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.