Friday, November 30, 2018

Fiona Friday - Fiona's grumpy Christmas portrait

I hope to get a happier-looking expression, some time this season.

©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, November 29, 2018

Cupidity by Patricia Wood

In a small town in the state of Washington, Tammy Louise Tyree is working herself to a frazzle. She provides for her erratic Uncle E. and her (maybe autistic) younger brother by working 4 jobs. She has to fend off her no-good cousin and annoying boss, balance her jobs, try to keep her uniform clean and arrive at work on time, and keep everyone fed. For Tammy and her family, there's no way but up. When she receives an email saying her missionary relatives in Africa have left her $5 million, she's ecstatic. But, there are conditions. She has to keep the news about the money to herself and turn over all sorts of information and fees. As she works feverishly to pay the fees that her new African friend is charging her and fill out the forms, the news slowly gets out that Tammy is about to receive a fortune. And, everyone wants in on it.

Only one person thinks Tammy is being scammed and Tammy's sure not going to listen to him. When Tammy suddenly has people all over the tiny hick town insisting on helping her out in the hopes that they can get in on the windfall, what will happen?

Highly recommended - I don't want to give away too much about Cupidity because it's far too fun experiencing the unfolding events but I found it absorbing, nervewracking, and funny. You can't help but admire Tammy Louise. At one point in the story, she asks someone what other jobs she holds and is shocked when the woman replies "This is my only job." Tammy is so accustomed to working 4 jobs that she has no idea it's actually possible to survive on a single income stream. She is the hardest-working, most likable character that you've ever worried about throughout a novel. I love her. Just as I still have not forgotten the names of the characters in Patricia Wood's first book, Lottery (that's extremelly unusual -- I never remember characters' names unless they're common knowledge like Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy), I doubt I'll forget Tammy, Uncle E., and Jar, anytime soon.

©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, November 27, 2018

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

As you can see from the image, I gobbled down Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy while I was in Hawaii. I'd already read a little bit of it before I left home and I spent a blissful day reading outside to finish it up.

Marilla of Green Gables is the story of Marilla's early years, before Green Gables acquired its name. At 13, Marilla's responsible for helping her mother with chores while her mom goes through pregnancy. When tragedy strikes, her mother's twin arrives to help out. During this time, Marilla makes a new friend and falls in love. All of this is set against the backdrop of political upheaval and rebellion on Prince Edward Island.

I just finally read Anne of Green Gables in 2008 (link, through the title, leads to my 2008 review) and I have never managed to read on. In fact, I don't remember it all that well, apart from Anne's bubbly personality. Not remembering much about the original book was not a problem. I remembered that Marilla was a single woman with a brother she was close to and I remember the face of the woman cast as Marilla in the series I watched many years ago. I presumed that the author's intent was to explain what happened that led to Marilla being a spinster. From a friend's review (a friend who was a big fan of the books and series), I also know that Marilla of Green Gables introduces us to a friend of Marilla's who appears in Anne's story. I did assume she probably appeared in Anne of Green Gables, but I'm not familiar enough with the story to have known that, for sure; it was just a guess that turned out to be right. Marilla's love interest in Marilla of Green Gables is based on a single quote from Anne of Green Gables. This is mentioned in the author's notes.

Highly recommended - I can't speak from the perspective of a fan of Anne of Green Gables, since I've only read it once and (while I did love it) don't know the characters all that well. But, I found Marilla of Green Gables immensely absorbing and believable. The political situation is something I was totally unfamiliar with and I confess I found it a little hard to follow but I did think it was necessary to the storyline. I thought the author did an excellent job of staying true to what little I recall of the character and that it was convincing and entertaining. This is my first read by Sarah McCoy and it definitely won't be my last.

©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, November 26, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson - purchased for F2F discussion

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Cupidity by Patricia Wood

Only one book finished but Cupidity was a good one (5 stars for totally sweeping me away). I made the irrational assumption that "cupidity" was a coined word because one of the main characters makes little cupid whirligigs and there's a tremendous amount of stupidity going around in the story, although eventually people start trying to talk some sense into Tammy Louise when she keeps sending money to a man who claims she's inherited $5 million and needs to keep sending fees for this, that, and the other thing. But, "cupidity" is an actual word that means greed. New vocabulary word! Woot! There's a bit of a Deus ex machina ending but . . . personal opinion? Sometimes that's okay. It makes the ending surprising, although similar to what I guessed was going to happen (there's a bit of late foreshadowing, but not in a way that ruins it).

