Friday, August 16, 2019

Fiona Friday

The reason I'm slow to get the laundry folded. Mustn't ruin the kitty's comfort. Isabel loves a good pile of freshly-cleaned laundry.

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Normal People by Sally Rooney

In Normal People by Sally Rooney, Marianne is a wealthy outcast who is crackling with intelligence but hasn't got a single friend in school (the equivalent of American high school, I think, but the book takes place in Ireland). Connell is equally sharp and has a wide circle of friends. His mother cleans Marianne's house and he'll occasionally stop to talk to Marianne while he waits to pick up his mother from work. In her home, Marianne speaks freely in a way she doesn't at school, and her conversation with Connell is natural and relaxed. When they begin sleeping with each other, though, it's with the knowledge that neither can acknowledge the other in school.

Both are accepted into Trinity College in Dublin, where their circumstances are flipped. Popularity and friendship are based more on income than personality at Trinity. Connell is admired for his looks but he feels adrift and friendless while Marianne now has plenty of friends. Their unique friendship continues even though they occasionally drift away, through difficult relationships and good ones, depression and abuse, ups and downs. Slowly, Connell becomes aware of Marianne's dark secrets and Marianne helps him deal with his own challenges. When push comes to shove, they may hurt each other at times, but they're always there for each other, as well.

Highly recommended - The depth of characterization in Normal People and the simple but powerful writing style made it nearly impossible to put Normal People down. I was utterly fascinated with the characters, the writing, the depth of emotion, and the way Marianne and Connell seemed to circle each other magnetically and simultaneously fiercely resist the pull. Would they end up together or would one of them eventually drift out of orbit, maybe marry another?

I'm not going to ruin the ending. I'll just say that while it wasn't the kind of ending I prefer and I had to sit with it over a bowl of spaghetti (which was really terrific), I realized after letting it settle that it was, in fact, the perfect ending for this particular story. Most crucially, I am in awe of the writer's keen observation and mastery of language. I definitely plan to read her other book, Conversations with Friends.

The cover of Normal People shown above is the cover of my personal copy, which I ordered from Book Depository, so it might not be what you can find in the US. I just finished it and immediately sat down to write my Goodreads review, then realized there wasn't much I'd change about that review (my reviews at GR and the blog are often quite different in size and style) so most of this is copied directly from that review. I had planned on working on my review of The Mueller Report, today, but it's going to require some thought and care and may take a little longer than I'd hoped. I wrote some preliminary thoughts, last night, and totally went off the rails — too much, too much. I'll try to whittle it down but still hit all the most important points. If you're waiting on that review, please be patient with me. It's such an important book that I want to get it right.

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

Monday, August 12, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • Crosstalk by Connie Willis - purchased
  • Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling - from Sterling Children's Books for review
  • The Road to Urbino by Roma Tearne - from Megyl Zegarek Public Relations, Inc. (unsolicited, I think?) for review
  • Vox by Christina Dalcher,
  • The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street by Karen White, and
  • The Passengers by John Marrs - all from Berkley for review
  • Tiny but Mighty by Hanna Shaw - purchased

Of the two books that I purchased, one was brought to my attention on Instagram (which, I find, is becoming very dangerous) and the other . . . well, also via Instagram but through the author's kitten rescue page. She knows how to care for the tiniest of kittens and shares her knowledge about caring for them while posting pics of her latest tiny foster babies. I don't know if I could ever care for the most fragile, young kittens if I were to ever foster (which won't happen as long as Isabel has a say in the matter) but I've really been enjoying learning from her Instagram posts and decided it would be a great idea to learn more . . . just in case I ever happened across any tiny kittens or if I'm ever free to foster, one day. Can't hurt to be educated. And, I just love Connie Willis. Here's the cover of that kitten book:

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Mueller Report - Washington Post edition 

Finally! Finishing up The Mueller Report meant not reading much else, last week. I had one DNF: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin. I don't often give up on books but I've given up on two, this past month! Weird. This one . . . I don't know if being in the right mood for it would have changed anything. It might have, but by the time I set it aside to finish The Mueller Report (I reached the point that I was sick of not being done with it and focused on finishing), I considered giving up on The Escape Room instead of just setting it aside and when I came back and read a handful of pages I agreed with myself. I personally thought the prologue ruined the book. In the prologue, a security guard hears gunshots and finds a bloody scene. So, you know this particular situation is coming and you quickly figure out that one of the two main happenings is going to end up in carnage. But, I absolutely did not care who lived or died. The only character I kind of liked was apparently already dead. Bummer. Anyway, it just wasn't for me. At another time, I might have finished it anyway. But, this wasn't the week for it. 

