Thursday, January 24, 2019

Vivian Maier: The Color Work by Colin Westerbeck and Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier: The Color Work is a coffee-table sized book of photographs (a "monograph" of Maier's color photography, according to the cover flap) that I wheedled my husband into buying me for Christmas and then wrapped, myself. I've wanted to own a book of her photography since I first heard about her.

In the text to Vivian Maier: The Color Work, the author talks about what makes Maier's work, as a collection, significant in the photography world. Why are her photos special? He also mentions that her color photography is not as fine-tuned as her black-and-white work. If not for the text, in fact, you might think this is not such a hot collection. It's crucial to read the text because it makes sense of her work -- what she was trying to say through her photography, who her influences may have been, particular details that she clearly found fascinating. I got a lot out of that text.

Highly recommended - Both a wonderful collection and an informative read. Whatever you do, don't skip the text. It makes sense of the photos. One, for example, shows a white person in focus and two African Americans blurred at the edges. I would not have understood the deliberate choice Maier made by framing the photo exactly as she did, had I not read about it. Far better than any other book I read, Vivian Maier: The Color Work helped me to understand why a particular collection of photos has merit (specifically, her photos, but also generally). A pricey book but well worth the cost. I'm so glad I nudged the spouse into buying this for me.

©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, January 23, 2019

Soon by Andrew Santella

The virtual-world distractions that tempt us at work -- tweeting, online gambling, fantasy sports, online shopping, porn, Pinterest, clips from last night's Conan -- have inspired a neologism: cyberloafing. [...]

The drive to eliminate such distractions has produced a small industry of software, surveillance technologies, and apps with names like Concentrate! and Think. There is money to be made in protecting ourselves from our impulses. Among the acknowledgments for her novel NW, Zadie Smith thanked the Internet-blocking apps Freedom and SelfControl for helping free her from distraction. 

[p. 160]

Soon: An Overdue History of Procrastination, from Leonardo and Darwin to You and Me by Andrew Santella is just what it sounds like from its lengthy subtitle. It's a history and an entertainment, but also a look at the positive side of procrastination. Santella describes at length, for example, the many years that Charles Darwin spent studying barnacles after his voyage on the Beagle led to the theory of evolution that would later be written about in On the Origin of Species. In fact, there's a full twenty-year span between the publication of The Voyage of the Beagle (which, incidentally, I read about twenty years ago, maybe longer) and On the Origin of Species (which I have not -- although I'm not equating my procrastination with that of Darwin). Could that delay have allowed Darwin time to refine his theory while he took long walks around the private path he built in his yard and examined barnacles? This is the kind of avenue Andrew Santella leads you down.

The one thing Soon is not: a book on how to avoid procrastination and become more productive. In fact, the author goes into the history of productivity and how a single man with a timer ended up being the founder of all that misery-inducing emphasis on doing things faster to increase the bottom line. The author also mentions cases (besides Darwin and his barnacles) in which procrastination may have led to better results in the long run. If anything, it's a paean to the joys of procrastination.

Recommended for those interested in a light read on the history of procrastination - If you're looking for a book on how not to procrastinate, I recommend The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel, PhD, an author and researcher who is casually mentioned in Soon. I reviewed The Procrastination Equation in 2011 and have meant to reread it but I've put it off. Haha. The link through the first mention of the title will take you to my review and it's worth adding that the author took my advice in my review of The Procrastination Equation, so there's now some form of summary card in the book. Soon is written with a lighthearted touch and I enjoyed it mostly for the change of pace. I found myself reading passages aloud to my husband, so that gives you an inkling of how much it interested me. I seldom read aloud from non-fiction books unless I find something either fascinating or entertaining enough to consider it worth sharing (partly because Huzzybuns won't listen if I read passages too often).

There is, in fact, a passage that I think is worth mentioning because I disagree with it so strongly:

For me, and I bet for most procrastinators, the whole point of the to-do list is that it enhances the satisfaction in blowing something off. If you didn't first list the thing you are now putting off, you might not ever realize that you weren't doing that thing. And where is the fun in that?

[p. 75]

Au, contraire, Mr. Santella. I'm an inveterate list writer and I write lists for the purpose of reminding myself what needs doing (because, frankly, I'm an airhead) and for the satisfaction of placing a little checkmark beside each item completed. I cannot even begin to imagine taking joy in writing a list and then blowing off everything on it.

I received a copy of Soon in return for an unbiased review from HarperCollins. Many thanks!

A note on the updated mention of ARCs. I have, in the past, felt like there's no need to mention the fact that I receive an ARC from a publisher within the review post because I post photos and sources of every book that arrives on my doorstep in my Monday Malarkey posts and I thought that enough to fulfill the obligation to mention the source of a book for purposes of the FTC requirement (so I will have mentioned receiving an ARC from the publisher before I review it). However, one of the publishers for whom I review has recently sent a letter insisting on such mention within a review post, at risk of being removed from the review list. OK, fine. I'll mention the source of each book I receive from a publisher. I don't know if I'll bother saying, "I checked this one out from the library!" or "This book was a purchase bought because some irresponsible blogger/twitter/Instagram friend told me it was great." If you're interested in knowing the source of every book, let me know and I might mention them all, for fun. We shall see.

