Friday, July 30, 2021

Fiona Friday - Where's the complaint department?

I would like to submit a complaint. My human put me in a space capsule and took me to the bad place. I object. 

©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, July 28, 2021

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman

In The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman, the author explores a difficult relationship between two sisters and the challenges of being a woman. It's really a sister book, in my humble opinion, not a WWII book, although the Armory in Springfield, Massachusetts makes an interesting historical setting and its role in WWII appears to have been important. 

I'm not usually a fan of sister books because they tend to be gushy friendship stories. The Wartime Sisters is different and I like that because I prefer the conflict. Ruth and Millie are opposites in many ways. Ruth, the elder of the two, is envious of her pretty younger sister. She's very intelligent, good with numbers, but plain and narrow. Millie has curly red hair and is gorgeous and curvy but not the sharpest knife in the drawer. From an early age, their mother shows a clear preference for Millie, expecting her to marry well and making it far too clear to Ruth that her mother has neither a particular interest in her nor any great expectations for marriage. Being snubbed by one's own mother has harsh effects; Ruth becomes bitter and resentful.

Millie doesn't understand her sister's antipathy. She's blind to the fact that male attention is immediately shifted from Ruth to Millie when she's around and doesn't encourage men to act the way they do. She even tries to talk up her sister when marriageable men are around. 

Eventually, both sisters marry and WWII arrives. Ruth is living at the Armory in Springfield when her sister says her husband has enlisted, gone missing, and then writes that "he's gone". Feeling guilty over something she did after their parents' accident, a few years back, Ruth invites Millie and her son to move in with her family. But, the old resentment is still there and they skirt around each other. Will Ruth and Millie ever learn to get along? Will Millie be able to pull herself out of poverty and make a life for herself and her son, Michael? What secrets are the sisters keeping from each other?

Recommended - While I picked up The Wartime Sisters because of the word "wartime" in the title, not the "sisters" aspect, I really enjoyed The Wartime Sisters for the fact that it felt more realistic to me than most sister books and I didn't mind the fact that the war is merely a backdrop, apart from the details of the Armory. I also liked the fact that the family is Jewish so you got a little bit of the father speaking what I assume is Yiddish, the holidays and food that are important and Judaism. I loved that peek into the Jewish culture. 

©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, July 27, 2021

Waiting . . .

No review today because we're just sitting here, waiting for the new sofa to arrive. This little gal will go flying under a bed when the delivery guys knock. 

This seems like a good opportunity to show off a full view of the "good shelves". Unfortunately, the phone camera is all I've got, right now, so you can't see the books all that well. But, aren't the shelves pretty?

Izzy's a great meowdel. She also let me take her picture with my most recently finished read (as of last night). 

Happy Tuesday! Hopefully, I'll have a review finished and posted early tomorrow. 

©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, July 26, 2021

Regretting You by Colleen Hoover

I've been seeing a lot of [mostly gushy] reviews of Colleen Hoover's books since I joined Instagram, a couple years ago. So many of my IG friends swear by her!  So I had to give one of her books a try. 

There are two interconnected storylines in Regretting You, the connection being family. 34-year-old Morgan married the wrong guy but she's happily married and close to her 17-year-old daughter Clara, the center of her universe, although she's starting to think it's time to go back and finish her education. The man she felt more in tune with as a teenager but didn't end up ever even dating is back in her life, father to her sister's baby boy and planning to marry the mother of his child. Morgan doesn't want to live a life of regrets so she's trying very hard to tolerate this complication. 

Clara is a sweet teenager and a good student with a devoted best friend but there's one boy who acts like he'll be poisoned if he gets too near her. When she stops her car to ask him if he wants a ride on a very hot day and he asks her to help move something, she discovers that he's actually a pretty nice guy. But, why has he been avoiding her at school if he's so friendly when they're alone?

When tragedy strikes and a betrayal comes to light, Morgan and Clara find themselves at odds and turning to the men who are willing to be there for them. 

