Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib is the story of Anna and her time at a facility for women with severe eating disorders. Anna is dangerously anorexic and will probably die if she doesn't get urgent treatment. So, she moves into a group home for anorexics and bulimics where she must eat a carefully planned diet and work her way back to health. Through flashbacks we learn how Anna developed the mindset that made her starve herself and view her unfolding love story while in the present she develops fragile friendships and fights her inner demons.

The Girls at 17 Swann Street is harrowing but surprisingly uplifting. It's also a bit of a learning experience. I knew anorexia caused a lot of problems, like heart issues and hair loss, but I didn't realize the extent of the systemic failure it causes, the danger of "refeeding" syndrome (when the body can't adjust to taking in nutrients and a person dies -- although I have heard of this in Holocaust victims, I never thought to apply it to anorexics), or the crippling mental aspect that makes it difficult for an anorexic to force herself to eat.

Recommended but this one is rough - I would absolutely not recommend this book to anyone who has a history of eating disorders because you are in the mind of Anna, an anorexic, and her thought process could be triggering. It's a disturbing point-of-view but, as I said, in an informative way. I went through a phase in high school during which I hid some of my food and exercised vigorously because I was convinced that I was fat, but it was not at the level of Anna's dysfunction. I never had the extreme kind of thoughts that she did, nowhere near. It's really quite shocking that someone who is literally dying of starvation can still battle their fear of food in such a dramatic way. Hard as it is to read, reading The Girls at 17 Swann Street is an excellent way to really gain an understanding of the thought process of someone with an eating disorder and why it's so difficult for them to unlearn their habits.

The ending is wonderful and I adored the love story. Anna is married and her husband is completely devoted to her while some of the other girls have nobody or have been abandoned because family can't bear to watch their loved one struggle. A major theme appears to be that with a psychiatric illness, having support may literally be the difference between life and death.

I received an ARC of The Girls at 17 Swann Street from St. Martin's Press for review. Thank you!

©2019 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, February 27, 2019

Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger

Franny and Zooey is one of those secondhand classics that I spent years collecting (seriously, you should see my classics shelves; they're great) which then spent years collecting dust. Now that I'm back to challenging myself to read a classic read per month, I'm happy to be diving back into those particular shelves.

Franny and Zooey contains two sections: one from Franny's point-of-view and one from Zooey's, Zooey being a nickname for Zachary. In the first section, Franny's boyfriend comes for a visit but during dinner Franny slowly goes to pieces and by the end of supper she has collapsed. In the second part of the book, Franny is home after suffering the nervous breakdown during dinner with her boyfriend. Pale and tearful, she spends her time alternately crying and sleeping on the couch while her mother tries to feed her chicken soup and her brother attempts to talk her into understanding the source of her distress in order to knock her back to her senses.

There were two particular things I got out of the reading of Franny and Zooey. The first was that it's definitely a product of its time, with long-winded, philosophical dialogue and a bit too much superfluous swearing. The swearing felt unnatural to me in a way I don't recall thinking the swearing in Catcher in the Rye came off, possibly because it was Holden thinking or saying all the swear words in Catcher but the people around Franny who used a rougher mode of speech when she was the one going to pieces. Most of the characters chain smoked in public and private, as well -- something that seems odd in today's mostly smoke-free environment. The fact that religion and/or philosophy was at the core of Franny's breakdown also felt like it was a very time-sensitive thing. Maybe I'm wrong about that. Salinger did seem to enjoy writing about breakdowns, didn't he?

The second thing I got out of the book was that, yes, I do believe Salinger was pretty impressive. If you can tolerate the idea behind the book, which is a bit odd (the cause of the breakdown) and put up with the long-windedness of the dialogue, it's actually kind of hard to put down. I have a 1980s copy and by that point it was in its 45th printing. 45th!!! That's any writer's sweetest dream.

I had to become accustomed to Salinger's style, I confess. At first, the dialogue just exhausted me. But, then I found myself sucked in, partly because the Glass family's history was slowly revealed and it became clear in that onion-peeling plottish way that everyone was deeply affected by the loss of the eldest Glass son, Seymour, who was the kindest of the children and apparently the most sensitive as he died by suicide. I had no problem whatsoever keeping the Glass children distinct in my mind because the characterization was so sharply drawn, even though only Franny, Zooey, and their mother actually appear in the book.

Highly recommended - I do like Salinger. I'm one of those people who fall on the love side of the love/hate polarization of Catcher in the Rye readers, so while there were things I found awkward about Franny and Zooey -- the basis for Franny's breakdown being so weird (although, in the end, it's implied that the book was more of a mechanism for expressing her grief -- at least, that's how I saw it) and all the uncomfortable swearing, for example -- I found the Glass family fascinating and I wanted to know what would happen. What caused Franny to fall apart? What was Zooey trying to accomplish as he talked her through her breakdown and brought up the book that started it all? The ending is fabulous. In just a few pages, after you've finally gotten the idea that Franny's obsession with the book may be connected to her trauma over the loss of Seymour, at least tangentially, Zooey does something that helps to moor her and you just want to give him a hug for doing something so wise and comforting.

Somewhere, I've also got a copy of Salinger's Nine Stories, which I recall being stories of the Glass family. I'll have to see if I'm right about that. If so, I'll seek out my copy because I'd definitely like to read more about the Glass family.

In case you're wondering, I took a raft of photos of Franny and Zooey with various backgrounds and chose the one with Izzy partly because it's a moody book and both the cat's face and the lighting in this particular frame look kind of moody, partly because I just like pictures of cats with books.

©2019 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, February 26, 2019

Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley

I thoroughly enjoyed Tessa Hadley's last novel, The Past, so I was really excited when I got the opportunity to review Late in the Day. Unfortunately, my second foray into Hadley's writing was not as great as the first.

Late in the Day is the story of two couples who've been friends for many years. When Zachary, the kindest, liveliest of the bunch dies suddenly, all are bereft. His widow, Lydia, moves in with Christine and Alex temporarily and then stays for a surprisingly long time -- well past the funeral. Will she be able to cope on her own? A novel of grief, betrayal, and discovery, Late in the Day is character driven and low on plot as The Past was, but I found it less compelling. I'm going to defer to the cover description for a tiny bit:

Late in the Day explores the complex webs at the center of our most intimate relationships, to expose how, beneath the seemingly dependable arrangements we make for our lives, lie infinite alternate configurations.

