Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Layover by David Bell

When Layover by David Bell opens, Joshua Fields is in the hospital with a concussion and a police officer says, "Tell me where she went." You have no idea who the woman in question is, nor how Joshua ended up fighting with another man. It's a typical prologue beginning, teasing you with what's to come so that all the way through the book you're aware that there will be a final conflict that lands Joshua in the emergency room.

Then, Joshua's story returns to the beginning. He alternates chapters with Detective Kimberly Givens, the officer questioning him in the ER. Givens is under pressure by her town's mayor to find a missing man but really just wants to spend time with her daughter, who is on a school break.

Joshua Fields is a real estate developer who travels constantly and is terrified of flying. He carefully times the ingestion of his anti-anxiety meds so that he'll be calm and maybe even sleep off his flight but will be awake and able to function when he reaches his destination. On this day, he's headed to Tampa. But, then he decides to stop in a bar before going to his gate and there he meets a mysterious woman.

Morgan has a hat and sunglasses on indoors. She's clearly nervous and is unwilling to leave her bags for anyone to watch, even for a quick visit to the bathroom. At first, she really doesn't want to have anything to do with Joshua, but then she opens up to him and he doesn't want the acquaintance to end, even after seeing her described on TV as a missing woman.

On impulse, he changes his ticket from Tampa to Nashville to follow her. Why is Morgan traveling incognito? What is she hiding and why is she thought to be missing? How much of the story Morgan has told Joshua is true? And what, if anything, does Morgan have to do with the disappearance of another missing person?

Recommended - Layover is a fast-paced, rollercoaster ride that had me sneaking in pages whenever I could find a spare moment. There are some plot points that are a little disappointing — a bit lame, at first appearance — but I was enjoying the book enough that I decided I'd just wait and see whether those things were misleading. Morgan is an unreliable character, so parts of the story she tells Joshua (which sound shrug-worthy) seem likely to be more complex than they appear. Is she telling the truth or is there a more sinister reason for her disappearance?

One of the things I like best about Layover is that Joshua does stupid, impulsive, even unconvincing things, and yet there is still some logical action on his part. He's not afraid to get the police involved, trusts his instincts and acts accordingly, and he's always cognizant of the fact that his father, with whom he works, will be worried when he doesn't check in, yet he still manages to lose track of time and forget to return calls. In other words, he's a much more believable and likable character than most. I often have trouble with characters who decide not to get police involved when it appears their lives may be in danger. I liked Joshua because he seemed so normal. I gave Layover a 4/5 at Goodreads and I will be looking for more by David Bell.

I received a copy of Layover from Berkley Books in exchange for an unbiased review and it was absolutely what I needed at the moment I picked it up. 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.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Sylvie and Amy Lee's grandmother is dying. Amy doesn't really know her but Sylvie spent the first 9 years of her life in the Netherlands, living with her aunt and uncle, her cousin, and her grandmother. Their parents live in the United States and Amy is still living at home, taking a break from school, when Sylvie takes off for the Netherlands to say her final goodbye.

Sylvie is the smart one, the pretty one, the successful daughter with a husband who comes from a wealthy background. Amy has dated around but lacks her sister's confidence and success. Sylvie has helped support her family. But, now she's disappeared in the Netherlands.

Mrs. Lee, known as "Ma" in the book, does not appear to be particularly happy. During her early years as a mother, she and her husband were struggling. So they sent Sylvie to live in the Netherlands and then brought her to the U.S. when her little sister was 2 years old. Ma still doesn't speak English well and keeps to herself.

When Sylvie disappears, Amy flies to the Netherlands to look for her. There, she discovers the strange relationships between Sylvie and their aunt and uncle are not at all what she expected and that their grandmother's treasure, a bag of jewelry she's kept for decades, has gone missing. During the weekend of their grandmother's death, Sylvie went on a quick trip to Venice. What happened in Venice? Could the people who traveled with her have anything to do with her disappearance? Did Sylvie take the gold? If she did, did someone kill her for it? What happened between Sylvie and her husband? Why was Sylvie taking music lessons in the Netherlands and what's the deal with the man who taught Sylvie and insinuated himself into Amy's life?

Through the voices of Sylvie, Amy, and Ma, we get to know the stories of 3 Chinese-American women, their experiences as immigrants in two different nations, the secrets they've kept, and how racism and family dynamics effected their lives, against the backdrop of a mystery.

Highly recommended - So many questions to keep the pages turning. I found Searching for Sylvie Lee utterly gripping. The only problem I had with it is the fact that what became of Sylvie is given away (but not in its entirety) about 2/3, or maybe 3/4, of the way into the book via a newspaper article. I'm not sure why the author chose to insert the news articles (there were 2 or 3) but that particular one was a little deflating and I took a point off for that. Still, there were plenty of mysteries remaining and by the end of the book, Amy and Ma's stories had become dominant as Amy's time away from home helped her build confidence and a surprising revelation explained much about why Ma behaved as she did. All of which is to say, Searching for Sylvie Lee was a very intriguing read.

I received an ARC of Searching for Sylvie Lee from HarperCollins in return for an unbiased 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.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Chihuly: Form from Fire with essays by W. D. Bannard and H. Geldzahler - purchased
  • I Guess I'll Write It Down by Beth Evans (two journals) - from HarperCollins for review 
  • Storm Blown by Nick Courage and
  • An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz - purchased
  • What Red Was by Rosie Price - from Hogarth for review

Kind of a hodgepodge. The book about Chihuly is mostly photos of his artwork (not just glass), a library sale find at my old library. That means it cost me a quarter. I have a few more books from that library sale but they're still in the car. You can see why I drop by when I'm in town. As long as I've been going to that library the prices have been the same and it's a perpetual sale, not a monthly or yearly one. You just never know what people will donate. 

I think I saw an ad for Storm Blown, or maybe a tweet by the author (whom I follow on Twitter) and . . . okay, I bought it mostly based on the cover because it looks exciting. What Red Was is a Shelf Awareness win, the Indigenous Peoples' History is a kind of history that I've been watching for, and the two journals were, I think, another win from a drawing. But, I'm not certain about that. They're super cute, with cartoons inside, but the best thing about them is that they're hardback and small — perfect to tuck in a purse. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
  • Layover by David Bell
  • Meet Me in Monaco by Gaynor and Webb

This was definitely a good reading week. All three books were great. I read Never Have I Ever obsessively. Layover and Meet Me in Monaco were also books that I really enjoyed and didn't much want to put down. 

Currently reading:

  • The Mueller Report (Washington Post edition) - because I promised myself I'd finish reading it as soon as I ran out of tour dates (July was a busy month). 

