Monday, March 08, 2021

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (left to right):

  • Climate Change and How We'll Fix It by Alice Harman and AndrĂ©s Lozano - from Sterling Children's Books for review
  • Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig - from HarperCollins for review
  • The Survivors by Jane Harper - purchased 
  • List of Ten by Halli Gomez - from Sterling Teen for review

The Survivors is the pre-order I mentioned that was on its way (ordered back in December!) I bought it from Book Depository, in case you're wondering how I got a new release in paperback.

As to the rest . . . yeah, I gave in and accepted some review books. I had such a bad month in February that I was feeling overwhelmed by the choices in my home library and decided that maybe it would be good to give myself some deadlines. Of course, I will always accept children's books so those would have been an automatic, "Yes, please," even if I didn't need to shake things up a bit. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
  • Climate Change and How We'll Fix It by Harman and Lozano
  • Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain
  • List of Ten by Halli Gomez
  • Exit Strategy by Martha Wells

Finally getting back to normal! Woot! And, I liked or loved all of these, so the quality has also improved. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise broke the bad-book spell by being fabulous and then last week I participated in the Laid-Back Readathon via Instagram and that gave me the shove I needed to get back to a normal reading pattern. 

Currently reading:

  • Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig

I did not manage to start another collection of short stories, this week, but it's on my Do List for today, so we'll see if that works out. I'm looking at either The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne Du Maurier or Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro. I finished Exit Strategy (#4 in the Murderbot series), last night, and went straight into reading Band of Sisters. I didn't get far into it before my eyes grew heavy but I enjoyed what little I read. After Band of Sisters I'll be done with the ARCs I've received, although I have at least three more on their way (two children's; one WWII/contemporary). 

Posts since last Malarkey:

I didn't post much last week because of the fact that I was doing both the readathon and the continuing 100-day art project (for which I've only missed a single day, so far). I did sit down to write reviews on Tuesday and Wednesday but ended up just staring at the screen. On Wednesday, I decided maybe writing was a bit too much to add to the other things eating my time and gave up for the week. So, hopefully, this will be a better week for writing. 

In other news:

We found a series we both like! That is very unusual. When Huzzybuns says, "Let's watch an episode of . . . " and ends it with something I also like, I am happy to comply. The Mallorca Files is about a British detective who takes a prisoner to Mallorca and ends up staying to work there with a German partner. In character, it compares to Death in Paradise, which is also about a British detective working out of his country and comfort zone. It's quirky and light, classic whodunnit (who was where and when, with what possible motive) as opposed to something with bloody forensics scenes. There's no gore at all, which we both appreciate. That's on BritBox. 

The only other show we're currently watching with any regularity is The Naked Chef on Pluto and the episodes are shown in no particular order. So, one day Jamie Oliver is in his shared flat, drumming with his band buddies and cooking in a tiny kitchen where he improvises when he doesn't have the proper equipment and the next day he's moving into a new flat with his wife. And, then he's single again and visiting Cornwall with his Aussie restaurant buddies, cooking in a rented beach house. His hairstyle seems to change with each episode, as well. Whatever, it's a delight. We've been fans of Jamie Oliver for a while but never had seen The Naked Chef. Huz thinks that's because it was only shown in the UK when it was new. I don't know if that's true or not but it does seem likely that he didn't make it to the US till later. He moves and speaks very frenetically in The Naked Chef and is much calmer and slower, these days. 

Art-wise, I have about 6 separate projects going, which is nuts but works well for me because I often don't have the correct supplies (the tutorials always seem to require things I've never even heard of or paint colors I've never seen) and I end up waiting a week or two for them to arrive before I can move on. I tried improvising with a different color than was recommended for one layer of a tutorial I'm doing, this week, and it was . . . a mistake. Of course, the mail service is screwed up and everything takes longer to arrive, so it's good that I have several other works of art in progress while I wait for the color Parchment to get here. Seriously, I have never seen Parchment. 

That's life in my world. What's up in yours? 

©2021 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, March 05, 2021

Fiona Friday

©2021 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, March 01, 2021

In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway

You're going to start thinking I read nothing but short stories, soon, after three collections in a row. This is the last one for a while, since I have screwed up and forgotten to read my daily short story for about a week. And, the collection I'm reading is a thick one that I'm not in love with. I may even ditch it and put it in the donation pile. 

In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway was Hemingway's first collection of short stories, published when he was still a fresh young thing at 25 years of age. It's a unique book. It starts with a vignette called "On the Quai in Smyrna" It's such a confusing bit of writing that I had to look it up online to see what on Earth was happening. And, it turns out that was a deliberate approach. 

From Spark Notes:

["On the Quai at Smyrna"] begins the collection by disorienting the reader. Ernest Hemingway makes this story by confusing by never establishing the setting or the characters. All he gives is a series of impressions and memories. This disorientation actually serves to orient the reader to the tone and flow of the stories to come. 

So, after looking that up I thought, "Great, I'm not going to understand a word of this book," but that did not turn out to be the case at all, although there were some stories that didn't make a lot of sense to me. The vast majority were his Nick Adams stories, which start with a young Nick accompanying his father to a childbirth and another with his father getting frustrated over the local Native Americans refusing to do a job for him. 

In the latter, the doctor wants the natives to hack up a tree that floated over to the Adams' property to prevent ending up with a rotting log on his shore. The doctor treats the local natives in exchange for odd jobs and thinks they're just trying to get out of doing work when one of the natives says he can chop it but there's a lumber company logo on the log and it's technically stealing, making the doctor rethink the job. Later, you follow Nick to war and around Europe and home, where he spends time in the woods. Not all of the stories are about Nick Adams but a good portion of them are and I thought they were surprisingly mature for such a young writer. 

In between the stories are more vignettes, often but not always war scenes. 

There's also a story about a jockey and his son and how the jockey becomes corrupt that I thought was pretty fabulous: "My Old Man". I marked a quote from that particular story and started to type it up before realizing that apparently I marked it because it had an offensive ethnic slur (used very casually) and that I probably flagged it to remind myself that there were numerous times I grimaced reading these stories because of similar words/racial slurs that were offensive. So, bear that in mind if you read it. 

