Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Retrograde by Peter Cawdron

OK, first things first. After I read Retrograde, at some point I read a couple reviews and found that some readers had been under the impression that it would be like The Martian because it's also set on Mars and there's a disaster at its core. Just forget that, right now. Retrograde is an entirely different story and it deserves not to be compared to The Martian merely because of the words "Mars" and "disaster". 

As the story opens, astronaut and micropaleobiologist Liz (an American) is hanging out in the Chinese living pod where the residents are having a great time playing games and drinking a little too heavily. Then, something happens and the woman in charge of the Chinese scientists in the Endeavor mission angrily sends representatives from other countries back to their own pods. There are 5 groupings of individuals from around the world on this semi-autonomous station (they grow their own food, produce their own oxygen, etc., but require occasional delivery of supplies from Earth). The narrator later explains why they're divided in the way they are but they've worked harmoniously together till now, apart from a few individual tensions.

What happened to cause the sudden animosity? Nuclear war on Earth. Communication with Earth has become difficult anyway because they're in retrograde, but what little they're able to discern is that many large cities have been obliterated. It doesn't actually seem to make any sense at all. If one country was the aggressor against another, why so many large targets in so many different countries? What happened? And, what should the astronauts on Mars do?

There's an immediate split into factions based on region but Liz thinks that regardless of what's happening on Earth, they need to stick together and figure out how to survive. It appears that their supply ship has sailed right past them, for one thing. When things start going wrong on the space station and people begin to die, they must rush to figure out what's happening and why and stop further damage. 

Highly recommended for sci-fi fans who don't mind a slow start -  The first half of Retrograde is more about getting to know the people and their relationships, understanding how the station works and what it looks like, and the initial question: Should we band together to deal with this challenge or split into factions? 

What happens in the latter half, when you start to understand what's happening on the station itself (not just Earth) is a plot that I found wildly implausible, although some real-life scientists are concerned about the possibility. However, I didn't care about whether or not it was implausible or felt that way (I mean . . . it takes place at a space station on Mars, which is still pretty implausible in and of itself). I was in it for this one unique story experience and in the latter half it becomes more like a thriller and a race against time to stay safe and eliminate the danger. I really loved that latter half. And, to be honest, while I had a lot of questions and kept thinking, "Are they sure there was a nuclear war or is this a test to see how they would react to such a disaster?" all my questions were eventually answered so I found the story very satisfying. 

I think I got the recommendation for Retrograde from Instagram, but I'm not 100% certain. At any rate, I enjoyed it immensely and will be looking to see what else Peter Cawdron has written. 

©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 29, 2021

Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa

Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa is the story of a cook named Sentaro, an older women named Tokue, and a teenage school girl named Wakana. Sentaro works in a confectionary shop selling dorayaki, a Japanese pancake filled with red bean paste. Sentaro spent a couple years in jail and was offered the job by a man who is now deceased, who paid off Sentaro's debt. Sentaro has been slowly paying him back. The new owner is the previous owner's wife. 

Sentaro has been using pre-made bean paste in the dorayaki he sells when elderly Tokue comes in asking him for a job. Tokue has strangely twisted hands and he's not even sure if she could do a job if he hired her, although he could use the help. But, then she brings him some of her bean paste to taste and he's sold. If she will make the bean paste, sales will go up and he'll be able to pay off his debt to the new owner much faster. 

Tokue is a hard worker and she makes friends with the young schoolgirls who come into the shop very easily. But, then something happens to cause people to stop coming to the store. If he doesn't turn things around, the owner is going to either sell the store or change it to something else entirely. 

Convinced that there is something magical about Tokue's ability to make excellent bean paste, Sentaro has an idea. He will go talk to Tokue at her home. Wakana goes along and while there, they learn the sad history of the people who were forced out of their family homes, never to return to their families. Tokue was one of them. Can Tokue's wisdom help Sentaro? 

Highly recommended - I've got to watch the movie, which appears to be called "Sweet Bean" without the word "paste". I just peeked online, a bit ago. Sweet Bean Paste is a sweet story with a wonderful theme: your worth is not about what you do for a living. Just being alive means you have value. So lovely. 

