Friday, August 31, 2018

Fiona Friday

Fiona loves her pink ribbon.

©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, August 30, 2018

Homespun: Amish and Mennonite Women in Their Own Words, ed. by Lorilee Craker

I requested Homespun: Amish and Mennonite Women in their Own Words, edited by Lorilee Craker, primarily because I recently read an Amish romance and I know very little about the customs and beliefs of the Amish. I was hoping it would contain essays that were specifically about Amish and Mennonite traditions -- kind of a "Here's what we believe and here's what we do," type of book that would walk me through what it's like to be a woman living with a particular belief set and whatever goes along with those beliefs, whether that may mean going without electricity and modern conveniences or eating certain foods. What little I know of the Amish (I honestly know nothing at all about Mennonites) has been gleaned from the occasional fiction read set in an Amish community.

Homespun was really not at all what I expected it to be and for a while I was pretty much convinced I was going to abandon the book. And, then one of the essays changed my mind. The essays are divided into sections, each one written about a certain one-word topic:

  • Welcome
  • Abide
  • Testimony
  • Wonder
  • Kindred
  • Beloved

Those first few essays, I confess, came off as preachy to me. They didn't necessarily tell stories of "welcome" but would talk about what each woman believes "welcome" means within the context of her faith. They came off as a bit preachy. But, then I got to page 33, "On Appreciative Overnight Guests" by Linda Byler. Instead of describing her belief about the meaning of the chosen word "welcome," the author told a story about a time when one of her daughters came for a visit. It was funny, charming, and delightful. She playfully poked fun at herself in a way that's infinitely relatable.

We're supposed to be herrberg gerny: a Pennsylvania German term that means "be generous in hospitality." I certainly was. I was pious, devout, and well meaning. True, I did send our guests to bed with bombarding acorns, roaring traffic, mattresses like plywood, and a breakfast casserole that was a bit heavily salted, come to think of it. 

But it is a night that will be repeated many times. Everyone is already enjoying a good laugh about it. Hopefully it'll never be lost among the many humorous stories of our family's history. 

~p. 36

And, that was it for me. I was hooked. Yes, some of the essays are a bit on the preachy side and I'm pretty sure that in most cases I learned less from the essays than I did from reading fiction. It would have been particularly helpful to know what each woman's background was. Whether they were Amish or Mennonite was not always mentioned. It wasn't till I got to the end of the book, where each author has a brief bio, that I realized there was a place I could have flipped ahead to in order to find out which community the author hailed from.

But, some of the essays were quite informative. I particularly loved those that were closer to storytelling, in which the authors basically planted me in their shoes and went about their day. And, the "wonder" section spoke of miracles, which I always love. I was less enamored of the essays in which the essayists listed what they believed one should do to be hospitable, show love, share their testimony, or keep a household that Jesus would approve of. The book is as much inspirational as it is factual. I was looking for more of a factual read. But, in the end -- like any book written by a large number of authors -- I did find some favorites. I was particularly excited to find that there was more than one essay by Linda Byler. I'd love to read an entire book of her essays.

Recommended to a specific audience - I wouldn't particularly recommend Homespun highly to someone who was in search of a learning experience about what it means to be Amish or Mennonite. It's not a fact-based book so much as a peek into what each essayist believes a certain word to mean and how she applies that meaning to her life. But, Christians looking for inspiration and who like to read about Christian living will likely find it enjoyable and it would make a nice addition to a church library. The one thing I really learned about Amish and Mennonite women? They're not so different from the rest of us.

My copy of Homespun was provided by Audra Jennings for an I Read With Audra book tour.

©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, August 29, 2018

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

In Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson, a group of children are sent to talk amongst themselves -- nothing else, no teacher accompanying them, just the six of them chatting without any rules.

There were eight of us then. Our small class had come together because the school wanted to try something new: Could they put eight kids together in a room with one teacher and make something amazing? Eight special kids?

~p. 5

The children are understandably confused, at first, and the number of them drops almost immediately from eight to six. What's the point? Why are they here and what should they say to each other?

The walls are broken down a little by Esteban. We think they took my papi, he says. His father, an undocumented immigrant, has disappeared. Esteban is shocked, hurt, terrified. Where is his father? The other children, it turns out, have challenges of their own. But, it's Esteban's pain that helps them to open up.

The story is narrated by Haley. Her mother is dead, her father in prison. Haley lives with her uncle and keeps her story close to her chest. But, as Esteban, Holly, Amari, Ashton, and Tiago open up about their own struggles, Haley is encouraged to share. During the months that they meet in the classroom alone to talk, their stories unfold and the children learn that everything is easier when you can share it with friends.

Recommended but not a favorite - I have mixed feelings about Harbor Me. I love Jacqueline Woodson's writing. The characters are interesting people with diverse backgrounds and experiences, all living in Brooklyn. They're believable and well-rounded. I liked the theme that sharing with friends created a safe harbor of sorts, that in opening up they were able to think about what it means to harbor someone else in need. But, the children are younger than they sound and far more understanding of each other's difficulties than I can imagine in reality. To me, they sounded more like young adults. I had to keep reminding myself they were only -- I think this is correct -- 5th graders.

