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. 

©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 12, 2021

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

I had to give Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot some thought before I even managed to rate it at Goodreads. I had (and still have) such mixed feelings. I found it poetic but strange and gut-wrenching. It's a memoir by a Native American author that's a patchwork of memories of pain, obsession, mental illness, and confusion, all written to the man she loves. She describes being institutionalized briefly after attempting suicide and her diagnoses, her early marriage and other relationships, having her son taken away by her first husband while she was pregnant with his second child, her determination to get the education she desired, her appalling childhood. But, throughout this entire narrative, there's the angst over having lost the one man she truly loves and trying to figure out if they can make it work.  

You can't help but admire the author for accomplishing so much academically while fighting to keep herself alive, make sense of her place in the world within her Native American heritage and outside of it, and protect her children from the horrors she lived through. But, I'd like it if I could have comprehended more of what she was trying to say. The writing was frustrating and disjointed. Its fragmented nature can be seen as an echo of her emotions, which were all over the place, but I'm not sure if that was a deliberate stylistic choice or she simply had to write that way for the sake of her own sanity. 

Iffy on recommendation - There are a lot of gushy pull quotes in the front of the book, and Roxane Gay's cover blurb is very positive. So, it's worth mentioning that a lot of people think Heart Berries is a fabulous work of art. I'm not among them. Her writing was just a little too vague for me. I felt like she was using poetic language to keep the story at arm's length because it's too painful. My preference is more straightforward writing. I couldn't tell, for example, what exactly her father did to her. There are hints, but whether he sexually assaulted her or not I couldn't tell. 

What I like best about the book is that it does give you a look inside her head, even if that's a rather hallucinogenic place to be. She often repeated that Native American women's bodies are neither respected nor cared for and in this she made some references to the many Native American women who have disappeared or been murdered. This is a serious issue and one that was touched on in The Roundhouse by Louise Erdrich (link leads to my mini review, within a post of several reviews), a story that shows how difficult it is for Native Americans to get justice when harmed. 

This was the January read for my personal challenge to read at least one book by a Native American or Indigenous author each month in 2021.

©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 11, 2021

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • The Gap by Benjamin Gilmour
  • V for Victory by Lissa Evans 
  • The Antiquarian Sticker Book
  • Gobbolino the Witch's Cat by Ursula Moray Williams
  • They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell
  • The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
  • Reader's Digest War Stories 

All of the above were purchases made before the end of the year. My last-minute panic buys are on their way and then a few individual titles that I pre-ordered will trickle in and . . . well, that should be it for a good 6 months, since I can't go to library sales and haven't even been able to talk myself into buying the first Native American-authored book I intended to buy for this year's challenge. I'm just too happy with the idea of reading off my shelves. It's on my wish list, though. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • How to Get Away with Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce
  • Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria
  • Heart Berries by Teresa Marie Mailhot
  • Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang
  • CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders

Not a bad start to the year, but not a great one either. I've read 4 books, so far. I dropped my annual Goodreads goal to 75. Usually, I set it at 100 knowing that's a number I can hit easily. This year, I'm hoping to throw off the yoke of obligatory reads and read from my shelves almost exclusively (again, I can't bear to say no to children's books if they're offered). Hopefully, that will mean I finally, finally will get around to reading Gone With the Wind. I'd start it today if I didn't have one last tour book to finish and two ARCs. 

Currently reading:

  • Georgana's Secret by Arlem Hawks
  • A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler

Georgana's Secret is the tour book I mentioned above. A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is my second volume of short stories, the first being CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. I think I've managed to read a short story per day, although CivilWarLand was "short stories and a novella" so one of them was technically a novella but whatever. I'm just enjoying my daily reading of a shorter work, so it counts. Until I set this goal, I don't think I realized how many unread anthologies and collections of short stories I had sitting around. I will probably have no problem at all finding 365 short stories to read. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

Well, this last week was something, wasn't it? I'm still distressed by the horror, perhaps even moreso than I was on the day of the American Insurrection since more violent images have been released in recent days (including a Capitol police officer being dragged down steps and beaten by Trump supporters with, among other things, a flag pole containing an American flag). 

Unsurprisingly, we watched a lot of news. Husband was working from home during the Insurrection and I updated him or he'd sit for 5 minutes watching the coverage with me, between meetings and calls. We were glued to the TV on the evening of the 6th. 