Recommended but not a favorite - I am pretty much in awe of how skilled Hemingway's writing was at such an early age. But, while I appreciated the skill, I didn't love the stories. What I loved the most about In Our Time was the glimpse of Hemingway's early writing. It was particularly fascinating to find that everything Hemingway wrote was so very Hemingway from the beginning: bullfights, fishing, war, heaving drinking, frustrations with women. I've now read his first book and his last (unfinished novel) along with a few in the middle. Yep, Hemingway was just Hemingway, once and forever. 

©2021 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, February 26, 2021

Fiona Friday - The KitNip Box is not entirely for the cats

In 2019, I got a single KitNip Box for the kitties for Christmas. In 2020, I got them a Christmas KitNip Box and let the subscription continue because it gives me such joy watching them excitedly roll in the catnip toys and, in this case, flop on the crinkle pad. And, joy can be thin on the ground, these days. We have to find it where we can.

Unfortunately, there was a good bit of boxing over this particular toy. Isabel won. She's fierce.

©2021 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, February 25, 2021

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler is a collection of short stories about Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Americans. As you can see from the cover image, it won the Pulitzer Prize back in the 90s. I have to wonder if that would be possible, today, as almost all of the stories (there is at least one exception but I think only one written from the perspective of a white man) are written from the point of view of the Vietnamese person either left behind when the Communists arrived or now living in the U.S. And, of course, Robert Olen Butler's name is all the clue you need to know that he is not Vietnamese. 

I think I would have felt dramatically different about these stories when they were newly published. While I found them a little on the heavy side, for the most part I liked the glimpse into what it's like living in a community of immigrants, remembering home, dealing with past trauma, trying and failing to whip up excitement for a game from the home country in a fully American child. Some of the stories were moving or hypnotic or deep. Some were choppy or weird or confusing. There was one story I really did not like, about a woman who was a prostitute in Vietnam and then the US and just wanted to be an American wife. Something about it didn't sit right with me. 

My biggest problem with the book, though, was that I couldn't get past the fact that they weren't written by an "own voices" author. Robert Olen Butler apparently worked as a translator during the Vietnam War and here is a quote from the book's cover:

Butler's achievement is not only to reveal the inner lives of the Vietnamese, but to show, through their eyes, how the rest of us appear from an outside perspective.
                                                    — Madison Smartt Bell

I mean, how can you say a white guy wrote authentically from the perspective of a Vietnamese? It just bugs me. He may have known enough people from his experience in Vietnam or from hanging around with them in the US to run those stories past some of those who own the authentic voices. But, if he did, it's not mentioned in the book. 

Recommended but not a favorite - The writing is often lush and lovely, sometimes a little kaleidoscopic. I can see why A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain was a prize-winning book. But, it was weighty (in an emotional way) and I was bothered by the fact that it was not a Vietnamese American who wrote it. So, I gave it a 3.5/5 rating at Goodreads, above average but not a book I loved. 

©2021 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, February 23, 2021

Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy

Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy is a short story collection that started out so strong I didn't want to read just one story per day so I let myself often go for two stories a day and then toward the end I just plowed my way through the latter half. 

I think if there's a common thread in Both Ways, it's about longing for something, particularly love, but not always getting what you want. 

What surprised me was how much tension Meloy managed to inject into what seemed like perfectly mundane situations. For example, in "Travis, B.", a loner who works doing labor on various ranches wanders into an adult education classroom just to be around other people and finds himself besotted with the teacher. They start going to the cafe after class but both know it can come to nothing. And, she's a little afraid of him. He's a little afraid of himself, as well.

He got afraid of himself that winter; he sensed something dangerous that would break free if he kept so much alone. [p. 3]

So, when she doesn't show up to teach class and he tracks her down, the tension crackles. 

In "O Tannenbaum" a family picks up a couple who oddly are named Bonnie and Clyde. Wife Pam is nervous. They could be axe murderers! She has a child to think about. Husband Everett seems to be pushing his wife's buttons and knowingly taking risks, even inviting the couple to their home to help put up the Christmas tree, which Bonnie said she's never done before. The tension comes not only in the fact that they don't know if the story Bonnie and Clyde tell about a broken ski and a missing car is true or not but also in Everett's clear attraction to Bonnie while Bonnie and Clyde are not, shall we say, in perfect harmony. 

Recommended - Maile Meloy's writing is very disciplined, with no wasted words, and she does such a bang-up job of building tension that I found myself wanting to read more by her, in spite of the fact that I eventually grew a little weary of this collection because there were a few too many stories of adultery for my taste. I looked her up and discovered that she has a YA trilogy that begins with a book called The Apothecary. I'm still holding to my commitment not to buy books (or check them out from the library) so The Apothecary went straight onto the wish list and I'll be watching for it in 2022. 

©2021 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, February 22, 2021

Monday Malarkey

Our week in a nutshell:

That's a sleet drift. We had sleet for nearly 24 hours, followed by a full day of snow flurries that melted into the sleet and formed a solid block of ice. The third day we had snow most of the day (big, fluffy flakes) but again, it just solidified. And, then I think we had a day off followed by freezing rain. At any rate, we were stuck indoors for 6 days. When I went outside to take photos it was so slippery that I had to put a towel down over the ice to get close to the icicles I wanted to photograph. On Saturday, we took a drive and, although it was in the 40s and the ice was melting, even on the highway there were still shady stretches where it was down to one clear lane. It was kind of a tense drive, actually. We enjoyed getting out of the house but were glad to get home. 

Recent arrivals:

Not a thing. I do have one pre-order winging its way to me but due to the winter storm, Saturday of this weekend was the first time we received mail since the previous Saturday and there were no books. Delivery by USPS and UPS was so thoroughly shut down due to ice on the roads (trucks couldn't get up the off ramps because they were so icy and locals actually went out to feed the stranded truckers) that there weren't even any tracking updates till Saturday and I still have at least one outstanding order for which tracking hasn't been updated. I imagine the backlog is something. We also still haven't had trash service.