I also struggled with understanding the purpose of this experiment. Would a school really agree to leaving children alone in a room for no other reason than to talk to each other? I think I would have easily bought into the concept if there had been some sort of school requirement -- a report about what they learned, for example, or a book that they read together and discussed, rather than only talking. The problem was not the writing or even the story, simply the single element that stretched my ability to suspend disbelief. Fortunately, I do think middle grade readers will likely enjoy the book without worrying about that particular element and Harbor Me will be a particularly good addition to classrooms and school libraries. It's a book that could very well make children feel a little less alone in their uniqueness and encourage them to empathize with others.

©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, August 24, 2018

The Muse by Jessie Burton and a Fiona Friday pic

The Muse is my first read by Jessie Burton but I am definitely going to seek out The Miniaturist, now that I've read her second book.  The Muse was the August selection for my F2F book group. It has two intertwining stories, one set in Spain just before and at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, the other storyline in the 1960s in London.

In 1967, Odelle Bastien begins working at the Skelton Gallery in London. Since she moved from Trinidad, five years prior, she has been working in a shoe store and writing poetry in her private time. Now, her roommate and best friend from Trinidad is getting married and Odelle is beginning a new phase of her life. At Cynth's wedding, Odelle meets a man who has inherited a painting from his mother. He's clearly interested in Odelle but she's uncertain about him and tired from the wedding festivities. She tells him to bring his painting to the gallery where he may possibly be able to get it appraised.

When Odelle's new friend finds out that his painting may be a missing work of art by an artist who disappeared during the Spanish Civil War, Odelle is intrigued. Thanks to meeting him again through her work, she begins a relationship with the young man. Meanwhile, her boss, Marjorie Quick, encourages Odelle to work on her poetry and tread carefully around the young man with the painting. He is, she suspects, not being entirely forthcoming about the painting's provenance. Odelle takes Quick's words to heart and quietly looks for answers on her own.

In 1936, the Schloss family moves into a finca (a mansion) in rural Spain. A brother and sister come to greet them and Teresa offers her services around the house while brother Isaac Robles talks of political unrest and mentions that he is a painter. Olive Schloss is also a painter and she is instantly besotted with the handsome Isaac. But, so is her mother, Sarah. While Sarah hires Isaac to paint a portrait, Olive finds that Isaac's presence and the encouragement of Teresa are leading to the best painting she has ever done.

Things are becoming more dangerous as war looms. When Teresa plays a trick on Olive to get her paintings some attention, both Olive and Teresa are surprised at the results. Still inspired by her muse, Olive continues to paint. But, the deception of Olive's father is infuriating Isaac. What will happen to the Schloss family when war breaks out and they choose not to return to England? What will become of Olive's art?

That was a long-winded description but The Muse is a fairly complex story. Odelle's story contains a number of mysteries. Is her boyfriend withholding information about the painting? Where did it come from (this one becomes obvious pretty quickly) and how did his mother come to own the painting? What's up with Marjorie Quick and does she know more about the painting than she's letting on? Meanwhile, the answers posed in 1967 are slowly coming to light through the unfolding story in Spain as the country's political situation grows more dangerous. What will become of Isaac Robles, the lost painter?

Highly recommended - While I was disappointed with the ending of The Muse, I enjoyed it enough to recommend it highly. I was utterly mesmerized, particularly by the story that took place in Spain and explained the origin of the painting. At one point, I was so immersed in the story that when I glanced up from the book I was surprised and disappointed to find that I was not, in fact, in a Spanish mansion. That made me laugh. It's not often I get so swept away that I feel that you were there sensation. As to the ending, I thought the author told us a bit too much. I don't know that I've ever felt that way before, but there were a couple things I would rather not have known about what happened after the Schloss family left Spain. I just felt like they were unnecessary and I'd rather have formulated my own mental ending. Weird, but true.

Discussion-wise: The Muse was a marvelous discussion book. There were lots of fine details to pick apart and discuss, secrets to unravel. Odelle is black and has a strange accent but Trinidad is part of the Commonwealth, something she's constantly having to explain. Her boyfriend, the man with the painting, is white. In the 1960s, this produces some complications. The other characters also have interesting lives, secrets, complexities.

Everyone in my group enjoyed the book and some of us were quite passionate about how we felt about particular details. One of the things I was reminded of while reading The Muse was just how little I know about the Spanish Civil War. I have a friend, from my hometown, who was born in Spain and whose mother was imprisoned in a concentration camp by Franco. So, I asked him if he could recommend any particularly good books about the Spanish Civil War to help me fill my lack of understanding. He recommended two titles and I ordered a copy of each, so I'm looking forward to eventually reading them. I've temporarily set aside my book on Israel and Palestine and want to finish that, first, but there is no end to the number of things I need to learn about and I'm excited to have another piece of history to study up on, in the near future.

Fiona Friday time! I opted to plunk this week's pic below a review because I've reviewed so little of what I've read in August. Whatever works, right? Fi is all elbows in this shot of her in a playful mood. Outside of the frame was a basket with coupons peeking out of the top and she was attacking the coupons when I caught her attention. Love that crazed look cats get when they're energetic.

©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, August 23, 2018

From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein is the memoir of a woman who worked as a stenographer in the White House from 2012 to 2017. Originally a teacher, the author was balancing 5 jobs when she saw a job listing on Craigslist and applied. It was not clear that the job was in the White House until she went for the interview.