Otherwise, I only recall watching the premier of the new All Creatures Great and Small. I'm sure we watched a smattering of other things but I don't remember any of them. It's all been blanked out by one awful day. I don't know how you convince people who have been told for 5 years that they can't believe anything or anyone but one person that they're wrong, it was a free and fair election and nobody's out to get them. It's deeply ingrained, at this point. I have a friend from way back who has been sucked into the QAnon black hole and utterly, completely believes every one of the crazy, made-up conspiracies. I finally gave up and unfriended her after she had nothing negative to say about the attempted coup and continued spouting conspiracies. It was painful. We've been friends for a very, very long time. But, people died because of the kind of lies she's helping perpetuate and I can't be a party to that. 

Can you tell I'm still riled up? It's been hard to sleep. What a rough year it's been for sleeping. I mean, the entire last year, not just 2021. I wasn't expecting 2021 to be a miraculous change from 2020, since we still have a long time till the majority are inoculated but . . . whoa. I certainly was not expecting January 6. Here's hoping for some major action to prevent similar violence in the future. 

And, to end on a lighter note, here's a photo of what happened, last night. Snow!!!!

©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 08, 2021

Fiona Friday - Winter snuggles

The time for winter snuggles is at hand. These two always start out a little apart. Then one or the other will stand up, stretch and settle back down, this time touching just a little. Then, another stretch and shift and so on. Eventually, they end up a lot closer than this little butt-touch but it's funny how they always start out acting like they want a warm spot by my feet but not together and then end up all cuddled up, often with limbs flopped over each other. I love winter. 

©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 06, 2021

Books Read in 2020

Links provided to all reviews (size of reviews varies). 


1. Under the Jaguar Sun - Italo Calvino
2. You Were There Too - Colleen Oakley
3. What Red Was - Rosie Price
4. Sanditon - Jane Austen and Kate Riordan
5. Virus on Orbis 1: The Softwire - P. J. Haarsma
6. A Beginning at the End - Mike Chen
7. Almost Just Friends - Jill Shalvis
8. If Cats Disappeared from the World - Genki Kawamura
9. Why My Cat Is More Impressive Than Your Baby - Matthew Inman
10. Dragonshadow - Elle Katharine White


11. Strange Planet - Nathan W. Pyle
12. American Dirt - Jeanine Cummins
13. The Lion and the Lyceum - Alex Beene and Taylor Weidemann*
14. The Sun Down Motel - Simone St. James
15. Crosstalk - Connie Willis
16. The World of Sanditon - Sara Sheridan
17. Freedom is a Constant Struggle - Angela Y. Davis
18. Red, White, and Royal Blue - Casey McQuiston
19. The Antidote for Everything - Kimmery Martin
20. Nerp! - Sarah Lynne Reul


21. Such a Fun Age - Kiley Reid
22. Promised - Leah Garriott
23. A Murderous Relation - Deanna Raybourn
24. And They Called It Camelot - Stephanie Marie Thornton
25. Darling Rose Gold - Stephanie Wrobel
26. The Suicide Run - William Styron
27. The Song of the Tree - Coralie Bickford-Smith


28. Flamebringer - Elle Katharine White
29. The Love Story of Missy Carmichael - Beth Morrey
30. The Secret Lives of People in Love - Simon Van Booy
31. Sailing Alone Around the Room - Billy Collins
32. The Big Finish - Brooke Fossey
33. Horrorstör - Grady Hendrix
34. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead - Tom Stoppard
35. Lakeshire Park - Megan Walker
36. Nature's Best Hope - Douglas W. Tallamy
37. The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany - Lori Nelson Spielman


38. The Malady of Death - Marguerite Duras
39. Talkative Man - R. K. Narayan
40. All Systems Red (Murderbot #1) - Martha Wells
41. Orphan Monster Spy - Matt Killeen
42. Premeditated Myrtle - Elizabeth C. Bunce
43. The Paris Hours - Alex George
44. Psi-Man: Mind-Force Warrior (Psi-Man #1) - David Peters, aka Peter David
45. The Prisoner's Wife - Maggie Brookes


46. Unflappable - Suzie Gilbert
47. Jacob the Baker - Noah ben Shea
48. Wow, No Thank You - Samantha Irby
49. The Jane Austen Society - Natalie Jenner
50. What You Wish For - Katherine Center
51. A Song Below Water - Bethany C. Morrow
52. Stranger Planet - Nathan W. Pyle
53. Devil Darling Spy - Matt Killeen
54. Bubble Kisses - Vanessa Williams and Tara Nicole Whitaker


55. Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen
56. The End of October - Lawrence Wright
57. Artificial Condition - Martha Wells
58. I Am I Am I Am - Maggie O'Farrell
59. The Good Girl - Mary Kubica
60. Stop! Bot! - James Yang
61. Tales from Outer Suburbia - Shaun Tan
62. The War I Finally Won - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
63. The Plains - Gerald Murnane
64. They Called Us Enemy - George Takei, Elsinger, Scott, and Becker
65. Too Much and Never Enough - Mary L. Trump
66. Dominicana - Angie Cruz
67. On the Island - Tracey Garvis Graves


68. Where Are the Galapagos Islands? - Megan Stine
69. The City We Became - N. K. Jemison
70. Finna - Nino Cipri
71. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? - Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD
72. Castle in the Clouds - Kerstin Gier
73. The Time of Green Magic - Hilary McKay
74. The Thing About Jellyfish - Ali Benjamin
75. Minnie's Room - Mollie Panter-Downes
76. The Readers' Room - Antoine Laurain
77. Agnes at the End of the World - Kelly McWilliams
78. Skunk and Badger - Amy Timberlake


79. One Fine Day - Mollie Panter-Downes
80. Tokyo Ueno Station - Yū Miri
81. 5-Minute Pete the Cat Stories - James Dean
82. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell - Robert Dugoni
83. Challenger Deep - Neal Shusterman
84. Finna - Nate Marshall




*A few words within a post, no separate review

©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, January 05, 2021

Everything I didn't review in 2020: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Orphan Monster Spy, Devil Darling Spy, and Fear

What? I only skipped reviewing 4 books in 2020? Wow, I did well. I'm impressed with me. 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard is a modern classic play based on Hamlet. And, here's where I stop being impressed with myself. I didn't review the play because I figured I should read its predecessor, Hamlet, and see how I felt about the original story before reviewing both, together. 

I didn't finish Hamlet. It made my head hurt. Plus, I had several other books going and it just fell by the wayside. At any rate, it took me some time to understand what was happening in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, but once I got into it and realized what was happening, I thought it immensely clever and even before I "got it", I was entertained by the dialogue. 

I still need to read Hamlet. But, I'm definitely glad I read Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen was a reread. Here's my original review: 

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

I reread Orphan Monster Spy because Killeen wrote a second spy novel starring Sarah, the young protagonist, a Jewish orphan who befriends a British spy and undertakes a dangerous mission to save the world from a deadly bomb being created in Germany. 

I enjoyed Orphan Monster Spy even more the second time. The first time I read it, I was uncomfortable with the place Sarah ended up going on her mission but this time I expected the level of harassment she endured and was able to concentrate on the more exciting, dangerous parts of the story. It was edge-of-your-seat the first time and doubly thrilling on the second reading. 

Unfortunately, I have talked to the author and I like him, so I felt awful when I didn't fall in love with Devil Darling Spy. In this follow-up to Orphan Monster Spy, Sarah and her spy friend go to Africa, where someone known as the White Devil is working on creating the ultimate biological weapon. People die painfully but quickly from the disease and the natives are being used as guinea pigs. 

They track down the area in which people are currently dying and masquerade as Germans who have been sent to check on the doctor's progress. 

My problem with Devil Darling Spy was that it tried to be about too many things at once: biological warfare, colonialism . . . I don't remember what else, now. I waited too long to review, not wanting to put anything bad out there. Sarah was not as strong a character in Devil Darling Spy as she was in Orphan Monster Spy, as well. And, I figured out the plot twist quite early in the book. 

Having said all that, if and when Matt Killeen writes another book starring Sarah, I will read it. I felt a little overwhelmed by the companion novel but I like Sarah and I am impressed with Killeen's writing. A lot of research must have gone into Devil Darling Spy. You can sense the effort put into it.

I wrote about Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward on Instagram or I would not have any idea what to say. I remember thinking much of it was not news to me because I've read so much about the president (I've been reading about him since the 80s), but Fear does add to the story. 

First things, first. Bob Woodward is apparently known for his meticulous research and impeccable sourcing but not for his writing. I agree with that. Sometimes it was hard to tell who was speaking. However, I got enough out of Fear that I bought its follow-up, Rage, and hope to get to that soon. 

