Monday, August 31, 2020

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin is a middle grade book that tells the story of Suzy, who has become silent after the death of her best friend from drowning. It doesn't make sense to Suzy that Franny drowned; Franny was always an excellent swimmer. Suzy's convinced that she can't have simply drowned without something major having occurred, even though her mother says these things just happen and even strong swimmers like Franny can drown if something goes wrong.

Convinced that something strange must have happened to lead to Franny's death, Suzy studies up on jellyfish and decides it must have been a jellyfish sting that killed Franny instantly. But, Suzy needs help making sure that's the case, so she reads up online and searches for a scientist who specializes in jellyfish to help her.

Franny and Suzy had fallen out, a while back, and just before Franny's death Suzy did something to let Franny know that she was hanging out with the wrong people, just to get her attention. Is guilt driving Suzy's determination to find a lethal jellyfish to explain Franny's death or is she just unable to accept the death of a person she cared for when it happened so far away? Can a new friend help Suzy move on?

OK, this is weird. When I closed The Thing About Jellyfish, I was totally blown away. I liked the progression from "girl not speaking because she's clearly traumatized" to "friendship and kindness help child emerge from grief" and while I thought the facts about jellyfish were a bit much, the story didn't go where I expected it to go, exactly, and I liked that. It's best to be surprised in your reading, rather than for things to unfold as expected, in most cases.

Having said that, when I went to review The Thing About Jellyfish, this morning, I couldn't remember a thing about it. That's unusual for me. I find very few books instantly forgettable and it's only been 2 weeks since I read it. So, while I gave it 5 stars because I had to know what would happen to Suzy and whether or not she was actually going to get in touch with the scientist of her choosing, in hindsight I probably ought to bump that down a bit for so quickly evaporating from my memory (I had to read the book description to jog my memory). But, it's an excellent read so I won't.

Recommended - Sad and uplifting, interesting and (at one point) a little shocking. While I found this story didn't stick with me, as a child I think I might have just shrugged and reread it, remembering that I enjoyed it in spite of having forgotten the details of the content.

©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, August 28, 2020

Fiona Friday - Fun with ribbon

I know this is a terrible photo but it's my favorite of the week. After I posed Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams with a red ribbon (which normally hangs from a knob so the cats can bat at it or drag it around the house) for Instagram, Fiona looked eager to play. Her wish came true.

©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, August 26, 2020

A Castle in the Clouds by Kerstin Gier

Confession: I bought A Castle in the Clouds by Kerstin Gier mainly because I liked the cover, particularly the fact that there's a cat on the cover. I almost removed it from my shopping cart but the cat threw me over the edge (and the story sounded fun, anyway).

A Castle in the Clouds is about a German teenage high school dropout named Sophie Spark who works at an aging, upscale hotel in the Swiss Alps as an intern. Not much happens in the first third to half of the book, other than the introduction of a very large cast as the reader gets to know Sophie, beginning with her interaction with an obnoxiously witty 9-year-old regular patron. You see her everyday life and learn about the mysterious "forbidden" cat who manages not to be seen by the bad-tempered one of the two co-owners.

There's a love triangle but it's a little odd. One of the teenage boys is the son of one of the hotel owners (it's a family-run hotel), the other has a grandfather in the jewelry business and a knack for climbing the outer hotel walls and sneaking through windows. Is he a thief? One of the families visiting and planning to attend the annual New Year's Ball is headed by a Russian oligarch who is going incognito. Is the oligarch up to no good?

You know something interesting is going to eventually happen because there's a prologue in which Sophie is covered in blood. But, the book is generally understated, a little everyday, and very fluffy. It's more about Sophie wondering what could be happening and getting it wrong, her odd little quirks like naming the birds that perch on her window ledge, and the two handsome young men circling her. The mystery is weak. I liked it that way, myself.

Highly recommended - I've never read Kerstin Gier and at the time I picked it up, I'd just read something a little too heavy that was getting me down. So, a fluffy read was exactly what I needed. I found A Castle in the Clouds light, a little adventurous, and humorous with a likable heroine. And, I loved the forbidden cat. The mystery is admittedly not that great and that's fine with me, since I'm no longer a big mystery fan. I was hoping for a light read and that's what I got. So, don't go into the reading of A Castle in the Clouds expecting a complex mystery. While it kept me guessing, A Castle in the Clouds is not the kind of book that mystery lovers tend to appreciate. I thought of it more as a love triangle YA with a little excitement on the side. Because A Castle in the Clouds was the perfect book for me at that moment, I gave it 5 stars.

Translated from the German.