Highly recommended - I love the "married the wrong guy" trope because it's always so fascinating. How can the couple who belong together get along while fighting back feelings? Is there a way they can end up together without everyone getting hurt in the process? Well, in this case, the complications are a little different than just learning to get along as friends. But, I think if I share any part of the tragedy/betrayal plot points it'll ruin the book for anyone who is interested, so I won't. 

What I will say is that Regretting You is believably emotional and I particularly liked the way Clara's feelings were portrayed as her life is pretty much spinning out of control. My only problem with the book was that the men were too perfect and, in fact, a bit too similar. And, the grief was hard. I've had a loss like Clara's when I was fairly young and it brought back the memories so it was a teary read for me. 

I have a copy of Verity on my reader so that will be the next Colleen Hoover book I read. I'm glad my Instagram friends brought this author to my attention!

©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, July 23, 2021

Fiona Friday - In the bubble

Fi and I went on a bit of an unfortunate adventure, yesterday. We still go to the same vet we went to before moving, now 30 miles away. Till yesterday, we've never had a problem. But there was apparently an accident on the highway and we only made it 2/3 of the way. It wasn't clearing up and I got tired of edging forward at 2 mph so we got off the highway at the first available exit and returned home. 

I will say this . . . when she doesn't have to actually go into the vet's office, Fiona doesn't mind the ride! She was very chipper when we got home. She complained for a few miles but then made herself at home in her little carrier. I guess we'll try again next week.  

©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, July 22, 2021

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

When I heard Where the Crawdads Sing was our July selection for F2F group, I actually said, "Ugh," aloud. I did not want to read this book. The sheer volume of hype had turned me off and the few reviews I read didn't make it sound appealing to me. I strongly considered skipping this book group selection. After all, I'm on a book-buying ban and planned only to buy those I'm most interested in for book group. 

What changed my mind? I looked up the book and it was reasonably priced. At that moment, I didn't want to go hunt down a copy at the library so I just hit the button and voilá, it appeared in my mailbox. I miss having bookstores nearby but can't deny that modern book ordering can be kinda cool. I read it immediately (in June) because I had been planning to read Gone With the Wind in July since the beginning of the year. 

At first, I was sure my "Ugh," was going to be accurate. I spent the first 60 pages hating the book because I was so angry at every character who abandoned the main character, Kya, aka the Marsh Girl. And, as I mentioned in yesterday's review of Gone With the Wind (and many others), I'm not a fan of dialogue written in vernacular unless its use is very limited. At one point, I mentioned the fact that I just wasn't sure I was going to be able to finish. Thank goodness a friend on Instagram informed me that it improves. 

I'm not sure when I got to the point that I couldn't bear to put Where the Crawdads Sing down but I was up a tad late on the night I finished and totally gripped. I was angry, skeptical, teary, happy briefly, then teary again. What an emotional ride. 

Recommended - While there were things I disliked about Where the Crawdads Sing and things that I found implausible (to the point that I was visualizing the author sitting with pen and paper, plotting), I loved the naturalist aspect of the book and eventually the book became impossible to put down. I had to know what was going to happen to Kya, especially whether or not she would ever end up with the love of her life. The murder mystery was not nearly as interesting to me and I'm not actually sure how I feel about the ending. 

Unfortunately, I did not feel up to driving the 30 miles to book group so I can't speak to what others in my F2F group thought, darn it. I was really looking forward to this meeting because I think there's lots to talk about in Where the Crawdads Sing. So, I'd recommend it as a discussion book, even not knowing how the discussion went. 

©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, July 21, 2021

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

What is there to say about Gone With the Wind that hasn't already been said? I've been thinking about this a lot. Since it took me a full two weeks to read, my posts about it at Instagram were just updates about where I was in the story and that seems like a good place to start. 

