Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Slade House by David Mitchell


I don't want to say too much about Slade House because it's a novel that's best left a bit mysterious for the sake of letting things unfold. I like that feeling of not knowing quite what's happening, at first, and then slowly figuring it out. So, what I will say is that it has to do with a house in England, a set of twins, and the horrible thing they'll do to stay alive. There's a little iron gate that only appears every 9 years. What's behind that gate? Does it really exist or is it an illusion? What happens inside the house? And, is there any way to stop the twins from their evil doings?

Slade House is a perfect fall read, a blend of paranormal and horror but one that didn't give this wimp nightmares, thank goodness. 

Highly recommended - Phenomenal writing, seriously creepy, deliciously unsettling and atmospheric. The ending is immensely satisfying. Currently kicking myself for not getting around to reading David Mitchell sooner. I've got some of his other books on my shelves (although, to be honest, I have so many books that they won't be easy to find). I'll be digging for more, soon. 


©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, October 23, 2020

Fiona Friday - Peek

Her left foot looks like part of her jaw but that's an illusion. 


©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, October 22, 2020

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox


My friend Susan asked if I'd be interested in borrowing her copy of The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox and I jumped all over it. A book with "witch" in the title for October reading? Yes, please!

The Montrose family has had to flee Boston after a scandal made them notorious and they became social pariahs. Now living in what was meant originally to be their summer home, Lydia, Catherine, and Emeline must adjust to life in the country, with only a small village nearby. The house is new, yet Lydia finds herself hearing strange sounds and seeing people who shouldn't be there while young Emeline claims to be playing near the pond with a little boy nobody else can see. Are there ghosts nearby or is there a genuine reason for the things the girls are seeing and hearing?

Meanwhile, Catherine is determined to find someone to marry, even if it means interjecting herself in the growing relationship between Lydia and their father's business partner, a young man with a mysterious past. And, Lydia finds out that she has a secret of her own. Unbeknownst to her, she's inherited something from the ancestor who was killed in the Salem Witch Trials. She's a witch with special powers. 

Lydia's powers are a surprise to her and she can't save everyone. But, when death and danger threaten the Montrose family, Lydia discovers that she has a greater ability to protect her family than she could have imagined. 

Highly recommended - I could not put this book down. It was a cold, rainy day when I picked up The Witch of Willow Hall, absolutely the perfect weather for reading an atmospheric book. I read somewhere that The Witch of Willow Hall is Hester Fox's first book but I don't believe it. First published book, maybe. Her writing is mature and often so stunning I found myself rereading sentences. I doubt it's anywhere close to being the first thing she's written. 

Note on the spookiness level: If you like to be absolutely terrified, this isn't the right book. It's a slow, gentle sort of ramping up of fear of what will happen as things grow worse. I liked it because I'm prone to nightmares and it didn't give me nightmares at all, although I did literally get a shiver up my spine, a time or two. 

Also, it's worth mentioning that the scandal that drove the family from Boston is, in fact, genuinely scandalous. Often these books with a secret that's held back lose a little something when you find out the scandal or secret is . . . meh, whatever. Not so in The Witch of Willow Hall

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


©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, October 21, 2020

Mini reviews - The People Speak, ed. by H. Zinn, Cat Knit by Jacob Grant, and Writers and Lovers by Lily King

None of these books felt like they needed a page of their own but after writing the mini reviews, I find that I wrote more than expected about all of them. Sorry about that. Bit wordy. 

I'm not going to repeat all the subtitles on this book and just leave it big enough for you to read them. The People Speak, edited by Howard Zinn, is a slim book of readings that were dramatized by well-known people at a celebration of the anniversary of Zinn's A People's History of the United States. I have not yet read the original book but figured this was a way to dip into it and get an idea of how Zinn views history after A People's History of the United States was panned by our current president. 

Each reading has an introductory part and then a writing or speech from the book, which apparently uses primary source documents. Zinn takes the actual words of either the oppressed or the oppressor, giving the reader a clear viewpoint of how those who suffered did so because they had no voice. 

The most glaring and horrifying example, to me, was a letter by Christopher Columbus in which he describes the Arawak natives of Hispaniola as generous, well-built, handsome, and unfamiliar with weapons. His conclusion: "They would make fine servants. . . . With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want." He did more than that. He wiped them out entirely. 

Recommended especially if you want to get a taste of Zinn's way of viewing history without diving into the longer book. I'm looking forward to reading A People's History of the United States but I have quite a few other nonfiction titles ahead of it in the queue, so it was nice to at least get a peek at what I'll be getting into. 

Cat Knit by Jacob Grant is a picture book about a cat (Cat) with a human (Girl) who is into knitting. When Girl brings home a ball of yarn, Cat finds that it's a delightful toy and has a great time playing with it. Then, Girl takes it away and turns it into something entirely different: a sweater. 

Frustrated with the new shape of his old toy, Cat wriggles out of his sweater with the help of a branch. But, it's snowy and cold outside and once that sweater is off, Cat becomes aware of just how nicely it suited the purpose. He decides it's OK to be friends with Yarn in its new form.

Finally, Girl brings home several more colorful friends and the final image is one of Cat wearing not only his new sweater but a hat and booties. The expression on Cat's face is golden. 

Highly recommended - There are few words in Cat Knit and simple but expressive illustrations of the cat. I loved it and I'm glad I happened across this book and bought it on a whim. It'll be a fun one to read to the grandkids when I see them again. 

Writers and Lovers by Lily King is a book that I've been looking forward to reading since its release, mostly because I was so completely blown away by Euphoria. And, I liked it a lot but I didn't love it. Maybe my expectations were a little too high. 

It's 1997. Casey has had a crushing experience with a lover and lost her mother. She has been working on a novel for years. To support her writing habit, she's living in a moldy garage apartment that used to be a potting shed and working as a waitress in a fancy restaurant. Casey begins dating two different men but each comes with his own complications. 

I'm going to stop there. There are some other things going on, like the fact that Casey can't pay her bills even while living in a crappy little hovel, but I think it's worth saying what I liked and didn't like and leaving it at that. 

