Thursday, April 30, 2020

Nature's Best Hope by Douglas W. Tallamy

[...] maintaining our lawns in their prestigious, weed-free states has become quite a toxic undertaking (Wargo et al. 2003). All this matters: 40 percent of the chemicals used by the lawn-care industry are banned in other countries because they are carcinogens. Scientists are not guessing about this: Seventy-five studies have documented the connection between lawn pesticides and lymphoma, for example. These same studies show that pets and children are most at risk of contracting cancer, because they spend a lot of time rolling around in the grass. 

~from p. 48 of Advance Reader Copy, Nature's Best Hope

Nature's Best Hope is a book about home ecology. Subtitled, "A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard," it is about how each individual can contribute to a healthy wildlife population (including insects and birds), which in turn keeps humans from dying off.

Author Douglas W. Tallamy starts out by giving a little historical perspective and talking about things that have helped protect portions of our world. Unfortunately, some of those federal initiatives have been damaged during the Trump administration, like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. The current administration has also used waivers to get around laws that protect endangered animals. So, there is already a tiny bit about this book that's dated but my fingers are crossed that these protections will eventually be restored.

At any rate, the book isn't about what the government can do but how any individual can make changes to his or her yard (or add plants to a balcony, if that's what's available to you) to help restore the insects and animals that have been dying off at a shocking rate. See also my review of The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, which is mentioned in Nature's Best Hope. Both authors talk about the dramatic loss of life on the planet, why it's happening, and how it will eventually impact us, but Nature's Best Hope particularly focuses on the insect and bird life that can easily brought back with a little help by planting native plants (not exotics from other countries, even if they're commonly available and ubiquitous in your area) and even plants that we consider weeds, like milkweed for butterflies and goldenrod (which the author says is not the sneeze-inducing plant you think it is; that would be ragweed), planting oak, willow, or other trees that are attractive to insects, and keeping the grass portion of your lawn smaller. He even talks about how to deal with a Homeowner's Association (HOA) to convince them that your type of yard plantings are not only acceptable but desirable.

I have two problems with this book but I think it's worth reading, so let me tell you what I didn't like. About halfway into the book, I realized that what I really needed was not a detailed description of why chunks of land don't maintain as much wildlife as large areas that are uninterrupted by roads and cities. I've read that, before. I didn't need to read about how many bees there are in the world and how huge their contribution. I've read a Timber Press book about that specifically. I've read about the dramatic loss of insects and birds, so I don't need a reminder. What I really wanted from this book was a practical guide to choosing native plants for my area. And, in fact, the author said that would just be too much and blew off the concept by listing a website where you can look it up yourself and saying if you can't figure it out you can hire someone. No, that's not what I need and while I found the book educational, I doubt it's what others need for the author's idea to come to fruition. It might be a huge labor, but a book with suggested plantings, how and where to plant them (whether they like wet or dry feet/sunlight or shade, etc.), and suggested arrangements to make them attractive is what I believe people really need. A practical guide, in other words, rather than a text about nature and why you should plant in a particular fashion.

The other problem I have is that the author is a professor and the book reads like it was written by a person who is so accustomed to using the terminology of his field that it didn't occur to him that a wider audience would get lost in the weeds, so to speak (pun intended). In other words, I'm about to repeat something I've been saying for at least a decade: If your book has terminology that isn't readily understandable from the context, write a glossary. So many books could easily be made less frustrating and more readable with the simple addition of a glossary. I know the Internet makes looking things up simpler than it used to be but that's no excuse. Books should be understood without having to constantly look things up.

Having said that, I love reading about and learning about nature and I enjoyed Nature's Best Hope.

Recommended - While I think it would require some additional research to get any real benefit from the ideas in Nature's Best Hope and it's slightly dry, I enjoyed the learning experience. Do I think it's practically applicable with help from local nurseries or landscapers? Possibly. I haven't found the people at the local nurseries all that helpful, even when I'm just looking for a particular plant that I've bought from them in the past, so I have a feeling it would be difficult to get much information from them about how to plant native plants. Would they even consider ordering or planting flowering plants that most people consider weeds? I can't say. I will say that I did not leave this book thinking, "I know exactly what to do." I left it knowing what's the right thing to do, but not quite how to go about it, in other words. I think if Tallamy wrote a companion book with suggested plants for each state, diagrams to show how to plant them together, and color illustrations or photographs of how they look, that would be practical and useful. Nature's Best Hope is otherwise informative reading but probably not enough to compel any but the most determined or moneyed to alter their landscapes, much less start a movement as I believe the author intended.

