Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Merry Christmas to all!

Taking a little time off the Internet. Wishing everyone the happiest of holidays and a bright, new year in which all of your wishes come true 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.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

I love Jenny Colgan's writing, so I jumped at the chance to read The Christmas Bookshop during the holiday season. And, I was every bit as charmed and heart-warmed as I expected. 

Carmen has been working at a department store for years but it's been slowly going downhill. When it closes permanently, she's at loose ends and has no choice but to return to her parents' home. Her sister Sofia lives in a perfect house in Edinburgh with a perfect husband and they have lucrative jobs, both lawyers. Sofia is expecting her fourth child and when their mother asks Sofia if she can possibly find a job for Carmen, Sofia realizes that Carmen might be the person who can help a small bookstore owner, Mr. McCredie, at least get his business in enough shape to sell it as a going concern instead of an empty storefront. Mr. McCredie is more of a bibliophile hermit than a businessman and has frittered away his entire inheritance. He's about to lose everything. 

Carmen is not interested in living with her accomplished sister in her fancy house but a bookshop sounds like a decent place to earn a little money. What she finds is a disaster. The bookshop is dusty with mostly antiquarian books, no organization, and no hint at Christmas decor. Carmen's a little overwhelmed, at first, but then she gets to work cleaning, organizing, decorating and creating events to draw people in. While doing so, she meets two men who appeal to her. One is a famous author with perfect teeth and lots of money. The other studies and lectures about trees. 

Can Carmen draw in enough traffic and sell enough books to help Mr. McCredie's shop keep going? Or, will Christmas be the end of her job and the bookshop, entirely. And, what about those two guys? Will she let the wealthy man who writes inspirational books sweep her away? Or, will she find herself with a sudden interest in trees and man buns? 

Highly recommended - A lovely tale of friendship and love in snowy Edinburgh at Christmas, worth buying to save for next year if you're a Christmas book fan or downloading right now if you need a little upper. There's a lot of tension between sisters Sofia and Carmen so this book fit the "sisters who learn to get along" theme that I love (because I have a sister with whom I have little in common) but there's so much else I loved about this book. I loved taking an armchair visit to Edinburgh. Because she mentioned a lot of sights, I had fun looking things up on my phone. I loved visualizing the quirky little shop and seeing in my mind's eye what Carmen did to make it lovely and grab the interest of people passing by. I loved how Carmen interacted with her nieces and nephew, encouraging the one who was most like her, who was experiencing similar frustrations as a sister and student. And, I really want to see the giant tree that drew Oke, the dendrologist, to study in Edinburgh. I'm pretty sure I've read about that same tree elsewhere (it's about 2,000 years old) and I enjoyed reading about it again. I also adored the relationship between Carmen and Mr. McCredie, a wounded soul whose emotional and work life Carmen improved. 

In fact, I loved the world she built in Edinburgh so much that I really didn't want to leave it. But, The Christmas Bookshop has a perfect, lovely, satisfying ending so I closed it with a smile on my face and I may have shed a few tears. 

Many thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy! I will hang onto this one for a reread. I'm not big on reading seasonal books otherwise, but Christmas is a big YES. 

©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, December 20, 2021

Monday Malarkey - Merry Christmas edition

There were no book arrivals at all, this past two weeks, so you get a Festive Fiona Christmas pic to admire instead of a book photo. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
  • A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
  • The Cat Who Saved Books by Sōsuke Natsukawa
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
  • Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron
  • The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

I read four old favorite Christmas books because I was having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit. The decorating wasn't getting done and I just wasn't feeling it, although I put out some cute little gnomes and bought some flickering curtain lights that drop about halfway down the windows (I figured full-length would be a cat hazard) and they're very cheering. The books helped! Our Christmas tree never did get fully decorated but when we plug it in at night you can't see that it's not as full of ornaments as it normally is. And after reading all those Christmas books, I finally got the mantle dusted and decorated, painted a few little wooden animals white and put red and white ribbons around their necks then set them marching across a shelf, wrapped gifts, decorated the entry table, and called it done. 

Currently reading:

  • The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar by Hingston and Olsen (publisher)
  • In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren 

It's Sunday afternoon as I type and I haven't yet started to read In a Holidaze; it's what I plan to read next. I don't know if it'll take but if it does it should be my last Christmas book. I started an anthology of Christmas stories and poems a couple days ago but found it dull, so there was one DNF, this week. I don't know if I'll hang onto the anthology to try again in 2022 or just donate it. I'm leaning toward donating. 

Posts since last Malarkey: 

In other news:

I think I mentioned that we stopped midway through the second episode of Get Back. After a couple weeks of waiting to see if husband was willing to watch more of it, he admitted that he wasn't interested. So, I finished watching Get Back while he was in Denver on business, this week. I enjoyed it! Yeah, parts of it are either chaotic or a bit of a snooze but in general I found it fascinating and enlightening. I have a book of Beatles songs that I got from HarperCollins and never managed to review because the friend I was going to discuss it with passed away shortly after I received it but I think I'm finally at a point that I can pull it off the shelf without weeping over the loss of my friend so I hope to start on that, soon. 

A Dickens of a Holiday is a Hallmark movie that I watched, this week. We'd turned it on in the middle the week before and I thought it was intolerable without context, but starting from the beginning worked. It's about a couple of actors. The female has returned to her hometown and is in charge of directing the annual production of A Christmas Carol but when her Scrooge loses his voice and is told that he has to rest his vocal chords for a month, she calls on a local guy who has become famous to play the role. He's . . . pretty awful. Actually, I didn't even think he was a great Scrooge at the point that we were supposed to think she'd given him some great advice and he'd improved, but I thought the interaction between the two characters was fun and sweet. 

I know I watched another Hallmark movie and, in fact, loved that one. But, I can't remember what it was even about. This was definitely a movie week. 