©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, August 25, 2020

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD

Expressing [...] deep frustration in response to [George] Zimmerman's acquittal, Alicia Garza, a community organizer based in Oakland, California, posted this message on Facebook: "I continue to be surprised at how little black lives matter . . . Black people, I love you. I love us. Our lives matter." Garza's friend, Patrisse Cullors, a Los Angeles-based activist, shared the Facebook post and added the hashtag, powerful in its simplicity, #BlackLivesMatter. Opal Tometi, a social-justice activist living in New York City, reached out to Garza and offered to help build a digital platform that could mobilize action for meaningful change. [...] The #BlackLivesMatter message resonated with many across the social media platforms of Facebook and Twitter, and with that amplification a rallying cry for the millennial generation was born. 

~p. 27

I chose this quote because I watched a video, a few days ago, in which a White man held a sign saying "Black Lives Matter" and people yelled abuse at him, calling him a traitor to his race, flipping him off, asking him, "What about White lives?" Maybe those people will never get it but it's always been clear to me what the protesters in the BLM movement are saying has never meant Black Lives Matter More Than Others. If they did, I'm sure that's what the hashtag would say. No, it's always been about the fact that Blacks are treated with less value and dignity, killed by police and incarcerated at a higher rate, discriminated against quietly through societal structure. Black people in this movement —a peaceful movement started by women— have done their best to explain, although it shouldn't be necessary. But, the anger amongst certain groups who choose to take offense persists. And, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? makes it crystal clear why such a movement is necessary, why it's particularly necessary for young people of any color to find their people, at least for a time.

The author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? is a psychologist who was charged with teaching about racism at university level, way back in the 80s or 90s (I didn't mark the date mentioned), who has been researching, talking about, and living racism as a light-skinned Black woman, for decades. She knows her stuff. The book I read is the updated 2017 version; the original was published in 1997. And, it is not exclusively about Blacks. It's about the psychology of why Black kids cluster together (the short answer: because they need to, at least for a time, to understand who they are) but the book is also about dominant groups and how those who are dominant convince the people they consider beneath them that they are, in fact, lesser. That includes women and other minorities.

The relationship of the dominants to the subordinates is often one in which the targeted group is labeled as defective or substandard in significant ways. For example, Blacks have historically been characterized as less intelligent than Whites, and women have been viewed as less emotionally stable than men. The dominant group assigns roles to the subordinates that reflect the latter's devalued status, reserving the most highly valued roles in the society for themselves. Subordinates are usually said to be innately incapable of being able to perform the preferred roles. To the extent that the targeted group internalizes the images that the dominant group reflects back to them, they may find it difficult to believe in their own ability. 

~p. 104

The comment about the targeted group internalizing images reflected back by the dominant group explains the women who claimed Hillary Clinton should not be president because women are weak.  If you've never seen the video in which a woman said Hillary shouldn't be president because she might have a hormone swing and start a war to Jordan Klepper, and then he asks, "But, haven't all wars been started by men?" you should. It's both hilarious and a good object lesson.

I'm getting off-track. There is so much depth to this book that I feel like I can't adequately describe it but it's a 5-star read that talks not only about the importance of developing identity for Blacks but about the concept of redlining that's kept blacks in less affluent neighborhoods, Affirmative Action (how it started and what it does and not do; the false concept of "ratios" as a legal imperative, for example), the ideology of "color blindness", White identity, multi-racial identity, and also that of Latinx, Native, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Middle Eastern/North African . . . everyone has some need to band together with other people who bear some similarity to them as their identities are developing. Tatum also goes into the importance of making sure children of other races and ethnic backgrounds adopted by White parents are exposed to people like them and how damaging it can be to not do so.

Highly recommended - I wish every adult would read this. An incredibly detailed and easily digestible book about race that goes far, far beyond what you expect from the title of the book but also explains the reasoning for banding together as one is developing his or her identity in a way that has completely clarified it, at least for this reader. In my case, I felt like I learned a lot about myself, as well. For example, while my friends were not entirely homogeneous, I mostly hung out with Christians because my identity was so thoroughly wrapped up in church, as a child. And, it was the Native Americans clustered together on the steps at lunchtime that I always wondered about, not Blacks. There were not many Blacks or other minorities in my hometown, in fact. It was White Bread City, probably 98% White. I'm fortunate that I grew up with a father who made it clear to us that racism was wrong. Most of my friends from home didn't learn that lesson.

