Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Everything I read in July (in brief)


July Reads, 2022

78. Spy x Family #6 by Tatsuya Endo - Twilight and his fellow spy Nightfall (who wants to take the place of his current fake wife, the assassin) must enter a tennis tournament and win in order to get their hands on an important object that contains a document they need to save the world from the brink of war. But, Nightfall's crush on Twilight may prove a hazard. More Spy x Family fun. I love this manga series. 

79. Rage by Bob Woodward - Rage is the second of three books written by Woodward about Donald Trump's presidency. The first, Fear (link leads to my review, the last of several in the post) felt a little disjointed but I just reread my review and it looks like I got plenty out of it. When Woodward was researching Rage he had the advantage of the president's disappointment with Fear. To ensure that he was well represented, Trump allowed Woodward to repeatedly interview him — 17 times, in all. So, instead of secondhand descriptions, Woodward got direct quotes. He describes the hiring and firing of General Mattis and Rex Tillerson, Trump's frustration with the Mueller investigation and the bizarre ending to it, and how Rod Rosenstein was blamed for Comey's firing and came to the decision to hire a special prosecutor. But, most importantly, he describes the challenge of Covid and how the president completely hosed the job of leading the country through the early days of a pandemic because he was too busy worrying about the next election. Rage is a much better book than Fear but Trump's rambling might make you want to poke your eyes out. He really has no focus whatsoever. 

80. Spaced Out by Stuart Gibbs - When the Base Commander for Moon Base Alpha goes missing, everyone frantically searches for her and even 12-year-old Dashiell (who solved the mysterious death in Space Case) is mystified. Meanwhile, the wealthy Sjoberg family seems to be up to no good as they've gone into hiding. Could they be involved in Nina's disappearance? Another fun entry in the Moon Base Alpha middle grade series. This series is a trilogy and I've already begun reading the final installment. I'm disappointed that it won't continue beyond the three books. 

81. Greenglass House by Kate Milford - In a fictional area known for its smugglers sits Greenglass House, an inn with beautiful stained glass windows, regular customers from the smuggling crowd, and a lengthy and storied history. 12-year-old Milo is looking forward to a quiet Christmas with no guests when the bell rings and rings again till the inn is filled with a secretive crowd and things begin to go missing. Who is stealing, why, and what are they really after? Fun but a bit slow for me, however, I was feeling a little slumpy when I read Greenglass House. The first in a series. 

82. 300 Minutes of Danger by Jack Heath - A series of adventurous short stories by the Australian author who has written several similar books. I've read one other, 400 Minutes of Danger, and the stories were all interconnected. In 300 Minutes of Danger, there are some interconnections but no final conclusion that ties them all together. This was my stationary bike book for part of the month. 

83. Still Life by Sarah Winman - As WWII is drawing to a close, a young man and an elderly woman meet in Italy. She is an art historian, he a British soldier. They become instant friends but then he returns to Great Britain, where his wife has moved on without him and given birth to a child by an American to whom she is completely devoted in spite of the fact that he hasn't returned to her after the war. When the young man inherits an apartment in Florence, he takes the child and a friend and makes a new life. Over the years, he and the elderly historian cross paths many times without actually meeting. A very understated and lovely story about life, love, friendship, and the beauty of Italy. 

84. Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano - Author Finlay Donovan's romantic suspense books haven't sold well, she's broke, the bills are piling up, her ex-husband is attempting to gain full custody of the children and has fired the nanny, and her latest manuscript is late. When she goes to talk to her agent at a Panera, someone overhears her and thinks she's a contract killer. She's slipped a note offering her a great deal of money to kill the woman's husband, who is a very bad man. Finlay doesn't really mean to kill him but when he winds up dead in her van and she and the nanny bury him, they must investigate and figure out how to give back the money when a second hit job is requested. Again, I was in slump mode so it took me a while to get into this book but I loved it in the end. 
85. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken - A British children's classic published in 1962. Sylvia lives with her elderly aunt but is going to live with her wealthy cousin Bonnie at Willoughby Chase while Bonnie's parents leave the country to seek a cure for her ailing mother. Miss Slighcarp will be their governess. But, when Miss Slighcarp shows up, it turns out she was not a great choice for governess. She begins selling off everything in the house, burns Bonnie's parents' will, and sends the children to a boarding school where they work as slave labor and are barely fed. With help from a friend, they will try to escape. But, is it too late to recover Bonnie's home? And, are her parents really dead? Really, quite gripping. I enjoyed this book immensely. 

86. Mac B, Kid Spy #1: Mac Undercover by Mac Barnett (reread) - I read this book as an ARC, a few years ago, so I was thrilled to see that my daughter-in-law had found the series and bought 3 of them for my granddaughters. It's the 1980s and Mac gets very good grades (but has terrible handwriting). The Queen of England calls him and requests his help finding a missing part of the Crown Jewels, a royal spoon. Very silly and I loved it just as much the second time. 