I read, off and on, all day and still only managed 100 pages, yesterday. So, it might take a while to finish but I'm determined to finish The Mueller Report, this time. I haven't started a fiction title because I'm afraid it'll stop me from reading The Mueller Report, but I might allow myself to read a few pages of fiction per day, as long as I get 1-200 pages of Mueller read. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

I neglected to mention the fact that Brazen and the Beast has a very high rating at Goodreads, when I wrote my DNF report. It wasn't for me, but a lot of people clearly like it.

In other news:

Hmm, nothing to report, really.  Not having really ever hosted a party at my house, I confess I was a little shocked at the sheer quantity of dishes that had to be washed, after last week's party. I used the gathering as an excuse to buy some melamine plates and matching serving platters, which will be great for outdoor use (everything else we own is breakable). Once we got them all cleaned, though, we packed them away and they're going into the attic till fall. Summer is indoor season, here. Fall and winter are our outdoor time of year. We were lucky that a cold front rolled through at the right time and it was tolerable for outdoor entertaining (upper 80s). Normally, we have the kind of weather other places call a "heat wave" for about 6 months. And, even if you can tolerate the heat, the mosquitoes will eat you alive. It was not bad at all, though.

Not a big TV week, but we watched a couple movies on the Hallmark Channel: Rome in Love and Christmas at Pemberley. The latter is a favorite from Christmas season. I think I've watched it three times, now.

At the moment, Isabel is getting into everything and whining at me. I'd better shut up and find her some catnip toys. 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.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Fiona Friday

©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, July 25, 2019

Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean (The Bareknuckle Bastards #2) - DNF

Note: I posted earlier about not being able to finish this book due to a migraine (which I still have, although it's at least a lesser migraine, at this point). Brazen and the Beast is now a DNF at 139 pages out of nearly 400, so I'm going to go ahead and write about it on time (but a little later in the day than I normally would).

In Brazen and the Beast, Hattie (Lady Henrietta) is about to turn 29 and has decided to make the next year of her life "The Year of Hattie". To that end, she's written a vague list to remind her of what she plans to work on. She wants to inherit her father's shipping business and she has the know-how to run it. Her brother, to whom the business normally would pass on, is not naturally adept at business. But, she also has decided she wants to remain single. She is not overly attractive. Her nose is a little too big and she's slightly chubby. She knows that at her age the only thing that will attract a man is her dowry and she doesn't want that. So, she's decided that the first order of business is to be deflowered.

Whit is known in Covent Garden by his nickname, "Beast". When Hattie and her friend Nora sneak out of Hattie's Mayfair home for the deflowering, they find the Beast unconscious and tied up (badly) in the family coach. He is the handsomest man Hattie has ever seen. He's also a very dangerous man who runs a business out of Covent Garden; and, someone has been stealing from him. He wants retribution. Hattie quickly figures out that the thief is her brother. She unties Beast, gives him a kiss, and pushes him out of her carriage.

When Beast follows Hattie to the house of ill repute, she makes him a deal. She will recover his stolen goods. In return, she wants him to do her deflowering. She goes home to patch up her wounded brother and make a plan.

I continued to read for a while, thinking the author would now back up a bit and allow the characters to slowly develop a relationship, which is my preference. In romance, I like to see interaction between characters. What draws them together? What do they have in common? I don't read romance for the sex scenes because I don't even like them; they don't advance plot and I'm a plot lover. I prefer an author to basically tiptoe around the bedroom and show me how people truly fall for each other — not just the raw hormonal stuff but the little things like the way one will pick up on the other's joys and heartaches, observe their preferences for things like food or flowers, find ways to make them smile or laugh.

Brazen and the Beast is more about sex and Hattie's plans for her future, at least so far, and less about interaction. There's also an awful lot of bad language and not long before I closed the book there was a sex scene (no deflowering, yet) that actually grossed me out. If a lot of sex and a dark hero are characteristics that you prefer in a romance, go for it. So far, though, I can't say there's a single thing about the two characters that I would call attraction apart from the physical except for the fact that both are strong-willed and they like that about each other. And, to be honest, I'm wearying of the Alpha Male Rogue/Bad Boy archetype.

A note about the hero: he is the strong silent type and he does a lot of grunting and groaning, along with using the f-word (which I don't mind, in its place, but it feels overused for the time period, especially in the presence of an upper class lady). He may be handsome but I do not find this hero appealing and I can't get behind the heroine, either. There's just not enough character in either to keep me reading.

I received a copy of Brazen and the Beast from Avon Romance in exchange for my honest review. My thanks to Avon! I may not have loved this one but I appreciate the opportunity to try an author who has been on my mental wish list of authors to read.

©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, July 24, 2019

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Amy and her best friend Charlotte are preparing for the neighborhood book group when a stranger, the current occupant of the rental home down the street, barges in and takes over, sweeping up the women into a game in which they confess their dirtiest deeds. But, Amy has worked hard to bury her secrets and create a calm, ordinary life with her husband, a stepdaughter, and a baby boy.

Roux is beautiful but sinister. Amy is suspicious of her from the moment she walks in the door. And, she's right to be nervous. When Roux brings up one of Amy's two darkest secrets and tells her what she wants, though, Amy is not going to fold over like Roux's usual targets. Roux has no idea what she's gotten into. Because Amy is willing to play her game. And, she means to win.

I'm going to stop right here and tell you that I'm giving away next to nothing because I think it's best to go into Never Have I Ever knowing as little as possible so that you can enjoy the unfolding plot as much as I did. The only thing you really need to know is that Never Have I Ever is a fantastic read.

Highly recommended - Absolutely captivating! Never Have I Ever is next-level writing for Joshilyn Jackson, in my humble opinion. Not so much cat and mouse as two cats circling each other with their tales fluffed. Which will pounce? Who will flinch You are always aware, as you're reading, that either woman could win. Roux has clearly targeted people before. But, Amy is no ingenue. She has lived through the pain of knowing what she did wrong in the past; and, she's both tough and wily. A new favorite.

