Friday, January 24, 2020

Fiona Friday - Hello, Izzy

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

In Heartstone by Elle Katharine White, the first in a fantasy series, Aliza Bentaine and her family live in Merybourne Manor on the island of Arle. The area has been plagued by invading gryphons and Aliza herself has lost a sister to them. When the people of the manor hire a band of Riders to hunt down the gryphon horde, Aliza is both relieved and intrigued.

But, when the Riders arrive, Aliza's first encounter is not a positive one. She meets Alastair Daired, a dragonrider with a bad attitude. He's arrogant, handsome, and haunted. And, none too fond of her hobgoblin friends. Yet, they're thrown together in unexpected ways and gradually their opinions of each other change. What will happen when Aliza finds out Alastair may be the reason her beloved sister is heartbroken?

I don't want to go into too much detail because it's far too fun reading the unfolding story, but Heartstone is basically Pride and Prejudice with dragons. And, yet . . . there are times it's all about the social interaction but because it's also a fantasy with fierce battles between monsters and humans (there are some creatures that are friendly with humans, but most seem to prefer eating them or fighting with them), Heartstone is far than just P & P with dragons thrown in. It's a lively blend of action, adventure, and quieter scenes.

While I was reading Heartstone, I discovered that the author has posted lots of material about the creatures of her world online. That was incredibly helpful. I'm not a gamer or a big fantasy reader, so while reading about things like wyverns and beoryns, at first I had no idea whether they were something the author created or creatures that exist in other fantasy worlds. In the process of looking up things I was unfamiliar with, I discovered that some of the creatures are borrowed from the gaming world, some more common. So, gamers and fantasy lovers will likely already be familiar with most of the non-humans in the book. And, if you're neither, you can easily look them up online.

Recommended - I particularly loved two things about Heartstone: the fun of recognizing elements of Pride and Prejudice then seeing how the author put her own fantasy spin on them, making the story very much her own, and the adventurous side of the book. The farther you get into it, the more thrilling it becomes. For a person who generally has trouble reading fantasy, Heartstone was a pleasant surprise. I hope to read the 2nd book very soon.

Side note: Kiddo (younger son) has been intrigued by the sound of this series from Day 1, when the 3rd book arrived in the mail, and is anxious for me to finish the series so that he and his wife can read them. I always love it when he reads something I read because we enjoy talking books, so I'm also anxious to finish the series and pass it on to him. I can't wait to discuss the books with my son.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom - click on image to enlarge):

  • The Book of Sleep by Nicole Moshfegh, PsyD
  • To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
  • Swann's Way by Marcel Proust
  • A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen

All of these were purchases. The Book of Sleep is the third and last book I bought during a bout of insomnia. Fingers crossed it will offer some sage advice. To All the Boys I've Loved Before was bought on a whim at Sam's. I've seen a lot of people gushing about Jenny Han's books, so the idea of buying or checking out one of her books has been lingering in the back of my head and I was happy to find one at a reasonable price. Swann's Way is a book I've wanted to buy for eons but it was author Alex George's endorsement of this particular translation that convinced me to go for it. And, A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen is a book I pre-ordered within 24 hours of closing his previous book, Here and Now and Then

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Virus on Orbis 1: The Softwire by P. J. Haarsma
  • A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen
  • Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis

Virus on Orbis 1: The Softwire is an e-book! I read an e-book! Regular readers of my blog will know that I'm not a fan of reading electronically. I opened it up during a night that I couldn't sleep. It was 2:30 in the morning and I didn't want to turn the light on, so I looked for something easy to read in my Kindle app (I still do not own a Kindle and never have — the app is on my iPad). I think it's middle grade but I'm not certain. Reading the e-book didn't disturb my husband but I eventually got sick of reading in bed and went to the living room. I don't think I ever did manage to get to sleep, that night. I started reading A Beginning at the End practically the moment it showed up. And, Almost Just Friends is a book I'm scheduled to tour in February. Trying to get a jump on things, here.

