Monday, May 02, 2022

Everything I read in April (in brief)



April:

44. Spy x Family #3 by Tatsuya Endo - The third in the Spy x Family series is much the same as the others, with the child continuing to try to make friends to assist her father's spy work; this time she has an unexpected success. Also in Spy x Family #3, Yor's brother Yuri shows up and he's suspicious about her new husband, Twilight (the spy). Yor is the assassin/wife and her brother works for the enemy so Twilight is equally suspicious of Yuri but decides to keep his enemy close and cooks him a nice meal. Loads of fun. I love this manga series. 

45. Nazaré by JJ Amaworo Wilson - The only book I reviewed in April (click through the title or page down to read the full review) and one of my favorites of the year, the story of a boy who lives in a shipping container. After being told he is "the future" of his country, he must run from the mayor whose family has ruled for 4 generations. Because if the boy, Kin, is the future, the mayor's family must be the past. Adventurous and delightful, a mix of magical realism with hilarious characterization. Highly recommended. What a unique story. 

46. Falling by T. J. Newman - When a pilot's family is kidnapped and then his plane is hijacked, he's given a choice: either he must crash the plane into a chosen target or his family will die. The pilot says, "I will not crash this plane and you won't kill my family." Will he succeed at figuring out how to save both the plane and the people he loves? A fun thriller that required only a little suspension of disbelief, now and then, written by a former flight attendant. 

47. Brat: An '80s Story by Andrew McCarthy - The Eighties heartthrob describes how he became an actor and why, his experiences in acting school, how he got various movie roles, and the mentoring (usually by phone) that helped get him deal with various struggles. Not a gossipy book and limited mostly to his years in the so-called "Brat Pack" (a name he found offensive and pejorative) with a little mention of his current work as a director. Loved it. 

48. The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling - This was my least favorite book of the month, but I didn't dislike it. I think I just wasn't in the right mood for it. When a witch accidentally curses her ex-boyfriend (not realizing her own powers) hilarity ensues as the ex arrives back in town after 9 years and the town is basically out to get him, thanks to the curse. Very fluffy and light. I liked the paranormal aspects more than the romance and there was, I thought, some unnecessarily offensive language but a fun book, in general.

49. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - I reviewed Emily's very first book, Last Night in Montreal, years ago, and loved it but hadn't read anything since her second release. After starting the mini series of Station Eleven and feeling a bit lost, I pulled out the e-book and started reading to see if it clarified things. A pandemic has swept the world, leaving 99% of the population dead. Going back and forth in time between the days before the pandemic, the time in which people are either holed up to save themselves or dying, and up to 20 years post-pandemic, Station Eleven tells the story of the survivors and how life has gone from barbaric early days back to a new sort of civilization in which a Traveling Symphony brings the joy of theater and music back to a small part of the world. Reading the book did help me make sense of the TV show. The mini series is quite different in some ways but both end on a hopeful note. 

50. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim - A classic tale of 4 English women who rent a castle in Italy for a month, published in the 1920s. At first unsure of each other and wanting to spend time alone, the beauty and joy of being somewhere different slowly helps each woman to relax, reflect on how they've behaved in their everyday lives, and eventually extend the joy to others. A magical and super relaxing read. 

51. The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams by Mindy Thompson - Set in WWII, a magical bookshop becomes mired in a battle of good vs. evil after the bookshop owner becomes ill and leaves his daughter and son in charge. The son has recently lost his best friend in the war and breaks the rules of magic to try to undo his death. But, doing so will unleash an unexpected horror. Can the Dark be stopped from taking over not only the bookshop but possibly the world? An edge-of-your-seat middle grade tale. 

52. Macbeth by William Shakespeare - I'd never read this classic tale of murder and revenge but bought a copy when I found out my son and daughter-in-law were playing in a local production. And, I have to admit that this bloody tale is probably now my favorite by Shakespeare. I loved the way Macbeth waffled. Should I murder the king in my own home or is that a bad idea? I mean, he did reward me for doing well in battle. So many great lines and my guess as to the theme is, "Murder doesn't pay." I need to read up a bit on it but my favorite line is, "But screw your courage to the sticking-place." 

53. V for Victory by Lissa Evans - Crooked Heart by Evans is one of my all-time favorite WWII books and V for Victory follows up the story of young Noel and his guardian, Vee, formerly a disreputable con woman just trying to get by, now a landlord. Noel has inherited his godmother's home and he and Vee are using it as a boarding house as the end of the war nears. Meanwhile, some of the girls in Mattie's former club, the Amazons, come back into the picture. One of them, Winnie, is a heroic Air-Raid Warden, her twin sister a socialite who has written a book. Vee is pretending to be Noel's aunt but she's in danger of being found out. A rambling sort of book that seems to have little purpose other than to place you in London during a time of hardship, but I loved it. I love absolutely everything Lissa Evans writes. 

This was a fantastic month for quality. Quantity-wise, I just don't care at this moment. I'm not racing anyone, including myself — and, I have done both. I loved absolutely everything except The Ex Hex. Favorites were Nazaré, Brat, Station Eleven, The Enchanted April, Macbeth, and V for Victory. Gosh, favorites were almost everything? LOL That's unusual. 

