Monday, May 24, 2021

Mini reviews - The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, Rose Mellie Rose by Marie Redonnet, The Address by Fiona Davis

I don't have much to say about any of these, and this post will catch me up completely (for now) so it may be quiet in here till I finish something. 

I read The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo on my iPad (where I have a fully-loaded Kindle app that I barely ever touch) when our power went out a couple weeks ago and I just wanted something light to read while we sat around in the dark. 

The Magician's Elephant is about a boy who lives with a sickly man who has been telling the boy all his life that the boy's entire family is dead and that the old man rescued the child. The boy spends his days being drilled to be a soldier like his father and doing his master's bidding. One day, he goes to market and is drawn into a fortuneteller's tent with the promise of learning about his future. He spends the old man's food money on the prediction, which has to do with following an elephant to find the sister he thought dead. But, there are no elephants in this [fictional] town. 

And, then he hears that an elephant has been conjured by a magician and fallen through the roof of the opera house, onto the lap of a woman who is now permanently injured. The elephant is being held captive and the boy must figure out how to save the elephant so that he can follow it. The magician, the newly-disabled woman, and a few others figure into this story and it ends on a happy note. 

Highly recommended - The Magician's Elephant was exactly the read I needed on the day I opened the file. It's warm, witty, stirring, and full of heart. Kate DiCamillo's middle grade books haven't let me down, yet. 

Rose Mellie Rose by Marie Redonnet is the second book I read while the power was out and it's . . . kind of weird. The third in a triptych, Rose Mellie Rose is a short novel about a 12-year-old girl named Mellie who was left in a grotto as a baby and has been raised by an elderly woman, Rose. When Rose dies, Mellie follows her instructions and heads for the city of Oât, where she registers, gets an ID, and becomes a part of the dying town on a lagoon. 

There's a lengthy explanation by the author about the three novels in the triptych after the story and, I confess, I have no idea what she was trying to say. But, apparently there is flooding and a cemetery in all three books and the flooding somehow relates to the death of 19th Century literature? There's a lot of death, at any rate, the story is a tragedy, and there is some really disturbing sex (TW: could be considered rape but is not portrayed as such) . . . yes, with a 12-year-old. 

Neither recommended or not recommended - I mean . . . ugh, I really did find parts of Rose Mellie Rose disturbing but at the same time it was compelling and I don't regret reading it, although I would not seek out the companion novels (all three are stand-alones with apparently the same theme so it's not necessary to read them in any order if you do read all three). Mostly, I just feel like I'm glad I read it and now I can pass it on. I bought it long, long ago when we had a salvage store that occasionally got book stock from floods, fires, etc., and I was building my home library so I'd buy just about anything that appealed to me. It's a French translation.

The Address by Fiona Davis is a contemporary/historical combo that takes place mostly in the Dakota, the upscale apartment building in New York City where a lot of wealthy, famous people live and outside of which John Lennon was shot. 

Sara Smythe is an Englishwoman who travels from England to work as the manager of the Dakota as it's opening and Bailey, in the 1980s, is an addict fresh out of rehab who is offered the job of redecorating her cousin's apartment in the same building. 

In the past storyline, we know that Sara went mad and killed the architect who employed her. What happened to cause this fit of passion?

In the more contemporary part, Bailey finds clues to what happened in the past that might change her own future. 

Recommended - I liked The Address. It's the first book I've read by Davis and I wasn't quite sure what to expect but it was another one of those, "Ah, just what I needed at this moment" books. It's a light, easy read but with a nice little mystery and I'd been reading a nonfiction without finishing it for over a week so I needed the mental break. As is often the case, I pretty much predicted everything that ended up happening. It took me a while to untangle the possibilities and come up with my own theory, though, so no problem. 

Sara is institutionalized in this story, at one point, and when I got to that part, I recognized the descriptions from Nellie Bly's book about her time in the madhouse. Sure enough, Nellie made an appearance. The Address is a fun read. I will definitely be looking for more by Davis. 

©2021 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, May 21, 2021

Fiona Friday - Awkward family photos



©2021 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, May 20, 2021

Milkman by Anna Burns


'Hold on a minute,' I said. 'Are you saying it's okay for him to go around with Semtex but not okay for me to read Jane Eyre in public?'