Woodward talks about the president's unwillingness to listen and learn, his impulsiveness, his demands for loyalty and paranoia about anyone who doesn't pledge to be loyal to him, his refusal to look at anything in a way other than the transactional, the chaos in his administration, and his horrific temper tantrums, as well as how little time he actually spends working (he watches TV 6-8 hours a day; of course, now, he seems to do nothing but golf and tweet . . . and apparently make extortionate phone calls). These things were described in The Mueller Report, which I've read, and every other book I've read about the president except for Mary Trump's book. She's knowledgeable about the person but not the presidency. 

Fear was most interesting to me for the insights about the individuals who worked for the president early in the administration and how and why they ended up leaving. Those stories were quite detailed and interesting. I would not have known without reading Fear that the president was compelled to make a statement criticizing white nationalists after Heather Heyer's death in Charlottesville and then when he said there were "good people on both sides", that was his real thoughts spoken off-the-cuff. His clear dismissal of white nationalism as no big deal was too much for some of the people closest to the president. Several resigned immediately. He has, of course, done this repeatedly. First, people tell him he really has to condemn someone he doesn't want to because he thinks they'll vote for him; then he says what he wants to say and the people in charge of communication spin what he says as misunderstood or a joke, etc., or just give up and resign. Then, he's often forced to make a retraction or "clarifying" statement. The truth is always in the second statement, the one where he goes off-script. 

At any rate, all these books were worth reading and I'm glad I read them. 

That's it for 2020 reviewing! I will post my full list of books read with links to reviews or mini reviews and then I'll move on to 2021. 

©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 04, 2021

2020 Short Story Advent Calendar, ed. by Michael Hingston

I've probably already mentioned that the Short Story Advent Calendar is something I've desired to purchase for several years but either didn't get there in time (they do tend to sell out) or didn't feel like I could justify the cost. This year, I remembered early enough to get my order placed before they sold out. 

There are 25 stories in the calendar and each is bound separately with a little round sticker to keep them closed. It is immensely satisfying to pop open a new story each night and curl up in bed with it. 

Fortunately, I also enjoyed most of the stories. A few fell flat for me but I enjoyed the experience so much that I was not bothered at all by the rare story that didn't work for me or left little question marks dangling over my head. There was quite a variety. I kept a notebook with a little synopsis of each and if I ever get back to buying books, I'm happy I'll have it to refer to. 

A few favorites:

"Over the Plum Pudding" by John Kendrick Bangs, originally published in 1901, is written in first person by a fictional former editor who feels obligated to explain why a volume of short stories "filled with Christmas spirit" but in reality closer to horror, was never published. "Over the Plum Pudding" is such a little masterpiece of humor that I wish I'd taken the time to see if I could find a collection by Bangs before my book-buying ban began. I may check Project Gutenberg, later on. 

"Four Minutes and 33 Pairs of Sweatpants" by Martin Riker tells the story of a musician whose first work of performance art drove away the man she'd been with for 10 years. I thought it was kind of amusing but what most caught my eye was the author's bio. Martin Riker is, it says, a Writer-in-Residence at Ole Miss, a school both of my kids attended. I could never talk them into taking advantage of classes taught by the many brilliant writers who work at Ole Miss, unfortunately. 

"Aviary" by Lysley Tenorio takes place in Manila. The poor children of Manila have never been inside the nearby mall. But when they find out they're banned from entering, they're offended and decide to enter and wreak havoc. What I really loved about "Aviary" is the way the author shows you the world of excess through the eyes of children who are accustomed to having almost nothing. Why, they wonder, would anyone want these sparkly, shiny, furry, smelly, unnecessary items? 

"The Decade I Kept on Getting Stabbed" by John Jodzio is only 4 pages long but it's one of my favorites because it is a riot. I don't want to give anything away, I loved it so much, but it's about a man who keeps getting stabbed and asking his friends what he's doing wrong. They make suggestions, he makes changes, but the stabbings continue. The ending is hilarious. 

"The Snowstorm" by Alexander Pushkin is about a young couple in love who plan to secretly marry. When a raging snowstorm hits on the day of their elopement, everything changes. This is the only short story from which I wrote down a quote:

Moral proverbs are wonderfully useful in those cases where we can invent little in our own justification. 