As a stenographer, Dorey-Stein's job was to make sure there was audio recording of almost everything Obama said, then transcribe what she'd recorded. She was one of five stenographers in the White House. Obama was big on transparency and accuracy. It was important to him that everything be recorded so that if he was misquoted he could simply refer to the transcript or recording of anything he said. Dorey-Stein also briefly worked in the Trump Administration, but only for a couple months. Trump's team had the opposite approach, everything public on video, little else recorded at all.

Beginning with her search for the job and the interview that she at first blew off because she was running late at one of the jobs she already held, Dorey-Stein describes her time working in the White House and her life both in and out of the job -- the long hours, hurry-up-and-wait activity, the travel on Air Force One and a second plane carrying reporters and staff, her rare interactions with the President. But, much of the focus is on her private life, her partying and love life, the friendships she developed at work, and how her writing developed as she took notes on everything that she experienced and shared some of her writing with the people around her.

Recommended but not a favorite - If you're looking for a solid memoir of life in the White House that focuses on Obama, his personality, and what it was like working for him, you might be a little disappointed. From the Corner of the Oval is fascinating but fluffy. There are glimpses of Obama but they're brief. Dorey-Stein's job was "in the bubble" (the people who circled around and traveled with the President) but not within the President's inner circle. What you get is an understanding of the hectic life people within the White House lead, how working there dominates your life, and how the people working for Obama felt about him (they admired and adored him; he was highly respected). Mostly, though, the book is about Beck.

There are some frustrations in reading her story. She spent a great deal of time partying with her co-workers, drinking heavily, gushing about her boyfriend, and sleeping with someone else. Her boyfriends are practically archetypes -- the boyfriend who's perfect except for the fact that he isn't present when she really needs him; the lothario who has a long-term girlfriend but flirts widely and sleeps around then typically ignores women after sleeping with them; the man found at an online dating site when desperation took over. I found myself frequently putting the book down, particularly during scenes in which Dorey-Stein was either drunk or sleeping with the lothario, yet again, and blaming it on her weakness. I was often frustrated with the author, her lack of control over her drinking, her inability to stop sleeping with a man who was clearly never going to choose her over the long-term girlfriend. But, I enjoyed reading about the hectic lifestyle, learning a little about the intensity of life in the White House and the President's schedule. From the Corner of the Oval is definitely fun for that peek into the White House. And now I want to read further, preferably a book or two by people who were in the inner circle during the Obama years.

©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, August 22, 2018

Six Weeks in the Sioux Tepees: A Narrative of Indian Captivity by Sarah F. Wakefield

Six Weeks in the Sioux Tepees by Sarah F. Wakefield is the memoir of a woman who was held captive during the Dakota War of 1862, a war between Native Americans and the whites occupying their former lands. Author Sarah Wakefield describes how she was captured and imprisoned after describing the lead-up to the war. She talks about why she chose to wear native clothing during her captivity and behaved the way she did (acting as if the natives were her friends, working with them, speaking only positively about them), and defending the native man who kept her safe.

Wakefield wrote her narrative primarily to explain herself because she was criticized and ostracized for defending Chaska, the man who protected her and was arrested because he stayed behind when she and her children returned at the end of the war (he stayed with them to make sure they were safely delivered home). If only for the fact that Sarah Wakefield was rare in defending her captors, the narrative is interesting. She had a unique perspective, having lived near the natives for a time and already knowing their language. She was also well aware of what the natives had given up -- land and their ability to subsist on it -- and the fact that the government was very late delivering the promised food and money they were to receive in return for their land. She knew they were starving and angry; the uprising was not entirely unexpected.

Recommended - While the writing is a bit awkward, the book contains a lengthy introduction that's nicely explanatory and copious notes that also help clarify much of what the author talks about. I saved the introduction for last and I'm glad I read it that way because I preferred to read the author's explanation of events first, more detailed description later, although there's really only one possible spoiler if you don't want to know how things ended up in advance of reading the author's description. It's a sad story. I'd never read anything at all about the Dakota War, nor had I even heard of it, but I found it admirable that the author was willing to defend her captors in the face of the "Let's kill all the natives" frenzy that happened after the war ended.

©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, August 21, 2018

How to Be a T. Rex by Ryan North and Mike Lowery

One day in class my teacher asked us "What do you want to be when you grow up?" And I said, "A Tyrannosaurus Rex," because obviously. 

Sal wants to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex. They roar all the time and have awesome teeth and giant bodies. Sal is tiny, never roars, and her teeth are not pointy enough. The choice, she says, is clear. But, her brother says it's impossible for her to be a T. Rex.

That night, she concentrates and becomes a T. Rex (in her imagination). A T. Rex can eat anything and chase people away with a roar. You just have to be fierce, unafraid, and not care what anyone thinks if you want to be a T. Rex.

When Sal pretends to be a T. Rex, she's actually pretty rude -- hogging the pizza, stealing the soccer ball, not being nice to people, roaring all the time. People like rules and there are other downsides to being a dinosaur. So, instead, Sal decides to be a dino/human hybrid.

I've got a secret T. Rex inside me!! 

And, she lets her friends join in. They forgive her for being a jerk when she was pretending to be 100% T. Rex.