We were very fortunate. Our refrigerator got up to 70°, one night (it's temperamental but not broken), so we lost most of our fresh food but we had plenty of canned and frozen and our power never even blinked. In advance of the storm we cleaned the kitchen, bought groceries, cooked ahead, and did literally all the laundry because we've been through ice storms that knocked out power and water (not at the same time) in the past and knew exactly what we needed to do to prepare. We were undoubtedly in better shape than a lot of folks stranded at home. It was a little weird not doing laundry or running the dishwasher or vacuum cleaner (to prevent rolling blackouts — I also unplugged the computer and other things we didn't absolutely need plugged in). I'm playing laundry catch-up, today. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
  • In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
  • Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead
  • The Widow of Pale Harbor by Hester Fox

This has been a disappointing month, both in quantity and enjoyment level, so far. But, I haven't disliked anything badly enough to DNF; I just haven't fallen massively in love with anything I've read. I'm about ready to trash February and move on to March, but the book I started last night is an improvement.

Currently reading:

  • The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

I set Milkman aside completely and didn't read a single page of it, last week. Not sure if I'll return to it or not. I remember exactly what's happened so I don't think I'll have any trouble resuming the reading but it's just exhausting. I need actual chapters and paragraph breaks. I'll have to think about it. In the meantime, Coyote Sunrise was calling to me and so far it's the first book I've fully enjoyed reading, this month, so we'll see how that goes. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

I managed to finish Season 1 of Stargirl but not The Flight Attendant before our son's HBOMax subscription expired. Stargirl was fun. And, I was enjoying The Flight Attendant, but it had a few too many flashbacks to the bloody dead guy. Husband hates blood and gore — which I don't enjoy but tolerate if the story is good enough — so I had to keep turning off the TV when he walked into the room. For the same reason, we started watching Harrow (Australian series about a forensic pathologist) and didn't even last a full two episodes. It was too gory and not compelling enough to be worth the yuck.

So, we're back to watching Chuck from the beginning and our new daily thing for the last couple of months has been watching Good Morning, Britain at the end of the day. I particularly enjoy it when they're talking about the US because I like seeing a British perspective on American events. It was great fun watching Piers Morgan get riled up about our Insurrection and his belief that his former buddy should be convicted and prevented from ever running for office again. So emphatic. He also told Sarah Palin that she sounded "bonkers" when he tried to get her to say the presidential election was free and fair but she kept saying, "There were all kinds of shenanigans" then wouldn't elaborate. 

In movies, I watched Outbreak (1995), the old hemorrhagic fever movie starring Dustin Hoffman. It held up well except for one thing: The doctors saying, "We might not ever see another brand new virus in our lifetimes!!" Of course, new viruses emerge all the time so that was silly. But, otherwise it was a pretty solid movie with plenty of tension and, I thought, better than the more recent Contagion (2011), which I viewed recently and found forgettable. 

Mid-week, husband and I watched Letters to Juliet (2010), which we've never seen, before. A friend posted on Facebook about viewing loads of romance movies on Valentine's Day and most were old favorites of mine. But I'd never heard of Letters to Juliet and I figured if she liked all those other movies I liked, it must be good. Well, no. Husband's review of the movie: "That's not even good enough for The Hallmark Channel." My review of the movie: "Meh." But, I did cry when Vanessa Redgrave found her long-lost Italian love. 

Another movie we watched was Broken Arrow (1996). And, I say "we" but Huz walked in and out of the room. He'd sit for a while and then wander off. I thought it held up very well. John Travolta's character is a bit overdramatized, in my humble opinion, but it was every bit as entertaining as the last time I saw it and I didn't feel like it was outdated in any way. 

I also watched The Outsiders but unfortunately my DVD was probably a pirated copy because it was missing some scenes, crucially the beginning scene with Ponyboy coming out of the theater and getting attacked by the Socs. Bummer. Fortunately, I did see that bit when I tried to find to find the movie on YouTube. I guess I may have to pay for a digital download. I'm old enough that I have a very low digital download mental maximum but this time it was clearly a mistake to go for the DVD instead of the download. Oh, well. Live and learn. 

In the midst of all this, I've been doing a 100-day art challenge. Some days, I had to put on 3 layers before I warmed up enough to paint (we kept the temp in the house at 67°) and I don't always do much, since most of what I'm doing involves building up layers of paint and collage. But, I have so far done something every day for 21 days. Very fun! 

Wow, this was a long post! We had such an eventful week. My heart is with Texans still dealing with the aftermath of last week's storm and fingers are crossed that something will be done to prevent a repeat of the horror. We know we had it easy, here. 

©2021 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, February 19, 2021

Fiona Friday - Laundry Fi

Always with the laundry. The cats have been doing a bang-up. job of finding all the best piles of clothing and blankets during our winter storm. Also, human laps (much appreciated — cats make great portable heaters). 

©2021 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, February 16, 2021

January Reads in Review, 2021


January Reads (click to enlarge photo; links to reviews provided):

1. Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot - A memoir by a Canadian Native American, written to the object of her obsession and pondering her life, how hard she worked to become educated, and the many challenges and exploitations she and other Native Americans must endure. I found this overwrought and unclear — a little too poetic and vague for my taste, although she does show the challenges Indigenous women, in particular, face. Least favorite of the month. 

2. Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria - The GPS anchor's book about how lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic can be used to improve the world by reducing inequality, improving healthcare, and creating policies for positive change. Lots of territory covered: past and present economic policies including taxes and tariffs, globalization, historic and present-day politics and nationalism, how life changed after past disasters, for better or worse. An exceptional read and a learning experience. 

3. Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang - Four children at a cultural language camp in China find their way into a mountain, where they're matched with dragon partners and enter the Dragon Realm to save the world from evil. Adventurous and fast-paced fun for middle graders and this adult absolutely was transported. Looking forward to more installments. 

4. CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders - My first short story collection for my goal to read a short story per day in 2021 and it was a doozy. George Saunders' first published collection, in a theme park setting, is a hypnotic sort of slowly-building horror and hilarity as his characters face challenges that can be a bit gruesome. The author's note in my edition (click through to see the cover) is every bit as engaging as the book. 

5. Georgana's Secret by Arlem Hawks - To escape her abusive grandmother, Georgana has disguised herself as a boy and joined the crew of her father's British Naval frigate but she's not so great at defending herself from bullies. When a new crewman takes her under his wing and teaches her to fight back, will he discover her secret? A swashbuckling romance. Absolutely loved it. 

6. Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3) by Martha Wells - The third installment in the Murderbot Diaries series, this time with Murderbot traveling to a distant site where it appears his nemesis, the corporation he used to work for, GrayCris, may be covering up more shenanigans with a fake terraforming project. If so, what's their objective? Another Murderbot book that started out slowly and then became edge-of-your-seat. Love this series. 

7. Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Wells - My second finished short story collection makes it obvious I'm not limiting myself to one story per day. Oh, well. I'm enjoying them. Bobcat's stories are mostly tied to academic settings, usually students, a professor, both. Incredibly well drawn characters but not everything is tied up in a pretty bow. I didn't mind. Excellent writing. 

8. The Evening Chorus by Helen Humphreys - My favorite of the month because it wouldn't let go of me, The Evening Chorus is about a British prisoner of war who spends his time observing a pair of nesting birds instead of trying to escape, the wife he left behind, and the sister who is bombed out of her London home, and what becomes of them after the war. Captivating and based on a few real-life events. 

9. Shock Wave (Pick Your Fate #2) by Jack Heath - Like the old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, the Pick Your Fate series takes the middle grade reader through a number of challenges during which s/he must decide how to react to try to stay alive. Great for the adventure-loving middle grader or adult. 

10. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester - In the 24th Century, business mogul Ben Reich decides to murder his competition then, with a mind-reading detective on his tail, attempts to throw up enough road blocks to get himself off the hook. Great world building and I particularly enjoyed the latter half. 

11. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton - Modern classic, a tale of two gangs that reveals the humanity on both sides. Amazing storytelling and characterization, especially given the fact that the author was 15 when she began writing it. I was blown away. 

As I'm typing this up on Sunday, we've already had a bit of sleet and we're expecting "the worst ice storm in 25 years" so who knows if I'll be able to get online tomorrow to update this post but I'll return to add a link to my review of The Outsiders (currently scheduled to post on Monday morning) later in the week, if we lose power on Monday. January was a low-quantity reading month for me but it was so high quality that I didn't care. Again, the only book I really didn't love was Heart Berries, my first Indigenous read toward my goal of one per month in 2021. 

Update: It's Monday, we got tons of sleet with a layer of snow on top (and then it all froze together; it's hazardous out there) and now it's snowing, again! 16° out. We are happy to be indoors.  

©2021 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, February 15, 2021

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

I feel like I'm constantly trying to catch up with the world on my classic reading, modern and otherwise, and The Outsiders is one of those books I honestly should have read eons ago. 

The Outsiders is the story of two gangs: the Greasers and the Socs (pronounced "soshes" with a long o). The Greasers are lower income. They wear their hair a little long and slicked back. The narrator is a Greaser named Ponyboy whose parents died less than a year ago. Since then, his oldest brother has taken over the parenting and the middle brother, who isn't college material but is the handsomest of the three, works as a mechanic. The Socs are higher income, wear Madras and drive nice cars. They beat up Ponyboy's best friend, who already was regularly beaten at home, and now he's become super skittish. 

As the story opens, Ponyboy is coming out of the movie theater when a group of Socs pull up, chase him down, threaten to cut his hair and beat him up a little. The Socs are basically bored rich kids whose parents don't pay them any attention while the Greasers feel lucky if they have a roof over their heads. Their increasingly hostile encounters eventually lead to a big fight between the two gangs and death. But, the theme seems to be that everyone has trouble, regardless of income. 

Highly recommended - I'm so impressed that a high school girl had this level of writing maturity. The characters are 3-dimensional, their dialogue believable and definitely of its time, the story sad but meaningful. And, now I understand the meaning of the oft-quoted line, "Stay gold, Ponyboy." [sobs] Such a powerful read. I posted about the book on both Instagram and Facebook when I finished and clearly there's good reason The Outsiders is a modern classic. It is one of those books that people remember well, long after they've closed the book; both posts got an unusual response. I'm sure it will stick with me, as well. 

I haven't watched the movie, yet, but I bought an inexpensive copy on DVD and I'm hoping I'll get to it, soon. I gave the book 5 stars because I couldn't put it down and the theme is still relevant.                            

©2021 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, February 12, 2021

Fiona Friday - Reach

©2021 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, February 10, 2021

The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked up The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester and began reading. I only knew that I wanted to read something very different from my previous read, The Evening Chorus. Wow, nailed it. Set in the 24th century, The Demolished Man is the story of a wealthy business owner, Ben Reich, who decides he must kill his competition, literally, and the mind-reading detective who uses his fine-tuned ESP skills to prove the killer's guilt. 

The setting is a strange future world in which there are settlements on other planets and their satellites, there are rental cars called "jumpers" that can fly short distances, and many people can read minds but there are different levels of mind-reading ability and an exclusive group that only the mind readers can belong to. The detective in the story is at the highest skill level of so-called "espers" or "brain peepers". The murder is shown in first person so you know Reich is guilty and get to follow along as finds a surprising way to block the mind readers around him. 

You also get into the POV of the detective, from which you learn his thought process and see what other roadblocks Reich throws up to stop the detective from arresting him and how a computer is used to examine whether or not it will be possible to convict, once he's in their hands. 

Highly recommended - A unique and clever storyline, solid world building, and a fairly twisty, fast-paced plot make The Demolished Man a winner. In fact, it turns out The Demolished Man was the very first Hugo award winner. It starts out a little disorienting as you become accustomed to the futuristic world but once you're used to it, the discomfort fades. Even better, the farther you get into the book, the more exciting the action becomes so I particularly enjoyed the latter half. 

I liked how unusual the setting was and found the book fascinating for how a 1950s-era author visualized a future world. 70 years after its publication we can laugh at the fact that there were still phone booths, operators, and a computer that takes up a lot of space while only doing fairly basic analytical tasks in his imagined 24th century. But, I think a lot of us could not have conceived of the eventuality that we'd carry our phones everywhere and they would be more powerful than the computers of not that long ago. 

