have passed since he was hired. It's really too late to tell the truth, isn't it?

Then, things grow even worse. The boss, in his eternal quest to stir up camaraderie amongst the employees, has decided that all the employees should take turns hosting a dinner at their homes, so that everyone can get to know each other better and meet each other's families. Andrew, of course, has no family. He has a pretend wife who makes loads of money and two fake children, but in reality he lives in a flat that he hasn't kept up well and he's got a train running through his home. He spends his off time hanging out in a chat room with a few other people who are even more obsessive than he is about trains.

When a new employee named Peggy shows up, Andrew's world is lightened by her presence. She's a cheery and delightful companion when digging for clues in the homes of the deceased and not afraid to sneak a coffee or a little personal time in the middle of office hours. Suddenly, Andrew feels like he's living, again. But, Peggy is married and Andrew has a fake wife and a looming date to serve dinner to his fellow employees. Will Andrew be able to confess to the complicated web of lies he's created? When he realizes his job is on the line, is there any way at all out of the disastrous corner he's painted himself into?

Highly recommended - OK, the bad up front. There are some descriptions of yucky smells and sights in the homes of the deceased. Some may find that off-putting. To be honest, it didn't bother me at all, but as I was reading I was aware that it might be a problem to some readers. It's really just setting, though. The characters, the dialogue, and the story are funny and charming and awful (some of the characters are the kind you love to hate) and How Not to Die Alone is going on my favorites list for 2019. Andrew is clearly a wounded soul but why? What happened to make him retreat from the world, in general? What will Andrew do about his lies and his growing affection for Peggy? There are so many questions that kept the pages turning. And, I absolutely loved how they were resolved. I haven't given it all away, I promise. How Not to Die Alone is a delightful story of grief, loneliness, and the healing power of friendship. Very British in setting and humor although I noticed the Americanization of some words and spellings in this printing.

I told my physical therapist about the book and he said, "Ooooh. That needs to be a movie." I agree. I think it would be easily adaptable to the screen. Peggy and Andrew visit a bookstore, at one point, and I looked it up. It's real and it sounds marvelous. I've added that bookstore to my wish list of places to go. Book lovers will appreciate the bookstore scenes for the setting alone.

I received a copy of How Not to Die Alone from G. P. Putnam's Sons (unsolicited, I think, but it might have been requested via Shelf Awareness; either way, I was excited to get it). Many thanks!

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The Haunting of Henry Davis by Kathryn Siebel

Henry is new to Barbara Anne's 5th grade class. He's super nerdy-looking and nobody wants to have anything to do with the new kid. He sits alone sketching when he's not working on a project with the kids at the table he and Barbara Anne share. Then, one day, Barbara Anne and Henry start sneaking out of the lunch room early and they slowly get to know each other. Henry's not so bad, really. But, there's one really strange thing about Henry: he's being haunted and the ghost is following him around everywhere.

Barbara Anne comes up with an idea. They need to find out a little about Henry's ghost so they can figure out how to get rid of him. Once they figure out his name is Edgar, they begin to uncover other clues. And, then the two classmates who share a table with them join in. Who was Edgar? How did he die? And, how does the scary old lady in the neighborhood know about him? Once they find the answers, maybe they can help Edgar move on.

Recommended but not a favorite - It took me a while before I became really engrossed in The Haunting of Henry Davis. That seems to be a common problem with the middle grade books I've read, this year. Is it me or the books? I can't say. Maybe a little of both. At any rate, the clues were dropped slowly enough to keep the story a little mysterious, although adults probably will be familiar enough with the events around Edgar's death to guess what happened to him, early on. I did, but that didn't bother me at all.

