Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages

Out of Left Field is about a girl named Katy Gordon. Katy loves baseball and she's an excellent pitcher, the best in her neighborhood. The boys all know it and they're happy to have her pitch in their local sandlot ball games. But, when a man comes to one of the ball games and mistakes Katy for a boy, she doesn't correct him. He observes her skill and invites her to try out for Little League. Katy is excited until she gets to the tryouts and is turned down flat. It's 1957 and the rules are clear: Little League is for boys only, no girls allowed.

Katy's parents are divorced and her all-female family is accustomed to discrimination against females. Her mother and one of her sisters work in male-dominated fields. So, when her mother suggests researching women in baseball to try to sway the minds of those in charge of Little League, she's excited. And, she's stunned to find that women's baseball leagues and women playing baseball with men were a lot more common in the past. But, will her research be enough to get Katy into Little League?

There were several things I absolutely loved about Out of Left Field. One is that it becomes clear up front that Katy is not going to succeed and she pretty much understands that. But, she learns to take joy from the research itself and her mother, a scientist, is very helpful and supportive. I particularly liked this quote by her mother:

"Good research skills are a secret weapon that will come in handy down the road."

I also loved the fact that while Out of Left Field describes a discriminatory practice, it also shows that when you're really good at something, those around you will notice. You may run up against institutional discrimination but you'll also find people who appreciate your skill (the neighborhood boys, in this case). That's a decent lesson, since girls/women still experience the frustration of being treated differently because of their sex.

And, I loved the extra material at the end of the book. There's a nice section with mini-bios of women who were well-known baseball players. Some didn't get very far, some had careers that lasted as long as a couple decades. And then there were the all-women's baseball teams that were created to keep baseball leagues earning money during wartime, like the women in the movie A League of Their Own. The history of women in baseball was fascinating and describing it through the fictional eyes of young Katy made the learning fun.

Highly recommended - A fun story and also a very informative middle-grade novel about the surprising history of women in baseball and how the history was almost entirely erased, women's ability to join baseball teams quashed. While the book is mostly about Katy's choice to research, the author kept it interesting. I loved learning about women in baseball. Apart from watching A League of Their Own, I had never read or heard anything about women in baseball. Only one of the women described was familiar to me: Babe Didrikson Zaharias. And, that was because of yet another movie. I also thought the author did a marvelous job of describing the historical setting, a time when the Soviets were winning the early space race. I'd heard of the Sputnik satellites but hadn't heard of the Vanguard satellite failures, so I ended up watching a video of the failed first launch on YouTube. The 50s setting was nicely described; I really enjoyed that.

The book includes a glossary of terms used in the book and a list of additional reading materials.

©2018 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, May 29, 2018

The Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan

A note up front: The Endless Beach is apparently a follow-up book to The Café by the Sea (I couldn't tell if there was only one previous book or more from the author's intro, but I suspect that it's the second book that takes place with the same characters). While the author did a good job of catching up readers who missed the first book, I think it would have been more enjoyable to read The Café by the Sea, first.

Flora is the proprietor of the small Café by the Sea, a little shop that caters to the needs of islanders on the Scottish island of Mure. Flora has been in a relationship with her former boss, Joel, since he followed her to Mure and she gave up her London job. Now, Joel is working for a fabulously wealthy man who has fallen in love with Flora's brother and is planning to open a hotel on the island. The job is taking Joel away to New York City for long stretches and Flora is beginning to have doubts. Is he really the man for her?

Meanwhile, the café is beginning to struggle. After Flora caters a wedding, she has difficulty getting the bride to pay up. And, her low prices are starting to hit the bottom line hard. At the same time, whales have been seen off the coast of Mure. They're considered a bad omen and Flora is feeling uneasy.

What will become of Flora's relationship with Joel? What is his fabulously wealthy boss's crushing secret? And, will Flora be able to save the café?

There are other things going on in The Endless Beach. It has a bit of a soap opera feel (which I love), like you're a part of this little community and become invested in everyone's life. The local doctor, for example, left a wife and two children behind in Syria and a teacher and friend of Flora's has fallen for him. But, when he hears news about his family from a social worker, his world is turned upside-down and the teacher is left torn.

Highly recommended - I suggest reading The Café by the Sea, first, because I had a little difficulty understanding where the characters were coming from, in spite of the fact that the author catches you up nicely on events that occurred in the previous book. If you can't get your mitts on the first book you'll be fine; reading the first will just acquaint you with the characters and the background of the second book better. I love that feeling that you're swept into the happenings of the island and get a feel for the community, not just the main characters. And, I love Jenny Colgan's writing, in general. It leans "cheerful", even when the characters are facing challenges.

©2018 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, May 28, 2018

Monday Malarkey

A few words, in case you missed last week's update. I'm going to dedicate this week to finishing off Don Quixote, primarily to avoid being institutionalized. However, I pre-posted two reviews and will stop by Facebook and Twitter to add links to them when they publish. I'll also post a Fiona Friday pic because that's easy peasy. So, the only difference between this week and any other week is that I'll be off the Internet, except when I need to post links to the reviews that have been pre-scheduled. Otherwise, I plan to avoid social media to encourage the reading.

Recent arrivals:

  • My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan - purchased
  • Mad Boy by Nick Arvin - from Europa Editions

I requested My Oxford Year for review but didn't get a copy and since it was one of my most anticipated books (I've been to Oxford and love England, in general, as a setting), I decided to go ahead and order a copy. Mad Boy is a finished copy that was kindly sent by Europa Editions. I'd already reviewed the book, by the time it arrived, and I will proudly add this one to the good shelves. It is one of the most memorable, clever, unique books I've read in 2018. Grab a copy. You won't regret it.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold
  • The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino

If nothing else, it was definitely my week for reading books with lengthy titles. I struggled a little with both of these. Sometimes I felt like I knew where Noah Hypnotik was going and I would love it for a while and then I'd feel lost. Bar Harbor was similarly frustrating in that I would get completely immersed in certain passages and those characters would begin to feel like I could touch them. And, then some poorly-written sentence would throw me out of their world. So, neither was a brilliant read but I don't regret the reading of either of them.