Highly recommended - What I love most about How to Be a T. Rex is that it's one of those books that is super fun to read aloud. You can be extremely dramatic with the roars and the claws, but then play the part of Sal's brother, rolling his eyes. It's a hoot. Toward the beginning of the book, you start to wonder if you're encouraging bad behavior by reading about a kid who is acting terribly while she pretends to be a T. Rex. But, then Sal figures out she's making everyone upset and alters her behavior.  So, the story is a good one, too. I'm not a huge fan of the simplistic artwork, but I think it fits the storyline perfectly -- dramatic, expressive, bright, clear. I gave How to Be a T. Rex 5 stars. I can easily visualize myself reading it to a classroom full of wiggly kids or a grandchild and having a blast.

©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, August 20, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Four Months in Brighton Park by Larry Ehrhorn
  • The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez

The two Jacquline Woodson books both were sent by Penguin for review and Four Months in Brighton Park was a Twitter drawing win.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez
  • Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
  • In the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

It may seem weird that I received 2 Woodson books and read them both immediately but one is a tour book, to be reviewed next week, and one is a picture book. I always read picture books when they walk in the door. I loved one and was lukewarm about the other. You'll hear about them both, soon. In the Corner of the Oval is a memoir and I admit to struggling with it a little. I liked learning about her perspective on life as an employee in the Obama Administration, but the focus was on her life -- her terrible choices of boyfriends, the partying with coworkers, the grueling hours at work -- rather than the more detailed observations I was hoping for. But, that's OK. I can use a fluffy break, now and then, and there are some other White House memoirs I'm interested in reading. I'll see if my library has any of them.

Currently reading:

  • Death of the Snake Catcher: Short Stories by Ak Welsapar
  • Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson

I've read two of the short stories in Death of a Snake Catcher. Of those two, the second one was the one I enjoyed the most. "Love in Lilac" is the story of a young man who falls in love with a visitor from another country. But, he lives in a regime where being seen with foreigners can be dangerous. What happens when he's arrested in the middle of class is seriously tense and will make you rethink the strange quotes that have been flying around about authoritarianism not being such a terrible thing, after all. Yes, it is. It is bad.

I've read around 50 pages of Sons and Soldiers and I can't help but think that this is the kind of book that we all need to be reading, right now. The first 50 pages introduce the reader to several Jewish boys who were sent to America alone when their families were unable to get enough visas to travel together, during the years before WWII. One of the boys' fathers was already imprisoned in a concentration camp for a time, but then released. I'll be surprised if I find out any of their family members survived. What you really get out of the beginning of the book is that creeping sense of terror as neighbors and friends slowly backed away from Jewish citizens, new laws made it impossible for them to do business or go to school, and violence against Jews increased.

Last week's posts:

I couldn't get myself going on the Unpunished Murder review, the day I [eventually] wrote it, so instead I sat down and wrote a long-winded essay. That got the cogs turning. It wasn't anything I really wanted to publish or even keep, so I deleted it and then tried reviewing again. No luck, hence the self-interview. I don't think I'll ever thoroughly understand why interviewing myself (or pretending that an inanimate object interviews me) works, but it does and I had a good time rather than pulling my hair out from frustration.

In other news:

I watched Arrival twice, last week. The first time, I just randomly turned it on thinking, "I'll watch a few minutes of this while I eat my supper." I was alone, so I often will turn on the TV for companionship while I eat. I found it thoughtful and utterly captivating, so I finished it. But, then I wasn't entirely certain that I'd understood the movie. So, I looked up a synopsis to see if I was right about what exactly it meant.

Yes, I was correct. But, once you understand what happened and that the movie is not linear, it's fun to go back and view the movie from a different perspective -- knowing what's happening and what's already happened or will happen. At any rate, I enjoyed it every bit as much the second time. There's one particular scene that I'm slightly confused about, but the rest of it made sense.

And, then, since Arrival got me into a Sci-Fi mood, I looked up Sci-Fi series and discovered that all of the seasons of Torchwood are still available to view on Amazon Prime. So, I watched a few episodes of Torchwood. It's been a few years since I watched every season of Torchwood sequentially. I thought the series started out fantastic and then gradually went downhill, that first time, so I don't know that I'll watch the entire collection all over again. But I do love the action. So much running!

©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, August 17, 2018

Fiona Friday

You've probably seen this, before. I call it "feed me face". Cute little beggar, isn't she?

©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, August 15, 2018

Unpunished Murder by Lawrence Goldstone

OK, bummer. I've been staring at the computer screen because I feel like Unpunished Murder is so important that I want to get it right, but the pressure is making me draw a blank. So, I'm going to make this review a self-interview to see if I can get the words out. Today, I will be interviewed by a Sharpie pen. It's the handiest thing.

Sharpie Pen (SP): I'd rather be writing.

Bookfool (BF): Me, too, but it's not going well.

SP: Well, then, shall we?

BF:  Yes, please.

SP:  Tell me about Unpunished Murder. Who was massacred and where is Colfax?

BF:  Colfax is a town in Louisiana that was founded in 1869. In 1873, a white supremacist militia attacked the town, the home of former slaves or "freedmen". About 100 blacks and 3 of the white militia members were killed, most of the blacks gunned down after they surrendered.