©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 26, 2021

Fiona Friday

I didn't take many cat photos, this week, but this one from last week cracks me up. Fiona often narrows her eyes, turns her head, or runs away when I try to take her picture. This look . . . she must have been comfortable enough not to turn away but she clearly was not thrilled that I'd whipped out the camera. 

©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, March 23, 2021

Bindu's Bindis by Supriya Kelkar and Parvati Pillai

First things first: A bindi is the decoration South Asian females often wear on their foreheads, which is known as a "third eye" and is meant to keep evil away. I thought that was what a bindi was, as I went into the reading of Bindu's Bindis, but I wasn't certain so I looked it up. It's good to know that going into the book, in case the child you're reading to has questions. 

Bindu is an American girl who loves wearing bindis. She wears different designs depending upon her mood, using stick-on bindis that come in a variety of colors and shapes. Her grandmother sends her a new set each month and she wears them to the temple, on holidays, and at home. Then, one month her grandmother brings them to Bindu in person. 

Bindu wears a "brilliant oval bindi" to greet her grandmother, or Nani, at the airport. But, when they turn from the gate, her family is surprised to find that they're being greeted by protestors with signs telling them to go home. Bindu holds her head up high and so does Nani. 

Nani has always loved dancing and she teaches Bindu some of her moves. When Bindu dresses up to dance in a school assembly, she's excited at first. But, then some of the children giggle at her beautiful outfit and she's hesitant. Nani tries to excite her by offering different bindis for Bindu to try but it doesn't work. So, Nani goes up on the stage and starts dancing, then Bindu joins her. 

Recommended - I like the story, love the vibrant illustrations in Bindu's Bindis, and particularly appreciated the fact that there are two separate challenges that are tied together: dealing with protestors who are xenophobic and children who make Bindu nervous about her ethnicity. Both are obviously common, right now, in the US. There was one thing I wish the author had done and that's add a single sentence or phrase defining the word "bindi" at the beginning of the book. However, once you know what it is, you know . . . and there's no longer a need for a description. So, after I thought about it for a while, I decided it's no big deal. Bindu's Bindis is a children's picture book, after all, and the illustrations alone make it pretty clear. There is some information about who wears bindis, other names for them, and why they're worn, in the back of the book. 

Incidentally, as I was reading the scene with Nani getting up on stage, I was reminded of the similar scene in About a Boy when Hugh Grant gets up on stage and makes a fool of himself to encourage his young friend to perform. I love the cringeworthy humor of that scene (and the movie, in general), so Nani's dancing brought back a fond memory. In Bindu's Bindis you get a similar feeling from Nani's dancing. It's a little uncomfortable but her joy is infectious. I wanted it to be real and to be transported into that scene. 

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, March 22, 2021

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (clockwise from upper left):

  • Bindu's Bindis by Supriya Kelkar and Parvati Pillai - from Sterling Children's Books for review
  • The Last Night in London by Karen White - from Berkley Books for review
  • The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue - from Algonquin Books for review
  • Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley - from Sterling Teen for review

Getting close to 3 months without a purchase and I will not deny I've been sorely tempted to buy a few. In fact, it was so rough, this week, that I had a nightmare that I accidentally bought a book — meaning, I briefly forgot I was on a book-buying ban in my dream and then was horrified when I realized I'd broken my ban. Funny. I'm finding it easier to have a long, hard goal than the usual generic, "I'm going on a book-buying ban for a while." That never lasts. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa
  • Bindu's Bindis by Supriya Kelkar
  • Retrograde by Peter Cawdron
  • Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig

This was a good couple of weeks. 3 out of 4 of these were books I absolutely loved. 

Currently reading:

  • Mosquitoland by David Arnold
  • Reader's Digest War Stories: Daring First-Hand Accounts of World War II

I'm a little unsure about Mosquitoland because it's a road trip on a bus and I just recently read a road trip bus book. However, it's quite different so I'm going to give it at least 75 pages before deciding whether or not to keep going. 

I did not start another collection of short stories (again), although I tried. I picked up and started reading the two volumes I mentioned in my last Malarkey (Daphne du Maurier and Kazuo Ishiguro). Apparently, I was not in the right mood. But, I wanted to read something with shorter works in it and my Reader's Digest book of WWII war stories was just sitting out there, calling, "Me, me, me!" I figure short works of nonfiction are a good filler till I'm back in the mood for more short stories. Some of those WWII stories are nail biters.