Finding You is a movie I found on Prime. It's about a New York violinist who goes on a semester abroad in Ireland after her audition for music school is a failure. On the way to Ireland, she's seated beside a famous star and takes an instant disliking to him. But, when they end up in the same Bed and Breakfast and her host family is too overwhelmed with the new business to show her the sights, he offers to take her. She also gets some lessons from a local fiddler and has to do community service, acting as a companion to a senior citizen. I loved this movie for the hilarious scenes in which the actor is fighting dragons and the Irish setting but I also found it touching and sweet. I had tears absolutely streaming down my face near the end. It was a little triggering for me but worth it. 

Another Prime movie I happened across one day when I was in the mood for TV was Mistletoe Mixup. It's about a woman who has two men interested in her. One leaves his phone number but never texts back and the other follows up. She likes the guy who doesn't text back better. But, when the other fellow asks if she'd like to join his family for Christmas (she has no family), she's surprised when she shows up and the guy who didn't text back opens the door. They are, it turns out, brothers. Bit of a mess. I liked that. It's obvious from the beginning which guy she really clicks with and how it will end up, but that's the joy of romance, isn't it? You get what you expect and desire out of the story. I enjoyed it.

And, there's one more movie that I plan to watch, tonight: 

'Tis the Season to be Merry is a movie that I saw advertised while watching A Dickens of a Holiday. I don't know what it's about or whether or not I'll like it but I'll be in front of the TV at 7pm Central time, watching. 

Oh, and last week I went to see the local production of A Christmas Carol with blogger friend Brittanie of A Book Lover (not currently an active blog). It was fabulous! I was so impressed. We've talked about getting tickets to the New Stage Theater but just never gotten around to it so I was excited when Brittanie asked if I wanted to go. Husband was unfortunately on his flight to Denver but that's OK. Brittanie and I hadn't seen each other since before the pandemic and it was nice to catch up in person. 

I have one more review to do, maybe two if I do a post about all the short Christmas books, then I may be done posting till after Christmas. I don't know if I'll get around to posting another cat photo. We'll see. They're so cute, I probably will. 

Hope you're enjoying the Christmas season!

©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, December 17, 2021

Fiona Friday

Fiona, coming at ya with the glamour shot. 

©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, December 15, 2021

Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron is the 14th in the Jane Austen Mystery series and the first I've read. In Jane and the Year Without a Summer, Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra spend two weeks in the spa town of Cheltenham to take the waters as Jane's health is declining. 

Most of the book reads very much like an Austen novel, with a large cast of characters interacting, some maybe with romance in mind, others with suspect motives. 

Is the viscount who insists that the wife who ran away from him return to Cornwall trying to kill her for her fortune? Or is she simply desirous of her independence and the ability to live by her own means? When deaths begin to occur at the boarding house in which Jane and the viscountess are staying, Jane is determined to solve the mystery. 

Highly recommended - While I admit to being a bit overwhelmed by the huge cast of characters, I loved the writing style and found the storyline suitably intriguing without being overly complex. Also, it was clear early on that the author had done her research. I stayed in a building on a site that was mentioned, which has one of London's infamous blue plaques (Hans Place) mentioning Jane Austen's stay. After reading this installment, I really want to go back to the beginning of the series and read them all. Reading Jane and the Year Without a Summer was definitely a learning experience and I want to know more!

My thanks to Soho Crime and Laurel of Austenprose 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, December 13, 2021

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sōsuke Natsukawa

In The Cat Who Saved Books by Sōsuke Natsukawa, Rintaro is a hikikomori, a reclusive teen who loves books and has an almost encyclopedic knowledge about them. His grandfather has just died, leaving him to run Natsuki Books on his own, but soon he'll have to leave the bookstore behind to live with a distant aunt. 

Rintaro stops going to school entirely after his grandfather's death. Why bother? He's going to leave, soon, and he doesn't have any friends. When an orange tabby named Tiger shows up and asks for his help saving books that are being destroyed, he follows. And, when the class rep — a cheerful girl named Sayo — arrives with his homework and becomes involved in the series of adventures into the labyrinth with Tiger, what will they discover? Can he and Sayo save the books from destruction?

Highly recommended - I had trouble putting down The Cat Who Saved Books and ended up with a bit of a late-night hangover from staying up to finish. I liked the way Sayo and another bookish schoolmate ignored Rintaro's introverted tendencies and spotted the depth of his knowledge and his heart. A lovely story of how books connect us and help us understand each other, translated from the Japanese. 

I won a copy of The Cat Who Saved Books from HarperCollins via Goodreads. Many thanks! 

This copy also includes a note on the cover illustration, which is quite interesting. 

©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, December 10, 2021

Fiona Friday - We like autumn

©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, December 09, 2021

Red is My Heart by Antoine Laurain and Le Sonneur

First a note on the cover: I don't know if this is the final cover for the American edition of Red is My Heart but the one I have is so subtle that the words don't stand out (they're impressed rather than printed on the cover). In person, it has a nice look but this cover is what you see at Amazon. I chose this image over a photo of my copy so that it would stand out. 

Red is My Heart by Antoine Laurain and Le Sonneur (illustrator) is a sweet, sad, funny, and ultimately hopeful story about a man who is despondent after his girlfriend leaves him. It's heavily illustrated, so probably novella length.

Each of the illustrations are in black and white with a touch of red. The red is usually distant in some way (but not always), and I presume it represents the loss of a piece of the protagonists heart or the distance, loneliness, and longing that he feels. But, maybe it's less a collaboration than a project written with the thought of Le Sonneur's art (which, you can see from this interior shot, the author describes as serving no purpose). I'd love to know how this book came about.

Highly recommended - I love Antoine Laurain's sense of humor. Red is My Heart is a simple story of a broken heart that appears to be on the mend in the end, but both Laurain's sly wit and the illustrations made Red is My Heart a super fun read that I will undoubtedly return to when I want to read something simple and visual. 

I jumped the gun a bit because I neglected to look at the publication date when I sat down to read Red is My Heart. The current release date is January 18, 2022. It can be pre-ordered. 

