Friday, November 08, 2019

Fiona Friday - One of each and a farewell note

This is my final post until ???  I have been diagnosed with breast cancer and will be undergoing surgery soon, so I've decided to go ahead and shut down the blog till my return. I'm not getting a good feel for how long it will take before I'm healed enough to return. Every last medical professional has said, "This is going to suck," and "You will max out your insurance, this year, and probably next." Okay, then. I guess we'll just take it as it comes. But, first . . . a Christmas story.

Christmas is my favorite holiday but Huzzybuns loves Thanksgiving because he loves to cook a big meal, even if it's only for the two of us. So, it was not a big surprise when I told him I wanted to decorate for Christmas early and he responded in horror, "NO! Christmas decorating starts the day after Thanksgiving!" Yes, yes, I know that, I said. But, I won't get to decorate because they're saying I'm not going to be able to lift my arms, so this is my only chance. He still couldn't be budged. But, then I went to Target and discovered a few little things that I thought would make a nice display. I cleaned the top of my lingerie chest (a chest of drawers shaped like a pyramid, bought long ago at Bombay & Co., for those who remember the store) and set them up. This is the result:

I was back at Target, yesterday, and I tried to buy some fake snow to cover the speaker but apparently the clerk didn't hand me that bag or we accidentally left it in the cart, so it'll just have to do. I love it. It's pretty, I got to do some Christmas decorating, and I'll be able to see it from the bed. Huz can handle any other decorating. I've done my part.

Early wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to any and all who drop by! See you in 2020.


©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.

Small Spaces and Dead Voices by Katherine Arden

I'm going to keep this as short as I can, but I decided to delay my Fiona Friday post by a few hours to squeeze in a final (double) review because I loved the books so much. Last week, I posted a photo of Dead Voices by Katherine Arden. The publicist said no review was necessary but I laughed inside because the entire reason I'm here is to read and talk about books. Of course I was going to read and review the book! However, as I was reading Dead Voices, it became apparent that there was a previous book and Dead Voices was giving away spoilers from the first. I loved Dead Voices and I didn't care about the spoilers, so I went ahead and ordered a copy of the first book, Small Spaces.

Small Spaces is Ollie's story. Ollie (short for Olivia) lost her mother, last year and has nightmares. She's tired of people looking at her with sympathy on their faces and just wants to get back to normal. Her mother was an adventurer and Ollie still loves the outdoors. She can throw a rock with tremendous accuracy, she's great at chess and she's an avid reader. So, when Ollie sees a woman dangling a book over a body of water, about to drop it, Ollie snatches the book away and hurries home with it.

The book tells a story of horror and when Ollie's class goes to a farm for a school outing, Ollie slowly begins to recognize bits of the story — familiar names, a similar mist in the area. When the bus breaks down and night begins to fall, the bus driver tells her to run and so does her mother's broken watch. Ollie listens. Coco, a new girl who is clumsy, bullied, and quick to tears follows along and so does Brian, a hockey player and popular guy who is surprisingly cheerful. Then, the watch says "HIDE". When the scarecrows come to life around them, are they in danger? And, when they see their classmates being marched off into a field, what should they do?

Highly recommended - Ohmygosh, what a terrifying book. I loved everything about Small Spaces. Because I had already read Dead Voices and was familiar with the children, the beginning was a little awkward for me, waiting for them to get to know each other, but the fact that I'd read the second book first didn't really cause as much trouble as I expected. Still, they really need to be read in order because the Bad Guy of the first book shows up in the second and they refer back to the adventure and horror of Small Spaces. Absolutely edge-of-your-seat, spine-tingling, holding-your-breath reading.


Dead Voices is, of course, the follow-up book to Small Spaces but now Ollie, Coco, and Brian are bonded because of their experience at the farm in Small Spaces. This time, they're headed to a ski resort that has just recently opened on the site of a former school. Ollie's dad and Coco's mom are in the front seat, the kids in the back, and they're driving in a snow storm. Coco is particularly nervous about the snow but Ollie's dad is a cheerful guy and he isn't worried.

On the way to the ski resort, Coco sees a man in a ski suit holding up his hand, as if to tell them to stop. Later on, she'll find out his story. At the ski resort, everything goes wrong. The power goes off, the gas stops, the generator doesn't work, and the ghost of a girl who died in a closet is haunting the children. Even worse, the ghost of the woman who locked her into the closet is still lurking. When the Smiling Man (the bad guy from Small Spaces) shows up and traps Ollie behind a mirror, then the other children are separated, will they be able to find each other and work together to escape the Smiling Man's trap?