©2021 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, February 09, 2021

The Evening Chorus by Helen Humphreys

James Hunter, an English officer in the RAF, has been shot down on his first bombing mission and taken to a German POW camp. While other prisoners are digging tunnels and making daring and dangerous escape attempts, James has discovered a pair of nesting redstart birds and decided to spend his war time studying them. He spends hours near the fencing of the prison camp, watching the birds and taking extensive notes, planning to write a book about them when the war ends. His interest catches the eye of the prison camp's Kommandant, leading to one of Hunter's most traumatizing experiences.

Back home, James's wife Rose has adopted a dog to keep her company and fallen into an affair with another man. James writes home but his letters are almost entirely about the redstarts he watches, with occasional questions about them that he'd like her to look up for him. She feels as if he must not really love her at all and has begun setting his letters aside, unopened. 

James's sister Enid has been driven from London after her home was bombed and her lover killed. She writes to Rose, asking if she can come stay with her, and Rose agrees. There is a little friction between them but they gradually come to respect each other until Enid challenges Rose's occasional disappearances. 

In 1950, we see these same characters and what has become of them since the war. It doesn't appear that any of it is positive, for a while, but the book ends on an uplifting note for everyone. What made these three people feel like life is worth living? 

Highly recommended - Set during and after WWII, The Evening Chorus is about the healing power of nature but with an unflinching eye toward the horrors of war. The Evening Chorus was, for me, a book that simply would not let go. I had a terrible time moving on to my next read. I think I may have mentioned this, but I felt like I needed to find something dramatically different or I would have ended up not reading at all for a few days (hence my reading of the sci-fi classic The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester). The Evening Chorus is a beautiful, sad, hopeful story about 3 people and how nature's healing touch helps them to move on after tragedy and trauma. 

This is my second read by Helen Humphreys. I read Coventry, a few years ago and only wrote a mini review of it in a post with several other short reviews, here:

Coventry by Helen Humphreys

I can't say if the same will happen with The Evening Chorus, but Coventry has stuck with me. My review of it, on looking back, seems a bit tepid. But, I still remember scenes from Coventry and it's been nearly 8 years since I read it. 

©2021 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, February 08, 2021

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • How to Read Poetry Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
  • The Braindead Megaphone by George Saunders
  • All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki
  • Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Beach by Alex Garland
  • Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead
  • Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country by Louise Erdrich
  • The New Policeman by Kate Thompson
  • The First of July by Elizabeth Speller
  • An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim
  • The Assault on Intelligence by Michael V. Hayden
  • As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
  • The Book of V. by Anna Solomon

Told you that last stack was a big one. Not pictured is a slim book called Color Theory (I think from the Walter Foster art series) and I can't remember whether the book and kit I bought on air dry clay projects came with this batch or the other. If I didn't mention them, now I have. 

I almost forgot that I had this one last stack and was on the verge of posting a cat photo because it has now been something like 38 days since I made my final book purchase. Seems likely that random photos will end up at the top of my Malarkey posts, soon, although one of my pre-orders has shipped so that should be here by the next Malarkey. 

Books finished since last Malarkey: 

  • The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
  • The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
  • Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy

Ugh, only 3 books in 2 weeks. But, they were all so good and two were (modern) classics, so . . . that's cool. I particularly enjoyed The Outsiders and feel a little shocked that it took me so long to get around to reading it. I tried to find the movie for free streaming online with no luck. I've got kind of a personal limit to paying for streaming a movie and if the cost goes over that limit and the DVD is reasonable, I just buy a copy. If not, I wait till it streams at a reasonable price or for free. The DVD was available at a reasonable price and has already arrived. I'm hoping to watch it soon. I got to view bits and pieces of The Outsiders on YouTube (don't let them fool you; a bunch of videos say they're the complete movie but none of them actually are) and I was excited to find that what little I saw was pretty faithful to the novel.

Currently reading:

  • Milkman by Anna Burns
  • A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler

As expected, I ended up finishing the second book of short stories (Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It) rather than the one I've had in progress for nearly a month, but after closing it I decided I need to focus on A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain rather than adding another short story collection to the mix. So, hopefully, I'll have A Good Scent finished by my next Malarkey post. Milkman is dense, so it's going to take me a while to finish. It's fascinating, mesmerizing, humorous, shocking, and exhausting: a stream-of-consciousness from the mind of a teenager during the time of "The Troubles" in Ireland.  The man known as "The Milkman" is a sinister presence and not knowing what he's up to makes the pages fly . . . for a while, and then I have to take a break. I think the lack of chapter breaks and pages that sometimes have no paragraph break at all is what wears me out a little, but there's also an intensity to the story that makes me feel like I need to stop to breathe. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

I finished watching Stargirl, Season 1! I've still got a week till Eldest son's HBOMax disappears so I'm trying to watch The Flight Attendant but it is not Husband's thing (he's OK with superhero action but not violence or bloody scenes, in general) so I keep having to turn it off when he enters the room. 

We watched Soul, this weekend, and wow . . . what an interesting movie. I don't even know how I feel about it. I liked the general weirdness and the visuals but it was so unexpected! And, I watched a favorite from the Hallmark Channel, The Edge of the Garden. I've probably mentioned it here, before. It's about a man who buys a cottage in Maine that's been uninhabited for decades and hears voices and keeps seeing flashes of someone walking behind him or an image in the window. The, he discovers that he can talk to a woman who is living in 1960 when she shows up in the garden. But, can he save her from her deadly fate? I love movies with a "communicating across time" aspect. 

I also watched Crazy Rich Asians. Husband watched Soul with me, but nothing else I watched interested him. He only sporadically viewed an episode of Stargirl

In non-TV news, my friend Susan told me about the 100 Day Project, in which one attempts to do something artistic every day for 100 days in a row. My reading has already suffered a little because I'd rather do art than just about anything else, at this moment in time, but I immediately printed out a 100-day tracker and got started. I only manage to do a tiny bit per day (painting one side of a pinch pot, for example) some days, but it has buried me even more deeply in thoughts about All Things Art and I am loving the challenge. 

©2021 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, February 05, 2021

Fiona Friday

©2021 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, February 02, 2021

Shock Wave (Pick Your Fate #2) by Jack Heath

Shock Wave by Jack Heath is the second in the Pick Your Fate adventure series. If you're older, you may recall the Choose Your Adventure series from the 90s. Shock Wave is that type of book, in which you must keep making decisions that alter your path and leap around the book till you succeed or fail. This second installment in the series for middle graders (I have not read the first) is a wild ride . . . repeatedly. 

