Tuesday, August 04, 2020

They Called Us Enemy - George Takei, Elsinger, Scott, and Becker

They Called Us Enemy is George Takei's graphic novel about his family's time in two separate internment camps during WWII. It tells a little about his life before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and how sentiment turned against Japanese Americans, the signing of the bill that led to the imprisonment of both American citizens and those who had been residents of the US for a long time without becoming citizens, how traumatic leaving their home was, the conditions they lived in at the camps, and how people banded together to make their lives more tolerable.

Takei talks a little about how this experience fed into the kind of escapism and pretend that led to his acting career and how this story was told as a play.

Highly recommended - I'm not a big fan of graphic memoirs but this one is excellent and very moving. It has very clear illustrations and text. My distaste for graphic memoirs is two-fold: sometimes people seem to share a little too much for my taste (a little harder to ignore if there are illustrations) and I don't always understand what's happening. There was never a point that I didn't understand what was going on in They Called Us Enemy. It's very well done. I thought Takei's story was also fascinating for the fact that his story was a little different than the other tales of Japanese Internment I've read because his parents made the choice not to sign a document saying they rejected the Emperor of Japan, due to the wording. That put them in much worse circumstances, for a time.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, August 03, 2020

The Plains by Gerald Murnane

The Plains by Gerald Murnane is an Australian modern classic about a man who goes to the Plains region of Australia for a filmmaking project. But, first, he must get to know the Plainsmen and what makes them tick. He finds a patron, a wealthy landowner willing to pay him to spend time reading diaries and documents on the Plains to research his film.

~~~Warning: This next paragraph may contain spoilers. Skip it if you are planning to read The Plains and want to be surprised, please!~~~ 

The storyline in The Plains is predictable, at least in part, but still managed to surprise and tickle me. It's told in three parts. In the first part, the narrator travels to the Plains and hangs out where the Plainsmen do, hoping to learn about them and understand them enough to create his film. At the end of the first section, he finds his patron. In the second part, the narrator (I don't recall whether or not he was ever named) is living with his patron, admiring the patron's wife, and spending most of his time in the library of the patron's estate. In the final section, years have passed and the narrator realizes he has become a Plainsman, himself. But, I won't tell you what happens to his filmmaking process because it's worth discovering if you're at all interested in reading the book. And, it's quite funny.

It's safe, now. 

I got of whiff of the slyness of the author's sense of humor when the narrator made a comment about not knowing quite when he left Australia. That's like saying you aren't quite sure when you left America as you entered Kansas. But, I think it's likely I would have missed out on a lot of the subtle humor if I hadn't read the introduction, which was written by a writer who was so impressed by The Plains when he first read it that he started corresponding with the author. I highly recommend reading the intro, if you have this copy of the book.

I found the beginning and the last section of The Plains a little difficult until I stopped thinking so hard about what the author was trying to say. Oddly, The Plains made more sense when I put less effort into figuring it out.

Recommended with a note - The Plains is a very Australian book and you have to kind of shift your mindset to get it if you're not Australian. It's best to embrace the quirkiness. It's not often I read a book that's more difficult the harder you try to understand it but this is definitely that kind of book.

Side note: The Plains caught my eye in an Australian bookstore because I grew up on the American Plains and have a fondness for wheat, which would get blown into our yard during storms when I was young; there was a wheat field not far from us at the time (it eventually became a Walmart, ugh). I didn't buy a copy when I was in Australia but my husband went back there on business, after we vacationed Down Under, and I sent him with a list. The Plains was at the top. He tried to read it and found it a little too weird.

Reminder: I've gone to every-other-week Monday Malarkey posts, so there will be a Malarkey post next week.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Fiona Friday - Sweet kitty kiss and new catnip toy

I forgot it's Friday! Darn Coronavirus throws everything off. I've already posted this image to Facebook but I adjusted the color a bit because it was a little yellowish. It was by far my favorite kitty photo of the week so apologies to those who have already seen this one. I'll throw another below for funsies.

Fiona got a new catnip squirrel, last week. Isabel occasionally plays with it, too, but I've found Fiona using it as a pillow, occasionally. She is definitely appreciating it the most.

It was a delightful week with the kitties. :)

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is the sequel to The War That Saved My Life, which I reviewed, here:

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

And, because it's a sequel, there may be some spoilers, so I'd advise you to skip this review if you're concerned that I might give away a plot point or two from the first book. 

In The War I Finally Won, this middle grade WWII fiction continues the story of Ada, her brother, Jamie, and Susan. In case you don't want to click through to the first review, just a quick reminder of what happens in The War That Saved My Life: Ada is stuck at home with a cruel mother who occasionally locks her into the cabinet and won't let her leave the apartment, even to attend school, embarrassed about Ada's club foot. But, when her little brother Jamie is evacuated to the country, Ada finds a way to tag along and they end up with a depressed woman, Susan, who rises to the challenge of dealing with a traumatized child who has not attended a single day of school.

In The War I Finally Won, Susan has become the children's permanent guardian, Ada has surgery to fix her club foot, and the family has moved after losing their home to a direct hit by a bomb. Now that they know their mother has been killed, Ada is struggling with whether or not Susan will abandon them and upset by the fact that Jamie has begun to call Susan "Mum". There are some other plot points I don't want to give away because I think it's best reading them as they unfold but, as in the first book, there's a good deal about horses. In The War That Saved My Life, a horse named Butters figures heavily into the plot about Ada's healing.

The War I Finally Won is a very plot-driven story packed with emotional scenes that gives you that wonderful "you were there" sensation. There are so many moving scenes, in fact, that I pretty much cried my way through the book. At one point, I was reading in bed and I cried enough that I had to sit up because I was soaking the collar of my shirt. I consider that a positive. I like a deeply affecting book.

Highly recommended - It is necessary to read The War That Saved My Life, first, because The War I Finally Won is a continuation of the story in that book and much of what's in the latter will not make sense if you haven't read the first book. Both are excellent. While I didn't think the characters sounded British when I read their dialogue, that was the only indication that the author is American. Otherwise, the time and place were clearly thoroughly researched.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan was one of the most exciting things I found on that day I flipped through every fiction page on Book Outlet. Friends have been gushing about Shaun Tan's illustrations for years. I honestly didn't pay attention to the title so it wasn't until right before the book arrived and I read a review that I found out Tales from Outer Suburbia is just what it sounds like, a slim book of short stories, beautifully illustrated.