Here are the updates I wrote throughout the reading of Gone With the Wind:

  • 5 days into my reading, the Yankees are coming, Prissy don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies, and Scarlett is frankly pissed that Melanie survived childbirth. 
  • As God is her witness, Scarlett will never be hungry again, or so she says. Not sure if that's really working out for her. I'm so involved that last night I found myself thinking, "Damn Yankees!" I was angry with them for stealing food and valuables, shredding the furniture, and causing everyone but Scarlett, her son, and Melanie's baby to hightail it to the swamp with whatever they could carry. Also, Melanie is tough under that sweet exterior.
  • I passed the halfway point in Gone With the Wind two days ago but yesterday I was so glum I didn't feel like reading at all. I declared that it was Intermission and went to bed early. Back to reading, tonight. Scarlett is wearing her mama's green velvet curtains and I keep thinking of Carol Burnett's hilarious skit in a dress made of curtains with the curtain rod still in them. 
  • Getting there, slowly but surely. There's a lot more that's not in the movie, the farther you get into the novel. I'm enjoying the newness and depth of these added details but I'm also starting to get fidgety, wanting to finish. The funniest/weirdest thing about my Gone With the Wind experience? While I'm reading, the movie theme song is almost always playing in my head. Strange but true. 
  • Rhett and Scarlett are not getting along. Rhett thinks Scarlett has abominable taste in home decorations and Scarlett doesn't care because it's so fun to have money and flaunt it. I hope to finish by tomorrow but might go to bed early and ruin my plan. 
  • FINISHED!! I hope to rewatch the movie soon. I read somewhere that what's most amazing about Gone With the Wind is the fact that Margaret Mitchell managed to make people care about such an unlikable heroine. Scarlett is cunning and courageous, though, in addition to her negative qualities. And Rhett, Melly, Ashley . . . so many fascinating characters. I will remember this book fondly forever. 

Highly recommended: a new favorite - Reading this saga was not just fun, it was an experience. I gave Gone With the Wind five stars. Captivating, informative about the way Southerners thought and behaved and the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction, absolutely addictive reading. 

I can see why Gone With the Wind is considered problematic, now, and why it's also The Great American Novel. Like most other novels with vernacular dialogue, I sometimes became frustrated because those bits were so difficult to read. But, It was simply one of the most engrossing reads of my life so I can't take off even a fraction of a point. 

It took me two days but I did manage to watch the entire movie version of Gone With the Wind across Saturday and Sunday evenings. It's been ages since I've seen it and it was a different experience viewing the film after reading the book. Instead of just sitting back and enjoying it, I was analyzing the differences between book and movie, like the fact that Scarlett's first two children don't exist at all in the movie. 

Obviously, a lot of material had to be cut out of the book to make even a 3-hour film but I was surprised at how faithful the movie is to the book. Instead of cutting out too many important scenes, what David O. Selznick did was boil down many of the plot points to a single scene. So, instead of having Scarlett's long drive to Tara past burned-out mansions, as in the book, the movie shows a single ruined mansion, Twelve Oaks. This nicely ties back to the barbecue at Twelve Oaks where Scarlett surrounded herself with her beaux to try to make Ashley jealous enough to ditch Melanie. Spoiler: It didn't work. 

I like the way the movie ends on a high note, with Scarlett determined to win Rhett back. Even as a child, I was fine with that ending because I remember just believing Scarlett would succeed. I went ahead and got them back together mentally and I was satisfied. 

Back to the book:  I keep using the word "experience" to describe the reading of Gone With the Wind because it truly was. There's so much to the book. Scarlett is both heroic and hideously selfish. Rhett is a rogue but he also has a heart and adores children. Melanie is weakened by childbirth permanently but she's tough as nails when strength of spirit is required. Ashley is so much nerdier than I realized and a terrible businessman. The war is described with some detail but made palatable by the fact that it's told through the eyes of the people of Atlanta as they become aware of what's happening or through Scarlett's eyes as she ends up nursing soldiers against her will. Seriously, what an amazing read. 

Have you read Gone With the Wind? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

©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, July 20, 2021

They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell

They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell is a fictional pandemic tale that takes place in 1918. I know not everyone can tolerate reading a pandemic novel during a pandemic but I routinely read about emerging diseases and wasn't horribly surprised by COVID-19, so I've had no problem reading both fiction and nonfiction about pandemics throughout the last year-and-a-half. 