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

There's not much news. Huzzybuns is getting out more, going to his office several days a week, and he'll be taking his first plane flight on business soon. I went to the grocery store, which sounds unexciting but I really have not been since before the pandemic because I was recovering from surgery for a couple months and then we just got into a routine. I wrote a list; he bought the groceries; we unloaded and wiped everything down together; I planned meals; he cooked. But, this week we were low on several items and he didn't have time to go, so I got up early and had a great deal of fun loading up my cart with veggies. Huz is not such a big veggie person but he'll cook them if they're in the house. It was fun! And, our grocery store requires a mask so everyone was well behaved, in spite of the fact that the mask mandate was ditched by our governor nearly 3 weeks ago. 

Oh, and I got a flat tire. That happened on a different day when I planned to go to Target (I didn't make it) and was somewhat less fun but it was a pleasant day and while the spouse could not come for a rescue, he managed to find a service that came to me. While I waited, I went to a nearby restaurant where almost nobody was wearing masks and all but one of the mask wearers had them under their noses or chins. It freaked me out. I asked to get my food to go and ate in the back of my car with the hatch up. That worked well. Since it was such a gorgeous day, it was a perfect time to picnic in one's trunk. We have a little more than a week before we get our second doses of the vaccine and then two weeks after that I think I'll feel a bit more comfortable around the people who don't wear masks, although I think I'll keep using drive-through, pick-up, or curbside till the pandemic is genuinely over. Restaurants are just not for me, right now. 

Still watching the same shows, no change there: Chuck, The Mallorca Files, Downton Abbey. I often watch only a half episode of Chuck or Downton while I eat lunch and then forget about it for a couple of days. We're not binge-watchers. So, it'll probably take us a while to get through the three. I also watched part of the second Narnia movie, Prince Caspian, on Disney + but Huz walked in the room and said, "You're watching it without me???!!!" Oh. So, I stopped and said I'll be happy to start from the beginning on another night. I'm enjoying it, so far. 

©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 19, 2021

Fiona Friday - Izzy and I are reading

I love having a reading buddy. 

©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, March 18, 2021

Exit Strategy by Martha Wells (Murderbot Diaries #4)

Note: For convenience, I'm going to use "he" and "him" pronouns, although Murderbot is neither male nor female as it's a part organic and part mechanical being and therefore technically an "it". 

Murderbot is traveling again when he becomes aware that someone is in pursuit of him. And, whoever it is, they've got a well-armed and heavily weaponized security team. He'll have to use all his wits to get away from them. Then, a series of news items indicate that Murderbot's old friend, Dr. Mensah, is in trouble and it's likely Murderbot's fault for causing the devious GrayCris company problems, including exposing the cover-up of illegal activity he discovered in Book #3: Rogue Protocol

Knowing the danger, Murderbot carefully heads out to rescue Dr. Mensah. Some of the team from the original Murderbot book, whom Murderbot once saved, have gone to try to work out a deal for Dr. Mensah's release. But, there are complications. Will Murderbot be able to help them secure Dr. Mensah's release and keep the entire team safe? 

Exit Strategy is the 4th novella in the Murderbot Diaries series and it brings the story full circle yet leaves an opening for the story to continue. In fact, I read a review saying the book was originally intended to be the end of the series, although there's now a novel and another book is coming out soon (a friend who has read it says the coming release is novella length). I have the novel and the new book coming out in April, Fugitive Telemetry, is one that I pre-ordered before the end of 2020. I'm so glad I did. 

Highly recommended - Another edge-of-your-seat read. The Murderbot series needs to be read in order but they each stand alone. There are no cliffhanger endings.

I have absolutely no regrets about buying them all. None. They are so entertaining. As with all the other novellas, there's always some set-up in which Murderbot must figure out what's happening before a series of breathtaking action scenes. I loved the interaction between Mensah and Murderbot in the first book and it was very satisfying to read more of the same as they're reunited. 

I'm saving the novel for later since Murderbot books make terrific slump breakers but I confess it's been difficult staying away from the next book, this time. I really want to read on. 

©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, March 17, 2021

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

I'm a big time travel fanatic, counting Jack Finney among my favorite authors, so when I read that there was a time travel aspect to Vintage 1954 after reading The Readers' Room, also by Antoine Laurain, I knew I must read it. 