I received an ARC of Never Have I Ever from HarperCollins in exchange for an unbiased review (and without anticipation of the sleep it would steal). 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, July 23, 2019

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris and F2F Report

I knew I would read The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris eventually, since it's a WWII novel. But, it was my F2F group's selection of the book that prompted me to buy a copy and then read it for discussion. As it turned out, I was totally not in the right mood to read about the Holocaust. But, it didn't matter. Once it came up to the top of the stack and it was time to read the book, I made myself open it and found that it's an engrossing story. No worries about not being in the right mood. It probably helped that I've missed out on F2F meetings for several months and was determined to show up.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the novelization of a true story about a young man who was sent to Auschwitz in 1942. A Jew, his family was told that they must pick one person to work for the Nazis and Lale volunteered to be the one, since his brother was married and had children. Packed into the cattle cars of a train, Lale spent days on the ride from his home to what turned out to be not a workplace but a concentration camp. There, he was told to turn over his possessions, his hair was shaved off, and he was given the clothing of a Russian soldier. On the first night, he was headed to the trench where people relieved themselves when he saw a Nazi open fire on the men who were there, a horrifying way to begin his imprisonment but one that made him vow he would survive till the end of the war.

I can't recall exactly how he became the tattooist and that doesn't matter. The job that Lale was given protected him from trigger-happy guards; and, his determination to behave in a way that would keep him from getting any attention also helped. But while Lale was given extra rations and a safer place to sleep, people were starving around him and he felt obligated to find a way to help them. The Tattooist of Auschwitz describes how one prisoner in a death camp survived, found a way to acquire extra food and medicine to share, met a beautiful prisoner and fell in love, and helped as many as he could to survive.

Recommended but what a gut-wrenching read - It's always difficult reading about life in the concentration camps of WWII but doubly hard when it's nonfiction or based on a true story, as The Tattooist of Auschwitz is. The one thing that really kept me going during a time when I was not in the mood to read about this dark chapter of history was the fact that I knew the author had interviewed Lale. Although he was safer than others, he wasn't completely safe from the possibility of brutality or death. At any moment, Lale could have been taken for torture by Dr. Mengele, whom he frequently encountered, or shot and replaced. But, if the author was able to interview him, clearly he survived.

F2F Report:

We discussed The Tattooist of Auschwitz in my book group, this week, but it was not the best discussion and I found some of the tangents immensely frustrating. It's only natural that the idea of concentration camps would bring up the current situation on our Southern Border. Unfortunately, that meant exposing some of our group's prejudices. I tried to bring up the fact that the path to citizenship is almost impossible for those who enter the country undocumented. "You mean the illegals," one of our members said. Yes, those who enter illegally but then become productive members of society can be here for 25 years, own several businesses, employ dozens of Americans, and still get deported because they don't have the option to become citizens, I thought. But, I didn't say that aloud because I was already feeling outnumbered, by that point. Immigration sadly is a complicated subject that people are determined to simplify. And, as one of our members mentioned, the news skims the surface and doesn't go in depth, complicating our lack of understanding by misleading viewers.

At any rate, we talked about the fact that The Tattooist of Auschwitz was unusual for a Holocaust book because there was a romance and therefore a happy ending, how some parts of the book felt a little exaggerated or questionable to some members, and whether or not Cilka was truly a collaborator or was she a victim of the Nazi who forced her to submit to him. I thought she was a rape victim; someone else called her a prostitute. I don't recall her getting anything in return but the chance to live, but it almost seemed like we read 4 different books. Not the best discussion we've ever had but I'm glad I read the book and I'm always glad I went to my F2F discussions because it's nice to hang out with other book lovers.

©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, July 22, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies - purchased 
  • The House of Brides by Jane Cockram and
  • The Survivors by Adam P. Frankel - both from HarperCollins for review 
  • The Rent Collector by Camron Wright - purchased for F2F discussion
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis - from Bryan at Still an unfinished person, won in his 50th Birthday giveaway

The Deptford Trilogy purchase is author David Abrams' (FobbitBrave Deeds) fault . He's been reading 1000 Books to Read Before You Die and describing one book per day. So far, I've resisted buying everything that tempts me (good thing, too, since I haven't read all 1,000 . . . nowhere near) but The Deptford Trilogy sounded fascinating and a bunch of people gushed about how much they loved it in the comments beneath his posts (one at Facebook, one at Instagram). I managed to find a used copy at a reasonable price.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

I overestimated my ability to balance deep cleaning my house for guests and reading. Searching for Sylvie Lee was the only thing I read at all till . . . I think Friday? After I finished Sylvie Lee, I moved on to Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson. I'm almost finished (50 pages left). It's a quick read and I knocked most of it out by reading between chores. Last night was the party, hosted by Kiddo and Future Daughter-in-Law, and we were invited. But, then, we were also tasked with clean-up and by the time I got to bed I was bleary-eyed. I couldn't read a word. No Mueller Report reading, this week. Oh, well. 

Currently reading:

  • Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

There's not much other news. We watched a couple episodes of The Royal, but nothing else except for part of the broadcast of the moon walk on the BBC.  Funny that we ended up watching it on a non-American network. I did a little painting, early in the week, but then I was busy with chores and that included cleaning up my messy painting corner because everyone has to walk past it to get to the patio and the party was being held on the patio . I have finally bought an adjustable easel that can be used for large canvases! Yippee! No more sore shoulder from reaching up to the top of a canvas from a seated position on the floor.

This week, I hope to squeeze in a lot more reading than a single 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.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Fiona Friday - My heart

Please forgive the dirt. I'm using this tablecloth as a dropcloth for painting.

©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, July 18, 2019

Mini reviews - Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami and The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon

Both of these are books from my personal shelves. As I was writing these two reviews (and planning a third), I realized they were ending up much longer-winded than I expected so I deleted a third cover image and I'll review that final book separately.

If not kept in check, nighttime thoughts are prone to amplification. 

~ p. 131

Confession: The cover seduced me, although a vaguely positive review added to the temptation to buy this book. There isn't anyone flying in Strange Weather in Tokyo, and it's not a book about magical realism. It's just a cool cover.

Strange Weather in Tokyo is about a young woman named Tsukiko who happens across her former teacher when they're both drinking in a bar. He is older, a widower, and recognizes her from his Japanese class, many years ago. She calls him "Sensei" (teacher) rather than his name, throughout the book. They keep bumping into each other at the bar and eventually Sensei invites Tsukiko to his home, where they continue drinking and he shows off his quirky collections of train teapots and used batteries. Occasionally, they go places together but then there will be a vague falling-out or they won't see each other for a few months. And, yet, she's always thinking about Sensei and wonders if he's thinking of her.

I like this part of the cover description: "Their relationship develops from a perfunctory acknowledgment of each other to a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love."

Admittedly, it takes a very long time for the "love" part to arrive. It's clear that there's an attraction between the two, and yet Sensei occasionally chides Tsukiko and treats her like she's still his student. Meanwhile, she sometimes drifts away, almost chained by her loneliness, as if she doesn't feel it's possible to break free from it long enough to encourage affection. It's a slow, thoughtful book but I wasn't sure why I found Strange Weather in Tokyo compelling, when I thought back on it. Very little happens, and yet I liked every little moment in which you caught another spark between them. In flipping through the book, I found myself rereading passages beyond the quotes I'd marked. The ending is moving and lovely. If I were to Marie Kondo the room I'm sitting in, I would definitely say Strange Weather in Tokyo sparks joy when I hold it in my hands. I think I'll be looking for more by this author.