Link to review of another book I recommend highly:

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrice Kahn-Cullors and Asha Bandele

©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, August 24, 2020

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Our Long Love's Day by Elizabeth Guider
  • Finna by Nate Marshall

Both of these are purchases. Elizabeth Guider is in my F2F book group and one of the ladies asked me to buy a copy and read it because she wants to hear my opinion. I've meant to try one of Elizabeth's books for a while, so I figured now is as good a time as any. Finna by Nate Marshall is the poetry book that I meant to buy in the first place. The other Finna, which I accidentally ordered, has already been reviewed and is sci-fi. I've linked to the review in my posts list, below.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Castle in the Clouds by Kerstin Gier
  • The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay
  • The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
  • Minnie's Room by Mollie Panter-Downes
  • The Readers' Room by Antoine Laurain

I've been reading a lot of very light, very thin books. Two middle grade, one YA. Again, I'm just going with what calls to me. I've been very happy with my reading, lately. I didn't read as much, these past two weeks, but that's OK. At least two nights I didn't feel like reading at all and I've found it's best to just go with it if I don't feel like reading, rather than forcing myself to read. 

Currently reading:

  • Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams
  • Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

Agnes at the End of the World is another pandemic novel. I think I may have mentioned that when it arrived. What can I say? I enjoy them. I like how very different they all seem to be from each other. This particular fictional pandemic has nothing in common with our current one, as far as the disease goes. But, it's always interesting seeing what different authors imagined would be done to curtail a virus gone wild and what they anticipated going wrong, worldwide (like power outages, food shortages, etc.)

I tried to read When Democracies Die by S. Levitsky and D. Ziblatt but I didn't get very far because — even though it was written in 2017 and little had been done to threaten our democracy, yet — it anticipated what's happening. Basically, it just tells you how democracies have died in the past, although the authors do refer to what the current president said during his candidacy and what he did early in his administration to show how they paralleled dying democracies of the past. At the point I quit, what's happening in the United States was so much worse than anything I'd yet read (who could have anticipated the damage to the postal service?) that it was depressing the hell out of me. I'll try again, soon. Maybe I'll be better able to tolerate it in a week.

Instead of just giving up because the book was so upsetting, I kept glancing at it and thinking, "Later." Finally, though, I realized I wasn't going back to it, at least for now, and started Notes on a Nervous Planet, which is about Matt Haig's challenges with anxiety and depression and what he has learned.

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

It took about 2 weeks for me to choose my next painting project (here's the free Kate Morgan tutorial I'm currently watching) but it requires a lot of supplies I've never used, like acrylic ink. I often will just stick with what I have on hand but I'm in the mood to try something completely new so I ordered the necessary art supplies. Of course, with the mail situation the way it is, they're taking their sweet time getting here. So, I went to Kate Morgan's website and looked at some of her other work, then I decided to do a collage using what I've got on-hand. I'm still working on that. I did a first attempt and asked my Facebook friends (maybe you all know this because everyone who visits is a FB friend?) whether I should stop where I was at or continue to work on it. The response started out, "Leave it as is" and then eventually became about 50-50 leave it vs. add the other details. So, I left my first attempt as is and started on a second collage using the same printout photo and almost identical background colors. It will probably take a few more days but art is my passion, at the moment, and I'm having so much fun. It's nice to finally be back in the swing of things after several weeks of, "Uh, what do I do with myself, now?"

We've had a busy weekend, since early predictions showed both of the Gulf Coast hurricanes headed our way. It keeps changing by the hour, but the current prediction places us on the wet side of both. My gut feeling is that Tropical Storm Laura (as of late Sunday night, she has been downgraded) is the one we need to worry about. I guess we'll see. We're 100 miles inland but Hurricane Katrina did some major damage to our area in spite of that so I don't take hurricanes for granted. We've restocked our hurricane food, gassed up the cars, bought D batteries for the flashlight that needs them, and I did some deep cleaning in case the power goes off. I've found it's awful to stare at the dirt on the floor and think, "If only I could vacuum." Been there. Best to get the homestead as clean as possible in advance of potential power outage. And, if we just get rain . . . wow, my house looks terrific. I'll enjoy that, for sure.

TV-wise, I recently watched The Delivery Man. I think there are only 8 episodes. I enjoyed it but Darren Boyd seems to play everything the same way, as the slightly awkward and mildly sarcastic fellow who tries a little too hard and stumbles his way through life, never quite managing to get the girl. Still, I wouldn't have watched it if I didn't find it entertaining. The laughs were cheesy ones, but still fun.