I've mentioned the reason I blog, in the past, but this seems like a good time to restate that. I started a book blog because I needed a place to spill about the books I'm reading, for better or worse. Whether I love a book or hate it, you'll know how I feel. I'm not paid, although I do receive books from publishers in return for an unbiased review, and I have chosen not to allow any advertisements on my blog because I want it to remain what it was when I started blogging in 2006 -- a place where I can write freely about how books make me feel. It also used to be a place where I shared my photographs and told anecdotes about the kids, but the damn kids grew up and moved away, cutting off my access to some really great material (I loved having kids around, I confess --  Empty Nesting was hard). At any rate, my purpose hasn't changed. I will always need some sort of writing outlet, whether here or elsewhere, and blogging has served that purpose for a dozen years, now.

Also of note, the watch I used as a prop in the photo of Soon served two purposes:

1. To reflect the passage of time (as it related to putting off tasks) and
2. To cover the bite marks in the cover because a naughty kitty chewed on the book.

Cats. Who gets 'em.

©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, January 22, 2019

Friday Black: Stories by Nana Kwame Adje-Brenyah

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is a collection of short stories and, as such, half of the people I know will probably skip right over this review. I'm here to tell you that you need to stop that. Short stories can feel incomplete, true, and less satisfying than novels. But, that's not always the case and you're missing out on a potentially amazing form of writing if you reject them out of hand.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's stories are astonishing. They can be equally quirky and deep at the same time. In one story, for example, the author tackles the rampant, even vicious, consumerism of Black Friday. "Friday Black" is the name of the story, the one from which the book gets its name. In "Friday Black" an employee climbs to a safe spot from which he pulls down jackets with a pole. He's up high to avoid being trampled. The customers have developed their own language and he speaks it, so he understands what they want and is able to quickly retrieve their requested items, making him a top salesperson. During the lulls in business, employees pick up the dead bodies of those who have been crushed by the crowd and move them to a part of the store set aside especially for the dead. It's a strange story and yet you see the truth in it.

The trouble with reviewing a book of short stories is that I almost never think to write down my thoughts about the stories as I'm reading them and when I get to the end of the book, I'll think, "That was great/awful/[insert other generic thought]" but I won't recall the stories themselves because they tend to be so diverse. The stories in Friday Black are unusually memorable, but I think it's interesting what I wrote about the first three -- not a paragraph, but a word or two (or five) about each. I'll write the words I wrote down in my notebook in bold.

"The Finkelstein 5" - Emmanuel has nightmares about the five children who were murdered in front of the library and the growing backlash in which his friends are being swept up. As he prepares for a job interview, Emmanuel worries about how to present himself. At the same time, an acquaintance shows up on the bus nicely dressed, as if headed for work. But, he's one of the people involved in the violent retribution for the deaths of the Finkelstein 5. 

There are two things that are particularly fascinating about this story. Emmanuel has a mental scale that he uses to adjust his blackness. He knows, for example, that if he wears a hoodie and allows his pants to sag, his blackness level goes up and so does suspicion. He's more likely to be followed by security or employees at the mall, police in the streets, the blacker he appears.

At the same time as Adjei-Brenyah gives you this blackness scale to ponder, he has created a scenario in which a white man claimed to be so frightened of black children that he went to his vehicle to fetch a chain saw and chopped all their heads off. As I recall, he claimed to fear for his own children's lives. In this aspect of the story, you can't help but see the insanity of George Zimmerman's claim because, while the method of killing is different, the reason for fear is not all that far removed. A kid with a bag of Skittles vs. a guy with a gun? Same thing. By the time he gets to the end of the story, you have an understanding of why Emmanuel makes the choice he does. But, it's still shattering.

"Things My Mother Said" - A mother shows her strength, dignity, and good parenting by managing to put a warm meal on the table after the gas, water, and electricity have been turned off. At only two pages, I described this deeply meaningful story as a gut punch and a revelation.

"The Era" - A futuristic tale of a world in which a happy drug is doled out as needed unless you overdo it, I described this one as a phenomenon because of its uniqueness.

Strong reactions, strong stories.

Highly recommended - A spectacular set of short stories with particular focus on racism, poverty, and consumer greed that will knock the breath right out of you. The stories in Friday Black reminded me a bit of William Saunders' writing and coincidentally (or not?), Saunders blurbed the book and is mentioned in the acknowledgments. So, maybe Adjei-Brenyah was his student? There's definitely a similar quirkiness and level of impact and meaning to the writing. I can't wait to read more by this fabulous writer.

©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, January 21, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • Milkman by Anna Burns - purchased
  • Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane and
  • Operation Frog Effect by Sarah Scheerger - from Penguin Random House for review
  • Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini - from HarperCollins for review
  • So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres - purchased

An eclectic selection, as always. Milkman and So Much Life Left Over were on my wish list for a while but I don't recall what possessed me to place an order, although I have an inkling that I may have found Milkman at a good price and decided to go ahead and toss in the de Bernieres while I was at it.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Gown by Jennifer Robson
  • Time is the Longest Distance by Janet Clare
  • Freefall by Jessica Barry

This was a good reading week. I enjoyed all three books I finished, although Time is the Longest Distance has a melancholy tone (not my favorite). The Gown is historical fiction (historical/contemporary blend), Time is the Longest Distance is contemporary literature set mostly in Australia, and Freefall is a suspense/thriller about a woman who survives a plane crash and then must run for her life.