Recommended but not a favorite - A quiet book about a couple who are a study in contrasts and yet somehow find themselves drawn to each other and filling a hole in each other's lives. Lovely writing. An oddly simple yet magnetic story.

In The Confusion of Languages, Cassie Hugo is a military wife who has lived in Jordan for a while. She's a rule follower, a little paranoid and stiff, determined not to offend the Jordanians while she lives amongst them. Margaret Brickshaw is the opposite. When Cassie is tasked with welcoming Margaret and her husband, she at first sees Margaret as a wisp of a woman, tiny and timid. But, Margaret is American to the core and unwilling to bend to the rules. Instead of covering her skin, she wears what she wants. She smiles and chats up the embassy guards and her help around the apartment, looking them boldly in the eye, even when told such behavior is dangerous.

As the book opens, Margaret has been involved in a traffic accident while driving with Cassie in the car. It's no big deal to Cassie. Americans are always found at fault; she just needs to follow the embassy guards and pay the fine. But, instead, Margaret insists on going home and asks Cassie to watch her toddler while she returns alone. When hours pass and Margaret doesn't return home or answer her phone, Cassie becomes anxious. Looking through Margaret's possessions for clues, she finds a diary and begins to read about the past few months.

The Confusion of Languages is told entirely in past tense, jumping back and forth from diary entries to the time ticking away while Cassie awaits Margaret's return.

What does the ominous final entry in Margaret's diary mean? Why is Margaret not returning Cassie's calls? Did she really go to the police station to pay her fine or somewhere else? As Cassie reads Margaret's diary, she will find out what was really in Margaret's heart and mind and the secrets she kept during the months of their friendship.

Recommended - The Confusion of Languages is fascinating for its peek into life as a military wife living in the Middle East, a subject the author knows well as she has lived in Jordan and Abu Dhabi. I learned, for example, that when you live in embassy housing you have a panic room and strict instructions how to stock it and that the embassy of a foreign nation in which an American lives keeps the military residents up-to-date on happenings that may endanger their safety (protests nearby, political upheaval). I knew none of that. The story itself is a melancholy one. As Margaret's story slowly unfolds, there's always that lingering question about where she's gone and why. But, the underlying theme seems to be that there is a time and a place to conform. "When in Rome" and all that. The book also addresses infertility and fertility and the tensions both can cause in a marriage as one of the women has no children and wants them; the other was hastily married after becoming pregnant.

If I'd read these two books one after the other I would have been dying for a thriller, afterwards. Read them when you're in the mood for a slower, more character-driven novel.

©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, July 16, 2019

Mini reviews - If I Die in a Combat Zone by Tim O'Brien, Extreme Ownership by Willink and Babin, and Cat Poems by a variety of poets

Hard to believe, but I'm caught up on reviewing books I've read that were sent by publishers, so I have a couple days to write about the books I've read from my own shelves or borrowed. Then, hopefully I will have finished another ARC by the time I'm done catching up on personal reads.

After I read The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, I put a number of his books on my wish list at Paperback Swap and managed to acquire 2 or 3 of them before relinquishing my membership. If I Die In a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home was one of them. I acquired every title I could get my mitts on without bothering to even read what they were about; that's how impressed I was with The Things They Carried.

If I Die in a Combat Zone is O'Brien's memoir. I didn't realize that till I opened the book and started reading. I read it specifically for Memorial Day. It was my little way to keep those who died for our country in my head and heart over the holiday weekend.

O'Brien tells about his life and his plans prior to being drafted, how he waffled about whether to show up for duty or run to another country and made actual plans to escape but then decided to report, his experiences with training and throughout his year in Vietnam, how he managed to go from dangerous jungle duty to a clerical job toward the end of his deployment, and his return home.

I had mixed feelings about If I Die in a Combat Zone. It's every bit as beautifully written as The Things They Carried, but the feeling I got from it was deeply sad and painfully honest. He was witness to some horrible atrocities, watched people die because of stupid decisions by his superiors with inflated egos, and lived with the knowledge that at any minute he could be amongst the maimed or dead. The only real light in the proverbial tunnel of O'Brien's war seemed to be the friendship he had with another man who was well-educated in literature. But, even then, the two of them occasionally got in trouble for having the nerve to sit around talking about poetry. It was a dark experience, overall, and it's hard to read. When he got that clerical job and then climbed on the plane and returned to Minnesota, I felt utterly relieved to have his combat days in the past. I love O'Brien's writing, though, and I still gave it 4 stars. Recommended but will rip out a piece of your heart.
Contains graphic violence.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin is a business book but because it's written by two Navy SEALs, it can be surprisingly gripping as they relate tales of their experiences in training and on deployment in Iraq. My husband has read Extreme Ownership at least twice and wanted me to read it but I'm not exactly sure why. I opened it up when he handed it to me and was surprised at the intensity. It begins with a story of a SEAL mission in which a potential terrorist ran from the building they'd surrounded. Willink pursued him and then realized, when he captured the man, that he had chased the man down without informing anyone where he was going. He had to make a critical decision about how to handle the prisoner and return without getting them both killed. He then applied that decision-making process to a particular business problem. It was fascinating and I was hooked.

The theme of the book, "extreme ownership" is about taking responsibility when things go wrong, the idea being that solid leadership and well-coordinated teamwork are the best ways to solve problems in business, but it's important for leaders to take responsibility when something goes wrong in order to lead well. "There are no bad teams, just bad leaders," is one of the quotes I highlighted after reading what I considered one of the most fascinating illustrations of leadership in the book. I don't recall which author told this story, but one of the men described a particular part of SEAL training in which the soldiers were divided into teams. Each team carried a heavy boat and raced it. He described how one team was consistently winning and another repeatedly came in last or next to last. The leader of the losing team thought he'd just ended up with a bad bunch of teammates. But, then the leaders were told to switch boats and the team that had been coming in last won. The team that had previously won still did well. I would have loved to see an actual film of the leaders of those teams in action.

Highly recommended - I've tried to apply the leadership principles to marriage by explaining to my husband how it benefits him to listen to my housekeeping leadership. Unfortunately, it's not working. I hope the principles do better for him at work than they have for me at home. I'd like to know what Jocko and Leif have to say about stubborn men who just don't get why socks need to be placed in the laundry right-side-out.