Husband chose a second series that we're still watching (but no bingeing allowed, ever — he can only stand 2 episodes in a row of anything), Party Tricks. The male lead, Rodger Corser, has become a favorite Australian actor (I've watched him in The Heart Guy, aka Doctor Doctor, and Glitch). It's about a journalist who decides to run for premier of Victoria and you get to see a lot of nice scenes of Melbourne. If you've been to Melbourne, as we have, that's particularly fun but I also do like the storyline that the two characters running for premier have a history and the current premier, a female, is thrown off her game by his candidacy against her.

And, I'm still rewatching Downton Abbey when the mood strikes. I have now been through the sinking of the Titanic, the loss of a maid who decided to become a secretary, WWI, Matthew's injury and recovery, Sybil running off with Tom, the Spanish Flu, Lavinia's tragedy, the whole will-they-won't-they between Matthew and Mary, the preparations to sell Downton, and now Edith has been jilted at the altar. So, I'm on Season 3. I was surprised to find that Edith's jilting was the one thing that made me cry. I always hated the way they kept stringing her along as the potential spinster, although I like what is about to happen to her. Then, I'll hate what happens after that. I remember, now, why Downton Abbey was so addictive.

©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, August 21, 2020

Fiona Friday

©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, August 20, 2020

Finna by Nino Cipri

It's kind of a funny story how I ended up with this book. I read a review about a book of poetry with the exact same title, complete with a sample of the poetry, which I loved. I mean, I loved that poem so much I immediately got online and ordered the book. Then, it arrived and I discovered that I did not have a book of poetry but a sci-fi published by Tor. Well . . . I like sci-fi, so that wasn't going to kill me and I read it. I've ordered the poetry book, now, incidentally. I can't wait to read it.

Finna by Nino Cipri is another multiverse book but it's totally different from the one I reviewed, yesterday: The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin. Finna takes place in a store that's similar to an IKEA but with crazy room designs rather than sleek, Swedish modern furnishings. It also happens to have a portal that leads to other worlds. Occasionally the wormhole will open up and someone will wander into this multiverse. There used to be a team of people who were charged with rescuing customers who accidentally walked from one world to another, but they were disbanded by corporate and now the boss just chooses a couple random, minimum-wage employees to risk their lives using the Finna, a device that helps them find the missing customer.

Ava and Jules used to be a couple but they've broken up. Ava is trying to avoid Jules completely but she's called in to work on a day that Jules is also working. When an elderly lady goes missing and Ava discovers that the wormhole has opened, Ava and Jules are chosen to rescue her.

I wrote a review about Finna at Goodreads and apparently didn't save it so I'm just having to go by memory but I think what's most interesting about Finna is that while it's set in a multiverse and there are some interesting scenes because of that, I thought the book was as much about the relationship as the action.

I confess to finding the relationship a little confusing at first because Jules is gay trans (nonbinary, I think) and goes by "they" instead of he or she. This was my first time reading the use of "they, them," etc. to describe an individual. Since there were two characters searching for the missing woman in the multiverse, "they" often could refer to the two as a former couple or as a pair of people working together and I would have to halt, briefly, to figure it out. But, I liked the viewpoint of seeing this very different type of couple struggling with the same things that wreck other relationships with the added complication of prejudice from the boss and customers.

Will they be able to find the missing woman? Will they survive their search in the dangerous multiverse? If they do survive, will Ava and Jules be able to move forward and become friends?

Recommended - A serendipitous purchase, Finna has been accused of being too much like a couple other books and I can see why people draw those parallels, especially to Horrorstör. I found that because of the emphasis on the relationship and the fact that the store was unique in the naming of the room styles, its uniquenesses outweighed the multiverse in an IKEA-like store framing. I also appreciated reading about a kind of couple I've never read about before. Expanding the old horizons is a favorite thing.

One small warning: it can get a little bit gory at times. I'm surprised I didn't have nightmares after reading Finna.

©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, August 19, 2020

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

I bought a copy of The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin because I kept seeing it all over Instagram and while I'm pretty sure I couldn't figure out quite what it was about, I was intrigued. I've heard of the author but I'd never read any of her books and The City We Became is the first in a series, so it seemed like a good place to start.

And, now I understand why I was unsure what the book is about. You can call it speculative fiction or urban fantasy; I prefer the latter. A person represents or is, each borough of New York City as the city is about to be thrust into an inter-dimensional war. Each of the boroughs personified by an individual must figure out how to protect the city and is faced with unique challenges of his or her own. Gradually, the individuals/boroughs seek each other out because they will have more power together. But, one of the boroughs is weak and influenced by the dark side (so to speak). How will they win without the combined power needed to face the enemy?