Highly recommended - Again, this is a seriously scary book. Apart from the fact that the children are middle schoolers, it's hard to believe that this is a middle grade book because it's so intense. There's an added complication that gives the book some of the emotion of the first book: Ollie's dad and Coco's mom are getting a little giggly and sweet together.

In both books, Ollie's dad is a terrific character who provides some light moments and the children save themselves, although I tended to think of Dead Voices as Coco's story. Each book seems to focus on one child just a little more than the other two. I hope this means Brian is getting a book because I would definitely love to read a third book with Ollie, Coco, and Brian figuring their way out of a terrifying puzzle.

Side note: I took Small Spaces to my physical therapy appointment, yesterday, and my therapist (the one to whom I introduced Joe Hill) exclaimed with glee when he saw my copy of Small Spaces. He just bought a copy of Small Spaces and is planning to read it next. He didn't know there was a follow-up book, so he's excited about that. Of course, I was planning to recommend the series to him. I know that guy's reading taste pretty well after a couple years of talking books while he works on my neck.

I would not limit the reading of these books to middle schoolers. Young adults and older adults who like a creepy book will appreciate them just as much. They were terrific for fall reading and I may pull them out again for next year's RIP challenge.

©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, November 07, 2019

Vox by Christina Dalcher

In the world of Vox by Christina Dalcher, extremist Christians have taken over education, politics, healthcare, the banking system, and government in general in the United States. A televangelist is in a position of power in the government and the "separation of church and state" no longer exists. Dr. Jean McClellan didn't see it coming but her grad-school roommate did. While the earliest movement toward the far right was slow, things moved quickly after the latest president moved into office and women have been forced to stay quietly married at home, choose a mate, or face the consequences.

Change came quickly: the job losses, the wrist trackers, and the silence. Women in the America of Vox are no longer allowed to work, control money, or speak more than 100 words per day. The punishments for disobedience and aberrations (like homosexuality) are severe.

But, then something happens. The president's brother has been injured in a ski accident and the part of the brain that was Dr. McClellan's area in her research is the part that he's damaged. Suddenly, people are begging her to return to her work to find a cure. She's only interested under certain conditions. But, she knows that as soon as her work is done, she'll be back to subservience and quiet. And, there's something fishy going on. Did someone know the president's brother was going to suffer an injury? Is there more to the job than meets the eye?

Jean knows that she needs to find the answers but she also needs to try to drag out her research long enough to find a way to keep from returning to the circumstances of the past year. Will she be forced to rush a cure and return to being locked in silence, unable even to use hand gestures to speak? Or, will Jean and her friends and fellow researchers find a way to end the silence?

Highly recommended - I was so gripped by this book that I didn't want to set it down, the night I opened it. The result was a book in the face. Oops. I finally had no choice but to turn the light out because I kept falling asleep. But, I picked it up as soon as possible and finished it, the next day. Funny, since I'd seen mixed reviews and was concerned. I would never have guessed it would end up on the favorites pile. Good surprise! I did think there was a little bit of convenience to one particular plot point, and after I closed the book another plot point started to make very little sense, on reflection, but . . . who cares. I loved it.

My thanks to Berkley Books for the review copy! And, yes, I agree with the cover quote saying Vox is "sure to beg comparisons" to The Handmaid's Tale. I did occasionally think of Margaret Atwood's own dystopian version of a women-suppressing, mysogynistic society. Christina Dalcher's world, though, is unique. I never had the sensation that she was borrowing from Atwood in any way.

©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, November 06, 2019

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint and Charles Vess

I'm going to keep this one short but I want to mention it because I loved it so much and it was the perfect story to keep me from falling into a reading rut. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint is the story of a girl, Lillian Kindred, who loves to spend time running barefoot through the Tanglewood Forest. Then, one day, Lillian is turned into a kitten by a magical circle of cats to keep her from dying. She's been bitten by a venomous snake and is lying on the forest floor when the cats surround her and cast a magic spell. They're not supposed to use their magic in such a way and the big cat who rules the kitties of the forest will not be happy, but they can't bear to watch a little girl die.

Can Lillian find a way to become human again? And, if she does, will she be able to bear the consequences of her choice?