And, for a laugh: I think this suggestion will go down like a lead brick in a time of pandemic and toilet paper shortages, but it made me chuckle for that reason:

I should note that the author mentions most bees do not sting so attracting them isn't likely to get you stung or killed. It's a good idea. Just funny timing.

I received a copy of Nature's Best Hope for review from Timber Press. Many thanks!

©2020 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, April 29, 2020

Lakeshire Park by Megan Walker

Amelia and her sister are in danger of losing everything. Since their mother passed away, they've been living with their stepfather, Lord Gray. Lord Gray hates them. His estate is entailed to a cousin who has also expressed disinterest in the two young ladies, and Lord Gray has promised not to leave them a penny.

When an invitation arrives, Amelia realizes they may have just received their ticket out of poverty or servitude. Lord Ronald took a fancy to Clara during their season in London. Nobody else has expressed interest or called at their home in Brighton. Now, Lord Ronald has invited the sisters to stay at his estate for a fortnight.

On the way to Lord Ronald's home, Amelia must stop to make an urgent purchase but the item she requires is snatched up by a cheerful but determined man named Peter Wood. When they arrive and begin to settle in at Lord Ronald's estate, Amelia is horrified to find Mr. Wood is among the guests. And his sister, Georgiana, is Clara's competition.

Amelia can't stand Mr. Wood, but she's determined to keep him from aiding Georgiana in her pursuit of Lord Ronald. Can Amelia bear to spend time with a man she detests in order to separate him from his sister and Lord Ronald? What can be done to ensure Clara receives a wedding proposal rather than Georgiana? When Amelia finds herself softening toward Peter, what will happen when Clara says she could not bear to have a connection to Georgiana, regardless of how it occurred?

Highly recommended - A charming and delightful read. I found myself smiling a lot while I was reading Lakeshire Park. I'm not a big fan of the enemies-to-friends romance trope, much as I love Pride and Prejudice, but there was just something special about Lakeshire Park and the slow alteration of feelings between Peter and Amelia. I think the words I'm searching for are "believable" and "well-paced"? Plus, I adored the two main characters, thought the interactions between Peter and Amelia were surprising and different and their dialogue genuinely clever, and loved the slow build to their growing affection. And, I had fun hating on Lord Gray and wondering what would happen with the love triangle on the side. All in all, one of the best Regency romances I've read. I will be looking forward to more by Megan Walker.

My thanks to Shadow Mountain for the review copy!

©2020 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, April 27, 2020

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • What You Wish For by Katherine Center - from St. Martin's Press for review
  • The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag,
  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare,
  • Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, and
  • The Mercy Seat by Rilla Askew - all from my friend Sandie (Thank you!!!)
  • The Yale Annotated version of Hamlet - purchased 

Ha! After moaning about getting no books at all, last week, and theorizing that I may have to start becoming creative with the photo at the top of my Monday Malarkey posts, I broke my book-buying ban for Hamlet (I love the Yale annotated Shakespeare plays — I think this is my 4th) and then bought a couple more books that won't arrive for a while (maybe this week, probably next). And, my pre-ordered copy of Alex George's latest, The Paris Hours, will be coming soon. I was not expecting such a big box from Sandie. It was like Christmas!!! So fun. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Lakeshire Park by Megan Walker
  • Nature's Best Hope by Douglas W. Tallamy

It's funny, I loved Lakeshire Park but I struggled to get myself to read much, this week, so I took advantage of Dewey's Readathon as an excuse to spend time reading on the weekend and finished it up pretty quickly on Saturday. Then, I moved on to Nature's Best Hope and kept falling asleep. I took 2 or 3 mini naps before deciding to start Hamlet and then realized I was still sleepy and gave up for the day. But, I was just overtired from a rough night and had no trouble finishing up Nature's Best Hope on Sunday. Hamlet is going to take me a while. It gets tiresome looking back and forth between text and footnotes and there are so many that I'll go back and forth about 12 times on one page, then reread the text and any notes that didn't sink in before moving on. Yep, it's going to take a while.