Cat Poems does not list an editor but it's an anthology of poems about cats, obviously. I got a copy of Cat Poems for Mother's Day from Kiddo and his fiancée.

The problem with an anthology about a particular chosen subject is that editors don't always go into the selection with the people who appreciate that subject in mind. I read a book of poems for and about children, a few years ago, in which some of them were actually quite dark — about the loss of a child or the horror of abuse, for example. They covered all the bases but it wasn't always pleasant. The same is true of Cat Poems. Some of them are funny or sweet, about the things a cat lover adores. Others are frankly awful, either because they're negative about cats, cruel, or sad.

My favorite was a poem by Muriel Spark, "Bluebell Among the Sables." The poem is about a visit from a friend wearing expensive sables. Muriel was bored by her social obligation to entertain the friend. Then, Bluebell began to attack the tails of the sables on the woman's coat and it diverted her. It's a cute story but short enough to relate through poetry. It was those poems in which the cat is recognized and appreciated that I obviously liked best, being a cat lover.  No surprise there. I'm iffy about recommending Cat Poems because I found some of the poetry downright upsetting, but I will definitely reread my favorites.

©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.

The Unspeakable Mind by Shaili Jain, M.D.

UPDATED: I pre-posted my review of The Unspeakable Mind last night and when I reread my review, this morning, I didn't like it. So, I've updated my review to try to clarify a couple things I think I muddled in the original description. 

PTSD rates skyrocket in children who endure traumatic events that ravage their communities. How parents respond to the trauma and how close (geographically) the child is to the epicenter play a crucial role in determining outcome. Parents and caregivers who are able to be emotionally supportive and are not traumatized themselves exert a protective effect that reduces the odds that a child will develop PTSD. 

~fr. p. 114 of The Unspeakable Mind, Advance Reader Copy (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

When a woman has a traumatic birth, there was something subjective about the birth that was distressing. This does not have to be life-threatening or medically traumatic. We are thinking of the psychological impact of that birth experience on the mother. 

Birth Trauma definitions include "a negative and disempowering physiological and emotional response to a birth." Common themes include feeling unheard or not listened to, a lack of compassion from medical professionals, and feeling out of control or helpless. 

~fr. p. 168 of The Unspeakable Mind, ARC

I'm going to mention the things that bothered me about The Unspeakable Mind, up front, and then work my way into why I highly recommend the book, anyway. First, something I've mentioned in previous posts is that I often have difficulty with psychology books because they don't give you the full story. They'll describe a case but not tell you how it concluded. Did the patient improve? How is his illness being managed? Is it likely he'll relapse? Often, you'll only hear about what led up to the psychologist's involvement and some of the treatment without any form of resolution, whatsoever. In The Unspeakable Mind, there was an additional problem: one particular treatment method was referenced repeatedly but never fully described. There's a glossary, but even in the glossary it made little sense, at least to me. But, in general, the writing was clear enough that a few minor issues weren't enough to lessen its readability overall, nor its importance.

It wasn't till I'd set aside the book in frustration and given it time to sit before I was ready to deal with what I saw as its challenges. Then, after finishing The Unspeakable Mind I found out it's not even actual cases that are being described but composites — a made-up patient is described with a particular inciting incident that brought them in for treatment. For example, a former soldier who was traumatized during his deployment found that drinking helped him cope with social situations, which made him particularly uncomfortable. He showed up already drunk to a family barbecue and the smoke from grilling meat triggered his PTSD, making him think he was under attack. Without realizing what was happening, he flew into self-defense mode and started attacking his own family. The author describes these events as if they really happened and then what would have happened to him after he sat down with her. But, he's a composite of several patients, not a real person, and you don't ever find out whether he recovered because . . . well, you can't, since he's not real, although occasionally there may be a satisfactory conclusion to one of the stories. It's still false, but at least it gives you the sense of completion.

It wasn't till after I finished The Unspeakable Mind and had some time to let it roll around in my head that I really understood the need for the conceptual nature of the illustrations: to protect individuals — clearly, it's hard enough to keep anything private in today's electronic world. It's not necessary to describe actual cases in order to explain the concepts: how or why certain events can be traumatic, how people may react (burying the memory, having nightmares, becoming violent or depressed) and what the treatment options are, whether or not they've been shown to work, what new treatments are being tried, etc. In other words, The Unspeakable Mind gives you a well-rounded overview of trauma and its treatment. You really don't need to know about any actual individual's experience; it's only necessary to illustrate how trauma could have occurred and treatment may been handled. I'd prefer that the author mentioned that up front, though. I put the book down because of frustration with the lack of conclusions, not because of the writing, which is solid. Understanding the reason they might not have a conclusion might have helped a bit.

At the beginning of the book, PTSD is described as a trauma brought about by an experience that threatens either one's life or the life of one they care for. If you see your daughter being held at gunpoint, in other words, you're just as likely to get PTSD as the daughter with the gun pressed to her side. But, later on in the book, other traumas like the Birth Trauma that's mentioned above are described. So, you don't always have to have a near-death experience to be traumatized and, in fact, even unborn children can be damaged by the trauma experienced by a pregnant mother.

The contents include a description of how and why the author decided to study and treat traumatic stress, the history of how trauma has been described and treated, mistakes in diagnosis ("overdiagnosis and underrecognition"), what happens to a traumatized brain, how trauma can be passed on through generations, the meaning of dissociation, physical effects of PTSD (addiction, cardiac disease), danger to those around the traumatized, types of trauma experienced specifically by women, suicide prevention, treatments, and preventing trauma itself (by immediately treating those who have been through known traumatic incidents), and more.

Highly recommended - I learned a great deal from The Unspeakable Mind. Throughout the book, the author shares the story of her father's trauma, which occurred during the Partition of India in 1947. I particularly enjoyed that personal touch. I also appreciated the writing for the broad overview of different ways in which people can be traumatized, how they've been treated in the past and what new treatments are being used, what exactly is considered traumatic enough to fall under the category of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and what helps or hinders treatment that may actually lead to a cure.

The bottom line seemed to be that the most important factors in prevention and recovery are acceptance that a person has been traumatized (by friends, parents, and police in the case of rape, for example) and a good social support network to help them through the aftermath. I lead kind of a sheltered life but still know several people who could have been featured within the pages of this book, so that speaks to me of how easily one can be traumatized and the fact that all of us are probably related to or friends with at least one person who has PTSD. For that reason, I recommend it to everyone because it may help readers learn the importance of being in someone's support network.