87. Mac B, Kid Spy #2: The Impossible Crime by Mac Barnett - Mac is trying to beat an arcade game when the Queen of England calls and asks for his assistance again, this time because the Crown Jewels are under threat of theft. Locked into a room with Mac and a beefeater, they still go missing. Never fear, Mac is on the job with the help of one of the queen's corgis. Loads of fun and I meant to read the third book but I had to run an errand and when I returned it had been packed (serves me right for waiting till the last day of vacation to read the books). 

So, that's 10 books but actually . . . I didn't realize Sunday was July 31. I'd already moved on mentally to August, by then, and it wasn't till after I photographed my stack (sans the final book finished when I woke up at 4am on Sunday) that I found out it was still July. Ah, well. No biggie. I've got a start on my August stack, then. 

I had one DNF, this month: A Lite Too Bright by Samuel Miller. I believe it's a YA. I made it 84 pages and will probably give this one a second go as I started reading it during the worst of my slump and then I started packing for vacation (in Cape May, New Jersey) and decided I needed a quick read that I could finish before we left so I could just take a couple short books along. That didn't happen. I ended up finishing Finlay Donovan is Killing It in Cape May and then reading The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and the two Mac B, Kid Spy books. I almost finished In Five Years on our second leg of the flight home but had about 30 pages to go when I crashed. However, this is by far the best I've ever done on a vacation, reading-wise, so I'm celebrating that milestone. 

If I had to choose a favorite, it would be Still Life because it was such an immersive story and a pleasurable setting (Florence, Italy, mostly). I liked everything I read in July. Nothing absolutely blew me away this month, though. 

Isabel says: "Smells like treason." 

Don't mind me. I'm just repeating what the cat said. Everyone got involved in this flatlay:

©2022 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, July 01, 2022

Everything I Read in June (in brief)

June Reads, 2022 — A long post!!!

63. The Autumn of the Ace by Louis de Bernières - The third and final book in the Daniel Pitt trilogy describes the latter part, or the "autumn" of the former ace pilot's life, from middle age to his death. Daniel takes a lengthy detour to Canada,  becomes determined to repair the fractured relationship with his eldest son, and lives to a grand old age. A very satisfying ending to the series. 

64. Spy x Family #5 by Tatsuya Endo - I don't remember a thing about this particular entry except that I enjoyed it every bit as much as the others and the focus was on the brother of the spy's assassin wife and young Anya's continuing attempt to get close to the weathy son of the man who is at the heart of the spy family's mission. I only have two more books till I'm out of entries in this series but another one will be released in the fall. 

65. The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock - In the 14th century, a man sees a boy climbing a tree and asks him to accompany him on a journey to retrieve a series of relics. Boy, who is otherwise nameless, has a hump on his back and has been bullied and ostracized all his life. But, during the journey in a land recently ravaged by plague, Boy discovers that the man, Secundus, and even Boy himself hold surprising secrets. OK, this is one I want to babble about. I had only read a few pages when I realized this book was going to be special. When I set it down, I saw the Newbery medal I'd overlooked upon picking it up to read. Well . . . I agree with whoever chooses the Newbery winners. I particularly enjoyed the historical setting. An author's note at the end of my copy gives a little extra perspective to the time period in which Boy is set. 

66. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier - The story of a friendship between two women, Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpott. Mary is destitute but helps keep her family afloat by collecting fossils from the beach near her English home. Elizabeth and her sisters are spinsters who have been set up in an inexpensive home after their brother marries and decides London is too expensive a place for them to remain. Mary and Elizabeth have dramatically different backgrounds but both have an interest in fossils. They become fast friends as Mary makes the stunning discoveries that will change the way people view history. Based on real-life characters. I don't how much of this story is true but I read it specifically because I'd heard of Mary Anning and wanted to learn more about her discoveries. 

67. You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh - I was doomscrolling about a week after the horrible massacre at Uvalde and upset about the fact that likely nothing would change when I saw someone on Twitter ask what others were doing to deal with the stress. One woman posted a photo of You Are Here and said, "I'm reading Thich Nhat Hanh." I've read two books by Hanh and thought, "Oh, perfect. That's just what I need," then immediately ordered a copy. Even knowing how much I've been comforted by past reads, I was somewhat shocked at the quick transformation from ball of stress to calm and happy that readings about being mindful and present caused. I'm reading a 365-day book of very short excerpts of Hanh's work, now, because I wanted to keep that positivity going in my life. 

68. Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel - I loved Station Eleven and so did Carrie of Care's Books and Pie, so we decided to buddy read Sea of Tranquility to keep the joy going. What a fascinating book! As in Mandel's other books, you jump from one set of characters to another in different time periods. But, one person keeps showing up in all of them. It turns out he's a time traveler who has gotten the job specifically because of a strange occurrence that he's discovered. I wouldn't have thought of the word "meta" but ***possible spoiler -- highlight to read*** there's an author character who is clearly Emily experiencing a pandemic after having written about one and writing sci-fi to entertain herself. I absolutely loved every minute of this book. 