~p. 200


The unnamed heroine known only as Middle Sister in Milkman by Anna Burns is a teenager living in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. She has a boyfriend of sorts, although nothing official, so she refers to him as Maybe Boyfriend. And, she has a job, to which she often walks while reading. After Maybe Boyfriend receives a car part from Over the Water (I think that's right . . . meaning the UK), he's accused of being a sympathizer with the English cause. Shortly after, someone begins following our heroine around and trying to lure her into his vehicle, offering her a ride and noting that it's dangerous the way she walks with her head in a book. 

From there, things escalate. The man who offered her the ride is known as the Milkman. But, he's not the Real Milkman who delivers milk. In fact, nobody's quite sure why he's called Milkman. He begins to show up wherever she goes. Clearly, he's watching her, and as he continues trying to talk her into going with him, he also begins to subtly threaten Maybe Boyfriend with comments like, "A guy who works on cars might easily find himself the victim of a car bomb, yes?" (Not a direct quote)

No matter where Middle Sister goes — work, school, the park to run with her brother-in-law — either the Milkman shows up or she hears clicking noises, indicating that someone is taking her picture. 

As the incidents increase and the most negative spin possible is made on everything she does, even by her family members, Middle Sister begins to believe that it's not just Maybe Boyfriend who's in danger. Who will survive the escalating tensions caused by the Milkman?

Highly recommended - Milkman is funny, tense, complex, and utterly exhausting because of its lack of paragraph and chapter breaks (there are 7 chapters in approximately 350 pages and the pages are dense, with little white space) but it is a mindblowing, unique and exceptional read. I liked Middle Sister and hoped Milkman wouldn't harm her. 

I didn't always understand the subtleties because I found the vast number of factions perplexing. I just don't know enough about the Troubles to know a renouncer from a paramilitary from a hole in the head, although at times I felt like I was getting it. To that end, I'm hoping to read more about The Troubles in the near future (probably 2022 because I can't rush out to buy books about Northern Ireland, right now). Suggestions for books that will help untangle exactly who all the actors were and what they believed, their goals and demands, etc., during the Troubles are welcome. 

As I was finishing up the reading, there were some riots in Northern Ireland, the cause of which I known nothing about, but I found it interesting that the news said a gate was destroyed and that gate was in a literal wall that still exists between the Catholic and Protestant sides of the town where rioting occurred. That surprised me. I had no idea those divisions still existed but it makes the book feel even more meaningful. 

©2021 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, May 19, 2021

The Gap by Benjamin Gilmour


During a summer in Sydney, Australia, paramedics Ben and John face daily tragedy while both dealing with personal struggles. "The Gap" of the title of this book is both a scenic outlook in Sydney where suicides occur frequently and a metaphor for being on edge, the story much like a real-life version of Bringing Out the Dead but with a sense of humor. 

I enjoyed Paramédico by Gilmour and was excited when I heard the author had written another book about his experiences as an "ambo". It took me a long time to acquire a copy of The Gap but it was well worth the wait. Funny, moving, at times shocking and sad, the book is a testament to the courage, compassion, frustrations, danger, and other immense challenges paramedics face daily. 

Highly recommended - Stellar writing. I love medical memoirs (especially about emergency medicine, thanks to my early obsession with the TV show Emergency!) and books about such things as emerging diseases, so The Gap was right up my alley. I have, in fact, a collection of EMS books and I think Ben's writing is by far the best I've read. He takes you to the scene without going too far into detail about the gruesome and disgusting side of patient care, focusing instead on the emotion of patients and those that care for them. 

Trigger Warning for frequent descriptions of depression and suicide.

My review of Paramédico

Note: The Gap does not yet have a US publisher and I knew about its release because the author told me about it. It took a while to find it at a price I could afford but if you're interested and you're in the US, I got my copy from Book Depository. 


©2021 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, May 18, 2021

Night Came with Many Stars by Simon Van Booy


Simon book! Simon book! If you've spent any length of time visiting my blog, you know Simon Van Booy is one of my favorite authors so I'm always extremely excited when he has a new novel or collection of short stories published. Night Came with Many Stars is scheduled to be released on June 8 and I was sent an advance reader by Godine Press thanks to my friendship with Simon. I'd already planned to buy a copy (and I still will — friend exception, you know, to the book-buying ban) but getting an ARC just meant I got to read it sooner. Wahoo for that!