I thought of Tan as merely an illustrator but his quirky stories are loads of fun. My particular favorite is the one that goes with the cover image. I don't want to give anything away because all of the stories are so surprising and fun. At least one made me laugh out loud and repeat the story to my husband. I will reread this book numerous times, I'm sure.

Highly recommended - Tales from Outer Suburbia is a pure delight, not only for the uniqueness of the short fiction but also for the stunning illustrations. It's an eyeball feast. I'll be looking for more by Shaun Tan.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (all purchased, top to bottom):

  • In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders
  • Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
  • My One Square Inch of Alaska by Sharon Short
  • Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
  • Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
  • Seventeen by Hideo Yokoyama
  • Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken
  • Golden State by Ben H. Winters
  • The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman
  • Trumpocracy by David Frum

A lot of these have been on my wish list for some time, so I went a little hog wild on a day I was feeling down in the dumps. Apparently, this is a common thing for book lovers. Someone in one of my book groups on Facebook asked people to admit how many books they have coming in the mail *right at this moment* and one woman said, "I have 48 in my cart at Book Outlet."

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Bubble Kisses by Vanessa Williams and Tara Nicole Whitaker
  • Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  • The End of October by Lawrence Wright
  • Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
  • I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O'Farrell
  • The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
  • Stop! Bot! by James Yang
  • Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
  • The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • The Plains by Gerald Murnane
  • They Called Us Enemy by Takei, Elsinger, Scott, and Becker
  • Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump
  • Dominicana by Angie Cruz

I guess it's been a while since I did a Monday Malarkey post. I'm planning to do them every other week, so there will not be a Monday Malarkey next week but I'll post one two weeks from today. In case you're wondering, part of the reason I managed to read so many books in the past few weeks was my participation in the "Laid-back reading challenge" via Instagram. I enjoyed being in a small group reading for a week together and chatting. It inspired me.

Currently reading:

  • Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum

I'm still not even past the introduction of the Tatum book so I imagine it will be one of those books I put in my "currently reading" category a couple of times and then potentially drop, even though I'm still reading it because saying I'm still reading it makes me cringe. But, I'm sure I'll eventually finish it. It's just going to take some time.

Posts since last Malarkey:

I decided I like doing a sort of "round-up" post of what I've read and posted, now and then, so while I considered getting rid of Monday Malarkey, I've wholly rejected the notion, now. It will continue, just spaced out a bit more.

In other news:

This week, Huz and I were watching a medical professional on the news. He said that even after the human trials for COVID-19 vaccines are finished, a vaccine will have to be mass produced and then somehow distributed to the public and because all of that takes time, he couldn't imagine that it would be less than a year before we can go back to normal. Huz turned to me and said, "Another year with you? Ugh," and I laughed because I know when he's joking. Seriously, kids, this is the best thing about a long marriage. Get yourself a partner who can insult you and make you laugh because you know he's kidding.

Anyway . . . a year. What an awful thought. We are introverts and we're doing okay but we still occasionally get a little stir crazy. Yesterday, we drove the 30 miles back to Vicksburg to go through a drive-through Mexican place, really just to get out of the house. The girl in the drive-through window wasn't wearing a mask (against local mandate). I don't know if I'll go there, again.

The worst news of the week is that I have finally reached the stage of knowing someone personally who died from COVID-19. I knew that time would come. First, it was knowing people who knew people who had the virus, then knowing someone personally, then knowing a bunch of people who had it personally, and now . . . my favorite childhood Sunday School teacher, the mother of one of my best friends has passed away.

Please wear a mask and socially distance.

Here's a behind the scenes photo of Fiona with my books because . . . of course she had to check them out:

The purple is a tumbling mat I use for yoga because a yoga mat is too thin for me, now.

I'm on my last week of that painting class, Postwar Abstract Expressionism. It has been the most amazing learning experience. I've taken some so-so classes through Coursera but Postwar Abstract Expressionism was first rate. The only problem I had with it was the inability to ask questions of the instructor. There was no common board where that kind of interaction could take place. But, I learned a lot and have had so much fun with the painting lessons. While I'm working on the final lesson, I'm already scouting around to see what kind of class I can find to participate in, next.

Have you found anything wonderful to help fill your time with new learning experiences during the pandemic?

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Fiona Friday

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Stop! Bot! by James Yang

Full disclosure: I went to high school with the author of Stop! Bot! (we were in journalism and on the school newspaper staff together) so I buy his books at least in part to support him.

Having said that, Stop! Bot! by James Yang is simple and silly with an unexpected ending. A little boy's bot (a drone) has gone out of control and is flying up the outside of a high-rise building. As the bot heads upward, people try to catch it to help the boy in increasingly ridiculous ways. For example, a giraffe tries to reach it with its long neck and someone reaches out with one of those oversized sponge hands you can buy at sporting events. Everyone fails until the surprise twist, which has something to do with bananas.

And, it really is bananas. But, clever, which reminds me that back in high school James had a comic strip in our school newspaper. I remember saying, "James is so clever!" about a million times. I always loved that comic strip.

Recommended - I like this book, particularly the ending, but I must add that I read some reviews and noticed the chief complaint is the minimal number of words. James is a graphic artist and his books tend to be low on text. If that bothers you, Stop! Bot! is not the right book for you. I buy them more for the joy of owning some of James' illustrations than for the wording, myself. But, I do like the story. I wish my grandchildren were nearby so I could read it to them and see their reaction to it.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica is about a judge's daughter who is kidnapped. The fellow who kidnaps her was supposed to drop her off with a criminal for whom the kidnapper does various jobs, but he thinks she might be in danger of being killed and decides to hide out with her in a remote cabin. The decision to go to the cabin is so spontaneous that he has no idea how they're going to survive, how long he'll keep her captive, or how to end the mess he's gotten himself into. Months pass and winter sets in. Will they both survive?

In a second timeline, the judge's daughter is no longer a captive but she has selective amnesia and is so traumatized that she hardly speaks or eats. What happened and is there a way to jog her memory?

