Monday, March 25, 2019

Week off to read

Back next Monday in time for the usual malarkey.

©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, March 22, 2019

Fiona Friday

She was lying right in front of me on the bed. Not a lap cat, my Isabel, but she is always nearby and the sweetest little companion.

©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, March 21, 2019

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner is about two girls who meet in an internment camp during WWII. Elise Sontag's father is a German immigrant who has been in the country for nearly 20 years. Neither he or his wife thought there was any urgent need to become American citizens. Elise and her brother were born in America and have never learned any German. 5 random things lead to Mr. Sontag being accused of siding with Germany in the war and he's arrested. Without his income, things slowly go downhill for Elise's family and eventually Mr. Sontag asks to be transferred to Crystal City Internment Camp in Texas to be reunited with his family.

Mariko's parents are Japanese immigrants and, like Elise, Mariko is as American as apple pie. But, she's from California, where all of the Japanese Americans have been rounded up. First taken to Tanforan, an internment camp at a race track where horse stalls served as their homes, the Inoue family eventually ends up in Crystal City.

Elise and Mariko meet at Crystal City's American school and their friendship is immediate and deep. They have much more in common than differences. But, their friendship eventually ends when, for different reasons, both of the families end up being repatriated to their home countries and then Mariko's family cuts off communication when she's forced to marry in Japan.

As the book opens, decades later, we find that Elise has Alzheimer's and knows it will eventually kill her. Elise's friendship with Mariko was one of the most important of her life and she has always been sad that they weren't able to keep in touch. She decides to look for Mariko and is helped by a young housekeeper who teaches her how to use Google. On impulse, Elise buys a ticket to San Francisco to meet Mariko's daughter and writes a reminder note on her arm, knowing that she may need help remembering where she's headed.

The story then returns to the story of Elise and her family, how her German father was arrested, the family's struggles, and how Elise and Mariko met. While the storyline does go back and forth between the historical and modern parts of the storyline, the bouncing back and forth is minimal. Most of the focus is on the historical storyline and the denouement takes place during Elise's journey to find Mariko.

Highly recommended - Wonderful characters, well-described historical settings, and a truly meaningful, beautiful story of friendship made this a 5-star read. The Last Year of the War has rocketed to the top of my favorites list for 2019. It's beautifully told, believable, and accurate to what I've read about the internment camps. In fact, there was even a little crossover with Learning to See by Elise Hooper, a book I just reviewed about 10 days ago, because Dorothea Lange (the subject of Learning to See) photographed and was horrified by the conditions at Tanforan, the camp at which people were originally housed in smelly horse stalls.

Elise (the character, not the author of the other book) is the narrator. She's an only child whose friends abandon her when her father is arrested and there is nothing more important to Elise than having someone to connect with. Her anguish is visceral during the times when she's friendless and the depth of meaning of friendship to her is immense. I couldn't count the number of times I teared up; so many heartbreaking moments for Elise. I loved both the historical and contemporary parts of The Last Year of the War equally -- which is extremely unusual. I expected a predictable storyline with the typical balance of historical and contemporary storylines. But, The Last Year of the War is far from trite and predictable; it's surprising in many ways.

I received a copy of The Last Year of the War from Berkley Books for review and every time I think of it I want to clutch the book to my chest, I love it so much. Many thanks to Berkley/Penguin Random House 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.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Threat by Andrew McCabe

That day, North Korea was on the president's mind. North Korea had recently conducted a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, potentially capable of sriking the U.S. -- Kim Jong-un had called the test a Fourth of July "gift" to "the arrogant Americans." But the president did not believe it had happened. The president thought it was a hoax. He thought that North Korea did not have the capability to launch such missiles. He said he knew this because Vladimir Putin had told him so.

~p. 136

I'm not actually sure what possessed me to order a copy of The Threat by Andrew G. McCabe. I've ordered a few political books, in the past year or two, but I'm not all that hot about getting to them. However, The Threat turns out not to really be a book about politics but a memoir, although McCabe certainly describes the Trump administration from his viewpoint and experience, including his direct interactions with the president and staff. It is, however, about Andrew McCabe's time in the FBI -- how he made the decision to go from a high-paying job as a lawyer to a much lower-paying job as an FBI agent, for starters. It describes his training and various cases that he was involved in during his FBI years. Yes, he does mention Trump and the dangers he believes this president is causing. But, it wasn't the defensive work of writing that I anticipated.