What I loved: Writers and Lovers could easily be used as a lesson in writing. While Casey is finishing her novel and then pitching it to an agent, you get a very good look at the craft of writing. I also liked the realism of the love triangle. It didn't feel manufactured. In fact, I was certain that Writers and Lovers is a fictionalized account of the author's own experience and when I looked her up, I found that I was likely correct. Maybe the countries she lived in were different but it sure seemed like there were some parallels. 

What I disliked: There were times I had no idea what she was talking about when Casey was at work — and I've been a waitress. I guess waiting tables isn't the same across different types of restaurant. There was also a picky detail about a health crisis Casey went through that ticked me off because it was just wrong; I've experienced it and that's not how it works. Again, I think she has likely had a similar experience but she just didn't look into how that particular thing would be handled. It's a little harder to write off mistakes when you've been through what's written wrong and know it would be pretty easy to find out the details. 

I read Writers and Lovers specifically to discuss it with an Instagram friend. She liked it a lot more than I did. We have both written fiction and appreciated the technical details about writing. When you write fiction, you will often hear that it's self-indulgent to write about writers; we'd both heard that advice. But, we agreed that she handled the characterization of a writer better than most and it didn't feel annoying in any way. The writing aspect was quite informative. 

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, October 20, 2020

In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders

In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders is a collection of short stories and if you know anything at all about George Saunders' writing, you'll know without my saying so that it's nuts. And, that's what I love about Saunders. 

They say, in the many quotes of praise at the front of the book, that Saunders is brilliant, a genius, wildly original, playful, brutal. He's all of that. What he's not is an author who can be put in a box. 

The playfulness comes in his ability to make up some weird, often otherworldly, paranormal, or alien situation that he uses to make a point. And, when you figure out that point, you see that he has some very important things to say about people, corporations, the way we're treating other humans and our world. There's an undercurrent of warmth and compassion but sometimes you have to wade through some horror to get to it. 

Highly recommended - Crazy unique, darkly funny, sharp, surprising, disquieting, thought-provoking, and genuinely weird. In Persuasion Nation is my fourth George Saunders read. I grabbed In Persuasion Nation when I was placing a Book Outlet order and discovered he had two titles available (I bought a copy of the second one, which I've read, and sent it to my eldest son). This book has solidified Saunders as a favorite author. I will make it a goal to read everything he's written. 

In case you're wondering, the planter just seemed fitting when I was posing this book for IG because it's a little weird. I haven't been able to find the seeds I want to plant in it but eventually it'll have some cool, cat-friendly green stuff growing out of its noggin. 

©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, October 19, 2020

Monday Malarkey


Recent arrivals (top to bottom):


  • I is for Illuminati by Chris Vola - from HarperCollins for review
  • The Wreck by Meg Keneally,
  • Toby's Room by Pat Barker,
  • Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley,
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, and 
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - all purchased
  • The Museum of Forgotten Memories by Anstey Harris - from Gallery Books for review
  • Earthlings by Sayaka Murata - purchased
  • Matrimony, Inc. by Francesca Beauman - from Pegasus Books for review

Not pictured:

  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia - purchased as e-book

Quite a stack. I have one more book I want to buy for a challenge I'm going to participate in, next year (and I'll buy one each month for that, since I own none of them) but I think it's about time to put myself back on a book-buying ban, otherwise. 

I generally don't buy e-books, anymore, since I'm not a fan of reading electronically and have way too many books already languishing in my Kindle app, but I made an exception for Mexican Gothic when it went on sale for $2.99, yesterday. I've been intrigued by the storyline since the first time I read about it (probably on Instagram) and I've read numerous reviews, in the past month or two. It's pretty polarizing, which I like. Will I love it? Will I be bored? It'll be fun to find out. 


Books finished since last Malarkey:


  • Song of the Court by Katy Farina
  • Cat Knit by Jacob Grant
  • Writers and Lovers by Lily King
  • The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox
  • Slade House by David Mitchell
  • The Wreck by Meg Keneally


Cat Knit is a children's book that I bought on a whim because cat. It takes about 2 minutes to read but it's super cute. Slade House is a horror/paranormal novel I've had sitting around for years and it caught my eye when I was looking for something creepy to read. It was my second book for fall spooky reading after The Witch of Willow Hall, which a friend sent and I absolutely loved. The Wreck started off slowly but once I got into it I simply could not bear to put it down until I was no longer able to keep my eyes open (and then I woke up way too early so I finished it off). This was a great couple of weeks of reading.


Currently reading:


  • The Great Influenza by John M. Barry

I finished The Wreck early this morning, so I haven't yet chosen my next fiction read. The Great Influenza is excellent but I didn't read more than a handful of pages, this week, so it's going to take a while. No biggie. It's one from my personal library and has no attached obligation to be read by any particular date so I'm going to add another nonfiction title to the current reads, as well, but I haven't decided which one, Matrimony, Inc. or I is for Illuminati. I want to finish both before the end of the month so the order doesn't really matter. 


Posts since last Malarkey:



In other news:

I'm still watching COBRA on Sunday evenings but that's the only regularly scheduled program on my watch list, right now. Otherwise, there's not much TV viewing going on. Streaming-wise, I started watching Schitt's Creek. So far, so good. I don't find it laugh-out-loud funny but I'm enjoying it. 

I chose Knives Out to watch, on Friday evening, and we both loved it. And, last night we watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off when it came on after . . . maybe the news? I don't remember. We just happened to have the TV on and Ferris Bueller is an old family favorite so we stuck around for it. 

It's occasionally chilly out there and we're loving the porch-reading weather. I spent a couple hours outside reading The Wreck, yesterday. In the end, it got a little muggy and the biting things began to emerge but the cool air was fabulous while it lasted. 

I haven't done any painting at all for a couple weeks because I decided I need to get a grip on my supplies and painting area, which lately has been just a stretch of the kitchen counter. In order to do that, I started emptying dresser drawers of Kiddo's clothing. He left quite a bit behind. I've got a drawer for sketchbooks, painting pads, and other paper. I have one for vintage ephemera and another with shoeboxes into which I've sorted various paintbrushes and doodads. It turned out to be a much bigger job than I intended and in the process I realized that I need to clean off the table I bought specifically for painting, which is currently buried in canvases, paintbrushes, notebooks of ideas (photographs, for example, of things I might like to try painting), etc. It's a mess. 