My thanks to Meryl Zegarek Public Relations and Gallic 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.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Dragon Legend (Dragon Realm #2) by Katie and Kevin Tsang

Dragon Legend by Katie and Kevin Tsang is the second in the Dragon Realm middle grade series. The books do need to be read in order, so if you haven't read the first book please stop here. There may be spoilers. You can read my review of the first in the Dragon Realm series, here:

Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang

In Dragon Legend, Charlotte, Billy, and Ling-Fei must decide whether or not to follow their friend Dylan, who has been grabbed by their teacher, Old Gold, and pulled into a time portal. Old Gold has betrayed them, as well as his grandson, JJ. The entire point of Chinese Culture Camp was to find the right children to help him enter the Dragon Realm, where he planned to join the evil Dragon of Death and be on the winning side when she rules the Human and Dragon Realms. 

Of course, the children decide to go after Dylan. Because JJ has been left behind by his grandfather, he's invited to come along on Dylan's dragon, Buttons. Using one of the dragons' hoards and their powers, they open a portal in time to search for him. What they find is not promising. It looks like the Dragon of Death and her evil minions are already killing innocent dragons who refuse to join her.

What else will the children find? Will they be able to locate and rescue their friend, Dylan? What has Old Gold done with him? Can JJ be trusted? When they find out what Old Gold is up to, will they be able to beat him at his game? And, when there's a fierce dragon battle, who will win? 

Recommended - There's only one thing I didn't love about Dragon Legend and that's the fact that a few too many hints were dropped about how it would end (another cliffhanger). Meh, whatever. I still loved it. I've deliberately kept my review vague but a lot happens and I just don't want to spoil it for kids or grown-ups who love a bit of dragony adventure. And, Dragon Legend is quite a whirlwind ride. Over time, the power the children have from their pearls and connection with their dragons becomes stronger. But will it be enough when the time comes for battle? 

Ugh, I want to read the next book! My thanks to Sterling Children's Books for the review copy. I love this series and would highly recommend it to any child or grown-up in need of an escape into another world. There is some fascinating and unique world building. I enjoyed that feeling that you never know what's going to happen next. Even the ending was surprising in many ways, in spite of the fact that you know what's going to cause the cliffhanger. 

©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, December 06, 2021

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (above):

  • The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa - Goodreads win from HarperCollins for review

I almost never win anything from Goodreads but I suspect that's because I don't try too hard. I'm excited about The Cat Who Saved Books because a) cat, b) books, c) Japanese author. Also, a couple friends have reviewed it and enthused about it, so that's always positive. And, yes, those are blooming roses behind the book, in case you were wondering. But, it does finally look like fall, here, and some of our trees are even entirely bare. 

From the library sale (top to bottom):

  • L'Assommoir by Emile Zola
  • Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner
  • Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan
  • Dimensions of Sheckley: Selected Novels of Robert Sheckley 
  • The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, ed. by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis

I actually went to the library sale in search of old books with illustrations I could cut out for collaging but as I said on Instagram, I am Bookfool and must live up to my name. I have Beneath a Scarlet Sky in e-book and it's possible I already have a print copy but in my memory I see a slightly dirty copy. If I'm right that I already have it, I'll re-donate the other copy when I find it. This one is nearly pristine, as I prefer my books to be. 

There was one person at the library sale who was clearly there to find books to resell. It's funny how you can spot them. They're always in a hurry and all business, avoid eye contact, and frequently pull out the phone to look up value. 

You may recall that in my last Monday Malarkey post I said I thought I was probably done receiving books for the year. Um . . . I think that's true now? I guess we'll see. I am not buying, although I did make an exception for library sales so the books above don't violate my book-buying ban. At any rate, if I receive anything, it will be a surprise. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Way We Weren't by Phoebe Fox
  • Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang
  • Dragon Legend by Katie and Kevin Tsang

Wow, only 3 books in two weeks. That's not great. But, there were a couple days that I remember not feeling like reading and The Way We Weren't had a bookmark in it for over a week (not the book's fault). Plus, holiday cleaning and entertainment was done. OK, it seems reasonable, now that I've thought about it. And, I enjoyed all 3 books, so I can't complain. 

Currently reading:

  • Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron
  • The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar by Hingston and Olsen (publisher)
  • The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

This is my second year with a Short Story Advent Calendar and it turns out my post about last year's Short Story Advent Calendar influenced two friends to purchase their own. This has been so much fun, already. Brittanie (former blogger at A Book Lover) and I have been texting each other about some of the stories. It's twice the fun having someone to discuss them with, even if it's only to say, "I thought it was funny, did you?" This year's advent calendar has a "'round the world" theme, so most are translations, which I love. Translations often give you an excellent peek into other cultures. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

We've only watched one movie in the past 2 weeks, the 1984 version of Dune that has been criticized since its release. Honestly, I avoided it all these years because of the criticism but I wanted to compare it to the newer release. Wow, what a huge difference. The new Dune is a work of art, visually appealing but clearly missing some of the nuance that the book should reveal. 

The 1984 Dune is the opposite. It's not very enjoyable to look at and the Baron was so gross that I often found myself looking away during his scenes. But, the missing bits of characterization seemed to be spelled out a lot better. I felt like I got the storyline in a way I didn't with the newer version. It's not perfect, obviously. The storyline is clearly expansive and was far too compressed in the 1984 version. And, yet, I enjoyed getting to see the entire story play out and I cannot freaking wait to read the book. I think Dune is going to be my first chunkster read in 2022. 

Also, wow, what an all-star cast. 

Otherwise, we've watched bits and pieces of movies but not turned on the TV, much. The only other thing we've watched a substantial chunk of is the Beatles documentary, Get Back. And, what an interesting experience that is, seeing them work through the creative process, interact with the people in the studio and each other, joke and bicker. 

Like everyone else who has commented, I think the most fascinating part of the first episode was watching Paul start with a rhythm and a single chord, add a tune, and then start adding lyrics to "Get Back" and seeing how his bandmates then joined in. 

I was also intrigued by Paul's comment that in 50 years people were going to blame Yoko Ono for breaking up the band because she "sat on an amp". Of course, she was immediately blamed; it didn't take 50 years. It was fascinating to see her sit quietly and I appreciated the fact that she wasn't the only girlfriend/wife to show up at the studio. 