69. The Nine Lives of Montezuma by Michael Morpurgo - A middle grade story about a boy who discovers that his family's farm cat has given birth to four kittens. One is already dead and, instead of getting the cat fixed, which was more than doable when this book was published in 1980, the father regularly drowns any kittens who appear. Sure enough, he goes to drown them. But, he misses one and Montezuma, "Monty" for short, becomes the boy's beloved pet. Because Monty's an indoor-outdoor cat (made to go out at night), he experiences many dangers and often comes close to death. If anything, this book is a testament to why cats should be neutered and kept indoors. It eventually becomes more tolerable and the ending is sweet but the father is never kind to poor Monty, making for uncomfortable reading, if unfortunately too true to life. I still have at least one more book by Michael Morpurgo, maybe two, and I will read them. But, while I enjoyed this story for its heartwarming pet love aspect, it was a bit too harsh up front for me and it would have turned me into a sobbing puddle as a kid. I love cats and can't imagine I would have tolerated reading about kitten drownings.

70. Autumn by Ali Smith - The first book I bought by Ali Smith was Spring and, at the time, I didn't realize it was the third in a series but it stands alone, so no biggie. And, I loved it so I ordered the first two books, Autumn and Winter. Autumn is the story of an unusual friendship between an elderly man and a young girl. He tells her stories, quizzes her, and encourages her to read. She's already a very smart girl but he encourages her reasoning skills and she finds herself loving him in a way she can love nobody else. While the friendship is at the heart of this story, it's also about Brexit and cruelty to immigrants. But, Smith tackles the heavier topics in a roundabout way and with such brilliant writing that, again, I couldn't put the book down. I'm afraid I'm turning into an Ali Smith fangirl. 

71. Space Case by Stuart Gibbs - Space Case is about a group of people living on the first moon base, the first in the Moon Base Alpha (MBA) middle grade trilogy. Most are scientists of some kind, some are single, some have their families with them. Dash and his sister Violet are among the handful of children on MBA. When Dash overhears the base physician, Dr. Holtz, talking enthusiastically about an important discovery that he'll reveal the next day, then Dr. Holtz is found dead outside the main airlock, Dash is convinced that he was murdered. But, the base director wants to hush up his death to prevent damage to the MBA program. Can Dash find evidence that Dr. Holtz was murdered and figure out what his exciting discovery was? Ugh, I love every book by this author. I ordered the second in the series and will read it soon then probably pass them all on to my eldest granddaughter, who I'm happy to report is an avid reader!

72. The Cat Man of Aleppo by Latham, Shamsi-Basha, and Shimizu - This picture book is the true story of a Mohammed Alaa Aljaleel, who lived in Aleppo during the lengthy years of bombing while his family members escaped to other countries. After deciding to stay and continue his job in EMS, Alaa realized there was something else he could do. He began to feed the cats that had been left behind and were living in the rubble, often starving. As time went on, more cats showed up and the job became too much for his budget, so he sought out donations that enabled him not only to house and feed cats, but also to build a playground and pay for other improvements to the lives of remaining locals. A lovely, heartwarming story that will give you hope. 

73. The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris - After the Civil War, a man who has been living off the occasional sale of parcels of his land finds two freedmen on his property. His offer to pay them to help him farm his land is rebuffed at first, but then the brothers change their mind and a friendly work relationship develops. But, in the Deep South, paying Black men to work when soldiers home from fighting the war are having difficulty finding jobs turns the town against him and his family. There's a lot more to the story that I'm leaving out due to spoilers but I thought this was an excellent debut, although I predicted a few plot points before they occurred and that kind of wrecked bits of it, for me. 

74. Blue Horses by Mary Oliver - Another comfort read. I love Mary Oliver's sense of humor and her adoration of nature. Blue Horses was balm to the spirit after a week of terrible news. At a mere 79 pages (many of which are blank) it's a quick read, although not one I intended to whip through — but, I needed it, so that's fine. I think I'll keep this one by the bed and reread a poem per day. 

75. Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer - Barrister Frank Amberley is visiting his wealthy aunt, uncle, and cousin when he comes across a recent murder scene. The dead man is the butler for a man named Boris Fountain and his half sister, Joan. Fountain inherited his uncle's estate a few years prior and kept on the staff. But, why would someone want to kill his butler? The first clue is at the scene, a woman standing by the car. It's clear she isn't the murderer so Amberley keeps her presence to himself and, as he begins investigation and more dead bodies turn up, the plot becomes more twisted. Not the best mystery and a lot of the characters were surly but I enjoyed it for the English setting and manners. 

76. The Magic World by E. Nesbit - I chose The Magic World as my most recent Stationary Bike Read and it turned out to be a pretty perfect choice for several reasons. It was a beat-up book (probably from a library sale) so breaking the spine to make it easier to prop open wasn't a problem; it had already happened. It's a book of short stories. Some were longer than others so I might only end up reading half a story but some I could read in a single biking session. And, it was wildly imaginative so it kept me entertained. I'll probably pass this on to my granddaughters, as it's a wholesome and magical book that I think they'll enjoy. The Magic World was originally published in 1910. 

77. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams - Queenie is a 3rd generation Jamaican-British Londoner who dates only White men, and that can be a problem. White men who date Black women have a tendency to fetishize them. When Queenie's boyfriend Tom says he wants to take a break (insisting that she must move out, since only he can afford the rent), she's devastated but figures they'll get back together after the 3-month break ends. But, Tom won't respond to her calls or texts at all and her response to the loneliness and unsettled feeling is to sleep with a series of men who are abusive or simply users, leading to a breakdown and the loss of her job. Her Jamaican family is against the concept of therapy but her friends encourage her to get help. Will Queenie get back on her feet again? I absolutely loved this story of dealing with a mental health challenge and facing your fears with the help of a loving circle of friends and relatives. It's also about life as a minority woman and its challenges. There's much to talk about in Queenie

OK, so, wow. Quite a surprisingly good month.  The constant dumpster fire of horrible news in America got me down, on occasion, so there were quite a few comfort reads in this batch. Middle grade reads are always comfort reads for me. They're so adventurous! All of these books were in the "liked or loved" category and the only two that made me squirm for one reason or another were The Nine Lives of Montezuma because of the cruelty to animals without any mention that animal reproduction is the responsibility of pet owners and The Sweetness of Water because I got a little tired of it and predicted a few too many plot points. But, I expect big things from the author of The Sweetness of Water. That was some fantastic writing for a debut novel. And, I thought The Nine Lives of Montezuma improved a bit, as it went on, although it could never be a favorite. I should add that it's beautifully illustrated. 

Absolute favorites were The Book of Boy, Sea of Tranquility, You Are Here, Space Case, and Blue Horses. But, wow, I had such a fun month! I wouldn't tell you not to read a single thing I read. I did have one DNF after less than two dozen pages: Trust Exercise by Susan Choi. I disliked both the writing style and where the story was clearly headed. Only a few pages in, I remember thinking, "I'm not enjoying this at all." I stuck it out for a while longer and disliked it so much that it went straight into the box of books I'm saving to exchange (if we ever make it to the secondhand store in Nashville) or donate. 

©2022 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, June 03, 2022

Everything I read in May (in brief)



54. A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean - The famous novella that became a Brad Pitt movie is paired with some of Maclean's other stories. "A River Runs Through It" is the best, hands-down, the story of a family of fly fishermen and how the brothers Maclean's lives diverged with one happily married and the other an alcoholic who met a bitter end. I loved it when he waxed eloquent about the beauty of nature but some of the fishing scenes were a huge yawn. The other stories had some similarities in that the men were all very much manly-man types, trying to outdo each other in strength and endurance. There are some raunchy bits but nothing overly graphic; it's mostly talk about things men do when they've been deprived of womanly company and stuck with a bunch of men in the forest. My thanks to Carrie for passing on your copy to me!

55. Spy x Family #4 by Tatsuya Endo - The 4th in the manga series, in which the daughter of the spy family is looking for a dog to adopt. She ends up with a dog trained in spycraft who can see into the future. Since the daughter is a telepath, she can read the dog's mind and see what's about to happen. When she finds out her spy father is going to be killed, can she save him? Always entertaining; I love this series. 

56. The Stranger by Albert Camus - A classic I grabbed at our latest library sale, the story of a man who is cold and emotionless but also a little strange. And, his inability to communicate gets him into even bigger trouble after he murders a man. This was a book I wanted desperately to talk about and, thank goodness, I have the smartest beautician on the planet, so I got to discuss it with her while she was highlighting my hair. I wondered if perhaps the murderer was neurodivergent or psychotic. His inability to understand other people's signals and know how to communicate hinted at the former possibility, his coldness at the latter. An interesting read.

57. Spring by Ali Smith - A grieving elderly man goes to Scotland on a whim, where he considers suicide. And, a girl with the ability to slip into places she doesn't belong intrigues a woman who works in a refugee detention center in England. The detention guard and the girl end up also traveling to Scotland and meeting up with the man. Beyond that, I think most everything is a spoiler but the book is about unnecessary cruelty and injustice and how easy it is to treat people like animals as well as the kindness of people who help others in desperate situations. I loved Spring so much that I ordered the first two in the series, Autumn and Winter

58. Fuzz by Mary Roach - The book I keep thinking about and talking about the most, which has surprised me since I found parts of it a wee bit dull. Fuzz is about what happens when animals "misbehave", chiefly wild animals like bears and elephants. The author travelled the world to find out how things like bear and elephant attacks are handled, what's being done to try to keep the animals from raiding farms and villages or garbage cans in cities, and how scientists are trying to find ways to get animals to scurry off the road more quickly to avoid being hit by automobiles. Fascinating and discussion-worthy. 

59. Spy School: British Invasion by Stuart Gibbs -  I haven't read all of this series in order and usually I don't consider that a problem but Spy School: British Invasion referred back to the previous book more than usual. I think the previous one was Spy School: Down South. At any rate, the book begins in Mexico, where several people have been injured in a battle with the evil SPYDER organization. A key that leads to the identity of the elusive head of SPYDER is found and the trail leads to London and then Paris for another action-packed adventure in an attempt to bring down SPYDER once and for all. Loved it. I've love this entire series, so far. They're quick, humorous reads. 