I'm missing the painting and the counter has since been buried in actual kitchen implements, so I may clear off that stretch of counter and do a little painting in between days spent working on cleaning up the paint table, since it's it's going to take a while. 

What's up in your world? Will you open your door to trick-or-treaters, this year? 

©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, October 16, 2020

Fiona Friday - Anyone want a fish taco?


©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, October 14, 2020

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez is a young adult novel about the daughter of immigrants who has experienced trauma, feels like the lesser child in her family, and doesn't understand why her parents behave the way they do. 

Olga was the good daughter but now she's dead and her sister Julia feels like her life is spinning out of control. Her mother is overprotective and won't let her have any privacy. Her father is mostly silent. Everyone has been crushed by Olga's death. When Julia finds some unexpected possessions in her sister's room, Julia is determined to uncover Olga's secrets.

Grief, controlling parents, LGBTQ, racism, sexism, depression and anxiety, xenophobia, and teenage romance — there's a lot going on in this book. I didn't care for Julia's crudeness but I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter had the ring of truth. And, even though she's a hot mess, Julia still managed to show her sense of humor. 

Recommended - I've had an e-copy of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter for several years (yes — gasp! — I read an e-book!) A friend chose it as a discussion book when I was in a Facebook discussion group but I was unable to fit it in, at the time. And, I do think it would have been a terrific group read. It's an emotional story, especially if you've experienced and can relate to Julia's grief. In fact, I think it would be a perfect book for a mother-daughter discussion group because it's the kind of book that will open up opportunities with a teenager to allow her to discuss her frustrations. 

I gave 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.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Becoming by Michelle Obama


I bought Becoming by Michelle Obama on a whim. It's been much discussed since its release and I've consistently heard nothing but good. But, not being a huge fan of memoirs, I resisted buying it or checking it out. Without bothering to find out, I think I must have assumed that the book was about her years as First Lady.

Well, I was wrong about it on all counts. First, it's the story of Michelle Obama's life, from how protective her brother was when she was a baby to her school life and how her jobs evolved, through to her years as First Lady. She talks about how her parents were never able to buy a place of their own so they lived in the cramped second floor of her aunt and uncle's home on the South Side of Chicago. She talked about the exodus of white people from the area and the schools she attended. She talked about her parents' rather laid-back assurance that their children could and would succeed and how they devoted their lives to making certain they had all the opportunities required to do so. She spoke about the schools she attended, the discouragement she ignored, how she met Barack Obama, and a little about his life. 

She shared her struggle with infertility and her frustrations and insecurities in life and in the working world. And then, of course, came the political years. You don't have to read very far into Becoming to find out Michelle Obama will never, ever go into politics. She went there as a supportive spouse but her family, especially the children and how their father's busy political life (and later life in the White House) would effect them, was always her main concern. I'd heard that her mother stayed in the White House and that relates to the way family permeates her story. She didn't want her children to miss out on having their grandmother near during their formative years, so she moved her mom into the residence. Michelle's mother kept a low profile and wouldn't let the Secret Service follow her around, so I understand now why I was never entirely sure that rumor about her mom living in the White House was true. 

I particularly enjoyed learning about how life in the White House works, what the current president pays for and what's provided, and the little details like how much work (on the part of the Secret Service) goes into stepping out on the balcony to get fresh air. 

I think everyone I know has read Becoming but if you haven't, it's worth the time. I already admired Michelle Obama as a First Lady but I found out she did even more than I was aware of. A lot more, actually. She was about as close as you can get to my hero, Eleanor Roosevelt. Both were indefatigable in their pursuit of programs to improve the lives of people both in the US and around the world. 

Highly recommended - Well-written and so heart-felt that you can't help but find yourself immersed and unwilling to put the book down till you must. At least, that's how I felt. Becoming is long at around 400 pages but it's quite a fascinating read. I've always known there are various reasons for the different cars in the presidential motorcade but she describes what each of the cars carries, what it's like to live in the White House, the challenges that a First Lady faces, how Barack Obama's days went, what effected him most deeply, how they made various decisions about their children, and which former presidents and first ladies were the most helpful to her. It's funny that a book I thought I would find so-so charmed me so thoroughly. 

Here are my favorite failed attempts to pose Becoming with Izzy. I like it when I manage to get her to put a single paw on the cover of a book but she just wanted to climb on it, the day I was trying to get an Instagram shot. 


©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, October 09, 2020

Fiona Friday - Awww

©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, October 08, 2020

Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix


I've been reading mostly backlist titles, in recent months, and Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix is waaaay backlist, written and published in the late 90s but timeless. You'll especially appreciate it if you lived through the "modern" 90s time period. There are two time periods in this exciting middle grade book. 

I will say . . . I so enjoyed not realizing what I was getting into that I recommend skipping down to the recommendation line if you're interested in reading this book and want to be totally surprised. I may have mentioned a few spoilers — or, at least, things that could spoil the reading if you want to go in totally blind. So, I'll add a spoiler warning. Notably, what I thought I was about to read was another pandemic book but set in 1840. I was so excited when I found out that was not what the story was about at all. 

Quick synopsis for those who choose to skip the longer description: In 1840, diphtheria breaks out in Clifton, Indiana. But, nobody is able to leave for help. Jessie's mother knows the children will die if someone doesn't escape the confines of their village, so she sends Jessie on a dangerous trip to the outside world. Will Jessie be able to find help before it's too late? 

WARNING!!!! There may be spoilers in this review. Please jump down to the recommendation line if you want to go into this book blind!!!!

In 1840, Jessie has spent all but two years of her life in a small village, knowing only that her father was unhappy in Pennsylvania before they arrived at Clifton, Indiana to live. She was two when they arrived and doesn't remember her previous life at all. So, when a diphtheria outbreak threatens her friends and beloved sister, she is shocked to find out that her life is not at all what it seems and that leaving will be dangerous. 