The reader chooses to be one of two characters, a male or a female, as someone approaches in a boat, then decides what that character will do. The person in the boat is a woman who claims to be an agent in pursuit of thugs who are about to blow up the island on which the main character is attending camp. But is she really an agent? Should the reader, in character, run for help or go with her? Once that decision is made, new circumstances lead to further decisions that lead, eventually, to the reader's fate. Will your choices lead to your death or will you save the day?

I recently read a series of interconnected short stories by Jack Heath and said at the time that I would read anything he wrote. I loved the tension and excitement in that first read by Heath, 400 Minutes of Danger. I have not changed my mind. 

Having said that, I confess that I did not manage to find every "You survived!" ending before I grew tired of flipping back and forth, although I found most and got blown up only a couple times. 

Highly recommended - Loads of fun for the adventure-minded child or adult. Jack Heath's books would be perfect for children who are convinced that reading is boring because you absolutely, utterly cannot be bored reading one of his books but I would not limit this book to middle graders. Anyone who likes something challenging and adventurous will enjoy Jack Heath's writing. His books are so full of breathless action that I think they're particularly well suited to both adventure lovers and children who've lost interest in reading and need something genuinely heart-pounding to lure them back. 

While Shock Wave does have a feeling of being geared to a middle grade to high school audience, it's just so much fun seeing how things unfold that I'm sure adults who love adventure will enjoy it without giving the language level much thought, as I did. 

Both of my children would have loved Heath's books, particularly my eldest, who was an avid reader of the Choose Your Own Adventure series. My youngest went through a phase during which he had no interest in reading (you can imagine the angst on the part of Mom the Bookfool) and I'm sure he would have also loved anything and everything by Jack Heath. Adventure and survival were among those rare attributes that finally helped lure him back to the reading world. That and 19th century literature. Go figure. 

My thanks to Sterling Children's Books for the review copy!

©2021 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, February 01, 2021

Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee

Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee was the second collection of short stories I read for my personal challenge to read a story per day. It's been sitting on the shelf for several years and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. 

Most of the stories center around a university in some way (often from the perspective of students), but not all. In the first, "Bobcat", a couple host a dinner party and the wife muses to herself about the invited guests. One man, she thinks, is having an affair. She wants to tell the man's wife about her suspicions but her husband thinks she's being imaginative and that she should keep her thoughts to herself. The wife of the maybe-cheater is pregnant and glowing. The title refers to the honored guest, a woman who lost her arm in a bobcat attack. Or, did she? Is her story believable? There's a bit of a surprise twist to "Bobcat" that makes it the kind of story you want to talk about. So many little things to dig in and discuss. 

And, that seems to be the hallmark of Rebecca Lee's stories. The characters almost instantaneously feel real and 3-dimensional to the point that when they do something stupid or crazy, it not only makes them seem even more true to life but also provides excellent fodder for discussion. Why, for example, did the architect in the final story, "Fialta", react with such dramatic physicality when he found out one of the students had violated his rules? Was there more to it than just a frustration with rule-breaking? How should the students have behaved? Was following the rules too big a sacrifice for the prestige that went with his mentoring? How did the young couple in question really feel about each other? Was their attraction one-sided?  Lee drops just enough information to leave you guessing and doesn't always give you the answers. 

In "Min", the story centers around a couple of students who have become friends. He is the only man she's ever thought she could marry. When he decides to go home to Hong Kong for the summer, she agrees to go with him. His father will find her a job. But, it turns out the job is to find the one man she really cares for the perfect wife. See what I mean? What would you do? Would you agree to find a wife for the only man you've ever thought you might consider marrying? If so, would you work to find the perfect woman for him or would you try to sabotage things so that he might come running to you, instead? What the heroine does, in the end, feels absolutely right and yet her choice is also worthy of discussion. 

I love a story that's a little open, here or there, and forces you to fill in the blanks but I know a lot of people find that kind of story frustrating and it's one of the reasons some people avoid short stories entirely. If you like everything nicely wrapped up, this may not be the right short story collection for you. But, I closed it thinking I would read anything Rebecca Lee writes. 

Highly recommended - I especially recommend Bobcat to readers who are short story fans but don't mind the feeling that the author left out a bit too much. I like that kind of story for the way it makes the little cogs turn. I like to think about the various threads of possibility. But, I know a lot of people would prefer that an author give them more, especially in short form, as short stories often leave them feeling a little gypped. If you can tolerate the holes that are left for you to mentally fill in, Bobcat is an exceptional collection. 

©2021 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, January 29, 2021

Fiona Friday - Waking up slowly

Something Isabel and I have in common. I, too, sit up looking ruffled and allow myself to fully awaken before jumping to the floor. 

©2021 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, January 27, 2021

Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells (Murderbot Diaries #3)

In this third installment in The Murderbot Diaries series, Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells, Murderbot (a part-human, part android who no longer works for a corporation, having been freed by his scientist friend) goes looking for answers to some nagging questions. Why did the corporation that used to own him as a Security Unit (SecUnit) abandon a terraforming project? Is GrayCris involved in more deception? If so, and they weren't really terraforming at all, what were they up to? 

As in the second book, Artificial Condition, a good portion of Rogue Protocol is set-up to the action that takes place in the last third or so as Murderbot goes through a space port and figures out how to get to its destination without drawing attention to itself. Once Murderbot arrives at its destination, it figures out a way to tag along with a group going to check out the abandoned station and, in the process, is obligated to make friends with one of the group's personal androids, Miki, who turns out to be smarter and more sensitive to nuance than expected. 

Then, the action really begins. While Rogue Protocol and the previous book spent much of the time building to the exciting scenes, it doesn't matter one bit because there's always something happening. Unexpected extra passengers on the ship that obligate poor Murderbot to cram itself into a closet, for example. There are lots of little twists and turns and plenty of grumpy humor on the part of Murderbot. I did surprise myself by predicting one of the plot twists in this one but again, it didn't bother me. I just kind of nodded to myself and kept on enjoying the book. 