60. Firefly Forest by Robyn Frampton and Mike Heath - I confess, I bought this book from the $1.25 store (it used to be the dollar store) specifically for the gorgeous photographs, which I plan to rip up and use in collaging. But, I had to read it, of course, before dismantling it. Firefly Forest is a wistful story about imagination by a woman who created a miniature village in the forested area of a Kansas City park. Intrigued, people began to visit just to see the miniature doors and scenes that she was installing and eventually a documentary was made about the village in the forest. The text, I am sorry to say, was not great. I found it choppy and weird, though imaginative. It's the photos that really turn me on. This magical little creation of the author's is definitely something I'd like to see in person. 

61. The Backward Season (Wishing Day #3) by Lauren Miracle - It's not unusual for me to read a series book out of order and I also found The Backward Season in the $1.25 store. In the first two books, sisters Natasha and Darya have made wishes on their "Wishing Day", which occurs a few months after a girl's 15th birthday in their small town. Now, it's Ava's turn and her goal is to restore her mother's childhood friend, Emily, to the picture. Emily went missing after her best friend Klara made a selfish wish. Klara is mother to the three girls (Ava is the youngest) and she has suffered depression and doubt since her best friend disappeared, leading her to abandon the family. Can Ava undo the damage? I thought the author did a good job of describing what had happened in the first 2 books, although there was one character whose mysterious story didn't make sense to me till the end. I did have one problem with the storyline that confused me enough that I chose not to rate the book, but I finished it so it earns at least an average rating, if not better. It's nicely wrapped up and I'm sure anyone who has read the first two will enjoy it. 

62. Kill All Your Darlings by David Bell - When a professor publishes a novel by a student who disappeared just after turning it in as her thesis, it blows up his life. The novel describes details of a real-life murder scene that were never released by the police. And, the missing student is alive and well but fears for her life. Why? Who would want to kill her, too? Kind of predictable and I had an issue with the story. Why would someone who is trying to stay in the background because she fears for her life dye her hair "an unnatural shade of red" so that she stood out in a crowd? So, not a favorite but I enjoyed it enough to finish. 

May was not a great month for quantity and I only loved a few of the books I read, so I'm hoping June will be a lot better. I have to say that I am grateful once again for the middle grade books that saved me from a slump. I read the beginnings of several books and then just sputtered out, including 200 pages of The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, which I was enjoying till that point and then just suddenly couldn't talk myself into reading. Weird! It's memorable enough that I think I could pick it up again at any time with no problem so I've left the bookmark in place. I didn't last as long in the other books I abandoned, all of which I will eventually read but just wasn't in the right mood to read at the time. Fortunately, as I said, when I picked up the Spy School book, it saved me and my urge to read was restored. 

TL;DR - Favorite of the month is Spring by Ali Smith because it was the most meaningful story and the one that most thoroughly swept me away. Fuzz was the one I prattled on about the most. The Stranger was the one I most wanted to discuss. The Spy School and Spy x Family books were terrific, as always. And, I enjoyed most everything else enough to finish. Except, perhaps, Firefly Forest — and I only disliked the text, in that case; I loved the photos. 

©2022 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, May 02, 2022

Everything I read in April (in brief)


44. Spy x Family #3 by Tatsuya Endo - The third in the Spy x Family series is much the same as the others, with the child continuing to try to make friends to assist her father's spy work; this time she has an unexpected success. Also in Spy x Family #3, Yor's brother Yuri shows up and he's suspicious about her new husband, Twilight (the spy). Yor is the assassin/wife and her brother works for the enemy so Twilight is equally suspicious of Yuri but decides to keep his enemy close and cooks him a nice meal. Loads of fun. I love this manga series. 

45. Nazaré by JJ Amaworo Wilson - The only book I reviewed in April (click through the title or page down to read the full review) and one of my favorites of the year, the story of a boy who lives in a shipping container. After being told he is "the future" of his country, he must run from the mayor whose family has ruled for 4 generations. Because if the boy, Kin, is the future, the mayor's family must be the past. Adventurous and delightful, a mix of magical realism with hilarious characterization. Highly recommended. What a unique story. 

46. Falling by T. J. Newman - When a pilot's family is kidnapped and then his plane is hijacked, he's given a choice: either he must crash the plane into a chosen target or his family will die. The pilot says, "I will not crash this plane and you won't kill my family." Will he succeed at figuring out how to save both the plane and the people he loves? A fun thriller that required only a little suspension of disbelief, now and then, written by a former flight attendant. 

47. Brat: An '80s Story by Andrew McCarthy - The Eighties heartthrob describes how he became an actor and why, his experiences in acting school, how he got various movie roles, and the mentoring (usually by phone) that helped get him deal with various struggles. Not a gossipy book and limited mostly to his years in the so-called "Brat Pack" (a name he found offensive and pejorative) with a little mention of his current work as a director. Loved it. 

