Friday, March 24, 2017

Fiona Friday

She doesn't look very happy but Isabel was enjoying the fresh air coming through an open window before I damaged her calm.


©2017 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, March 22, 2017

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva


My copy of The Last One doesn't look like the image above, but I ordered a copy from Book Depository (probably the British release) and was unable to find a decent image of it online.

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva has two parallel storylines. The heroine, Zoo, is a contestant in a reality survival series. In her first scene, she's looking for food in a convenience store that's mostly stripped bare. Inside the store, there's a dead body. She thinks it's a prop, not a real dead person. The reader knows, though, that the dead person is real. How did Zoo end up alone and unaware that a deadly illness has ravaged the country? Is anyone alive at all? To find out how events unfolded, the second storyline takes you back to the beginning of the reality series, where you meet the entire cast, the host, the experts, and other people involved in the production of the new survival series.

It's been a few weeks since I read the book but I believe the series begins with 12 contestants. Their tasks are simple, at first, and they work in teams. Each of the contestants is given a nickname of some sort (Zoo is not the heroine's real name) and during the chapters that are written from Zoo's point of view, she refers to them by their real names. Trying to figure out which real name goes with which series nickname is part of the fun; it's a bit like solving a puzzle.

At first, there are rewards for successfully finishing challenges, with the winner receiving the best prizes (generally survival tools, the best place to sleep, or food). Gradually, the number of contestants is narrowed down, teams change, tasks grow more difficult. When they finally reach the point at which they must go it alone, there is no set date for completion and the remaining contestants are told they'll know when it's over. This is part of the reason Zoo continues to believe she's being challenged when the show has long since ended. When she becomes uncertain about where she's supposed to go next, she decides to make home her goal.

Will Zoo make it home? Is she the only survivor of the pandemic that has wiped out people along her route home? What's become of her husband and the other contestants?

Highly recommended, especially to fans of novels about survival - There is one particularly horrifying scene that haunts me, but part of what you get out of The Last One is the sense of what can happen when a person doesn't truly understand what's going on and what kind of pain and regret you can be left with after you realize you've framed your behavior on a certain set of expectations when reality was completely different. I found that the horror gave the book more depth than it would have had if Zoo had not been faced with situations that challenged her morality, as well as her strength and determination.

Also, I really loved the uniqueness. I've never read a book that had a reality show as its setting. From what little I've read about the deceptiveness of reality television -- how far it really falls from "reality" -- I thought the author did a good job of portraying what probably really goes on behind the scenes. And, because you get to know all the contestants from the beginning, you root for them like you would if you were watching it unfold on TV. The difference is that you get to know the real people rather than the characters that are being created through careful editing. At any rate, it's a fun read. Fair warning: there are some gruesome scenes. Occasionally, I found myself skimming a little when the contestants had to gut and prepare their meals.


©2017 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, March 21, 2017

Tuesday Twaddle

I confess, I still don't feel much like blogging so I may take a week or two off, soon, but I got a single book in the mail, today, so at least I have something to share.


Recent arrivals:


  • The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis - purchased


I've been intrigued by the sound of this story since the author was talking about it, as she wrote, so I finally decided to give in and order a copy. What happened to the concept of the book-buying ban? I need to get on that, again.


Books finished since last week's Twaddle:


  • A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline


Lots of one-offs, this week. One book arrival; one book read. On the plus side, it was a good one, although not quite as compelling as Orphan Train. There was good reason I only only finished a single book, last week. I started out chugging along, reading The Widow's House by Carol Goodman but I had trouble figuring out the timeline and ground to a halt. Judging from the ratings and reviews at Goodreads, I must have just missed something; it has mostly positive reviews. I left a bookmark in the book at page 132 and haven't decided whether or not to return to the book, but generally speaking, once I abandon a book, I tend to not return unless I'm close enough to the beginning to consider starting over.


Last week's posts:




I'm including yesterdays Iris of Apology to make the week look better than it really was.


Currently reading:


  • The Mermaid's Daughter by Ann Claycomb


And, I didn't get back to the other book that I was uncertain about, last week. I've noticed something interesting about my reading habits. When I'm getting plenty of sleep and feeling good, I tend to balance about 4 books at a time and just bounce from one to another, enjoying the variety. But, when I fall into a slump - which does seem to happen when I'm having trouble sleeping - I can only read one book at a time. I prefer balancing several books at once, but I'll go with whatever works. Right now, it's clearly a one-book-at-a-time kind of month. Incidentally, I'm enjoying The Mermaid's Daughter, so far.


In other news:

Blah. Just blah. I don't know if it's still the time change that's killing me or I'm just a bad sleeper but I've been waking up several times a night and getting to bed too late, in the first place. Sometimes I can get back to sleep, sometimes I can't. Last night, I fell asleep and stayed asleep for maybe an hour, flopped around like a fish out of water, and finally gave up. I got up, ate some nachos, read a little, fell back to sleep, and woke up early with a migraine. Grrr. On the plus side, I've started doing daily yoga with Adriene on YouTube and I am definitely loving that. I'd forgotten how good yoga makes you feel. So, even if I'm sleeping badly, the yoga helps offset the lack of sleep a bit.

I'm not giving up on trying to blog, this week, but if I disappear for a couple weeks, don't worry. I'll be back. If I don't feel like blogging, I'll just skip it. After a decade, if there's one thing I've figured out about blogging, it's that there's no reason to pressure yourself. Life is too short for that nonsense.