Highly recommended — While the 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar quickly sold out, I highly recommend buying one for future Advent seasons. It's a little pricey and I didn't love every story equally. A couple didn't work for me at all. But, it's an experience. I enjoyed the sensation of cracking open the tape, the joy of settling in for my daily story, the fun of being introduced to new authors . . . so much, in fact, that I'm trying to continue daily short story reading in 2021. 

Note: I was tempted to buy more but I only purchased one book based on my enjoyment of the short story: The Grand Tour by Adam O'Fallon Price, who wrote "Vera Something". I liked the way the author swept me into his unrequited love story and then ended it in a realistic way. 

Also worth mentioning: I have books by at least 3 or 4 of the authors, already.  Only one of the stories made me feel like, "Huh, do I really want to read the novel I own?" The rest have made me feel more motivated to read the books I have by those authors, and I'll probably go ahead and read the book by the author whose short story was literally the one that put me to sleep. She's gotten some very good buzz, in the past, so I'm not going to make any assumptions about how she writes in longer form. I'll just find out for myself. 

Do you enjoy short stories? The short story collection I'm currently reading is CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders. He is a master of short stories and I'm loving 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.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Happy New Year! and reading goals with a cat photo

Happy New Year! Here's hoping 2021 is better in every way than 2020. I know we have some rough times ahead with Covid-19 surging and overwhelming hospitals but I have my fingers and toes crossed that the incoming administration will improve upon the current inoculation plan so that we can move toward herd immunity. 

My 2021 reading and bookish goals:

1. A year-long book-buying ban. I have a couple of exceptions. One is books by friends, the other dirt cheap books. But, the latter usually come from library sales and our former library with the perpetual sale corner is currently on curbside checkouts only, no entering the building. So, it should be easy to avoid buying any cheap books for a while and, to be honest, I'm so excited about reading off my shelves that I don't have any interest at all in buying, right now (although I did do a little last-minute panic buying). There's one more possible exception to the no-buying goal and that has to do with a second goal . . . 

2. Read books by Native American authors or about Native American history. I have plenty to start out with, so I won't need to buy any, right away, if at all. We shall see. There was a Native American reading challenge I wanted to join in on but if I saved the list of monthly reads, I sure can't find it. I was going to go ahead and pre-buy a few titles for that. If I ever come across the list and I've drained the titles I already have from my shelves, I might buy a couple. At the moment, I'm not interested in buying anything at all, though. I'm also not going to stress about quantity. I'd like to read one per month but I want this to be a relaxing reading year. 

3. Read off my shelves. That means not only no buying but no checking out books from the library and only children's books for review if they're offered. 2020 was not a big year for ARCs and that's good. I've loved reading books in advance of publication and being a part of the publicity machine because I love helping authors get attention, but it's time for me to take a step back. Children's books are the exception because they're quicker to read and there is always, always a need for children's books at local schools, so it's easy to find new homes for them once I've finished.

4. Read some of those chunksters I've been afraid to read for fear that they'd set me behind on ARCs. If I don't have many ARCs to deal with, I can spend more time reading fat books. Along with this goal goes the idea of reading fewer books. I'm going to wind back my normal Goodreads goal, probably to 75 instead of 100 books, just so I have an obtainable goal that will be enjoyable but lacks the pressure of shooting for reading a larger number. This has worked well for me, in recent years. 

5. Read a short story per day. I have a lot of anthologies and collections that have just been sitting around collecting dust and I so enjoyed the experience of reading a short story a day during Advent that I decided to continue reading short stories in the new year. If I don't succeed at reading one every day, again, not going to fret. But, I'm looking forward to it and have already picked out my first collection to dive into, by Isaac Asimov. 

That's it! I will post my last reviews for 2020, next week, including a post about any books I neglected to review. I did not set aside my favorite books, this year, so I'm not sure if I'll get around to doing a favorites list but I'd like to. Again, we'll see. This blog is getting a little loose and fluffy around the edges, after 14 1/2 years. I keep thinking of Goldie Hawn's line in the movie Housesitter, "I change myself all the time!" I love that line. Change is good. I spend more time doing creative things like painting, now, and my life feels a little more balanced because of it. 

Because it's Friday, here's Izzy Kitty looking crazy-eyed with a catnip Christmas gift:

Hope everyone had a nice, safe and happy transition into 2021! Happy reading!

©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.