SP: And, why are you having so much trouble describing this book?

BF:  I think I waited a little too long and should have written about it immediately, like the moment I closed the book. Having said that, the book describes a fairly complex background situation.

SP: What was complex about it?

BF: It goes into details about Reconstruction and the balance of political parties, the choice of a white supremacist for vice president, the slow changeover from Abraham Lincoln's party to domination by the Democrats (who were then the party of white supremacy) and how that change of party balance altered the course of Reconstruction, closed off legal rights that freedmen had obtained, and led to the rise of white supremacist groups and state laws that restricted black rights. It goes into some detail about states' rights and laws versus federal and the why federal law was not always enforced.

Basically, the slaves were freed and the Southern whites were angry but Reconstruction was on the road to being a positive thing and blacks were happily exercising their new rights. And, then the political pendulum swung, rights were suppressed through violence and intimidation, and lawlessness and cruelty took over. I guess it's a bit complex to me because so much of it is new. I'm a fan of history but I really never have read about Reconstruction, apart from snippets saying that it was a disaster. The author argues that Reconstruction was not quite what many historians have claimed. I feel like I need to reread it for the details to fully sink in, to be honest.

SP: What's the point of the book?

BF: The dual goal is both to spread the true story about what happened in Colfax (an incident I, for one, had never heard of) and to set the record straight about the fact that this particular incident was stone cold murder. Toward the end of the book, the author talks about how the slaughter of 150 black men was reframed as a riot, the whites declared heroes, and even a monument dedicated to the white murderers placed in the town.

SP: What else does it describe?

BF: It goes into great detail about how and why only a few of the men responsible for the slaughter were tried and then, eventually, nobody was punished. One man even went on to murder again and was still not brought to justice. In fact, he ended up being quite prosperous.

SP: You mentioned in one of your Monday Malarkey posts that you didn't know the correct age range for Unpunished Murder. Have you found out who the book is geared toward?

BF:  Yes, the author kindly wrote to me after he happened across my post and he clarified the age range. He said it's geared to high school, "maybe higher middle school for more advanced readers".

SP: You found it a challenging read. Why?

BF: Two reasons. So much of the information was new to me that I had to take my time to keep the political strands straight. I don't know if my education in history was awful or I just memorized instead of absorbing the information, as a kid, but till recently I'd forgotten that the parties flipped and Democrats used to be dominated by white supremacists. I found my brain didn't want to accept Republicans as the people who were trying to make sure freedmen were able to function in white society -- attend schools with whites, vote, etc. Anyway, that was the first reason.

Reason 2 is the fact that it's such a distressing story. Much like women's history (men getting credit for women's accomplishments), Black history has been rewritten or suppressed for far too long. It was only a handful of years ago that I found out about another incident, the so-called Tulsa Race Riot. That, too, was not really a riot at all but a slaughter. There are loads of contemporary illustrations and some of them describe blacks in horrifyingly demeaning terms. Reading about cruelty is miserable. Realizing that we haven't progressed that much is even more deflating. Now and then, I had to put the book down and just catch my breath. But, toward the latter half of the book I was so gripped by the story of how a bunch of men got away with murder that I stopped setting it down and read late into the night. Obviously, I knew how it was going to end (thank you, obvious title) but I had to know how and why. I knew I wouldn't get to sleep till I'd finished.

SP:  So, what's your recommendation?

BF:  I highly recommend Unpunished Murder and feel like it's a very important book -- one that needs to be taught, shared, and talked about. I'll pass my copy on to a school so that more people will have access to it because I feel like it's so necessary for as many people as possible to really understand this terrible tale from our American history.

SP: Any final remarks?

BF: Here's a website where you can read a little about the Colfax Massacre: - The Colfax Massacre

Any mistakes in my review are my own. In spite of living for decades in a city whose downfall was an important turning point in the Civil War, I honestly haven't read much about the Civil War. My lack of understanding was definitely brought home while I was reading Unpunished Murder.

SP: Thanks for the fun. I'm going to go hang out with a scratch pad and some googly eyes, now.

BF: These self-interviews really expose me as the knife in the drawer that fell into the garbage disposal, don't they? Thanks Sharpie Pen. You're an inanimate object and yet you managed to help. Amazing.

©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, August 14, 2018

Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day

Before his death, Eden Wallace's husband made a reservation at a dark sky park, a place that's kept deliberately low-light so that visitors can enjoy the night sky. Eden has been both an insomniac and afraid of the dark for a while, jobless and unable to talk herself into actually taking a photograph with the camera she carries everywhere. She thinks that perhaps being forced into the darkness for a few nights will help her face her fears. But, there's only one problem.

The cabin in which Eden plans to stay is a large one with room for a number of guests. She is far from the only person planning to stay. A group of twenty-somethings has also arrived, and they're college friends. Eden's room is at the back of the cabin and separate, so she decides to stay for a night and go home. She awkwardly hangs out with the group of friends and then finds herself surprised to actually fall asleep.

Of all the nights to succeed at battling her insomnia, this was definitely not the right one. In the middle of the night, one of the other guests is murdered. Eden wakes briefly and hears some odd noises, sees someone running away after a door slams. But, then she falls back asleep and is surprised to find out there was a murder in the night. Worse, she is a suspect.