Highly, highly recommended - I absolutely adored this magical gem of a book. Lillian is a sweet little girl who loves to explore, loves nature, but above all loves the elderly aunt who cares for her. It's alternately whimsical and terrifying, always magical and imaginative. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is going on my favorites pile for 2019.

I'm not sure of the age range for The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, but I'm going to say it's probably classified as "middle grade". Of course, that always comes with a grain of sale. I had a child who was reading at middle grade level by 6 or 7 and one who didn't really get going till he was about that same age but then read his all-time favorite book, White Fang by Jack London, at 10 (and immediately dived into other 19th-century writing, which he still loves). At any rate, it's also great for an adult who is in the mood for a touch of magic and whimsy with some scary moments.

Notably, Charles Vess, the illustrator, and Charles de Lint are apparently best buddies and they came up with the idea together, although de Lint wrote and Vess illustrated. I'm so glad I bought this book because I will definitely return to it and it's one that my grandchildren can read when they get older and visit. Yes, I'm already thinking ahead to what they'll read when they hit middle grade age!

©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.

Where the Angels Lived by Margaret McMullan

Where the Angels Lived by Margaret McMullan is a memoir about the author's search for a relative's life story. The "angels" in the title refers to a family name, Engel, which translates to angel. When Margaret McMullan went to Israel and did some research at Yad Vashem, she discovered that Richard Engel de Janosi, a relative she never knew existed, had been killed in the Holocaust. She was charged with filling out a document about him for Yad Vashem and told that it was her duty to remember him.

With this task given to her, McMullan got a job teaching English literature in Hungary specifically so she could find out more about Richard and any other lost relatives. In the process, she learned all about the importance of her family, visited the places they'd lived, and slowly uncovered their stories. She was aided by some unknown relatives who came into her life during the search, made some new Hungarian friends, learned about the culture and traditions of Hungary, and became acquainted with the still-simmering anti-Semitism in the country.

Recommended - A little like a family detective story, part travel guide, and part Hungarian history. I really enjoyed this book. It took me forever to read, partly because we were working on preparing for Kiddo's wedding (which we were more involved in than the average groom's parents) and partly because I spent a lot of time looking up images of places and people mentioned. Where the Angels Lived has a lengthy bibliography and it was the mention of Marguerite Duras' memoir, The War, that prompted me to purchase a copy.

Obviously, I had a little fun with the photo. I just happened to have a pair of angel's wings from last Halloween. When I bought them, I thought it was unlikely I'd genuinely ever find a use for them but they were so cool! I feel like I've found their purpose as a prop.

I bought my copy of Where the Angels Lived for group discussion and unfortunately didn't finish the book till a week after my F2F group met. I'm glad I read it, though, and it just so happens that the author lives in my state, so the copy I bought was autographed. Bonus! I particularly recommend Where the Angels Lived to people who are interested in stories about family and culture or who are interested in stories of WWII, although it goes well beyond Richard's WWII story.

©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, November 05, 2019

25 Days 'Til Christmas by Poppy Alexander

In 25 Days 'Til Christmas Kate (widowed 4 years ago) and her son Jack are having a challenging Christmas season but she's doing everything she can to make Christmas as magical as possible. She's come up with daily activities to keep Jack busy and try to keep him from realizing just how poor they have become. Kate works at a department store on a rolling contract. Every year, it's possible she could lose her job and this year the boss is being particularly threatening. At school, Jack is having difficulties and the faculty wants to send him to what we Americans would call a reform school, although the book is set in Bristol, England so it has a different name. At the same time, her mother-in-law is running out of pension money for use in the care home, where she is deteriorating rapidly from Alzheimer's, and the government is threatening to pull her supplementary funds.

Daniel lost his sister Zoe, last year, and it still stings. The one thing that he's looking forward to, this year, is seeing the woman he privately refers to as "Christmas Tree Girl". He hasn't ever formally met Kate, but he knows that she will be there selling Christmas trees in her little elf costume. He wonders if she'll remember him and wonder what became of Zoe. When Daniel's not working as a chartered surveyor, he answers a help line and listens to people's problems, talks them out of suicide, or sometimes is just there for the lonely.

Daniel and Kate have a little trouble getting together, at first, but eventually they meet and start seeing each other. The problem is that Kate is utterly overwhelmed with all her problems and unsure she can or should replace Jack's father, Tom. Is there a way to solve her financial issues beyond her home jewelry-making? How will she deal with the bullying and sexual innuendo by her boss? Can she get Jack into a school that will meet his needs and keep him happy, rather than one that's set up for those with bad behavior? What will she do about her mother-in-law's draining finances when she has so little of her own?