Currently reading:

  • Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

I'm enjoying Unsheltered and a little over halfway through it, now. I didn't read any of the WWII book at all, this week, so I don't feel like listing it and I'm considering starting it from the beginning, again, even though I don't need to -- just to read it from beginning to end instead of continuing it in interrupted fashion. I've frustrated myself by setting it aside for too long. I also read a single chapter of a romance: A Duke Changes Everything by Christy Carlyle. The first chapter introduces readers to Nicholas Lyon, a duke whose father suspected his wife of fooling around and apparently had little to do with him. Nick runs a gambling den and is described as a cruel, heartless jerk. I suppose a lovely lady is going to come along and reform him.

Posts since last Malarkey:

I let Thanksgiving get in the way of blog posting, last week. Although Kiddo was home, off and on, it was just the two of us at home for Thanksgiving dinner and we spent a couple days cleaning and doing a little of our Christmas decorating so I didn't go anywhere near the computer, although I occasionally sat down to peruse social media via the phone. We had a pleasant holiday. I prefer big, noisy family gatherings but I have to accept that they're not going to happen, at least for a while. Eldest and Daughter-in-Law have a new baby so traveling was out for them. Maybe someday. We resumed our old tradition of decorating for Christmas immediately after Thanksgiving, which I've missed. I think we've been out-of-town on Thanksgiving for at least 3 or 4 years, now, and I really was happy to return to an old tradition that we've had to set aside.

In other news:

Apart from the usual Hallmark movies (2 or 3 of them, I think), the only movie I watched was Their Finest (DVD at right), which is based on Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans -- one of my new favorite authors, as of the past 3 years or so. I have a second-hand copy of the book but haven't gotten to it, yet. The movie was very good and made me eager to read the book. It was not at all what I expected. "That was different," said the spouse. Yes, that's true; it was not told in the Hollywood style at all. The WWII scenes were incredibly vivid and believable (it takes place during the London Blitz), which I always appreciate. Our house came with surround-sound speakers built-in and we usually don't use them because they can be a bit too loud. We turned them on for Their Finest, though, because some of the dialogue was hard to hear. It really made the sound of the bombings intense.

We also watched a couple episodes of NCIS. I mentioned I started that from the beginning, right? I've never viewed the early seasons, so I missed McGee's introduction to the team and always wanted to see how he entered the picture. Youngest recently said, "He's an excellent foil to DiNozzo's character." I think that was apparent from his first episode. And, we watched yesterday's episode of Dr. Who. Sheesh, no wonder I only finished one book. But, it was a good week and I've long since surpassed my annual reading goal (I set it at 100 books in 2018) so I'm just not going to worry about quantity, even though this has been absolutely my worst month for quantity in 2018. I'm always telling other people not to fret about how many books they read but just to try to enjoy their reading, so I'm listening to my own advice.

©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, November 20, 2018

Polar Bear Island by Lindsay Bonilla and Cinta Villalobos

There's a sign on Polar Bear Island that says "Welcome to Polar Bear Island. No Others Allowed". It's for polar bears only and Parker, the bear who seems to be in charge, is determined to enforce the law. But, then Kirby shows up. Kirby is a penguin who has arrived on Polar Bear Island on an ice floe after a long journey. She just wants a little rest, so Parker allows her to stay the night.

Kirby opened her suitcase. 
Some curious polar bears peeked out of their dens. 
"What are you doing?" they asked. 
"I'm looking for my flipper slippers," said Kirby. "They keep your flippers and feet warm. Plus they're reversible! With one side you can skate on ice. With the other side you can wade through snow."

Flipper slippers are a huge hit. All the bears want something similar for their paws. They can slide around on ice and keep their paws warm! Parker is just irritated. He wants Kirby to leave. But, the bears need Kirby to stick around and help them make more flipper slippers, so Parker gives Kirby a week. Eventually, Parker will accept Kirby as a contributing member of Polar Bear Island society. In the meantime, Kirby writes home to tell her family about her adventures.