What I loved about The City We Became was that it tackled so many subjects. The people who represent the boroughs are an extremely diverse bunch and with them come their personal histories and experiences. So, through their experience, we see racism, misogyny, sexism, xenophobia, entitlement, the problem with gentrification, the virtual erasure of Native Americans from a city's consciousness. It is both brilliant and entirely unique.

Highly recommended - Astounding writing. I don't normally like fantasy (although I'm intrigued by the concept of the multiverse) but The City We Became is a wild ride and it touches on so many important topics that I loved it for that alone. I did occasionally find it a bit overwhelming; that is typical of fantasies, for me, and the reason I seldom read them. But, the ending was absolutely perfect and I'll probably end up sending this book to my son in New Jersey (who works in Manhattan), at some point. I think he'll appreciate the way the author described and personified each of the boroughs and I'm certain he'll love the ending.

©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, August 18, 2020

The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay

Get ready for a gushy review because I absolutely loved this book. OK, I'll try not to gush.

In The Time of Green Magic, Abi has lived with her beloved grandmother and her father, Theo, since her mother died when Abi was only a year old. But, now Theo has fallen in love. When Theo and Polly marry, two new siblings enter the family. Max is a teenager and Louis is 6. Abi hates being stuck in the middle. She misses her grandmother, who has moved to Jamaica, and doesn't particularly like her crowded new home.

When the family finds out they must move, the only place they can find that's acceptable is an ivy-covered old house with what Abi calls a "Narnia lamp" hanging by the front door. It's a little spooky but it's large enough for all of the children to have their own rooms. But, once they move in, strange things begin to happen. When Abi is reading a book about someone on a raft in the ocean, she feels the wind and hears the waves. It's like she was really there.

Meanwhile, Louis wants a friend and he thinks an owl (a "nowl" in Louis-speak) has been taking the treats he leaves on the windowsill. But, one day the animal that he's been feeding comes in and it is not an owl at all. And the more it comes to visit, the larger and more volatile it becomes. Can the magic of the ivy-covered house save the family?

Highly recommended - Ohmygosh, I loved this book. I loved the touches of magic, the writing, the description of the house. But, what I really loved more than anything was the characterization. Max, Abi, and Louis all acted their age. I've tired of the "young genius" trope. It was a delight to read about a 6-year-old behaving like a little kid and making a mistake that could get him killed. I also loved Theo's kindness and found him a believable parent — the kind who is fun and caring and a little silly but also has a lot of weight on his shoulders. The way the magic of the house helps the children work through their issues and band together is just marvelous. I will have to see what else I can find by this author. I loved this book so much I can hardly tell you.

The Time of Green Magic is the first ARC I've read since I considered leaving the blog world and decided to just give up ARCs for a while (maybe permanently), instead. It took me a couple months to get over that feeling of anxiety that ARC reading had begun to give me. It was just time to read off my own shelves exclusively. But, I'm so glad I got to read The Time of Green Magic. It is every bit as magical as its title indicates, with characters that I absolutely adored. Because everything is wacko, thanks to COVID-19, I have no idea whether or not it released in July, as the cover says, but if you have a middle grader who loves a touch of magic, it's worth ordering. Or, buy it for yourself. I love it enough to recommend it to other adults.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster 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, August 17, 2020

Where Are the Galapagos Islands? by Megan Stine

I don't have a whole lot to say about Where Are the Galapagos Islands? but I thought it was an excellent little book. One of the books I threw in my cart when I went crazy at Book Outlet, I bought the book specifically because a friend is leading a tour of the Galapagos Islands in the future (probably in 2022; hard to say, at this point) and I realized I haven't read anything at all about the Galapagos Islands in quite some time. Most of what I've read in the past probably had to do with Darwin. I've read his Voyage of the Beagle, long ago, and that was enough to pique my interest in the island's amazing wildlife.

The book describes the history of the islands' discovery, why nobody settled on the Galapagos Islands for hundreds of years after they were discovered, the visits by pirates and privateers, which country the islands belong to, the animals that are unique to the Galapagos Islands, how turtles on the various islands got Darwin thinking about the differences that led to his evolutionary theory, which islands are now occupied, the destruction humans have already caused, and why travel to the islands risks ruining everything.

I thought for a children's book that's so slim (112 pages), Where Are the Galapagos Islands? was stunningly informative. It was particularly interesting to me that the blue-footed booby is a Galapagos resident because a friend (not the same friend who is leading the tour) had just posted a photo of a blue-footed booby on Facebook right before I read the book. I'd just glanced across it, thought "Cool," and said nothing. And, there they were in the book, apparently unique to the islands. Double cool.