48. The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling - This was my least favorite book of the month, but I didn't dislike it. I think I just wasn't in the right mood for it. When a witch accidentally curses her ex-boyfriend (not realizing her own powers) hilarity ensues as the ex arrives back in town after 9 years and the town is basically out to get him, thanks to the curse. Very fluffy and light. I liked the paranormal aspects more than the romance and there was, I thought, some unnecessarily offensive language but a fun book, in general.

49. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - I reviewed Emily's very first book, Last Night in Montreal, years ago, and loved it but hadn't read anything since her second release. After starting the mini series of Station Eleven and feeling a bit lost, I pulled out the e-book and started reading to see if it clarified things. A pandemic has swept the world, leaving 99% of the population dead. Going back and forth in time between the days before the pandemic, the time in which people are either holed up to save themselves or dying, and up to 20 years post-pandemic, Station Eleven tells the story of the survivors and how life has gone from barbaric early days back to a new sort of civilization in which a Traveling Symphony brings the joy of theater and music back to a small part of the world. Reading the book did help me make sense of the TV show. The mini series is quite different in some ways but both end on a hopeful note. 

50. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim - A classic tale of 4 English women who rent a castle in Italy for a month, published in the 1920s. At first unsure of each other and wanting to spend time alone, the beauty and joy of being somewhere different slowly helps each woman to relax, reflect on how they've behaved in their everyday lives, and eventually extend the joy to others. A magical and super relaxing read. 

51. The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams by Mindy Thompson - Set in WWII, a magical bookshop becomes mired in a battle of good vs. evil after the bookshop owner becomes ill and leaves his daughter and son in charge. The son has recently lost his best friend in the war and breaks the rules of magic to try to undo his death. But, doing so will unleash an unexpected horror. Can the Dark be stopped from taking over not only the bookshop but possibly the world? An edge-of-your-seat middle grade tale. 

52. Macbeth by William Shakespeare - I'd never read this classic tale of murder and revenge but bought a copy when I found out my son and daughter-in-law were playing in a local production. And, I have to admit that this bloody tale is probably now my favorite by Shakespeare. I loved the way Macbeth waffled. Should I murder the king in my own home or is that a bad idea? I mean, he did reward me for doing well in battle. So many great lines and my guess as to the theme is, "Murder doesn't pay." I need to read up a bit on it but my favorite line is, "But screw your courage to the sticking-place." 

53. V for Victory by Lissa Evans - Crooked Heart by Evans is one of my all-time favorite WWII books and V for Victory follows up the story of young Noel and his guardian, Vee, formerly a disreputable con woman just trying to get by, now a landlord. Noel has inherited his godmother's home and he and Vee are using it as a boarding house as the end of the war nears. Meanwhile, some of the girls in Mattie's former club, the Amazons, come back into the picture. One of them, Winnie, is a heroic Air-Raid Warden, her twin sister a socialite who has written a book. Vee is pretending to be Noel's aunt but she's in danger of being found out. A rambling sort of book that seems to have little purpose other than to place you in London during a time of hardship, but I loved it. I love absolutely everything Lissa Evans writes. 

This was a fantastic month for quality. Quantity-wise, I just don't care at this moment. I'm not racing anyone, including myself — and, I have done both. I loved absolutely everything except The Ex Hex. Favorites were Nazaré, Brat, Station Eleven, The Enchanted April, Macbeth, and V for Victory. Gosh, favorites were almost everything? LOL That's unusual. 

As to the Internet break, it's been a challenge. I do find that when I put my phone aside and stay away from the computer (except for art tutorials, which I'm doing every week), I'm getting a lot accomplished and while I miss interacting with people because I don't see many actual human beings in my everyday life, I'm enjoying writing and receiving letters and I don't miss the technical aspect of having to take photographs (Instagram) or write reviews and post (to the blog), nor do I really miss mindlessly scrolling (Facebook) because I've found that in the past year or two I've seen fewer unique posts and it's not unusual to see a post 3 days after it was put up by a friend, even close friends. The algorithm sucks eggs, in other words.

As to Twitter, it was my biggest obsession until the buyout agreement and then I just lost heart. I still have an account but I think the purchase by a billionaire with whom I disagree on principle about most everything was a good thing for me because I don't need to be there, either. 

In general, I do feel like the sense of burnout from feeling like I had too many obligations to write about specific books by specific dates is fading, so that's good. Having said that, I don't know what the end result of my 6-month Internet break will be. It's way too early to say whether I'll abandon blogging and/or social media or return to it. I just don't know. 

Here's a flatlay April reads photo, for your edification. See you in a month!

©2022 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, April 08, 2022

Nazaré by JJ Amaworo Wilson

You may have noticed my absence. I think I've finally reached the point of burnout, so I'm taking a 6-month blog break with one exception. I'll be continuing my end-of-month wrap-ups. I've got a running file on what I'm reading at Bookfoolery, so all I have to do is a quick description of each. If they're like the March reads in brief, they'll almost be full reviews.

Anyway, I'll still be here, regularly updating my books read but just posting once a month through October. But, I had to drop by to mention the book shown above with Fiona, who is going to stare at you till you buy a copy. Haha. Kidding. She's a sweetheart. 