And, then her family shows up. They bring sled beds, snowcone makers, and the idea of snow chutes for sliding. Parker is annoyed, naturally, until he hurts a paw and everyone chips in to build a snow chute, feed him some snow cones, and push him home on a newly-built snow chute with flipper slippers on his paws. When he's completely healed, Parker has made a decision. Everyone is welcome on Polar Bear Island.

Highly recommended - Polar Bear Island is a cheery, sweet story of a grumpy old bear accepting change and deciding inclusiveness is beneficial to all. I love a good story about accepting outsiders into your little circle and Polar Bear Island does so in an adorable way, with inventiveness, delightful characters and bright, lively illustrations.

©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, November 19, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Articles of War by Nick Arvin and 
  • Friday Black (short stories) by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (say that 5 times, fast), both purchased

Articles of War is one of the books I bought for my Perfect Little Books challenge for 2019 (it's going to be very, very hard keeping my mitts off that one) and Friday Black is a book of short stories that I bought partly because a friend highly recommended it, partly because George Saunders called it "An excitement and a wonder," and also because the timing was right. I recently finished a book of short stories and have been thinking I'd like to read another short story collection. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

I didn't finish anything at all, last week, because I was going through a post-vacation slump. Fortunately, that finally ended about 2 or 3 days ago and I'm really enjoying my current reads.

Currently reading: 

  • Cupidity by Patricia Wood
  • Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

And, I still have a bookmark in the WWII book but I just read a chapter or two when I'm not in the mood for fiction so that one may be in the "currently reading" column for a few more weeks, even though it's not a long or challenging read. Cupidity and Unsheltered are both great for entirely different reasons.

Cupidity is about a young woman who has to support her autistic brother. She and her brother have lived with Uncle E since their parents died. Uncle E makes whirligigs (the cupids are popular) when he's not drinking and spending money on ridiculous schemes. Tammy Louise works several jobs, her main job as a waitress at Two Spoons Cafe, which has the most hilarious requirement that you must accept the soup of the day, no matter how much you don't want it. I really want to try flapjack onion soup. Tammy Louise has fallen for a Nigerian email scam. It'll be interesting to see how that turns out.

Unsheltered is about a family that is a bit of a shambles, as is their home. They've experienced all sorts of loss and a serious downgrade in income, so they've moved into an inherited home. There's a second, historical storyline that takes place in the 19th century, when the house was still fairly new. The original owners were forced to vacate the house and decamp to Boston after the father of the household died and they could no longer afford to live in it. But, then the eldest daughter married and they've returned with her new husband. Unfortunately, the house was badly built in the first place. I have no idea where this storyline is headed but they're both engrossing, so far. Usually, I favor one storyline or the other in a contemporary/historical dual storyline book but I don't have a preference, at this point. Barbara Kingsolver's writing just blows me away.

Posts since last Malarkey:

So, neither a good reading week or a big posting week. I had trouble sleeping, post-vacation, in addition to the reading slump.

In other news:

I watched about 3 or 4 Hallmark movies, last week. This one was my favorite:

Candace Cameron Bure plays twins who decide to switch places for the holiday season in Switched for Christmas. One is a single mother of two who teaches and is supposed to plan the school's Christmas festival. The other must plan her office Christmas party.

I thought Candace Cameron Bure was wonderful in both roles -- surprisingly convincing. Husband watched this one with me and I kept him going by saying things like, "I'm so glad you're enjoying this movie!" during commercials and "Oh, oh, oh, here comes the dark moment," or whatever, during. He's not a fan of light romance, but he stuck around. The next movie we watched was frankly awful (so Husband walked in and out of the room), but it's the only Hallmark movie I've actively disliked and I watched it anyway. I just like the effortless relaxation that comes with watching a simple love story.

I've also started watching NCIS from the beginning. I've never seen the first two or three seasons and have always wanted to watch the entire series from the start. Kiddo was streaming an episode and said something about "Kate", whom I've never heard of. He said, "You don't know Kate?" I mentioned that I haven't seen it from the beginning and he went back to the first episode immediately. I've contined watching it without him and got through about 4 episodes, last week. I guess TV replaces evening reading when I'm slumpish.