Set in Kentucky, Night Came with Many Stars is a historical/contemporary combo novel. The historical part begins during the Depression, when teenaged Carol is trying to find a way to escape her abusive father and the man he lost her to in a poker game while the contemporary portion begins with a friendship between two boys named Samuel and Eddie that is first shown in the 1980s. Both storylines move forward and you're quickly made aware that you're reading about different generations of the same family. Eventually, they intertwine to tell a multigenerational story of pain and struggle, abuse, the saving graces of friendship and family, and how even those in the worst of circumstances can remake their lives. It's at times harsh (TW: rape) but a lovely, uplifting tale full of heart. 

I feel like talking about any details at all would spoil the reading but there were some particular things that aren't spoilers that I loved, like the fact that one of the characters whistled all the time. That felt particularly homey to me because my father was constantly whistling while he worked, always full of good cheer. It took me back. Also, while I have never lived in Kentucky, the accent felt familiar and very real to me. I must have known people who spoke with that accent at some point, especially dropping the first "y" in "everybody": ever'body. It says in the book that Simon lived in Kentucky for 3 years. I knew he lived there for a while but I didn't realize he'd been there for quite that long. Clearly, he has a great ear for language. I would never have known the author is British from the dialogue or narrative. 

Highly recommended - A 5-star read, an absolutely flawless, moving family saga of pain, resilience, deep friendship, and love. It's my humble opinion that Night Came with Many Stars is Simon's best novel. I had the weird problem of not wanting to put it down yet desiring to drag it out as long as possible at the same time. That's a new one. 

You can pre-order a signed and, if you'd like, personalized copy directly from the publisher at this email:

order@godine.com

My thanks to Simon and Godine Press for the review copy of Night Came with Many Stars

Isn't the cover gorgeous? The felted mice were posed with Simon's book for good reason. I just got these two little guys recently and I placed them with the book partly because of the enduring friendship between characters Samuel and Eddie (the bench has a plaque that says "Old Friends") and partly because Simon has a pet mouse, which you can occasionally glimpse if you follow his Instagram account @simonvanbooy . Aren't they adorable? I'm thinking I may just have to name my mice Samuel and Eddie. 


©2021 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 17, 2021

Monday Malarkey


Recent arrivals:


  • A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell (for F2F discussion)
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir 


I pre-ordered Project Hail Mary in December of 2020 and it's my last pre-order so there will be no more purchased books coming in unless I indulge in my short list of exceptions. Because my F2F group wasn't meeting at the time I wrote my exceptions, I neglected to make one for discussion books but I think buying one per month for discussion is fine and have mentally added that to the exception list. I will, however, only buy or check out books that I'm legitimately interested in, even though I know I might miss out a little. In this case, I had my husband press the "Buy Now" button for A Woman of No Importance because I just couldn't bear the thought of breaking my 4 1/2 month streak of not purchasing. Silly, but true. 


Books finished since last Malarkey:


  • The Gap by Benjamin Gilmour
  • The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo (e-book)
  • Rose Mellie Rose by Marie Redonnet (translation)
  • Night Came with Many Stars by Simon Van Booy

This was a pretty fantastic two weeks for reading! The Gap is by an Australian paramedic (my second read by him) and it is a memoir covering a single summer in Sydney. It's very, very good. The Magician's Elephant is sweet and funny and so creative. I love Kate DiCamillo's brain. I read it on a day when the power went out. Fortunately, I'd just charged my iPad, which has the Kindle app on it. After I finished The Magician's Elephant, I read Rose Mellie Rose. It's a tragic story but I found it oddly compelling and hard to put down. 

And, last but not least, I read Simon Van Booy's latest, Night Came with Many Stars, and was just blown away. It's such a good story and it's set in Kentucky! But, you'd never know the author is British. I'll review Night Came with Many Stars ASAP. I've got a link to where you can send for a signed copy. You definitely should do that. 


Currently reading:

  • A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purcell

I got a late start on A Woman of No Importance (discussion is this week!) so I'm focusing on that and then I'll get back to reading Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. And, I have a novel picked out but I'm a moody reader so best not to mention it till I've begun reading. It'll be a few days. Who knows if I'll want to read the same book by Thursday? 