Currently reading:

  • Howard's End by E. M. Forster
  • The Free Speech Century by Geoffrey Stone and Lee Bollinger
  • Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

I'm a little over halfway into Howard's End and still loving it. There are times I don't understand the nuances of turn-of-the-20th-Century English society and their dialogue but it's not enough to detract from the most entertaining scenes, and there are plenty of those. The Free Speech Century is going to take me a long time. I've got a paralegal certification under my belt but it's not the easiest thing to read, whether you've experienced reading law or not. It's worth the effort, though. I like what Oliver Wendell Homes and Louis Brandeis had to say about free speech and why it's so important for opposing viewpoints to be heard in a functioning Republic. Old Baggage is a Lissa Evans book, so I already loved what I've read but I'm not far into it. Evans has recently become a favorite author.

Posts since last Malarkey:

I may do 2-a-day book reviews, this week, so I don't fall too much farther behind. I found myself struggling to write about Friday Black on Thursday, so I defaulted to Tomorrow is Waiting and didn't get that written till Friday. Since then, I've found the notebook in which I wrote a few words about each of the first few stories in Friday Black, so that should help. 

In other news:

We were planning to take a quick trip to Memphis, this weekend, but then we changed our plans at the last minute and ended up doing post-holiday tidying, instead, with some reading and a movie for breaks. The movie surprised me. Husband found a movie he wanted me to watch with him on the Hallmark Channel. It was a little hokey but it took place in South Africa, so we were both in it for the scenes with local wildlife.

Like most of the Eastern half of America, we had storms and then a bitter cold front, so part of the reason we stayed home was to avoid driving in stormy weather and make sure the house was prepared for the drop below freezing. So, that was probably it for genuine winter weather, here. I enjoyed a day of wearing fluffy boots and having an excuse to curl up under the blankets and read, when I wasn't cleaning.

©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, January 18, 2019

Tomorrow is Waiting by Kiley Frank and Aaron Meshon and a Fiona Friday pic

Tonight as you sleep, a new day stirs. 
Each kiss goodnight is a wish for tomorrow. 
That you'll have wings enough to fly as high as you want. 

I'm going to say something unusual and I don't say this lightly: I can already tell Tomorrow is Waiting by Kiley Frank, illustrated by Aaron Meshon, is going to be a favorite children's book in 2019. I love Tomorrow is Waiting so much it brings tears to my eyes (and it's not a sad book).

With absolutely gorgeous, eye-catching, bold illustrations, Tomorrow is Waiting talks about the many things a child has to look forward to and talks of the wishes a parent has for a child. Each spread shows a child exploring the world in some way -- snorkeling, walking through woods, leaping across river rocks, climbing over a wall, jumping into water. The book talks about courage, imagination, kindness, and hope, wishing these and other positive characteristics on the child.

Highly recommended - Colorful, uplifting, hopeful wishes. I can't think of a better way to put a child to bed at night than with such glorious hopes for the future. Here's an interior shot of one of the spreads so you can get a load of that eye-popping color:

I received a copy of Tomorrow is Waiting from Penguin Random House in return for an unbiased review. Many thanks!

And, now I must squeeze in a Fiona Friday pic because I was away from the computer, yesterday. Look what happens when you fold up a blanket and put it on your coffee table! It attracts cats! Granted, this is a super soft blanket. I might like to curl up on the coffee table, myself.

Also of note: A cat opened that cabinet door behind Isabel. Little rapscallions have been into everything, lately.

©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, January 16, 2019

Ten Kisses to Scandal by Vivienne Lorret (Misadventures in Matchmaking #2)

Ten Kisses to Scandal by Vivienne Lorret, the second book in the Misadventures in Matchmaking series, is the story of the youngest sister in a family of matchmakers. Briar's elder sisters are in charge of interviewing potential clients, investigating their lives to discover their characteristics in order to find their perfect match, and doing all the important paperwork. Meanwhile, Briar is relegated to serving their clients tea.

Determined to become a matchmaker herself, Briar sets out to try to meet up with a potential client -- one who is unaware that the spontaneous and imaginative youngest Bourne sister sees him that way. On her way to see this potential client, Briar ends up viewing an infamous rake ravishing a woman (well . . . kissing her passionately and such) as he sends her off in a carriage. Briar is both scandalized and fascinated.

The rake, Nicholas, is surprised by this enchanting and naive young woman, her wild imagination, and her infatuation with chocolate. When she is later challenged to find him a bride, Briar makes a deal with Nicholas. If he will teach her about what attracts males and females to each other, how to read their body language, etc., she will pay him for each lesson with a single kiss. She'll be able to observe him and find the right matchmate while she learns. But, as each kiss becomes more passionate, will Nicholas drop his guard and fall in love?