©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, November 16, 2018

Fiona Friday - Isabel wants me to sit with her

This is my favorite photo of Izzy taken within 24 hours of our return from Hawaii. She was clingy for about 3 days before getting back to normal. The second day, she started wailing piteously when I was doing housework and the sound was so similar to her hunting cry that I thought maybe she'd caught a lizard and went running to see. Nope, she just wanted me to sit with her. So, I did. And, of course, I took a bunch of photos of her, while I was at it.

©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, November 15, 2018

The Splendor Before the Dark by Margaret George - DNF Report

The Splendor Before the Dark by Margaret George is the second in the Nero series (I have not asked the publicist if the series will continue beyond two books) that began with The Confessions of Young Nero. I received a copy of The Splendor Before the Dark for review from Berkley Books and was hoping that I wouldn't find it problematic that I haven't read the first book. Unfortunately, I did have a little trouble with feeling like I needed a bit more backstory. I stopped just under 20% of the way into the book.

The Splendor Before the Dark begins with Nero awakening in his seaside home. Soon, his relaxing time is interrupted by an urgent message: Rome is on fire. Nero hastily dresses and heads to Rome, leaving his wife behind, in safety. When he arrives, Nero finds that the fire has been raging for days and shows no signs of being brought under control. The exciting and fast-paced descriptions of the Great Fire of Rome go on for nearly 50 pages and I found that I absolutely flew through them. It was only after the fire had been put out, Nero was working to house, feed, and clothe his citizens and drawing up a plan to rebuild that I began to realize that I needed to have read that first book because it was then that a diverse range of characters began to enter the picture. The author does a pretty good job of filling you in; I just felt like I needed more. I think the fact that I was exhausted from travel also entered into my decision to abandon the book. I wasn't getting anywhere at all. I'd often read a few pages and find that I was rereading paragraphs over and over, set it aside for a bit, and then come back to find myself struggling again.

I've wanted to read a Margaret George book for a long time and I'm glad I dipped my toes into the water, so to speak. While I was finding Nero a little too reasoned and calm for my taste, having read about his insanity all my life, I thought George's writing was excellent. I'll probably read up a little on Nero to see if I've misjudged him before returning to this series. I had no other real issues with it; I just needed to go back to the first book to get to know the characters and time period better. In fact, I learned a good bit. I had no idea, for example, that Ancient Rome had firefighters and found myself spending some time reading up on Roman firefighting.

I have The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George on my historical fiction shelves and I'll probably read that before acquiring or checking out the first Nero book from my library because it's a stand-alone. Without having finished The Splendor Before the Dark, I don't feel like I can recommend and I certainly wouldn't advise against reading it.  But, I can tell you that what I read was clearly well researched and absolutely engrossing. I just felt like I needed to back up and read the first novel before moving on. I was besotted enough with George's writing to feel like I should put The Memoirs of Cleopatra on next year's list of challenge books. The Splendor Before the Dark is a nice, thick book -- the kind that's great for reading on a cold winter's day in front of a fire. I just recommend reading The Confessions of Nero, first.

©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, November 13, 2018

Tuesday Twaddle

As often happens when I take a break (but not always -- I would have taken a break anyway, this past couple of weeks, because I was running out of books to write about), I was away on vacation part of  the time I've been away from blogging. I'm still recovering, having slept very badly since we returned. Plus, I think the shock of going from the 80s to the 30s (seriously, it's 37° out there, folks!) has given me a very mild cold.

Recent arrivals (left to right, top to bottom):

  • Cupidity by Patricia Wood - gift from the author
  • Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner - purchased
  • The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker - purchased
  • The Wedding of Zein by Tayeb Salih - purchased
  • A Duke Changes Everything by Christy Carlyle - Unsolicited from Avon Books
  • The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig - purchased

There are some marvelous covers in this batch so I chose to show them off but they'd also make an oddly short stack because most of those purchases are thin books. The Mezzanine and The Wedding of Zein are for next year's challenge to find Perfect Little Books (link leads to a post about some Perfect Little Books I've read in the past). I got recommendations from friends on Facebook and placed an order (at least one more is coming, maybe 2) to get me started in January, since 2019 will be here in no time. I'm open to more suggestions. I want to find books that are around or under 200 pages, paced well, have strongly-written characters and plots with fantastic writing.