I liked the growing friendship between Barbara Anne and Henry, as well as the way the other two kids ended up helping out and becoming friends with them. And I enjoyed the story once it got cranked up. The ending is lovely. I did have a little trouble with the author occasionally mentioning a new person and then describing them in the following sentences. In fact, I got so confused when that happened the first time that I literally went back and started the book over again, thinking I'd missed something (not a big deal; I was still in the first or second chapter). Nope, it was just a stylistic thing, I guess. Other than that and a slow start, I thought The Haunting of Henry Davis was entertaining, if not a personal favorite.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • The Rogue to Ruin by Vivienne Lorret - from Avon Books for review
  • Retrograde by Peter Cawdron - purchased
  • The Chocolate Maker's Wife by Karen Brooks and 
  • Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb - both from HarperCollins for review
  • The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles De Lint - purchased
  • After the Flood by Kassandra Montag and 
  • The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan - both from HarperCollins for review
  • About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior by Colonel David H. Hackworth and Julie Sherman - purchased

Well . . . not as bad as I anticipated. I got 8 notices from UPS about separate parcels, one day, and I thought, "Ohmygosh! Eight books!" It turned out all four of the HarperCollins books came twice. I've offered the duplicates to a local blogger friend and if she doesn't want them I'll find them all nice new homes.

Retrograde was bought on a whim, although I've been watching for recommendations for good sci-fi titles. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest was on my old wish list at Paperback Swap. When I left PBS, I wrote down the titles I was still waiting on and I hacked away at the list, for a while, but then lost it in the laptop files when the laptop died. I don't know how I was reminded of it, but I must have seen it in a friend's stacks, somewhere. About Face is to share with Huzzybuns. It was mentioned in Extreme Ownership, the book he talked me into reading, recently. Wow, that's a serious chunkster!

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Unspeakable Mind by Shaili Jain, M.D. 
  • The Haunting of Henry Davis by Kathryn Siebel
  • Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Yay! I finally finished The Unspeakable Mind! And, it was good, very informative. The Haunting of Henry Davis is a middle grade book I'll be touring, tomorrow. And, Strange Weather in Tokyo was just for fun. I enjoyed all three for entirely different reasons.

Currently reading:

  • The Mueller Report - Washington Post edition

Yep, just one book. But, that's because I finished Strange Weather in Tokyo last night and haven't started on my next fiction read, which is going to be The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (also a tour book, due to be reviewed on Thursday).

Posts since last Malarkey:

  • 6-month Review (an update on my reading goals for 2019)
  • Bad Order by B. B. Ullman (book review)

There was no Fiona Friday because of the holiday weekend. Family kept me busy. Fiona Friday will be back, this week. In the meantime, here's a cat photo:

In other news:

That photo was just taken about a hour or two ago, after I brought Fiona home from a weekend in the veterinary hospital, where she was given activated charcoal and fluids after she munched on the leaves of a daylily (every part of the lily is dangerous to cats — just brushing against the pollen of a lily can kill them). At this point, she's looking good. She's conked out at my feet after having trouble settling down. She's very excited to be home. We have to keep an eye on her for a couple more days, but I think the worst of the danger has passed. So scary. Husband was not aware they were toxic and set down a box of daylilies on the kitchen floor. He knows, now. Those were some expensive lilies.

We finished Season 3 of The Heart Guy, also known as Doctor Doctor in Australia, last night. And, I found out there's going to be a 4th season! Yippee! But, we'll have to wait a while, I guess. I don't know if they've even filmed it. Love this series.

Most of the weekend was spent working on cleaning the master bedroom, hanging out with family, and worrying about the cat. I told Huz I could stand to have some shelves over the bed, so that I have a better place to keep my TBR stack, and he noted that I needed to clean the bedside table of the books I'm not reading and neaten that up, instead. So, I did that. Oh, it looks fabulous! I now have my entire July stack plus my backlog of ARCs and the books my F2F book group is reading all lined up in a row with granite bookends. He's right. I didn't need any more shelves; I just needed to put away the books that have been sitting there, gathering dust. Lots and lots of dust. Even if the right books had been on the table, it needed cleaning.

I removed the Twitter app from my phone because I thought I my time spent on Twitter was getting excessive. I don't know if it was removal of the app, the holiday weekend, or both, but I have hardly been on Twitter, since.

Hope my American friends enjoyed the long weekend!

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Bad Order by B. B. Ullman

I'm not sure how to even start writing about this book, but I'll try my best and pull from what I wrote on Goodreads immediately after finishing.