Highly recommended to romance lovers - I'll mention the negative first (there's only one): there was something done in one of the two sex scenes that totally grossed me out. As anyone who reads my blog regularly knows, I'm not into graphic sex scenes, anyway, so I'll just skim those in the next installment. It wasn't enough to turn me away from this delightful series, by any means, but it certainly surprised me. What makes Ten Kisses to Scandal shine is the author's sense of humor. In Briar, she has created a truly adorable and entertaining character. Often, romance authors will describe a character as enchanting or clever without showing them to be so through dialogue. Briar's imagination and charm are well described and shown. She really is a delight. And, while Nicholas is a rake, Lorret also beautifully shows his soft side and makes the pairing believable. I loved Ten Kisses to Scandal and can't wait for the third book in the Misadventures in Matchmaking series.

Note: I received a copy of Ten Kisses to Scandal from Avon Romance in return for an unbiased review.

©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, January 15, 2019

2019 Reading Goals

I spent some time in December thinking about my 2019 Reading Goals when I probably ought to have been working on a Year in Review report. Ah, well. I like thinking ahead.

Reading Goals for 2019:

1.  Recently Dead Guys Personal Challenge - I bought 3 books by authors who then promptly died in 2018. I can't find one of them but I just bought another and 3 seems like a nice challenge number, so I'll stick with the 3 unless I find the 4th and decide I'm in a hurry to read it. The challenge books:

  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • Cruising Paradise by Sam Shepard
  • A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz

2. Perfect Little Gems Personal Challenge - After reading News of the World by Paulette Jiles a second time, last year, I spent a lot of time thinking about books that are short but perfect little gems -- which News of the World definitely is, in my humble opinion. When I took a writing workshop taught by Simon Van Booy, he mentioned the fact that it's not necessary to write a 300-page book when you're starting out (and I've been away from fiction writing long enough to feel like I'm starting all over again, although I've written several novels). Instead, he said, focus on reading really well-written short books and trying to write a shorter work.

I've been literally pondering that advice for years without doing a thing but the longer I think about it, the more I miss writing fiction and want to return to it. So, I want to spend some time looking for and reading shorter works of excellence in 2019. I have a few titles that were recommended to me and a list that contains a few more I'll eventually buy. The challenge books, so far:

  • Articles of War by Nick Arvin
  • The Wedding of Zein by Tayeb Salih
  • The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (I've misplaced this one but will be searching for it)

I've got quite a few shorter novels shelved around my house and some have come highly recommended (pretty much everything by Italo Calvino, for example) so I will probably add one of Calvino's shorter works like Under the Jaguar Sun to that list and see what other books I've got that get high ratings and happen to be short.

3. Books I bought in hardback because I was sooo anxious to read them and then didn't get around to reading them -- another Personal Challenge:

  • Transcription by Kate Atkins
  • Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
  • In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne
  • Old Baggage by Lissa Evans
  • Savage Country by Robert Olmstead
  • What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton (admittedly purchased mostly because so many men were telling her she should sit down and shut up)

I'm still equally excited about these titles. The thrill of having them ahead of me on the TBR piles has not worn off. 

4. Personal Classics Challenge - I plan to return to the usual 1 per month challenge that I've kept to in recent years except while reading one particular title. In 2018, I set a goal to read two really long books: Don Quixote and Gone With the Wind. Don Quixote was so memorable that I often set it aside for weeks before returning to it for a while (with no trouble recalling where I was in the story), then I'd set it aside again. The result was a full 6 months of reading the same classic. When I finished, I was both elated and drained. I thought I'd wait a month or two and then start Gone With the Wind. I never got to it, so I'm folding Gone With the Wind into my 2019 Classics Challenge and it's the one title I'll let drag on a couple months, if necessary. I'd like to read no fewer than 9 classics in 2019.

5. Fewer ARCs/upcoming releases in 2019 (exception: children's books) - I'm going to try my darndest to read more off my shelves and request fewer ARCs, although I already have a substantial number of ARCs for January alone. Wish me luck. This one is hard. I've been blogging a long time and I receive a lot of requests to review. I have no problem fitting in the children's books because so many of those that I review are middle grade or picture books -- very quick reads. Plus, I'm crazy about children's books and would be happy to review even more. But, I'm not going to go out looking for them. I'll just stick with the publishers with whom I already have a relationship.

6. Spend less time on social media and more time reading - If you're on Facebook or Twitter, you've probably seen the article that says you can likely bump the number of books you read in a year up significantly (they say 200 books but I don't know if that's possible for me) if you give up social media. I've been trying to work on that, already, in spite of the fact that I actually started up an Instagram account, a couple months ago (I'm @Bookfoolery on Instagram, if you're interested in following me there). I like the fact that Instagram is something I don't want to spend a lot of time on and adds a little fun because it makes me think about visuals -- posing books instead of just posting cover images.

I haven't gone beyond a paragraph when I posted about a finished book on Instagram, so far, and I like that. I've even considered eventually giving up the blog and just posting at Instagram someday. But, I'm not there, yet. It's an option for the future if I seriously get back to regular fiction writing, but until then . . . I need to write so I'll keep the blog going until and unless I am doing some other kind of writing that satisfies that particular primal need.

7. I've set my annual Goodreads reading goal at 100, again, although I read 131 books in 2018 and my unstated goal is shifting constantly. At this point, I'm really hoping to reach 150. But, I like keeping the Goodreads goal lower because I don't want it to be something that stresses me out.