Eden knows the best way to get herself off the hook is to understand the strange friendship between the other guests and figure out who committed the crime. But, she also has to deal with her own problems and fears. When she finds out she may be sleepwalking during the rare moments she drifts off to sleep, she even must question herself. Is it possible Eden murdered a perfect stranger? If not, can she move on from the pain of her marriage and loss?

I didn't realize it would be so difficult to write briefly about Under a Dark Sky. It's a little more complex than I thought, as I was reading it. I'm not quite sure what it was about the book that sucked me in (whether it was the story or the author's voice) but Under a Dark Sky really grabbed me hard. It's a fairly slow-paced read, and yet I found it utterly captivating. I liked the slow reveal of the personalities, the tensions between the people in the group, the interaction between them and the local police, what we found out about Eden, the way mishaps continue to plague the group and each one reveals something about the people involved. And, I loved the ending.

Highly recommended - Apart from one particular element that I thought was so obvious I wanted to yell at Eden to remember what so-and-so said and she'd know the answer, I found the mystery in Under a Dark Sky just out of reach enough to suit me and the complexity of the characters satisfying. I gave the book 4 stars because that one element annoyed me a bit, but I highly recommend it because I truly, thoroughly enjoyed the reading and had trouble putting the book down. Be aware, though, that it's not a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat read but more of a slow burn.

©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, August 13, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • I Survived The San Francisco Earthquake, 1906 and 
  • I Survived The Japanese Tsunami, 2011, both by Lauren Tarshis, both purchased
  • Mac B. Kid Spy: Mac Undercover by Mac Barnett and Mike Lowery - from Scholastic for review
  • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy - purchased
  • The Forbidden Door by Dean Koontz - from Bantam Books for review
  • How to Be a T. Rex by Ryan North and Mike Lowery - from Dial books for review 

I broke my no-purchase rule twice - on a whim, as usual. A friend mentioned how much her granddaughter enjoys the "Who Was?" series (from which I recently read two books) and that she also likes the "I Survived" book series. Being a childhood fan of Reader's Digest's "Drama in Real Life" articles, I thought maybe the "I Survived" books would be similar first-person accounts -- written using quotes from primary sources, perhaps? Bad assumption. They're fiction. But, I read one and it was a good story, even if it was not told by an actual witness to the event (the San Francisco earthquake). The Snow Child has been on my wish list for ages and I ordered a used copy when I read a list of books to read in the summer if you want to cool off. I often will read wintry books when it's hot outside, so that was my thought process. But, I have a huge list of books to get to in August so it remains to be seen if I'll be able to squeeze it in. Mac B. Kid Spy and The Forbidden Door were acquired via Shelf Awareness. I haven't read a Dean Koontz book in ages. Fingers crossed it's a good one.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Unpunished Murder by Lawrence Goldstone
  • How to Be a T. Rex by Ryan North and Mike Lowery
  • Six Weeks in the Sioux Tepees by Sarah F. Wakefield
  • I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906 by Lauren Tarshis
  • The Muse by Jessie Burton

Definitely an interesting reading week. Of this week's completed books, Unpunished Murder is the one I feel is the most important so I hope to get around to reviewing it before Friday. How to Be a T. Rex and I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906 are both children's books. I'll save the "I Survived" book for a Children's Day; T. Rex is a tour book. The Muse is my F2F group's discussion book for August and I'm praying I'll make it to the discussion because I really want to hear what everyone else thought of it. 

Currently reading:

  • From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein
  • Death of the Snake Catcher: Short Stories by Ak Welsapar
  • Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson

I got really caught up in The Muse and didn't touch From the Corner of the Oval till I'd finished, but I'm now about 1/3 of the way into Dorey-Stein's memoir of her time working as a stenographer in the Obama White House. It's a nice, light read - a bit on the fluffy side. I've only read the intro to Death of the Snake Catcher but that alone is worth the price of the book because it's such a fascinating tale about the author from Turkmenistan, his decision to emigrate after being declared an "enemy of the state", and how his experience has informed his storytelling. And, I'm not far into Sons and Soldiers, either, but I was a bit blown away by the similarity of the description of life in a German concentration camp (I've read about how prisoners of the Nazis were housed for decades but was still taken aback at similarities) and the descriptions of the cages for immigrant children being held in America. Maybe I just didn't want to think of them as similar in any way?

Last week's posts:

All three of those books were excellent but in very different ways. I've read so many terrific books, lately.

In other news:

It was a movie-watching kind of week.

It's been so long since we've seen Four Weddings and a Funeral that all I really remembered was the poem by W. H. Auden and a few other minor details. I'd forgotten what a fun movie it is. We watched it during a break from emptying some ugly bookshelves that used to be in our youngest son's apartment and shifting most of the books to a set of shelves that weren't being used as effectively as they should have. Into the trash go the rickety book cubes. Four Weddings and a Funeral gave us a nice laugh break, although I will never be able to watch John Hannah reading "Funeral Blues" without snuffling. Four Weddings made me want to revisit a bunch of other movies: Notting Hill (Hugh Grant), Sliding Doors (John Hannah), Framed (Kristin Scott Thomas). I couldn't find any of them, so the next movie we watched was a totally random choice.

UHF has the rare distinction of having been filmed in Tulsa, and it's nuts (which we like) so we watch it on occasion to enjoy the crazy. Another fun choice and one we hadn't seen in quite a while.