In general, it makes so much more sense why the band broke up, now. They needed to go their separate ways. They were clearly itching to try new things but still very good friends. They laughed a lot but there was occasional tension. No woman was to blame for their need to move on. Anyway, that's all my thoughts, so far. I think we stopped halfway through the second episode because it was late, so we have 1 1/2 episodes to go. I didn't have too much trouble with the Liverpudlian/Scouse accents but I noticed someone commented that he couldn't understand them and gave up (beneath a friend's Facebook post). Subtitles are available. I chose to use them in the second episode because there were definitely times I missed a joke or couldn't understand what was said. 

Also, it's been fun watching what everyone else seems to be viewing, for once! 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch-style home, we had workers building a sidewalk that goes from the driveway to the terraced patio at the back of our house. The sidewalk is finished and I love it. It has the same cobblestones as the patio and ties in nicely, plus it's very subtle and pretty; you don't see the sidewalk from the street unless you're looking for it and I like that. They had to build a couple more steps from the upper patio level to the sidewalk because they redid the earthwork and we're waiting for them to return to cap those off, then we'll probably get the earth that was ripped up sodded. At any rate, it's an exciting addition to our house. The side yard was soggy and slippery; we really needed something to make walking around the side of our house less hazardous and it's so pretty that it really adds a nice feature to the looks of our yard. Now, if my knees would stop hurting, another goal of adding the sidewalk was to create an extra stretch to walk on without straying from the house, in case one of the arthritic knees goes out. Gah, I feel old. How are you feeling, today? :)

©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, December 03, 2021

Fiona Friday - Stargazing

©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, December 02, 2021

Spy School, Evil Spy School, and Spy Ski School by Stuart Gibbs

All three of these books are from the same middle grade series but the Spy School series has been going on for quite some time and there are at least 7 books, now. So, this doesn't cover all of them, by any means. 

In Spy School (Spy School #1) by Stuart Gibbs, Ben Ripley is an ordinary kid with above average math skills and his dream is to be in the CIA one day. But, he's not exactly CIA material. He can barely get through the school day without something going wrong. 

When Ben is told that he's being given a scholarship to a special school for science and math nerds, his parents are particularly excited. But, when it turns out that he's actually moved into a school for future CIA agents, it's Ben that's thrilled. Until he finds out that his acceptance was a case of mistaken identity. 

From his introduction to spy school to fighting the bad guys (known as SPYDER) toward the end of the book, Spy School is an action-packed, humorous, and hopefully-romantic ride. I particularly loved the side characters who are written in the James Bond vein: a grandfather, his son, and his granddaughter — a family that goes all the way back to the start of America's spy network by Nathan Hale, their ancestor. Ben develops a terrible crush on Erica Hale, who has been training to be a spy her entire life

Will Ben get a really attractive girlfriend and a place in the CIA? Will his opportunity to become a genuine spy evaporate when he scores badly in self defense? Are extreme math skills enough? What will happen when Ben is faced with a dangerous person from SPYDER, a network of criminals who would like the CIA's spy school to go up in smoke?

I knew I'd made a good decision buying as many from this series as possible when I read Spy School. It is just ridiculously fun. I loved the action, the humor, and the interaction between Ben and Erica, as well as the hilarity of Alexander Hale's attempts to make himself out to be the world's greatest spy (Alexander is Erica's father). 

Next up is Spy Camp, but when I bought the 5 books from this series, either I overlooked it or it wasn't available. So, I skipped on to Evil Spy School (Spy School #3). This wasn't a problem. Although there are references to the second book, each of the Spy School books stands alone just fine. 

Ben has been kicked out of spy school for accidentally bombing the principal's office, but when he's recruited to join a different group of spies, the bad guys he's already fought twice, he agrees to join their school with the thought that he can learn what they're up to and maybe even stop their nefarious plans. 

Evil spy school is not at all like the CIA's spy school. There's a massive gym, for one thing, and there aren't many students. One is extraordinarily perky, which seems odd in a school where the kids know they're working for the bad guys. But, as Ben gets to know his fellow students, he realizes he's there for a reason. He was set up and now he has no choice but to determine what the bad guys are up to before it's too late. And, by too late, I mean Really Big Bombs raining down. Will Ben be able to figure out the evil plan in time to save the day? 

Once again, nonstop fun. I love the rollercoaster plotting of the Spy School series and where the author took Ben's maybe-relationship with Erica (well . . . friendship) in Evil Spy School and the bang-up ending (lots of running and explosions and funny moments). 

Spy Ski School (Spy School #4) takes Ben, Erica, some of his friends from school, Alexander Hale, and the grandfather (I can't remember his name) to Colorado, where Ben has been tasked with getting to know Jessica Shang, the daughter of an extraordinarily wealthy Chinese businessman. The CIA suspects that he's up to no good, but they really don't know. They don't even exactly know how he became wealthy but he's rented an entire hotel for himself and Jessica while they're in town so Jessica can take skiing lessons. At the hotel and even around Jessica, security is very tight. 

Ben doesn't know how to ski and neither does Jessica, so he's the perfect person to hang out with her on the bunny slopes. But, a complication arises when Ben's best friend arrives on the ski slopes and risks the entire mission by getting in the way of Ben and Jessica's potential friendship. 

Will Ben be able to get close to Jessica so that he can figure out what her father is up to? Has Ben's best friend figured out that Ben is learning to be a spy? While some of his team also spend time skiing, a few dig for answers on computers set up at the hotel. Is Jessica's father really helicopter skiing? Or is he meeting with dangerous people? If he's doing something dangerous, can he be stopped?

All highly recommended - OK, yes, they're very goofy books. I like humor and action combined, so the Spy School series is perfect for a middle-grade-loving adult like me and makes me wish my kids were younger so I could foist the series on them and watch their faces light up. Both of my sons would have loved this series during their elementary years, especially my younger son. I highly recommend all three and I'm looking forward to reading the remaining two on my stacks. I think they'd be particularly great for reluctant readers who like a good laugh. Both of my sons went through a phase during which they were disinterested in reading and I lured them back by finding books that fit their personal interests. Both were fans of action and adventure and loved a good belly laugh. It's hard for me to imagine a child not enjoying this series, to be honest. 