A side note: I deliberately included the first excerpt because it describes the danger of separating children from their parents and then mistreating them. Not only does the separation enable the development of PTSD by removing the supportive network that anyone needs in a traumatic situation, the book also describes the physical damage done to a child's brain when traumatized. This seems an important and timely subject in America.

I received a copy of The Unspeakable Mind from HarperCollins in exchange for an unbiased 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.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Swim That Rock by John Rocco and Jay Primiano - purchased

Yep, that's the only arrival. And, it was one of those, "Oh, I'm here anyway (at the evil online megastore, sorry), I might as well just toss this in the cart," things. I read an Instagram review that described Swim That Rock as a marvelous adventure. I love adventure! Action! Excitement! Should have bought it when it was discounted, though. Do you realize that if you put something in your cart at Amazon and don't immediately buy it, the price will go up? And, then if you take it out of the cart but save it for later, the price still won't go down? However, if you leave it for months, there's a possibility the price will drop. It's not likely, but sometimes it happens. Usually, when the price goes up on something after I return, I abandon it forever because jacking the price up ticks me off. Amazon might want to rethink that practice.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
  • The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon
  • The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

All three books were solid reads. I started typing this up on Friday because we were expecting Tropical Storm (then Hurricane, Tropical Storm again, and finally Tropical Depression) Barry to menace us, over the weekend, but it turned out that it was just rainy, not stormy, so I'm back to work on it on Sunday. Saturday was brilliant. If you're in just the outer bands of a hurricane or tropical storm, often what you'll get is light rain and cool temperatures. And, that's exactly what happened. The temperature dropped 25° — from 101° to 76° — in two days. We were excited to have an unexpected opportunity to sit outside. Today, though (Sunday), the rain has been heavy and occasionally blown in sideways so that the covered patio is too wet to enjoy, although we tried once and were driven in by a gust that got us good and wet. Ah, well. The cats and I have been happily reading indoors.

Currently reading:

  • Nothing. 

I'm in between books. But, I plan to read a little of The Mueller Report, today, and then I'll decide on a fiction title to start, next. I thought I had a book tour, this week, but the publicist never contacted me and a book did not arrive, so my week is clear of any specific reading obligations. I'm happy about that, hoping that will give me the opportunity to focus on finishing The Mueller Report. I'd like my next fiction read to be one that can tolerate being a side read till I'm done with Mueller. At this moment, I'm waffling between starting Searching for Sylvie Lee or Rosie Colored Glasses. Or, maybe Never Have I Ever. We'll see what grabs me.

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

Since we've finished the last available season of The Heart Guy aka Doctor Doctor, we're back to watching Season 3 of The Royal. And, I've begun to watch Tutankhamun, which I primarily began watching because Sam Neill is in the cast. He plays Lord Carnarvon, the man who financed Howard Carter's search for Tut's tomb. I would describe Tutankhamun as "bland, but watchable," and I confess I just like seeing events that I've read about brought to life, so I'm willing to put up with a little bit of "Yeah, sure." Plus, Sam Neill. He isn't always in the picture but I like him.

I also still occasionally watch an episode from Star Trek: The Original Series, Season 1. I'll be watching the original series, off and on, for a long time. I've maybe managed to watch 11 or 12 episodes out of the full 79, so far.

We passed the danger zone for Fiona kitty and she is back to her energetic self. It took her a couple of days to get her energy back. And, it took about 2 1/2 days before Isabel stopped hissing at her, 3 days before Izzy began to tentatively approach Fi and give her a sniff and a little head bump, 4 days before Isabel was begging Fi for a cuddle and Fiona started brushing her away. To Fi's credit, when Isabel was hissing at her she remained totally passive and once even rolled over on the rug where she was sleeping, turning her back on Izzy. That was kind of a funny moment. Isabel just stood there looking at her like, "Wait, what? I'm hissing at you! Aren't you going to react?" Cats are like comedians wrapped in fur. So entertaining.

©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, July 12, 2019

Fiona Friday

This picture cracks me up. Izzy followed me into the room and then immediately wanted back out, the second I closed the door. She stuck her paws under the door to try to dig her way out but then she rolled over onto her back and kept it up. I have a whole series of pictures but this one, when she stopped to look away from the gap under the door for a second, is my favorite. Funny girl.

©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, July 11, 2019

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

"That was luck. I've seen you play a hundred times, and that was the first time I've seen you beaten." He paused. "Well, apart from the semifinal last year."

"Oh, you saw that?"

He blushed deeper. "Yeah. We got knocked out in the semis, too. By the Spanish In-quiz-ition." He grinned. "Nobody expected it."

~p. 142

In The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman, many readers will find a kindred spirit. Nina is the only child of a single, traveling photographer. Mostly raised by a nanny, she's introverted, organized, a lover of books and trivia, and a bookstore clerk who takes great joy in the many bookish activities that she hosts. She's on a trivia team, in a book group, and happy with her quiet life alone.

Then, Nina's well-organized life becomes crowded with new people when she falls for one of the members of an opposing trivia team and finds out she has a large, extended family by way of a lawyer who informs her that her father has passed away. Can Nina fit all the new people into her carefully ordered life? And, what will happen to her when the landlord of the bookstore in which she works decides that he's got no choice but to find a new tenant?

Highly recommended - Ohmygoodnessgracious, I loved this book. Nina is the kind of people a bookish person can't help but love to read about. She reads avidly, loves storing up facts, has a cat, makes frequent references to books, characters, and movies, and has serious anxiety issues. Mostly with people. People are really scary. The only complaint I have about the book is that just about everyone Nina interacts with is equally witty. She may not think she's a people person but she has quite a rapport with just about everyone. But, at the same time, that makes the book a light-hearted, smart, amusing, and engaging read. I adored the witty banter. It made me happy. Totally a five-star read.

I received a copy of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill from Berkley Books in exchange for an unbiased review and it's going on that favorites list I mentioned yesterday. Wow, two 5-star books read in less than two weeks! How often does that happen? I'm going to want to press this one into the hands of a lot of people.

©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, July 10, 2019

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

Andrew rubbed his eyes and yawned. "All I want is to live in a converted train station on top of a mountain with sea views and Wif-Fi and easy access to central London, is that so much to ask?"

"Have another cookie," Peggy said, patting him on the top of the head. 

~ from p. 314 of How Not to Die Alone

Andrew's job is a strange one. He's tasked with finding relatives or friends of those who die alone in London. He digs through their possessions, searching for clues to where he might find someone who knew the deceased and any financial accounts the deceased may own. Barring the discovery of both, the public health will pay for what amounts to a pauper's funeral, of sorts, which Andrew feels obligated to attend so that nobody is buried without at least one person present.