Highly recommended - I bought the entire Murderbot Diaries series on a whim and pre-ordered the newest release before my book-buying ban began, so I've got more fun Murderbot reading ahead. Because most of the books are short (only one is novel length, so far; the rest are novellas) and action-packed, they make great slump breakers. Best whim ever. It was risky buying an entire series without having even read the first but I trusted my friend Alyce's recommendation and I'm so glad I did. 

©2021 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, January 26, 2021

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders

I have made it a goal to read everything George Saunders has ever written and in another step toward that goal I read CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, recently. I'm a little behind on my reviews, here, but even as I closed it I was aware that this one would be a difficult book to review. I'll do my best.

Published in 1996, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline was George Saunders' first published collection and includes 6 short stories along with a single novella. I had no idea it was a "cherished cult classic" when I bought it but I can see why it is. In reading it well out of publishing order, it's easy to see that Saunders' unique blend of humor, bizarre situations, violence, and fun taking immense jabs at the ridiculousness of life (especially employers) was on full display. 

In this case, most of the stories take place in a kind of amusement park/living history museum, each yet another strange, ridiculous situation with different narrators. 

When I described the title story to my husband, I realized just how incredibly difficult it is to pin down what makes a George Saunders story so special. In "CivilWarLand in Bad Decline" an employee describes his frustrations with his job and the problem they're having with roving gangs that are entering the park and causing havoc by breaking things, painting graffiti, etc. As a response to recent gang damage, the boss decides to send a single security guard to watch for the gang members and scare them off but the gang shows up and makes a fool of him. A new employee, however, has the killer instinct and the boss is convinced that he'll be able to do the job. He does a lot more than just frightening off gang members, though, as the new security guard is pretty much an out-of-control psychotic and starts killing people. And, they're not always the bad guys. 

So, I tried to describe that and realized that what I didn't manage to portray at all was George Saunders' sense of humor. There's just something about his unique turn of phrase and how he sets up each situation that combines to make his stories funny and awful and real at the same time. They are fabulous. 

My edition, shown above, is a 2012 printing with a note from the author that is every bit as interesting as the stories themselves. He talks about being a young engineer, sneaking in writing time at work and trying to find his own style through various phases of imitation (James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway) while living through the salad days with his wife and two children. It's immensely moving and actually brought tears to my eyes as he talked about his overwhelming love for his family and how he looks back on those days when he had very little materially but was rich in love. Oh, my goodness, it was just beautiful! Of course, he also talks about how he finally discovered his true writing style and it's also lovely – about how he'd been trying so hard to be a serious writer and when he wrote something that made his wife laugh he realized that it was actually OK to let his sense of humor run free.  

Highly recommended - This particular set of stories requires a bit of a strong stomach for violence, which I don't actually have, and yet I loved them. I think the fact that the bloody and sometimes disgusting scenes are couched in the midst of humor makes them not just bearable but tremendously entertaining. They're twisted and dark and hilarious and gross and bizarre and wacky and so, so good. 

I'm looking for someone to introduce me to George Saunders so I can call him a "friend" and buy his new release. Not happening, so far. I guess I'll have to wait till 2022 to get a copy, unless I can nudge my husband into submission. I have dropped the hint that I'd like an autographed copy from the local indie so many times it's getting ridiculous. 

©2021 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, January 25, 2021

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy
  • America for Beginners by Lea Franqui
  • Consequences by Penelope Lively
  • The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo
  • Outpost by W. Michael Gear
  • Beyond the Call by Lee Trimble with Jeremy Dronfield
  • The Book of Science and Antiquities by Thomas Keneally
  • American Prophets by Jack Jenkins
  • Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu
  • Supernova Era by Cixin Liu

OK, so technically I'm sharing arrivals out of order because this was my final box of last-minute panic purchases and I haven't posted a photo of the first of the two boxes. But, I don't think order matters and I wanted to get these off my coffee table so photographing them seemed like a plan. There's one more that I walked away with and forgot to put in the pile to pose, so I'll save that and photograph it with the others for my next Monday Malarkey. And, after that, the "Recent arrivals" space may get a little boring. I'll have to think about how to change up the Malarkey posts to fit my lack of buying. 

As I'm typing, I have made it through almost 24 days without buying a single book! I feel like I've earned a medal or something. But, actually, it hasn't been such a big deal, so far, probably because I had the two big boxes of books coming. I'm hoping that was enough to get me accustomed to not throwing books in a virtual cart on a whim. Interestingly, my lack of book buying seems to have had a knock-on effect: I don't feel like buying anything at all. In fact, I have to really force myself to get online to buy necessities (we still don't go much of anywhere but the grocery store). 

In a totally unrelated side note, it feels a little weird that we now have a president who is known for using the word "malarkey", like I've lost a bit of my uniqueness, here. Ask me if I thought such a thing would ever happen!

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Georgana's Secret by Arlem Hawks
  • Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3) by Martha Wells
  • Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Wells
  • The Evening Chorus by Helen Humphreys
  • Shock Wave (Pick Your Fate #2) by Jack Heath

There was not a bad book in the lot. I will tell you, though, that the one book that I had trouble moving on from was The Evening Chorus, a story set in WWII and after, about the healing power of nature. I was so captivated by The Evening Chorus that I walked around feeling a little lost when it ended and couldn't even think about starting another book till the next evening. 

Currently reading:

  • A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
  • Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy
  • The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

The Demolished Man is classic SciFi and so unusual that I thought it might help me move on from The Evening Chorus. I knew I had to find something very different or I wouldn't be able to focus on my next read. So far, it's working. The story is weird but I'm enjoying it. The other two books are both collections of short stories. I like the stories in A Good Scent, etc. but they're so heavy that I feel like I can only read one once in a while, rather than daily, so I had Bobcat and Other Stories as my secondary read and then it took over. Now, the same is happening with Both Ways. There's no hurry to finish anything, though, so I'll continue to read a story from A Good Scent whenever I feel like it. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

Well, there's not much. I'm trying to hurriedly watch all of Season 1 of Stargirl because I'm on my eldest son's subscription to HBO Max and he's decided to cancel it. I don't think I watched much else. I decided the new All Creatures Great and Small just makes me want to watch the old version, again, although I think it's nicely done. It's just not the same and the original is an all-time favorite series of ours. So, I skipped it and went to lie down, last night. Halfway through yesterday's episode, Huz showed up and said, "It's just not the same. Everyone's too young." True, especially the housekeeper. I do love the actor who plays Siegfried, though. I remember him from Hornblower. This entire paragraph has aged me. 