Recommended but I advise skimming some parts if you find them dull - There is a LOT going on in this book. There were times it was a bit too much for me and, at some point, I decided I'd be best off skimming certain bits. For example, Kate is put in charge of a fundraising effort for the department store and has to come up with costumes for her child and his best friend on top of everything else. I found the fundraising meetings as dull as they are in real life (been there), so eventually I decided to skim those and some other bits of meetings in which Daniel was trying to help the shopkeepers of a cluster of shops called Christmas Steps — which actually exists; you can look up photos online.

I think the author created a few too many threads in this story. And yet, like a Hallmark movie, it came together beautifully in the end, almost too perfectly (as a romance should). I closed the book happy and satisfied. When I went to rate the book, I noticed that someone had given it 1 star because she found it too sad, thanks to Kate's overwhelming financial issues. I actually enjoyed reading about the realistic struggle she was going through. I found at least one of the resolutions a little too easy and pat, so I knocked off a point for that and the occasional stretch (meetings, ugh) that I found dull, but overall I loved 25 Days 'Til Christmas. I liked Kate's creativity and determination to make things as cheery as possible for her son, and I adored Daniel for his kindness and generosity. They're a couple that you can root for and they deserve a lovely ending. A sweet Christmas story about hardship, grief, and finding happily-ever-after when it seems like nothing is ever going to be right, again.

©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, November 04, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Creatures: A Novel by Crissy Van Meter - from Algonquin Books for review via Shelf Awareness
  • Small Spaces by Katherine Arden (not pictured) - purchased after reading Dead Voices, the second in the Small Spaces series. 

Only two books, this week, unless you count the piles I got from the library sale (it's my bestie's fault — she draaaagggged me there!). You can see those at @bookfoolery on Instagram.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • 25 Days 'Til Christmas by Poppy Alexander
  • The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street by Karen White
  • Dead Voices (Small Spaces #2) by Katherine Arden

I know it's a bit early for Christmas books. But, I'm glad I read them. I'm in the mood for Christmas books, already. I limited myself but bought 3 Christmas titles at the library sale (there were quite a few) and I'm looking forward to them. They're all older titles and since I'll be starting my break, soon, I will either say nothing or write a little about them at Instagram and Goodreads, but there likely will not be any more Christmas titles reviewed, here. I'm pretty sure I won't be back till at least January.

Dead Voices is the middle grade book I posted about on Thursday (just a photo) and I thought it was fantastic. I should have a review up by Thursday.

Currently reading:

  • Vox by Christina Dalcher

I decided I wasn't getting anywhere on the other books with bookmarks in them and I needed a fresh start, so I put them back in my TBR pile, marked them "Want to Read" at Goodreads, and I'll get back to them later. I'm halfway through Vox and had a little trouble putting it down, last night, till it fell on my face and I decided, "Oh, hey, maybe I ought to take a break and sleep a little." 

Posts since last Malarkey:

Wow, that's a lot of reviews, thanks to a Children's Day. Earth to Charlie and Moldilocks are my favorites of this week's reviewed reads. I liked all the children's books a lot, though. 

In other news:

I finished Glitch. It's a three-season story that ends in a surprisingly satisfying way, unlike most television. I was impressed. A full story arc! How often do you get that? I will miss watching it, but I really enjoyed this strange story about a group of people who are resurrected but, in the process, cause a major disturbance on Earth.

The best thing about Glitch (besides the fact that it tells a complete story from beginning to end) is that it's continually surprising. Don't read any spoilers if you want to view it and can avoid them. It's so much fun watching things unfold, not knowing what's going to happen next.

About that break . . . This is my last week at the blog but I'll let you know when I've finished posting as I do have a couple reviews pre-posted and at least a couple more books I'd like to review before I go. More on that, later in the week!

Update: I've been sitting here, writing a very short review because I want to cram in everything I've read, before I leave, and I realized that there aren't actually enough days left in the week. So, there may be some double-posting, this week. Also, I just received a couple of books that I ordered, so I'm going to add on to this post as this is my final Monday Malarkey till my return. I've decided Friday will officially be my last posting day. Here are the two books that arrived, today:

The Round House by Louise Erdrich was purchased at the request of a friend. She's in an online book group in which they discuss books about 4 times a year (I think via email) and she sometimes has trouble expressing her thoughts but has told me that she feels like when I describe a book it helps her wrap her mind around her own feelings. The Round House is their next discussion book and she asked me to read it and share my thoughts with her for precisely that reason. Honestly, I wanted an excuse to buy it, anyway.