There were two things that really jumped out at me. One was that Andrew McCabe's early years were spent working on investigating the mafia, including the Russian mafia. I think I'd read that somewhere, but it didn't sink in till I read it a second time and in the words of McCabe, himself, and then it was a bit of an "A-ha!" moment. If, as many people have said, Trump is truly involved with Russian money laundering (I've been reading about that for years, long before he ran for president -- his connections with Russia are nothing new), it makes sense that he'd want to keep McCabe out of the top FBI job, doesn't it?

The other thing that jumped out at me was his description of his work after 9/11. On the day of the terrorist attacks, McCabe was posted in New York City but he was away from the office when the first tower was hit. His response was to drive into Manhattan, lights flashing, turn in his FBI vehicle, and get to work. Eventually, the people in the Manhattan office had to be moved because the dust from the Twin Towers was causing problems with ventilation. Truly, anyone who drove into the horror for the sake of American security is a hero to me, whether an emergency responder or a desk jockey.

I think perhaps the most important tidbit of information is one that most everyone has probably heard, by now, but which is described in better detail by McCabe than I've seen elsewhere and that is the president's complete inability to even listen to and process the daily security briefings. I'm recalling this without any reference (I didn't mark his descriptions of the briefings and don't even remember if he was present or he described this secondhand) but what he said was that on one particular occasion, not only did the president not absorb what he was being told but he only let the people briefing him talk for a minute or two and then spent the rest of the time talking, himself, about things that were totally irrelevant to security. The problem with that is, of course, that the president needs to have a complete understanding of the threats to our nation and be able to make quick decisions in the event of an emergency. McCabe has no confidence at all in his ability to respond to a national emergency with the knowledge and understanding needed.

Highly recommended - Personal opinion: every American needs to read The Threat. It's very well written and compelling information about how the FBI works, some of the cases they've solved (those McCabe worked on, specifically), security issues we face as a nation, and why our current president is endangering us. McCabe doesn't spend a lot of time defending himself from the president's accusations but the final chapter is a little emphatic. And, when relevant, he describes how the current administration treats members of various agencies and the reasons he considers the administrations actions a danger. McCabe also describes how right-wing "news" stories that are completely fabricated are being accepted by main-stream news as facts, constantly putting agencies in a defensive posture. It's a book that will unnerve you -- not just because of the dangers Trump poses but because of close calls with terror that McCabe describes. But, in general, it really is just a typical memoir and a very good one.

©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, March 19, 2019

Beast Rider by Tony Johnston and M. E. Fontanot de Rhoads

Beast Rider by Tony Johnston and Maria Elena Fontanot de Rhoads is the story of a boy's journey from Mexico to the United States. I jumped at the chance to review it when I saw the advertisement on Shelf Awareness. I've read a few tales of people escaping hardship by immigrating but most have been about immigration to Europe, not the United States, so I was excited to read a story that happens closer to home (fictional).

Manuel's brother Toño rode the train (illegally, as in climbing on top of the train and alternately walking and riding) to the United States from their home in Oaxaca, Mexico, a few years ago. They know he survived the journey because he occasionally calls home. Manuel misses Toño, his family lives an impoverished farming life, and he is curious about life in El Norte. So he decides to also make the journey. He will begin the dangerous trip by running to jump onto the train locally known as "The Beast". Even climbing aboard is dangerous, not to mention riding on top of train cars without handholds. People have been known to fall off or miss while jumping aboard and lose limbs or die. But, Manuel is determined.

My initial thought, as I began reading, was that Manuel's journey would be an event that took a few weeks or a few months, at most, even though the cover description says he's "robbed, arrested, beaten, and left for dead." But, it actually takes him about two years because he has to keep stopping to recover. Along the way, terrible things happen but there are good people who care for him, help him recover, feed, and clothe him, as well. It's an emotional journey and I often got choked up, especially when reading about the kindness of strangers.

Highly recommended - The storytelling style is unique and I had to adjust to it, but once I became accustomed to Johnston's voice, I found the story compelling and eye-opening. It took a while, though. When I was about 1/3 of the way into the book and realized that Toño was an illegal immigrant and that Manuel planned to enter the U.S. illegally, as well, I thought, "Well, this isn't going to be a book that's helpful." I figured it was the wrong viewpoint and people who are prone to thinking of Mexican immigrants in a negative light would just shake their heads and say, "See! Just as I suspected." But, besides illuminating the good and evil in people one might encounter in real life, Beast Rider actually places you in the midst of the incredibly terrifying and life-threatening process that is illegal immigration from Mexico and shows you just how much people are willing to go through to seek out a better life.