Currently reading:

  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare

I'll add another book or two to the mix, today (probably one fiction, one nonfiction title), but I haven't picked anything out, yet, although I have ideas.

Last week's posts:

I decided not to review Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead till after reading Hamlet because they're related (Rosencrantz, etc., is the reason I purchased Hamlet), which left me nothing to review after Horrorstör. Hopefully, this will be a better reviewing week, now that I've finished a couple books. 

In other news:

We absolutely loved Treasure Island, the latest free production from the National Theatre. The current production available for streaming is The Twelfth Night, which we'll probably watch tonight. Next week's is Frankenstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller. I have a feeling we'll watch Frankenstein the first evening it's available. I've always wanted to see Benedict Cumberbatch on stage but any time he's been in a play in London the tickets have sold out within hours so this is about as close as we'll probably ever come to seeing him on stage. I can't wait.

The free Andrew Lloyd Webber production of the week was Love Never Dies, the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. We passed up going to see that in London, even though Ramin Karimloo (an actor we really like) was playing the Phantom, because we heard it was awful. Husband watched it but I declined. He said, "It was not good." I was reading nearby while he was watching Love Never Dies so I occasionally had him unplug his earphones and I'd watch a few minutes, shake my head, and he'd plug them back in. I haven't heard what's up next. I don't think we watched anything else. It was so pleasant outside, most of the week, that we spent a lot of time outdoors in the evening. Once the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes descend, we'll be stuck indoors. Gotta enjoy the nice weather while we can.

©2020 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, April 24, 2020

Fiona Friday - Skeptics

©2020 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, April 21, 2020

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

This book is so much fun.

Horrorstör takes place in an IKEA-alike store called Orsk (Need help? Just Orsk.) The main character is Amy. Amy transferred to the store from another closer to home to try to improve her life and get away from her mother's trailer park. But, she's having trouble keeping up with her rent and hasn't managed to get ahead at work so she's put in for a transfer.

Meanwhile, strange things are happening at the store during the hours it's closed and each morning damage is being found. When Amy's boss decides that he needs a few people to stay overnight and patrol the store to find the perpetrator of the damage, she balks until he offers her extra pay. He also enlists the help of a second employee that everyone loves. And, then, the three of them discover two other employees have stowed away, so to speak, to do some ghost hunting at Orsk after finding out that it sits on the location of a former prison.

So, there are 5 characters: the failure, the uptight boss who really is insecure, the sweet and innocent spinster, the overenthusiastic ghost hunter, and the guy who just wants to get the girl and find fame and fortune (or the "user", I guess).

The first half of the book, approximately, is mostly set-up and it's a delight. Grady Hendrix has a wonderful, light touch so there's a lot of humor and you get to know the characters well before he ramps up the horror aspect of the book. Then, the suspense and terror gradually build as the ghosts come out, bent on tormenting the employees and breaking their wills.

Highly recommended - I'm not a horror fan and I found this book more gruesome and yucky than scary so it was very tolerable for me. I looked at the ratings of friends at Goodreads and they were mostly 3- and 4-star ratings so that may not be true for normal horror readers. I gave it 5 because I found the story so hard to put down and I loved the touches of humor, loved the way Amy grows in the story, and thought the ending was solid. I just noticed people are talking about a newer book by Grady Hendrix, a couple days ago. You can bet I will be looking into that one, as well.

©2020 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, April 20, 2020

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • None, nada, zero, zippo, zilch. 

Bummer. But, not unexpected as I'm still on a book-buying ban and I don't think there are any review titles that will be mailed to me till May or June. I'm going to be mostly reading off my shelves in the near future. The yellow rosebud is in one of our pots. I just thought it would look awful not to have a photo at the top of the blog post.