In They Came Like Swallows, you view the changes in daily life, the annoyances, the rising fear, and tragic personal loss caused by the spread of Spanish Flu through the eyes of the two Morison children and one of their parents.

Stylistically, They Came Like Swallows reads a lot like a Persephone book. It was published in 1937, so that should come as no surprise. Both the writing and the storyline did surprise me in many ways, though. 

Viewing a pandemic through the eyes of a young child who overhears snippets of conversations, an older child who is frustrated by school closure and the inability to play with friends, a grieving adult, and others around them made for an unusual and well-rounded view of pandemic life through the lens of a single family. 

Highly recommended - There are so many parallels to what we've gone through, recently. There's even a man who complains about church closures. It was an eye-opening lesson in how things don't change. Heartbreaking but an exceptional read and there is, fortunately, a glimmer of hope at the end. 

©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, July 19, 2021

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • When We Were Young by Richard Roper - from G. P. Putnam's Sons for review
  • The Merchant and the Rogue by Sarah M. Eden - from Shadow Mountain for tour

When We Were Young by Richard Roper was, I think, the second book I've requested from Shelf Awareness in 2021, although after that request I promptly forgot what I signed up for, since there's no guarantee you'll receive a book you request. I was excited when I saw Richard Roper's name. How Not to Die Alone was a favorite in 2019. 

The Merchant and the Rogue is the third in the "Dread Penny Society" series. I have not read the first book but I loved The Gentleman and the Thief so much that it was actually the offer to tour The Merchant and the Rogue (combined with the usual itch to write) that convinced me it was time to return from my blogging break. 

If you look closely you'll see that When We Were Young is slightly crushed. We have a new mail carrier and damn, she is lazy. The previous mail carrier would walk to the porch and put parcels in a place where they couldn't be easily seen from the street (or I'd meet him at the mailbox if I saw that he was reaching for a parcel, since I can see the street from my desk). The new gal will actually get out of her truck to get some leverage and force parcels into the mailbox, whether they fit or not. Frustrating. The book is not the first thing she's damaged.

Books finished since Tuesday Twaddle:

  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

It took me two weeks (including a couple days off when I was too tired or grumpy to read) but wow, I am so happy to have finally read Gone With the Wind. I will try to fit in a review, this week. 

Currently reading:

  • Regretting You by Colleen Hoover

I have bookmarks in at least 2 or 3 other books but I'm just focusing on the one book, right now. 

Posts since Tuesday Twaddle:

Kinda shows what a break is good for. I've managed to post every day since my return. I'm 3 books away from catching up on book reviews but hopefully I'll keep finishing books at a decent pace. I refuse to think of this as a bad reading year. It's off, for sure, but I've read a lot of terrific books and I'm quite content now that I'm used to my current slower pace (although I hope I will eventually return to my normal reading pace). 

In other news:

I didn't think I'd be able to watch Gone With the Wind — which we still own on DVD, thanks to the fact that I'm a packrat — this weekend but Huzzybuns and I were both feeling sluggish, yesterday, so he napped while I watched the first half of the movie and then I fixed some popcorn and did a couple chores before starting the second half. I'm not finished; the movie is 3 hours long, after all. But, Scarlett just gave birth to Bonnie Blue and Rhett is beside himself with joy so I'd say there's no more than a quarter left. 

The only other thing we've watched is Loki and I haven't gotten around to viewing the finale, yet, because Wednesday has been "Loki Night" and Huz was away on business till Friday. I'm typing this early on Sunday because we've been having daily storms and yet another one is potentially headed our way, so maybe I'll have viewed it by the time this posts. Ah, cue the thunder, right as I'm writing about the next storm. 

It has been oppressively humid because of all the rain and our pot gardens are already tapped out, this year, mostly a failure — especially by comparison with last year, since 2020 had the advantage of being surprisingly pleasant for our area and there were two of us at home to weed and pluck and water. I know it sounds strange but we got a lot of enjoyment out of Huz being stuck at home for the pandemic. 