I remember hearing a lot of positive buzz about The Good Girl when it came out. I wasn't as enthusiastic as most, when I closed it. I figured out literally all of the plot twists way early in the book. Whether that was just lucky guesswork or the author dropped too many hints, I can't say. But, in spite of that, I enjoyed The Good Girl and would probably read Mary Kubica again.

Recommended but not a favorite.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O'Farrell

I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O'Farrell is definitely in my Top 10 2020 reads, so far. Subtitled "Seventeen Brushes With Death," it is a memoir that examines 16 times O'Farrell easily could have lost her life but survived or escaped danger. The final essay is about her daughter's extreme allergies and how the author cherishes every day with her, knowing that she could lose her daughter at any time.

Highly recommended - The writing in I Am I Am I Am is spectacular. Stunning prose, often unsettling but always written in a way that makes you feel the raw emotion of near drowning or the sharp fear of encountering dangerous men, the genuine grief of loss after a pregnancy disaster. Just an amazing work of art, really. I don't know about other readers, but O'Farrell had me thinking about my own frightening experiences for days. Also, the last line of the final essay choked me up.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (#2 in the Murderbot Diaries series)

In Artificial Condition by Martha Wells, Murderbot (a part human/part robot that is neither male or female) decides to flee the area in which it is required to stay after being freed from the watchful eye of the corporation that used to own it. Murderbot is in search of answers about what happened in the disastrous killing for which the security unit has given itself the moniker "Murderbot". Was Murderbot responsible for scores of deaths? Did it go rogue or is there more to the story?

To keep from being detected, Murderbot has to interfere with cameras, convince various spaceships to let it aboard, and figure out how not to look like a security unit. During the long, boring parts of flight, Murderbot watches videos.

The best thing about Artificial Condition is probably the relationship that Murderbot builds with a particular ship's bot pilot. I didn't know whether the pilot should be trusted or not for a good portion of the book and I liked that uncertainty.

Recommended - While it takes longer for the action to crank up in Artificial Condition than it did in the first book, Martha Wells' writing is stunning and I have no regrets about buying the entire series. I'm deliberately spacing out the reading and trying to save my Murderbot books for times when I feel myself falling into a slump. They're fantastic for breaking the spell because they're so action-packed it's almost impossible to put a Murderbot book down.

Click through to read my mini review of the first book in the Murderbot Diaries series, All Systems Red. You'll need to page down a bit.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Fiona Friday - Just pointing this out

After saying I was unsure about whether or not I'd continue with Fiona Friday, I remembered this photo and decided it's worth putting up on the blog. Such a perfect little pose. There are two other photos of Isabel with The End of October, but this was my favorite because of the little gesture with the paw.

Eh, might as well share all three. She's such a cutie.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The End of October by Lawrence Wright

OK, a little commentary on blogging, first. I disappeared briefly because I was considering giving up blogging but chose not to say I was leaving for good, just in case. I mean, I have to write. I just didn't know if I needed to keep writing about books, if that makes sense. And, sure enough, I decided I'm not done. I need to write about books, at least occasionally. The End of October is really the only book that I've felt like I really needed to talk about. A week has passed since completion, but I still have thoughts and would love to hear what anyone else thinks. I have a few ARCs left but not many, so if I don't mention receiving a book from a publisher, you can assume it's owned or borrowed, from now on.

The End of October by Lawrence Wright is a pandemic novel. When I first started reading it, I referred to it (on Instagram) as "dystopian" but then I started rethinking that and decided it's really a medical thriller, although things fall apart and society becomes a bit dystopian because of the illness. And, while I think it's a bit too long and occasionally dives into unnecessary detail, it still managed to be a page-turner, most of the time. There are some slow bits.

When Dr. Henry Parsons hears that there's been an outbreak of a mysterious illness in Indonesia, he goes there to investigate, telling his family that he'll be home in time for his son's birthday. Instead, he finds a novel virus (yes, much like our current virus situation) that has been contained to an encampment. But, shortly after, the virus begins to spread and one of the people who has been exposed hops on a plane to Saudi Arabia for his once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage, the Hajj, to Mecca. Henry follows to try to contain the disease. There, the virus takes hold with a vengeance and Henry is stuck for months, once the country is locked down.

OK, so hmm. I had so many thoughts about this book. Henry works for the CDC and I had a bit of a problem with the major plot point of Henry being stuck in a foreign country for two reasons:

1) The author repeatedly says Henry is very, very important - I don't think I would have believed an important American government official would be left stranded in another country, anyway, but . . .

2) Recent events show that it's possible to get out of a locked-down country. In fact, a friend's daughter was stuck in Peru when the country locked down. My friend had to make a lot of phone calls to get help from local government, who assisted her in acquiring the right documents and advised her on where to have her daughter go and when. I don't know if the US government charged my friend to get her daughter home but they did send at least one plane to pick up American citizens who had been stranded and wanted to return home (apparently, you could stay or go; it was up to the stranded individual).

So, that bugged me. But, the other thing that drove me crazy was how Henry was portrayed as heroic and a wonderful husband, father, and lover, blah, blah, but he definitely put his job ahead of the family. Having been the wife of someone who travels constantly and has put his job first, sorry, I could not see Henry's choices as heroic.

Having said all that, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to those who enjoy Robin Cook, Michael Crichton, and whoever else writes medical thrillers (I haven't read one for a while, so I don't know who the current shining stars may be), if only for the ability to compare the book to current events.

The virus in The End of October is different than Covid-19. It's a hemorrhagic virus (eww) like Ebola and it's much more deadly. During the time Henry is stuck in another country, the US is being ravaged by the disease and it's so easily transmissible and deadly that it becomes difficult to obtain food and other necessities. At one point, the electricity goes off and stays off for days.

Anyway, sometimes it can be a bit gruesome but that kind of goes with the territory when you're talking medical thrillers. I didn't rate it at Goodreads and I still don't know how to rate the book. I liked it but didn't love it. I thought it was a pretty quick read but a bit overlong. I probably would not read it a second time. Besides finding Henry a bit too heroic, I thought he was a little distant and difficult to relate to or even like; he's a bit gruff. There are also some weird little details, like Henry losing a cane (he's a little damaged from childhood illness) and not even trying to acquire another one. Either you need it or you don't, right? I just thought that was bizarre. While in Indonesia, he probably could have easily found a branch to whittle into shape but he didn't even try to locate a substitute.