Posts since last Malarkey:



Not many posts for good reason. We had not one but two power outages and numerous intense storms (I always unplug my computer during storms). There were 19 tornadoes on a Sunday, followed by more on Tuesday, when we lost power for three hours. No big deal, right? The power was back on soon enough, although we also lost cell service during that time and had to scramble to find the weather radio because we were watching a weather update saying there was a tornado in our immediate area when the power went off. After that storm passed, we thought we were golden. Wrong.

The next day, the power went off in spite of the fact that the sun was shining. And, because there had been 19 tornadoes on Sunday and more on Tuesday, there were a significant number of businesses and homes without power. So, we just had to wait our turn and that took about 22 1/2 hours. Fortunately, it was unseasonably cool so we opened the windows until time to sleep and while I still didn't sleep a wink, it really wasn't too stuffy in the house. And, wow, everyone around us seems to have a generator so we had to deal with tolerating the noise of the neighbors' generators. They are loud!!

Meanwhile, we were having work done on our yard. We discovered our shrubs had a fungus and I already had hired someone to clean up the yard, take out some trees and shrubs, and trim and weed-eat. After we discovered that the camellias were going to die anyway, the project became bigger and we ended up having our front gardens overhauled. I really got lucky and hired a terrific guy. I spent a lot of time outside talking to him about what I wanted done and he listened and offered advice. It just looks fantastic. I've also hired someone to replace our guttering and check the wood beneath since a portion of it keeps sagging (there might be some rotten wood trim) so I had people coming for estimates. 

And, then we had to run up North to a placed called Powder Keg Finishes, where we fetched the iron patio furniture we had them repaint. It looks so good!!! We thought about doing the sanding and repainting ourselves (the paint was peeling and in some places the chairs and table were rusting but the furniture is otherwise in great shape) but decided we'd probably make a hash of it. I found Powder Keg on Instagram when a local I follow recommended them and they did such a great job. I'm so pleased with the work we've had done. 

Point being, all that explains why I haven't posted more reviews, although you already know this hasn't been my best reading year and I have good and bad weeks even without a bunch of errands and power outages. 


In other news:

Well, now that I babbled about my life, there's not much other news besides the birth of our nephew's first child. He's adorable, of course. We haven't watched much TV. I just finished Season 3 of Chuck and started Season 4. The first 3 seasons are known to be the best and the latter 2 kind of disappointing (and the tone has changed pretty drastically in Season 4, as well as the set-up) but I'm going to watch the entire series, anyway. We've been too busy to watch much of anything else. 


Of the random things we've managed to view, there have been maybe two episodes of Good Morning, Britain (it's cheery), one of Foyle's War (which, I swear, had a familiar indoor setting but Husband thinks the golden tiled columns in Episode 2 of the first season could probably be found anywhere, not just the one building we've been inside), some episodes of the old Naked Chef show (from which Husband got a terrific, very rich chocolate cup recipe that he made on Mother's Day), and a bunch of hockey because we briefly had a hockey channel for free. 



Also, we went to a baseball game, which was a bit unnerving. Masks were supposed to be mandatory in the ballpark but nobody required them at the entry and maybe 5% of the fans were wearing them. We're stepping into this mask-free world slowly and I'm still not comfortable going without in a crowd so we stayed pretty far away from people, apart from that one half hour when we ate nachos. And, they were worth taking off the masks for. I don't know how I feel about the CDC's announcement (almost a week after the ball game) that those who are fully vaccinated can now ditch the masks except in crowds. There's no way to tell a vaccinated person from an unvaccinated one. People are still getting sick and hundreds are still dying every day in the US. So, it doesn't feel like we should let our guard down, yet. However, I've always been fine with wearing a mask. It's a great excuse to ditch the makeup. 

Fingers crossed the Indian "double variant" doesn't make it to our shores but I think it's likely it will, eventually, so I'm going to just keep the mindset that I need to be prepared to resume hermiting. I'm really quite good at hermiting. I have an excellent home library. 


©2021 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, May 14, 2021

Fiona Friday - Fiona checks out Stuart

In my files, I labeled this photo "Fiona eats Stuart" but she really just gave him a good sniffing. 



©2021 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.