Cupidity by Patricia Wood was handed to me by the author when I asked her if that book, her second published book, was only available electronically. I started reading Cupidity while I was away but then it began to rain and I never did find the time to open it back up. Pat is the author of one of my all-time favorite books since I started my blog, Lottery. I've been to Hawaii and missed Pat by *this much* twice. This time, we were staying near her, again, and I managed to get in touch. She kindly invited us to hang out with her and her husband, introduced me to the Peach-Pear flavor of La Croix sparkling water (I will be haunting the stores till I find some) and we talked and talked. I also was excited to meet her gorgeous kitty, whose name I'm not sure I can spell. He's a sweetheart. I've just abandoned a book so I may go ahead and sneak in a reading of Cupidity. I'd only read 3 pages of Cupidity when the rain began but I was already appreciating Pat's sense of humor.

Lolly Willowes was recommended as a perfect fall read by another favorite author, Lissa Evans. I ordered it from Book Depository because I liked what I assume is its British cover -- the American one did nothing for me, but this one has a cat on it. Well, who could pass up a great cat cover?

And, The Truth Pixie is by Matt Haig, yet another favorite. I've only loved 2 out of 4 of the children's books I've read by Haig, but he manages to insert surprising bits of wisdom into all of his books, so I felt compelled to give this new children's book a go.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Monstrous Devices by Damien Love
  • Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy
  • The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig

Currently reading:

  • D-Day: The WWII Invasion That Changed History by Deborah Hopkinson
  • The Third Level by Jack Finney (short stories)

I was reading a third book -- the one I mentioned that I would need to return to review on the 15th, before leaving: The Splendor Before the Dark by Margaret George -- but it ended up being a DNF. I'll still write about it on the tour date because I think it's worth mentioning why it didn't work for me but probably will for plenty of other people. Also, it's a tour book so I kind of have to say something, don't I?

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

I'm not generally a fan of beachy locations (I'm a mountain girl) but, wow, that was one relaxing vacation. It was a work trip for Huzzybuns, so I was free to sit on the lanai and read, visit with my author friend, shop, walk in the sand, etc. I loved the freedom to just spend the day doing whatever I felt like. I finished Marilla of Green Gables on a day that I just felt like reading. Part of my reading time was spent by the pool and part on the lanai and I did some sink laundry when I needed to take breaks. The seafood in Hawaii is amazing, too, so I had fun eating out.

I've just watched two more Hallmark Channel movies and I'm finding it surprising how much they reuse the same actors. I found myself comparing how convincing they were in their opposing roles, today, as 3 out of 4 of the love interests were repeat actors. I liked all 3 better in their first roles, which may mean it's just hard for me to switch gears. I found myself thinking, "He's a wealthy man with warm memories he's revisiting, not a small-town innkeeper!" Having said that, I liked 2 of the actors in their new roles, once I managed to turn off thoughts of their old parts.

Christmas in Homestead is about an actress and a mayor/innkeeper who fall for each other, similar to a Notting Hill type of storyline but without the quirky ensemble cast. Jessica is filming a Christmas story in Homestead, Iowa. She's recently broken up with her actor boyfriend and is planning to go to Fiji with a friend of hers for Christmas, since her presence at home is such a disruption (paparazzi follows her around). Her former boyfriend just happens to be playing her love interest in the movie she's filming.

Matt is the mayor of Homestead, a widower with a 10-year-old daughter who is a fan of Jessica's fantasy/action films. The two stars and the director are staying at the inn Matt and his sister inherited when their parents retired. He's never seen Jessica's films and isn't star-struck at all, but as they get to know each other, an attraction grows between them. Can they make the actor/small-town-guy relationship work? Or will her former boyfriend convince her to return to him? There's almost a secondary romance but not quite. It's more of a male/female friendship but it's cute.