Quite a few Spanish words or phrases are used and there is a 6-page glossary to refer to. Beast Rider is for ages 12 and up.

This next part may be considered a spoiler, so I'll type it in white and you can highlight it to read if you're not worried about potential spoilers. I won't give away the ending, but I will say I thought it felt right and it was what I hoped for.

Manuel eventually does make it into the United States, but because he's illegal he can't get a decent job and neither can his brother; they just scrape by. They live better than they did in Oaxaca, from the standpoint of living space. But, without legal documentation, there's really no way to move up in the world and they live in fear of being caught and sent back. As you're reading about Manuel's daily life in Los Angeles, it becomes clear that his family may have been poor but they were happy and they had a loving support system. In other words, while their life was one of hardship in Oaxaca, it was really a better life. As such, you could definitely look at the book as one that supports legal immigration. I'd like to see something similar that digs into what it's like being surrounded by gangs, threatened and extorted, having loved ones killed, like many of the current immigrants coming from Honduras -- one in which going back is likely a death sentence. But, as a way to learn about why the journey is so dangerous (and, thus, so many large groups have been forming to fend off that danger), Beast Rider is definitely illuminating. 

I received an Advance Reader's Copy of Beast Rider for review from Abrams Books. Many thanks!

©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, March 18, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (left to right):

  • The Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets and
  • Layover by David Bell - both from Berkley/Penguin Random House for review 
  • The Unspeakable Mind by Shaili Jain, M. D.,
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins,
  • The Binding by Bridget Collins, and 
  • On Democracy by E. B. White  - all from HarperCollins for review

Getting in the Easter spirit, here. That's my mantel bunny, who comes out annually. So . . . great mix, again. The Binding says it's literary fiction but it sounded like something my future daughter-in-law would like and maybe a little different from my normal fare (due to the magical elements) so I got it partly for the change of pace, partly to share. As expected, future DIL said she is interested and wants to borrow it when I finish. On Democracy and The Unspeakable Mind are both nonfiction, the former by the E. B. White of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little fame. It is a series of writings by the late author during a similar time of political change, with fascism on the rise. I've got a book of E. B. White's essays, so there may end up being some crossover (I haven't looked) but I'm hungry for wise words, right now, and very excited about On Democracy. The Unspeakable Mind is about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, something I've read about indirectly (in novels, where people are experiencing PTSD or being treated for it) but never really spent any time studying, so I'm looking forward to learning more about it.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is historical fiction about a slave who murdered her owners. Layover is a psychological thriller and The Last Woman in the Forest is a mystery thriller. Hmm, sounds like I'm going to need something light after this batch! Fortunately, I have some children's books winging their way to me, soon.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn
  • The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

Both were excellent reads. The Last Year of the War took me about 4 or 5 days to finish but a part of me didn't want it to end. I loved that story. One of the reasons it took me so long was that it occasionally made me tear up, so I'd have to set it aside and walk away for a while.

Currently reading:

  • The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project by Lenore Applehans 

I plan to add at least one more title, tonight. We'll see how that goes. I've been excited about Lenore's latest for ages, so it's one I pre-ordered. And, since Lenore is one of us (at least she used to be a book blogger), her book gets priority.

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

I don't remember whether it was Saturday night or the night before that we found ourselves sitting on the sofa, worn out from the day's chores, but I was in charge of the remote and had never seen the 2005 version of Yours, Mine, and Ours. So, I clicked on it when I happened across it on some movie channel (I don't recall which one -- not sure I even knew at the time). I've seen the 1969 version with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball and maybe a random scene or two of this one, but I'd never seen the entire movie and neither had Huzzybuns. I don't think he enjoyed it quite as much as I did but he didn't disappear into another room, so he must have enjoyed it at least a little. Now, I want to see the older movie, again. It's been a very long time since I saw the original.

The 2005 version has a terrible rating at IMdB and Rotten Tomatoes, so I have to wonder if I'd have disliked it if I was unfamiliar with the original, which I remember loving (so I had positive expectations). I thought Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo had excellent on-screen chemistry.

TV viewing was limited to NCIS and Chicago Fire (because I enjoyed it so much, last week), although Kiddo, who was home for Spring Break, turned on Eureka and we enjoyed watching a little of that. I'd never even heard of the show. Not a big TV person, obviously.