©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, November 30, 2021

The Way We Weren't by Phoebe Fox

I don't think I've ever read a book quite like The Way We Weren't by Phoebe Fox. As a teenager, Marcie Malone found out she was pregnant just before graduation. Her boyfriend handled it well, suggesting that they should marry and deal with the pregnancy together. But, that meant giving up all of her plans. Marcie knew exactly where she wanted to go and what she wanted to do for a living and all that ended the moment she saw two pink lines.

Decades later, Marcie and Will are in their early 40s and have never had a child. The first pregnancy ended in miscarriage and they never managed to get pregnant, again, till now. But, the recent pregnancy wasn't as welcomed by her husband and ended in miscarriage, as well. On her way back to work after a few days off to recover from the miscarriage, Marcie inexplicably passes her exit and keeps driving, all the way from Atlanta to Florida. There, she is taken in by an elderly curmudgeon named Herman Flint who has his own issues to deal with. When Marcie ends up staying in Florida to consider her options, she slowly works her way into the heart of locals and eventually figures out why Flint is such an angry old man. 

As her stay in Florida keeps getting extended, she also meets a potter who is carefree, refuses to be boxed in by a traditional job, and encourages Marcie to return to her artistic roots. Will Marcie ever return to her career in hotel management and her husband? Or will temptation and frustration with a life gone in a totally different direction from her plans draw her away? Can Marcie help Flint resolve his own issues and start enjoying his life, again? 

There are some little side things happening that fill out this story. The turtles on the cover are relevant and there's a hurricane that hits the island where Marcie is staying. And, Marcie comes up with some creative ways to deal with a problem she encounters. 

Recommended - I found The Way We Weren't utterly engrossing. I couldn't wait to get back to it, each evening. My life went off the rails much like Marcie's, but for much different reasons. So, I could relate in some ways to her struggle. And, I think since it's not particularly graphic, women who've been through miscarriage and/or infertility will feel seen and understood when they read it, not doubly traumatized. So, I wouldn't say it needs a trigger warning. 

I did think the story took a slightly odd turn about 3/4 of the way into the book (and I had a few minor plot or detail quibbles — very minor) but I also felt like . . . OK, this was Marcie feeling her way, rocked by her recent loss and confused, trying to make a decision about who she was, who she wanted to be, where to take her life, next. So, while it seemed like there was a strange tack in the direction of the story, in the end it felt right because she needed that experience to help her figure out what's next. I loved this story and found it relatable and fresh. I'll be looking for more by Phoebe Fox!

My thanks to Berkley 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, November 29, 2021

Lost Love's Return by Alfred Nicols

This will just be a quickie review because I don't like to say much about books that I didn't love. Lost Love's Return by Alfred Nicols is a book I bought after a friend begged me to read it (the author is a friend of her family) and then she chose it for our F2F book group's selection. I didn't go to the meeting and have only actually been once since before the pandemic but I read it so I could share my thoughts with her. 

Lost Love's Return is about an American soldier named Peter who is injured during WWI. He and a British nurse, Elizabeth, fall in love. But, when he's shipped out without time to tell her he has to leave or give her his address and he realizes he doesn't know how to get in touch with her at all — doesn't even actually know the name of the hospital where she works — they completely lose touch and he ends up in a loveless marriage back home, an ocean away from her. 

Decades pass before he's able to track her down with the help of his son. What will Peter find when he finally reunites with the love of his life?

Neither recommended or not recommended - OK, so my personal opinion is that Lost Love's Return brings nothing new to the table. There is no new insight about WWI and the love story is both predictable and one that's been done, before. Having said that, there was a point that I found myself enjoying the story and it has high ratings at Goodreads. So, I wouldn't tell anyone not to read it. There's a sweetness to the romantic storyline; it's just nothing new or special, in my humble opinion. Also, I was a little frustrated by the fact that all of the men who were main characters were tall, strong, blond, and handsome but most of the women were either unattractive or highly self-critical, except for Elizabeth. And, the men kept getting women pregnant. It was just a little trite in that way and felt like a total guy book, to me. I also thought there were a few problems with the British English but that's not necessarily something that will jump out at everyone. I opted not to rate the book at Goodreads but now that I've had time to let it marinate, I'd say it's . . . average? Not horrible, not great, just OK. 

©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.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Fiona Friday on the Wrong Day - Reading glasses are not edible

But, they must be tested to make certain. 

©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, November 25, 2021

For my American friends . . .

©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, November 24, 2021

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

I bought What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver when a bunch of my fellow writing workshop participants gushed about Carver's short stories and how much they loved them, back in August. I've heard of Carver, of course, but I had not paid much attention to him because this was the first time I'd ever really encountered anyone who felt like Carver's a must-read. And, they all seemed to think he was a must-read. 

At any rate, I finally got around to reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and I have to tell you that it wasn't an immediate love story. At first, I was kind of perplexed. What was he trying to say? Why did his short stories leave so much to the imagination? Is this something I personally should strive for or is it just some rare skill that makes you want to talk to anyone you can find who's read the same stories? 

The further I got into the book, the more I began to love Raymond Carver. And, it's for exactly the same reasons that I was perplexed. He leaves so much to the reader's imagination that you get a bit of an enjoyable brain workout. For example, in the first story the contents of a man's house are outside on his lawn and driveway. The bedroom is set up as it was inside, with side tables and lamps in their proper places. The living room furniture is placed so that you can sit on the couch and look across to the TV. A young couple comes along and wonders aloud whether all these items are for sale. They could sure use some inexpensive furnishings to fill out their new home. Then, the owner comes outside, sits with them, and gives them his asking price for each item. The young woman has already planned to ask to pay less and he takes each of their offers with no argument. In fact, they sit around like they've known each other forever. And, that's it. That's the story.

So, you can see how much he leaves for the reader to think about. Why would someone empty the contents of his house and sell them cheaply? Has he lost his job? Is he about to lose his home? Has he gotten divorced and, knowing his ex is going to get the house and its contents, decided to sell everything cheaply for revenge? Is he dying, so no longer finds possessions important? So many questions and none of them are answered, of course, or you wouldn't have them in the first place. But, it's the missing information that makes Carver such an amazing read. That, and his minimalist writing style, which is punchy and clear and draws you in. 