Speaking of which, we're back to masking up in spite of being fully vaccinated as our state is only 33% fully-vaxxed and this week's daily average number of new cases was literally double that of two weeks ago. I had a doctor's appointment at which my doc said they've had cases of Delta breaking through the vaccine but those who are fully vaccinated don't get as sick as those who are unvaccinated, so that's nice to know. 

Oh, and I almost forgot . . . I did give in and place a Book Closeouts order after seeing the third book in the Klawde series was available (my reviews of Klawde, Books 1 and 2, here) and it ended up being a big one because I figured if I'm only going to place a single order the entire year, it ought to be good. I'll share those books when they arrive, of course. There's a good bit of variety. There are 6 Klawde books in the series, now, and I loved the first two so much that I will try to eventually acquire them all. 

Hope everyone is having a happy summer!

©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, July 16, 2021

Fiona Friday - Twofers

I've already posted the photo of Fiona in a basket to Instagram so you get two photos for the price of one, today. First the basket photo:

And, my Ma Bell cat, Izzy, trying to "Reach out and touch someone." You have to be of a certain age to get that, I suppose. 

©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, July 15, 2021

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

This review could have gone in the mini reviews as I have even less to say about it than the ones I posted about, yesterday, amazingly. Not that that's a bad thing. 

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han is the story of a 16-year-old, Lara Jean Song Covey, who has written letters to the boys she "loved" (I would use the words "had a crush on") in order to help her let go of them. She has kept the letters in a hatbox given to her by her late mother but when the letters are mysteriously mailed to all of the boys to whom they're written, she is humiliated. 

The story is also a romance but there are two boys competing for her attention so To All the Boys I've Loved Before contains a bit of the dreaded love triangle trope. But, it's such an upbeat read with lots of little surprises that I found it almost impossible to put down. I loved the relationships between her family members in particular, for better or worse. 

Highly recommended - If you love a fun, fluffy YA, this is the book for you. I particularly liked it because Lara Jean was innocent and naive in a way that I was at the same age. So, naturally, I found her likable. 🤪

I haven't seen the film and don't own any more of the books in the series so I won't be able to read on, for now. If you've seen the movie, please let me know what you thought of 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.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Mini reviews: Summer by Edith Wharton, Remo: The Adventure Begins by Murphy and Sapir, and The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

I don't have a lot to say about any of these, so they get the mini treatment. 

I read Summer by Edith Wharton after Brittanie mentioned it in our online book group and I just happened to spot my copy as I was walking from one room to the next. Thanks, Brittanie!

Summer is kind of difficult to describe but it's about a girl named Charity who works in the library of her small town, lives with a man who took her away from the mountain people out of kindness, and yearns for a more exciting life. 

Brittanie mentioned that the book was considered scandalous at the time it was published but, of course, the mentions of women of ill repute and a neighbor who was forced to go to the Big City for an abortion are only referred to in a vague way. They're obvious and yet obscured by the writing style of the time period. 

Charity, herself, ends up getting into trouble and throughout the book you feel like shaking her. She's aware of the scandal of her friend's sister's pregnancy but naive enough to put her trust in the wrong man. 

I enjoyed Summer but felt like the ending was completely implausible. Still, I'd recommend it. Wharton's writing is stunning. I need to dig through my shelves and see if I can find the other book I know I have by her, The Glimpses of the Moon. I'm not sure if I have any other Whartons but I'll be keeping an eye out. 

Remo: The Adventure Begins by Murphy and Sapir is a companion novel to the 80s movie and I chose to read it after reading Hamnet. Because Hamnet was both melancholy and character-centric, I was in the mood for something plot-driven, pulp-fictiony, even a little stupid. 

Well, I got the stupid part. It actually takes a lot longer to get to the action scenes than I expected. The movie is better, although it's actually pretty bad, too, all "government out to get us so a shadowy organization must be created to kill dangerous people." The authors were imaginative but what they conjured up is ridiculous. 