But, she must leave if anyone is to have hope of survival. Because outside of her home, it's the 1990s. Her home is considered a living historical village and it's an investment for the owner. It suits his purpose to keep them isolated from modern life and nobody has been able to escape. 

Jessie's mother is a former nurse. Early on in their life at Clifton they were able to get modern medications but over 10 years later the village's access to modern medicine and technology has been cut off, maybe to make the village more authentic? She doesn't know. All she knows is that diphtheria can be cured but she doesn't have the medicine, there are guards and fences that nobody has been able to get past and those who've tried have been punished. And, Jessie's mom no longer fits in her 1980s clothing. Jessie is their only hope. 

Dressed in her mother's modern clothing from the 80s and carrying a bag of food and a phone number, Jessie sets off. Even when she escapes, there are constant dilemmas because nothing is the same as her home. Even a loaf of bread (in a plastic bag?) is confusing. Will Jessie be able to find the man whose number she's been given? Will she be able to stay safe in the modern world, where dangers lurk around every corner? When things go wrong, who will she turn to? 

It's safe now! You can come out from behind the couch. No spoilers below.

Highly recommended - I loved this book! Jessie is a convincing character. Her confusion when she's confronted with the unexpected, her fears, and the manner in which she handles her dilemmas are all believable. In fact, they're so believable that I sometimes found myself kind of talking to the book, urging Jessie to do something different. This was definitely a 5-star read. 

When I went to rate the book, I discovered that my dearly departed friend Tammy had also rated the book 5 stars. Aw, man. I miss Tammy. She was a big fan of middle grade and YA. Running Out of Time is a quick and easy read but it packs such an emotional punch that I do think older readers will enjoy it for the way it makes you think, if they're not annoyed by the age of the protagonist and the writing geared to middle graders. 


©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, October 07, 2020

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse


I bought and read Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse after finding out there was going to be a "buddy read" (really, a small group discussion) on Instagram. I ordered the book, signed up for the group, and dived right in. It's apparently classified as Young Adult but it didn't have the feel of a YA. It was much like any other WWII book I've read, with plenty of tension although lacking any harrowing scenes like torture. 

It's 1943 in Amsterdam and Hanneke Baker rides her bike around town delivering goods bought on the black market. She's doing it as part of her day job and she knows there's some danger but so far she has had few problems beyond the occasional attention from German soldiers — not for what she's doing but because she's a young lady. 

On one of her deliveries, she's asked to help find a missing girl, Mirjam, who was staying in a hidden room at a widow's home. The widow has lost her entire family, misses her young companion, and is worried about what's become of her. Hanneke is hesitant but reluctantly agrees. Then, she begins to look into Mirjam's life for clues and it's there that she comes across something unexpected, the brother of the man she loved and intended to marry. He knows the young woman Hanneke wants to talk to and invites her to a dinner party, where she can ask her questions. 

At home, Hanneke's parents are unemployed and one is disabled. So, Hanneke is the sole income earner in her household and it's this that she thinks about at the dinner party.  When no food appears and the "dinner" turns out to be something else entirely, a meeting of one little faction of the Resistance, Hanneke is not interested in helping out. How can she? She is responsible for her parents and they would be helpless without her. Even staying out past curfew makes them crazy with worry. 

The main questions are always whether or not Hanneke will be able to locate Mirjam, what became of her after she left the widow's house, why did she leave, will Hanneke join this Resistance group, can Hanneke trust the Resistance members or are they hiding something from her, and will Hanneke's new Jewish friends be able to survive the war or continue working at the local detention center and nursery, from which they know people are regularly being deported to concentration camps. It's a little harrowing, at times, but only a few scenes are particularly frightening.

Recommended but not a favorite - I love WWII books, enjoyed Girl in the Blue Coat, and gave it 4/5 stars but it's not a favorite WWII read because it felt more like a mystery than a WWII book, in a way. And, yet, it becomes more interesting as the story progresses. It was particularly fascinating to be in the head of someone with Hanneke's dilemma about her parents and just how much danger she could or should put herself in. I often wondered what I would do in her situation. I don't think one can really know till the circumstances exist in real life.

There are a few unexpected twists and the ending is definitely surprising (what became of Mirjam). It leaves you with a question that I can't mention because it's a spoiler but I didn't feel like it was one that annoyed me. It's simply unknowable. 

I especially enjoyed being part of a small group discussion. I felt like I got a lot more out of the book by reading other readers' thoughts, just as in an F2F discussion group. The only problem I had with this particular type of group is that sometimes it's easy to fall behind. At least in this case, the discussion moved quickly. While you're reading a discussion question, answering it, reading other replies, and then formulating your own thoughts to those replies, it can feel like you have to race to keep up with the conversation. But, I enjoyed it so much that I plan to keep my eyes peeled for more buddy reads, especially while my F2F group isn't meeting (in person or otherwise). 


©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, October 06, 2020

Song of the Court by Katy Farina


Song of the Court by Katy Farina is a children's graphic novel. Arietta sells flowers at her local castle market. She doesn't have enough money for seeds, so she decides she has no choice but to sell her grandfather's violin. But, then she runs into the princess outside the music shop. Princess Cassia is looking for musicians for her upcoming birthday party and assumes Arietta can play the violin in her hands. 

Arietta doesn't know how to play the violin but she agrees to play because she really doesn't want to part with the violin, which brings back fond memories of her grandfather, or disappoint the princess. So, with the help of a friend she takes a crash course in violin playing. She progresses quickly but at the party she's horrified to find out someone else has chosen to play the same song, the only song she knows. 

I won't give away the ending but it's sweet and I have a feeling I would have absolutely loved this book as a small child, both for the main character's determination to learn an instrument and the friendship with a princess. 

Recommended - A cute graphic novel with a great theme about putting your mind to something and accomplishing it. The age range for this book is listed as 4-8 years so it can first be read to a little one and then part of their intro to reading. I did occasionally find some of the characters' expressions confusing (I'd misread them and then figure out my mistake through the text) but that didn't cause much trouble as it always quickly became clear. Especially recommended for little girls who are interested in music, royalty, or that "You can do it if you put your mind to it" theme with some nice friendship on the side. 