The rest of the week was spent alternately doing chores and peering out the window because our deck was ripped out on Monday and Tuesday and then some men showed up to do a bit of measuring and cleaning on Thursday, and they ripped out trees, moved dirt, and dug a trench in our yard on Friday. All this is the beginning of the work to replace our deck with a two-level patio. The trench serves as the outline of the upper level, which will have slightly different dimensions than our deck did. It's pretty exciting to trudge out to that mess (we have to go around the house; you can't get off the covered patio, at this point, or you'd sink into a pile of dirt and end up stuck behind a trench) to visualize what's coming.

That's my week in a very large nutshell. 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, March 15, 2019

Fiona Friday

I'm willing to bet you squinted to try to read the book titles.

©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, March 14, 2019

A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn (Veronica Speedwell Mystery #4)

A Dangerous Collaboration is my first Veronica Speedwell mystery and it's the 4th in the series. You never know how that's going to turn out, starting in the middle of a series. Will it stand alone or be wrought with uncomfortable gaps that make little sense to those who missed out on the earlier entries? Will you be tempted to return to the beginning of a series or decide that it's not for you?

Well, no worries. I loved A Dangerous Collaboration practically from page 1 and it stands alone well. Occasionally, the author adds an asterisk that leads to the title of a book (or several titles) in which mentioned adventures occurred, but there was never a single moment that I felt lost or as if the explanation of past events was in some way lacking.

In A Dangerous Collaboration, Veronica is invited by her business partner Stoker's brother, Lord Tiberius Templeton-Vane, to travel along to an island off the coast of Wales. There, he is to stay with his long-time friend, Malcolm Romilly, and various members of Romilly's relatives in the family's castle. Stoker is told by Tiberius that he's unwelcome, but Stoker's curious and maybe a little jealous, so he tags along, separately. Veronica is to pose as Lord Templeton-Vane's fiancée because it would be unseemly for them to travel alone together, otherwise.

On the island, Veronica and Stoker discover that there is a mystery afoot. Three years ago, Malcolm Romilly married and on the evening of the wedding his bride unaccountably disappeared. Nobody ever figured out if she even left the island. Did she run away? Did she have an accident or was she killed? Malcolm has discovered a clue and Veronica is determined to uncover what became of Rosamund.

Highly recommended - It was the setting, the characterization, and the denouement that I loved best about this book. A castle on an island with priest holes and tunnels? I'm in. The mystery was one that couldn't be solved by the reader, although one could guess, I suppose. I didn't care about that. I found that I loved being immersed in the world to which Deanna Raybourn took the reader and I liked Veronica and Stoker. The other characters had enough dimension and mystery about them to convince this reader it was pretty much possible that anything had happened and most everyone bore a touch of guilt. I definitely plan to seek out the beginning of this series and hope to see what becomes of Speedwell and Stoker in future releases.

I received a copy of A Dangerous Collaboration from Berkley Books in exchange for my unbiased review. My thanks to Berkley/Penguin Random House.

©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, March 13, 2019

Learning to See by Elise Hooper

Learning to See by Elise Hooper is a novelization of Dorothea Lange's life story. For those who aren't familiar with her, Dorothea Lange was a photographer who is probably best known for her Depression-era photographs, particularly "Migrant Mother".

Dorothea's story begins with a crime. She is 22 and has traveled to San Francisco intending to go on to Hawaii with her friend, Fronsie. But, then Fronsie discovers their money has been stolen and they realize they can go no further. Fronsie easily finds a job but Dorothea has to be a bit more clever finding work. With a leg damaged by polio and many employers unwilling to hire a "cripple", she has to pretend she has a minor injury to get a job. Later on, with experience working in a photography studio back East and money from her work locally, she starts her own studio and quickly builds a business photographing wealthy clientele.

This is the beginning of Dorothea's story and I realized, as I was reading it, that I knew little to nothing about her. I knew she was among the photographers hired to document the Depression, but that was about it. Learning to See illuminates her journey from portrait photographer to documentary photographer recording human struggle and how it affected her marriages and her children. If you're interested in photography, as I am, you may be slightly disappointed by the lack of technical description. There is pretty much none. Learning to See is about Dorothea's burning desire to bring light to human suffering, her need to keep moving and working, her hardships and triumphs. It's less about the photography than the photographer and her subject matter.