In 1978, a Frenchman who saw a UFO in 1954 and has been teased about it ever since drinks a bottle of wine, goes for a walk, and never returns. In 2017, the owner of an apartment complex in Paris, two of his tenants (including the great-grandson of the man who disappeared), and an American staying in an Airbnb in the building all share a bottle of wine and return to 1954. What does a UFO have to do with their trip through time and will they ever be able to return home?

Highly recommended - A lovely, quirky, upbeat story. I absolutely loved Vintage 1954. I'm always besotted with time travel but I particularly loved the fact that there was a unique twist with the UFO and adored the sweet friendship that grew between the four people who unexpectedly travelled through time together. 

My thanks to Gallic Books publicist Meryl Zegarek, who sent me a copy of Vintage 1954 after I mentioned that I'd added it to my wish list!!

©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, March 16, 2021

List of Ten by Halli Gomez


List of Ten by Halli Gomez is the story of a teenager named Troy Hayes. Troy, now 16, started showing symptoms of Tourette Syndrome (TS) as a child and a year later his mother, from whom he inherited the neurological disease, abandoned the family. He is also Obsessive Compulsive and has a fixation with the number ten. He's in constant pain from his physical tics, tries to be as invisible as possible, and doesn't go out much. He is just tired of his existence and wants to die. So, he's written a list of ten things he plans to do, a kind of bucket list with suicide at the end. But, then he is seated next to Khory. 

Khory has had a traumatic experience of her own and her parents are so overprotective that she can't even go to a movie. She understands being different and has no problem looking past Troy's tics to the person inside. When he offers to tutor her in math (because "Kiss a girl" is on his list), she is eager to get the math help but also clearly attracted to him. Through Khory, Troy acquires a new circle of friends. But he's still in horrible pain and frequently humiliated. Can Troy learn to live with his rebellious body or will he go through with the suicide?

Highly recommended - List of Ten is not an easy read (emotionally speaking) because it's written in First Person and you experience Troy's anguish, but I think that's also what makes this book so powerful. Being placed squarely in the point of view of someone who has this syndrome was a great learning experience. I would never have thought about the fact that the movements would be so excruciatingly painful, for example. It makes sense; I just hadn't given it any thought. 

The theme of learning to live with your challenges is always a positive one. I did find the repetition tiresome and yet when I really paid attention (repetition is necessary, since Troy is always counting to ten and making the same or similar movements), I noticed that the author did a fantastic job of not making the repetition exhausting by changing up the wording. And, reading about how painful it is to try not to make repetitive movements helps you to understand how difficult it is to live with TS. 

I had one small plot issue that I've decided might be a spoiler so I'm going to leave it out of my review. While it's not crucial, that one plot point regarding one of the characters was confusing and, I think, conflicted with what was said elsewhere in the book. But, after some thought, I came to the conclusion that it was annoying but not so important and because of both that (non-importance) and the fact that the story itself seems like a powerful and important one to me because it's not a topic I've read or even seen much about, I only took off a half point and rated the book 4.5/5. 

List of Ten is an eye-opening story and I think the more attention this book gets, the better, so that more people can learn about and start to understand the syndrome, hopefully making it a little easier for people with TS to deal with. 

Today is release day for List of TenMy 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, March 15, 2021

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

Coyote Sunrise and her father have been traveling in a converted school bus for 5 years, since the tragedy that caused her father, Rodeo, to uproot them. They have not returned home to the state of Washington, even to visit Coyote's grandmother, since they left. 

When Coyote makes her weekly call to her grandmother and finds out a park back home is about to be plowed under and turned into a stretch of road, she must figure out a way to get from Florida to Washington to recover a box buried in the park before it's too late. But, she can't let her father know the real reason they're heading west. On the way, Coyote and Rodeo pick up people in need of help and form a lovely little make-shift family. Their new friends help Coyote with her time-sensitive mission and encourage Coyote and Rodeo to face their grief so they can live life instead of running away from it. 

Highly recommended - I loved this quirky, middle grade road trip book about grief and family and life. There's a lot of sadness in the story because Coyote and Rodeo have good reason to have been grieving and everyone they pick up along the way has his or her own troubles, but in the end there's change for the better and a wonderful ray of hope for everyone on the bus, in addition to new friendships that are absolutely heartwarming. 