Currently reading:

  • The World of Sanditon by Sara Sheridan 

I'm not going to continue putting my workbook on insomnia in the current reads because I don't always think to pick it up and it will likely take me more than a month to read (in spite of the fact that it's a 1-month program). But, it will show up in my finished books when I'm done. I just finished Almost Just Friends, this morning, so I haven't chosen my next read, yet, but I'll start a fiction title, tonight. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

Last week was a super busy week. I'm a homebody but I had errands and appointments and lunch with a friend, so I was out of the house more than normal. Hopefully, this week will be a tiny bit calmer.

In TV news, the regular series shows have returned, so I watched NCIS and about half of Chicago Fire. During Chicago Fire, I got a call from one of my sons. He's more important than TV so I missed the second half. I also missed Doctor Who, yesterday, but it will be available for streaming so that's no big deal. I did manage to tune in for Sanditon. Having read the book is both good and bad. I know exactly what's going to happen but it is definitely fascinating seeing it acted out, getting a glimpse of how well a terrific actor can show what she's thinking via expression and movement. It's very well cast, in my humble opinion. We didn't watch any movies. I really wasn't in the mood for TV, most of the week, although I was excited to get back to watching NCIS and I thought it was an especially intriguing episode.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Fiona Friday - Squeeesh

Comfy there, Fi?

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Mini reviews - They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple, Christmas Camp by Karen Schaler, and Her Other Secret by Helenkay Dimon

They Were Sisters is my first read by Dorothy Whipple, although I have several of her books because they come so highly recommended.

Just as it sounds, They Were Sisters is the story of three sisters, how their lives are shaped by the choices they make (particularly the choice of a spouse), and how the eldest is always the stabilizing force.

I don't know what I expected from a book by Dorothy Whipple but I confess I was a little surprised to find that the book was a bit of a soap opera and yet, in spite of the ups and downs of the characters, there was also something immensely soothing about the fact that Lucy's steadiness, her husband's sense of humor and the fact that they're so perfect for each other, and their idyllic cottage on a larger estate serves as a wonderful anchor for not only the characters but the story itself.

I also found it quite interesting that the males in the family are barely even mentioned. It's a story about women and the men in their immediate circle but Whipple isn't diverted by the larger family unit so much as they are satellites that orbit the women; the women are always at the forefront. In fact, you get the impression that travel was such a hardship at the time it was written that you could say goodbye to a brother who went off to seek his fortune and never see him again, at all, so why mention them once they're out of the picture?

Highly recommended - A fascinating story of the lives of three sisters, how their choices in marriage and childbearing affect their lives in both the short and long term, and the sister who is always there for the other two women and their offspring, whenever they need her. Loved it!

Christmas Camp by Karen Schaler is the story of a woman who has zipped up the proverbial ladder at an advertising agency and now, still young, has got a shot at becoming a partner in the Boston firm. But, she has competition and the one thing her boss has noted that she lacks is Christmas spirit. In order to secure the important account that will clinch her partnership, Haley needs that Christmas spirit. Otherwise, her boss says, it's very unlikely that whatever ad campaign she comes up with will succeed with the company she's targeting.

The fellow she's competing with has buckets of Christmas spirit and Haley tries, but she's just too bent on business. Christmas doesn't even interest her. The boss is firm. She needs to develop some Christmas spirit and he's going to make sure of it by sending her to Christmas Camp, where she'll do normal, Christmasy things and learn about the real joy of the season. Haley is horrified but she wants that partnership, so off she goes. What she finds is a lovely house run by a widower and his handsome son Jeff, who also happens to live in Boston and who is trying to convince his father to sell the house and move near him.

Haley and Jeff get off to a rocky start but there's clearly a spark between Haley and Jeff and they have a good bit in common. Will Haley be able to stick out the entire week of camp or will she get ants in her pants and hustle back to Boston? Will she discover the joy of Christmas? And, if she does, will she come up with the perfect advertising campaign and win the job she desires?