That's it! I've given myself a lot more reading goals than I did in 2018 and I'm not going to kick myself around the block if I decide I need to ease up on some of them. But, for now, it's January and I'm jazzed and looking forward to a fresh, new reading year!

©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, January 14, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (left to right):

  • Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein - from Crown Publishing, for review
  • Cruising Paradise (short stories) by Sam Shepard - purchased
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer - from local Little Free Library

Wunderland is a title I signed up to review via Shelf Awareness. And then I squeezed my eyes, held my breath, and crossed my fingers that I'd receive a copy so there may have been squealing when I opened the manila envelope. I read The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Epstein and can still remember scenes from it, years later, so Wunderland was way up there on my list of 2019 titles to look forward to. Getting to read it pre-publication is just icing on the cake. I don't have to wait for its release! Woot!

The Sam Shepard title, Cruising Paradise, was chosen at random for one of my 2019 reading goals. In 2018, I bought several titles by people who died shortly after their purchases. Shepard is already gone, of course, but I'd planned to read the titles I purchased in 2018 for a Recently Dead Guys personal reading challenge and I've wanted to read something by Sam Shepard. So, I went ahead and chose a book at random, mostly based on reviews, to add to the challenge pile. I'll probably read Cruising Paradise right away because I've been trying to keep a collection of short stories going at all times, in the past couple of months. I love short stories.

The Interestings is a beat-up mess, so I had to move the camera a bit to the left to avoid showing the curled-up cover, but it was a lucky find at our local Little Free Library. The city posted a photo on their Facebook page saying the Little Free Library box was full, complete with photo, and I saw a title by an author I love. The photo must have been old. None of the titles in that photo were in the LFL. But, The Interestings was in there and I've wanted to read that for a while. I'll return it and add a couple other titles (whatever will fit -- our LFL is pretty much always filled to overflowing), when I've read the book.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Splinterlands by John Feffer
  • Fighting Fascism: How to Struggle and How to Win by Clara Zetkin, ed. by M. Taber and J. Riddell
  • Soon: What Science, Philosophy, Religion, and History Teach Us about the Surprising Power of Procrastination by Andrew Santella
  • 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do by Amy Morin

As usual, January has been a Read Till Your Eyes Cross kind of month. I almost always read more books in January than any other month of the year. Then, I burn out a bit and slow down. But, I can't help it. After the reading desert that is the holiday season, I'm always ready to dive in and not come up for air for a month. I am really enjoying myself. 

Currently reading:

  • The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson
  • Howard's End by E. M. Forster
  • The Free Speech Century by Lee Bollinger and Geoffrey Stone

I'm about 3/4 of the way through The Gown and enjoying it immensely. Howard's End will be my first classic of 2019. I'll mention my reading goals for 2019, tomorrow, but I'm hoping to get back to reading a classic per month, most months. I've only read one other Forster: A Passage to India. I loved it, so I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to get back to him. So far, Howard's End is a delight. I've really only just begun to read it (and I've never seen the movie, so I had no idea what I was getting into). I've also just begun to read The Free Speech Century, which is both a celebration of 100 years of free speech and an analysis of the meaning of free speech, what's been argued about it in the courts, and how the potential limits of free speech are being tested by social media. I'm also not far into this one but so far, so good.

Posts since last Malarkey:

I'm done with 2018 (apart from *maybe, possibly* a wrap-up post of 2018, but I haven't worked on that, yet, so I can't say if it'll happen), so next up will be a post about my plans for 2019 and then I'll start diving into reviews of books I've read in 2019. I've read a lot, this year, but everything has been pretty memorable, so far, so I don't feel intimidated by the fact that I've got 8 reviews to write -- and that number will turn to 9 if I finish The Gown, tonight. 

In other news:

Hmm, I don't think there's much other news. apart from the fact that Saturday evening was Paint Night -- always a joy. Everyone who was here for Christmas is now back at work, home, or school. It's a bit of a shock, but I tend to like my alone time so I've decided today can be a day of adjustment (Kiddo just left yesterday, so this is really the first time I've been completely on my own for an entire day in 3 or 4 weeks). Tomorrow, I'll make myself get back into my normal routine (updated for 2019). Hope the start of your year has been a terrific one, so far.

©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, January 11, 2019

Fiona Friday - Smashface

Somebody's comfy.

©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, January 10, 2019

Books Read in 2018

Everything I read in 2018, with links to either a review, mini reviews, or a month-in-review in which I wrote about the book. 


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


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


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


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


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


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


70. The Lost Family - Jenna Blum
71. Between You and Me - Susan Wiggs
72. Who Was George Washington Carver? - Jim Gigliotti
73. Bring Me Back - B. A. Paris
74. Who Was Genghis Khan? - Nico Medina
75. All Are Welcome - Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman
76. Born a Crime - Trevor Noah*
77. The Space Between Us - Thrity Umrigar*
78. Nightbooks - J. A. White
79. The Secrets Between Us - Thrity Umrigar
80. The War that Saved My Life - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley


81. Under a Dark Sky - Lori Rader-Day
82. Allie All Along - Sarah Lynne Reul
83. No Frogs in School - A. La Faye and E. Ceulemans
84. If You Go to a March - M. Freeman and V. Kim
85. How to Feed Your Parents - R. Miller and H. Aly
86. Never Satisfied: The Story of the Stonecutter - D. Horowitz
87. Unpunished Murder - Lawrence Goldstone
88. How to Be a T. Rex - Ryan North and Mike Lowery
89. Six Weeks in the Sioux Tepees - Sarah F. Wakefield
90. I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906 - Lauren Tarshis
91. The Muse - Jessie Burton
92. The Day You Begin - Jacqueline Woodson
93. Harbor Me - Jacqueline Woodson
94. From the Corner of the Oval - Beck Dorey-Stein
95. Saving Winslow - Sharon Creech
96. Death of the Snake Catcher - Ak Welsapar
97. Homespun - Ed. by Lorilee Craker


98. Mission Defrostable (Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast #3) - J. Funk and B. Kearney
99. Business Pig - Andrea Zuill
100. Look at Me!: Wild Animal Show-Offs - Jim Arnosky
101. I Know You Know - Gilly Macmillan
102. Never Too Young - Aileen Weintraub and Laura Horton
103. When Elephants Fly - Nancy Richardson Fischer
104. Mac B., Kid Spy: Mac Undercover - Mac Barnett, illus. by Mike Lowery
105. The Birds of Opulence - Crystal Wilkinson
106. Hot Winter Nights - Jill Shalvis
107. The Sadness of Beautiful Things° - Simon Van Booy
108. Sons and Soldiers - Bruce Henderson


109. A Brown Man in Russia - Vijay Menon
110. The Kennedy Debutante - Kerri Maher
111. Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Ghosts - Katie and Kevin Tsang
112. News of Our Loved Ones - Abigail DeWitt
113. The Last Ballad - Wiley Cash
114. The Sadness of Beautiful Things* - Simon Van Booy
115. News of the World*^- Paulette Jiles
116. Hey, Kiddo - Jarrett J. Krosoczka
117. Seven Days of Us - Francesca Hornak
118. The Travelling Cat Chronicles - Hiro Arikawa, translated by Philip Gabriel
119. To Kill a Mockingbird: A Graphic Novel - Harper Lee and Fred Fordham (adaptor/illustrator)
120. Polar Bear Island - Lindsay Bonilla and Cinta Villalobos
121. Monstrous Devices - Damien Love


122. Marilla of Green Gables - Sarah McCoy
123. The Truth Pixie - Matt Haig
124. The Third Level - Jack Finney
125. Cupidity - Patricia Wood
126. Unsheltered - Barbara Kingsolver


127. Owls Are Good at Keeping Secrets - Sara O'Leary and Jacob Grant
128. A Duke Changes Everything - Christy Carlyle
129. Their Finest Hour and a Half - Lissa Evans
130. Down in Mississippi - Johnette Downing and Katherine Zecca
131. The Huntress - Kate Quinn

* reread
° e-book
^ mentioned but not reviewed

©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, January 09, 2019

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

I'd like to think I jumped the gun reading Kate Quinn's The Huntress (a February, 2019 release) early because I was in a hurry to grab something out of the Guest Room when guests were coming (if Kiddo counts, I still have one guest) but I really think I was just in the mood for this particular story and neglected to look at the release date on the spine. At any rate, it sucked me in so thoroughly that by the time I discovered I was reading a February release in December, it was too late. I was hooked.

The Huntress is the story of three people who are Nazi hunters. Ian has lost a brother to the Huntress, a child-killer who has disappeared from Nazi Germany after WWII without a trace. Tony is his partner. And, Nina barely escaped from the Huntress when her plane went down in a German forest.

Across the ocean, Jordan McBride yearns to become a photographer but her father wants her to take over his antique business. When he brings home a German widow he's fallen in love with, Jordan captures a photo of an icy gaze that makes Jordan suspicious.

The Huntress jumps back and forth in time. You get to know Nina's story as she goes from being a peasant with an abusive father, living on the shores of Lake Baikal, to a pilot with the infamous Night Witches. In the second timeline, after the war, you're following Ian, Tony, and Nina as they search for the Huntress while across the Pond in America, you follow Jordan McBride as she goes from a teenager with a new stepmother to a young woman whose suspicions are renewed when she finds out Annaliese is hiding the truth. Will the team of Nazi hunters find the Huntress before it's too late for Jordan and her family?

Highly recommended - The Huntress is longish at a little over 500 pages but throughout, it remains absolutely gripping. Because it was the holiday season when I was reading the book and I always save my focus for the family when they're around, I only managed to read about 50 pages, most nights, so the book took about 10 days to finish. I didn't care. I enjoyed every minute of the reading. I was very impressed with the detail about the Night Witches, loved the exciting bombing scenes, and found Jordan's story very fitting for the time and place, in addition to enjoying the slow investigation into the whereabouts of the Huntress.

I received a copy of The Huntress from HarperCollins' William Morrow imprint for review. The Huntress is scheduled for release in February.

Addendum: I forgot to mention that this is my final review of books read in 2018, so tomorrow I'll post my full list of everything I read in 2018 (with links to all reviews or month-in-review posts in which I wrote about them).

©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, January 08, 2019

Everything I Didn't Review in 2018, Part 2

This is the second installment, which gets me to all but the final book of the year. There's only one book, of these three, that I didn't read in December, and one book that I'm leaving out for separate review.