Currently reading:

  • Israel/Palestine by Alan Dowty
  • Don Quixote by Cervantes

I didn't read a page of either of these till last night, when I closed The Bar Harbor Retirement Home, etc. Then, I read a bit of Israel/Palestine. I'll probably begin my DON QUIXOTE OR BUST reading week, tomorrow (when family members are back at work) because I can just visualize myself picking up my chunkster and getting interrupted. Better to wait till quiet descends. I will keep reading it till I'm done. If I haven't finished by next Monday, expect a pool of blood instead of a Monday Malarkey post and a headline, "Woman Driven to Madness by Inability to Finish Don Quixote." Film at 11.

Last week's posts:

Oops, I just noticed I neglected to write the author's name in the subject line of my Noah Hypnotik post, so I've corrected and republished that.

In other news:

It's so stinking hot and humid that I'm trying to think up cold places to fly. Youngest son was in a cold climate, last week, scouting out a site to build a well (I think?) in Ecuador with Engineers Without Borders. "Ecuador," he said, "is very photogenic." True. I'm particularly fond of the photo he took of an alpaca with volcanoes in the background and another (in a national park) of a caldera, now a lake. Gorgeous. So envious of his week in the cold. It looks like the first named tropical storm of the season has landed far to the East of us, so we get a break from thunderstorms during the daylight hours, although we've been having afternoon and nightly pop-up storms almost daily. I miss winter. Winter in the South is so pleasant.

Also, just FYI, another one of my cats has melted.

©2018 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, May 25, 2018

Fiona Friday - Another Izzy close-up

Note: I have pre-posted a couple reviews for next week and will plan to go ahead and do a Monday Malarkey post and probably a Fiona Friday. So, while I may be a bit slower to respond to comments and post links to Facebook and Twitter, there will be posts while I'm away reading Don Quixote, next week.

©2018 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, May 24, 2018

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold

Mr. Tuttle instructed us to open our Steinbeck tomes, and our laughs were replaced with visions of dust and booze and haggard tires on the road West, where the busty, analogous milky white breasts of rural America patiently awaited our arrival. 

~from p. 38 of ARC, The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik is the story of Noah Oakman, a high school student with two extremely close friends, siblings named Alan and Val. Toward the beginning of the book, Val pressures Noah into going to a party. Noah has been a little off since he faked a swimming injury and his parents have been nudging him to make a decision about the college scholarship he's been offered. He doesn't want to go to a party. He doesn't want to go anywhere. And, he really doesn't want to swim in college. But, he and the Rosa-Haas siblings are close so he reluctantly agrees to go to the party with them.

At the party, Noah does something he doesn't usually do: he drinks. Heavily. And, then he says something regrettable to Alan and goes to hang out with a guy named Circuit. What happens after he leaves Circuit's house is as psychedelic as the cover of the book. Suddenly, things around him have changed. His weird little dog has become normal, his mother has a scar he's never seen, and his best friends are no longer planning to attend colleges that are close to home. What's happened? Circuit's father was an inventor and Circuit is equally geeky. Did Circuit do something to Noah's brain? To find out, Noah zones in on the few things that haven't changed: his sister and his Strange Fascinations among them. By researching these things, maybe he can figure out what's happened to the world -- or to his mind.

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik is told in first person, so you're in Noah's mind while he's trying to figure these things out and it's sometimes merely disorienting, sometimes confusing. As I mentioned earlier, the first part of the book befuddled me so much that I stopped at page 66 and started all over again. After that, I began to feel like I understood what was happening -- something had happened to Noah and he was on a quest to solve the mystery of why things had changed -- but I still often felt unbalanced during the reading and occasionally wondered if I would have set the book aside entirely, if not for the fact that I was obligated to write a tour post.

Having said that, I eventually began to embrace the hallucinogenic aspect of the book, even if I didn't always thoroughly understand what was happening. Throughout the book, it continued to feel a bit like the author was herding cats, or trying to and failing. But, the last 50 pages or so is where the cats all end up piled on top of each other on the same warm blanket; meaning, the ending is satisfying and pulls everything together.

Recommended - While this book felt, at times, like a rambling mess, it all comes together in the end and it's worth sticking it out through the insanity. At least, that's how I felt upon closing the book. I would suggest saving this book for when you're in the mood for something truly weird but clever. The writing is, in fact, almost too wise to believe it could be the thoughts of a 16-year-old, at times, although perhaps I'm too far removed from 16 to have any idea how a teenager thinks. What I liked best about the book was the relationship between the three friends. The author did a great job of emphasizing how rare and beautiful that kind of deep friendship is and why it should be treasured.

Side note: One of Noah's obsessions (or "Strange Fascinations", as he refers to them) is a book by a fictional author named Mila Henry. Her oddities are so believable that I ended up looking online to see if there really was a famous author named Mila Henry that I'd never heard about. Well, no. She's fictional, all right. Oddly, there is a Mila Henry who pops up when you do a general search -- a New York based pianist, coach, and music director. Music plays a heavy role in the book, as well (David Bowie's music) so I thought that was an interesting coincidence.

©2018 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.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Mad Boy by Nick Arvin

Mad Boy: An Account of Henry Phipps in the War of 1812 is the story of a boy who decides he must fulfill his mother's wish to bury her by the sea. Clocking in at a mere 236 pages, it is quite a tale of adventure. At the beginning of Mad Boy, Henry's mother is still alive. His father is in debtor's prison and Henry has just been told his older brother has been shot for going AWOL. The family has been in decline for several generations and has switched places with a former tenant, going from landlord to tenant, big house to dilapidated cabin. Henry's older brother has been in a relationship with the landlord's daughter but went off to war to earn soldier's pay when his father's drinking and gambling pushed them too far into debt.