I received my copy of Song of the Court from Sterling Children's Books in exchange for an unbiased review. Many thanks!

Just for fun, here's how I posed the book for Instagram, followed by a "behind the scenes" image. I had to keep telling Fiona to stop chewing on the flowers. 




©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, October 05, 2020

Monday Malarkey


Recent arrivals (left to right):


  • Song of the Court by Katy Farina - from Sterling Children's Books for review
  • The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox - sent by my friend Susan (thanks, Suz!)
  • A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn and 
  • Queenie by Candice Carty-William - both purchased
  • All About Us by Tom Ellen - from HarperCollins for review

As usual, quite a hodge-podge, here. I ordered A People's History of the United States after hearing our current president say Zinn's approach to history is the wrong one. You'll see farther down that I also got a book with excerpts from A People's History called The People Speak and have already read it (not difficult; it's about 82 pages long). I knew nothing about Zinn but it appears that he has chosen to portray history from the viewpoint of the oppressed and, occasionally, the oppressor's own words using primary sources — for example, a horrifying letter from Christopher Columbus describing how easy it would be to "subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want," referring to the natives of Hispaniola, who were totally wiped out. Yikes. 

As to the others . . . Queenie has been on my wish list for a while and I decided to place a Book Depository order, which is slowly trickling in. I'm really looking forward to The Witch of Willow Hall for some spooky October reading, and the remaining two books are among those I mentioned accepting for review, 2 weeks ago. All About Us is an October release, and Song of the Court is out tomorrow, so I'll read that tonight. 


Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Magic in Changing Your Stars by Leah Henderson
  • Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
  • In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders
  • The People Speak: American Voices, Some Famous, Some Little Known - Ed. by Howard Zinn

All of these were good or great. I've had little patience for anything that doesn't grab me immediately, this year, and the payoff is that I'm really enjoying my reading. Nothing has gotten a below-average rating because if I think it's less than average, I abandon it. I highly recommend doing this, especially if you're having trouble with a reading slump. The Magic in Changing Your Stars and Running Out of Time are both middle grade books and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is YA. 


Currently reading: 

  • Writers and Lovers by Lily King
  • The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The Great Influenza by John M. Barry


I'm considering ditching The House of the Seven Gables, for now, because it's good but not the spooky read I was hoping for. I've set it aside for at least two days, now. I'll have to think about whether or not I want to continue hacking away at it. Writers and Lovers is one I had on-hand and I commented about how much I enjoyed Lily King's Euphoria to an Instagram friend. She asked me to hurry up and read Writers and Lovers so we could discuss. Why not? It's good, so far. And, I'm learning a good bit from The Great Influenza, which is not only about the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 but also the state of medicine in the United States from the mid-19th Century up to the time of the pandemic and how rapidly things changed, the people and institutions involved in that dramatic change in medicine, and the reason influenza is so dangerous and we have to get new flu shots yearly. It's a little bit of a slog, at times, but worth the time investment. 


Posts since last Malarkey:



In other news:

Hmm, is there any other news? I guess a little. We went on a day trip on Saturday. Unlike most people, we really have pretty much stayed in lockdown mode or close to it. After our state's mask mandate began to work, though, we did at least feel comfortable shopping during regular hours instead of getting up to do the grocery shopping at 6 AM. The mask mandate unfortunately expired but I predict its return in about 3 weeks. It doesn't take long for the uptick after people fling the masks and other precautions aside. 

Anyway, our day trip was to Rocky Springs, a site off the Natchez Trace with camping, hiking, and some very interesting historical interest. Rocky Springs was the name of a town that was on that site in the 19th century. All that remains is a smattering of objects (a safe, a cistern), the church (still in use), and the cemetery, which is surprisingly well-tended. The campsite is in terrible shape, unfortunately. The bathrooms are closed, the trash cans and fire pits overflowing with trash, the amphitheater unmowed and the trail a bit overgrown with weeds that tickle and fling up little itchy-biting bugs. I got a lot of mosquito bites. But, we had a nice picnic and enjoyed our little hike. 

I started watching COBRA on PBS, last night, and so far I'm enjoying it. We've gotten to the point in life that we normally crash early (although neither of us are quick to fall asleep) so 9:00 feels late to watch TV, now. That cracks me up. Point being, the spousal unit went on to bed without me so I watched it on my own. I like disaster-type movies/shows, so I think I'm going to love it.

Art-wise, my last project was a bit of a failure. I used to sketch people all the time, but I haven't done so in years. So, I decided my next project should be an attempt to paint a portrait. But, then I decided maybe it would be best to start out by doing a collage and just painting over a photograph. I printed and cut out a lovely Edwardian woman, sprayed her with matte fixative, pasted her to some watercolor paper, and then painted over the photograph. Ugh, she looks like a cartoon character. I may work on her some more to see if I can give her some definition but at this point it's just a big disappointment. 

What's new in your world? 

©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, October 02, 2020

Fiona Friday - Meowdeling


©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, September 30, 2020

Finna by Nate Marshall


fin-na /ˈfinə/ contraction: (1) going to; intending to. rooted in African American Vernacular English. (2) eye dialect spelling of "fixing to." (3) Black possibility; Black futurity; Blackness as tomorrow.

dispatch from the 6th circle
Crawfordsville, IN

I count the Confederate flags
around town, a surprise considering the geography.
what earnest confusion, honest mistake it takes
to fly a rebel flag in the North. this makes the most
sense: us turning against us, the cannibal instinct, the
vote against self. self-hate is something i've known.
hear the way my voice lilts too many 
ways, my vocabularies wrestle themselves, scrap
amongst the street in between my teeth. watch my mouth slang
& stutter into eloquence. watch my mouth whistle
this simple Dixie.

~p. 86

If you hang around my blog much, you might remember that I accidentally bought the wrong book entitled Finna. I mean . . . you wouldn't think there'd be two by that name, would you? Here's a link to the other Finna, by Nino Cipri.