Recommended but not a favorite - Learning to See is great primarily for the examination of Dorothea Lange's life. I've admired Lange's photography and have seen "Migrant Mother" and other Depression-era photographs by Lange in various books for as long as I can remember, so I enjoyed learning about her. There was something about the book that kept it from being a favorite, though, and I can only describe it as feeling somewhat flat -- perhaps the dialogue didn't ring true to me or I didn't sense a depth of emotion? I'm not even certain I know what it was about the book that I didn't love. But, it was never anything that made me consider setting the book aside. I was enjoying learning about her life too much. I knew so little about Lange that I didn't even realize Lange was not her real name but her mother's maiden name.

Dorothea Lange hung out with other artists and photographers and was married to an artist, so I spent some time looking up the artwork and photography of her acquaintances during the reading. That may have been one of my favorite things about the book, finding artists and photographers who were new to me. The book appears to have been very, very thoroughly researched. At times, I bristled against certain aspects of her life and realized that I didn't want them to be true. Did she really think this, do that? I don't doubt that she did. One of the hazards of learning more about one of your minor heroes is that they always turn out to be human.

I received a copy of Learning to See from HarperCollins in exchange for my review. Many thanks!

©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, March 12, 2019

Devil's Daughter by Lisa Kleypas

Phoebe, Lady Clare, is a widow with two small children who married a sickly man knowing he would likely not live long. In his early days at boarding school, he was tormented by a bully named West Ravenel. Phoebe has not forgotten, so she's particularly horrified to find herself attracted to West when she meets him at a family wedding. Why, she's practically bethrothed to the manager of her estate, although he hasn't yet asked for her hand in marriage.

West was not a good man before his brother inherited the family title. But, in recent years he has found joy in farming the family land and working to improve the lives of their tenants. He doesn't think any woman deserves to deal with a former cad like himself, so he's chosen to remain single. But, if there's one woman who can turn his head, it's Phoebe and he even enjoys hanging out with her children.

Will Phoebe and West be able to give in to their attraction permanently? Or will they just have a fling and move on?

That last line is not how a publicist would probably choose to describe Devil's Daughter but Phoebe and West definitely give in to their attraction physically. There is a tremendous amount of sex in Devil's Daughter. It bears mentioning because, near as I can tell from my recent romance reading, the sheer quantity of bedroom scenes is atypical. Whether or not that's to your taste is something you might want to consider.

Devil's Daughter is the 5th in "The Ravenels" series. I haven't read any of the other books; this one was sent to me unsolicited by Avon Books and I just happened to be in the mood for something light, shortly after it arrived. It stands alone fine but I suspect there are subtleties that I missed because I haven't read the previous books.

Recommended - I really enjoyed the banter between the two characters, West's enthusiasm over farming techniques (again, probably not for everyone, but I thought it was actually quite interesting), and the interaction between the hero and the heroine's children. My romance preference leans "clean" -- minimal sex or none at all -- but that's never a problem because I can skim those scenes if I feel like it, so the number of sex scenes didn't faze me, although I thought it was notable. Devil's Daughter is not a plot-heavy book, although there's a nice twist toward the end, and the conflict is admittedly weak. Yet, I enjoyed the book enough to consider seeking out the beginning of the series. However, I recommend reading reviews by people who have read the other books if you're a regular romance reader, since my opinion tends to be a shade different than the norm.

©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, March 11, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs - from HarperCollins for review
  • The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale - from Penguin Random House for review
  • Store of the Worlds by Robert Sheckley - purchased
  • Beast Rider by Tony Johnston and Maria Elena Fontanot de Rhoads - from Abrams Books for review
  • The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project by Lenore Applehans - purchased
  • Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center - from St. Martin's Press for review
  • The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner - from Berkley Books for review

That's two weeks' worth because I missed posting a Monday Malarkey, last week. I don't even remember why. Huh. I might have been tired from our trip to New Jersey the week before. Anyway, it looks like a very fun pile. Of the two purchases, Lenore's book was pre-ordered some time ago and Store of the Worlds is one that my eldest son recommended. At the time, I was totally in the mood for SciFi, so when I came home from New Jersey I looked it up and found a used copy. And, then I got over my craving for out-of-this-world reading. It will return. I never know what I'll desire to read, from one day to the next.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Learning to See by Elise Hooper
  • Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Anne Long
  • Beast Rider by T. Johnston and M. E. Fontenot de Rhoads
  • Operation Frog Effect by Sarah Scheerger

Our trip to New Jersey (bonus: it snowed every day!) was to visit family and meet our new grandchild, who is the sweetest, most unflappable baby I've ever met. She smiles a dozen times more than she cries. I'm envious that I never had such a sweet-tempered baby. Visiting with family definitely cut into the reading time but last week was closer to normal in spite of a migraine that lasted all week. This week, work removing our deck to replace it with a more permanent porch structure begins. It's pouring rain but we have three vehicles parked in front of our house and it looks like the workers are sitting in their trucks, emerging between downpours to put out flags marking the gas and power lines. It'll be interesting to see if noisy construction messes with my reading when the removal and actual construction get going.