So, everything is already falling apart when Henry's mother is tragically killed, leaving Henry to deal with figuring out how to get her body to Baltimore to be buried near her family and the sea, her first love. Meanwhile, there are Redcoats roaming the area, pillaging and causing all manner of trouble. And, Henry's path to the sea is not direct, to say the least.

I'm not going to say any more because it's so much fun to read the unfolding story, although I think it's of particular interest that Henry's mother is apparently bipolar. He describes her as talking non-stop and working herself to the bone when she's well, refusing to leave her bed and facing the wall when she's not. Henry continues to hear her chattering after she's killed, one of the most entertaining and endearing aspects of the book.

Highly recommended - I absolutely loved this book. It's both beautifully written and somewhat nuts, a young boy trying to haul his mother's body to the sea while war is going on around him and his mother's ghost occasionally tells him what to do. Toward the beginning of the book there are some graphic scenes that are a bit stomach-turning, but then the story becomes less gruesome and more adventurous. Henry is an interesting character and the family dynamics, the surprising things that happen (note: Henry is a very smart and restless boy), the battles around him, and the denouement are all utterly captivating. Chances are good that I'm going to spring for Nick Arvin's older book, Articles of War, very soon. I love his writing.

Mad Boy is a June release. I love this book and look at that cover! Isn't it marvelous? The copy I read was an ARC received from Europa Editions. I don't think I've ever read a book set during the War of 1812, before. I really enjoyed the setting and you know I'm going to feel compelled to read more about the War of 1812. That's how it always works, right?

©2018 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, May 22, 2018

April Reads in Review, 2018

April (links lead to reviews):

38. Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie - Mini bios of various real-life princesses who plotted, schemed, stole power, made questionable choices, partied, were known for their sexual exploits, were crazy or acted like it, or who fought their own battles. An interesting book that led to a bit of further exploration on my part. I had favorites amongst the princesses.

39. The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody by Matthew Landis - When a Civil War buff and reenactor in middle school is given a disappointing assignment and an unexpected partner, he's bemused. But, then he makes some interesting discoveries; boring soldiers can have interesting stories and scruffy girls can turn out to be smart and appealing, after all. So. Much. Fun. Loved this book.

40. Look for Her by Emily Winslow - A long-missing student, a stained skirt, and two women who both are obsessed with the missing girl lead two investigators on a surprising path. The fourth book in a series, very good but not a personal favorite. I hadn't read the first three but the author does a fantastic job of catching you up without giving anything away.

41. Rocket Men by Robert Kurson - The true story of Apollo 8, the first mission to circle the moon in preparation for the moon landing and how it was rushed into completion in order to beat the Soviets in the space race. The author chose to highlight the personal stories of the astronauts and their wives as all three astronauts are still married (and alive) -- unusual for such an all-consuming and high-pressure job.

42. If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson - A retelling of Romeo and Juliet for the YA crowd, in which a young couple literally bump into each other and meet eyes over the fallen books. Instant attraction becomes love that leads to tragedy. But, there's a softer, kinder ending with hope.

43. Sleep Train by Jonathan London and Lauren Eldridge - Inside a train traveling across the countryside, a little boy in the sleeping car reads the book he's in, counting the cars on the train instead of sheep and slowly falling to sleep. A gorgeous book.

44. But the Bear Came Back by Tammi Sauer and Dan Taylor - A very persistent bear keeps showing up at a little boy's house and he tells the bear to go away, repeatedly and without success. Till, one day, the boy shouts and the bear leaves. Then, the boy realizes just how much he misses the bear, who has become his friend. Charming.

45. Albie Newton by Josh Funk and Ester Garay - A boy genius moves to a new school in the middle of the year and decides to build something for his classmates, unaware that his single-minded focus is causing chaos in the classroom. Cute story and I love what Albie builds.

46. How to Forget a Duke by Vivienne Lorret - One of three sisters running a marriage agency goes to snoop on a duke in order to find out what he's hiding and find him a perfect matchmate. But, when she's injured and loses her memory, the duke must shelter her at his ancestral home while she recovers. Slow burn romance. I loved this book and a friend I loaned it to was also impressed.

47. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders - A variety of voices tell the story of Willie Lincoln's death in the White House and how his father's love holds poor Willie's soul back instead of allowing him to move on. A little scattered for my taste but I loved the ending and Saunders' writing just blows me away.

48. Isosceles' Day by Kevin Meehan - Isosceles is a black labrador and the book is supposed to show a day in his life but I found it rather baffling and poorly written so I opted not to review it. If you can tolerate overly-rhyming text, the illustrations are beautiful.

49. Tin Man by Sarah Winman - After a tragic loss, a widower is working the night shift to avoid tossing and turning through the night. Then, a young co-worker cuts straight to the heart of his pain and helps him begin to heal. An immensely moving and tender story.

50. Warren the 13th and The Whispering Woods by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle - When disaster strikes Warren the 13th's hotel, he must venture out to find what he needs to get the hotel up and running. But, there are many dangers in the forest and a mimic takes over his hotel. A wonderful second entry in this delightful series. I love Warren.

51. The Reckless Rescue (The Explorers #2) by Adrienne Kress - A map memorized by a boy with a photographic memory leads to the boy being kidnapped. His best friend promises to rescue him. Action and adventure ensue as the two characters attempt to elude the dangerous men in search of the same map pieces as the children. Another fun entry but not as memorable as the first in the series. Love the humor in this series.

52. Daddies Do by Lezlie Evans and Elisa Ferro - A colorful book about the things daddies do with their children, with illustrations showing animal daddies and their furkids. Love the brightly-colored illustrations and the sweetness of daddies playing with, reading to their children, etc.

53. Boots on the Ground by Elizabeth Partridge - Biographies of people who served in Vietnam (and one who escaped during the fall of Saigon) interspersed with chapters about what was happening in politics and the American peace movement at the time. Concludes with the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial and how it helped those who served. The ending is particularly moving.