Even while I was reading Bad Order by B. B. Ullman, I kept thinking, "This is going to be hard to describe." There is a boy, Albert, who communicates telepathically with his sister, Mary, three holographic aliens, a VW bug that flies, and a tear in something-or-other that allows bad feelings to infect people. As the tear grows and the bad feelings spread, people attack each other. But, Albert has an understanding of what happened and possibly the ability to fix it. I didn't fully understand that part but it has to do with his deceased father, a scientist, working in his lab before Albie was born.

Told you it was not going to be easy to describe. Bad Order is very entertaining, though. I had a little difficulty with suspension of disbelief because the science bits didn't sound particularly plausible. But, I liked the story enough to deliberately shove those feelings aside. The bottom line is that the story is about 3 children and a young adult working together to save humanity under difficult and dangerous circumstances and it's a tremendous ride.

All four of the main characters come from difficult circumstances and in addition to the tale of "interdimensional catastrophe", the author does a nice job of showing how the challenges of loss (a father), alcoholism (Mary's best friend Brit's mother), and poverty (all of the children in the book live in poverty) effect children.

Bad Order is an exciting and suspenseful read. As a middle grader, I know I would have enjoyed Bad Order because I loved anything that was otherworldly with children saving the day. So, I definitely recommend it for middle grade children who like fantasy or sci-fi. As an adult, I found it a little far-fetched but didn't care. I still thought it was a terrific read, once I'd set aside my disbelief. The holographic people are very entertaining and the relationships between the children are charming.

Highly recommended - Space travel, weird happenings, and a cooperative effort to keep a dangerous rift whose glowing mist could end life on earth make for a unique, page-turning plot that sci-fi- and fantasy-loving children will enjoy. I was captivated by Bad Order, even though I didn't always understand what was happening. A fun and wildly imaginative story.

I received a copy of Bad Order from Sterling Children's Books in exchange for an unbiased review. Many thanks!

©2019 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.

6-month Review

Well, there went half a year. Whoosh! Time to revisit the reading goals and see how things are going. Here's my post about my Reading Goals for 2019. I won't repeat every detail; instead, I'll just say how I'm progressing on each of my goals.

1. Recently Dead Guys Personal Challenge - 0/3

Bummer. I've been thinking about this one, off and on, and was aware that I haven't read a single one but it still sucks to have to admit it.

2. Perfect Little Gems Personal Challenge - Ugh, 0

Double bummer. If I don't get to it in 2019, though, I will definitely fold this one over into 2020.

3. Books I bought in hardback because I was sooo anxious to read them and then didn't get around to reading them challenge - 2/6

Better. I've read What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Old Baggage by Lissa Evans, from this list. Both were excellent, in my humble opinion.

4. Personal Classics Challenge - 4 titles read 

I've read Howard's End by E. M. Forster, Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, and Forbidden Area by Pat Frank. I didn't read any classics in May or June.

5. Fewer ARCs/Upcoming Releases in 2019 - Umm, okay. I started out really well and then, gosh darn it, I went overboard. I have a backlog, now – exactly the thing I was trying to avoid. My current plan is to attempt to accept no books at all (children's books are always an exception) in November and December so that I can make sure that I've either read or attempted every ARC I've received in 2019.

6. Spend less time on social media and more time reading - This has been going quite well, although occasionally I will find myself refreshing either Twitter or Facebook obsessively for that dopamine hit. When I become aware of it, I usually take a week off from social media and that always does the trick. I like my life better without social media but not enough to give it up entirely. In fact, I just put a force hold on my Twitter app to keep me from checking it via the phone because I felt I was overdoing my Twitter usage. I'm on the verge of removing the app from my phone entirely.

7. Progress on annual Goodreads goal - 81/100

I've been ahead of my Goodreads goal for the entire year, although I came close to falling behind, at one point. I'm not going to bump up my goal at the website, although my mental goal is now 160 because I think it's reasonable to try to double what I've read in 6 months. But, I'd be fine with 140.

8. Books my kids insist I must read - 1/2

I've read The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (recommended by eldest) but not Casey: The Lives and Secrets of William J. Casey by Joseph E. Persico (recommended by youngest). And, I'd totally forgotten about the Casey book, so I'll have to remember to get to that ASAP.