Maybe I'll photograph and post finished books in future Malarkey posts or do something themed like you see on Instagram, each week, when I don't get any book mail.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Big Finish by Brooke Fossey
  • Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix 
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

Horrorstör was (gasp!) an ebook that I purchased on the recommendation of my friend Ryan when it went on sale. I'd already wanted to read it since before it was published (at the time, I was disappointed that Quirk Books didn't ask me if I'd like to review it).  I was already on a book-buying ban when Ryan mentioned the fact that Horrorstör was on sale and thought the fact that I couldn't buy a paper copy without breaking my ban was as good an excuse as any to buy the ebook. I don't ever mention ebooks when I buy them for the same reason I seldom read them: I forget they exist. Weird, but true.

Currently reading:

  • Lakeshire Park by Megan Walker

I'm really enjoying this one, so far. 

Last week's posts:

When I did the four mini reviews that totally caught me up and then I finished The Big Finish and I was caught up, again! Now, I only have two personal reads to review. I love being caught up or close to it. What a nice feeling.

In other news:

We watched the 25th anniversary of The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall with much of the world on Friday evening. What a fabulous production. We've got a copy of the 25th anniversary of Les Mis on DVD, also at the Royal Albert, and it lacked the sets; people just stood at microphones singing. So, neither of us were expecting the full production including sets. It was perfect! I loved it so much I was hoping to find it on DVD but it appears to only be available in a European format, not the American format that works on our DVD player. We plan to watch the weekly free streaming from the National Theatre, Treasure Island, tomorrow. Storms are rolling in so I doubt we'll get to watch it today. It's Sunday and I'm rushing to get this post written so I can pre-post it. It's suddenly turned pitch dark outside. Looks like I'm going to have to unplug.

And, we watched the usual: NCIS, Chicago Fire, and World on Fire on PBS. I also watched Chicago Med because the storyline with one of the doctors getting held hostage sounded entertaining. I only tune into Chicago Med on rare occasions when the previews pique my interest. I was right; it was a good episode.

I'm pleased that I finally had what felt like a normal reading week for me. Maybe I'm finally adjusting to isolation. I mean . . . I'm kind of a hermit so I'm missing my few normal interactions but it's more the sensation of feeling trapped at home and not being able to just dash out for that one ingredient or paint color or other supply on a whim that is so uncomfortable. And, I miss the gym. But, it's becoming more tolerable over time. I still can't sleep well and all of my dreams have been about magically being bestowed with groceries we've run out of. Pretty funny. Hope you're all doing well and staying healthy!

©2020 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, April 17, 2020

Fiona Friday - Of course they're not spoiled

©2020 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, April 16, 2020

The Big Finish by Brooke Fossey

In The Big Finish, 88-year-old Duffy Sinclair lives in Centennial, an assisted living facility. Centennial is one of only two such homes in his area and the better of them by far. His roommate, Carl, is a man Duffy looks up to. Carl's a good person while Duffy has a history. But, when Carl's secret granddaughter, Josie, shows up and asks to stay at the nursing home with them, Duffy is flabbergasted. There were supposedly no secrets between him and Carl.

And, now Duffy's life has suddenly become much more complicated than making it to the right room for meal time or activities and catching the bus for an outing to Walmart. Now, he has to worry about the fact that a young lady wants to stay with them, breaking the rules. Duffy is determined not to be a rule-breaker because he doesn't want to end up at the other nursing home, a place where they care less about you and people go to die. One resident has already been kicked out of Centennial for a slight infraction and the new owner is remodeling her room, hoping to make more money from a future tenant.

When Duffy finds out Josie has a secret of her own, he offers to help. Duffy faced the same life-long challenge till a little over a decade ago and he knows the struggle. But, having Josie around is causing more trouble than even Duffy imagined. Will Duffy end up at the dreaded other home, Simmons, where people go to die? Will he be able to help Josie? And, will anyone be able to help her find her path?

Recommended - There is so much more to The Big Finish than I expected. Josie shows up with a black eye and no shoes so you know something is off. But, the more Duffy discovers about Josie, the more he becomes determined to help her and, maybe, in the process redeem himself. I don't want to give too much away because I liked slowly discovering what Josie's problem was and what was up with her, so I'm going to leave this review a bit on the vague side but I found The Big Finish immensely entertaining.