Wow, what a month! I liked or loved almost everything I read. Favorites were The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody, Rocket Men, How to Forget a Duke, If You Come Softly, Tin Man, Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods, and Boots on the Ground.

Boots on the Ground was particularly meaningful and, almost coincidentally, 700 bikers (motorcyclists) traveled through our area, this weekend, on the Trail of Honor -- the annual trek to the Vietnam Memorial. I saw the helicopters flying above them and wondered what was happening. The sheer size of that group just goes to show how important the memorial was and is to the healing of those who served in Vietnam. I loved the way author Elizabeth Partridge described the memorial's creation and its importance in Boots on the Ground.

I liked everything else, with the single exception that I left unreviewed. It was a great month. Lots of children's books, a mystery, a romance, a nonfiction about a space mission, another about princesses, and a third about people who experienced the Vietnam War, a retelling of Romeo and Juliet for the YA crowd, and a couple literary titles. It was definitely an interesting month and a good one!

©2018 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, May 21, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Happy Monday! I hope you had a good weekend.

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • The Muse by Jessie Burton
  • Siracusa by Delia Ephron
  • Fire and Forget (short stories), ed. by Roy Scranton and Matt Gallagher
  • Israel/Palestine by Alan Dowty
  • Gaza: An Inquest into its Martyrdom by Norman G. Finkelstein

All were purchased. The Muse and Siracusa were bought for F2F discussion but then our calendar showed up and The Muse wasn't on it, so I may have jumped the gun. I thought it was a definite. It sounds good, though, so I won't consider that a bad purchase if it doesn't end up being a discussion book. Fire and Forget has a story each by two authors I've enjoyed: Siobhan Fallon and David Abrams (and I love war stories), so that was a bit of an impulse purchase after David Abrams mentioned it on Facebook. And, I bought Israel/Palestine and Gaza to try to fill out my understanding of the history of the region. Gaza's subtitle indicates that it might be a bit biased but Israel/Palestine is written with a neutral tone and I just finished a book by someone writing from the Jewish perspective, so it should all balance out.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages
  • Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor by Yossi Klein Halevi

Not a big reading week but both books were excellent.

Currently reading:

  • Israel/Palestine by Alan Dowty
  • The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold
  • Don Quixote by Cervantes

Quite a hodgepodge, there. I took a day to study up on the Israel/Palestine region and the conflict (the slash is to show that the area currently occupied by Israelis is also claimed by Palestinians, in order to remain neutral, in the title of the book I bought) to help me put Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor into perspective because I knew basically nothing. The reading is timely, since our embassy has just been moved to Jerusalem and I had no understanding at all of why that would cause conflict and/or why people I know tend to take a particular side. Israel/Palestine is written for people like myself, who know little to nothing and it's very educational. I'm learning a lot!

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik is a YA tour book.  I was struggling with this one, finding it directionless. So, last night I started over from the beginning, rereading the first 60-something pages. That helped. It's finally starting to coelesce around its subject, now, at 100 pages. The tour is scheduled for Thursday and I'm relieved that rereading it helped me make sense of where it was headed. The narrator rambles a bit, so the first of the book felt like gathering helium-filled balloons that had floated to separate corners and now the author is tying their strings together.

And, I've decided I'm going to go ahead and take off next week from blogging and other books to finish up Don Quixote. I can't stand to have that book hanging over my head any longer and I'm eager to move on to my second chunkster-classic, Gone With the Wind. If I find enough time to pre-post reviews, though, I'll go ahead and get some posts written for next week. I'll update on Friday to let you know whether or not there will be any posts, next week.

Last week's posts: 

I had a great blogging week! All of those books are children's (picture books to middle readers). I'm really loving the children's books, this year. 

In other news:

I finally finished reviewing my April reads, so I'm working on my monthly "Reads in Brief" post for April. It was quite a substantial stack. This month won't be so great quantity-wise but that's not a bad thing. I need to catch up with myself a bit.

After a bit of reflection, I've decided to make that week off from blogging and reading books other than Don Quixote an internet break because staying off the internet will help me finish faster. Again, I'll let you know if I get around to pre-posting. It won't hurt to at least get on to post links on Facebook and Twitter, even if I'm taking off otherwise from the Internet.

We tried a broccoli salad recipe from the B.T.C. Cookbook, this weekend, and it's so good I want to make it a regular staple. In case you're not familiar with the cookbook, it's recipes from someone who runs a restaurant and grocery store in Taylor, Mississippi. We've bought various casseroles and other pre-made items from B.T.C. Grocery for years, so we were really excited when they came out with a cookbook. So far, we've loved absolutely everything we've cooked from that book. It's Southern recipes, so it leans high-fat, but also high-flavor.

Happy reading!

©2018 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, May 18, 2018

Fiona Friday - Fiona doing a melt

©2018 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, May 17, 2018

But the Bear Came Back by Tammi Sauer and Dan Taylor

One ordinary day, a bear knocked on my door. 
I politely informed him that bears do not belong in houses. 
Then I said, "Go home, bear." And that was that. 

But, really, that isn't that in But the Bear Came Back by Tammi Sauer and Dan Taylor. The bear returns with a flamingo. Then, he shows up and the boy who keeps telling the bear to go away pretends not to be home; he even hangs a sign on the door saying, "Nobody is home. Really. Especially if you are a bear." But, that is one persistent bear he's dealing with. The bear comes down through his chimney, making black bear tracks. The unnamed boy in But the Bear Came Back keeps telling him to go away. But, the bear just keeps coming back. He peeks through a window, pushes a book called "You and Your Bear: A Guide" toward the boy, colors with him, and even climbs into a bubble bath with the boy. "Things got a little ridiculous," it says on the page showing the boy crammed into the end of the bubble bath, his toy boat falling out of the tub.

Finally, the little boy shouts, "I SAID GO HOME, BEAR!" and that does the trick. He doesn't come back on Monday. The house is "Bear-less" on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he shouts up the fireplace, "Bear? Are you there?" By Sunday, the boy is missing the bear. He organizes a search party, tacks up posters, sets out a bowl of berries, and waits. Eventually the bear returns and gives the boy a big bear hug. The boy says, "Welcome home, bear."