Bottom line . . . I'm reading at a decent pace and not doing so hot on my personal reading challenges, but I knew I was setting some lofty goals when it came to the personal challenges and anticipated not succeeding 100% at all of them. Still, I'd like to do better in the next 6 months. It's going to be a challenge, given the backlog. I just got some UPS notifications and there were so many of them that I did a double take and then checked the shipping numbers to see if they'd sent me duplicate notices. Nope. Next week's ARC stack is going to be a doozy.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

Photo 1:

  • Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen and
  • Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson - both from Harlequin, for review
  • What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon - purchased

Photo 2:

  • Wilfred and Eileen by Jonathan Smith
  • High Wages by Dorothy Whipple
  • Despised and Rejected by Rose Allatini
  • Tory Heaven by Marghanita Laski
  • They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple
  • Guard Your Daughters by Diana Tutton
  • Minnie's Room by Mollie Panter-Downes
  • Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham
  • The Call by Edith Ayrton Zangwill - all purchased by Huzzybuns

So, this requires a bit of explanation. The first two books in Photo 1 are from Harlequin's Mira imprint for review. That's self-explanatory. The third, What the Wind Knows, is a book a friend recently read because she was going to Ireland (she's there now, in fact) and when I found out it's a time travel and that it was nicely priced, I jumped right on that sucker. There is absolutely nothing I love better than a good time travel.

Photo 2 is obviously a stack of Persephone books. I don't recall whether or not I mentioned that Huzzybuns was in London on business, last week, but he knows how much I love London (it's my favorite big city) and felt just awful about not being able to take me because the ticket prices were outrageous. For over a week before he left, he hounded me about writing a list of books to buy at the Persephone store and told me to make it a big one. I wrote a list of 10 titles but absolutely did not expect him to buy 9 of them! That's a pretty big guilt purchase, there. When he arrived home, I was so excited that I walked around with them, posed them in several places, and carried them around some more. Kinda wishing I didn't have such a backlog of ARCs, now, as you can imagine. I would love to dig into them immediately but I just can't. Because he made such a large purchase, he got a free tote bag and they threw in a catalog and the latest Persephone Biannually.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Say No to the Duke by Eloisa James
  • Bad Order by B.B. Ullman
  • How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper
  • Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Guess why I had such a great reading week? Because I decided if Huz was going to get to go have fun (he can squeeze fun in around a conference; it's a skill), I was going to have some, too. So, I declared last week a "Staycation Week" and spent my time reading, writing, doing a preliminary sketch and then sketching a second time on a canvas (this painting is going to take a long time), exercising, and doing a minimum of chores — just laundry, dishes, and whatever else was necessary, no deep cleaning or big jobs. I went to sleep when I felt like it, napped when my eyes got heavy, and had an all-around good time doing what I wanted. Back to normal chores, this week, but I definitely feel refreshed.

Currently reading:

  • The Unspeakable Mind by Shaili Jain
  • Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

I kept my word and returned to The Unspeakable Mind when I finished Extreme Ownership (which my husband asked me to read and we've already discussed but plan to discuss some more). I should finish it tonight or tomorrow; it's a quick read, really. It's just been sitting on the "current reads" stack, waiting for me to return to it. Strange Weather in Tokyo is a book I bought based on 1) The amazing cover, and 2) A review by a friend at Instagram. So far, it's not dazzling but I'm enjoying it for the setting, as much as anything. And, I like to admire the cover. I dug in my little bin of paper products from Japan to find a Japanese bookmark to use in Strange Weather, as you do. 

When I finish The Unspeakable Mind, I'm planning to focus on finishing up The Mueller Report (which may take a couple weeks, since I haven't gotten that far) so that I can move on to the nonfiction ARCs in my July pile.

Posts since last Malarkey:

I was very pleased with myself for still managing to post during my staycation. Now, we'll see if I can do as well this week. 

In other news:

I'm nearing the end of Season 3 of The Heart Guy (aka Doctor Doctor) and noticed that Charlie is hiding her belly behind pillows, tables, and long jackets. So, I looked her up to see if the actress was pregnant during filming. Sure enough, she had a baby in 2018. Even better, I found out there will be a 4th season! Woot! I love this show.