As to Remo, he's a decent character and I particularly liked the strength of Major Fleming, who was played by Kate Mulgrew in the movie. I just wish the authors had managed to fit in more action. The movie does a good job of portraying the training of Remo Williams and his relationship to his Korean teacher. But, the book portrayal is actually a bit offensive. In hindsight, I doubt I'd have liked the movie as much if I knew early on that the role of the Korean teacher was played by a white guy. 

At any rate, unless you really are in the mood for something terrible, I do not recommend Remo: The Adventure Begins. Save yourself. Read something else. Anything. 

The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante is a stand-alone novel by the author of the Neapolitan series (which I have not yet read). 

When the main character's husband abruptly announces that he's leaving her and walks out the door, she descends into madness and experiences the stages of grief before a tremendous climax leads to acceptance of her new life as a single parent. 

What a crazy novel. I gave it 3.5 stars for excellent craftsmanship and was particularly impressed with the way she built to the climax. I especially liked the scene in which her son is ill and so is the dog and it falls to her young daughter to try to bring down the fever of her big brother because Mom can't cope. I'm going to write a sentence about that favorite scene and the climax for posterity but make the text white so it won't be visible and ruin it for anyone (but you can highlight it if you'd like).

When the dog is poisoned, her son becomes violently ill, and the main character can neither get out of the apartment because of a difficult lock or call out for help because both her cellphone and home phone are non-functional, she finds her daughter putting wet pennies on her son's forehead to cool his fever. 

The biggest problem I had with The Days of Abandonment was that it was just too vulgar for my taste and I had trouble liking the heroine, even when she began to finally started to cope with life as a single mother, so I'm iffy on recommendation. And, yet, you can't help but notice the author's skill and it certainly made me look forward to the Neapolitan series even more. So I don't regret reading it (but it's going into the donation box). 

©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, July 13, 2021

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell is about the death of Shakespeare's only son, mostly told through the eyes of his wife Agnes (a form of Anne) and the child. But, it's not just about Hamnet. The story alternates between Hamnet's final day and how Agnes and William Shakespeare met, fell in love, and married and theorizes about how Hamnet's death may have influenced Shakespeare's writing of Hamlet

In Hamnet, Maggie O'Farrell has imagined an Agnes with a finely-tuned sixth sense and a skill for healing with herbs. Shakespeare himself has a lesser role. He is the love interest, the abused child, the unhappy young man, the absentee father. He has a desk where he writes feverishly when he can, but he's stuck working a job in which he's not suited, for a good portion of the book. When he finally is able to do what he chooses, he's mostly out of the picture. 

I love Maggie O'Farrell's writing. Hamnet is melancholy of tone and the child's death is heartbreaking but the story is skillfully crafted and ends, fortunately, on an uplifting note. 

I bought my copy of Hamnet because it was my F2F book group's June selection but it just happened to be the one book I most regretted not ordering before the end of the year and the beginning of my book-buying ban. So I was pleased to have an excuse to buy it! Unfortunately, the book group discussion was not great. Nobody seemed to understand what the author was trying to portray and I don't think anyone else had read O'Farrell before. There is an author's note, at least in the copy I have, so I was surprised that the other group members didn't understand that it's fiction based on the real-life characters but with some alterations from the commonly-known or assumed story, based on her research, along with the magical touch of her own imagination. 

Highly recommended - A story of family dynamics, unique personalities, finding love, discovering your passion, and how very difficult it is to break through grief. While Hamnet is a work of fiction, I suspect it is very well researched. O'Farrell makes you feel, smell, and hear the time in which the book takes place. Marvelously done. 

Hamnet was my third read by O'Farrell and I'm so impressed with her that I've started an O'Farrell section on my shelves, although I don't know what I did with the first book, Instructions for a Heatwave. I may have passed that one on. I enjoyed it but it didn't blow me away like the last two O'Farrells I've read, the other being I Am, I Am, I Am. Click on the titles if you're interested in reading the other reviews. 

©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, July 12, 2021

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir is, like The Martian, another "guy all alone in outer space" story. But, in this case he's a junior high science teacher who has a humorous inability to swear because he's used to substituting words like "fudge" for the worse option. Also, he's the only man who can save Earth. If he fails, oh well. Earth was nice while it lasted. 