I thought that was an interesting way to state something rather bland, which is that there's infidelity in the story. Now that I think back on it, the side storylines do add a bit of interest. I particularly liked Alex and Christine's daughter. But, the vast majority of the characters were unlikable. That's not generally as much of a problem in a novel that's plot driven (at least to me) but when the story is about the characters it's a different matter.

Iffy on recommendation - Much as I like Tessa Hadley's writing (I will definitely read her again), this book was just not for me. It's told as a mix of present-day scenes and flashbacks. The three characters I disliked . . . I didn't even like their younger selves. Christine and Alex perplexed me. What did they see in each other? Alex was a handsome, frustrated poet and perpetual grouch; Christine was an artist but she came off as dead inside. While they appeared affectionate and even well suited, something just seemed off about their relationship. Alex, in particular, appeared to always be unhappy, even when he enjoyed his job and was no longer struggling financially. Lydia was a beautiful slacker who ended up with the average-looking rich guy, around whom the rest of them revolved in some way: Christine as an artist whose work was shown at Zachary's gallery, Lydia as his wife, Alex as his best friend. Lydia and Zachary's relationship was more believable to me than Alex and Christine's; Zachary was the only likable character. 'Twas a pity that he was the one who died.

Having said all that, a few days after I closed the book I felt like I sorta kinda maybe got the point of the story -- that we're not necessarily the people we desire or need to be within a marriage and that a death or betrayal can not only change the dynamics of friendship and marriage but may even open up new possibilities. I've seen a little bit of that in my own life as my mother seemed to flower a bit when she was widowed. She grieved deeply, don't get me wrong. But, my father had a huge personality and my mother always seemed quiet by comparison. It wasn't till after she was widowed that I became aware of my mother's sense of humor, which had been subdued by my father's raucous joy. Maybe something of that nature is what Hadley was trying to show.

My thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy!

Link to my only other read by Hadley:

The Past by Tessa Hadley 

©2019 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, February 25, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump by Andrew G. McCabe - purchased

Yep, just one book. S'okay. I may have a few other books, here or there. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Devil's Daughter by Lisa Kleypas
  • The Threat by Andrew G. McCabe

Oh, yeah, you bet I dived right into The Threat. And, it is not only a good book -- well-written, engrossing -- it's also an important one. It'll probably scare the hell out of you but maybe we need that. It also clarifies some recent stories that needed to be explained from the FBI side because we don't hear all that we need to know. 

Currently reading:

  • Learning to See by Elise Hooper
  • The Speech by Gary Younge

Posts since last Malarkey:

I had an unusually busy week, last week, with a lot of driving hither and yon to various appointments and events, so it was not a big blogging week. I've already pre-posted reviews for this week, though, and a Fiona Friday pic. Go, me. 

In other news:

Yesterday, I started watching a Hallmark movie that takes place in Fiji but found the storyline a little boring and the fact that the heroine's face didn't move distracting (clearly, she'd had some botox or a facelift), so I ditched it and moved on to Chance at Romance, the story of a chef who has had a string of unsuccessful blind dates. She sees a photography exhibit and writes an email to the photographer, starting a nice email conversation, but she is unaware that her emails are being answered by his son. When the son invites her for a visit and then sends her a train ticket, she shows up at their house only to find that the actual photographer has no idea who she is.

It's a cute movie. Again, not thrilled with the heroine, who kept giving the hero dreamy looks. But, the actor who played the hero was very natural and awfully nice to look at. And, I liked the interaction between the heroine, Samantha, and the hero's son.

That's about it for my week. How was yours?

©2019 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, February 22, 2019

Hedy Lamarr's Double Life by Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu and a Fiona Friday pic

Even as a child in Austria in the early 1920s, Hedy's curious mind wanted to know how things worked. What powered automobiles? Which type of motor worked best in an airplane? How could she improve a machine's design? At age five, Hedy took apart her music box to examine the mechanism. 

Hedy Lamarr's Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor by Laurie Wallmark is the second book I've read by Wallmark about women in STEM and I hope this is just a beginning of a lengthy series. This children's biography tells the story of Hedy's interests in science and invention, as well as her love of acting. Wallmark describes how these interests grew from her childhood onward, how she became a famous actress but continued to invent, and how she and another scientist came up with frequency hopping, an invention that is used today as a security feature in modern electronics.

Written for ages 5 and up, Hedy Lamarr's Double Life is loaded with quotations by Hedy about her life.

"(My father) had encouraged me by telling me to hold fast to my dream and that if I held fast it would come true."

The book includes a timeline of Hedy Lamarr's life; a separate, more in-depth description of Hedy and her friend George's frequency-hopping invention (so the book can grow a bit with your child); a selected bibliography of books about Lamarr and additional suggested reading about women in STEM; and, a list of Hedy Lamarr's film credits.

Highly recommended - Books about women's accomplishments and bios of women in STEM seem to be among the new, big things in publishing and I couldn't be happier. It's wonderful to read about smart, talented, driven women. I wish books like this had been available when I was young but I'm happy they're around, now. I have two granddaughters and I'm thrilled that they'll have access to books that will help encourage them early if they choose to go into fields that are still, in many cases, male-dominated.

Also by Wallmark and Wu:

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu

Updating: Completely forgot to add the line about who I got the book from. I received a copy of Hedy Lamarr's Double Life from Sterling Children's Books for review. Thank you, Sterling! Please keep this series going for a long, long time!!!


And, for Fiona Friday I give you a sadly out-of-focus photo (it was over too quickly) of Fiona climbing my knees and peeking over to say hello.

©2019 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, February 20, 2019

As Summers Die by Winston Groom

"Sometimes I don't know why I do anything I do," he said soberly. He looked out of the window and into the fog. Damn, he thought. It was only a week or so till Christmas. A lonely time of the year. He really wanted to fall in love. 

~p. 103

Set in 1960s Louisiana, As Summers Die tells the story of a small-time lawyer named Willie Croft. Willie spends most of his time dealing with minor cases until something big happens near Bienville, Louisiana. Oil has been discovered close to Creoletown, where the black people live. An older woman who owns land that used to belong to a prominent family, the Holts, hires Willie when the Holt family tries to buy her off and then force her out of her property. She holds the deed to the land she lives on, which was given to her by the head of the Holt family. Her children are his progeny, unbeknownst to the family. When they find out, they're incensed.

The rest of the lower-income blacks will probably be bought out or forced off their property if a solution isn't found. Willie calls in an expert in dealing with oil discoveries to help him come up with a plan. But, the Holts will do anything to make sure that at least one deed disappears and the oil profits will be theirs alone.