I also watched a few episodes from Season 1 of Star Trek, the Original Series. I've been watching an episode, off and on, for a couple months but it's not a regular thing and, wow, a season had a ton of episodes, back in the Sixties. 25, I think? I've been a half-hearted Trekkie since I was a kid (not the convention-going kind, but more someone with a quiet affection for the series that doesn't always translate to newer iterations) and it's fun revisiting the original series.

©2019 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 28, 2019

Fiona Friday - Isabel has to say hello

This is classic Izzy. She was lightly napping when I set the books beside her to try to get a cat-with-books shot. I didn't get the chance. She had to jump up to greet me. That girl is loaded with affection and greedy for pettings.

©2019 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 27, 2019

Say No to the Duke by Eloisa James + Giveaway

Lady Betsy Wilde worries that her mother's lascivious reputation has rubbed off on her after the duchess left her family for a blond Prussian man when Betsy was a child. So, for her first season she has put on a sweet, demure face and garnered a large number of proposals. She's rejected them all and lives with the fear that her mother's behavior may be hereditary. Best to find a boring husband, she thinks, rather than to awaken her sexuality.

Jeremy Roden served in His Majesty's Army during the American rebellion and lived through a tragic battle. While recovering from a gunshot wound and an episode of PTSD, he's been living in Lindow Castle, the Wilde family estate. Lady Betsy is accustomed to seeing him slouched in a chair, drinking whiskey, or laid out on the floor unconscious in the billiards room. He's certainly no prospect for marriage but at least he's interesting.

When Thaddeus, Viscount Greywick and a future duke, proposes to Betsy in the billiard's room, Jeremy encourages her to marry him. They're friends from school and Jeremy knows the future duke is trustworthy, plus you can't do better for titles than a duke. But, Lady Betsy yearns to go on an adventure in breeches, sneaking in where women are not allowed, just once before marriage. Jeremy offers a wager. If she wins a billiard's game, he'll take her where she wants to go. If not, she is his for the night.

But, when Jeremy begins to fall for the real Betsy — not the society facade but the billiards-playing, beer-loving, slightly wicked and adventurous Betsy — he's unsure what to do. He is a wounded soul and likely has been cut off from the title of marquess after a row with his father. Can Jeremy overcome his unexpected yearning or will he gain the confidence to ask for Betsy's hand in marriage? When Betsy finds herself becoming attracted to Jeremy, will she go the safe route and marry a kind but stuffy future duke or give in to attraction and marry the exciting man she's falling for?

Highly recommended - I liked the characters and their backstories in this book but didn't find it quite as far-fetched as I often do with romance. Jeremy and Betsy are constantly worrying about whether or not they're breaching convention and risking their reputations, whenever they're thrown together and end up alone. Oh, and come to think of it, I liked all the other characters  — or had fun disliking them — as well. Lord Greywick is believably stiff, his mother zany. Betsy's aunt is both charming and delightfully surprising. Say No to the Duke is the 4th in a series (it stands alone fine) and I don't know if my local library carries romance but I'm tempted to hunt down the first 3 books.


I don't normally do giveaways because I don't have a thematic blog and my following has dropped off significantly in recent years (my own fault) but this review book came with an extra for giveaway purposes. Bottom line: your chances are excellent if you follow the rules. Skip a rule and find yourself disqualified, sorry. No exceptions.


1. You must be a U.S. resident.

2. Tell me your all-time favorite romance novel, if you have a favorite. If not, what's the best book you've read, this year?

3. Include your email address for contact purposes.

That's all! Not a difficult contest. Drawing will close next Friday, the 5th of July. I will not announce the name of the winner; the winner will be contacted privately by email, so be sure you write that email address. It's OK to leave blanks to avoid whatever technical nastiness can happen from leaving your email the normal way.

©2019 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 26, 2019

Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs

Camille used to be a photographer but she put away her camera and her fearless lifestyle after her husband's tragic death. And, her daughter Julie may as well be packed in bubble wrap. Now, she processes found rolls of film, teasing out images that could easily be ruined. When Julie has an accident, in her rush to get to the hospital Camille ruins an important roll of film preserved from the Vietnam War, throwing her in the path of Finn.