Recommended when you're looking for a fun, romantic, seasonal read - Christmas Camp reads like a Hallmark movie and-- what do you know? --it actually is one. In fact, the movie apparently came first and then Schaler, a screenwriter, was hired to write the book. I was disappointed that I couldn't find the movie for streaming. I liked the book and I'm pretty sure I remember getting a little teary at one point. I'll keep my eye out for the movie and hope I get lucky, next Christmas season.

Her Other Secret by Helenkay Dimon was an unsolicited gift from Avon Books and it sounded intriguing, so I gave it a shot when nothing else was appealing to me. Tessa and Hansen live on Whitaker Island, an island off the coast of Washington (the state) where people go to get a fresh start or just hide out for a time. Tessa has fled a scandal; Hansen won't talk about why he's there.

Tessa and Hansen are on the beach when a mysterious stranger emerges from the water and walks into the woods . . . fully clothed. Tessa suspects something fishy is going on. And, when the man turns up dead and Hansen admits he knows him, Hansen becomes a suspect. What happened to drive Hansen to the island? Why was someone Hansen knows nearby? Who murdered the stranger? And, why can't Hansen and Tessa stay away from each other?

Well, huh, not sure what to say about his one. It didn't work for me but I don't even remember why, so I'm hesitant to give it even a verbal rating. I do remember that I found it overly wordy and confusing. In fact, I was very surprised to find that the author has so many books under her belt. Beyond that, I'm not sure what I disliked about it. I've got the follow-up book (again, sent unsolicited) and I'll give it a shot but I'm not going to stick it out if it doesn't work. However, I think the author deserves a second chance.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Mini Reviews - In Another Time by Jillian Cantor, The Roundhouse by Louise Erdrich, and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

More minis! And, all of these were excellent, all from my own shelves. Although Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an ARC, I didn't receive it from the publisher.

I just wandered around my house, looking for In Another Time in all the usual places for books I've read but not yet reviewed, and then it came to me . . . oh, I put it on the favorites pile. I loved In Another Time that much.

Hanna is Jewish; Max is not. When they fall in love in 1930s Germany, Max is worried about the growing anti-Jewish sentiment and Hitler's rising power. He wants to marry and leave the country. But, Hanna's musical education is too important to her and she's not concerned about Hitler. She thinks the Nazi party's rise is a passing phase.

In 1946, Hanna finds herself alone with no memory of the past 10 years of her life. Though she doesn't seem to know about it, the reader knows that there was a time portal in Max's bookshop. Did Max send Hanna into the portal and save her from the Nazis? If so, how did she lose her memory and what happened to Max? Why isn't he there with her?

Highly recommended - An utterly captivating and unique WWII story with a sci-fi twist. I went into the reading of In Another Time blind and was pleasantly surprised by the time travel aspect. I love a good time travel book. You don't know the truth of what happened till the end. Cantor kept me guessing all the way through the book.

The Roundhouse by Louise Erdrich is a book that I bought and read at the request of a friend who wanted to hear my thoughts. I love it when that happens (a valid excuse to acquire a book I wanted to read, anyway). It's a book that was once offered to me for review but I presume I wasn't aware of how fabulous Louise Erdrich is, at the time.

When a woman is brutally raped and beaten, she is so traumatized and depressed that she can't talk about the rape and retreats to her bed. The police investigate but don't seem to be getting anywhere and her teenage son, Joe, is unwilling to accept the lack of progress.

Determined to solve the crime himself, Joe begins to investigate between biking around with his friends and working at his uncle's store.

Highly recommended - The crime is truly shocking but even more appalling is the fact that the raped woman is the wife of a judge and even he can't make sure that when a suspect is found he remains behind bars. Joe, meanwhile, is a fascinating character because he is so beautifully drawn. The story is told from his point of view and besides being very angry and confused about the crime and lack of progress by police, he's a typical teenage boy who is not a little obsessed with women and food, which took me back to the days when I had teenage boys of my own sticking their heads in the fridge all day long. I was very impressed by the authenticity of Joe's point of view.