Recommended - A very good story of racism and greed with some clever legal and business maneuvering. I enjoyed rooting for the underdogs and liked the tension caused by the danger to those who dared to try to outsmart the wealthy Holts. I was a little ground down by the racism and the fact that poor Willie was dangled by the woman he was attracted to but I liked the sense of time and place. That surprised me because I'm not a big fan of Southern fiction, in general.

I would never have thought to read another book by Winston Groom, in spite of the fact that I enjoyed Forrest Gump, so I'm glad As Summers Die was an F2F group selection. I checked out a copy from my local library (yay, libraries!). Originally published in 1980, the book is now only available new in Print on Demand, which is pricey. Much as I enjoyed it, As Summers Die is not a book I'll reread so I'm really happy the library had a copy.

©2019 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, February 18, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn - from Berkley Books for review
  • Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Anne Long - from Avon Books for book tour

Husband on the sudden influx of romance books: Why are you reading this filth?
Me: I'm in the mood for filth.

It's not filth, by the way (and he's just being silly). I enjoy the cat and mouse aspect of romance and the certainty of a happy ending. It's good for a lift.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Feed by Nick Clark Windo
  • As Summers Die by Winston Groom 

I had a little trouble getting into The Feed (a post-apocalyptic novel) and that slowed down my reading a bit but once I got into it and figured out what exactly was going on, I really enjoyed the story. As Summers Die is an older title (1990s) about a lawyer who represents a black woman in 1960s Louisiana by the author of Forrest Gump. I checked it out from the library because it's only available in Print on Demand, which is expensive. I'm so happy my library had a copy. It's a good story but I don't think it's one I'll ever want to read again.

Currently reading:

  • The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dream by Gary Younge

And, I'm still reading the Free Speech book and failing utterly to get through it. I'm in more of a fiction mood, right now, so I'll just have to read chapters of that one when I feel like it. I finished As Summers Die last night and didn't start anything new so I'm between fiction reads and will choose a fiction title tonight.

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

I watched two movies, last week:

The Story of Us is a movie that takes place in a small town in . . . uh, Washington? Or, maybe Oregon. Ugh, I can't remember. The heroine is the owner of a bookstore with a romantic theme -- hearts and flowers on the wall, a courtyard so romantic that people go there to propose -- and the hero is the standard "you'll get a promotion if you pull off this deal" architect who is supposed to convince the proprietors of shops in his hometown to sell up so he can build a new, modern shopping complex. The heroine fell in love with the shop as a youngster and bought it when she came back home after working out of state for a few years.

This kind of storyline has been so overdone by Hallmark that it's not even cliché. It's worse than that. It's wrung out. But, amazingly, they managed to keep the dialogue fresh. The Story of Us is charming, funny, and sweet. And, of course, who doesn't love a romance that takes place in a bookstore? Even my husband confessed he enjoyed it.

War Games, released in 1983, is an old favorite of ours and we just happened across it while we were flipping channels, last night. Matthew Broderick plays a high-school age hacker who tries to hack into a toy company to play their latest games. Instead, he accidentally hacks into NORAD and ends up playing a game of Thermo Nuclear War with a computer. But, when he hangs up thinking he's cut off the game, he's wrong. The computer is still playing. And, the people of NORAD think America is really being attacked.

It's amazing how well this movie has held up. In spite of the fact that it's hugely outdated and just seeing the decades-old technology feels like a visit to the museum, the tension level is still there. We have a copy of War Games on DVD, somewhere, if Kiddo hasn't run off with it, and we've watched it many times. It never loses that edge-of-your-seat feel, no matter how many times you view it. I think Ally Sheedy and Matthew Broderick were a cute couple, as well.

And, of course, I watched Victoria, last night. I hope Victoria and Albert stop arguing and start getting along better, soon, but I wasn't bored. I'm curious whether or not Bertie was actually such a difficult child. I've got a gigantic book about Queen Victoria that I may have to put on next year's challenge list so I can find out what's true and what's not.

©2019 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, February 15, 2019

Fiona Friday

Both kitties helped me KonMari the sock drawers, last weekend. Here's Isabel doing her part:

©2019 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, February 14, 2019

January Reads in Review, 2019

January Reads (click on title to read full review):

1. Ten Kisses to Scandal by Vivienne Lorret - When the youngest in a family of matchmakers tries to do some surreptitious matchmaking of her own, she ends up making a deal with an infamous rake. He will teach her lessons about natural attraction but for each lesson she must give him one kiss. What will happen as the kisses become more passionate?

2. Friday Black (short stories) by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah - A fabulous collection of short stories with focus on racism, consumerism, and poverty.

3. Tomorrow is Waiting by Kiley Frank and Aaron Meshon - A children's book about the many things to look forward to in life.

4. Vivian Maier: The Color Work by Colin Westerbeck, Vivian Maier (contributor) - A coffee-table sized monograph of Vivian Maier's color photographs, with excellent text explaining their value.

5. Splinterlands by John Feffer - In a dystopian future where climate change and the splintering of nations has led to a violent, shattered world, a man goes in search of his family as a virtual avatar.

6. Fighting Fascism: How to Struggle and How to Win by Clara Zetkin, ed. by M. Taber and J. Riddell - A guide to how to fight fascism, written in 1923 and taken up by the Communist party but then abandoned. The author's predictions of what would happen if people of varying beliefs didn't band together and create force in numbers unfortunately came to be.

7. Soon: What Science, Philosophy, Religion, and History Teach Us about the Surprising Power of Procrastination by Andrew Santella - A look into the history of procrastination and a theory about how sometimes procrastination may not be all that bad.

8. 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do by Amy Morin - A self-help book in which the author analyzes what mentally strong women don't do and helps you figure out how to make the mentally strong choice.

9. The Gown by Jennifer Robson - Two embroiderers work on Princess Elizabeth's bridal gown in post-WWII London while in a present-day storyline, the granddaughter of one of the embroiderers is left a box with embroidered flowers and a mystery.

10. Time is the Longest Distance by Janet Clare - When a middle-aged woman is told her deceased father was not her biological father, she travels to Australia to meet the man her mother had an affair with and get to know her other family. She ends up traveling across a dangerous desert track with them.

11. Freefall by Jessica Barry - After a plane crash, a wounded survivor grabs what she can from the wreckage and runs for her life. Who is pursuing her and why? Her mother doesn't believe she's dead and tries to find out what's going on. Will the crash survivor get to her mother in time to protect her from what she uncovers?

