Monday, May 02, 2022

Everything I read in April (in brief)



April:

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)



March:

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.


Thursday, March 31, 2022

Sisters of Night and Fog by Erika Robuck


Violette is young, energetic, athletic, and smart. She is also half-British, half-French and staying with her aunt in France as the country is invaded during WWII. Quickly hustled away with her younger brother, she vows to return to France but her life is complicated. When she finally gets the chance to return with the Special Operations Executive, parachuting into France to help out with the Resistance, she is thrilled but knows that it means her child may grow up without a mother. 

Virginia is an American married to a Frenchman and living in France. When the country is invaded and then occupied, she could easily escape to Florida and sit out the war. But, she won't even entertain the idea. Philippe is everything to her. When Virginia and Philippe realize they can help with the Resistance by working to house soldiers who have been shot down or escaped from Germans, they are happy to have the chance to do their part.

Although they have very different lives, the two women cross paths when they're caught and imprisoned. But, will their fates be the same? 

If you hang around here much, you might recall that I took a writing workshop in August of last year and Erika Robuck was one of the guest speakers. She talked a little about Sisters of Night and Fog, at the time, although I don't think it had an official title, yet. The Invisible Woman (link leads to my review) was either about to be released or just had been and she talked about how she discovered the stories of Violette and Virginia during her research about Virginia Hall for The Invisible Woman

Although much of Sisters of Night and Fog has been fictionalized to fill in the gaps, their general storyline is based on the true stories of these remarkable women who risked their lives to fight the Nazis. 

I had trouble getting into the story, initially, but it was my problem, not an issue with the book. I wasn't in the mood to have my heart broken and a little piece of your heart is always shattered when you read about WWII. There was so much cruelty. But, there was a great deal of heroism, as well. and Sisters of Night and Fog is absolutely a story of women willing to lay down their lives in the service of others. 

Highly recommended - I can't say much more without giving away plot points and details that are best revealed slowly but while Sisters of Night and Fog is definitely heartbreaking, it is also uplifting and awe-inspiring to read about the courage of these two women and the people they worked with. I recommend reading it during a time when you're feeling like you can handle intrigue, tension, danger, and sadness. I was fighting depression hard this entire month (improving, now) so I kept picking the book up and setting it aside to read lighter fare but when I finally felt up to it, it was difficult to put down. 

I have a feeling Violette and Virginia will stick with me for a long time and I'd like to read more about them. Obviously meticulously researched and another beautifully written book by Erika Robuck, if a tiny bit overlong. Be aware that the book tells their stories from the beginning of the war to the end and their work was later in the war, so much of Sisters of Night and Fog feels like backstory if you're expecting to jump right into the action, as I was. Initially, I thought the book started too far back in time but I trusted the author's timing and it turned out that you really do need to understand where they came from.

My thanks to Berkley Books for the review copy!

©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, March 28, 2022

Monday Malarkey


Recent arrivals:


  • Artful Memories by Jane Chipp and Jack Ravi
  • The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling
  • Round the Bend by Nevil Shute

All three of these were purchased and now I'm back on my book-buying ban, pinkie swear. 


Books finished since last Malarkey:


  • Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • Birds by Miranda Krestovnikoff and Angela Harding
  • The Eighteen-Carat Kid and Other Stories by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Fault Lines by Emily Itami
  • The Maid by Nita Prose
  • Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

Currently reading:


  • Sisters of Night and Fog by Erika Robuck

I suspect the reason I've been picking this book up and putting it aside for weeks is because I feel like it started too far back in time, although it might just have been my mood. We're getting a ton of backstory about two women who apparently end up in concentration camps. There's the war timeline in WWII and a second timeline in 1995 in which two women are returning to the concentration camp. I'm about 1/3 of the way into the book and while there have been some exciting/tense scenes, I keep thinking, "When are we going to get to whatever they did to lead to their imprisonment? Where's the meat of the story?"

Having said all that, Erika Robuck's writing is stellar. I'm presuming the backstory for both women will all become relevant, at some point and after a couple weeks of it not being the right read for the moment, I'm finally really getting into it. 

The other books in which there are bookmarks have not been touched, this past 2 weeks, and some for much longer, so I'm thinking about clearing my Goodreads "Currently Reading" shelf and putting those other books back in the Currently Reading file when I get back to them, rather than having them linger and glare at me. 


Posts since last Malarkey:



Clearly, I still am not in the mood to review. Because Sisters of Night and Fog is a book I received from the publisher, I will review it when I finish it but I will likely just do a round-up post with the rest of the titles I've read in March. 


In other news:

I finished watching Being Erica and absolutely loved the way it was wrapped up (there are 4 seasons). If you're unfamiliar with it, Being Erica is a Canadian series about a 30-something gal whose life is a mess. She goes into therapy and her therapist has the ability to send her back in time to relive her regrets. So much fun.

I'm still watching Chicago Fire. I'm close to the end of Season 3. I don't know if there are still quite so many episodes per season but I'm on episode 21 of Season 3. Wow, that's a lot of episodes. I think the current season is something like the 14th, so I have a long way to go. 

We also watched Weekend at Bernie's, this weekend, after the whole Clarence Thomas thing ("Is he really alive or are they going to do a Weekend at Bernie's to keep the judicial slot?") and subsequent memes reminded us of what a fun movie it is. 

And, that's it. I confess to otherwise spending a bit too much time doomscrolling the news about Ukraine. They're using white phosphorous, now? OMG. I wish I could understand why we can't do more to help (you know, apart from trying to prevent WWIII or a nuclear attack). I just read President Biden's Warsaw speech, a few hours ago, and was mightily impressed but I felt like, "OK, now do the unity thing back home." By all accounts I've read (I read many news sites, not only American), Biden has been the unifying force the world needs, at this moment. Nice to know. 


©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, March 25, 2022

Fiona Friday

These are the only photos I've taken of the kitties, lately. I spend so much of my time watching Isabel (top) to see if she's still twitching (she is, unfortunately) that I forget to pick up my camera. She is energetic and lovable and eating well, but I'm worried out of my mind. Fiona is happy as ever. She still doesn't like being pilled and will clamp her teeth together but other than that she's incredibly easy to pill. Once I pry her jaws apart, I just pop the pill at the back of her mouth. I don't even have to pick her up or chase her down. I just walk right up to her, open her mouth, pop the pill in, and hand her her treats. If you're going to have to pill a cat for life, this is the kind of cat you want to end up pilling. 

Hope all are well. 



©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.