Highly recommended - A story of an unusual friendship that could be easily seen as an allegory, a way to show that we're not all alike but sometimes it's just nice to have a friend. They don't have to look like us, but when someone reaches out it's nice to respond in kind. Lovely. I'm a fan of Tammi Sauer's books and But the Bear Came Back is a nice new addition to her many wonderful children's stories.

©2018 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.

Albie Newton by Josh Funk and Ester Garay

Little Albie Newton
was a thinker from the start.

He built a mega-stroller 
after taking his apart. 

The day that Albie learned to count, 
he ran to Mom and cried. 

He couldn't reach infinity,
despite how hard he tried. 

The star of Albie Newton is clearly a genius. He can do anything; even paint like Van Gogh and write sonnets (while other kids are drawing stick people and writing simple words). But, now he's just starting at a new school in the middle of the year. He wants to make friends, so he decides he's got to make something special -- a gift for the class -- and he must finish it before the school day ends. Albie sets to work gathering parts. Some might call it stealing, the way he keeps running off with things people are using or playing with, but Albie is oblivious. He's so immersed in his creation that he's causing trouble.

Dave propelled a wind-up plane across a classroom rug.
Albie picked it up and pulled its wings off with a tug. 

Evie tried to read a book with Adra and Raúl as
BOOMING PANDEMONIUM descended on the school.

So, everyone's unhappy with Albie. Until his fellow students see what he's created: a combination spaceship and time machine. Everyone hops on and the final panel shows kids in spacesuits playing with a caveman, an alien or two, a dinosaur building a pyramid, Shakespeare trying to balance a stack of books. Albie may be lost in his own world of inventions, but he has definitely created a fun invention on his first day of school.

Highly recommended - If this book has a theme, it's probably that we're not all alike in ability but we can find a way to get along. That's lost a bit in the sheer fun of the story, another rhyming tale that is a delight to read with a few giggle-inducing illustrations. I love the crazy spaceship-slash-time machine that's unveiled in the end and just the idea of it. Imagine if your (probably 1st grade) classmate was able to take you to other worlds. It's imaginative fun. And, I particularly love the "booming pandemonium" that describes how everyone's getting worked up and frustrated with Albie before they realize that he's actually got good intentions. An imaginative book about a smart kid adapting to a normal classroom in a big way.

©2018 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.

Daddies Do by Lezlie Evans and Elisa Ferro

Who tangles and wrangles
and wrestles for fun,
then cries, "I surrender!
You're tougher. You won!" 

Who takes you on outings
and simply won't care 
if you've picked your own outfit 
or have messy hair?


Daddies Do by Lezlie Evans and Elisa Ferro is a sweet, rhyming book about the joy of spending time with daddy. The daddies in this book are, as you can see from the cover, animals. The lion on the cover is the daddy who wrestles his son and says, "I surrender!" A mouse daddy measures his child and gushes about how tall the child is growing, a peacock helps his little one build an airplane and says, "I'm glad that you tried" when kiddo makes a gluey mess, a penguin daddy catches his little penguin when he slides down an icy hill, and so forth.

Recommended - I was thinking about criticizing the book for being a little too rhythmic, but then I remembered that my children loved books that were heavy on the rhyme, when they were small, so I would count the natural rhythm as a plus, now that I think about it. The illustrations are charming, bold, cheerful, and brightly colored, really a feast for the eyes. Daddies Do is a happy book, about all the good times that can be had with a father. Because of the rhythm, it'll probably hold a child's attention at a pretty young age and I'd expect some of them to memorize Daddies Do and claim to be reading it when they're below reading age. An excellent book to buy and hand to a daddy who loves reading to and playing with his children.

©2018 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.

Sleep Train by Jonathan London and Lauren Eldridge

Sleep Train. 
Jiggling down that track. 

Ten sleepy cars
going clickety-clack.

With an engine in front 
and a caboose in back. 

Sleep Train by Jonathan London and Lauren Eldridge is a bedtime story about a little boy counting the train cars of the train he's riding in -- instead of sheep. He's in the sleeping car, "all cozy in bed" (a very fancy sleeping car), reading the same book we are. While he lies in bed counting the cars, the reader gets to learn about the different types of train car: tender, boxcar, tank car, cattle car, hopper, gondola, flatbed car, coach, dining car, and sleeping car, each illustrated and labeled. The engine and caboose are mentioned in the opening but not added to the count. And, he slowly falls asleep.

Recommended - I'd particularly recommend this book to lovers of anything that moves (my eldest son was one of those -- and still is). Not only will the train enthusiasts love the beautiful illustrations but they'll also get to learn about the types of train cars that they see when stopped at a train crossing. The illustrations are dark and soothing, but the book loses a point for words like "jiggling" and "clickety-clack" that are not particularly relaxing to hear. There are other words that have hard sounds or sound upbeat, so you have to read the book very softly to make it sound soothing. But, it's easy to slow down and lower your voice even more, toward the end of the book, to make it a little more relaxing. And, I can't say enough about the insanely gorgeous illustrations. They are absolutely beautiful.

©2018 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.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Boots on the Ground by Elizabeth Partridge

Boots on the Ground by Elizabeth Partridge is a book of personal stories about people who served during the Vietnam War interspersed with narrative about events that were occurring during the conflict, particularly what was happening within the government: how the serving presidents reacted to various developments, as well as how the war started, grew, and ended with the fall of Saigon.

Boots on the Ground ends with the dedication of The Wall, the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., and I found that quite interesting. I'm old enough to remember the competition for the design of The Wall and the controversy over the chosen design. In fact, I recall being disappointed in it and I'm aware of how my opinion has been altered over the years by the many deeply emotional photos I've seen of people finding the names of their loved ones and friends on The Wall. The description of the creator's design and what she meant to show, coupled with the reactions of those who tell their stories (including their experiences viewing the wall at the dedication) show just how important that memorial was, and is, to veterans and their loved ones and how the dark granite worked in exactly the way the young designer envisioned. It was quite moving.