Finna by Nate Marshall is the book I intended to buy, a book of poetry from which I read an excerpt online somewhere (Instagram, maybe?) that I absolutely loved. Although I didn't buy it specifically because of the fact that the author is Black, that's a definite side benefit because I am trying to buy more books by people of color to amplify their voices. 

You can see the author is both serious about racism and playful. I enjoyed his ability to stab the heart with irony.

Highly recommended - An outstanding poetry collection. Sharp, insightful, descriptive of both pain and anger but with humor. I love this collection of poetry about blackness and claiming one's name, place, and people. I gave it 5 stars and am so glad I bought a copy so I can return 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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman


Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman is a young adult novel about a teenager who has an undefined mental illness (possibly a combination of illnesses). After his grades drop and he becomes paranoid, telling his father he thinks someone at school wants to kill him and then he acts strangely at school, as well, Caden is eventually hospitalized in a mental ward. There he meets other teenagers who have similar issues, sees a counselor and a psychiatrist, has his medications adjusted and readjusted, and learns to deal with an illness that can only be controlled, at best. 

While Challenger Deep is a young adult book it's not an easy read, emotionally speaking, since you're in the mind of a teenager who's had a break from reality. Sometimes he's hallucinating but the sights and voices are very real to him. 

I can see why this book is an award winner. After reading, I feel like I "get" what it must be like to experience both the illness and the fogginess that goes with having to take a cocktail of drugs to control it. It's clear why people dealing with severe mental illness have a problem with occasionally being non-compliant about taking their medication. 

Highly recommended - I had tears of relief streaming down my face when the main character, Caden, was finally able to leave the mental ward. A beautifully-written, engaging, distressing, fascinating book about what it's like to lose touch with reality and how it feels to be treated so you can get back to at least a tolerable life, if not a totally normal 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.

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni


I'm the first to admit that the premise of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell just sounds boring. Sam Hill is born with a condition called ocular albinism, which means his eyes are red. In school, he's given the nickname "Devil Boy" and even his friends call him Sam Hell instead of Hill, at times. In the present day, he's an eye doctor who wears colored contact lenses. The book goes back and forth between Sam's present and his past, where he constantly dealt with a bully and now has discovered that same bully has grown up to be a wife beater and a dangerous cop. Sam's unmarried but close with his female business partner, who was one of his childhood best friends. 

While Sam Hell is mostly about his childhood and how he became the man he is now, there's that touch of mystery in the future. Will Sam be able to help the wife of the man who used to torment him at school? Is he in danger, as well, now that the bully has come back into his life? Will Sam ever realize who he belongs with?  

Highly recommended - Seriously, the premise did not interest me at all. But, my friend Paula said, "I think you would like this, Nancy," and then my friend Eileen recommended it to me through Goodreads, so I decided if two friends thought I'd like it I should give it a go. And, sure enough, they had me pegged. I found The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell almost impossible to put down. I was completely immersed in Sam's life, his challenges, his friendships, and the romance that clearly needed to happen. 

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell does have its flaws. For example, not once did the author mention a sensitivity to light, which seems like a no-brainer. I looked it up and yes, ocular albinism should cause photophobia. I have gray eyes and am so sensitive to light that I wear sunglasses even when it's cloudy, sometimes in the rain. I turn down the light on my electronic devices, as well. So, that naturally jumped out at me. I also thought it was strange that he was still insecure about his eye color, even when he was wearing contact lenses, especially given the fact that he always had a nice circle of friends and plenty of support at home. But, the story was so captivating that I didn't care about its flaws and only felt like I was briefly pulled out of it, now and then. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is definitely one of the most enjoyable books I've read in 2020. 


©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.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Magic in Changing Your Stars by Leah Henderson

First, apologies for not having a better image of this book's cover. I am having some formatting issues and the new Blogger platform is giving me fits, so I've defaulted to an image I took for Instagram (complete with tap shoes). You should be able to click on the image to enlarge it. I couldn't get a saved image of just the cover to load properly. 


The Magic in Changing Your Stars by Leah Henderson is a middle grade book about a boy named Ailey who desperately wants to win the role of the Scarecrow in his school's production of The Wiz. He's a rapper and a dancer but he can't sing and he's not so hot at memorizing lines. Still, he's made up his mind; Scarecrow is the role he wants and he's certain he can make the role unique, both in the way he moves and dresses. 

But, when it's Ailey's turn to try out for the role, he totally freezes and can't remember a single line. His competition, a girl named Mahalia with a fabulous voice, does a fantastic job of trying out so Ailey is certain he won't get a callback. Feeling defeated, he goes home and later admits what happened to his grampa [sic], who is in a hospital bed. Grampa tells him the secret he's kept from all but one person, about his own personal defeat and how he's lived with regret his entire life. 

Grampa sends Ailey to fetch and care for a pair of tap shoes that were given to him by the famous dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and when Ailey makes a wish, the shoes magically transport him back in time, to the day of Grampa's mistake. Can Ailey convince a young Grampa, then known as "Taps", that he has the talent and help him summon the courage to dance for Mr. Robinson? Together, will they change the way the stars align for the old man he adores? 

Recommended but not a favorite - I didn't love the writing style, which kept The Magic in Changing Your Stars from being a favorite, but I did love the story and got totally sucked up into it, at least partly because I'm a sucker for anything that involves time travel. But, I also liked the theme that hard work pays off and even if it's painful or embarrassing or terrifying, you should do your best to make your heart's desire come true. 

I recognized a few famous names used by the author as character names but only a few, so I also really loved the fact that the author included a substantial list of character names she used in the book and where they came from. That list would be terrific for kids looking for ideas for Black History Month as it described each famous Black person briefly but enough that it certainly piqued my interest to read more about some I'd never heard of. 