So . . . this review and the last were slightly more casual and I plan to continue that way. I don't want to spent an inordinate amount of time on the computer and am planning to shut down my social media till after the election, soon (except Instagram). Most of my posts will probably be more Instagram-like, with a nice photo of the book and minimal description. I haven't decided whether or not to bother with Monday Malarkey and Fiona Friday. Maybe I'll just post a cat photo when I've got one that I want to preserve? We'll see. I'm feeling my way, right now. Change is good.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Quick thoughts only. Northanger Abbey is probably the last book by Jane Austen that I'll read and that puts me at 5/6 of her novels, plus the unfinished Sanditon (the version finished by Kate Riordan), Lady Susan, and her juvenilia. The only book I couldn't get through is Mansfield Park. I hated the book and I hated the movie so much that I abandoned both so I doubt I'll ever get to that one, but who knows?

The writing in Northanger Abbey reads a little less mature than that of Pride & Prejudice and other works so, without looking up the publication date, I'm presuming it's an earlier work. I have no idea, though.

Catherine is invited to Bath by a neighbor. There, she meets and falls for a man named Henry Tilney while also becoming friends with a couple young ladies, one of whom is obviously attracted to Catherine's brother, James. When she's later invited to the Tilney home, Northanger Abbey, to stay with Henry's sister, Catherine is made nervous by a story Henry tells her (the Gothic elements of the novel) and she keeps getting caught opening doors and drawers that she shouldn't because her vivid imagination has her conjuring up all sorts of frightening possibilities. Northanger Abbey is really quite funny and a little nerve wracking. I enjoyed it immensely. Recommended.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle

I wrote about the first collection of Nathan W. Pyle's alien comics, Strange Planet, in a mini review post, which you can find by clicking on the title in this first sentence. Suffice it to say, I've been following Pyle for quite some time, first via Twitter and then Instagram, and I just love his sense of humor.

The comics are based on language. Aliens express the same things we do (or, at least, the expressions Americans are familiar with) using different words, like "imagine pleasant nonsense" for "sweet dreams". I've snagged this page off the internet and am pretty sure it's from the first book but it's a great example.

Lovers of words can't help but appreciate Pyle's cleverness. I adore how he thinks. I'll often read his comics and then walk around thinking about how these aliens might reword the things I'm doing. Plus, they're really cute.

Highly recommended - I think I expressed my love of Strange Planet better in my mini review, so I encourage you to hop through the link if you're interested in reading more. Stranger Planet is more of the same and I can't even tell you how excited I am to expand my collection. I hope Pyle publishes a dozen more of these books. His delightful aliens always make me smile. I'm going to find a special place on the shelves for these two and hope I'll have to make room for more.

Fiona was very helpful when I did my photo shoot of the book cover, btw. I got some nice laughs watching her play with the spaceship.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Bubble Kisses by Vanessa Williams and Tara Nicole Whitaker

In Bubble Kisses by Vanessa Williams (the singer) and Tara Nicole Whitaker, a little girl sings about her goldfish, Sal, and why they're the best of friends. As she's talking about Sal and how she gives perfect bubble kisses, the heroine (the little girl on the cover) is swept into a fantasy world in which she has become a mermaid and the goldfish is no longer trapped in a bowl but free in a large body of water.

The entire book is a single song and it comes with both a CD and a QR code that you can scan with your phone or tablet. I mentioned Bubble Kisses when it arrived and at the time, I thought it was very strange that it had a CD because most people don't have CD players, anymore. Mine is in the garage, somewhere, and I have no idea how to load music to a phone so I have to listen to the radio in the car and thought I'd have to pull out my old car to listen to it! But, I hadn't bothered to take the CD out, yet, so I didn't realize there was a QR code behind it (although that was probably in the publicity material and I just forgot).

At any rate, all that's to say that I was wrong and unless you have no phone, tablet, DVD player, or CD player, you're going to be able to listen to the song. I presume probably 95% of people have access to at least one of those.

The song is kind of an upbeat, jazzy song that . . . sorry . . . reminds me of a 1950s television advertisement. I can't think of anything else to compare it to. I can easily imagine my eldest granddaughter bobbing to the song when she was a little bit younger (she's 5 and reading at 3rd grade level, now) and I have a feeling my youngest granddaughter would enjoy it, too. It's definitely got the sound of a children's song, a little repetitive and very cheerful.

Recommended but not a favorite - Maybe one of the best things about Bubble Kisses is the fact that it has an African American heroine. I really appreciate the fact that children's publishers have been working hard at embracing diversity in the stories they acquire, in recent years. I do like the upbeat music, the quirky but charming illustrations, and the fantasy of the story. The only thing I dislike is the fact that it's written as a song and if you just want to read the book aloud, it's going to sound a little weird. That keeps it from being a favorite because I love to read aloud to children and a good story that's readable will always be my favorite. But, it only takes one listen to catch on to the rhythm and for children who love to dance and sing, Bubble Kisses will make a cute and fun addition to a home library.

©2020 Nancy Horner All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay - from Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing for review

Well, heck. Who knew the books were just going to keep trickling in? LOL It's getting pretty hilarious, at this point. Not a problem, though. I am no longer requesting any books at all but if one shows up, I'll read it and talk about it. It's just what you do if you love books, right?

Incidentally, I don't know when they'll arrive but speaking of things that are just part and parcel of the booklover experience, I went to Book Outlet in search of a particular book (I don't even remember what book, now) and bought a small pile. I have been avoiding Book Outlet for so long that I got the name wrong. They've been through at least 2 name changes since their beginning and I tried Book Closeouts but met a dead end. Anyway, I had a hilarious cartload that I fortunately pared down dramatically before actually buying. When you just look at fiction, in general, and go through 100 pages of book titles? Well, let's just say I saw a lot of books that I knew to be on my wish list.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
  • Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle
  • Devil Darling Spy by Matt Killeen

I stopped in the midst of reading Devil Darling Spy for a humor break (Stranger Planet). The quick version is that Devil Darling Spy is about the attempt to stop the Nazis from getting their hands on a biological weapon and there is some cruelty (giving people a deadly disease, using them as test subjects) that was almost unbearable to me, especially in a time during which a deadly disease is spreading. That may not bode well for the eventual reading of The End of October by Lawrence Wright, a dystopian plague book, but I guess we shall see.