While the publicity material says Boots on the Ground is for 7th grade and up, I learned quite a bit. Most of what I've read about the Vietnam War (or, in the case of novels, set during the war) has had some context but not a full overview of the war. It's still not a comprehensive history. When she talks about 1968, for example, one of the assassinations that took place isn't mentioned. But, the way the author interrupts each individual's story with a chapter about what was happening in America and why the war continued to drag on offers readers an exceptional sense of time and place. It's not meant to be a full account of the war; it's meant to be a set of personal stories told within their context and in that, the book succeeds.

The only thing I disliked about Boots on the Ground was the fact that each of the individual stories (from personal interviews) ended abruptly. At the end of the book was a description of what those individuals did after returning from the war, but the author could have put those single paragraphs at the end of the chapters instead of separating them and it would have made more sense, to me. At any rate, you have to flip to the back of the book to get a sense of completion. But, Partridge brings all their stories together at the memorial dedication, so once you get to the end you understand why she left each story hanging -- they weren't finished.

One of the personal stories was that of the man who came up with the idea for creating a memorial during a drunken night of depression. That man, Jan Scruggs, knew he needed some sense that the people he saw die were acknowledged and that other veterans of Vietnam must feel that way, as well, so when he came up with the idea he ran with it. And, the gist of the ending is that it worked, it was needed, and it helped people heal.

Highly recommended - Definitely a terrific read and incredibly moving, packed with photographs and with a lengthy bibliography for those who want to explore the topic further. I only took a half point off at Goodreads for the fact that Boots on the Ground felt so jumpy. I didn't like having to flip to a section at the back of the book to find out what became of each individual, but the author did tie everything up. Among the personal stories was one of a Vietnamese family's escape from Da Nang when the North Vietnamese invasion was taking place. It was harrowing and would make an excellent movie, in my humble opinion. Others told about a nurse who absolutely didn't want to end up in Vietnam but was misled by her recruiter into believing she wouldn't be sent there and an Asian American who had to stay on guard at all times for fear he'd be mistaken for the enemy. A very emotional read that gives readers, young and old, a good sense of what it was like to serve in Vietnam (or escape from the country) within the context of the time period.

©2018 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, May 15, 2018

Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle

I read Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye in September of 2016 and loved it so much that I knew I'd want to continue reading about Warren when a second book came out. And, I didn't forget about Warren. He's a marvelous character - crazy to look at (that strange mouth!) but unusually mature for a young boy. He solves puzzles, unravels mysteries, escapes from tricky situations, and then saves the day.

You can read my review of the first book, here:

Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye

In the second installment, Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods, Warren's walking hotel (yes, seriously, it walks) has come close to a place where witches hang out and Warren wants to get away from it as quickly as possible. But, then the hotel has a disastrous accident. It trips and falls over. A sticky drink gets into the control panel, so it can't quickly be righted. And, all the guests abandon the hotel, grumbling. Then things get even worse.

Warren goes off in search of some de-stickifier to repair the control panel that makes the hotel move, and in the process is fooled and trapped by a mimic. Now, the mimic (a creature who, with the help of something he stole, looks exactly like Warren) is on the loose and he's taking over the hotel. There are witches in search of revenge and dangerous creatures called sap-squatches in the Whispering Woods. In order to save the hotel, Warren will have to catch up to it, save a friend, fight off the witches, get rid of the mimic, and figure out what's up with the sap-squatches and the angry trees.

The publicity for the Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye said it's for ages 8-12 and I mentioned thinking it could be read to a younger audience without any problems. I believe that is also true of Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods and I think Warren is a particularly great character, much like Harry Potter. He's a good person, hard-working and thoughtful, quick to make friends but sometimes a little blind to danger. The cast of hotel workers and friends from the first book aid him in various ways (or cause trouble). They're like an oddball family.

Highly recommended - Every bit as fun and creative as the first Warren the 13th book, with lots of plot twists and some surprising new friendships, Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods is a creepy delight. Warren is a wonderful character. There's a lot of magic, good and bad, and Warren's world is enchanting and unique. I thought I saw mention online of a 3rd Warren the 13th book in the works. I hope so. I'd love this series to keep going on for a very long time.

©2018 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, May 14, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • Nightbooks by J. A. White - from HarperCollins for review
  • Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue - from Penguin Random House for review
  • Warlight by Michael Ondaatje and 
  • In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne - both purchased
  • Hollywood Beach Beauties by David Wills - from HarperCollins for review

Fun stuff. Hollywood Beach Beauties is a book of vintage photographs that actually goes a bit beyond the beach and includes some movie posters. It covers several decades of photography. Nightbooks and Nadya Skylung both appear to be middle readers. Warlight is a book I pre-ordered and had forgotten about till I was notified that it was on its way, but I'm not surprised I pre-ordered it (sometimes, I totally forget pre-orders and then wonder what possessed me to buy them); I love Ondaatje. And, In Our Mad and Furious City is a book that a bookstore proprietor in London mentioned glowingly on Twitter. I looked it up and liked the sound of it.

Books finished since last Malarkey: 

  • Mad Boy by Nick Arvin
  • The Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan
  • Obscura by Joe Hart
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

A fantastic couple of weeks of reading. Mad Boy is, I think, the only book I've ever read that's been set during the War of 1812 and it's a unique, surprising, exceptional read. The Endless Beach is the 4th in a series and the author nicely caught me up as I've missed the rest (but I think I have one of the earlier titles, which a friend sent me). It's a bit of a soap opera and I happen to like that. I've already reviewed Obscura because it was released last week, so check the recent posts column for a link to that. And, I'm looking forward to this week's group discussion of Little Fires Everywhere.