Duffy is a wise-cracking old curmudgeon but he has a bigger heart than he wants to admit. The friendships between Duffy and Carl, the residents and Josie, Anderson and Nora (both caregivers) and everyone are all wonderful. And, the ending is stirring and uplifting. A very entertaining, rollicking read about living life while you can. I did think the book started out a bit slowly but it's worth it to put up with the slower bits at the beginning. Eventually, as you get to know the characters and their dilemmas, it becomes more fun and there's even a little excitement at the end and a comedy of errors feel to what happens to Duffy throughout.

Many thanks to Berkley for the review copy!

©2020 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, April 15, 2020

Mini reviews - The Suicide Run by Wm. Styron, The Song of the Tree by C. Bickford-Smith, and two rereads

These are all books from my personal shelves that I don't feel require a lengthy review. Two I've read and reviewed in the past, so I'll just talk about the rereading.

The Suicide Run is my second read by William Styron. The first was so vividly written that I had to look the book up to make sure I was actually reading fiction. It was a book of three short stories and, yes, they were fiction. I don't recall the title, it's been so long.

The same was true of The Suicide Run. There's just something about Styron's writing that feels real and immediate. The stories in The Suicide Run (my favorite of which felt to be novella length, although I can't say if it qualified as such) are about military life or preparing to go back into the military, and they are based on Styron's experiences in wartime but not autobiographical.

Much as in Tim O'Brien's writing, the focus of the stories is on incompetence, mistakes, desire, thoughts of home. The difference, in my opinion, is that while both write in a way that makes you feel present, O'Brien is more of a craftsman. Styron used so many obscure words that I kept thinking, "He had to have sat with a thesaurus on his lap." There just wasn't any reason for a lot of his word choices, other than to sound fancy. So, I liked The Suicide Run for the realistic feel of the writing but it was not a favorite.

The Song of the Tree by Coralie Bickford-Smith is a book I bought on the basis of an Instagram post. It sounded lovely, and it is. It's the story of a bird who loves the tree he lives in and when it comes time to migrate, the bird doesn't want to leave for fear of the tree becoming lonely. But, then, in few words over beautiful page spreads, the bird finds that there are many other creatures hanging out in or near the tree and it will never be lonely.

Satisfied, the bird flies away. The Song of the Tree has been described as a "picture book for grown-ups" and I think that's an apt description. It could be read to a child (or by a child) but it just feels like it's meant for adults in some indefinable way. Still, I would probably pass it on to my granddaughters if this particular copy, which I purchased secondhand by mail, didn't happen to have a rather strong odor. It is one smelly book. I suspect it may have been a library book that had its cover removed and was resold. I'm sensitive to smell and it just feels dirty with that unpleasant scent, so I'll probably just donate my copy of The Song of the Tree when the library reopens. Maybe someone else will be able to tolerate it.

I've read The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy enough times, over the years (I originally read the Turtle Point Press ARC in 2007) that I've lost count but it's been a few years since the last reading. It felt like coming home.

My two favorite stories remain the same. "Where They Hide is a Mystery" and "Little Birds" mean the most to me. Those who have dropped by my blog for many years will know that I met up with Simon Van Booy in 2007 and interviewed him. Later, I went with Carrie of Care's Books and Pie to see him speak in Boston. I've bought almost every book he's published since we met. His writing is a marvel and I appreciated The Secret Lives of People in Love as much on this reading as I have the many readings of the past, possibly more because it was the blankie I needed.

I chose to read The Secret Lives of People in Love when the pandemic isolation started to get to me. I needed a comfort read and it absolutely fit my aching need. I may pull Love Begins in Winter off the shelves and read that, soon. There's sadness and hardship in Simon's stories but always a ray of light, as well.

Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins is another reread that I pulled off the shelf, both for comfort and because it's National Poetry Month. Have to squeeze in at least a little poetry in April!

I love Billy Collins' poetry but I have to confess that I felt a little impatient with this book and I don't know why. Maybe I wasn't in the mood for Collins, after all. Or, maybe I needed something new. He apparently has a new book coming out soon, Whale Day. I was disappointed to find that it's not available till September and only in hardback or Kindle. Had it already been available and in paperback, I would have happily broken my current book-buying ban to get a copy. It's probably for the best that it's not.