Highly recommended - I'm going to be watching for more Carver when I give myself a break to buy books. I am utterly fascinated and besotted with his writing and the way it makes my mind churn. Someone at Goodreads put it much better, calling these "slice of life stories that go nowhere and end ambiguously." Jason Koivu is the name of that reviewer. Ah, he stated it perfectly and while he seems to agree that it makes no sense why such ambiguity is so compelling, you can't help but admire and enjoy them. Or, in Jason's words, "[. . . ] for some damn reason I loved them." Yeah, that. 

©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, November 23, 2021

Two Girls, a Clock, and a Crooked House by Michael Poore

When I tossed Two Girls, a Clock, and a Crooked House by Michael Poore into my online cart, this summer, I probably did so because of two words: "time travel". I am a sucker for all things time travel and I have developed a passion for middle grade books, in recent years, as well. Good decision. I adored this tale of two girls, a time-traveling rocking chair, some missing children, and the woman everyone knows as the witch who ate the missing kids. 

Amy's parents are scientists, so they know that the mining that's about to take place in their town will release dangerous chemicals. To try to prevent the mining from happening, they're camping out on a big red X, where the drilling is set to begin. 

Amy has a friend she calls "Moo" because her friend always wears a hoodie with a cow face and ears on the hood. Moo can't move without help and she can't speak. But, Amy hopes someday she'll be able to. In the meantime, she's happy to just visit Moo, read her poems, chatter at her, and take her across the road to watch the wild cows in the pasture. "Mooo," is the only thing Moo can say, another reason for the nickname Amy has given her. 

After Amy is hit by lightning on her way home from Moo's house, she develops the ability to see the spirit within people and trees and even rocks and water. She's also suddenly able to hear Moo's thoughts. When they go for a walk and get lost in the forest — the forest in which the child-eating witch is known to live — they find a crooked old house that's unoccupied. Amy and Moo can communicate nonverbally and they can also see time. So, they decide to travel through time by tying a bunch of old things to a rocking chair (the effect of the time each object has been around, added to each other object's time is cumulative — eh, just read the book for the explanation).

Back in the 1980s, they find out the true story of a missing boy named Oliver, the other two children who disappeared, and the witch. But, can they get back to their own time? And, what will happen with the huge machine called Duke and the big red X? Will Amy's parents get smushed by a giant digger? 

Highly recommended - I could not put Two Girls, a Clock, and a Crooked House down and didn't get much sleep, last night. I imagine I'll return to it when I'm in the mood to for light-hearted time travel. As a child, I would have read it over and over and over again for the time travel, wit, magic, and sweetness. As an adult, I figure there's no sense kids should have all the fun. Of course, there's an environmental message but it's also a tale of family, kindness, and friendship. 

Funny thing . . . I did not recognize the author's name but I loved this book so much that I looked up the author when I closed the book. He's only written three books but — surprise! — it turns out I've read one of the two grown-up novels he's written and I was every bit as unable to put it down as I was this one. I love his wacky sense of humor and wild imagination and I hope the author will write more books for children. This book is special, in my humble opinion. 

Side note: I read the other book by Michael Poore, Reincarnation Blues, while on vacation in South Africa. And, even after getting up at 4AM to go "on safari" (if that's the right way to describe driving around a national park to see the wildlife), I couldn't put the damn book down at night. My memories of South Africa are inextricably tangled up with my memories of Reincarnation Blues because of that. And, that's not a bad thing, since I found the book so entertaining and the time change meant I couldn't sleep, anyway. I am definitely going to want to hunt down a copy of Michael Poore's third book. 

©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, November 22, 2021

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (left to right):

  • Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley - Sent by friend
  • Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner - from St. Martin's Press via Austenprose
  • The Way We Weren't by Pheobe Fox - from Berkley for review
  • Dragon Legend (The Dragon Realm Series #2) by Katie & Kevin Tsang - from Sterling Children's Books for review
  • The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan - from HarperCollins for review

My childhood best friend surprised me with the copy of Scarlett and I can't wait to read it. I'll have to put it on my list of chunksters that I want to try to tackle in 2022. We've been having fun discussing books, lately. 

Bloomsbury Girls is by the author of The Jane Austen Society and the release date isn't till May of 2022 but I can sneak it in earlier if I want to, just because, right? The Way We Weren't has a weird story behind it. I had it scheduled for tour and then realized it hadn't arrived so I contacted the publicist to tell her it wasn't here and I couldn't possibly make the tour date. She replied that they weren't sending out paper ARCs. And, then it showed up in the mail so maybe I asked specifically for a paper copy and it wasn't noted? I know some publishers are doing mostly e-galleys, now, and will maybe or maybe not consider sending you a paper copy if they feel like it (or have one at all). At any rate, I did well and truly miss the tour date but I'm hoping to start it next. We'll see if it takes. 

Dragon Legend by Katie and Kevin Tsang is the second in a middle grade series. I absolutely loved the first book, Dragon Mountain, and I'm so excited to read on! And, The Christmas Bookshop is my one and only Christmas book, apart from a set of Christmas short stories that I've been eyeing (on my own shelves). I love Jenny Colgan's writing and, wow, I'm saying this about everything but I'm really excited about all of these arrivals. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Every Word Unsaid by Kimberly Duffy
  • Spy Ski School (Spy School #4) by Stuart Gibbs
  • What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (short stories) by Raymond Carver 
  • Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday
  • Red is My Heart by Antoine Laurain and Le Sonneur 
  • Two Girls, a Clock, and a Crooked House by Michael Moore

This has been a great month, so far. It took me 8 days to finish one of the books I read (not sure which one; I just remember the 8 days) but since then things have gone well. And, whatever that book was, it was good; I must have had trouble finding time to read because they've all been great. 