12. Howard's End by E. M. Forster - A classic tale of two sisters who meet a couple while traveling and accidentally steal an umbrella. The two accidents of fate will steer the coming years of their lives and everything that happens revolves around Howard's End, a house in the country.

13. Kivalina: A Climate Change Story by Christine Shearer - The true story of a village in Alaska that is quickly eroding and being swamped by the sea, its inhabitants unable to find the funds to leave, along with a history of corporate deceipt and how it wins out over science to the detriment of our safety and health.

14. Thunder Pug by Kim Norman and Keika Yamaguchi - A children's picture book about a pug and a pig who discover that everything's better when done with a friend.

15. A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks by Alice Faye Duncan and Xia Gordon - A children's biography of the African American poet that tells how she began writing poetry young and grew to be a prize-winning poet thanks to talent, dedication, and very supportive parents.

16. Mirabel's Missing Valentines by Janet Lawler and Olivia Chin Mueller - Mirabel is nervous about Valentine's Day but she creates some beautiful valentines to give away and then drops them. In the process, she discovers how easy it is to make someone's day and finds her courage. Another children's picture book.

17. Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War by Ed. by Roy Scranton and Matt Gallagher - An anthology of stories about what it's like to be a soldier or a soldier's wife during a war or at home after deployment.

18. Old Baggage by Lissa Evans - The prequel to Crooked Heart tells the story of Mattie, a headstrong former suffragette who finds a new mission in educating young ladies and teaching them life skills.

19. Alpine Ballad by Vasil Bykau, translated by Mikalai Khilo - The story of a Belarusian soldier and a young Italian political prisoner who escape a Nazi concentration camp in Austria, climb into the mountains, and fall in love.

Oh, my gosh, what a month! I'm so thrilled to finally have finished all the reviews. In addition to being a great month for quantity, it was a fantastic month for quality. There was not a single book that I really disliked and I don't recall abandoning any books, either.

Absolute favorites in January were Friday Black, Tomorrow is Waiting, Vivian Maier: The Color Work, Fighting Fascism, The Gown, Kivalina, Mirabel's Missing Valentines, Fire and Forget, Old Baggage, and Alpine Ballad. That's a lot of favorites.

I also enjoyed 10 Kisses to Scandal, and . . . oh, shoot, everything else. If I had to pick on anything at all in the books that weren't my favorites, it would all be minor. Splinterlands was a little dry but worth hanging in there for the ending. Soon is entertaining but just that (not really helpful). Time is the Longest Distance has a lot of unlikable characters but fantastic use of the senses. The pages flew in Freefall but it was kind of odd how a festering wound suddenly stopped being a problem . . . you see what I mean. Nothing was awful or ruined any book for me. It was just a terrific month.

©2019 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, February 13, 2019

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

She could hear the jangle of the fair in the distance; the music was still playing, dangerously sentimental, and she took a deep breath and began to sing 'The Marseillaise', matching her footsteps to the rhythm of the lines. A spooning couple turned to stare; she nodded at them, pleasantly. People always stared. If one didn't creep around, if one said what one thought, if one shouted for joy or roared with anger, if one tried to get things done, then seemingly there was no choice but to be noticeable. She couldn't remember a time when her path hadn't been lined with startled faces; they were her reassurance that progress was being made. 

~p. 21

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans, the prequel to Crooked Heart (now one of my all-time favorite WWII novels) tells the story of Mattie. When Mattie meets up with one of her suffragette friends in 1928 and finds out she's running a camp for young fascists, Mattie decides to start a group for teenage girls to educate them and teach them important life skills. But, one of the girls is unreachable and Mattie's determination to light a spark in her life may end up burning the whole project down.

I loved Mattie in Crooked Heart and was sad when it turned out she was only shown briefly. She is a marvelous, witty, smart, headstrong character. So, I was naturally excited when I heard that she was getting a book of her own. Then, I bought the book and didn't get to it in 2018. Silly me.

Old Baggage was every bit as wonderful as I'd hoped. I'd anticipated meeting Mattie during her suffragette years but she is obviously well past that in 1928. In addition to her new cause to educate and enlighten young ladies, Mattie does slide shows and lectures. At least once, that makes for a very entertaining scene. Mattie is single and shares a house with a friend who came temporarily and then stayed on when they realized how comfortably they lived together as housemates. Her housemate is called "The Flea" (a shortening of her name, which I think is Florie Lee, but don't quote me on that) and her house is "The Mousehole", which also has significance.

The ending of Old Baggage goes right up to Mattie's introduction to Noel of Crooked Heart, which is a very satisfying way for Evans to have ended the book. Read one, move on to the other. Ahhh. Remind me never to put off reading another Lissa Evans book, please.

Highly recommended - Brilliant writing and an utterly perfect prequel. Lissa Evans blows me away. Mattie is a wonderful character. I'd still like to read a story set during her days in the Women's Suffrage Movement, but there's certainly plenty of storytelling about that time through her lectures and dialogue. My book group loved Crooked Heart so I'll drag my copy of Old Baggage along to book group to suggest it for future discussion.

©2019 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, February 12, 2019

Alpine Ballad by Vasil Bykau

Alpine Ballad by Vasil Bykau is a WWII novel like none I've ever read, before, a story of escape and survival. Near the end of WWII, an Italian girl and a Belarusian soldier escape from a Nazi concentration camp in Austria and run into the surrounding mountains with Germans in pursuit. Both a survival story and a romance, the short novel takes place over a 3-day period.

Ivan has lost his shoes and Giulia is wearing clogs. While his feet become unsurprisingly battered, Giulia's clogs slow her down. Ivan considers abandoning her. His new companion is bizarrely, even dangerously cheerful and he doesn't want her to hold him back or give them away. But, he slowly becomes attached to her as they try to find their way to safety and learn to communicate in a hodge-podge of languages cobbled together. Eventually, they fall in love. But, the Nazis are closing in.

Through flashbacks, we get to know how Ivan has been imprisoned by the Nazis several times and came to be captured, each time. Through dialogue, we learn Giulia's story. And, in a letter entitled "In lieu of an Epilogue," the reader finds out what happened after the war, a finale that will warm you down to your toes.