Currently reading:

  • Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages
  • Don Quixote by Cervantes

I am so sick of typing "Don Quixote" but I've been planning my month's reads in advance and it's been hard to fit in that damn book, most weeks, plus Book 2 is just not as compelling as Book 1. Swear I'm going to take off a week to finish it, soon. In my little Facebook group, nobody has said a word for over a month and I haven't bothered to ask if anyone's reading, although one friend admitted he's likely not going to finish. So, I may be on my own, which is fine. I just need to spend a week reading 100 pages a day till I'm done. Or 75 -- whatever works.

Out of Left Field is great, so far. It's about a girl who wants to play on a Little League baseball team. It's 1957 and she's a terrific pitcher but the Little League rules are very specific: boys only. Her mother and one of her sisters work in fields dominated by men, so butting heads with the patriarchy is not new to the family. What will happen?

The last 2 weeks' posts:

In other news:

We got to see snow in Colorado when we went for that wedding, last weekend! It was nice to experience a bit of brisk air before returning home. We're now in the 90s, so I don't think we'll be getting any cool air for . . . oh, maybe 6 months? It was a long spring but a wet one, so we didn't get to enjoy it as much as we would have liked. On to summer.

©2018 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, May 11, 2018

Fiona Friday - Packed Izzy

We went to a wedding in Denver, last weekend, and Izzy enjoyed hanging out in my suitcase when we returned.

©2018 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, May 10, 2018

Obscura by Joe Hart

Obscura by Joe Hart takes place in the near future, when a new disease called Losian's is attacking the brains of its victims, leaving tangles of neurons that cause trance-like states, occasional violence, and other issues. It's a bit like Alzheimer's on speed and it has already killed Dr. Gillian Ryan's husband. Now, her daughter has it, as well.

When Gillian is offered unlimited funding for her research into Losian's if she'll travel to a space station, where astronauts are suffering similar symptoms, she's hesitant. Her funding is about to be cut, not only destroying her work but the chance to save her daughter's life. Gillian doesn't want to leave her daughter, whose episodes of what she calls "the fuzzies" are increasing in frequency, but the funding she's been offered may be her daughter's only hope. Gillian's sure she's on the verge of a breakthrough.

She agrees, only to find that she's been misled. But, now that she's on the ship, Gillian has no way to return to Earth and no choice but to go ahead with the job. When people begin dying violently, Gillian is suspected of murder. Even she is not 100% certain if she's innocent. But, there's no time for that. Can Gillian figure out the cause of the memory loss and violence before it's too late?

Recommended - While I didn't absolutely love Obscura, I liked it more the farther I got into it and the ending was edge-of-your-seat, violent, action-packed, and exciting. I sort of predicted what would happen in the end and was correct to a point, but I did find a lot of the book surprising and I liked the concepts and loved the ending. I'm glad I read Obscura and I know exactly which friend I want to pass it on to. Recommended particularly to fans of sci-fi and action/thrillers.

©2018 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.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

How to Forget a Duke by Vivienne Lorret

In How to Forget a Duke by Vivienne Lorret, Jacinda and her sisters run the Bourne Matrimonial Agency. Each sister brings her own special skills to the agency and Jacinda's talent is scoping out the right matchmate for her clients: she's a snoop. When the Duke of Rydstrom comes to the agency seeking a wife with a fortune, Jacinda is on the job and soon sneaking into his London home. Something about the Duke and his paperwork just doesn't seem right. What could he possibly be hiding? A letter tips her off and she travels to his crumbling castle in Sussex to find out.

The Duke of Rydstrom is a haunted man with a secret. He blames himself for the loss of his parents in a tragic accident at their cliffside home and wants to make amends. But, in order to do so, he must keep his secret close. In the meantime, he needs a wealthy wife to help pay for upkeep of the castle. She doesn't even need to stay with him. Can anyone break through to the duke and help mend his heart?

When Jacinda mysteriously washes up beneath the duke's cliffside home with a head wound and no memory, the duke (whose name is Crispin) has no choice but to take in the meddlesome woman until she heals. But, how can he keep his secret from her prying eyes? And, what will he do when he begins to realize he is drawn to her?

Jacinda doesn't remember anything at all. She wouldn't even know her own name, if not for the fact that she met the Duke of Rydstrom before washing up near his ancestral home. If she did, she'd know that the most important thing to bear in mind is that she should never, ever fall for a client. She's also unaware that she has discovered the duke's secret. What will happen when the duke finds out? Will her memory ever return or will she be forced to eventually return to a life that she has completely forgotten?

A little aside, before I give my rating. I very seldom read romance and probably would never touch it if I hadn't happened across a writing group in the 1990s that was associated with the Romance Writers of America. It was the only really active writers' group I could find and they were welcoming and warm, hosted a lot of wonderful speakers and held an annual workshop. Because their teaching revolved around what they read and wrote, I went through quite a lengthy romance-reading phase (although not exclusively -- I'll never be a romance addict). Everything they talked about applied to writing in general. It wasn't merely about writing for the market, although some of what they discussed was geared to the romance market.

So, I have a minor history of having gone through a years-long romance phase, finding my favorite romance genres, and then slowly peeling away from them. I now just read the occasional romance for the change of pace. When you read my rating, please remember that I am not the typical romance reader.

Recommended - While there were times I was pulled out of the story (who in their right mind would think Jacinda and Crispin appropriate names for a couple in a historical romance?), I liked Jacinda and the duke almost immediately. But, what I really loved about How to Forget a Duke was the fact that the building of the relationship was very slow and believable. A lot of romance books throw hero and heroine together and into bed too quickly for my taste. I like to actually feel like a love story could happen. Show me a little sparkling interaction, a slow revelation of the things a couple hold in common and the quirks that they find appealing in each other. Vivienne Lorret does these things beautifully with Jacinda and the duke. While the "secret" was one I guessed early on, it's meant to be obvious. So, if you guess it in the early pages, no worries. It won't ruin the reading for you. The few things I would consider anachronisms (the names and the idea of a matrimonial agency, for example) were not enough to spoil this charming story. I'll be looking forward to reading more by Vivienne Lorret, in the future.