Currently reading:

I'm between books but the two at the top of my list are The Way We Weren't and Dragon Legend (Dragon Realm #2). However, I started Dragon Legend and couldn't remember some key details from the first book, Dragon Mountain (although I remember the general storyline and how the book ended) so I'm going to reread Dragon Mountain, first, to refresh my memory. Since I gave the first in the series 5 stars, this will not be a hardship. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news: 

I watched a couple movies and I was sure it was going to be a Buried in TV week because the spouse was traveling, but nope. I've even been forgetting to watch Chicago Fire. I think I've managed two episodes, this season. 

Open by Christmas is about a successful woman who was her class valedictorian. During her graduation speech, she broke out in song and was traumatized by the laughter of her fellow grads. Now, years later, she has found a sweet note tucked into one of her textbooks from her senior year. Who wrote a romantic note to her but didn't sign it, all those years ago? She's determined to figure it out while she's home for the holidays. 

I liked this one but it would not go onto my favorites list. It was cute, though, and I'm always so there for the happily ever after kiss. Oddly, it was Huzzybuns who turned this one on. 

Next up on the channel was My Christmas Family Tree but Huz can only take one Hallmark movie per night (possibly, per week) so he turned to hockey or football and I drifted away, then watched My Family Christmas Tree when he left town. 

Vanessa Hall has had her DNA checked and is surprised to find that she has a paternal match. She never knew who her father was and her mother died when she was 9 years old, so all she's ever had as family since then was a nice old couple who fostered her. Encouraged by her best friend, Vanessa calls her birth father and meets up with him. He invites her to join his family for the holidays. 

This is totally my favorite kind of story, the trope in which someone gets a new family, whether by connecting up with a birth parent or simply meeting a group of people with whom she creates a makeshift family unit. And, I knew it was going to be sweet and that I was going to love it so much I started crying during the set-up and pretty much snuffled all the way through it. I loved it; it was perfect. And, I noticed that Norwegians were tweeting about their appreciation for the references to Norwegian food and tradition, the night it premiered (when Huz was watching whatever sport . . . I think, actually, it was our mutual alma mater playing football). This is definitely one I'll watch again, during future Christmas seasons. 

I attempted to watch a third Hallmark movie but it was terrible, just a bad, bad script. And, then I got sucked into housework and art and reading and spent way too much time on social media (so I'm challenging myself to avoid it, this week). And, on the weekend, we spent a few hours each day kitty sitting this little guy, who is about 3 months old and the most lovable, smoochy, head-butting purr machine I've ever encountered:

He's the kitten of a friend of my son and daughter-in-law, so only staying with them temporarily. Boy, was he fun to play and snuggle with! Their two grown cats hid from us but this little guy, Binx, is a people kitty. 

As to this week . . . Thanksgiving is a bummer for us. We only have our son and daughter-in-law nearby. The rest of the family is far flung so it's usually just the two or four of us. I loved the big family gatherings of my childhood and will never stop missing them. If you're an American, I hope you're surrounded by loving family, this 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.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Fiona Friday - Perky

©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, November 18, 2021

Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday

In Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday, Daniela Martinez is an New York professor who studies 19th century literature, teaches, and is hoping to get tenure, soon. She's recently been stung by her husband's infidelity and decided she is "Post-Men". She has no interest in a relationship, has written a list of things she'll never do for a man again, and just wants her husband Vince to sign the divorce papers. Then she and her little dog, Max, can move on. 

Maximillian von Hansburg, Baron of Laudon and heir to the duchy of Aquilla is not actually a duke, not yet. He's a baron who has been dubbed the "Depraved Duke" and he honestly doesn't want to be a duke at all. But, he's at loose ends since his fiancée decided to marry someone else. As Duke, Actually opens, he's in New York to meet someone his parents want him to marry.

Max (the baron, not the dog) and Daniela have mutual friends who are going to get married and Daniela already met Max when she went to Eldovia to visit her best friend Leo, who is marrying Princess Marie, Max's former fiancée. She knows the baron's reputation but he's not really in the mood for a socialite's party and and would like to see Dani. And, Dani could use a bit of handsome arm candy at the faculty Christmas party, if only to show Vince she's not pining away for him.

The baron is happy to accompany her and stick to her terms. He likes Dani. She's got no interest in his money or title, unlike most people. After the faculty party, they start a long-distance friendship (by text and phone), make resolutions and help each other figure out how to fulfill them, and then slowly, slowly find that they're becoming best friends. But, when their friendship turns into the kind of attraction that neither was hoping for, what will happen?

Highly recommended - Duke, Actually is a little longer than most of the romance novels I think I've read but I loved that because I enjoyed the witty banter between Dani and Max and kind of wanted to stay in their world for as long as possible. Plus, I think the slow development of their friendship and even slower realization that they were becoming physically attracted to each other after about a year of platonic friendship felt more realistic to me than most romance novels. There's a lot of sex talk and some scenes I found uncomfortably graphic, but as I've said before . . . I prefer a book that tippy-toes around the bedroom scenes, so that's a personal thing. In general, I think romance lovers will enjoy this sweet, modern fairytale of a growing love between an ordinary gal and a peer of the Eldovian realm.

My thanks to Avon for the review copy! Duke, Actually was just released this week so you can find it online or in bookstores near you. 

Note: I avoid reading other reviews and don't read teaser chapters (there's one at the end of the book) so I didn't realize till after I read Duke, Actually that it's the second in a series. It obviously stands alone perfectly well. But, now I really want to go back and read about how Leo ended up with Princess Marie! 

©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, November 17, 2021

Walrus Song by Janet Lawler and Timothy Basil Ering

Where is Walrus? 
On a floe. 
Hop flops. He plops. 
Where did he go?

Walrus Song by Janet Lawler and Timothy Basil Ering (illustrator) is a gorgeous children's rhyming picture book about walruses that I'm absolutely in love with. 

Some of the things children will learn about in Walrus Song:

  • Herding/socializing behavior
  • How big a walrus is and about the fat layer that keeps them warm and stores energy
  • What walruses eat and how they hunt for food
  • How they play with birds(!)
  • The growth of tusks and how they're used to lift a walrus from the water and chip ice to make space to dive
  • How they use their flippers to walk and fight
  • The sounds they make
  • Mothers and babies: how often walruses give birth and how long they stay with mother
  • The danger of global warming to walruses

All of this is told in simple, rhyming text. But, there's also an explainer section at the end of the book that goes into greater detail about what various lines mean. For example, the line saying Walrus is "on a floe" describes the meaning of the word floe (an ice sheet). And, a line describing the way a walrus swims, "Twirling, whirling, flippers swirling," is further described in the explainer section in this way:

"A walrus swims by wiggling its whole body and stroking with its back flippers. It steers with its front flippers."