Finn wanted a family but instead he ended up divorced. Now, he lives and works in France, not far from where Camille's father grew up. When something goes wrong at Camille's father Henry's French estate and a mysterious crate is exposed, a set of photos and a camera are sent to Henry in the United States and they pique Camille's interest. As frightened as she is to leave the safety of home, Camille's curiosity about her paternal grandmother convinces her to accompany her father and daughter to France for the summer, where once again she'll meet up with Finn. But, will she let herself dare to open her heart again?

There's also an unfolding mystery set during WWII, which I really enjoyed, but I think the contemporary romance part of the book dominates Map of the Heart.

Recommended but not a favorite - I don't know what it was about Map of the Heart that made it drag, but I had a terrible time getting into it. Once I did, though, I enjoyed it. A sweet, fairly predictable story of WWII combined with a present-day romance. Good for summer reading but not brilliant. I found the fact that Henry's estate just happened to be near the place Finn was working in France a bit too convenient.

I received a copy of Map of the Heart from HarperCollins for review (many thanks!) It's my second book by Susan Wiggs. While I found this one so-so, I absolutely loved the first book I read by her, Between You and Me, and will definitely give her another try.

©2019 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 25, 2019

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

It's funny to be writing about Good Omens just a week after a group of people got together to petition the wrong network to cancel the TV series because it means it's given me extra food for thought, which is always a very fine thing. Short version: Good Omens is a satire about the Apocalypse. Now the longer version.

Good Omens is about an angel, Aziraphale, and a demon named Crowley who have been on Earth since the dawn of humanity. There's a running joke about the flaming sword that Aziraphale loaned out when he was guarding the Garden of Eden (never returned), throughout the book. Aziraphale and Crowley have gradually become friends of the Odd Couple sort, dramatically different yet cordial and frequently thrown together so that they've become comfortable with each other's quirks and even playfully pick on each other a bit.

Now, the end of the world is coming. When the Antichrist is born, it's the demon's task to make sure he is placed with the right family (an underhanded, work-addicted American ambassador and his wife) so that he'll be brought up horrid and bring on the fight between Heaven and Hell. But, a little mix-up occurs and the Antichrist, Adam, is placed with the wrong family. They're a lovely, very British couple and Adam is brought up to be kind and curious if a little bossy. He has his gang of friends and is about 11 or 12 years old, as I recall, when the time comes and the Hound of Hell is brought to help him with his task.

Meanwhile, Aziraphale (who currently runs a book shop) and Crowley (who slouches about causing trouble and driving his beloved classic car) are not particularly thrilled about the coming apocalypse because they've grown quite fond of life on Earth and would prefer that it just continued on, as is. So, if it's possible to throw a spanner in the works, so to speak, they're going to do so. There's also a witch who is carefully counting down the clock to the end of the world and observing as the prophecies of her ancestor, Agnes Nutter, unfold, while a witchfinder who has failed at pretty much everything ends up tracking her down and finding that he's there primarily to fulfill the prophecies in Agnes Nutter's book.

The hilarious thing about people protesting the TV series is that Good Omens is not evil in any way. Rather, it points out the fact that people are basically awful but some are fairly pure and good. And, it's because of the inherent goodness in the parents of the misplaced Antichrist, Adam, that things turn out rather different than expected. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are in there, too.

Bottom line: This is really a book about how the good in the world can overcome the bad and a lesson that being surrounded by kindness and positivity turns out well, in the long run, although bad influences may try to thwart you. It's honestly quite a positive message in a tremendously funny, twisted satire. And, for crying out loud, it's just fiction. People need to get a grip.

Highly recommended - I'll talk about the TV series and how closely it follows the book, in a sec, but for now the book. The combination of Terry Pratchett's wit and humor and Neil Gaiman's wild imagination makes for an absolutely brilliant and immensely entertaining read. The dialogue is a hoot, the message that good influence can overcome evil intent well plotted, and the perfection of the writing a given. The only thing I had a problem with was that there was enough complexity that I had a little trouble getting it all straight in my head, at first. That was one reason I opted to go ahead and watch the Good Omens TV series while reading Good Omens, the book. I thought it might help me with some of the bits that I wasn't visualizing well. That worked out quite well.