©2018 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, May 08, 2018

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

In Tin Man by Sarah Winman, Ellis is an artist at heart and his mother, Dora, appreciates beauty but is stuck in a small, dark life. She encourages Ellis to stay in school and follow his heart while a copy of Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" painting is the one ray of sunshine in her dark world. But, Ellis's father has other plans for him.

Michael's young life has been fraught with pain. At the age of 12, he goes to live with his grandmother, Mabel, and everything changes. Here (with his grandmother in Oxford, UK), he finds love, acceptance, and the best friend of his life, Ellis. As he and Ellis grow, their relationship changes. And, then when Ellis marries Annie, he becomes part of a trio -- Michael, the bubbly writer who makes everyone laugh; Ellis, the artistic, thoughful one; Annie, everyone's friend, the one who sees into your soul (and a book lover). But, Michael disappears for years and loses contact.

Annie and Ellis miss Michael but they don't even know where to look for him. Realizing they've become dull without him, they make an effort to add some fizz to their lives. And, then one day Michael returns and tragedy strikes.

All of this is told upon reflection, as a painfully lonely Ellis reflects on his life. It is, oddly, the ability of a 19-year-old Ellis is teaching to knock dents out of car metal who finally gets Ellis's pain right and, in so doing, helps him to realize that there's still life to be lived.

Highly recommended - Heartbreaking and achingly beautiful, the story of a friendship between two boys that stretches and changes, then alters to fit in a third person and the tragedy that upends it all. A tale of love, loss and hope. There's much I can't talk about without spoiling Tin Man, but just . . . wow. What an amazing read. The book bounces back and forth between the 60s, the 90s, and somewhere in-between. It's a book with a melancholy tone, yet there's always a thread of hope winding its way through the prose and it ends on a high note. It is so very, very real and the end is just so freaking perfect and beautiful that I sat on the bed, staring at my cats with tears streaming down my face. This one will go on the good shelves.

Note: The cover is so gorgeous that I tried to position it to best effect to show how the gold glistens in the light. It's apropos, too, as it's an image of Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" (one from the series).

Release date for this hardback copy is May 15, 2018.

©2018 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, May 04, 2018

Fiona Friday - Sweet, sleepy kitty loaf

©2018 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.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Rocket Men by Robert Kurson

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson is the true story of the first mission in which Americans orbited the moon, Apollo 8. I knew very little about Apollo 8, although I'm old enough to remember the first moon walk and (as is made clear in the book) it obviously had to have been a success or man would not have made it to the moon before the end of the 1960s.

What I didn't realize was that Apollo 8 didn't appear likely to happen as planned, after several failures large and small set the program's timescale behind President Kennedy's goal for getting man on the moon by the end of the decade. Kurson evaluates the mission itself, how it was sped up to meet the dual goals of beating the Soviet Union to the moon and reaching the moon in time to keep on track with Kennedy's goal, the lives of the astronauts who flew Apollo 8 and their wives, and what happened to those families after Apollo 8 ended.

Rocket Men was very good, really quite gripping, which surprised me since I already knew Apollo 8 was successful. In spite of the fact that Kurson made it clear it had to have been a success, the author still managed to give the story an edge-of-your-seat sensation. I'm not even sure how he did that. The pages absolutely flew.

Kurson also talked a great deal about the astronauts and their wives because they are all still alive and happily married, which is unusual. He was partly drawn to Apollo 8 when he discovered that it was one of the few successful missions in which all of the astronauts were fully supported and remained married to their wives (to this day -- as of the ARCs printing, all were still alive). That's notable because astronauts had such time-intensive jobs that broken marriages were common. Humorously, all the way through the book, before he mentioned the marriages as a particular oddity, I kept telling my husband I thought his job was bad enough with all the travel and I'm pretty sure I could absolutely not have coped with being an astronaut's wife, having to deal with having reporters camped out on your lawn and photographing you in your own home (each had a contract with LIFE magazine, which often meant a reporter and photographer sitting right there with you in your house during important moments - ugh).

So it was interesting that the author had a reason for choosing the depth of description about the individuals -- how the couples met and married, how the women felt about their husbands' travel and that particular mission, what the women had to put up with as wives and how they banded together or, at least once, insulted each other by refusing to do so, the early years of each astronaut's life and how his childhood influenced the ultimate decision to become an astronaut, what their lives were like after Apollo 8.

Highly recommended - Rocket Men is one of those rare nonfiction books in which the pages flew, my heart pounded, and I sometimes found myself actually leaning forward in anticipation. Amazing that the author managed to make something that happened nearly 50 years ago so exciting. And, certainly a book that gave me an even greater appreciation of the engineering field. Such precision in the calculations of when various events would happen still boggles the mind. I haven't read a great deal about NASA or the Apollo missions but I'm intrigued and want to read more, now.

©2018 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, May 01, 2018

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson is a story of young love. Ellie and Jeremiah literally bump into each other in the hall of their Manhattan school, knocking her books to the ground. There's an immediate attraction between them but neither knows the other and it takes time before they manage to connect. And, when they do, and they become a couple, they experience the expected: stares, questions, surprise. What is a white, Jewish girl doing with a black boy with dreadlocks? It doesn't matter. They are smitten and spend every moment they can together. And, then tragedy strikes.

I knew If You Come Softly is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet because of the preface to this 20th Anniversary edition by the author, but somehow I got so caught up in the love story that I completely forgot and was caught a little off-guard when I got to the tragic part. Tragedy is not the ending, though, and I absolutely loved the ending. It's a warm, contented ending, if not a happy one.

Highly recommended - I can see why this bittersweet tale of love and loss has been reissued. It took a while for me to warm to the story because, even though it's a "love at first sight" tale, it takes some time before the two get together. It's kind of a slow burn sort of story but a gentle one. The relationship between Ellie (short for Elisha) and Jeremiah (who goes by Miah) is all the more lovely and sweet and believable because of the pacing.

©2018 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.