Highly recommended - Heartbreaking and achingly beautiful, Alpine Ballad is so gripping that I occasionally realized I was holding my breath. It's also an excellent translation. I didn't have any trouble following the story, as I sometimes do with translations, and there are footnotes defining the occasional mixture of non-translated words that are used to show how Ivan and Giulia communicate using a blend of languages. I absolutely loved this book and am going to seek out more of Bykau's writing.

©2019 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.

Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War, ed. by Roy Scranton and Matt Gallagher

Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War is an anthology of short stories about life at war and after, mostly set in Iraq and Afghanistan or back in the U.S., written by veterans and at least one military wife.

I didn't take notes on the stories in this one, unfortunately, so I'll just flip through the book and tell you a little about a few I remember enjoying.

"Tips for a Smooth Transition" by Siobhan Fallon - Excerpts from a guide on how to deal with a returning soldier are inserted within the story of Evie, whose husband is returning from Afghanistan. Thoughtful and sometimes chilling, "Tips for a Smooth Transition" sets you firmly in the shoes of a military wife whose spouse may have returned a different person. When he starts tossing and turning in his sleep, she jumps up and puts her hand on the doorknob in case he might have trouble distinguishing a nightmare from reality and become violent.

"Play the Game" by Colby Buzzell - An infantry soldier decides not to "re-up" but then he's at loose ends. He has no idea what kind of job to get and finds himself a room in a cheap hotel. He can't sleep and might be having hallucinations. When his car goes missing and he files a report with the police, he's convinced it was stolen. But, then he happens across his car and a memory returns to him. A story that makes you understand how isolating it can be for someone to leave the military and how difficult to figure out that next step in life. At one point, the protagonist gets a phone call and you're also left wondering if he's got some sort of medical issue that's the underlying reason he's self-medicating with alcohol.

"When Engaging Targets, Remember" by Gavin Ford Kovite - An infantryman in charge of a machine gun to protect a convoy traveling from Baghdad airport to a Forward Operating Base goes over the rules of engagement. When a car begins to rapidly approach the convoy, he must follow the rules to shout a verbal warning, display his weapon, shoot a warning shot, then a disabling shot, and finally shoot to eliminate the target, if necessary. But, how do you decide whether or not the vehicle is a genuine threat? What if the people in the car simply need to get by? This is the decision the protagonist is faced with.

"Roll Call" by David Abrams - After the memorial service for one of their friends, a group of soldiers stands around on the Forward Operating Base, remembering the many people they know who have fallen. The sheer quantity of people listed and the horrible ways some of them died (they don't go into detail about every death) will make your toes curl.

Two of the authors are people I've read before (links to reviews of their books):

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
Brave Deeds by David Abrams

Interestingly, both of those books happen to be books that I've thought about a lot, since reading them. I passed on my copy of You Know When the Men Are Gone and then almost immediately regretted it. I ended up getting an electronic copy, but I may just eventually buy a new copy of the book since I'm terrible about reading e-books. Brave Deeds has stuck with me in the same way. I can remember some of the scenes that moved me the most and the incredibly moving ending of Brave Deeds. Both had a powerful impact on me.

Highly recommended - A difficult read that gives the reader a variety of perspectives of military service and its challenges, especially the transition from war zone to civilian life. I had particular favorites but Fire and Forget is an unusual collection in that I didn't actively dislike any of the stories. A couple of them are actually humorous, which gives it a nice balance because most hit you pretty hard with a good dose of painful reality. As I flipped through Fire and Forget, just now, I found myself getting sucked into every single story and wanting to read it all over again. A solid collection of stories that I will definitely save for rereading.

©2019 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, February 11, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (left to right):

  • A Bend in the Stars by Rachel Barenbaum - from Hatchette for review via Shelf Awareness
  • My Coney Island Baby by Billy O'Callaghan and 
  • The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal - both from HarperCollins for review
  • The Black Panthers Speak, ed. by Philip S. Foner,
  • Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela V. Davis, and
  • The Speech by Gary Younge, all purchased from Haymarket Books for Black History Month
  • Devil's Daughter by Lisa Kleypas - from Avon Books for review

What a fun stack. I remembered, after I ordered the three Haymarket Books, that I have Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom, but it's about the size of a brick so I could not possibly have read it in a single month. I think I'll put it on my challenge list for 2020. Yes, I'm already coming up with plans for next year's challenges. I've only got one remaining title from my first Haymarket Books order (a Holocaust diary) and all three I've read were terrific so I'm really looking forward to this batch.

As to the rest, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is by the author who wrote Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, which I loved, so I'm excited about that. My Coney Island Baby is by the friend of a friend. I have not met him, but my friend has gushed about Billy O'Callaghan, so I was excited to see that one of his books had come up for review. And, A Bend in the Stars takes place during the run-up to the first World War. Until a few years ago, I really had not read much at all about WWI but I've increasingly become intrigued by stories set during WWI. I briefly felt like I had an understanding of how that war began, after one of the books I read, but I guess I'll have to reread it because I really can't remember a thing about the series of events that led to war (besides the assassination).

Devil's Daughter was unsolicited but I love reading a romance, now and then, to shake up the reading so I'm looking forward to it. Avon has mostly gone to electronic review copies and I'm a failure at reading e-books, so I can't request them all that often and enjoy it when one shows up unexpectedly.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Hedy Lamarr's Double Life by Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu
  • Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley
  • The Girls at 7 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

Of those, the Hedy Lamarr bio (a children's book) is my favorite because I love bios of women in STEM but The Girls at 7 Swann Street is also excellent. Late in the Day was disappointing. I'll tell you why when I review it.

Currently reading:

  • The Free Speech Century by Stone and Bollinger
  • The Feed by Nick Clark Windo

I said I wouldn't mention The Free Speech Century again till I finished it, but since I'm only reading two books at the moment . . . well, whatever. I'm still reading it, obviously. I tried to add a third book but it didn't stick, so I may try another addition, tonight. I want to get started on a book for Black History Month, so I will try to devote more time to finishing The Free Speech Century, as well.

The Feed is an apocalyptic novel about a near future in which people have a chip implanted in their brains that allows them to access something akin to the Internet without any kind of keyboard or screen. Then, something happens -- no idea what, exactly, as of p. 53 -- that thrusts the world back back into a dark age. No power, no infrastructure or government, animals going wild, people trying to figure out how to grow food to survive. Those who have the chip in their brains are at a disadvantage because they didn't learn how to think the way the older people did and can zone out unexpectedly. I'd like this book better if the author would drop a hint or two about what caused the Feed to go down and the world to shatter. I don't like not knowing anything at all about the reason. I suppose that will be revealed in time, but I'm feeling impatient. Maybe I'll just try to read faster.