Currently reading:

  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

I finished Devil Darling Spy in the early evening, yesterday, and then watched Husband TV (whatever he happened to flip to, mostly Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives) followed by a little of A Midsummer Night's Dream from the Globe Theatre. I didn't spend much time reading after that, but I'm definitely enjoying Northanger Abbey, so far. Jane Austen is a good palate cleanser. 

Last week's posts:

In other news:

Last week's free streaming from the National Theatre was Small Island. We managed to watch half of it on Tuesday night but on Wednesday we were both too tired to finish it. Fortunately, I still have the book sitting unread on my shelf and I've seen the mini series starring Ruth Wilson. I think I'll move Small Island by Andrea Levy up on my stacks. The play was great, a nice blend of darkness and humor. I recall the mini series as somewhat heavier but from both I got the sense that Queenie was a mensch, a character who wasn't given the best set of circumstances to live with but did the best she could with her lot in life and always with kindness. I wish we'd been up to finishing the play but I'm glad we saw the first half, at least.

I'm still watching Downtown Abbey, Season 1, usually while eating lunch so I only tend to watch half an episode at a time. It's going to take a while to get through the entire series. I enjoy being swept into the world of Downton. It's so blissfully escapist, a world in which women moan together over the horror of losing a maid. We're now at the point that Mrs. Patmore is getting her vision fixed, Mary has hesitated to give Matthew an answer about marriage since finding out her mother just might give birth to an heir after all, and poor Edith. Sigh. Edith always did me in. My one biggest wish was for Edith to find happiness when I found out the series was coming to an end. I haven't seen the movie, incidentally.

I've been away from my Coursera class (Postwar Abstract Expressionism) for about 2 weeks, now, so this week I'll dive back into it. I did finish my attempt at a Mark Rothko painting and the result was disappointing. I love the colors I ended up with (the final layers were deliberate, although at times I intentionally just blindly grabbed a paint tube and let chance guide the layers of color) but I don't think it has the characteristics that make a Rothko something worth standing in front of and staring at. That's undoubtedly at least partly because I still don't have all the supplies I need for oil painting, so I went with watered-down acrylic, again. I'll give it another shot when I get what I need for oil painting. I'm learning a lot from this course and I feel like I get as much learning out of the failures as I do from my more successful hands-on lessons.

And, finally, I hope everyone who reads my blog is handling the continuing Covid-19 mess well. Kiddo finally has started going to the office to work and is absolutely loving his new job. Husband still only goes 2-3 days per week and works from home, the rest of the time. We had begun to spread our wings just a bit (going to the store a little later in the day, for example) but not much had changed for us, otherwise, before our state's spike. We made a decision early on that we were going to stay in lockdown mode as much as possible until there's a vaccine and we have worn our masks everywhere since we finally managed to acquire some (I am super grateful to the two friends who made us fabric masks during the time that it was impossible to acquire them, otherwise). The one area in which I've been slacking is mail. I no longer set the mail outside to air out. It would get warped by the humidity, so that would be pointless. I do wash my hands thoroughly after handling it, though.

I hope and pray that a vaccine will be found as soon as possible and that we will have learned to appreciate normal life a little more, when this is over.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Fiona Friday

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

The Jane Austen Society takes place in Chawton, England, Jane Austen's final home. The great estate inherited by Jane Austen's brother, Edward Knight, is a shadow of its former self, the tenant income having dwindled. There are two remaining relatives. One is dying; the other is agoraphobic and unmarried. There will be no more Knights to carry on the legacy. The Austen-related memorabilia at a separate estate has already been auctioned off and a Sotheby's employee is eager to get his hands on more.

During and a little after WWII, we get to know a few Jane Austen-obsessed people who live in the village of Chawton (and one American actress) in The Jane Austen Society. Each of the main characters has developed a love of Austen's writing, mostly due to the influence of a friend or relative. When they realize they have Jane Austen in common (and not merely because of the nearby estate that her brother inherited), they come up with a plan to create a society for the sake of preserving a little of the history remaining in Chawton. Will they succeed? Or will a spiteful, dying man ruin the legacy and send the last Knight relative out to fend for herself?

There's much more to The Jane Austen Society than the attempt to preserve the house. They don't even actually become a society till nearly halfway through the book. In the first 125 pages or so, you get to know the individuals and the trauma they've each had to endure: a housemaid at the Knight estate, a teacher, a doctor, a farmhand, and an actress. Each has found escape and solace in the worlds created by Austen; each has favorite novels and passages.

The Jane Austen Society is a very character-driven novel. While I'm not normally big on character-driven novels unless a lot happens and it does take a long time before the storyline really cranks up, after all of the characters have been very thoroughly introduced, I really enjoyed every minute of the reading and loved the denouement.

Recommended - Slow of character development, by the time The Jane Austen Society really gets going, you're completely invested in the lives of the characters, their potential to fall in love, and their possible upcoming battle with a distant heir. I would especially highly recommend The Jane Austen Society to devoted fans of her work. I haven't read all 6 of her novels, just 4 of them. I loved all of the novels I finished. One that I attempted to read fell flat for me and I'm hoping to read the last one, Northanger Abbey, soon. So, there were times that two of the characters would be conversing about various scenes and I either didn't recall them in such detail or hadn't read them, yet, but the characters mostly stuck to discussion about Emma, Persuasion, and Pride and Prejudice, with an occasional dash into Mansfield House (the one I abandoned) so I followed most of it just fine.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press and Laurel Ann for the review copy!

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow is the story of two high school juniors, Effie and Tavia, who are unrelated but living as sisters. Effie's mother used to play a mermaid in the Ren Festival and Effie plays a similar role. Each year, she is Euphemia and her courtship is a story that continues from one season to the next. Effie doesn't know who her father is but she wonders if she's a real-life mermaid. However, her grandparents, who put her with Tavia's family for her safety, won't answer her questions about her father.

Tavia is a siren who thinks if she tries hard enough she might be able to communicate with her deceased grandmother, after hearing that even a dead siren can speak through bodies of water. To avoid talking when she gets the urge to make one of her siren calls, Tavia has been faking a condition for years in which she seemingly loses her voice regularly. When she doesn't want to speak, she signs, instead. Effie uses sign language to communicate when she's playing a mermaid so she's able to translate for Tavia when she chooses to sign. Tavia worries about the fact that being a siren could put her and her family in danger. The public sentiment is that it's best to mute sirens. So, she has a secret support group where she lives in Portland and she keeps the fact that she's a siren quiet, otherwise.