But, Andrew has a tricky problem. When he applied for the job, he wasn't actually listening to his future boss when he was asked a particular question. Andrew played along, giving a couple of vague answers before realizing he'd just claimed he had a wife and two children. Andrew lives alone. He has a sister but no other relatives and is probably destined to die alone, just like the people whose funerals he attends. Instead of confessing to his mistake, Andrew has drawn up an elaborate spreadsheet to help him keep all his lies straight. And, 6 years have passed since he was hired. It's really too late to tell the truth, isn't it?

Then, things grow even worse. The boss, in his eternal quest to stir up camaraderie amongst the employees, has decided that all the employees should take turns hosting a dinner at their homes, so that everyone can get to know each other better and meet each other's families. Andrew, of course, has no family. He has a pretend wife who makes loads of money and two fake children, but in reality he lives in a flat that he hasn't kept up well and he's got a train running through his home. He spends his off time hanging out in a chat room with a few other people who are even more obsessive than he is about trains.

When a new employee named Peggy shows up, Andrew's world is lightened by her presence. She's a cheery and delightful companion when digging for clues in the homes of the deceased and not afraid to sneak a coffee or a little personal time in the middle of office hours. Suddenly, Andrew feels like he's living, again. But, Peggy is married and Andrew has a fake wife and a looming date to serve dinner to his fellow employees. Will Andrew be able to confess to the complicated web of lies he's created? When he realizes his job is on the line, is there any way at all out of the disastrous corner he's painted himself into?

Highly recommended - OK, the bad up front. There are some descriptions of yucky smells and sights in the homes of the deceased. Some may find that off-putting. To be honest, it didn't bother me at all, but as I was reading I was aware that it might be a problem to some readers. It's really just setting, though. The characters, the dialogue, and the story are funny and charming and awful (some of the characters are the kind you love to hate) and How Not to Die Alone is going on my favorites list for 2019. Andrew is clearly a wounded soul but why? What happened to make him retreat from the world, in general? What will Andrew do about his lies and his growing affection for Peggy? There are so many questions that kept the pages turning. And, I absolutely loved how they were resolved. I haven't given it all away, I promise. How Not to Die Alone is a delightful story of grief, loneliness, and the healing power of friendship. Very British in setting and humor although I noticed the Americanization of some words and spellings in this printing.

I told my physical therapist about the book and he said, "Ooooh. That needs to be a movie." I agree. I think it would be easily adaptable to the screen. Peggy and Andrew visit a bookstore, at one point, and I looked it up. It's real and it sounds marvelous. I've added that bookstore to my wish list of places to go. Book lovers will appreciate the bookstore scenes for the setting alone.

I received a copy of How Not to Die Alone from G. P. Putnam's Sons (unsolicited, I think, but it might have been requested via Shelf Awareness; either way, I was excited to get it). 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, July 09, 2019

The Haunting of Henry Davis by Kathryn Siebel

Henry is new to Barbara Anne's 5th grade class. He's super nerdy-looking and nobody wants to have anything to do with the new kid. He sits alone sketching when he's not working on a project with the kids at the table he and Barbara Anne share. Then, one day, Barbara Anne and Henry start sneaking out of the lunch room early and they slowly get to know each other. Henry's not so bad, really. But, there's one really strange thing about Henry: he's being haunted and the ghost is following him around everywhere.

Barbara Anne comes up with an idea. They need to find out a little about Henry's ghost so they can figure out how to get rid of him. Once they figure out his name is Edgar, they begin to uncover other clues. And, then the two classmates who share a table with them join in. Who was Edgar? How did he die? And, how does the scary old lady in the neighborhood know about him? Once they find the answers, maybe they can help Edgar move on.

Recommended but not a favorite - It took me a while before I became really engrossed in The Haunting of Henry Davis. That seems to be a common problem with the middle grade books I've read, this year. Is it me or the books? I can't say. Maybe a little of both. At any rate, the clues were dropped slowly enough to keep the story a little mysterious, although adults probably will be familiar enough with the events around Edgar's death to guess what happened to him, early on. I did, but that didn't bother me at all.

I liked the growing friendship between Barbara Anne and Henry, as well as the way the other two kids ended up helping out and becoming friends with them. And I enjoyed the story once it got cranked up. The ending is lovely. I did have a little trouble with the author occasionally mentioning a new person and then describing them in the following sentences. In fact, I got so confused when that happened the first time that I literally went back and started the book over again, thinking I'd missed something (not a big deal; I was still in the first or second chapter). Nope, it was just a stylistic thing, I guess. Other than that and a slow start, I thought The Haunting of Henry Davis was entertaining, if not a personal favorite.

©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, July 08, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • The Rogue to Ruin by Vivienne Lorret - from Avon Books for review
  • Retrograde by Peter Cawdron - purchased
  • The Chocolate Maker's Wife by Karen Brooks and 
  • Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb - both from HarperCollins for review
  • The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles De Lint - purchased
  • After the Flood by Kassandra Montag and 
  • The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan - both from HarperCollins for review
  • About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior by Colonel David H. Hackworth and Julie Sherman - purchased

Well . . . not as bad as I anticipated. I got 8 notices from UPS about separate parcels, one day, and I thought, "Ohmygosh! Eight books!" It turned out all four of the HarperCollins books came twice. I've offered the duplicates to a local blogger friend and if she doesn't want them I'll find them all nice new homes.

Retrograde was bought on a whim, although I've been watching for recommendations for good sci-fi titles. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest was on my old wish list at Paperback Swap. When I left PBS, I wrote down the titles I was still waiting on and I hacked away at the list, for a while, but then lost it in the laptop files when the laptop died. I don't know how I was reminded of it, but I must have seen it in a friend's stacks, somewhere. About Face is to share with Huzzybuns. It was mentioned in Extreme Ownership, the book he talked me into reading, recently. Wow, that's a serious chunkster!

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Unspeakable Mind by Shaili Jain, M.D. 
  • The Haunting of Henry Davis by Kathryn Siebel
  • Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Yay! I finally finished The Unspeakable Mind! And, it was good, very informative. The Haunting of Henry Davis is a middle grade book I'll be touring, tomorrow. And, Strange Weather in Tokyo was just for fun. I enjoyed all three for entirely different reasons.

Currently reading:

  • The Mueller Report - Washington Post edition

Yep, just one book. But, that's because I finished Strange Weather in Tokyo last night and haven't started on my next fiction read, which is going to be The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (also a tour book, due to be reviewed on Thursday).