Posts since last Malarkey:

Not a bad reviewing week, although I went sput . . . sput . . . sput around Thursday. Just couldn't get myself to sit at the computer. So, what normally would have been my Friday post was moved to Saturday. I'm getting close to finishing up January reviews! Woot!

In other news:

I feel bad admitting this but I'm getting a little bored with Victoria. I won't stop watching it, though. Even though it's starting to feel like the same mini plots are regurgitated (and the death of a character I like broke my heart, last week), I can't bear the thought of missing it. I do need to figure out what the heck Feodora is up to. She's clearly shifty but what's her purpose? Obviously, the broad-shouldered footman is the new downstairs love story hero, but I just don't get Feo.

I know there was something else bookish that I wanted to mention but . . . no idea. If I remember it later, I'll come back and update. Happy Monday!

©2019 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.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Mirabel's Missing Valentines by Janet Lawler and Olivia Chin Mueller and a Fiona Friday pic

Mirabel was very shy,
She'd always been that way. 
She trembled at the thought of 
giving valentines away. 

Mirabel is nervous about exchanging valentines with her classmates, but in spite of her nerves she puts her heart and soul into creating beautiful cards with a heart on each one. The next day, she goes to school. As she's walking, she is totally unaware that her bag is open and the valentines are dropping out of her bag, one by one.

As each valentine falls, an adult working or walking nearby finds them and each person feels uplifted by the sentiment. But, then Mirabel realizes her bag has gotten lighter and when she discovers that the valentines she worked on so hard are gone, she lets out a squeal.

Hearing Mirabel's distress, the people who've found her cards realize that they weren't dropped deliberately for them and they return the cards to Mirabel. She's happy to find that -- even though they didn't get to keep them -- her cards have brightened up the day for a number of people. And, she's made a few friends in the process.

The gratitude of her new friends gives Mirabel courage and she is no longer nervous about the valentine exchange. At the end of the day, she heads home but doesn't realize that the adults who picked up her cards are quietly each slipping a card into her bag. When she gets home, she has a treasure trove of cards.

Highly recommended - Mirabel's Missing Valentines is a sweet, uplifting book about how little things like a pretty card can make a person's day brighter. It's also about summoning the courage and creativity to do something, in spite of nerves, and how it can turn out just fine in the end. One of three books sent to me together by Sterling Children's Books, Mirabel's Missing Valentines was my favorite of the bunch because it's lighthearted and sweet. It's a seasonal book but unlike some that I've reviewed over the years, I don't feel like this one needs to be reserved for the season. It isn't just about  one particular day; it's about friendship and brightening someone else's day, gathering up the strength to do something you're afraid of and going for it -- both themes that work year-round.

My thanks to Sterling Children's Books for the copy of Mirabel's Missing Valentines!

And, a belated Fiona Friday pic because I just couldn't get myself to sit down at the computer, yesterday. This is Isabel looking up at me as I walked in the front door. Every time I go outside, the cats come running to see if I've brought them any grass to munch on. Unfortunately, it's not growing (although the weeds are doing terrific) so I have to hold up my hands to show them there's no grass in them every time I walk in the door. Hopefully, they'll be satisfied soon.

©2019 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, February 07, 2019

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks by Alice Faye Duncan and Xia Gordon

Gwen's South Side view is an urban suite. 
Pointed church steeples pierce the clouds. 
Poolroom chaps skip school and smoke. 
Four and five families live in one house. 

Men walk and run. 
Women sing and shout. 
63rd Street is a brown face muse. 
Gwen types her poems in a crowded corner.

~ from A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks by Alice Faye Duncan and Xia Gordon is a children's biography of African American poet Gwendolyn Brooks. Written in a poetic style, it tells about Brooks' childhood and her early writings, how her parents supported her unconditionally, and how she wrote so beautifully even at a very young age that she was accused of plagiarism by an elementary school teacher. To prove her daughter wasn't a plagiarist, Brooks' mother had her write a poem on the spot to show her natural ability. A smattering of her poems, from juvenilia to a poem written as an adult, are included.

I like this description on the book flap:

Alice Faye Duncan has created her own song to celebrate Gwendolyn's life and work, illuminating the hope and promise of the blank page, the tireless struggle of revision, and the sweet reward of success. 

That success included, among other things, a Pulitzer Prize.

Highly recommended - A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks is a wonderful story about an inspiring woman. The two things that really jump out at you are the fact that she was determined (a natural talent, as well) and clearly her success was at least partly due to her parents' support. You really get a feel for the dedication required to be a successful poet. Because Gwendolyn was African American, A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks would make an excellent selection for Black History Month. The age range is 5 and up. Like a lot of Sterling Children's Books for the very young, there is a page that goes into further detail for a slightly older crowd, so it can grow with a child. A timeline of Brooks' life is included.

There is a limited color scheme to the illustrations -- not my favorite, since I like a children's book to fairly shout at me in rainbow colors -- but it just seems to fit, somehow, so I didn't deduct even a fraction of a point at Goodreads for that. An unusual book, stylistically, that really works for the subject matter, as well.

I received a copy of A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks from Sterling Children's Books for review. My copy will be passed on to a local teacher, since I think it will be a great addition to any elementary school library.

©2019 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, February 06, 2019

Kivalina: A Climate Change Story by Christine Shearer

Climategate is emblematic of the "discourse of doubt" deliberately employed by the fossil fuel industry and its allies. This discourse sets up certainty as the only acceptable standard for acknowledging and thus acting on climate change, while simultaneously manufacturing uncertainty, to ensure such certainty is never achieved. Demanding certainty is also a deliberate misrepresentation of science, as science consists of gathering and assessing reliable data, producing replicable results, establishing areas of consensus, and building on the findings for greater understanding, while acknowledging areas in need of further research. In demanding certainty while manufacturing uncertainty, industries can forever frame the discussion as "the science is out and more research is needed," delaying regulations indefinitely even when evidence of harm and danger is overwhelming. 

~ p. 16

While downplaying and attacking government science, those opposed to regulations have also drummed up support by funding research institutes, such as the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, that produce primarily dire economic analyses of the possible consequences of regulation. Such reports have contributed to a widespread public perception that regulation in any form is inevitably expensive [...] These analyses seldom factor in, however, the costs already borne by society due to increased sickness and disease and thus medical care, as well as environmental degradation and clean-up -- public costs that therfore act as invisible subsidies to industry. Such cost-benefit analyses also systematically downplay or ignore the value and benefits of a healthy society and healthy ecosystems. 