Currently reading:

  • A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

I did not finish The Speech by Gary Younge and I found it heavy reading so I'm considering DNF'ing it and just saving it for next year's Black History Month. So, BHM reading was a #fail in 2019. I won't stop myself from reading it sooner if I feel like it; there's no reason to wait a year. I just don't feel like finishing it at the moment. OK, yep, I just talked myself into abandoning the book, for now. The blog is still good for something, then, haha.

A Dangerous Collaboration is the 4th in the Veronica Speedwell mystery series and I haven't read the first three but I'm tempted. So far, little has really happened but I love the setting and feel immersed in it, appreciate the characterization, and am finding the dialogue entertaining. It remains to be seen whether or not I'll enjoy the denouement enough to seek out the first three books, of course, but at this point I'm definitely interested.

Posts since last Malarkey:

I was just flipping through my calendar (where I record finished books), not long ago, and doing so reminded me just how eclectic my reading is. While reading a wide variety began as a deliberate act because I'd burned out on two separate genres, it seems to have become habitual. I have trouble even imagining reading anything almost exclusively, now, but I can still remember walking along the mystery aisle in Books-a-Million, looking for my next paperback mystery read when I was addicted to series books. Now, I almost never read a series. If you see a review in which I say I can't wait to read the next book (or go back to the beginning to read those I've missed), you know it's special because I'm so seldom tempted to read on. Romance series tend to be catching my attention, lately, and I usually read romance rarely. Funny how our tastes are altered over time and even circle back.

In other news:

If you lived through the 70s, you've got to appreciate Eat, Pray, Love, a Hallmark movie that includes a secondary romance starring Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner, of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. I found the rest of the story far too predictable and trite but, whatever . . . that's the whole point of Hallmark movies, knowing love will happen. It just wasn't a favorite. I gave it a 7/10. My husband humorously gave it a 12/10. "How can you not love it?" he asked me. "Lindsay Wagner and Lee Majors finally got together!" True. That part was immensely satisfying.

That was the only movie we watched. And, the only TV I watched was an episode of NCIS on Tuesday and Chicago Med  followed by Chicago Fire on Wednesday, mostly because I was too tired to turn the TV off and get up after the news, but I do enjoy Chicago Fire. Oddly, the same doctor was in trouble with the psychiatrist for similar reasons to the last time I watched Chicago Med. She has no filter, poor dear.

Yesterday, we trudged downtown to see the traveling cast of Les Miserables! So exciting. It was very, very different from the London version, which has a rotating stage and different sets, so we enjoyed talking about the differences over Greek-American fare, after it was over. Someday, I have got to get to that book.

©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, March 09, 2019

Fiona Friday on the Wrong Day

Me to cats: You guys are so cute! I'm going to take your picture.
Cats look away, one to the side, the other down at the carpet.
Me (about to give up and put the cellphone away because they're refusing to look): Are you hungry?

©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, March 08, 2019

Operation Frog Effect by Sarah Scheerger

Ms. Graham teaches her 5th grade students to think for themselves, work together, and be aware of the ripples created by a single act. But when some of her students take an assignment too far, it's the teacher who ends up in hot water. What can they do to help save the best teacher they've ever had?

OK, that's a very simplified description, so a few more details. Operation Frog Effect by Sarah Scheerger is set in a California classroom with 31 students but the students are divided up into groups of four per table. Each table does projects, sometimes competing with the other tables, but the focus is on 8 students and the story is told through journal entries and letters. Each student has his or her own way of writing in the journal. Emily writes to a fake person named "Hope." Henry writes his entries as scripts because he wants to make movies, someday. Sharon writes her entries in verse. Blake is in remedial classes (the implication being that he's probably not great at reading and writing) and a talented artist, so he illustrates his.

In the beginning, the conflicts are mild. Emily is separated from her best friends. Sharon is lonely. Henry's sense of humor annoys Kayley. One of the children accidentally picks up another's journal and peeks, which leads to a discussion about privacy and how best to handle the issue. One of the students steals another group's project idea. But, then the children are assigned a project that requires more thought and they make the mistake of deciding to sneak out of their houses without telling anyone, to take notes for their project. Their hearts are in the right place but what they do is so dangerous that the parents become frantic, police are involved, and the teacher ends up getting blamed. One student, whose mother is an illegal immigrant, is put in a terrible position when attention is focused on the class. The complications and threads in this book are absolutely marvelous. It's amazing how many important topics Scheerger touches upon.