As the book opens the hero, Dr. Ryland Grace, is waking up inside a space ship. He has no idea where he is, how he got there, or what he's supposed to do. Throughout the book, his memory gradually returns and the reader goes back and forth between what's happening in the space ship and what led to the crisis that caused Dr. Grace — who was a consultant, not an astronaut — to end up on this mission. 

There is an alien encounter in Project Hail Mary and it is absolutely delightful. You will fall in love with the alien and maybe cry a bit at the ending. Both the type of book ("guy stuck alone in space figuring out how to fix things") and the entertainment value are more along the lines of The Martian than Artemis, the latter of which I know people found disappointing (myself included, but I liked it more than most). 

As in The Martian, there is a ton of math and science to wade through. This time, though, there are no potatoes. Just thought you'd like to know that. If you enjoyed The Martian, you'll love Project Hail Mary

Highly recommended - Loved it, laughed out loud many times, didn't even come close to following all the math and science but (again, as in my last review) I was able to read between the lines enough to get the gist of most of it. I gave Project Hail Mary a full five stars because I was immensely entertained. I'm hoping this Weir book will be turned into a mini series. I think there's a bit too much that happens to cut it down to movie length.

©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, July 09, 2021

Fiona Friday - Boxed

Click on image to enlarge. 

©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, July 08, 2021

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang is a collection of short stories that I purchased after hearing that the movie Arrival was based upon "Story of Your Life" by Chiang. I read the book as part of my goal to read a short story per day. 

There are some wonderful stories in Stories of Your Life and Others but what jumped out at me the most was both the intelligent writing and uniqueness. Ted Chiang is so far above me. But, while I'm not brilliant at math and science — both of which feature heavily in his stories — I'm able to read between the lines. And, if you can read between the lines, this collection is fabulous. 

As expected, "Story of Your Life" was my favorite. I love the movie Arrival and found that the movie stuck pretty closely to the short story. There were some changes, of course, but they weren't so drastic that it would be impossible to float freely between the two without getting ticked about what Hollywood did to ruin the story. They didn't ruin it, although they made a significant change to the story of the main character's daughter and I do prefer the written version to the screenplay in that regard.

There was only one story in this collection that I disliked as I was reading it. But, I ended up appreciating it for the way the hero outsmarted the character who had dire motives. 

Highly recommended - If you're a short story fan and you like unusual, sharply written and even somewhat difficult sci-fi storylines, this is definitely the book for you. I found some of the stories very challenging to read but absolutely worth the effort. 

©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, July 07, 2021

The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue

I think the best way to describe this book is to go back to my old format (of about a dozen years ago) and talk about what I liked and disliked. 

The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue is set at a Catholic boarding school on the edge of the ocean in England. Louisa has just arrived at the school as the book opens. As a scholarship recipient, she's quickly made an outcast. Most of the girls are wealthy and frown on the addition of scholarship students. But, Victoria is an outcast, herself, (for different reasons) and welcoming, if a bit strange. Victoria and Louisa become fast friends. 

25 years later, a journalist is tasked with finding out what happened to Louisa after she and a young, handsome art teacher (upon whom pretty much everyone had a crush) vanished. 

What I liked: 

I liked the gothic feel of this Young Adult novel. It's sinister and tense, set in an older building with the fog from the nearby ocean adding atmosphere. I also liked the fact that the author successfully kept me guessing till the end of the novel. 

What I disliked:

I wasn't sure of the right word to describe how I felt about The Temple House Vanishing till I read a couple of reviews and found it in someone else's description. So, with apologies for plagiarizing a single word, it's tedious. It dragged and was far too character-centric for my taste. Also, there was a lot of talk about the cleverness of the girls and their use of irony without such cleverness/irony showing up in their dialogue. Show don't tell, ya know. 