My copy of The Roundhouse was published by Corsair, a British publisher. In the US, the publisher is HarperCollins and the cover is quite different.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford is one of those WWII books that I have wanted to read for years. Why didn't I get to it, before now? I have no idea.

The story of Henry Lee, a Chinese American, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet goes back and forth between 1986 and the 1940s. In 1986, Henry finds out the Panama Hotel at the corner of Seattle's former Japantown has a basement full of luggage left there by Japanese-American citizens who were rounded up and sent to internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

In the 1940s, Henry and Keiko Okabe, a Japanese American, are outsiders at an elementary school and lovers of jazz who become fast friends. When people begin to panic after Pearl Harbor, worried that Japanese Americans will side with the Japanese, Henry's father forces him to wear a button saying he's Chinese to prevent trouble with authorities. His father dislikes Japanese people and insists that Henry stay away from Japantown. But, Henry values his friendship with Keiko and wants to help her in any way he can.

Back in 1986, Henry gets permission to search through the luggage to see if he can find a prized possession that he gave to Keiko. Henry is widowed and was happily married but he has never forgotten Keiko. Will the discovery of the luggage lead Henry to finally seek out Keiko? What drove them apart, years ago?

Highly recommended - A lovely and, yes, bittersweet story about friendship, music, racism, and the power of memories. So lovely. I didn't realize Jamie Ford is such a romantic. I expected something a little different, less sweetly touching. I'm glad I finally got around to reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and I will definitely read more by Jamie Ford.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Ultimate Veg by Jamie Oliver
  • 4-Week Insomnia Workbook by Sara Dittoe Barrett
  • Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD

All are purchases. I've been anxiously awaiting the release of Jamie Oliver's Ultimate Veg because we've found his recipes pretty consistently have been hits in this house. And, clearly, I'm sick of insomnia, hence the two books purchased in the middle of the night when I was losing my mind (a third is on its way). I hope I get something helpful out of at least one of them.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • What Red Was by Rosie Price
  • Sanditon by Jane Austen and Kate Riordan

My review of Sanditon is scheduled for mid-February but I rushed to read it ahead of the series that started on PBS, yesterday. I'm enjoying the chance to view the book acted out so soon after finishing. 

Currently reading:

  • 4-Week Insomnia Workbook by Sara Dittoe Barrett
  • The World of Sanditon by Sara Sheridan
  • Virus on Orbis 1: The Softwire by P. J. Haarsma

I'm reading an e-book (Virus on Orbis 1)!!! That's mostly because I was scrambling to find something to read in the middle of the night without blinding the husband, but I'm glad to finally actually find myself reading one of the 500+ books I stored on a Kindle app before realizing I hate reading electronically. I should try to at least read one a month. Maybe that'll be one of my unspoken possibly-goals. Or, maybe I should stick with the plan and just read whatever grabs me.

Posts since last Malarkey:

The first week of trying to write reviews and post them over the weekend was a bust and a reminder of why I don't usually do anything over the weekend but sometimes pre-post my Monday Malarkey (which is a pretty easy thing to whip out). Husband just doesn't like looking at my back. Understandable. I hate looking at the top of his head when he's playing with his cellphone. So, if I have an unusual stretch of time and can pre-post reviews for weekend days, I will. That won't happen, this week but maybe soon. Fingers crossed. 

In other news:

This was not a TV or movie week. It was not a reading week. It was just one of those weeks. But, I did enjoy my reading, when I read. And, I managed to finish watching the 4th season of The Heart Guy. It had a similarly final feel to that of the 3rd season. So, there's really no telling if that series will ever return. Probably not. The whole time I was watching it, this past couple of weeks, I found myself wondering if the homestead (the place they filmed in New South Wales) is still even there because I'd watch an episode of The Heart Guy and then later in the day watch the news about the fires. It's such a beautiful place. I do hope it survives this horrible fire season.

©2020 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.