There is a gargoyle living on the roof of the home where Effie and Tavia live, which Tavia believes to be there for her protection. But, nobody really knows. Meanwhile, strange things are happening with Effie. Occasionally, her skin peels off, revealing scales, her hair will do a weird floaty thing where it looks like it has a life of its own, there's a weird effect around her like she's looking through water, and recently people have been turning to stone when she's nearby. What is Effie? Is there any way she can find out whether she's a mermaid or a sprite or some other mythological creature? What can be done about the people turning to stone?

There's a lot more going on in A Song Below Water but it's best to actually read the book and find out all those details, although I'll share a few that I found interesting. Effie and Tavia are both black and Tavia is obsessed with the wildly popular Instagram account of a woman who does tutorials on how to style black hair, for example. What does that have to do with anything? Well, I can tell you from both the book and my experience as a person who has lived in a state with a high black population for decades that hair is very, very important to black women. At times, I've found myself envious of the elaborate things they can do with their hair. They style it like sculptures! Seriously, it's amazing.

There are also many references to being black and how that makes a person vulnerable. At one point, Tavia has a run-in with the police. She's doing nothing wrong and yet she somehow ends up with a warning. Why? Because she's black, nothing more, nothing less. Morrow does an excellent job of showing how difficult it is to live with the fact that being black can be a death sentence.

The author also touches on the cliquishness and popularity of certain people with the eloko characters. I had to look up elokos (they're from African mythology -- a kind of forest spirit that's a bit hairy-looking if you google it) and the way the author portrayed them was not at all like what I found on the Internet. Not that that mattered. The point was that in this world, elokos are the popular crowd. They make a delightful trilling sound and they have a melody that they can show off by blowing on the bell each individual wears around his or her neck. It's a detail but one that will undoubtedly resonate with young readers who've experienced being on the outside of the "in" crowd.

Recommended - I think I mentioned the fact that I had difficulty getting into A Song Below Water but once I became accustomed to the author's voice, I had no problem in my Monday Malarkey post. It's worth it to stick out the beginning, when the author is setting things up and parts of it are a little on the confusing side. Once I became accustomed to it, I found Tavia and Effie's world fascinating, unique, and a little weird ("Keep Portland Weird" is oft-repeated; it's clear she chose the setting very deliberately). I also loved the way many very timely subjects were treated. Could the idea that the public sentiment that it's best to mute sirens be a comment on how the white world tries to silence black female voices? I think so. There's quite a bit of depth to A Song Below Water. And, as a side note, the gargoyle was a surprisingly fun character.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

What You Wish For by Katherine Center

Quick note, up front. I have an ARC of What You Wish For by Katherine Center and the release date noted on the cover is July 14 so it's not out yet, but it will be soon.

In What You Wish For, Samantha Casey is a librarian at an elementary school in Galveston, Texas. It's a happy place that's privately owned and run by the same couple from whom Sam rents a garage apartment. The school is in an older building with cheery painted walls and a beautiful mural, a butterfly garden, and big plans to build an adventure garden for which the funds have already been raised.

But, then tragedy strikes and a new principal is brought to the school. Sam not only knows the new principal, Duncan Carpenter, but once had a terrible crush on him. In fact, she left her previous job when he didn't respond to her attraction and Duncan was on the verge of becoming engaged. She knew him as an enthusiastic, goofy, entertaining and fun-loving teacher. Now, he's anything but fun. When Duncan swoops in, all he talks about is how he's going to improve security and his plans to paint everything gray for better visibility. He is no longer the life of the party; he's become severe and humorless.

Meanwhile, as Samantha reflects back on a time when she and Duncan Carpenter were working at the same school in another state, she is reminded of how different she is. At the time, she dressed in unobtrusive colors that fit her personality. When she left because Duncan had found love elsewhere, she decided not only to start over but to change herself. Now, she is colorful and full of life in a way she wasn't, before.

What happened to change Duncan Carpenter from a fun-loving guy to a humorless man who is only focused on security? Did Duncan marry the woman he was about to become engaged to when Samantha left town? And, most important, what can Sam do to change Duncan's mind about using the school's hard-earned funds for security instead of the adventure garden they've been planning to have built? And, if she can't change his mind, can she find a way to drive him out of the job?

Recommended but not a favorite - Since the focus in What You Wish For is clearly on the two characters and it's obviously a contemporary romance, I don't think it's really a spoiler to say that eventually you find out Duncan is single and Sam and Duncan begin to interact in a flirtatious manner. What You Wish For is a clean romance, though, so it's based on personalities rather than the mostly-physical attraction of something like an Avon romance.  I like that and I liked the romance, once we got to that point, but I found the story a little contrived so it was not a favorite. Romance fans might be able to look past what I considered the story's flaws.

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center (link leads to my review) was one of my 2019 favorites and I still have two of Center's backlist titles to read. I'm looking forward to reading them, in spite of the fact that What You Wish For wasn't a favorite. It was a fairly quick, fluid read and she's a good writer. I just found the characters a little too over-the-top for my taste, the story way too predictable.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press for the review copy!

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle, 
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD, and
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo - all purchased
  • How to Astronaut by Terry Virts - from Workman for review

I must have signed up for How to Astronaut through Shelf Awareness, and it would have been quite a while ago because I have accepted only one book for review in the past month or two (a children's book that I'll be reviewing next week). I'm not even looking at my Shelf Awareness newsletters, specifically to stop myself from signing up to review anything. So, How to Astronaut was definitely a surprise arrival. The rest were purchases. I now have a stack of 4 books about race/racism to work on and plan on reading one of them very soon with two friends. Stranger Planet was a pre-order and I will undoubtedly whip through that, this week. I could have read it this weekend but I opted to save it for a few days. And, anyway, I'm enjoying the book I'm reading so I wasn't looking for a distraction. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • What You Wish For by Katherine Center

Just the one book finished but I'm close to finishing my current read. 

Currently reading:

  • A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

I was unsure about A Song Below Water when I began reading it. There were things about the story that I found confusing and it took a while to become accustomed to the writing style. But, once I got over that hump I've enjoyed it immensely and I'm actually trying to type as fast as I can so I can get back to reading it. 