But, it's true that I loved Nazaré by JJ Amaworo Wilson so much I couldn't stay quiet. It is nuts. Think a mix of the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquéz with the absurdity of Cervantes in a fictional land where the mayor's family has owned pretty much everything for 4 generations.

Kin is a homeless boy who lives in a shipping container in a fishing village with no name. The people of his village in fictional Balaal have been ruled by the Matanza family for 4 generations, ever since gold was discovered and the first Matanza decided he wanted it all. When a whale washes up on the beach, Kin calls the villagers and they try to get the whale back into the water but nothing works. A local mystic declares Kin the "future of Balaal" and nobody knows exactly what that means but everyone trickles away. After Kin is left alone, something happens to return the whale to the sea and the current Mayor Matanza decides he must get rid of Kin, who clearly has some sort of magical powers, to protect his position and wealth. Because if Kin is the future of Balaal, the Matanzas are the past. 

What follows is Kin's journey from being a homeless waif to a leader of the war to remove the mayor and imprison him for all his crimes. But, it's not like your typical war. It's more like a circus with weapons. Point being, this book is unique and magical and bizarre and I loved it. There is some violence (Mayor Matanza and his brother The Butcher are not nice; plus, there's a war) but it's also occasionally smile-inducing. The author has a great sense of humor. 

Highly recommended - And, I really am leaving Fiona to stare at you. Particularly recommended to anyone who adores Gabriel Garcia Marquéz. Nazaré isn't quite as ponderous as 100 Years of Solitude, just FYI. I gave the book 5 stars and regret not getting around to reading it in the fall, when I accepted a few too many obligatory reads (the ones that burned me out, I guess). Nazaré was released late in 2021. Nazaré is one of those rare books that I was thinking I wanted to reread when I was only 1/3 of the way in. Also, if you do read it . . . find me. I want to talk to someone about this book!!

I received a copy of Nazaré unsolicited but I can't find a sticker on it to tell you where it came from. Thanks to whoever sent it to me!

©2022 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, April 04, 2022

Everything I read in March (in brief . . . with daffodils)


31. Joan is Okay by Weike Wang - The story of an extremely introverted, workaholic doctor who prefers machines over people. Joan is not necessarily what you could call happy, but she's content with her life; she's OK. Unfortunately, everyone around her wants her to be something she's not. Her brother and mother (visiting from China when the pandemic breaks out) think she should marry and settle down, move to a smaller city near her brother, maybe have kids. Her employer thinks she needs to take more time off. Her neighbor, who is a shopaholic, tries to make her apartment more homey by giving her stacks of books, furniture, trinkets — usually things he's bought on impulse and doesn't need. I loved the author's turn of phrase and would honestly read anything she wrote but thought the book lost a little something in the final third or so. It went from being a story about Joan dealing with people who want to change her to a story of immigration and Chinese culture and lost me a bit. Still loved it; I just was disappointed with the ending. 

32. Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen - Someone described this book as "chick lit" and I thought, "Oh. I didn't think of it that way at all." Maybe? It's about Tabitha, a woman who is in her thirties, has a great boyfriend, and enough of a nest egg to make a downpayment on a house. A potential promotion is on the horizon and all seems to be going to plan when she finds out she needs to have her eggs harvested and frozen (at great expense) or she won't be able to have children of her own. But, what will Tabitha's boyfriend think, and is it worth spending her entire savings? Really enjoyed this book and would like to read the next one by this author.

33. The Poppy Factory by Liz Trenow - After Jess, who served a tour of duty as a medic in Afghanistan returns home with PTSD, she begins drinking heavily to subdue the nightmares and gradually starts to spiral out of control. Then, Jess's mother discovers the diaries of Jess's great-grandmother, Rose, whose husband Alfie went through the exact same thing after WWI. As she begins to see similarities in herself and Alfie, Jess begins to find the courage to reach out and get the help she needs. I loved this blend of historical and contemporary fiction. Unlike most, it doesn't jump around a lot. You stay with one character for a long time before going back to the other.

34. The Giant's Necklace by Michael Morpurgo - A children's book (~80 pages, as I recall, but no chapters, so Middle Grade Light) about a girl named Cherry who is collecting shells to make a giant necklace. Cherry needs enough more shells for her necklace to reach to the toaster so she goes with her family on one last trip to the Cornish Cove near their rented cottage. While she's collecting shells and after her family has returned to the cottage, a storm moves in and she falls into the water but later washes up, climbs the rocks, and finds a cave where the ghosts of two miners help her return home. But, it turns out she's a ghost, too. This one shocked me. Some other readers thought of it as a "ghost story" or a good way to help kids deal with death but I found it horrifying. 