Husband wasn't around when I watched the last movie, The Final Countdown. It's an old family favorite that we watch fairly regularly and I just happened to find it when I was flipping through movies labeled "SciFi". I noticed a few idiosyncracies that I've never noticed, before, this time. Like, when they sound general quarters, everyone gets dressed up for war but the captain calls a meeting and nobody is wearing their guns or helmets, after a scene in which everyone dresses for battle. I need to go back and watch the "general quarters" and "urgent meeting" scenes to see if I'm wrong and the most senior people did not, in fact, strap on guns like the rest of the crew. At any rate, things do start to jump out at you after you've seen a movie a couple dozen times.

A fun reading and TV-watching week, in general. And, wow, did we get a lot of work done between movie breaks. Our guest room is looking much better.

©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, August 10, 2018

Fiona Friday - Was it something I said?

©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, August 09, 2018

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ada is 10 years old and has never set foot outside her apartment. Because of her club foot, Ada is confined to the indoors, where she is trying to learn to walk and spends most of her time looking out the window, watching her younger brother Jamie play and waving to the neighbors. When the children of London are evacuated to the countryside, only Jamie is going to be sent. But, Ada's tired of a life of abuse and sneaks away to be with Jamie.

When they arrive at their destination, nobody chooses the two children so they're left with a single woman who doesn't want them. Susan Smith is depressed after a devastating loss but she's kind. She keeps the children well-fed, clean, and nicely dressed. Both children are traumatized and lacking in education. Ada has never even felt a blade of grass, much less learned her ABCs. While Ada teaches herself to care for Susan's horse and ride it, Susan begins to instruct the children in life and eventually teaches them to read, showing them what it's like to be cared for in the process. But, what will happen when the war ends? Will they have no choice but to go home to their abusive mother?

Highly recommended - I can see why The War that Saved My Life is a Newbery Honor Book. It's a lovely, emotional story and you can't help but get caught up in the lives of the children and admire Susan for her gentle way of caring for them and dealing with their response to trauma. She's flawed but immensely patient. I know it's fiction but I've read so many tales of how evacuated children were badly treated that it was refreshing to read a story that's about how much difference kindness and patience make in the lives of children. You also get a good feel for the experience of WWII in their little village: the airfield nearby, the fear of German spies and potential bombing, the sheer terror when the bombs finally fall. A wonderful story with a beautiful ending.

There's a sequel to The War that Saved My Life and I hope to read it, someday. I learned about the books in reverse order. A friend mentioned reading The War I Finally Won on Facebook and when I looked it up, I discovered that not only was it a WWII book (my favorite time period!) but a sequel. So, I backtracked and read about The War that Saved My Life. And, then, of course I bought it because of the WWII setting. Another book that made me cry happy tears and a new favorite children's WWII book, one I'll be thinking about for a long time, no doubt.

©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, August 08, 2018

The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar is a sequel, so first things first . . . here's my review of the first book:

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

If you haven't read The Space Between Us, the ending might be a bit of a spoiler but it's necessary to mention the general concept before moving on. So, fair warning . . . I'm going to skip a line before talking about The Secrets Between Us to avoid spoiling it for anyone.


Bhima has always been treated kindly by her long-term employer but at the same time she's been treated as if she's dirty, never allowed to sit on the furniture and made to squat on the floor while she had her tea. She cared for her employer's family as if they were her own. But, then she made a shocking discovery and she no longer works for Sera Dubash.

Now, she must find a way to support herself and her granddaughter, Maya. To do so, she finds not one but two new jobs, cleaning for a crazy woman she calls "Mrs. Motorcyclewalla" and a young woman. As with her old job, there are challenges. Mrs. Motorcyclewalla increasingly makes irrational demands of Bhima and seems to be growing more delusional each day. And, when her younger employer, Sunita, moves in a surprisingly open and untraditional roommate who has lived outside of India, Bhima is horrified by her unconventional nature.

When a neighbor in the slum is unexpectedly widowed, Bhima takes on a third job. Her neighbor's deceased husband had purchased some fruit. It can't be returned for cash; it must be sold to be of any value. So, Bhima agrees to find a way to help her sell the fruit. But, to do so, Bhima must find space at the market and a way to balance her other jobs -- and that means humbling herself to pay a bitter old woman to share her space. But, there's more to that older woman than meets the eye. As Bhima gets to know Parvati and work with both her and the man who used to carry her basket when she went to the market for her former employer, they slowly find that each has secrets from her past and pain that can never be fully vanquished. But, they also begin to forge a surprising friendship.

Highly recommended - I feel privileged to have read both The Space Between Us (12 years ago!) and The Secrets Between Us as ARCs. Both are harsh but uplifting stories, but The Secrets Between Us is extra special because it is the story of a makeshift family, one of my favorite types of story. The ending is so utterly perfect that I closed the book with shoulder-heaving sobs. It was everything I had always hoped for for Bhima and Maya. I recommend reading the two stories back-to-back as The Secrets Between Us picks up Bhima's story just days after the first book's ending and then jumps forward by a year. You'll understand Bhima and care for her deeply by the end of The Space Between Us and The Secrets Between Us will be much more meaningful if you read them together.