I took an interior shot to show you just how gorgeous the illustrations are (you should be able to click on the image to enlarge):

Highly recommended - I've read and reviewed a lot of children's books and I'm sure some of the animal books I've read (along with a single book I remember from my childhood) have had walruses in them along with other animals. But, Walrus Song is the first book I've read that's totally dedicated to walruses. I enjoyed learning about them and I think little ones will appreciate the gentle rhythmic text while they're still small enough to sit on laps, then will enjoy learning more about walruses as they grow. Walruses need love, too! Walrus Song would also be a great book for libraries and classrooms, since it has some nice added details in addition to the lovely story showing a walrus throughout its day. 

My thanks to Candlewick Press 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, November 15, 2021

How to Astronaut by Terry Virts

How to Astronaut: Everything You Need to Know Before Leaving Earth by Terry Virts is exactly what the author describes in the subtitle. He talks about everything involved in becoming an astronaut, both now and when he was in training. Virts worked both on the space shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS). The space shuttle program ended some time ago, so that gives you a vague idea of the timing. 

Terry Virts began his career as a fighter pilot and then later moved on to the astronaut training program. So, he knew his physics and knew how to fly, had lived with intense pressure to perform with accuracy and lived with a certain amount of risk. But, danger as a fighter pilot and its intensity level of training paled by comparison to the training to become an astronaut. 

In How to Astronaut, Virts walks readers through the process of becoming an astronaut, from learning to speak Russian (now an absolute requirement because Americans and Russians work together and the ISS missions take off from Russia) to learning to handle weightlessness, to practicing space walks. He also talks about such everyday things as the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the experiments they perform, how they exercise and why a certain amount of daily exercise is crucial to an astronaut's health, how to use the bathroom in space, how they keep clean, and (yuck) how they clean the toilet. He describes disasters that have taken place and what happens when one does (for example, the loss of a supply ship that blew up and how it impacts astronauts on the ISS). There are a lot of interesting details that I found utterly fascinating. 

Updated 11/16/21

After yesterday's news about the Russian anti-satellite missile test and the resulting scramble to safety by the ISS crew members, it occurred to me that I needed to update my review of How to Astronaut because space debris and its dangers are discussed in the book. In fact, I think I can safely say I would have been concerned about Russian aggression but otherwise probably not blinked at the news if I hadn't read this book. But, space debris is a significant danger both to the International Space Station and future hopes for space travel. Terry Virts goes into some detail about how different countries have handled such tests, the preferred method being to only do them at such a height that the resulting debris will reenter the atmosphere and burn up harmlessly. Otherwise, it remains in orbit around the Earth perpetually and because of that, the ISS has to make maneuvers several times a year to avoid debris, which could not only damage the space station but kill everyone in it. 

I also neglected to mention how Virts goes into the realities of long-term space travel (radiation danger, in particular) and why travel to Mars is plausible but what would be involved in such a mission, including the supplies necessary, the need to find a way to protect astronauts from space radiation, how such a ship would need to be assembled, and the best way to fuel a long journey. On that same note, he goes into what it would take to do space travel along the lines of what we've seen in science fiction TV and movies and why it's unlikely we'll ever encounter other living beings outside of Earth — because of the sheer length of time it would take to get to the closest potentially habitable planet. Fascinating stuff. 

And, one last thing . . . Space Force. I was dubious about the concept of the Space Force, thinking it some weird thing that the last president came up with to look cool, until someone I know explained to me that the job of the Space Force is protecting our satellites and was formerly the mission of the US Air Force but merely separated into its own unit to focus on that particular mission. Yesterday's anti-satellite missile test shows why it's necessary. Having said that, I still think it is badly named and has been poorly described to the public and that's probably the main reason so many people have scrunched their faces up and wondered aloud at why it even exists. There was not yet a Space Force, at least in the early part of How to Astronaut, but the author hinted at the fact that it might be coming. I can't say whether or not the references to a potential space force have been updated because I don't have a final copy of How to Astronaut but I did find it of interest that he knew it might be coming. 

Highly recommended - Especially recommended for fans of all things outer space/NASA and nonfiction lovers. My husband has recently met a former astronaut so I had a lot of fun telling him what I'd learned about the process of becoming and being an astronaut and he's planning to read the book soon. My only problem with the book was that occasionally I got lost in the science and felt like I was drowning in acronyms. There are far too many acronyms!!! But, that just goes with the territory if you're an astronaut, apparently. 

The most interesting anecdote, in my opinion, was one about learning to deal with zero gravity. Back in his early training days, there was still a plane that went up and arced down in a parabola to cause a few minutes of weightlessness. You may have seen Howard Wolowitz, the astronaut character from The Big Bang Theory inside the padded plane when he was doing his training. That's exactly what Virts describes; however, this type of training is no longer done in the US and the reason why is what's most interesting to me. Virts says the US had been doing this for decades and it was affordable. But, then someone decided to privatize the zero gravity training and it became, in the process, dramatically more expensive. Instead of bringing back the old program, now canned, they eliminated it completely. So, if you want to get zero gravity training in the old plane-dropping-precipitously way, you have to go to another country. 

Having said that's my favorite anecdote (it's partly because I'm of the opinion that privatizing government work is generally, although not always, a bad thing — and I have a business degree so that's the kind of thing that really piques my interest), there are a lot of entertaining and fascinating stories in How to Astronaut and I'm glad I read this book. Terry Virts keeps it light-hearted and has a great sense of humor. 

I received an ARC from Workman Publishing in 2020 and it kept moving from one TBR pile to another till I finally decided its time had come. My thanks to Workman for the ARC! How to Astronaut was published in September of 2020, so it's readily available for purchase. 

©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.