Highly recommended - Whether you have a child who likes learning about the world or loves nature, or you're thinking you want to head to the Galapagos Islands yourself, one day, Where Are the Galapagos Islands? is an excellent read, entertaining and much more informative than I expected. I usually pass on children's books after I finish them but I think I'll hang onto this one in case I decide to go on that tour and want to reread it closer to the time.

©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, August 14, 2020

Fiona Friday

The kitties love their fountain but they don't particularly appreciate being photographed while they're taking a drink.

©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, August 12, 2020

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves is a survival story. Anna and TJ are stranded on an island in the Maldives after a plane crash. When nobody comes to the rescue, will they survive? It takes quite a while for the couple (a teenager and his tutor) to realize that nobody is going to save them. Meanwhile, they start out sleeping on the beach, then building a lean-to, and gradually learning to survive with the little food available on the island.

I bought On the Island after reading The Girl He Used to Know and reading reviews of the author's other books. On the Island was a favorite of readers that got a lot of positive reviews and I saved it to read during a time when I was feeling a little slumpish (which has been happening a lot, this past year).

Recommended but not a favorite - I liked the story, in general, because I love survival stories. But, I had problems with a few picky details and happy coincidences. For example, the heroine's suitcase and the hero's backpack conveniently wash up on the beach. That was actually plausible if you consider the fact that they allowed the current to bring them to shore. The same current could have brought their luggage.

However, Anna shoves aside wet clothing to find a treasure trove of products she packed knowing there was no drugstore at their destination. Some of that stuff would have melted away, realistically, if water got into the suitcase. And, when TJ uses her earrings as fish hooks? Well . . . maybe other folks have earrings strong enough to catch a fish but I sure don't.

Not sure I bought into the romance, as well, especially the book's ending. I liked On the Island enough to finish it, although I felt kind of "meh" about it. Maybe it was just the wrong time for me to read it. It's definitely notable that the book has a 4.12/5 rating at Goodreads and the one person who commented when I posted about On the Island at Instagram remembered it as "unputdownable".  She agreed that it had a sagging middle. I would not tell anyone to avoid this book, lest you find my review too negative. I thought it was fun, but some of its plot points just felt a little too convenient.

Other reviews:

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

©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, August 11, 2020

Dominicana by Angie Cruz

Dominicana by Angie Cruz is the story of Ana, who is forced to marry so that she can live in the US, hopefully to prosper and send money home to the Dominican Republic. Eventually, she plans to sponsor family members who also want to become American. She is 15, her husband is 32 when they hastily marry and move to New York.

In New York, Ana finds that her husband is not the wealthy man he pretended to be. Nor is he as kind as everyone thought. In fact, this book needs a trigger warning for domestic violence. Finding herself trapped in poor circumstances, Ana comes up with sneaky ways to set money aside for herself. Ana works hard at making her home comfortable, cooking delicious foods from their home country, and helping him with a shady business out of their apartment. But, when she makes a costly mistake, will it end her chance to escape from his violence?

Recommended - I enjoyed Dominicana mostly for the work ethic and creativity of the heroine, but I also loved the way she got to know her neighbors (in spite of the language barrier), found a way to start learning English when her husband was not around to force her to stay home, and eventually made her own money. She screwed up plenty, mostly because of her youth and naïvité. But, I cared for her and hoped things would work out. The 1960s setting was unfortunately not well described. I had to keep reminding myself of the time period.

It's been a couple weeks since I read Dominicana but I remember it well. I found it very difficult to put down and since we were being hit by the outer bands of Hurricane Hanna, it was a great day to read. Hanna even cooled us off enough that I was able to spend part of my reading time outside. In July! Yay!

I think I have Instagram to thank for this recommendation. I remember seeing it frequently, not so long ago. Maybe it was a Book of the Month Club selection? At any rate, I read lots of reviews and I'm glad I was able to read a copy. The story is based on the author's mother's story. I'm curious how similar it is and in what aspects she departed from her mother's experience.

©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, August 10, 2020

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray
Not Our Kind by Kitty Zeldis
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
W. B. Yeats: Selected Poems and Four Plays, Ed. by M. L. Rosenthal
Castle in the Clouds by Kerstin Gier
I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest
Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
September 1, 1939: A Biography of a Poem by Ian Sansom
The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner
The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

Holy Toledo, that's a lot of books. That was my last order from Book Outlet, which I am now studiously avoiding, especially on bad days.