Currently reading:

  • In Pain by Travis Rieder
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney

In Pain is an ARC but the finished book has already been released and describes the author's experience with painkillers after a devastating and extraordinarily painful injury. I have no idea why I ordered Normal People, although it's the winner of the 2018 Costa Novel Award. It might have been an enthusiastic review. So far, if so, I share that reviewer's enthusiasm. Sally Rooney's writing is understated and yet precise and powerful. It really is amazing how beautifully the two main characters were drawn within a few short pages. I am hooked. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

Kiddo was home, this weekend, and developed an earache that escalated to the point that he didn't think he could drive himself the 2 1/2 hours to Oxford, yesterday. Since he has work and an important meeting (plus, the clinic he uses is there), I drove him up to Oxford and will have to fetch him when it's time for him to come home. It's a pleasant drive and I love Oxford but because I didn't make the decision to take him home till about 1:45 and left at 2:00 PM, I didn't have time to go to Square Books. I figured it would be a bad idea not to make a quick turnaround so I could get home before dark. No Square Books. Feel for me, people. On the plus side, we'll have to pick him up, at some point. So, maybe we'll get a nice dose of Square Books, then.

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

Friday, August 09, 2019

Fiona Friday

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

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Storm Blown by Nick Courage

In New Orleans, Emily's brother is recovering from surgery after a major illness and his immunity is still compromised. Her father works on an oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico and her mother spends most of her time fussing over Emily's brother. Because of his lowered immunity, Emily isn't even supposed to walk into Elliot's room and her mother hardly even looks at her, anymore. When Emily spends the night in Audubon Park and develops the sniffles, her mother shoos her to a friend's house, not realizing that Emily's friend isn't even in town, a hurricane is on the way, and Emily is feeling rejected. Emily leaves without telling her mother where she's going and shortly after, her phone battery dies.

Alejo lives in Puerto Rico and helps his padrino (the online dictionary and a translator both say padrino means godfather) with his work at a resort hotel. His mother has moved to the American continent and someday Alejo hopes to join her. But, for now, he lives in an impoverished area outside San Juan and he's happy. When news that a deadly hurricane is coming reaches the resort, Padrino Nando decides he must go home briefly. But, when Nando doesn't return, Alejo becomes concerned and decides he must go find his padrino.

While Hurricane Valerie is growing, the people the National Climatic Research Center are almost all home with the flu so one employee who isn't an expert in weather patterns, Joy, is charged with watching the crucial numbers that indicate the strength of the storm. Suddenly, after merging with two other weather systems, Hurricane Valerie becomes a "megastorm" and Joy has to gather the team together to head down to New Orleans.

In a heart-pounding second half of the book, Megastorm Valerie moves into Puerto Rico and then New Orleans as two children face their fears alone outdoors with the dangerous storm moving in quickly.

Storm Blown by Nick Courage is a middle grade book told from 5 separate viewpoints: Emily's, Alejo's, a petrel flying over the Atlantic, Emily's father on an oil platform, and Joy's.

Recommended but I had some minor issues with this book - First, what I loved. Storm Blown is edge-of-your-seat as the storm moves closer and then arrives. It's dramatic, exciting, adventurous, and the author treats the emotions of the two youngsters with respect. I could easily imagine myself in the shoes of those children, drenched and wind-blown but determined to find a loved one (Alejo) or hide from them in a favorite place to seek comfort (Emily). In spite of what I considered its flaws, I really enjoyed Storm Blown and I'm glad I read it. I think I would have enjoyed it if it had been around when I was in elementary school.

The minor issues I had were the fact that the author chose to create a fictional research center rather than using the National Hurricane Center (I'm sure he had his reasons but I would have much preferred a glimpse inside the NHC and a bit of accuracy) and a couple statements I considered inaccurate about hurricanes. But, it's a children's book and it was more about the courage those children had to summon, the emotions they were going through, and the danger they were encountering than what a government agency does. So, while I would have preferred accuracy, I enjoyed the story and definitely recommend it for the child who loves an exciting read.