The actor who plays Matt was also William Darcy in Christmas at Pemberley, which I loved, but I think I'd like him in any role. Jessica played an artist in The Art of Us. She's gorgeous enough to play an actress who must convince us she's a star who is followed around by photographers, but I liked the storyline of the other movie a bit better, although pieces of it made little question marks float over my head.

A Royal Christmas came on because I didn't switch off the Hallmark Channel fast enough and who am I to fight fate? I decided to go ahead and watch it.

Emily is a seamstress who has been dating Leo for a year. Leo is planning on spending Christmas with her family, but then he's called home and is forced to confess that he's the prince of a small nation near the South of France. He invites Emily to go with him.

Jane Seymour plays Queen Isadora, a prim and proper monarch who expects her son to marry a duchess named Natasha, who both has the proper background and has known him from childhood. The queen is dismayed at the casual manners of the American girl Leopold has brought home with him. Emily knows nothing about dinner etiquette, is a lowly commoner, and she likes to hang out with the downstairs help. Can she dissuade Leo from his plans to propose and get him back together with Natasha?

A Royal Christmas is predictable in every way, which is fine. I didn't care and I had to reach for the tissues, in the end. I thought Lacey Chabert was much more convincing in her other role (one of those innkeeper/busy businesswoman pairings) in which I saw her, but the prince was a bit Prince William-like in his features and I found him very believable. Jane Seymour was fun as the bitter queen. I am so loving this new channel. It's like comfort food . . . incredibly relaxing to watch gentle romance movies.

©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, November 02, 2018

Fiona Friday and a brief break

It's cold outside and there's nothing like a nice, warm lap kitty when the temperature drops!

I'm going to take a brief break from the Internet. I haven't decided how long I'll be away but I currently have a book tour on the 15th (which might change), so I'll plan to be back by then. I may come back after a week. It just depends on how much time I need to feel restored. Sometimes, I try to stay away and fail, of course. At any rate, I'll definitely be back by the 15th of November. I'm almost caught up on reviews, so this is a good time to take a break. Happy Autumn!

©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, November 01, 2018

The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash

Before I get into the synopsis of The Last Ballad, I have to tell you the coolest thing about reading this book. I read Wiley Cash's last book, This Dark Road to Mercy, and was impressed. So I drove up to Oxford, Mississippi to see Wiley speak at Square Books when he came through on his book tour. At the time, Wiley had recently read about the events that The Last Ballad is based upon and was already beginning to plot his next novel. He talked about the historical background a bit and said he was excited about his next project. It's been several years so it was a thrill to finally get to read the book that was, at that time, still mostly an idea in his head. Incidentally, if you ever get a chance to see Wiley speak, you must. He's an excellent speaker.

The Last Ballad is the story of the early labor movement, with focus on a woman who was murdered in the 1920s. Ella May Wiggins is a single mother with four young children. Her husband, John, has run off, leaving her to support them on her job at the local mill, where she earns nine dollars a week. Most of the time, the children are left at home alone during her night shift but, as the book opens, Ella May is being called in to talk to the boss because she missed a shift to take care of a sick child. She has already lost one child to illness and her unwillingness to risk the life of another has threatened her job.

Shortly after she's chastised for missing work, Ella May hears about the fancy New Yorkers who have come to town to help create a labor union. Ella May's children wear tattered clothing and the entire family is skinny and starving, most of the time. She's encouraged by the idea of a union improving their lives and goes to a meeting to see what it's all about. And, then another. In spite of the violent attempts to stop the union, Ella May is undeterred. She writes her own lyrics about the hardship of a mill worker and is persuaded to sing at a gathering. From then on, she's well-known and it's only through finagling a job working for the union organizers that she's able to continue getting an income.
But, being involved is dangerous work.

Highly recommended - Gorgeous prose, a story that really gets into the depths to which employers will go to increase the bottom line at the expense of their employees and makes you practically feel the hunger of Ella May and her family. Sad, moving, and meaningful. Just a fantastic story that will leave you in awe of the main character's courage and tenacity. There were times I felt a tiny bit bored and wondered if The Last Ballad couldn't have been edited down a bit, yet the writing is so beautiful that it would be awful to remove a word from it. I'm so impressed with Wiley Cash's writing.

I still have Wiley's first book, unread. Now I'm doubly looking forward to it.

©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.