And, a few more (again, top to bottom):

  • The Readers' Room by Antoine Laurain - from Meryl Zegarek Public Relations, Inc., unsolicited
  • Finna by Nino Cipri - purchased
  • Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams - purchased

Agnes at the End of the World is another plague book. I missed the conversation between author Kelly McWilliams and Mike Chen about releasing pandemic books during a pandemic but it was the fact that he mentioned her and the upcoming discussion that piqued my interest. I am really enjoying reading pandemic novels. I guess tolerance for them at a time like this depends on the individual; I know some people can't stomach them, right now.

The Readers' Room was unsolicited and I'm not currently accepting ARCs at all (although I don't totally discount the possibility that I might accept one I can't bear the thought of not reading, at some point) but it looks fun and I'll give it a go.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves
  • Where Are the Galapagos Islands? by Megan Stine
  • The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin
  • Finna by Nino Cipri
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD

When I was reading Finna, I decided that the next book I needed to finish was Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?  I'd been dragging my feet and wasn't even out of the introductory part. I hate it when I let a book linger like that, although I never had any trouble picking up where I left off. It's memorable and meaningful. The rest . . . I'm just letting books call to me, right now. The City We Became and Finna are both multiverse books and I would have waited a little longer between them if I'd remembered that. However, when I get to my reviews you'll see that they're quite different.

Currently reading:

  • Castle in the Clouds by Kerstin Gier
  • How Democracies Die by Levitsky and Ziblatt

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

This week was weird. I'm done with my painting class and I felt at loose ends, all week, because I've had a pretty strict routine (read the lessons, watch the videos, start the assignment, finish the assignment, review, take test, upload photo of assignment) for about 8 weeks and all of a sudden . . . huh, what do I do with myself? I decided to clean up my painting area, since it's actually a stretch of the kitchen counter, thinking I'd put down a fresh drop cloth and start something new in a couple of days. Instead, Husband immediately buried that area in flour and dishes as he practiced for his next Zoom baking class. And, then we cleaned it up and he buried it again. Cleaned it up a third time and went to Target and . . . yep, buried it. I'll try again, today.

Anyway, that kind of threw my week off-kilter. I'm ready to start my next creative project but I'm not sure what it'll be. I really have to hurry up and cover that counter as soon as I clean it, though —before it disappears, again.

On Wednesday, Huz went to work at the office for the first time in weeks. Then, he took off Friday to celebrate our anniversary. We hopped on the Natchez Trace Parkway and drove to a favorite restaurant to pick up food, popped into a grocery store on that side of town, then came home and ate, took a nap, and went on a second drive to the bank. After that, we watched the final episode of The Mandalorian, which we both thought was excellent. Pandemic anniversaries are fun! I'm not even kidding. Huz is normally traveling on most anniversaries and birthdays, so I was a bit shocked when he said he was not only home for the day (which is our temporary new normal) but taking off work. So cool.

©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, August 07, 2020

Fiona Friday

Watch out for those murder mittens. 

©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, August 06, 2020

Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump

I pre-ordered Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump, the current president's niece, and then waffled over whether or not to cancel the order because I've been reading about him since the 1980s. I figured I'd already know most of what she had to say. As it turned out, I was correct in some ways but not others. Too Much and Never Enough is more of a family history than a book specifically about the president, although the author explains very nicely the reasoning for his behavior in a way that others have only guessed at. So, it's marginally different from the other psychological assessments (Mary Trump is a psychologist) and explains his actions more broadly by digging into how his domineering father and absent mother formed him into the man he is today.

It was fascinating reading about the family history because Too Much and Never Enough went deeper into the dysfunction of the family than I've ever read about in any article and made sense of many things that were a little fuzzy on detail. I knew, for example, that the president's eldest brother was an alcoholic, that he died fairly young, and that the president cut off the insurance for Freddy's family members at some point in time. I didn't know much beyond that; and, the story of Freddy Trump is much, much sadder than I realized.

At any rate, I don't want to go into too much detail but there were some little bits and pieces that I found of interest. For example, I was aware that the president was not being honest when he referred to himself as a self-made man and said he'd gotten "just a million dollars" from his fabulously wealthy and controlling father. But, I didn't realize that he pretty much lived off his father's money and was allowed to spend extravagantly because he was, after Freddy failed to live up to expectations, the chosen son. Nor did I know that he was really only the publicity man and the face of the family business while his father was alive. Too Much and Never Enough also nicely explains how and why Freddy fell from grace and the president took his place, as well as why the president was held up as a success by his family and the press, even when he wasn't actually making business decisions and, later, after he'd failed so thoroughly at his own ventures that the only banks that would loan to him were outside of the country.