I should mention that Sailing Alone Around the Room has always been my favorite of the Billy Collins books I own (I think I have 4 of them). It contains selections from a number of his other books, so I guess it's along the lines of a "greatest hits" type of book. I like how straightforward his poetry is. There's no scowling at his lines and wondering what on earth he's getting at. He's also very witty. Simon once asked me if I've ever met Billy Collins and I said no. He said, "He's very serious." I guess you should expect that of a poet. They're probably a little pained by the sharpness of their observations.

At any rate, it might not have been the best time for this particular volume of poetry but I remain a Collins fan and it wasn't a misery to reread. I just sometimes felt like, "I see what you're doing, here." I was too moody for it, maybe, thinking I saw through the poet in some mysterious way (which makes me giggle to think of). I still feel like I need to read more poetry so we'll see what I can come up with from the personal shelves, this month.

©2020 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, April 13, 2020

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • The Hilarious World of Depression by John Moe (from St. Martin's Press for review)

I think I signed up for this book via Shelf Awareness and I'm looking forward to it. Note that the author blurb on the cover is by Jenny Lawson. I tried to read one of her books and thought it was depressing, not funny, although I loved her hilarious blog posts and she has amazing Twitter game. Maybe one of her other books would work for me. The one I disliked had the raccoon on the cover.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey
  • The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy
  • Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins

The latter two are rereads, which I pulled off the shelf to read when the isolation finally got to me this week and I needed some comfort reading. I've done pretty well with this pandemic thing, for the most part, but this was the week I cracked. I think if I had the option I'd completely do without ARC reading while we're stuck at home and just read to my mood but I have about 5 or 6 books scheduled for review in the next 2 1/2 months so I'll just shovel in some reads off my shelf when I can. So far, this is starting to be a much better month than March for quantity. Of course, that's partly because the two old favorites I read this weekend are slim. 

Currently reading:

  • The Big Finish by Brooke Fossey

Funny that after finishing a book about a lonely elderly woman finding friends and recalling the love of her life, the next book on my agenda is about . . . elderly men. Ha. It's completely different, though, and I'm enjoying it in a very different way. 

Last week's posts:

In other news: 

So, mentally not my best week but it improved after I spent a day or two with a pile of pillows and some old favorite books (and one day doing fierce cleaning, which is always cheering). TV-wise, we've been avoiding news and only occasionally turn it on for a short time, then turn it off in horror. I am glad Boris Johnson survived. I'm sad that we've topped 20,000 dead in the U.S.

We watched the National Theatre's production of Jane Eyre (free streaming; a fascinating modern take on the classic), a little of Jesus Christ, Superstar (I am officially impressed with John Legend and was happy to see an old favorite, Norm Lewis), and Andrea Bocelli's concert at the Duomo in Milan (breathtaking). In everyday TV, we watched an episode of Chicago Fire. And, when I say "we" I am surprised to be able to say that with honesty. Huzzybuns is not big on my favorite TV shows, apart from NCIS, so I was surprised when he sat through an entire episode of Chicago Fire. Usually, he doesn't last the full hour if he sits down with me at all. I watched the second episode of World on Fire on PBS alone (no interest at all from the spouse; he sat on the porch). I'm finding it painfully realistic. People tell me they have more trouble reading about war than watching it in movies and on TV. I'm the opposite. While reading, I can distance myself enough to tolerate reading about suffering in a way I can't when it's portrayed on screen. But, I think the fact that it's so hard to watch also means it's well done.

Easter was quiet. I hope everyone tolerated Easter or Passover without visitors. I miss having weekly (and now holiday) dinners with Kiddo and daughter-in-law but at least I got to shout at them from the porch to the driveway when they came to pick up a farm box, this week. We do talk on the phone, too, of course.

The best news of all is that we have a lot of very pretty things growing on our deck. We were only able to do one run to our favorite nursery and then pick up a tomato, some lettuce, and herbs in one go from Home Depot before it was time to stay at home, a month ago. Fortunately, that run to the nursery was a productive one and almost everything is growing brilliantly. And, we managed to keep the autumn mums going. Well, here, I'll just show you a little.