Last week's posts:

In other news:

Last week was a dud. I mostly slept a lot. I didn't even watch TV or read much. I did manage to come close to finishing a painting, but I'm not quite done. Hopefully, this week will be a more productive one.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Fiona Friday - Fun with ribbon

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

Back when I had feelings, my self-esteem was a toilet. It caused me actual physical pain to know that someone didn't like me. I mean, it still does, but I'm better insulated by drugs these days. A handy trick is to think long and hard about what the person who hates you would realistically add to your life if they were actually to be a part of it. Most people really do have absolutely nothing to offer you. Pull out the abacus and make a pros and cons list if you have to—I'll wait. If you require a push to get started, here's an example from a recent entry in my diary about some asshole I don't miss anymore:

pro: once made me laugh at a dad joke

~pp. 73-74

OK, so up front you can see that when I use the word "rude" in the following paragraph about Wow, No Thank You, swear words are among the things I'm referring to (um . . . crude fits in there, too, but it's what Samantha Irby is known for, so either you want to read the book or you don't).

First, in case you missed the word "essays", this is a book of essays about author Samantha Irby's life. Anything is game. She writes about her childhood, the friends who helped her survive after her parents died, the places she lived and the people she lived with, her many jobs, the people she dated (Irby is bisexual) and life with a woman who has two children of her own.

I know I've mentioned this before, but I love that cover. I love, love, love that cover. Apple green is my favorite color and it's just a tad darker than my favorite so the color alone grabbed me and then the image of the bunny looking awkward and adorable . . . well, I had to know what it was about. I'd never heard of Samantha Irby, a memoirist and comedian, but I enjoy humorous essays and the one thing everyone said about Wow, No Thank You was: "It's funny."

I love a book that makes me laugh but it's even more important to laugh when you're on lockdown in the middle of a plague, people are rioting, and it seems like nobody's actually doing anything concrete to stop the virus (and some are also against calling a halt to racism), then once they start letting people loose they don't bother to mandate the damn masks to try to stop coughs and sneezes at the source, instead letting people go right ahead and spread the virus at will so more people can die because a small percentage of whiners can't be bothered to put a piece of cloth over their nose and mouth to help stop people from dying. I mean, who doesn't need a laugh, right now?

I, for one, needed this book. It's crude, yes. There's talk of body parts and the author's sex life and her Crohn's disease. So, sometimes it can be a little gross or shocking, but even then it's entertaining. Samantha Irby is genuinely funny. I love her writing style. My absolute favorite essay is "Detachment Parenting" about what it's like to live in a house with two children and have to interact with them while not totally claiming them as your own.

Side note: I had no idea the author was black and/or bisexual when I bought the book. I bought it purely on the basis of the words, "It's funny." But what timing! It wasn't until 3 or 4 days after I finished the book that I realized, "Hey, black author! LGBTQ! Pride month!" What's funny about that is that, of course, I've been reading about this black woman who dated both men and women while people are passing around lists of books by People of Color and stacks of books for Pride month and even while I was reading it, I was looking around at my stacks, thinking I needed to find something to read for Pride month and needed to buy some books by POC. While I was reading something that fit the requirements for both. Sometimes I think my mother dropped me on my head as a baby.

Highly recommended - Whip-smart, hilarious, and quite rude. Just what I needed to read during a year like 2020. I love Samantha Irby's self-deprecating sense of humor. Also, I'm convinced that we could be the best of friends because of our mutual love of black licorice, cats, and books. She's a lot more interesting than I am, though, so maybe not.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hanna Arendt
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
  • The Dude Diet by Serena Wolf

All of these were purchases. I finally managed to find some of the titles about racism that I've been looking for (Just Mercy, Stamped from the Beginning). Two more are on their way or will be shortly. The book on totalitarianism is one I've been thinking about getting for several years. It's not only thick but dense, so it will not be a quick read, I'm sure, but I'm looking forward to it. I have some similar titles that might take priority. I'm a moody reader, so who knows what I'll end up reading first. How Democracies Die has been sitting here for quite a while. 

The Dude Diet is a book we checked out from our local library a couple years ago and really liked, although I think we only tried 2 dishes. I copied the recipe that we most loved and then we made it a few times and . . . sigh . . . no idea where it disappeared to (it's a chicken shawarma recipe). We've tried other recipes online and they just weren't as good so, yes, I mostly bought this book for one recipe but I've flipped through it and I'm sure there's more we'll enjoy. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
  • The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

As I'm typing, I haven't actually finished The Jane Austen Society but I'm close. Wow, No Thank You was such a fun read. I hope to get that reviewed, this week. 

Currently reading:

  • Nothing

I don't know what I'll be starting after The Jane Austen Society. I have, I think, 3 or 4 remaining ARCs so I'll probably be choosing from the ARC pile but The Jane Austen Society and Bubble Kisses (children's book) are my last remaining scheduled review books so if I feel like inserting a choice from my personal library when I'm done with TJAS, I will. 

Last week's posts:

In other news:

We did get around to turning on Coriolanus (a free streaming from the National Theatre) but it was late on the last night available and I was too tired to focus. I had to keep asking Husband what was going on. The people were hungry. Someone was rebelling. Tom Hiddleston got into a fight. It just felt like a lot of people were yelling at me in a foreign language. You have to pay attention to Shakespeare to get what's going on and I kept drifting off, thinking of what I needed to do the next day or whatever. I took a couple of photos off the screen, turned it off, and went to bed. Would I go to the theatre to see it? Oh, absolutely. And, in truth, when I'm paying money for a ticket to a stage production, I'm definitely paying attention to what's going on, sleepy or not. It wasn't Tom's fault I was inattentive. This week's production is The Madness of King George. Fingers crossed we get to it in time. We've been waiting till the last minute and that's a bad, bad idea.

I got my second Covid haircut at home on Friday. And, when I say that, a "Covid haircut" is not a one-time thing. I cut the length and then hack away at it for days, trying to shape it based on what I've observed of how my hair magician layers my hair. It's . . . not great-looking, ever, when I cut my own hair but I used to do it all the time when I was young and broke so I can cope with not going to a stylist till there's a vaccine. This time, I asked Huz to cut the length for me. In hindsight, I probably should have had him do it when my hair was dry. My hair is naturally curly and when wet it curls into little ringlets. If you cut straight across, you're not cutting a straight line. You have to pull down on it with a comb to cut it straight and it isn't easy. I neglected to tell him that. The fix-it job was something. I have very short hair, now. That's OK, though, because it's getting hot and humid. This is a good time for short hair.