The author does a good job of laying out the growth of the family's wealth and how they are all about money and power. She vaguely describes their tax evasion; talks about how they've used political and mob connections to their advantage; and, describes their decadent spending contrasted with cheapness in buying gifts (often regifting unwanted items or giving items that were wholly inappropriate to each other).

There's also this paragraph, a portion of which a friend on Facebook posted and I went to look up (I'd forgotten all about it):

While thousands of Americans die alone, Donald touts stock market gains. As my father lay dying alone, Donald went to the movies. If he can in any way profit from your death, he'll facilitate it, and then he'll ignore the fact that you died. 

~p. 209

Recommended - Too Much and Never Enough was much better written and more informative than I expected, if a little uneven, as it jumped back and forth in time. But I can't say I enjoyed the reading because the family is described as such a greedy and vicious bunch (the kind of people who spend a holiday together making cutting remarks about each other, except the favored child, to whom praise is expected from everyone) that I was sick of them by the time I was halfway through the book. Still, I think it's worth the read and I have no regrets.

©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, August 04, 2020

They Called Us Enemy - George Takei, Elsinger, Scott, and Becker

They Called Us Enemy is George Takei's graphic novel about his family's time in two separate internment camps during WWII. It tells a little about his life before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and how sentiment turned against Japanese Americans, the signing of the bill that led to the imprisonment of both American citizens and those who had been residents of the US for a long time without becoming citizens, how traumatic leaving their home was, the conditions they lived in at the camps, and how people banded together to make their lives more tolerable.

Takei talks a little about how this experience fed into the kind of escapism and pretend that led to his acting career and how this story was told as a play.

Highly recommended - I'm not a big fan of graphic memoirs but this one is excellent and very moving. It has very clear illustrations and text. My distaste for graphic memoirs is two-fold: sometimes people seem to share a little too much for my taste (a little harder to ignore if there are illustrations) and I don't always understand what's happening. There was never a point that I didn't understand what was going on in They Called Us Enemy. It's very well done. I thought Takei's story was also fascinating for the fact that his story was a little different than the other tales of Japanese Internment I've read because his parents made the choice not to sign a document saying they rejected the Emperor of Japan, due to the wording. That put them in much worse circumstances, for a time.

©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, August 03, 2020

The Plains by Gerald Murnane

The Plains by Gerald Murnane is an Australian modern classic about a man who goes to the Plains region of Australia for a filmmaking project. But, first, he must get to know the Plainsmen and what makes them tick. He finds a patron, a wealthy landowner willing to pay him to spend time reading diaries and documents on the Plains to research his film.

~~~Warning: This next paragraph may contain spoilers. Skip it if you are planning to read The Plains and want to be surprised, please!~~~ 

The storyline in The Plains is predictable, at least in part, but still managed to surprise and tickle me. It's told in three parts. In the first part, the narrator travels to the Plains and hangs out where the Plainsmen do, hoping to learn about them and understand them enough to create his film. At the end of the first section, he finds his patron. In the second part, the narrator (I don't recall whether or not he was ever named) is living with his patron, admiring the patron's wife, and spending most of his time in the library of the patron's estate. In the final section, years have passed and the narrator realizes he has become a Plainsman, himself. But, I won't tell you what happens to his filmmaking process because it's worth discovering if you're at all interested in reading the book. And, it's quite funny.

It's safe, now. 

I got of whiff of the slyness of the author's sense of humor when the narrator made a comment about not knowing quite when he left Australia. That's like saying you aren't quite sure when you left America as you entered Kansas. But, I think it's likely I would have missed out on a lot of the subtle humor if I hadn't read the introduction, which was written by a writer who was so impressed by The Plains when he first read it that he started corresponding with the author. I highly recommend reading the intro, if you have this copy of the book.

I found the beginning and the last section of The Plains a little difficult until I stopped thinking so hard about what the author was trying to say. Oddly, The Plains made more sense when I put less effort into figuring it out.

Recommended with a note - The Plains is a very Australian book and you have to kind of shift your mindset to get it if you're not Australian. It's best to embrace the quirkiness. It's not often I read a book that's more difficult the harder you try to understand it but this is definitely that kind of book.

Side note: The Plains caught my eye in an Australian bookstore because I grew up on the American Plains and have a fondness for wheat, which would get blown into our yard during storms when I was young; there was a wheat field not far from us at the time (it eventually became a Walmart, ugh). I didn't buy a copy when I was in Australia but my husband went back there on business, after we vacationed Down Under, and I sent him with a list. The Plains was at the top. He tried to read it and found it a little too weird.

Reminder: I've gone to every-other-week Monday Malarkey posts, so there will be a Malarkey post next week.

©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.