©2017 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, March 20, 2017

No malarkey

I'm just not feeling the blogging vibe, today. So, here's an Iris of Apology (from my garden) and hopefully I'll be in the mood to write, tomorrow. Happy Monday!


©2017 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, March 17, 2017

Fiona Friday

If you're owned by felines and you ever get a piece of cardboard that naturally falls into a triangular hut with the help of a little packing tape, I highly recommend adding a couple flaps to make your cats a nice little hiding space. Isabel was hiding in the hut because the sound of my shoes hitting the floor frightened her. When Izzy calmed down and exited, Fiona took her place. We've had this little hut for 2 or 3 years and they still love it. And, it cost nothing! Well, unless you count the cost of the painting that it protected, but that was a good deal, too. :)


©2017 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, March 15, 2017

February Reads in Review, 2017



February

11. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - I had only a vague idea what I was getting into when I opened this dystopian modern classic. My expectations were exceeded. The idea of the subjugation of women by an unnamed religious sect is more realistic than most of us would like to admit, judging from discussion with friends. A terrifying, depressing novel that I'm glad I read.

12. March, Book Three by Lewis, Aydin, and Powell - The third in the graphic memoir series starts with the bombing of a church and ends with the signing of the Civil Rights Act by President Johnson. I wish I'd had this series years ago - an excellent tool for educating young and old about what African Americans had to go through to receive basic rights.

13. Geekerella by Ashley Poston - Just thinking about this book brings a smile to my face. The story of a geeky 16-year-old who is determined to attend a sci-fi convention and win a cosplay contest in the hopes of escaping the drudgery of her everyday life, sweetened by a texting romance with the star of her favorite cult classic TV show. Charming and full of surprises.

14. Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang - When a young half-Chinese girl is abandoned by her mother, she is taken in as a bond servant by the family who buys the compound in which she lives and watched over by a magical fox. Because of her mixed heritage, even education won't likely save her from ending up a prostitute or worse. A well-told story about prejudice in early 20th Century China.

15. In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen - A bit of mystery and a touch of romance in a WWII setting with a daredevil pilot, a spy, and the woman they both love, a codebreaker at Bletchley Park. A large cast means it takes time to get to know everyone but it's worth hanging in there. I liked the characters, enjoyed the story, didn't feel like the plot was entirely cohesive but found the book a good read, anyway.

16. The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy - Eurydice's job is channeling the spirits of the deceased for their loved ones. But, when she becomes obsessed with a particular client, she knowingly endangers her own life. Atmospheric, unique, with a satisfying ending.

17. Survivors Club by Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat - The story of the Bornstein family with focus on the author, Michael Bornstein, who survived Auschwitz as a very young child. Both heartbreaking and miraculous. This is the first time I've ever read a Holocaust book that describes a man who was in the Judenrat and it was eye-opening what he went through.

February was kind of a slumpy month for me, but it had its standouts. Favorites were Geekerella, Survivors Club, and The Handmaid's Tale, even though the latter two were both difficult reads, emotionally speaking. I lost track of how many times Survivors Club brought me to tears.

March, Book Three was a satisfying conclusion to the series and I highly recommend the trio, especially for teaching purposes.

Dragon Springs Road, In Farleigh Field, and The Possessions were all good in their own ways but I found it difficult to get through Dragon Springs Road and The Possessions. I'm not sure whether they were slow or they just didn't fit my mood. In Farleigh Field was a quicker read - not a perfect one and not a favorite but I enjoyed it.


©2017 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, March 14, 2017

Tuesday Twaddle

Malarkey didn't happen yesterday because of the time change, which used to not bother me but now totally slays me.


Recent arrivals (top to bottom)


  • Every Body Yoga by Jessamyn Stanley - from Algonquin Books for review via Shelf Awareness
  • The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan - from William Morrow for review
  • The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu - My first purchase from a list of books recommended by Barack Obama. Haven't decided whether to do a personal Obama Reading Challenge or just read them as I buy them but The Three-Body Problem is the first in a series, just FYI. Someone tell me how to pronounce that author's name. 
  • A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline - from William Morrow for review. I requested this one way back in the fall and thought it had become lost in the mail. Maybe they ran out of ARCs? At any rate, it is on my mental short list of most anticipated 2017 releases, along with Alex George's Setting Free the Kites (now available in hardback!) and George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo (ditto). 


Books finished since last week's Malarkey:


  • The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
  • You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman - for this week's F2F group discussion

Finally, a good reading week! I finished A Man Called Ove, last night, and I think I had tears flowing for at least the last 20 pages. I'm pretty sure that's a record. I'm always telling people that I prefer a book that makes me laugh to one that makes me cry but I think I'd better amend that. There are happy tears and sad tears and I definitely love to be moved, especially if I'm moved to happy tears. A Man Called Ove merged the two kinds of tears and also made me laugh a few times, so it was just an all-around 5-star read. Now, I've got to find a way to view the movie. 



Last week's posts:




Currently reading:


  • The Widow's House by Carol Goodman

and one other book, which I'm not far enough into to know if it will stick. Plus, that book of metaphors that I only seem to touch every two weeks or so.


In other news:

I was working on this post, this morning, and I became distracted by the internet. Thankfully, a magic spell broke me out of my internet bubble. Also, the azaleas are blooming:



©2017 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.