I read an excellent article about Covid, this week, and before you roll your eyes and walk away, it had something important in it that I haven't seen elsewhere. That is the fact that scientists don't yet know what quantity of Covid antibodies is protective (will keep you from getting it again). Apparently, the level of antibodies people have can vary dramatically. So, please keep wearing your masks, even if you think you've had Covid. Most of my friends who are convinced they had it (whether they were tested or not) admit they've given up wearing masks. I know masks are miserable to wear, especially in the heat, but the more of us that wear them, the quicker we'll get the virus under control and be able to live a slightly more normal life while we wait for a vaccine or herd immunity or both. The article said the most important thing to remember is "time and dose". The longer you're around people, the higher the dose of virus that you get from someone who has it, the more likely you'll get sick.

A note: One friend said she's come close to passing out from wearing a mask twice and I find that I have a little trouble breathing with a mask on, although when I first had to wear a mask, I wore the only thing we had at the time -- a dust mask from the hardware store that we found in the garage. It was by far the worst. I found fabric with a filter works better for me. But, because of the time and dose concept, I think it's fine to pull the mask away from your face briefly if you begin to feel faint. It's good to know that if you have Covid and don't know it, you're less likely to give it to someone if you keep that mask on and only pull it away if you're desperate. I actually walk slower when wearing a mask. That seems to help.

Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask, avoid exposing yourself as much as possible. We have to be careful not to become complacent. Live long and prosper.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Fiona Friday - Gaze

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Minis - The Malady of Death by M. Duras, Talkative Man by R. K. Narayan, All Systems Red by M. Wells, and Jacob the Baker by N. benShea

I have not finished any ARCs, lately, and I don't actually have long to go before I'm totally ARC-free, apart from older titles from last year's slump (partly deliberate; partly a plague thing, since many publishers temporarily shifted to e-galleys only). So, it's mini review time! All of these are under 200 pages.

The Malady of Death by Marguerite Duras is only 60 pages long, novella length at best, and that's why I read it. This year has been my most sluggish reading year in ages and I just needed to feel like I was reading productively, if only for a short time.

The story of a man who hires a woman to spend several weeks with him by the sea, The Malady of Death is very erotic, like everything else I've read by Duras. The male protagonist claims to have felt no love or desire in his life and is apparently trying to find out if he can acquire them. His lack of love is what the female, who claims not to be a prostitute, calls "the malady of death" — perhaps because there's something dead inside him.

Interesting, weird, thought-provoking, and a little unsettling, The Malady of Death is pretty much just a woman lying naked on white sheets with the sound of the black sea, the man exploring her body, without any feel for how time is passing. I'm sure the black and white emphasis is relevant. In the last few pages, the author describes how she believes the story should be staged if put on as a play or filmed.

Talkative Man by R. K. Narayan is my first by Narayan and I was impressed and delighted but thrown by the fact that I thought it was going to be about the Talkative Man, the narrator. It was not. Instead, the narrator tells the story of a man he encountered in the past.

When a stranger arrives in Malgudi (a fictional town in India) and takes up residence in the train station's waiting room, the Talkative Man (whose name is only mentioned once — mostly he goes by TM) is asked by the station master to find the stranger lodgings so that the station master won't lose his job if an inspection takes place.

The stranger, Rann, is disinterested in everything he's shown so TM moves him into his lavish home. But, what is Rann up to? He claims to be doing a job for the UN and writing a book. But, there's something shifty about this secretive world traveler. When TM figures it out, he comes up with a plan to save the young lady Rann is planning to run away with, a girl he's known since she was a baby.

Wonderful writing and not among the books Narayan is best known for. I can't wait to read more by him.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells is the first in the Murderbot Diaries series. Murderbot is what the part-human, part-robot narrator calls itself (it is neither male or female).

Murderbot is a security unit that has hacked its own governor module, meaning it isn't entirely controlled by outside forces. Instead, it can download updates to its system, shove them off to the side without actually inputting them, and pretend to follow the rules. When not on duty, it spends time watching videos.

Murderbot is not a big fan of humans and just wants to be left alone. But, on this particular job, the humans are friendly, a team of scientists conducting tests on a planet, where their corporate sponsors want to find out if mining the planet's resources will be profitable. There are two teams of scientists on the planet but when communication with the second team is suddenly lost, the scientists must find out what's going on.

All Systems Red is by far one of my favorites of the year, so far, for the action, the humor, the plot. I loved everything about it. I bought the first two (novella length) books in the series after a friend recommended them and then after reading All Systems Red, I bought the next two. And, you may have noticed that I bought the first full novel, last week. So, now I've got the entire series and I can bake my brain on Murderbot books, the next time I need a wild escape.

And, finally, this last book is one I bought from a salvage store, back when we had one that occasionally received book stock. Just an FYI, this is not the cover of the book I own but I couldn't find a decent image of the correct cover.

Jacob the Baker: Gentle Wisdom for a Complicated World by Noah benShea is the story of a man who writes down little bits of wisdom that pop into his head. He's also, of course, a baker. When he accidentally bakes one of his little bits of wisdom into a loaf of bread, the woman who bought the loaf of bread shows up to ask if he can share more bits of wisdom in further loaves to be given to her friends.

This begins Jacob's notoriety as a man of wisdom, from whom people seek answers. Jacob is patient with those who ask him for his thoughts, but sometimes he just wants to be alone. Still, he feels like it's important to share what he understands about life.

When I opened this book and started reading it, I thought I was going to hate it. I liked Tuesdays with Morrie, a similar kind of book, but generally speaking I'm not a fan of books filled with platitudes. And, yet, I enjoyed Jacob the Baker, primarily because of the protagonist. Jacob is very human. He's just a naturally philosophical guy. If he doesn't know the answers, he's not afraid to say so.

I liked all 4 of these books but All Systems Red and Talkative Man were 5-star reads, Jacob the Baker was interesting and somewhat meditative but not a book I'll hang onto, and The Malady of Death is a book that's a little too creepy for me, but definitely thought-provoking.

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