How about the TV series? I went back and forth between book and series as I read part of the book and then watched an episode while eating lunch or supper (or split the viewing of an episode between both) and then went back to the book and read some more at bedtime, etc. Naturally, there are bits of the book that are left out because they're a little superfluous and that worked fine for me. Neil Gaiman did the screenwriting and he often chose to use the exact wording from the book, particularly in dialogue. So, it's not the kind of book that you feel like, "Ack! I can't bear it. So many changes!" It sticks pretty close to the book with just a few minor additions and deletions. The ending is where the biggest changes were apparent to me. Because the book was written and published in the 90s (then updated in the early 2000s), the technology is a bit dated. That just adds color, to be honest.

The Good Omens TV series can be gross, at times. There's one demon, for example, who has what appear to be festering wounds and flies buzzing around her head. I found myself cringing when that character appeared, but otherwise it's not too difficult to watch if you've got a weak stomach. The casting is fabulous. You can't beat David Tennant as a demon or Michael Sheen as a slightly incompetent angel; and, Jack Whitehall is absolutely perfect as the disastrous-with-electronics witchfinder. There's a bit of the bumbling, sweetly innocent Brit of Hugh Grant's romantic comedy days in Whitehall's performance. And, I adored Adam's parents. So, the TV series is highly recommended by me, as well.

I've read quite a few Neil Gaiman books and a couple of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series (my youngest son is a big fan of Pratchett, so I'm grateful that I had one of his books on-hand during one of those, "I'm bored and can't find a thing to read!" moments). Good Omens is definitely going on the favorites list for Gaiman, whom I've found iffy. I love about 60% of Gaiman's work, so far. The rest gets a meh. I like Pratchett but found his humor a little exhausting. I think it was nicely tempered by Gaiman's slightly darker bent.

I received a copy of Good Omens from HarperCollins (the TV series tie-in with the cover shown above) in exchange for an unbiased review. I had been thinking, "Oh, oh, oh, I've got to read that and watch the series!" before the offer to review arrived, so I was absolutely giddy when it arrived and I'm so glad I got to read and watch at the same time. I don't often advise people to read the book right away or watch the movie/series anytime soon if I've read and viewed both because the changes can be jarring but they really seemed to complement each other, in this case.

Many thanks to HarperCollins!

©2019 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 24, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Say No to the Duke by Eloisa James and 
  • Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean - both from Avon Books for tour
  • Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang - purchased
  • Alexander von Humboldt: How the Most Famous Scientist of the Romantic Age Found the Soul of Nature by Maren Meinhardt - from Meryl Zegarek Public Relations for review

Hmm, I'm not sure how I got Alexander von Humboldt. That may be a Shelf Awareness book. I don't log the books I sign up to review via Shelf Awareness because you never know whether or not you'll receive a copy. So, they don't go on the schedule till they arrive. I've been receiving more unsolicited books than I normally do, lately, so I often look at arrivals and think, "Did I request this?" Either way, they go on the stacks and I try to get to everything, so I guess it doesn't matter.

Stories of Your Life and Others has been on my wish list for a while and I bought it on a whim. I was none too pleased when it came with a fold in the cover but I decided it's not bad enough to worry about sending it back. I'm at least 30 miles from a bookstore, now, so I'm afraid I buy a good portion of my books from the Evil Online Store owned by the World's Greediest Non-taxpaying Billionaire. I've decided I just need to plan better and work at trying to buy my books from indie stores because I've received far too many with damage from Amazon. It's getting kind of ridiculous. I've sent all of the rest of them back for replacement.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim

I'll finish Say No to the Duke, today, but I'm not quite there. So, only one book finished. 