©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, August 07, 2018

Nightbooks by J. A. White

"Is it like you said yesterday?" Yasmin asked. "You afraid people will think you're weird?"

He nodded.

"Well, you don't have to worry about that happening with me," Yasmin said. "I already think you're weird. You can't make it any worse."

~from p. 80 of Nightbooks Advance Reader's Edition (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

Alex is in trouble. After sneaking out of his family's apartment in the middle of the night, he's been lured into the apartment of a witch named Natacha. Now, he's trapped in an enchanted apartment. One other child is stuck in the apartment. Yasmin has been trapped for a long time and she knows to work hard and keep her head down. Escape attempts are far too dangerous, and so is doing anything at all that makes Natacha angry. But, Alex can survive as long as he does what Natacha asks of him. He must read a scary story to her, every night. Alex has a ready supply of stories in what he calls his "Nightbooks". But, fear and the determination to escape are keeping him from writing more. When disaster strikes and most of his stories are destroyed, Alex knows time is running out. Can Alex and Yasmin find a way to escape? Or will escape lead to an even worse fate?

What a fun, creepy read. Nightbooks is for middle grade readers (Grades 3-7, ages 8-12, according to the publicity info on the back of the ARC) but this older adult found the book both creepy and delightful. I enjoyed the stories within the story -- the tales that Alex told Natacha to keep her and the magical apartment happy -- and the surprises that gradually unfolded as Alex finally learned why Yasmin avoided talking to him, the meaning behind certain objects, and the connection of Natacha to an age-old fairy tale.

Highly recommended - Children and adults alike will enjoy reading about Alex, who is charmingly weird, the incredible library in which he's tasked with writing stories, the stories within the story, and the tale of Alex and Yasmin's daring escape attempt. A great book for spooky fall 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.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash and 
  • Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, both from HarperCollins for review
  • When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer from Harlequin Teen for review
  • No Frogs in School by LaFaye and Ceulemans,
  • If You're Going to a March by Freeman and Kim,
  • How to Feed Your Parents by Miller and Aly, and
  • Allie All Along by Sarah Lynn Reul, all from Sterling Children's Books for review

The Last Ballad got the biggest squeal, but the package of 4 Sterling children's books was the most fun to open. Who doesn't love a fresh, crisp, parcel full of new books?

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day
  • Allie All Along by Sarah Lynne Reul
  • No Frogs in School by A. La Faye and E. Ceulemans
  • If You Go to a March by M. Freeman and V. Kim
  • How to Feed Your Parents by R. Miller and H. Aly
  • Never Satisfied: The Story of the Stonecutter by Dave Horowitz

I had a seriously fun reading week: two novels, 5 children's books, liked or loved everything. 

Currently reading:

  • Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice by Lawrence Goldstone
  • The Muse by Jessie Burton
  • From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

I'm enjoying all three of these and have bookmarks in a few more (but didn't touch them, this week). The Muse is this month's F2F discussion book. I was reading a scene set in a Spanish mansion in 1936, at one point, and became so immersed that when I looked up from the book I was surprised and disappointed to find that I was not really, in fact, in a Spanish mansion at all. Unpunished Murder is great but I need to figure out what age it's geared toward. I'm finding the book is filling in some gaps in my historical knowledge base but it's a little heavy for younger readers, in my humble opinion. However, I don't know what the intended age range is. I just started From the Corner of the Oval, this weekend, and haven't gotten far but I'm looking forward to learning a little about what it was like to spend time working alongside President Obama. 

Last week's posts:

Only one post because I was feeling that creeping addiction to social media that I sometimes get. I decided maybe it would be best just to walk away from the computer completely, so I did. Staying off Facebook was about 95% successful. Twitter, not so much. I enjoy Twitter more than Facebook, though, and I did reduce the amount of time I spent reading tweets so I'm happy. Of course, this does mean I've thrown myself behind on the book review front, but I'm almost always at least 2-3 books away from catching up so I'm not worried. 4 of the 9 books I need to review are children's books that arrived, last week; they'll be quick and easy reviews.

In other news:

Last week's television watching was a little strange. I decided I really wanted to see my favorite Doc Martin episode and I was sure I knew how to find it. I was wrong, unfortunately. I kept looking for it and watching episodes that were not the right one. The net result was about 6 hours of Doc Martin viewing without ever finding the episode I was looking for. But, I like Doc Martin, so it wasn't exactly painful.

The only other television I watched was a show I watched specifically because it was advertised as one of Benedict Cumberbatch's early roles. The two-part movie series was called Fields of Gold. From IMDb:

A two-part conspiracy thriller about an eager young photographer and a bitter tabloid hacker who are sent to investigate mysterious deaths at a cottage hospital.

The bitter hack journalist is played by Phil Davis (at right in the photo), who plays Jud in Poldark. If you watch it only looking for Benedict Cumberbatch playing an exciting role, you'll be disappointed. I was a little stunned when he finally appeared and was on-screen for maybe 10 seconds. Not quite as advertised. But, there's an urgency to the story, which is about a young man trying to make a point about genetically modified plants and instead setting off a plague, so I really enjoyed it. Just don't watch it looking for Cumberbatch. He hardly appears at all.

©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, August 03, 2018

Fiona Friday - Peekaboo

©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.