©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, September 25, 2020

Fiona Friday - Mine, all mine

Harmonious grass sharing. 
Or 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, September 21, 2020

Monday Malarkey



Recent arrivals (top to bottom):


  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and
  • Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi - both purchased
  • Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain - gift from publicist Meryl Zegarek (Thank you!!!)
  • The Magic in Changing Your Stars by Leah Henderson - from Sterling Kids for review
  • Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse - bought for an Instagram buddy read
  • Rage by Bob Woodward - purchased
  • Not pictured: Becoming by Michelle Obama - also purchased


Confession: I gave in and accepted a few books from publishers, this past couple of weeks. Only one has arrived so there will be probably be a few ARCs in the next Malarkey. I have no regrets. But, while I've updated my review policy to say I'll take on children's books, I'm thinking of the other books I accepted as a hiccup. Hic. Oh, excuse me. 

Books finished since last . . . well, it was a Tuesday Twaddle (thank you, holiday):


  • Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
  • Finna by Nate Marshall
  • Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
  • Fear by Bob Woodward


Yikes, not my best fortnight. 


Currently reading:


  • The Magic in Changing Your Stars by Leah Henderson
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama

I didn't mean to start Becoming but it arrived Sunday afternoon (still strange getting mail on Sundays) and I was stuck with a cat on my lap, a pair of reading glasses, and Becoming. The other books I was reading were in the bedroom. So, I had no choice but to pick it up and start reading. Uh-huh. No choice at all. 

Posts since Tuesday Twaddle:



In other news:

Our first cool front arrived so we were able to open the windows part of the day, starting Friday! That first cool day of fall is always my favorite day of the year. And, I was also excited to catch and release (with the help of Huzzybuns, who took the jar outside) a Mediterranean gecko that was hanging out in my bathtub before the kitties spotted him. The perfection of Friday was wrecked by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, unfortunately. Favorite tweet of the day:



TV-wise, we haven't watched anything new and it just occurred to me that I haven't even checked to see if my favorite shows have returned for the fall season or the possibility of new episodes evaporated with the arrival of the pandemic. Except for one. We're looking forward to Season 2 of The Mandalorian. But that's about the only thing I know about that's coming up, soon. In the meantime, we've decided we need to watch Hamilton, again. We've only watched it once. Once is not enough. 

©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, September 18, 2020

Fiona Friday - Kissies

Smooch


©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, September 17, 2020

Five Minute Pete the Cat Stories by James Dean


I bought this Pete the Cat collection out of curiosity and because I love cats. It's clear the stories are meant for beginning readers. In fact, it's such an easy-reading book that I felt like I'd been caught in the act of doing something subversive when my husband walked in the door while I was reading 5-Minute Pete the Cat Stories

Having said that . . . they're simplistic, yes, but I love Pete's attitude. His boundless cheer had me smiling all the way through the book. Too bad my grandkids are 1200 miles away. I'll hang onto this book and hope we can read it together (or eldest granddaughter can read it to me) when the pandemic ends. 

Recommended - Simple text for early readers, cute illustrations (who doesn't love a blue cat?), and everyday happenings and adventures that most children can probably relate to make 5-Minute Pete the Cat Stories a great book for gift-giving or having on hand when grandchildren visit. As to parents . . . sorry, guys, you're really going to have to fight to keep from being asked to read 12 stories in a row. I'd make sure to have a bookmark on hand for bedtime reading and say, "We can read X Pete stories, but then we'll save more for later!" Been there with the begging for more. 

On a different note: Blogger has rolled out its new platform and no longer offers the option to revert to the historical version. I don't like it; I never like dramatic change because I become accustomed to a certain set of icons and learn to use them quickly. I'll get used to it, I know, but there is one thing I haven't figured out and if anyone knows how to work it, I'd appreciate the help. I tried to remove the image above and replace it with one that is more accurate as to color (Pete is blue, not black) but I cannot find a "remove image" feature, anywhere. And, now the option to contact Blogger about problems with the new platform has also disappeared. Anyway, let me know if you can help!


©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, September 16, 2020

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yū Miri


I never carried any photos with me, but I was always surrounded by people, places, and times gone by. And as I retreated into the future, the only thing I could ever see was the past. 

~p. 17

And in the winter, my mother and Setsuko would knit sweaters for everyone in the family. We could only afford cheap yarn and thread so the sweaters quickly developed holes, but the women would repair them neatly.

~p. 37

I confess that I bought Tokyo Ueno Station by Yū Miri (who also goes by Miri Yū) for two completely shallow reasons:

1. I loved the cover
2. It has Tokyo in the title and I've been slowly collecting Japanese titles, particularly if the setting is a place I've visited.

The interesting thing is about buying Tokyo Ueno Station based mostly on the cover is that I saw the train station, the bus, the man in the fancy suit, the runner, the panda . . . and totally overlooked the homeless people lying on the ground, on a pile of possessions, in front of a makeshift hut. But, that's the one of the main settings and the viewpoint of the main character, who is looking back at his life. He's speaking from beyond, now, but his last years were spent in a homeless encampment in the park adjoining a Tokyo train station. And, as you're reading it, you can't help but theorize about how he ended up there.

Kazu was born in Fukushima in 1933. His family lived in poverty and even after marriage he had to travel wherever necessary to earn money. Most of the time, that meant he wasn't home to spend time with his wife and see his children grow. When tragedy struck for the first time, Kazu was shocked to his core and grieved deeply. More tragedy followed and eventually he moved to Tokyo, but why? What happened that led to Kazu's homelessness? And, what are the odd parallels between Kazu's life of struggle and the Imperial family?

I think one of the things that fascinates me the most about Tokyo Ueno Station is that it sounds like it is an utterly depressing story and yet I didn't find it depressing. Yes, Kazu's life appears to fit the words, "Life sucks and then you die." And, yet, there is something about his acceptance of all of the hardship thrown at him and his final passing that I found almost uplifting. At any rate, I didn't find the book depressing at all.

Recommended - I would not read this book when you're already down in the dumps because it might affect other people negatively, but I found Tokyo Ueno Station brilliantly written and engrossing. The story jumps back and forth in time but you don't know till nearly the end (although, when you hear the name "Fukushima" you can assume the final tragedy) what happened to Kazu to drive him to life in a hut made of cardboard and other scraps. It was not exactly what I expected.