©2020 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, April 10, 2020

Fiona Friday - She heard something

Hopefully, not a mouse in the attic.

©2020 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, April 09, 2020

Flamebringer (Heartstone #3) by Elle Katharine White

Flamebringer is the third and final book in the Heartstone trilogy and I was so excited to read it. Even the sluggishness of my pandemic reading didn't dim the thrill although, yes, it did take longer for me to read it than it normally would have.

In the first novel, Heartstone, Aliza Bentaine discovers both love and a fighting spirit when her family and friends are faced with invading enemies and a fierce battle. In Dragonshadow, Aliza accompanies her dragon rider husband on a job that requires flying over dangerous lands where monsters lurk. In Flamebringer, Aliza and Alistair Daired fly home from their job in the second book, but they initially make an error in trying to chase someone down and end up captured by a previously unknown enemy. While imprisoned, they find out about creatures older than the Oldkind and the grudge those older creatures have against the Daireds.

When it turns out everything Aliza and Alistair have known as both history and legend may not be entirely true, what can be done to save everyone from this new, ancient enemy? A final battle will take many lives, some close to Aliza and Alistair, but will they be able to vanquish the evil for good?

Highly recommended - I loved this series. The first book was basically Pride and Prejudice with dragons and I felt like it was a little slow, at times, but it was worth sticking out the dances and other interactions that were a clear parallel to Pride and Prejudice for the exciting action scenes. The second book was adventurous but had a few too many monsters, to the point that it was a little difficult keeping track of them all, but I still liked it. But, Flamebringer brought it all together with plenty of action and danger and fewer different types of creatures to keep track of. I thought it was an absolutely perfect ending to the series. In fact, I loved Flamebringer so much that I may hang onto the entire series for a reread. And, I am not particularly fond of fantasy series. The Heartstone series is loads of fun. I'll be keeping my eye out for future books by Elle Katharine White!

My thanks to HarperVoyager for the review copy of Flamebringer!

©2020 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, April 07, 2020

The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey

Millicent "Missy" Carmichael is old and tired and very lonely but she's not entirely sure what to do about her loneliness as The Love Story of Missy Carmichael opens. She's been rattling around alone in a very large house since her beloved Leo has gone. She's had a falling out with her daughter Melanie and her son Alistair and his family are living in Australia, so very far from London that all she has to look forward to is their annual Christmas visits.

Then, Missy decides that she needs to try living again and she begins by walking to a local coffee shop, dropping by a park, going a little farther than she's really comfortable with. And, while she's trying to stretch herself a little, she meets Angela, her son Otis (who is the same age as her grandson Arthur, in Australia) and Sylvie. When Angela and Sylvie continue to pursue a friendship Missy is certain she doesn't want, things begin to change.

While Missy's circle of friends is slowly growing (including a dog, something she's never been too fond of) and even the interior of her home is changing, she also reflects back on her early years — her childhood, the many deaths of family members, how she met her husband and married him, motherhood. She's always thought herself a bit of a failure. But, was she? Is it too late to make amends for her mistakes? Can she forgive herself and discover the things she's done right, over the years?

Highly recommended - I loved this book. I think it was the comparison to A Man Called Ove that piqued my interest when I was offered The Love Story of Missy Carmichael for review and there are some similarities. Missy is 79. She's not a curmudgeon like Ove, but she has effectively avoided everyone but her family when possible and isn't quite sure how to make friends. She also initially seems quite negative. Missy tries to avoid those who reach out to her, at first, but she finds Angela interesting (Angela and Otis give her something to write to Alistair about) and Sylvie is a breath of fresh air. And, as her friendships grow and blossom, you get to know her history, how she became the person she is, and what she's lived through. She is so much better than her internal monologue makes you think, in the beginning. I love books about friends who become a sort of surrogate family and The Love Story of Missy Carmichael is that sort of book. The ending will break you a little, but in a good way. Keep tissues handy.

My thanks to G. P. Putnam's Sons for the review copy!