Oh, and there's a classroom frog (one of the children writes to the frog in his journal entries) who figures into bits of plot and gives the book and the final project their names.

Highly recommended - I love everything about this book. The characters are tremendously diverse and have vastly different home lives. They forge friendships, learn about privacy, gain courage (there are some inspiring Malala quotes included), show compassion, and figure out clever ways to solve problems together. There's a child with divorced parents: a traveling father and a depressed mother. One of the children loses his home. One is wealthy and privileged with parents who are used to swinging their weight around; she starts out a mean girl and ends up gradually softening. The illustrations are also a total delight. Because Blake's journal entries are illustrated and each journal entry or letter tells part of the story, portions are told through illustration.

Note: Gina Perry is not credited on the cover, but she is the illustrator and I think she certainly deserves mention. When the kids admired Blake's illustrations, I was nodding along. They were marvelous.

I received an Advance Reader's Copy of Operation Frog Effect from Random House in exchange for an unbiased review and I genuinely love this book. I laughed, I cried. Many thanks to Random House!

©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, March 07, 2019

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New Things is my first book by Michel Faber. In spite of the gushing praise I read about The Crimson Petal and the White, a few years back, I haven't gotten around to reading it, yet. In this case, the book was chosen for me. My eldest son has been talking about The Book of Strange New Things for some time, now, and last year he brought his copy along when he came for a visit. I knew I was going to have to return it to him, soon, so I tacked that and a book my other son wants me to read onto my personal challenges for 2019.

In The Book of Strange New Things, Peter is a preacher who used to be an alcoholic until his wife, Bea, introduced him to Christianity when he was down and out and she was his nurse. When Peter gets the chance to travel to another planet to preach the gospel, he's excited to go and disappointed that Bea can't join him.

On Oasis, Peter's stunned to find a peaceful native population and an oddly lifeless group of humans. He quickly discovers that he's happier living with the natives. But, back on Earth, things are going from bad to worse. A string of natural disasters, shortages, and violence is exhausting Bea. Shocked by Peter's emotional distance, she begins to lose the faith that used to be so strong that she was able to share it with Peter and pull him out of alcoholism. Will Peter "go native" and stay on Oasis or will he realize that Bea needs him and find a way to return to Earth?

Recommended but not a favorite - I never saw any kind of a timeline for this futuristic story but I thought of it as another "near future" story because of the fact that the natural disasters mostly appeared to be the result of climate change and most of what happens is among the kind of events that are expected to occur within a relatively short time period if we don't effing do something to mitigate climate change. But, of course, we don't have the technology to travel to distant planets, so you just have to wild-guess at the time period. At any rate, I was not as enamored of The Book of Strange New Things as my eldest son. I found it a little too slow and lacking in conflict. Most of the conflict that exists is between Peter and Bea or Peter warring with himself. It's mild. There were times I fully expected something major to happen and got a little nervous about what might be coming and then . . . nope. I did like the ending, though, and I don't regret reading the book.

©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, March 06, 2019

Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Anne Long

First things first: Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Anne Long is a bit offbeat as romance novels go. I like that but I think it's worth stating because most of the regular romance readers I know crave consistency. There's a feminist bent to Lady Derring Takes a Lover, a bit less focus on attraction between the two characters who fall in love (it's more of a slow burn, which I prefer, in spite of instant attraction), and more on the business she starts up with two other women. I personally loved the uniqueness of this book and the lack of lengthy, gushy narrative; it was a 5-star read, for me. On to the description.

Delilah Swanpoole, Countess of Derring has just been widowed. Her marriage was arranged for the opportunity to pull her family out of poverty; it was not a love match and she feels somewhat freed by Lord Derring's death. That is, until the lawyer explains that Derring was heavily indebted and that, since they had no children in their six years of marriage, the estate is entailed to the closest male relative. Delilah must find alternative lodgings. Everything in her home is being reposessed and it's only through the determination of her ladies maid, Dot, that she is able to salvage her jewelry and clothing. Only one item is not attached to the estate: a building on the Thames, right by the London docks. It's a seedy part of town and the name of the building is the Rogue's Palace (which doesn't bode well) but it's all she's got.