What I love best about Tokyo Ueno Station is the way it places you in Kazu's world, so you really get a feel for why that expression about poverty being expensive means. The story about the cheap yarn made me think of the story I recently read about how a wealthy person can afford quality boots that will last years and years but a poor person will have to buy several pairs over the same time period because s/he can afford only a lesser quality that falls apart. In the long run, the person with less money ends up spending more.

You also see how the homeless are overlooked, almost invisible until they become an eyesore and must be tucked out of sight. You get an idea how grief can drive someone to run away from himself and his life. Tokyo Ueno Station is a harsh story but a deeply meaningful one. I'm so glad I bought it on impulse.


©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, September 14, 2020

One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes



The raspberries, Mrs. Marshall said, would he net the raspberries? That, too, was pushed through the keyhole, and back came the little shrill whistle. Oh yes, he would net them. If he netted himself, the birds would see no difference. He would bud, he would blossom, his toes would take root in England, his fingers would splay down comfortably into the soil. 

~p. 46

But first, thought Laura, she would start some of the evening's cooking before eating. She began to move pans back and forth off the stove. She used the colander, the grater, wooden spoons of various sizes, and a small army of basins. Her cheeks became flushed. Would the sauce bind? And lo, it bound, while her heart did likewise. But with a hiss, something else boiled over disastrously, so that the cat, who knew Laura, got up and withdrew in prudent haste. A sad brown smell invaded the cluttered kitchen. Mopping up the ruins, Laura thought of Mrs. Abbey, their former and best cook, Mrs. Abbey, who had been killed by a flying bomb while taking a cup of tea with her niece Flo in Putney. 

~p. 66

Now that her father was home, her mother always seemed to be standing by the stove, stirring things, and frowning at the book in her hand. Victoria's bedtime, which had been an elastic affair, returned to a legal appointed hour. 

~p. 156


I must be in a Mollie Panter-Downes mood, lately, because I went looking for One Fine Day after reading her Postwar stories, Millie's Room, and now I'd really, really like to start on her WWII dispatches (but I think I'll wait so I don't totally run out of Panter-Downes books).

One Fine Day is about a small family, the Marshalls, and it's set a year after the end of WWII on a single day. You're mostly in Laura's head, but occasionally you'll also spend a little time in the minds of her husband Stephen and daughter Victoria.

Before the war, the Marshalls had a bustling household with servants, a nanny, and at least one gardener. Their house is large for a family of three and they're clearly very well off but now that the war is over, the young gardener has been killed, and many of the servants have found alternative employment, the majority of the cleaning, cooking, and some of the gardening is left to Laura to handle.

The reader follows Laura as she does a little gardening and cooking, goes to pick up her food rations, visits the home of a young man to see if he'd be willing to help out her elderly gardener, bikes to a young Roma man's home to which she knows her dog will have run after escaping the house, stops on the way to visit with the family who own the largest home in the village, and visits a scenic point.

Both Laura and Stephen consider the fact that their house is too large and their chores overwhelming. Should they sell and move to a smaller place? They think about the fact that upkeep of their home dominates their time and energy. Maybe they should take more time to enjoy life and occasionally take a holiday or go for a nice visit to the point to picnic and enjoy the view. They think about their lives and how they've changed: what life was like before and during the war, and how different everything has become in a few long years.

Recommended - A very understated, very English story of a day in the life of a family that survived the war. I had a little trouble getting through the book because I was having a tired week and kept falling asleep, but at the same time I kept marking passages and I was very aware of Panter-Downes' unique turn of phrase. She was really quite a brilliant wordsmith. If you want to know what life was like in England during or after WWII, Mollie Panter-Downes places you within everyday life like nobody else I've encountered.

©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, September 11, 2020

Fiona Friday - Isabel desires a jelly doughnut

She is genuinely driven crazy by the scent of strawberries. And, yes, I was eating in bed. tch, tch



©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, September 09, 2020

Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake and Jon Klassen


In Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake, Badger lives in his aunt's brownstone and spends his days studying rocks (although I don't think the word "geologist" is ever used). Since Aunt Lula moved out, Badger's had the place to himself and he's turned the living area into a study with all of his rocks and tools. He's content. He has a routine. Then, one day Skunk shows up on his doorstep and is shocked to find that Badger has no idea why he's there. Skunk says Aunt Lula has told him he can stay with Badger.

They have a little conflict and Badger rudely tries to pass off a small closet as the guest room, but Skunk is a happy-go-lucky little stinker and spends his time making the acquaintance of all the neighborhood chickens, cooking very nice meals for the two of them, and generally being a nice housemate. As they get to know each other, Badger begins to question his desire to have the brownstone to himself, again. But, he's already written a letter to Aunt Lula insisting that he can't work properly with a housemate.

When Badger finally goes far enough to offend Skunk and Skunk abruptly moves out, Badger realizes that a little compromise is not a bad thing if you have a companion to enjoy meals and conversation with. He doesn't want to go back to being alone. Will Badger be able to find Skunk and make amends?

Highly recommended - I'm not sure of the age range for Skunk and Badger but I'm presuming it should be called a middle grade book. You could read it aloud to a not-quite-yet-reading child and readers in second to middle grades would probably read it on their own, depending on the individual's skill level. What I love most about Skunk and Badger is that it's very silly but has a sweet theme. I loved the chicken invasion and the way Badger slowly softens to the chickens. I also just happen to be a fan of rocks (I wanted to be a geologist, at one point, hence the availability of rocks to photograph with the book). So, I had fun reading a children's book with a geologist in it, even if he happened to be a badger.

Also, very important: the illustrations are marvelous. It's a fine thing when even illustrations make you smile or laugh, as these do.

I received an ARC of Skunk and Badger from Algonquin's Young Readers line in exchange for an unbiased review and I can tell you in a completely unbiased way that it's one of my favorite books of the year. I found myself yearning to have my grandchildren nearby. I know Skunk and Badger will make them giggle, when we're finally able to see each other, again. I loved the characters, the often-unexpected word choices, the wackiness, and the gentle undercurrent about the importance of friendship.

The scheduled release date for Skunk and Badger is September 15. Many thanks to Algonquin 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.