We did watch the Inauguration of President Joe Biden. That was kind of funny, actually. I thought I'd get up, watch the inauguration, and then go on with my life. Instead, I got up and turned on the news. The TV stayed on for a good 12 hours (till the end of the fireworks), which never happens. I think I can safely say I was happy to see a new president sworn in. 

I've seen a lot of posts (both blog posts and IG posts) about how much less anxiety people are having, now that we have a new president, particularly comments about being able to sleep and not having so much tension in the neck and shoulders. For my part, I realize I can now get up and not immediately feel like I have to look at the news to see what horrible thing I need to brace myself for — what new, hideous policy, what awful destruction to the environment or to ethics. It's so nice not to feel obligated to check the news. Saturday morning was normal!!! Every Friday has been a "Friday night massacre" in some form for so long. I know we still have a pandemic to deal with and horrible people who are likely going to try to let off a man who fomented literal insurrection, but for now I'm going to really enjoy relaxing for a week or two. 

©2021 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, January 22, 2021

Fiona Friday - Balance

©2021 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, January 19, 2021

Georgana's Secret by Arlem Hawks

In Georgana's Secret by Arlem Hawks, Georgana Woodall's father had no choice but to protect her from the grandmother who beat her and told her she was worthless. But, as a sea captain, the only solution he was able to come up with was to take her to sea disguised as a boy. Three years later, Georgana is safe from her grandmother but growing weary of life on the sea and the other boys on the Deborah, a British Naval frigate on its way to Antigua sailing as protection for a group of merchant vessels. 

Dominic Peyton's calling is the sea and he very well could be a captain, by now. But, he hasn't the money to care for his mother while awaiting a position on a vessel. So, he's turned down the promotion and joined the crew of the Deborah as First Lieutenant. On board, he finds a disgruntled second lieutenant, a captain who seems disinterested in his crew or in fighting except when absolutely necessary, and a strange, skittish, viciously bullied young boy without friends who stays in the captain's quarters. 

Young George doesn't know how to defend himself, so Dominic takes it upon himself teach George to hold his own in a fist fight and offers his friendship. He's pleased when he can draw a rare smile from George and George (aka Georgana) finds herself falling in love with Dominic Peyton. But, she spent her childhood waiting for her father to come home from the sea. When the truth comes out about her identity, will she be willing and able to live that life, again?

Highly recommended - Swashbuckling fun with a romance that begins as an unlikely friendship. I love the way the heroine grows from a terrified and bullied girl with a secret identity to a spunky and daring person who saves the day. There are some terrific action scenes but the final challenge in which Georgana is the only person who can save the day is so exciting I barely took a breath while reading. 

My thanks to Laurel Ann and Shadow Mountain for the review copy!

©2021 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, January 18, 2021

Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang

Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang is a middle grade book and the first in a series. Four children who attend a language and culture camp in China are put into a group together. When they're given a task, they end up coming across unexpected danger. But, together, they find that they can overcome the danger. Later, they find a crack in one of the mountains near their camp and the children start disappearing, one by one. The main character sees one of the children as she's snatched and realizes that he's the only one who can save his friends.

Inside the mountain, they find four dragons who have been trapped for a hundred years. The evil dragon who trapped them inside the mountain is about to return; one of them can sense it. The only way they can stop her is to band together, each paired with a human. And, the children are the humans who are needed to help save humanity. After each child is matched with his or her dragon, they will enter the Dragon Realm to prepare for a classic battle of good vs. evil. But, when things go terribly wrong, can they save the dragons from a horrible death before it's too late? 

Highly recommended - Oh, my goodness, what a fun book. So full of adventure and magical powers and dragons!! Who doesn't love dragons? I also love the way the children start out unsure of each other but quickly realize their bond is their strength. 

I absolutely gobbled up Dragon Mountain. It does, unfortunately, have a cliffhanger ending. But I was surprised to find that didn't bother me for the first time in maybe ever. I think the fact that I absolutely loved every moment of the story made Dragon Mountain an exception to my usual distaste for cliffhanger endings. Of course, I'm aching to read on. 

Also worth mentioning: I think both of my kids and my child self would have absolutely loved this book. 

My thanks to Sterling Children's Books for the review copy!

©2021 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, January 15, 2021

Fiona Friday

She was enjoying the fire. We've had 2 or 3 evenings cold enough to use the fireplace, now!

©2021 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, January 14, 2021

Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria

My second read of the year was a terrific read and I'm so glad I hastily bought it before the end of the year. Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria lays out how the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in such things as American healthcare (the most obvious) but also covers a lot of other territory: past and present economic policies including taxes and tariffs; globalization and why it's been painted as a boogeyman but isn't going away; historic and present-day politics and nationalism; how life changed after past disasters, for better or worse. He even covers Artificial Intelligence and how it may affect our future. 

Zakaria also discusses how and why some countries handled testing, tracing, and halting spread of the virus better than others and what we can learn from them. He zones in on places like Taiwan, where previous outbreaks of deadly disease gave the country experience that enabled them to prepare for the current pandemic. I just looked up a graph of Taiwan's Covid-19 cases and their peak — the highest number of cases reported in a single day — was 18. Impressive.

Across all these topics, Zakaria discusses where we've succeeded and failed and what the current president has done to improve or diminish our place in the world. 

Highly recommended - Excellent writing and a fair-minded viewpoint of how the pandemic could lead to positive change and reduced inequality if handled right. My only problem with the book was that I had to reread some paragraphs a few times to get what he was saying, but that's more a factor of my own lack of understanding of such things as economics than a problem with the writing. In fact, I found the writing very clear and the subject matter educational. But, wow, Fareed Zakaria is one sharp dude. I am not on his intellectual level. If I can find the time, I may reread it in the future so that I can hopefully get an even better understanding. 

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