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

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson

Rosie and Rex are opposites. Rosie is brimming with life, loves color and sparkle and disorder. Rex is organized and disciplined. When they meet, it's because Rosie has done something Rex would never do. And, yet, there's a spark between them when they meet again, and they begin to date. He doesn't approve of her marijuana use and is uncomfortable with the chaos that surrounds her. She thinks he's a little stiff. And, yet, somehow he is charmed with her and she finds comfort in his stability. They fall in love and marry.

Willow and Asher adore their mother. On days that they go to Rosie's house, they know they'll get to watch movies, eat sugary things, wear matching pajamas, and have fun. On the days they stay with their father, they have to follow detailed lists. They never get to cook or dance. Rex doesn't pay as much attention to them as Rosie does. Rex's house is just not fun and sometimes he becomes very angry when they don't follow the rules.

But, Rosie is becoming increasingly unstable and unpredictable. Sometimes she comes late to pick them up from school. Sometimes, Rex arrives instead. Willow is stressed. She's bullied at school and the sharp differences between her parents aren't helping. When Rosie spirals out of control, what will happen? Asher is adaptable. But, can Rex be the parent that Willow needs him to be? Or, has he been showing his love all along in ways that Willow hasn't noticed?

In alternating chapters, the reader experiences the unfolding romance and collapsing marriage of Rosie and Rex alongside Willow's story as she navigates divorce and bullying then observes her mother's downward spiral.

Highly recommended - A gut-wrenching read, at times. Rosie appears to be bipolar, although that's never stated. Rosie Colored Glasses is about mental illness, love, parenting, addiction, grief, romance, marriage, divorce, bullying, and being yourself. It's heartbreaking and uplifting and sad and beautiful. I imagine this book will stick with me hard for some time to come. The author says it's based on her own childhood and I actually wondered about that, as I was reading. It seemed awfully detailed for mere imagination. Not that authors can't be that creative but often when a book is that vivid there's at least a little of the author's story tucked in there. Be prepared; Rosie Colored Glasses is an emotional read, but thought-provoking and meaningful on so many fronts.

I received an ARC of Rosie Colored Glasses from Harlequin in exchange for my unbiased review. My thanks to Harlequin/MIRA!

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

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

I just wrote four full paragraphs about Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb and decided it's far too plotty to summarize easily. I don't want to give anything away. So, I'll just refer you to Goodreads for the book summary (Meet Me in Monaco link) and tell you that it's about a perfumer named Sophie and a photographer named James who meet and fall in love against the backdrop of Grace Kelly's romance and marriage in France.

I primarily chose to read Meet Me in Monaco because of the backdrop. I've always found it fascinating that an American actress became a princess in a French principality but I've only read bits and pieces about Princess Grace, her rise to fame, and her marriage. So, it was Grace's story in the background that appealed to me, initially.

As it turned out, I loved both stories. There's enough about Grace Kelly becoming a princess to fill in some of the gaps in my understanding of her romance. But, the romance between Sophie and James is equally appealing, if a bit of a rollercoaster ride. James is divorced with a daughter in London and his job is based there. Sophie's true home is in a small village in France where her herbs and flowers are grown for use in the perfumes she creates. Her father started the business, kept a notebook of his formulas, and taught her about making perfume. It's the connection to her father and her profession that's most important to Sophie. And, therein the dilemma lies. Can either James or Sophie sacrifice what's most important to be together?

Recommended - Captivating, romantic, tragic, beautiful. Read Meet Me in Monaco when you're in the mood for romantic historical fiction or if you're dying to learn a bit more about Grace Kelly but don't mind if she's not the main character. She's there, dropping into scenes as she develops a distant but charming friendship with Sophie and there's enough about Grace to fill in the gaps if you only know about her remotely, as I did. Some of the descriptions of places she went and things she did sent me scrambling to find out more or look up images online. There is a video of her arrival in Monaco by ship (for her wedding) on YouTube! Cool.

Meanwhile, both of the main characters, Sophie and James, have a lot going on and the book is surprisingly more driven by plot than characterization. Still, there's always the "Will they or won't they end up together?" question about James and Sophie lingering. Will James find a way to connect with Sophie without losing his daughter? Will Sophie be able to escape the destructive relationship she's kept secret from James? Will Sophie's business survive or will she have to sell to the real estate agent who won't leave her in peace? What will happen when tragedy strikes? I had trouble putting the book down. It's surprising, sometimes heartbreaking and ultimately satisfying. I loved all the unexpected turns the story took.

I received an Advance Reader Copy of Meet Me in Monaco from HarperCollins in exchange for my unbiased review. Many thanks!

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