Currently reading:

  • Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
  • How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper
  • The Mueller Report - Washington Post edition
  • Say No to the Duke by Eloisa James

I didn't read any of The Unspeakable Mind, yet again, so I'll try to get at least 50 pages of that read, this week. Extreme Ownership is a book my husband thrust into my hands. "Read this!" he said, "And, then pass it on to Kiddo." It's a book about applying the lessons learned by the authors when they were Navy SEALs to business. It's primarily about teamwork, owning your decisions, for better or worse, and being a leader. They have a management training business in which they go around shooting at people with laser or paint guns and teaching them how to work as a team. Husband has read the book twice and thinks it's excellent so I started reading it immediately. There are some great, really intense stories about SEAL missions. It can be a little repetitive (so far) about the lessons but their stories are really edge-of-your-seat and do a great job of illustrating what they've learned. 

How Not to Die Alone was another that was either sent unsolicited or received via Shelf Awareness. It's a quirky British book and I haven't gotten far but I can tell I'm going to like it. And, I really need to concentrate on The Mueller Report but I keep putting it off to finish other things. What I've read is pretty damning. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

I've gone ahead and kept watching The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor in Australia) in spite of the husband being away on business, so I'm getting close to the end of the third season. And, apparently, the third season is the final one. Fortunately, when Huzzybuns is around, I get to watch it all over again from the point at which we stopped because I'm not going to ruin the fun for him and I like it enough to watch repeatedly. That was really the only thing I watched, this week. It's binge-worthy. I'm going to miss it when we finish. I love the complexity of the characters. They're really interesting people with funny and believable dynamics.

©2019 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 21, 2019

Fiona Friday - Isabel considers it all

©2019 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 20, 2019

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim

Natalie Tan and her mother once butted heads in the same way that her mother, Miranda, did with her own mom, Natalie's laolao. Miranda didn't want to work in her mother's restaurant and, later, she didn't want to send her daughter to culinary school. Now, Miranda is dead. A phone call from her neighbor Celia informs Natalie and she rushes home for the funeral.

Natalie's dream was to open a restaurant. But, when her mother refused to help pay for culinary school, Natalie went out on her own. For years she has traveled the world, learning to cook but unsure enough of herself that she has kept running away — even running away from love. Now, she is back in her mother's apartment, over the empty restaurant her laolao ran until her death. And, Natalie is well aware of the opportunity. The restaurant is hers, now, and she has her grandmother's recipes. She doesn't have much money but she believes in her ability to cook and wants to make a go of it.

When Natalie is told that she must solve the problems of three people before attempting to open a restaurant, she cooks for three of the neighbors. But, then everything goes wrong. What can Natalie do to salvage the situation? Will she ever be able to open a restaurant? What happened on the day of her mother's death that caused Natalie's agoraphobic mother to run outside? And, what became of Natalie's runaway father?

Recommended - I had a lot of trouble getting into Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune, at first. The writing style is a little stiff and uneven. But, I loved the touches of magical realism (when Natalie cries, her tears turn to crystals, which she gathers up and puts in bowls; and, the food she cooks has magical effects, as well) and I found that author Roselle Lim kept surprising me. Just when I thought I was certain I knew what was going to happen next . . . plot twist! I love being surprised, so that's the main thing I appreciate about Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune. There are little things that are predictable, but the main plot points kept catching me off-guard. I also loved the San Francisco Chinatown setting and the way the author brought all the threads of the story together so beautifully, in the end. So, while I found the writing style a little rough, the denouement and the surprising elements of the story won me over.

Note: Recipes are included but they don't contain measurements. This is something that apparently used to be common because my grandmother's recipes often didn't contain measurements. Don't tell my sister but I threw away a bunch of them because I'm the kind of cook who follows measurements. My husband is the kind who tosses things together by feel; lack of measurements wouldn't have bothered him if he'd had any interest in her recipes, but he didn't. I did keep the recipes that were special to me — don't worry, I didn't throw them all away.

I received an ARC of Natalie Tan from Berkley for review (many thanks!). True confession: I adore that cover. If I hadn't received a copy to review, I probably would have chased it down based on the cover alone. And, I may do that, anyway. The Reader's Guide was not included in the ARC and I'd like to read that bit of extra material. After such a perfect ending, I wanted to know more about the author.

Updated to remove title error: 6/21/19 

©2019 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.