Iffy on recommendation - If you like a character-driven gothic novel, you might love this and if you do buy it or check it out, it would make an excellent fall read. The atmospheric writing is on point for spooky season. I think if the book had been more plot-focused and less detailed about every thought and motion of the main characters I would have been more entertained. But I give the author credit for not giving away the ending and making so many alternatives possible that I couldn't help but keep reading. It's notable that slower-paced, character-driven novels are generally not my favorite. 

TW: Suicide at the beginning of the story (not a spoiler), which is told by Louisa and the Journalist in alternating sections. 

This was the last ARC I read before my break and I still have a few remaining so if you're a publisher, hang in there. I'll get to your book. 

My thanks to Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill 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.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Tuesday Twaddle after a lengthy absence

Recent arrivals:

  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • Night Came with Many Stars by Simon Van Booy 

It's been about 6 weeks since I did a Malarkey post (and then I took a lengthy break, after a few more days). Since then, I've only acquired two books. Where the Crawdads Sing is my F2F book group's July selection. Night Came with Many Stars is my signed, finished copy of Simon's book. 

I did accidentally buy one book and I'm not even kidding, but I've forgiven myself because I got it for crafting purposes, not for reading. <shrugs> I just totally forgot I was on a book-buying ban, the night I ordered it. That makes a grand total of 4 books purchased in 2021: 2 for F2F discussion, 1 by a friend, 1 booboo purchase. I granted myself a Book Closeouts purchase to my exceptions as a mid-year break from the buying ban but I haven't had any interest in buying more books so I'll leave that for a time when I feel like I need an upper. Or, maybe it just won't happen. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Temple House Vanishing - Rachel Donohue
  • Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted Chiang
  • Project Hail Mary - Andy Weir
  • Hamnet - Maggie O'Farrell
  • Remo: The Adventure Begins - Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir
  • Summer - Edith Wharton
  • The Days of Abandonment - Elena Ferrante
  • To All the Boys I've Loved Before - Jenny Han
  • Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens
  • They Came Like Swallows - William Maxwell

Of all of the books I've read in the past month-and-a-half, only one was an ARC and I have to say . . . it's rather freeing finally reading almost exclusively off my shelves. I still have a couple leftover ARCs that I need to read and I've accepted one for tour but unless I get offered some children's books, there still won't be much coming in. I'm used to it, now. It was difficult, at first. I missed that "Every week feels like Christmas" sensation of regular book drops on the doorstep but most of what I've been offered has been on NetGalley and I just don't love e-books so I delete all offers that are only for e-books without much thought. 

Also, I've finally come to the conclusion that the only way I'm going to ever get NetGalley to work is if I ask someone to totally delete my account and let me open a new one because something has been hinky for years. I think I finally figured out the deal but I just don't like e-books enough to bother trying to get the problem fixed. 

Currently reading:

  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

My plan (since January) has been to dedicate July to Gone With the Wind and I'm on it. But, it's definitely going to take a good chunk of the month (although probably not the entire month). I've got three other books with bookmarks in them but I haven't touched a single one of them since I opened Gone With the Wind. I'm just enjoying the story too much to divert my attention away from it, when I have the time to read. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

Why'd you go away, Bookfool? Well, I guess I had a case of burnout. I just felt like I was done with blogging, at least for a while, and stopped. As I've said before, I have to write. It's just something that's in my blood and has been since childhood. So, I decided that I would not announce an official departure in case I wanted to come back. And, here I am. Can't go long without writing but for once I absolutely needed to stop writing (at least about books) for a short time. 

I am still watching Chuck, now on Season 4, Episode 22. Otherwise, we've just watched a few random episodes of this or that when we're bored but very little else. We spent our holiday weekend cleaning, going through boxes, setting aside things to donate, and rearranging things. Family was at the beach so it was just the two of us, again. That was fine because we had big plans for getting our messy closet tidied and we got a lot done and 4 bags of donations out the door. Success! Also, we had some nice grilled food on the 4th so it was all good. 

I will start hitting the backlog of reviews, this week, but some may be super short. It just depends on how I feel about them. Hope everyone is doing well and my American friends had a great weekend!

©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.