The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig is just what it sounds like: the story of a pixie who is unable to tell a lie. Unfortunately, this gets the pixie into all sorts of trouble, as you might imagine. Eventually, she's kicked out of her home. There are all sorts of fantastical creatures that she encounters and some bits of wisdom about when it's good to be truthful and when it's not.

I am a big fan of Matt Haig's writing. It's so unencumbered by expectation. You just never know what you're going to find in a Matt Haig book and I adore that. However, the two Christmas titles I've read by him have left me flat. As I was reading The Truth Pixie, I would find myself thinking of ways the pixie could have rephrased her words to make them less hurtful. It was maybe a failure of imagination on my part that I couldn't just allow myself to be swept up in the story.

I don't recall the ending but I do remember I liked how the book ended. Unfortunately, I read The Truth Pixie in November and it just didn't stick with me. It's gotten sparkling reviews so it's a book that I plan to give a second chance, probably during the next Christmas season. If it still doesn't enchant me the second time, I'll pass it on.

Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans is the story of a Welsh woman, Catrin Cole, who is hired to write the women's dialogue in a WWII propaganda film designed to keep hopes high during the war by focusing on the story of twins who joined in the Dunkirk rescue operation after borrowing their drunken father's boat.

The true story, which Catrin finds out when she interviews the Starling sisters, is rather disappointing. But, when she pitches the idea to her fellow writers, they immediately take up the story, romantically fictionalize it, and turn it into something inspiring.

As they're writing the script, improving it, and finally putting it on film, you also get to know the actor who plays the twins' drunken uncle, a washed-up older actor who has difficulty tolerating small roles. The majority of the story is set during the London Blitz and I confess that much as I loved the unfolding story of how a film went from idea to theater, I most loved the visceral sensation of the bombings. But, honestly, I love everything about Lissa Evans' writing. She has become a new favorite author in recent years and I've yet to read anything less than stellar by Evans. Wonderful characterization, obviously well-researched settings, smart writing, and plenty of humor make her writing a stand-out.

I've mentioned Their Finest Hour and a Half, already, because we watched the movie before I read the book. The movie is also excellent, with wonderful actors, lots of funny moments, and that sense that you were there that you get from the book.

Down in Mississippi by Johnette Downing and Katherine Zecca is a children's book that Kiddo bought for our eldest grandchild for Christmas. Naturally, I can't pack up a children's book to mail away without reading it first, so I read it -- and it hasn't made it out the door, yet (but it will, I promise).

Down in Mississippi is apparently based on a song and also is a counting book. The first page confused me because I didn't realize that.

Down in Mississippi in the surf and the sun lived a mother dolphin and her dolphin one. "Splash," said the mother. "We splash," said the one, and they splashed all day in the surf and the sun. 

I don't know how long I looked at "dolphin one" thinking, "What? What does that mean?" before I decided to move on and realized it was a counting rhyme. Duh. At any rate, I liked the book after that. After the counting rhyme, there is a section on various flora and fauna that are officially designated (state bird, state flower, etc.) in the state of Mississippi. I loved that part. And, then the book ends with the music to "Down in Mississippi" (treble part), the song.

While the illustrations are understated (or, maybe you could go so far as to call them "dull" of color), I liked the rhyme, the information about state flora and fauna, and the fact that in the end you can learn the tune if you're able to read music, so I gave the book four stars. I really do dislike the subtlety of the illustrations, though. In a children's book, I'm a fan of bold color.

Next up will be a review of The Huntress by Kate Quinn (probably tomorrow) and then I'll be able to post my full list of 2018 reads with links to every review.

©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.

Everything I didn't review in 2018, Part 1

I did a pretty good job of keeping up with reviews in 2018, so there are just a handful that I didn't get to. I think only 1 was received from a publisher. At any rate, sometimes I missed one so I'm going to briefly review them and move on to 2019.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (the Edith Grossman translation, as shown) took me months to read but it was worth every minute. The classic story of a man who goes crazy and believes himself to be a knight errant is both funny and horrifying.

This edition contains both books. In the first, Don Quixote begins his adventure with his friend Sancho Panza. He's at peak madness toward the beginning and misunderstandings often lead to terrible beatings. It's not funny when Don Quixote, Sancho, and their animals are beaten. Those scenes are often fairly cringy. But, I was determined to finish Don Quixote, this time around (I think it was my fourth attempt? Maybe my third.) so I plowed on through the beatings and the stories within a story, which I found a bit frustrating, especially at first because they were so jarring.

The second book was a bit milder and ends sadly but feels like a proper ending.

Et voila! Finally, I can say I've read Don Quixote. And, I loved it. It was definitely a 5-star read and I'm so happy I stuck it out, this time around. I highly recommend the Edith Grossman translation. I think it made a difference; it was very readable and the footnotes were informative.

I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906 by Lauren Tarshis is the story of a young boy who is poor and bullied. When the Great Earthquake hits, he must use his wits to survive. And, when he discovers the boys who bullied him are in similar dire straits, he tries to band together with them.

I don't remember much about this story but I do recall two things:

1. I was expecting something more of a drama in real life, based on actual events -- not just a fictionalized tale that takes place during the real life event. That was disappointing to me. But . . .
2. It turned out to be such a terrific story (very plotty -- a lot happens) that I enjoyed the book immensely.