35. The Summer of Broken Things by Margaret Peterson Haddix - Most of the books I've read by Haddix have been eerie Middle Grade series books, so this one's a departure, a YA about two teenagers. A rich teen's father says she has to spend the summer in Spain with him but he'll let Avery take one friend. Then, he chooses the friend, a poor girl she used to play with but now looks down upon, Kayla. They don't get along at all. Both learn to get around Madrid, Kayla following the plan to take immersive Spanish courses and making lots of new friends, Avery doing whatever pleases her. But then things fall apart and it's only the steadfastness of Kayla and her strength in a crisis that finally teaches Avery her lesson. Loved the armchair travel, in particular. 

36. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher - Carrie Fisher's story about her time as a 19-year-old actress making a little sci-fi film that became a surprising success. Not about the making of the movie, unfortunately, but still interesting. Instead, a good 2/3 of the book is about Carrie's affair with Harrison Ford, who was married with two children and his 30s. Part is recollection, part is her (very poetic and beautifully written but angsty) diary entries, the rest is mostly about being Princess Leia for life, no matter where she went, although other side topics like her mother's failed marriages and their difficulty finding trustworthy people to manage money are mentioned. 

37. Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes - One of my favorites of the month, a YA about two mixed-race brothers attending a fancy private school after moving from an area in which both were accepted. One brother looks black, the other white. In the new school, the darker-skinned brother, Donte, is always getting into trouble, although he's not a troublemaker. It's partly because he has a bully getting him into trouble, partly racism. But, instead of lashing out, Donte chooses to take fencing lessons. His bully is a champion fencer and Donte's goal is to become skilled and beat the bully at his own game. What a wonderful story! I love it that Donte never tries to get off the hook by accusing his bully and never attacks him, physically or verbally. Instead, Donte chooses to win by bettering himself. 

38. Birds by Miranda Krestovnikoff and Angela Harding - A children's picture book I bought for the illustrations. I followed Angela Harding on Instagram for a while (she fell to the thinning out of accounts that don't follow me back). I love her art and have wanted to own something by her, for a while, and this book looked like a good shot at getting some of her art to admire. Humorously, after reading the book I can say that I think it really needed photographs so that you could see what the birds looked like in real life and I knocked a point off my Goodreads rating for that. But, wow, what an informative book! I learned so much more than I would have expected from a children's picture book. 

39. The Eighteen-Carat Kid and Other Stories by P. G. Wodehouse - A book of Wodehouse's early short stories. For those who are unfamiliar with Wodehouse, he wrote a number of series', including the Jeeves and Wooster series. The stories in The Eighteen-Carat Kid include the story of a headmaster at a private school who tries to thwart the efforts of various bad guys attempting to kidnap the son of a wealthy American. That's probably my favorite and it's the title story. Great stories, as always. The only one I had a little trouble following was one that took place at a cricket match but it was only the cricket bits that I didn't get. The story itself was a good one.

40. Fault Lines by Emily Itami - Another favorite, the story of a Tokyoite named Mizuki who is a stay-at-home mother with two children. Mizuki doesn't feel like she's all that great at mothering and her husband hardly notices her, anymore. So, when she meets a man who enjoys her company, she has an affair (which surprisingly remains platonic for a long time). Whether or not you've been to Tokyo, Fault Lines is another great one for armchair travel. I particularly enjoyed it when the main character went to areas with which I had some familiarity. Fault Lines is very light-hearted. The author has a great sense of humor. But, there are darker moments that she manages to turn funny, as in the time when Mizuki decides to jump off her balcony and then changes her mind and her pants get caught in the railing. From then on, she refers to it as "the suicide balcony". Highly recommended. 

41. The Maid by Nita Prose - Molly is perfectly suited to be a maid. She grew up with a grandmother who cleaned the home of a wealthy family and had certain chores for the days of the week to keep their apartment sparkling. But, Molly's grandmother has passed away, she has lost her grandmother's nest egg, and now she's found a dead body and is being accused of murder. What Molly has on her side is a flawless memory for detail, her unique directness, and a few good friends willing to help. Absolutely delightful and another new favorite. Highly recommended. I loved every minute of the reading. 

42. Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley - The story of a teen, Liv, whose brother horsed around and accidentally shot himself with the neighbor's loaded gun. Jonah is permanently brain damaged and his mother is suing the neighbors to try to get his medical care covered. Meanwhile, sister Liv acts out at school but then begins meeting Jonah's best friend Clay secretly (and, occasionally Clay's mother, as well) and slowly they begin to heal. This YA, told completely in verse, kept me up into the wee hours of the morning. I had some issues with it (some people and circumstances were a little too perfect) but I'm glad I read it. 

43. Sisters of Night and Fog by Erika Robuck - This is the only book I reviewed in March so you can hop through the link to read my full review. The short version is that it's the fictionalized true story of two women who worked fighting the Nazis. They're quite different but their stories eventually intertwine. They alternate chapters: Violette, Virginia, Violette, Virginia. So, if you don't like bouncing back and forth, this one might bug you a bit. But, it's an excellent book, very detailed and clearly well researched. It is both heartbreaking and uplifting. Save this one for when you can handle the horror of Nazi cruelty. Parts of it are rough. 

©2022 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, April 01, 2022

Fiona Friday

No, of course they're not lazy bums lolling around with catnip toys. 

©2022 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.