~ pp. 32-33

Under the New Jersey and Rhode Island courts' reading, since former lead paint manufacturers do not presently "control" the premises containing lead hazards, meaning they do not own the buildings, they are not liable -- a decision deliberately ignoring the evidence suggesting that the companies knowingly created the nuisance in the first place. 

~ p. 48

The growing understanding of anthropogenic warming has been a process of international, cross-disciplinary scientific inquiry and collaboration going back more than a century. Weather refers to atmospheric conditions including temperature, wind, and precipitation over a short period of time, while climate measures the mean (average) and variability of weather over a relatively longer period of time. The term "global warming" describes the increasing average surface temperature of the earth due to steady buildup of heat-trapping gases in our lower atmosphere, while "climate change" more fully captures the scope of the effects. 

~ p. 77

More evidence of anthropogenic warming was unearthed in the 1980s, as samples of ancient air trapped in ice cores showed correlations between carbon dioxide levels and temperature. A two-kilometer-long ice core drilled in 1985, carrying a 150,000-year record, showed carbon dixoide levels rose and fell in line with records of past temperature shifts. Records going back 800,000 years show carbon dioxide levels got as low as 180 parts per million (ppm) in cold periods and 280 ppm in warm periods, but never higher. In 1980, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 340 ppm. As of 2011, it is about 390 ppm and rising at an average rate of about 2 ppm per year. 

~ p 82

First, a note. Kivalina: A Climate Change Story was published in 2011 and there is no update  reflecting what has happened since publication, although I just looked up the "current concentration of Co2 in the atmosphere" and Google tells me it was up to 405 ppm in 2017. In spite of the book's age (things are definitely changing fast), the book is still revelant because it's not just about the battle against rising water in a single island town. Instead, fully half of the book is about how corporations were allowed to grow and thrive, quickly giving them more rights than individuals, how and when human-driven climate change was first discovered and acknowledged (over 100 years ago) and how and why we have been deceived by corporations in ways that are not just damaging but deadly. It even describes how the American justice system has favored corporations over individuals, over the past century.

If you've read The Radium Girls and felt like screaming at the injustice, you'll feel the same about Kivalina. Rather than just describing climate change, it goes into other known hazards that were deliberately covered up by corporations who benefitted from the production of harmful products: leaded paint, tobacco products, and asbestos (which has never been banned and is actually making a comeback, in spite of being a known carcinogen) are the major products discussed.

The second half of the book is dedicated to Kivalina itself, a small island in Alaska. The history alone is rage-inducing. The children of Alaskan natives, now in "a small Inupiaq village that sits on a barrier reef island", were forced to attend a school where they would be taught like white people, deliberately keeping the children from being taught the traditional ways of their people, in the last century. Their school was built on the island of Kivalina in 1905, forcing families to relocate to the island. They're a people who practice subsistence living and the government tried to stop that, as well, but did not succeed. When climate change began causing the ice to melt sooner, removing protection from the island during storms and eating away at its shores, the islanders sought help relocating their population. They selected a location that works for continued subsistence. But, it turns out there is not a single U.S. government entity that has been created for the purpose of helping people relocate due to climate change.

Highly recommended - I'd like to see an update added to Kivalina: A Climate Change Story because the only articles I can find online are outdated (although there is still a website dedicated to amassing funds for a future move and info online indicates that the island is expected to completely disappear by 2025) but even slightly outdated the book serves the purpose of educating readers about how they've been deceived. It is equally fascinating and horrifying to find out just how far corporations will go -- to the point of letting people die -- to suppress important information about health and well-being in the name of making money. Everyone should read this book. It's a little on the dry side, especially in the first half. At times, I felt practically assaulted by information. But, it's incredibly well-researched, organized, and intelligently presented.

Note: I tried to adjust the color of the photo, above, and couldn't get it to come out quite right. The book is actually closer to black and white with a slightly brownish tinge -- nowhere near as brown as it looks. I bought my copy of Kivalina: A Climate Change Story from Haymarket Books.

And, just FYI, Haymarket Books is currently having a sale on books on "black liberation". I placed an order so I can have some reading material for Black History Month and thought that was worth sharing (black liberation titles are 50% off). I can't wait till they arrive! I've been very happy with all of the Haymarket titles I've purchased.

©2019 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, February 05, 2019

Thunder Pug by Kim Norman and Keika Yamaguchi

Percy was a pug, and Petunia was a pig. 
Even so, they loved doing many of the same things:

Carving trails through lanky weeds, 
puffing dandelion seeds,
playing twilight hide-and-seek,
lapping puddles cheek to cheek. 

Thunder Pug is the story of Percy and Petunia, a pug and a pig who are the best of friends. Some of their activities are the same but they also do pug and pig things on their own. Percy is perfectly happy waving goodbye to Petunia when she goes off to the fair. But, when she comes home with a blue ribbon and wears it everywhere, Percy starts to get a little envious and lonely because Petunia doesn't have time for him, anymore. Then, he happens across a comic book.

"Thunder Man" is the star of the comic book and reading about him gives Percy an idea. Petunia has her blue ribbon; Percy can have a cape! He starts wearing a cape and doing good, but he isn't satisfied. Then, he realizes what's missing. He needs a sidekick. Enter Pink Lightning, Petunia in her blue ribbon and a cape. Together, they set off to save a young raccoon dangling above a patch of prickly plants. They manage to rescue the raccoon (sort of) and get tangled up. But, everything is better with a friend.

Highly recommended - This is going to sound weird for a "highly recommended" book, but the first time I read Thunder Pug, I was disappointed. I love the illustrations but I just didn't get the point of the story. It felt like there were too many ups and downs. This is good, but that's unsatisfying, etc. I was a little baffled by the fact that there are two spreads that rhyme while the rest of the book does not. So, I decided I needed to read Thunder Pug aloud to see if that made a difference. And, it definitely did. Thunder Pug is easy to dramatize and when read aloud even the blend of non-rhyming and rhyming bits suddenly made sense. I found myself pointing at things and asking the cat questions, just like I would a child. I even laughed a couple times. The cat wasn't very responsive, but I discovered that Thunder Pug is a book that just needs to be read aloud to be appreciated. Now that I know how fun it is to read, I'm planning to drag my copy of Thunder Pug along to read to the grandchildren, when next I see them.