After a mostly bad month (in February), The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart was the book that finally broke my slump and made me feel like reading again. I will be watching for more by this author. 

©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 12, 2021

Fiona Friday

This is a terrible photo and the free photo editing site I usually use (where I would have tried to brighten up her face) seems to have dropped all of its decent features, so I give you A Really Bad Photo that looks like I just told Fiona a good joke, followed by a filter from a new site I found that makes Fiona look utterly terrifying but in a cartoonish way. Well, I had some fun wasting time, this morning, didn't I? 

Happy Weekend to all!

©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, March 11, 2021

The Widow of Pale Harbor by Hester Fox

1846. Sophronia Carver was widowed 4 years ago. The townfolk of Pale Harbor think she's a witch and a murderer so she's exiled herself with only two servants and a part-time helper in her sprawling Maine home, Castle Carver. When bodies begin turning up, Sophy is blamed. But someone is dropping strange clues and threats on her doorstep, clues that only a person who knows literature can unravel. 

Gabriel Stone's wife was deep into transcendentalism before her death and Gabriel feels obligated to become the man she wanted him to be. So he has taken a job as a minister in Pale Harbor, even though he knows little about the philosophy and is ill prepared to guide others. 

When Sophronia and Gabriel meet, she is hesitant to let her guard down after an abusive marriage but he is smitten. When the small town has more than its share of bodies showing up and the threats against Sophy continue, will Gabriel be able to help figure out who is tormenting Sophy and killing the locals?

Meh - I don't know . . . I probably don't recommend this but I finished it so I'd say it depends on whether or not you like romance. After reading The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox, I was hoping for another good Gothic read but The Widow of Pale Harbor was really a romance, first and foremost, and the mystery was a bit weak so it was slightly disappointing. I guessed who was guilty early on and the witch thing was a bit of a tease. Still, I liked The Witch of Willow Hall so much that I'll give the author another chance. 

A friend sent me this copy of The Widow of Pale Harbor and we discussed it after I finished. We felt about the same. Her opinion: "The cover was the best thing about the book." I do love that cover. 

©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, March 10, 2021

Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead

Yikes, I'm falling behind! I'll make this a quickie review because it's not obligatory and I'm not sure I have much to say about it. 

I chose to read Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead for Black History Month. In Apex Hides the Hurt, a man who till recently worked naming products (a "nomenclature consultant") has been asked to do a job for his old employer. 

The town of Winthrop needs a new name. Winthrop is named after the wealthy family that took over the formerly all-black town and turned it into a manufacturing town where barbed wire was made. The remaining family member wants to leave the name alone. A man who made his millions in software wants to change it to New Prospera. And, the mayor wants to return to the original name of the town, Freedom, as it was founded by black settlers from whom she directly descends. Names, the hero thinks, are very important. His entire career has been centered around names.

The main character spends some time in Winthrop, getting to know the place and digging into its history with the help of a local librarian; and, he discovers that there is a hidden story in the original naming of the town. Meanwhile, you get to know the hero's history and why he no longer works, why he is so disillusioned with life, which has to do with a toe and a bandage. The narrator gradually explains how the bandage got its name and promotional tagline and why the bandage led to the problem with the toe. Which is pretty hysterical and also a very sly nudge to the way people observe skin color.

Recommended - Apex Hides the Hurt is satire and I am not a big fan of satire so I didn't fall madly in love with the book but it is immensely clever, almost too deliberately clever at times. The vocabulary of the author! I should have pulled out a notebook to record new words, to be honest. Apex Hides the Hurt very quietly explores racism through the town's history and the hero's experience. It's subtle in its exploration of racism and it was definitely a good choice for Black History Month. 

When I closed the book, I didn't like the ending but then I gave it some thought and decided I was wrong to dislike it. It was the right way to end the story because it was about putting the truth out there for all to see. 

One of the greatest ironies of the book is that it's all about the importance of names and yet the hero and narrator remains unnamed throughout the book. Actually, the more I think about Apex Hides the Hurt, the more I realize that I didn't love the execution (not being a fan of satire) but I liked what I learned from it enough to enjoy it more on reflection than I did during the reading. 

Apex Hides the Hurt is my first read by Colson Whitehead but I have a copy of The Underground Railroad and I'm looking forward to reading 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, 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.