Lady Derring and her loyal maid travel to the dockside building and stop for a drink in the pub next door, where Delilah discovers her husband's mistress, Mrs. Breedlove, seated at the table where she met Lord Derring and where he suddenly died. She, too, is destitute and has been ill used by men. But, after they get to know each other, Delilah decides to include her in her plan to turn the Rogue's Palace into a boarding house called The Grand Palace on the Thames.

Captain Tristan Hardy is the Captain of the King's Blockade, a hard man who worked his way up from poverty. His investigation into the smuggling of cigars by the deadly Blue Rock Gang has led him to suspect the involvement of the deceased Lord Derring. But, could Lady Derring be involved? In order to find out, he moves into The Grand Palace on the Thames. He will check out the building while his men observe the comings and goings of those in and around the boarding house and track down other leads. The last thing he's expecting is to fall for the beautiful proprietress in half-mourning.

Highly recommended - I was immensely entertained by Lady Derring Takes a Lover. Both Delilah and Angelique (Mrs. Breedlove) are in their 20s but they've already spent their lives serving men in loveless relationships, living well only to be cast back into poverty. Their venture is risky and, at times, absolutely hilarious. The characters in Lady Derring Takes a Lover are wonderful. Most of the romance novels I've read recently have had some sort of a rogue tamed by a young lady. Captain Hardy is quite the opposite. He's the strong, silent type but he's also a very good man who arose from hardship, himself. The maid, Dot, is a hoot. I don't even want to tell you about her for fear you'll miss out on the joy of learning about her quirks. I loved the way Lady Derring and Mrs. Breedlove, who first bristled at each other, learned to work together and eventually became friends. And, the hodge-podge of lodgers are absolutely delightful. I love everything about this book and highly recommend it. Expect uniqueness and a charming set of characters.

Lady Derring Takes a Lover is the first in The Palace of Rogues series and I can't wait to see what Julie Anne Long comes up with, next. I'm hoping the next book will be Angelique's story. I received an advance reader copy of Lady Derring Takes a Lover from Avon Books for review. Many thanks!!

©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, March 05, 2019

The Feed by Nick Clark Windo

"Where are you going, Mark? What are you traveling for?"

He stares into the miasma, at the rain-ghosted trees as the drops prickle-smack around them. It seems he has ignored her and Kate turns away. But then, still staring at the rain, he says, "Because I've not found anywhere like home." 

~p. 139

In the near future, almost everyone has a chip implanted in his or her brain. The chip connects them to the Feed. Everything you can do on the Internet (in today's world) is done inside your brain via the Feed. It's so all-consuming and so good at thinking for you that when the entire system, the electrical grid, and society collapse, people don't know how to do much of anything.

Tom and Kate and their daughter have managed to survive for 6 years after the apocalyptic Collapse. They live with a motley group of survivors and they're still trying to figure out how to get power and grow food. When Tom is followed home after an expedition to find fuel and the children from their camp are kidnapped, others viciously attacked, Tom and Kate set out into a dangerous new world to find the children.

Recommended, especially to lovers of SciFi and thrillers - The Feed by Nick Clark Windo is the one book that I keep thinking about, this month. It took me quite some time to get into the story because it was initially confusing. The author doesn't baby you. He doles out information about what happened verrrrry slooooowly, so you're theorizing and trying to understand and sometimes just flat confused, at first. Eventually, though, the story of what caused the Collapse begins to come together and when it does, the cause is kind of surprising.

I had a little trouble with some of the world building in The Feed, but to describe it would give a bit too much away. I think it's best to leave the description somewhat sketchy. Even without fully buying into some elements, once I got into The Feed I was totally swept up in it. I wanted to know what it meant to be "taken" -- one of the things the author keeps you guessing about for quite a long time -- and how the Collapse occurred. Did I feel like I got all the answers? Nope, not entirely. Some minor aspects I felt like I was still guessing at, in the end, or just didn't buy into. It didn't matter. I was fascinated by this apocalyptic vision, I found the ending satisfying, and I can't wait to see what Nick Clark Windo comes up with, next.


Totallly forgot to mention that I received this book from the publisher. My thanks to HarperCollins! And, it's also worth mentioning that I didn't manage to write a Monday Malarkey post, this week, because I didn't have access to a computer, yesterday. I've got a busy week with some reviews already pre-posted, so I'm not going to do a substitute for the usual Malarkey post. Instead, I'll do two weeks' worth of Malarkey next 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.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Fiona Friday - Just thinking

Looks like you can see the photographer in her right eyeball, blocking the light!

©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.