Other books I've reviewed by Kim Norman (click on the title to see my review):

Ten on the Sled
This Old Van

My thanks to Sterling Children's Books for the review copy!

©2019 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.

Howard's End by E. M. Forster

That evening Margaret took decisive action. The house was very quiet, and the fog -- we are in November now -- pressed against the windows like an excluded ghost. Frieda and Helen and all their luggages had gone. Tibby, who was not feeling well, lay stretched on a sofa by the fire. Margaret sat by him, thinking. Her mind darted from impulse to impulse, and finally marshalled them all in review. 

~p. 51

Howard's End by E. M. Forster is a book I've meant to get to for literally decades, as is the movie. So far, I haven't had any luck finding the movie on any of the streaming channels we have access to, but I'm happy to have finally read the book for my January classic selection.

Howard's End is a delightful classic about two single women who are into the arts, intellectual pursuits, and travel. When Helen visits acquaintances from their recent travels and then the two women (Helen and her sister, Margaret) cross paths with a struggling man whose umbrella Helen accidentally absconds with, a chain of events is set off and at the center of it all is a house called Howard's End.

Since I haven't seen the movie and Howard's End is not one of those classics that people bring up in conversation regularly, I had no idea quite what I was getting into. I knew I liked the only other book I've read by Forster but even the trailer to the movie (the Merchant and Ivory film starring Helena Bonham Carter as Helen and Emma Thompson as Margaret) didn't tell me much, although I thought it hinted at sinister happenings. So, I was pleasantly surprised that there was occasionally a slightly comedic touch to the dialogue.

I'm not going to get into the plot because I'm sure it's been written about all over the place, but my favorite scene is one in which Margaret (I don't recall if Helen was present) attends a gathering of women in which they do an intellectual exercise. The set-up is that a millionaire has died. Each person is assigned an identity and then has to argue what should be done with the deceased's million dollars from the perspective of the identity given to them. So, one woman might have to argue from the perspective of the millionaire's son, another from that of a neighbor, and so on. I not only loved the scene because it was entertaining and thought-provoking but also found myself wishing I happened to hang out with people who liked playing that sort of mind game. The women in the novel had a great time and laughed a lot. Doesn't it sound fun? I'm sure there are board games with similar concepts but we don't currently have any friends that enjoy game nights, as we used to.

Recommended - The only reason I'm not giving Howard's End my highest recommendation is that sometimes the language of turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century England lost me. There would be some bit of dialogue with sentences that I'd have to read and reread or just blow past because I couldn't entirely follow them, although I always at least got the gist of what they were saying. I just didn't always understand the detailed meaning because of their dialect. At any rate, I thoroughly enjoyed Howard's End and a few passages that I couldn't completely follow were not enough to ruin the story in any way. Howard's End was first published in 1910. My edition (shown on a Fiona-cat easel) was printed in 1985. Chances are good that I bought it at a library sale but it definitely has been lurking on the shelves for a very long time.

©2019 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, February 04, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Learning to See by Elise Hooper - from HarperCollins for review (shown above)

. . . and a pile from the weekend library sale:

Left to right:

  • Noir by Christopher Moore
  • Moondogs by Alexander Yates
  • The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
  • Here is Your War by Ernie Pyle
  • To War in a Stringbag by Commander Charles Lamb
  • Rogue Heroes by Ben Macintyre
  • Number 9 Dream by David Mitchell
  • Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis
  • Forbidden Area by Pat Frank

Of my library finds, I'm most excited about Here is Your War by Ernie Pyle, because I've been thinking I'd like to read something by Pyle since we visited the National WWII Museum, and Forbidden Area by Pat Frank because I loved Alas, Babylon. But, the others are all exciting, too. Noir is one I requested for review twice and didn't receive either time. So, it was nice to find a copy of it -- and without the reviewing obligation attached, no less. And, the C. S. Lewis is a title that's new to me. I've read quite a few books by Lewis, but it's been a long time.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Old Baggage by Lissa Evans
  • Alpine Ballad by Vasil Bykau
  • Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
  • The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Old Baggage was marvelous. If you've read Crooked Heart, fell in love with Maddie, and wished for more, you'll be pleased that she got an entire book of her own. Alpine Ballad is a story of escape from a concentration camp and a love story that takes place over 3 days. It was, at times, so gripping that I realized I was holding my breath. The beautiful cover is deceptive; it's a novel of hardship, although there is a point that the two end up in a field of poppies. Franny and Zooey is my classic for the month and a good reminder of why Salinger was so revered. I have a 1980s copy that is, it says, the 45th printing. I'm sure that's something most authors can only dare to dream of happening to their books. The Book of Strange New Things is the first of the two books in my Books the kids insist I must read Challenge. One for each child. Youngest has already said, "Now you can read my book!" and I just finished, last night. 

Currently reading:

  • The Free Speech Century by Bollinger and Stone
  • Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley

I'm going to stop mentioning The Free Speech Century till I finish it, just because I get tired of seeing the same title linger in my current reads when it's a slow one. I did manage to read a bit, this week, and it is not an easy read for the layperson but it's utterly fascinating. I just started Late in the Day and it's a slightly melancholy book about the death of a beloved art gallery owner and how his family and best friends cope. I love Tessa Hadley's writing but I'm going to need to add a third book that's a bit more upbeat. Or, maybe a book of short stories. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

I have a feeling I won't be able to write quite as many posts, this week, because it's going to be a busy one. But, I'm very happy that I managed to get 5 reviews published, last week. I'm still reading faster than normal -- avoiding social media definitely helps! -- so I'm sure I'll be perpetually behind as long as I keep that up. No problem, there. I'm perfectly happy being a bit behind if it means I'm enjoying my reading.

In other news:

Saturday night was Paint Night and it was really a craft that felt like messy kid stuff. We painted a background around heart-shaped outlines and then filled in the hearts with layers of glitter glue, sequins, and a little extra glitter. Some people brought buttons to add to their hearts. I wasn't happy with my end results but I may give it a second go and do something very different. I didn't divert much from the teacher's design and decided I don't even like the way I painted my background. But, it was fun and I've wanted something to prop on my mantle with silk roses and red candlesticks after Christmas (a Valentine's theme), so . . .  maybe I'll try something similar in general outline but quite different in color and decoration, soon.

TV was a nope. I only watched news at the gym, again, apart from last night's episode of Victoria on PBS. And, that broke my heart. I may need to watch a couple Hallmark romance movies to recover.

©2019 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.