©2020 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, April 06, 2020

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Don't You Know There's a War On? by Janet Todd - from Fentrum Press for review

Only one book showed up in my mailbox, this past two weeks. Don't You Know There's a War On? arrived unsolicited and it looks totally up my alley, so I'm going to put it on the calendar for May reading, June at the latest. I have not responded to any ARC offers at all because they've all been e-galley-only offers and you know how I hate e-books. I always said if the industry ever went entirely to e-galleys, I'd stop reading ARCs but wondered in the back of my mind if that view would be altered by the lure of new titles. Nope, I was right. I can't even get myself to read the e-books I've purchased, so it doesn't make sense for me to accept e-books. I won't take on anything I don't absolutely expect to read in a timely manner. I understand the reasoning behind the change and I'm hoping the publishing industry will rebound when this horror is over. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Suicide Run by William Styron
  • The Song of the Tree by Coralie Bickford-Smith
  • Flamebringer by Elle Katharine Smith

Ugh, only 3 books in 2 weeks. I was already having a subpar year but this is ridiculous. Pandemic, you are cramping my style. 

Currently reading:

  • The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey
  • Nature's Best Hope by Douglas W. Tallamy

I actually did read some of Nature's Best Hope, this week. Nonfiction is probably not the best thing for pandemic reading, at least for me, but I'm not giving up on this one. When I do pick it up, I enjoy the reading. However, on the off chance that this slim volume takes me another few weeks to finish, I'm going to drop it from the "currently reading" lists in future Malarkey posts (because it starts to bug me when I have to look at the titles of books I haven't finished for weeks and weeks). When I finish it, then you'll see more about it. And, I will finish it.

Most recent week's posts:

Posts are from the week before last. I meant to put up one last post and mention that I was going to take a week off but I didn't manage to finish that post and figured it's not like everyone's hanging out here waiting on me, anyway. I think everyone's been pretty preoccupied.

In other news:

This was my first week with a spouse at home and I love having him around but . . . but . . . well, you know. It isn't a perfect situation. Our house is kind of a modern ranch, I guess, just one story and we have no basements in our area because the clay soil shifts depending upon the amount of moisture (which makes basements leak). So there's no second story or basement for me to retreat to. Add to that the problem that our house is quite open, we only have area rugs so sound travels, and Huzzybuns set up his home office smack in the middle of the house. All that meant that I was unable to do my normal routine for the entire week. No streaming exercise classes, no banging around doing housework except when he's between calls, no singing loudly (I sing a lot).

Huz's also been taking over my computer when he needs to do certain calls that he can't do using his own computer, which apparently hates Zoom, so I will do my best to fit in posts when I can but sometimes it may simply be impossible because I have to give up my computer for the cause. It is what it is. I am really relieved to finally have my husband working from home and still employed when so many others are out of work. We'll just have to figure out how to find our balance.

In two weeks, I've watched so little I can tick everything off for you almost on one hand:

  • Hampstead (movie)
  • Sense and Sensibility (comfort movie)
  • One Man, Two Guvnors (streamed for free by Britain's National Theatre)
  • One episode each of NCIS, Rush, and Chicago Fire
  • A bunch of silly videos of musicals rewritten with pandemic lyrics (I love the British family doing Les Miserables)
  • Lots of Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert shows from home, a little of Trevor Noah, and way too much news

I'm not quite as obsessed with the rising pandemic numbers as I used to be because they're now so large that it's too much for me to wrap my head around. I've found it increasingly upsetting to discover that I have friends who fall into the "conspiracy theorist" category (via Facebook) or who parroted the line about it being more important to "keep the economy going" than stop people from dying (that one I unfriended) so I decided to start paring back on Facebook visits, yesterday. From now on, I'm going to do my best to simply post links to my reviews and leave.

For those who are interested in reading about emerging diseases, the book Spillover by David Quammen is a good (and scary) place to start. Click on the title to read my review, published in 2014. New diseases emerge regularly and while the book is outdated because it was published prior to even the Ebola outbreak of 2014, it's still relevant.

I hope everyone is staying home, healthy, and safe (with plenty of toilet paper).

©2020 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.