However, since I really prefer to read actual stories from history, even if they must be fictionalized to fill them out, I decided this series is not for me. That's fine. I was just curious about them. I bought two of the "I Survived" books and haven't gotten to the second. After I read it I'll donate them both to either a teacher or a school library. I gave I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906 a rating of 4/5.

Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Ghosts by Katie and Kevin Tsang is another story about a boy who's bullied. In this case, he's an Asian American who doesn't feel like he fits in. And, he has massive angst issues. Sam Wu needs to conquer his fears and he's determined to do so.

OK, to be honest, that's all I remember. I have vague memories of scenes but the book didn't stick with me and that's why I didn't get around to reviewing it in the first place. I also didn't love the story. That doesn't mean I disliked it; I think it was more a matter of bad timing. Ever since I read it I've been thinking I need to give it a second chance. The reading came right on the heels of another book that was targeted at the same age range and which I found absolutely hilarious. You know how you can't help but compare two books that are both marketed as funny when you read them close together? That's what happened with Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Ghosts.

I may read it again, soon, just so to see if my feelings about it were colored by the proximity of the reading to that other book, although, you should see the TBR in my head (I haven't gathered my TBR stack because I still have Kiddo in the Guest Room, where I usually do my book organizing). It's huge!

I gave Sam Wu an above-average score of 3.5/5 so I enjoyed it in spite of thinking it lesser than the other humorous middle grade book I read just prior. Sam Wu was sent to me by Sterling Books for review, so again . . . if I can fit it into my massive TBR I'll give it a second go.

©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, January 07, 2019

Monday Malarkey

First Monday Malarkey of the new year! I know you're as thrilled as I am. ;)

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • The Feed by Nick Clark Windo and
  • Soon by Andrew Santella, both from HarperCollins for review
  • The Free Speech Century, ed. by Geoffrey R. Stone and Lee C. Bollinger and
  • Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War by Elizabeth R. Varon, both from Oxford University Press for review
  • 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do by Amy Morin - from HarperCollins for review
  • Tomorrow is Waiting by Kiley Frank and Aaron Meshon - from Penguin Random House for review

That's everything that arrived during my time away from the blog -- which turned out to be a much longer break than I expected. Hopefully, I'll be back to normal routine within a couple of days. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Huntress by Kate Quinn
  • Ten Kisses to Scandal by Vivienne Lorret
  • Tomorrow is Waiting by Kiley Frank and Aaron Meshon
  • Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
  • Vivian Maier: The Color Work by Colin Westerbeck with Vivian Maier

So . . . not a lot of reading happened during the holidays. The Huntress was my last finished book of 2018. I started Ten Kisses to Scandal and Friday Black in 2018 but with guests in the house, we were very busy, so I didn't read anything but about 50 pages per day of The Huntress until after Christmas. I finished Ten Kisses and Friday Black after the turn of the year, and read Tomorrow is Waiting (a children's picture book) when it showed up on my doorstep. I read my only bookish Christmas gift, Vivian Maier: The Color Work, Friday. Then, we left town for the weekend and I only managed to squeeze in a tiny bit of reading time because I was flattened by the two long days.

Currently reading:

  • Splinterlands by John Feffer
  • 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do by Amy Morin

I'm almost done with Splinterlands, a very short dystopian novel that reads like an academic paper, for a distinct reason. The story of how the world became dystopian is being told by a dying academic and analyzed, via footnotes, by some outside source. So, while the narrator is telling his personal story of visiting his three children (virtually, traveling by way of a 3-dimensional avatar who can move around and speak in the location he's visiting) he's explaining how the world came to be a place with drowning shorelines, tasteless replicated food, massive shortages, violence, and countries that have been splintered. But, he does it in rather a dry way.

I only read 50 pages of 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do, on the day it arrived, and will return to it, tonight. At least in the categories so far described, I'm apparently mentally strong. In fact, I found a lot of what women do to themselves (mental torture, really, wishing to be something they can't, like the perfect air-brushed beauties they see in magazines) surprising. But, I will definitely finish the book. It's an easy read. Occasionally, I won't understand a particular sentence -- what she's trying to say will evade me, that is -- but it's otherwise breezy.

Posts since last Malarkey:

That's it! Just one post since my last Malarkey. I'm happy with that shot, though. I had it in my head that I wanted a photo of each cat with the lighted Christmas tree in the background. I got the desired photo of Isabel but Fiona continually evaded me whenever she was in the right position. As soon as I pulled out the camera -- whoosh! -- off she went. No surprise there. I was just happy to get the one shot.

In other news:

Since we had such a busy holiday, I have not found the time to sit down and analyze my 2018 reads. Last year, I never did get around to a wrap-up post, as I recall. On quick perusal, I decided my favorite of 2018 was Mad Boy by Nick Arvin. I'll save any thoughts on 2018 reading, in general, and my goals for 2019 for separate posts. I'm not worried about catching up. I've decided I'll do at least one, maybe two final reviews to make sure I've talked about every book I read in 2018, then I'll move on.

Happy 2019 to all my friends and followers! I hope the new year has gotten off to a good start for you!

©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.