Posts since last Malarkey:

  • 6-month Review (an update on my reading goals for 2019)
  • Bad Order by B. B. Ullman (book review)

There was no Fiona Friday because of the holiday weekend. Family kept me busy. Fiona Friday will be back, this week. In the meantime, here's a cat photo:

In other news:

That photo was just taken about a hour or two ago, after I brought Fiona home from a weekend in the veterinary hospital, where she was given activated charcoal and fluids after she munched on the leaves of a daylily (every part of the lily is dangerous to cats — just brushing against the pollen of a lily can kill them). At this point, she's looking good. She's conked out at my feet after having trouble settling down. She's very excited to be home. We have to keep an eye on her for a couple more days, but I think the worst of the danger has passed. So scary. Husband was not aware they were toxic and set down a box of daylilies on the kitchen floor. He knows, now. Those were some expensive lilies.

We finished Season 3 of The Heart Guy, also known as Doctor Doctor in Australia, last night. And, I found out there's going to be a 4th season! Yippee! But, we'll have to wait a while, I guess. I don't know if they've even filmed it. Love this series.

Most of the weekend was spent working on cleaning the master bedroom, hanging out with family, and worrying about the cat. I told Huz I could stand to have some shelves over the bed, so that I have a better place to keep my TBR stack, and he noted that I needed to clean the bedside table of the books I'm not reading and neaten that up, instead. So, I did that. Oh, it looks fabulous! I now have my entire July stack plus my backlog of ARCs and the books my F2F book group is reading all lined up in a row with granite bookends. He's right. I didn't need any more shelves; I just needed to put away the books that have been sitting there, gathering dust. Lots and lots of dust. Even if the right books had been on the table, it needed cleaning.

I removed the Twitter app from my phone because I thought I my time spent on Twitter was getting excessive. I don't know if it was removal of the app, the holiday weekend, or both, but I have hardly been on Twitter, since.

Hope my American friends enjoyed the long weekend!

©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, July 02, 2019

Bad Order by B. B. Ullman

I'm not sure how to even start writing about this book, but I'll try my best and pull from what I wrote on Goodreads immediately after finishing.

Even while I was reading Bad Order by B. B. Ullman, I kept thinking, "This is going to be hard to describe." There is a boy, Albert, who communicates telepathically with his sister, Mary, three holographic aliens, a VW bug that flies, and a tear in something-or-other that allows bad feelings to infect people. As the tear grows and the bad feelings spread, people attack each other. But, Albert has an understanding of what happened and possibly the ability to fix it. I didn't fully understand that part but it has to do with his deceased father, a scientist, working in his lab before Albie was born.

Told you it was not going to be easy to describe. Bad Order is very entertaining, though. I had a little difficulty with suspension of disbelief because the science bits didn't sound particularly plausible. But, I liked the story enough to deliberately shove those feelings aside. The bottom line is that the story is about 3 children and a young adult working together to save humanity under difficult and dangerous circumstances and it's a tremendous ride.

All four of the main characters come from difficult circumstances and in addition to the tale of "interdimensional catastrophe", the author does a nice job of showing how the challenges of loss (a father), alcoholism (Mary's best friend Brit's mother), and poverty (all of the children in the book live in poverty) effect children.

Bad Order is an exciting and suspenseful read. As a middle grader, I know I would have enjoyed Bad Order because I loved anything that was otherworldly with children saving the day. So, I definitely recommend it for middle grade children who like fantasy or sci-fi. As an adult, I found it a little far-fetched but didn't care. I still thought it was a terrific read, once I'd set aside my disbelief. The holographic people are very entertaining and the relationships between the children are charming.

Highly recommended - Space travel, weird happenings, and a cooperative effort to keep a dangerous rift whose glowing mist could end life on earth make for a unique, page-turning plot that sci-fi- and fantasy-loving children will enjoy. I was captivated by Bad Order, even though I didn't always understand what was happening. A fun and wildly imaginative story.

I received a copy of Bad Order from Sterling Children's Books in exchange for an unbiased 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.

6-month Review

Well, there went half a year. Whoosh! Time to revisit the reading goals and see how things are going. Here's my post about my Reading Goals for 2019. I won't repeat every detail; instead, I'll just say how I'm progressing on each of my goals.

1. Recently Dead Guys Personal Challenge - 0/3

Bummer. I've been thinking about this one, off and on, and was aware that I haven't read a single one but it still sucks to have to admit it.

2. Perfect Little Gems Personal Challenge - Ugh, 0

Double bummer. If I don't get to it in 2019, though, I will definitely fold this one over into 2020.

3. Books I bought in hardback because I was sooo anxious to read them and then didn't get around to reading them challenge - 2/6

Better. I've read What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Old Baggage by Lissa Evans, from this list. Both were excellent, in my humble opinion.

4. Personal Classics Challenge - 4 titles read 

I've read Howard's End by E. M. Forster, Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, and Forbidden Area by Pat Frank. I didn't read any classics in May or June.

5. Fewer ARCs/Upcoming Releases in 2019 - Umm, okay. I started out really well and then, gosh darn it, I went overboard. I have a backlog, now – exactly the thing I was trying to avoid. My current plan is to attempt to accept no books at all (children's books are always an exception) in November and December so that I can make sure that I've either read or attempted every ARC I've received in 2019.

6. Spend less time on social media and more time reading - This has been going quite well, although occasionally I will find myself refreshing either Twitter or Facebook obsessively for that dopamine hit. When I become aware of it, I usually take a week off from social media and that always does the trick. I like my life better without social media but not enough to give it up entirely. In fact, I just put a force hold on my Twitter app to keep me from checking it via the phone because I felt I was overdoing my Twitter usage. I'm on the verge of removing the app from my phone entirely.

7. Progress on annual Goodreads goal - 81/100

I've been ahead of my Goodreads goal for the entire year, although I came close to falling behind, at one point. I'm not going to bump up my goal at the website, although my mental goal is now 160 because I think it's reasonable to try to double what I've read in 6 months. But, I'd be fine with 140.

8. Books my kids insist I must read - 1/2

I've read The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (recommended by eldest) but not Casey: The Lives and Secrets of William J. Casey by Joseph E. Persico (recommended by youngest). And, I'd totally forgotten about the Casey book, so I'll have to remember to get to that ASAP.

Bottom line . . . I'm reading at a decent pace and not doing so hot on my personal reading challenges, but I knew I was setting some lofty goals when it came to the personal challenges and anticipated not succeeding 100% at all of them. Still, I'd like to do better in the next 6 months. It's going to be a challenge, given the backlog. I just got some UPS notifications and there were so many of them that I did a double take and then checked the shipping numbers to see if they'd sent me duplicate notices. Nope. Next week's ARC stack is going to be a doozy.

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