Sal by Mick Kitson is a book that was recommended to me by an Instagram friend, Steve of @cape_of_good_books. Steve has become one of my favorite Instagrammers and this is the second time he's recommended a book to me. I still haven't opened the first, but I'm looking at my blog break as a time to mix things up a little bit, so maybe I'll manage to squeeze one or both in. Fingers crossed.

OK, back to work on those reviews. Happy Monday!

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Fiona Friday on the Wrong Day - Want dis.

When you set your empty bowl on the cat house roof. Note the little moving paw.

©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, November 01, 2019

The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street by Karen White

Melanie Trenholm has always seen ghosts and she lives in a house with spirits, at least one of whom comes only when needed. Now, in The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street, the most recent release in a series full of mystery and paranormal elements, Melanie has recently discovered a dark presence in her stepdaughter Nola's room, seen a man in old-fashioned clothing where an archeological dig is going on around her cistern, and smells the scent of roses always left by the ghost of a woman she helped to release in the first Tradd Street book.

Marc Longo is back to annoying her, as well, and now he's searching for a new treasure (this time, a French treasure brought to the continent by the Marquis de Lafayette), trying to foist his way into the Tradd Street house with a film crew, and determined to one day own the place. His brother Anthony now owns the other estate associated with the Tradd Street home, both of which had the same owner in the past. Anthony was conned into taking on the estate when his brother discovered the original treasure he sought was not there. Now, Marc is convinced that there's a connection between the mausoleum at the estate Anthony now owns and the bricks in the cistern at Tradd Street. But a presence in the mausoleum is keeping them from investigating.

When Melanie and others in her circle check out the mausoleum and some documents Marc stole, they find pieces of a puzzle. Meanwhile, Melanie and her sister, Jayne see several new spirits from the Revolutionary War era at Anthony Longo's home and Anthony is having frequent accidents. What do bricks, peacocks, and the warnings of ghosts mean? Can Melanie unravel the mystery in time to have a relaxing Christmas with her family?

First, a little background on my own reading of the series. I've only read the first book, The House on Tradd Street, prior to this one. When The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street was offered to me, I thought it was the perfect excuse to read The House on Tradd Street, which had been sitting on a pile in my library for years. Had I not recently read that first book, I would have been completely lost. Christmas Spirits stands alone well enough if you're familiar with at least the main characters but I would not go into the series in the middle. At the very least, you need an introduction. Fortunately, while a lot has happened and many new characters have been introduced, I had no trouble at all catching up on the general events of the books I've missed.

Recommended but not a favorite - If you have read and enjoyed past Tradd Street books, you'll probably love this one, as well. It is much like the other book I read, although obviously I can't speak for the rest. I remember there was a lot going on The House on Tradd Street and the same is true of The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street. There are a ton of different elements to the story. Christmas, by the way, is more of a backdrop than a feature. While Melanie and Jack are facing some immense challenges caused by Marc's intervention in their lives, as well as working to unravel the mystery and stay a step ahead of Marc as he chases down the same paths, Melanie is also involved in preparations for a "progressive dinner" for the Christmas season (I had to look that up -- it's a meal where each course is served at a different house). There are other preparations, like buying presents and gathering for a family photo, but they're really secondary and you could be forgiven for occasionally forgetting Melanie and Jack even have small children.

There are almost too many characters in the story -- many of whom were introduced in various novels as the series has progressed. I had a little difficulty getting them all straight in my head and I'm not sure all of them were necessary to the plot. In the end, though, it was ultimately satisfying how the mystery was wrapped up and the problems I had with the book were the same ones I had with The House on Tradd Street: there's a bit too much going on, the writing is wordy (tight writing with few wasted words is my personal preference), and I find Melanie annoying. Those are really a matter of individual taste, not commentary on the storyline, though. I liked the story's complexity so I still recommend it to those who have an affinity for paranormal stories.

My thanks to Berkley Books for the review copy!

Fiona Friday will be on the wrong day, once again, this week. Tune in tomorrow for your weekly cat fix!

©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.