As to the Internet break, it's been a challenge. I do find that when I put my phone aside and stay away from the computer (except for art tutorials, which I'm doing every week), I'm getting a lot accomplished and while I miss interacting with people because I don't see many actual human beings in my everyday life, I'm enjoying writing and receiving letters and I don't miss the technical aspect of having to take photographs (Instagram) or write reviews and post (to the blog), nor do I really miss mindlessly scrolling (Facebook) because I've found that in the past year or two I've seen fewer unique posts and it's not unusual to see a post 3 days after it was put up by a friend, even close friends. The algorithm sucks eggs, in other words.

As to Twitter, it was my biggest obsession until the buyout agreement and then I just lost heart. I still have an account but I think the purchase by a billionaire with whom I disagree on principle about most everything was a good thing for me because I don't need to be there, either. 

In general, I do feel like the sense of burnout from feeling like I had too many obligations to write about specific books by specific dates is fading, so that's good. Having said that, I don't know what the end result of my 6-month Internet break will be. It's way too early to say whether I'll abandon blogging and/or social media or return to it. I just don't know. 

Here's a flatlay April reads photo, for your edification. See you in a month!


©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, April 08, 2022

Nazaré by JJ Amaworo Wilson


You may have noticed my absence. I think I've finally reached the point of burnout, so I'm taking a 6-month blog break with one exception. I'll be continuing my end-of-month wrap-ups. I've got a running file on what I'm reading at Bookfoolery, so all I have to do is a quick description of each. If they're like the March reads in brief, they'll almost be full reviews.

Anyway, I'll still be here, regularly updating my books read but just posting once a month through October. But, I had to drop by to mention the book shown above with Fiona, who is going to stare at you till you buy a copy. Haha. Kidding. She's a sweetheart. 

But, it's true that I loved Nazaré by JJ Amaworo Wilson so much I couldn't stay quiet. It is nuts. Think a mix of the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquéz with the absurdity of Cervantes in a fictional land where the mayor's family has owned pretty much everything for 4 generations.

Kin is a homeless boy who lives in a shipping container in a fishing village with no name. The people of his village in fictional Balaal have been ruled by the Matanza family for 4 generations, ever since gold was discovered and the first Matanza decided he wanted it all. When a whale washes up on the beach, Kin calls the villagers and they try to get the whale back into the water but nothing works. A local mystic declares Kin the "future of Balaal" and nobody knows exactly what that means but everyone trickles away. After Kin is left alone, something happens to return the whale to the sea and the current Mayor Matanza decides he must get rid of Kin, who clearly has some sort of magical powers, to protect his position and wealth. Because if Kin is the future of Balaal, the Matanzas are the past. 

What follows is Kin's journey from being a homeless waif to a leader of the war to remove the mayor and imprison him for all his crimes. But, it's not like your typical war. It's more like a circus with weapons. Point being, this book is unique and magical and bizarre and I loved it. There is some violence (Mayor Matanza and his brother The Butcher are not nice; plus, there's a war) but it's also occasionally smile-inducing. The author has a great sense of humor. 

Highly recommended - And, I really am leaving Fiona to stare at you. Particularly recommended to anyone who adores Gabriel Garcia Marquéz. Nazaré isn't quite as ponderous as 100 Years of Solitude, just FYI. I gave the book 5 stars and regret not getting around to reading it in the fall, when I accepted a few too many obligatory reads (the ones that burned me out, I guess). Nazaré was released late in 2021. Nazaré is one of those rare books that I was thinking I wanted to reread when I was only 1/3 of the way in. Also, if you do read it . . . find me. I want to talk to someone about this book!!

I received a copy of Nazaré unsolicited but I can't find a sticker on it to tell you where it came from. Thanks to whoever sent it to me!


©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, April 04, 2022

Everything I read in March (in brief . . . with daffodils)



March:

31. Joan is Okay by Weike Wang - The story of an extremely introverted, workaholic doctor who prefers machines over people. Joan is not necessarily what you could call happy, but she's content with her life; she's OK. Unfortunately, everyone around her wants her to be something she's not. Her brother and mother (visiting from China when the pandemic breaks out) think she should marry and settle down, move to a smaller city near her brother, maybe have kids. Her employer thinks she needs to take more time off. Her neighbor, who is a shopaholic, tries to make her apartment more homey by giving her stacks of books, furniture, trinkets — usually things he's bought on impulse and doesn't need. I loved the author's turn of phrase and would honestly read anything she wrote but thought the book lost a little something in the final third or so. It went from being a story about Joan dealing with people who want to change her to a story of immigration and Chinese culture and lost me a bit. Still loved it; I just was disappointed with the ending. 

32. Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen - Someone described this book as "chick lit" and I thought, "Oh. I didn't think of it that way at all." Maybe? It's about Tabitha, a woman who is in her thirties, has a great boyfriend, and enough of a nest egg to make a downpayment on a house. A potential promotion is on the horizon and all seems to be going to plan when she finds out she needs to have her eggs harvested and frozen (at great expense) or she won't be able to have children of her own. But, what will Tabitha's boyfriend think, and is it worth spending her entire savings? Really enjoyed this book and would like to read the next one by this author.

33. The Poppy Factory by Liz Trenow - After Jess, who served a tour of duty as a medic in Afghanistan returns home with PTSD, she begins drinking heavily to subdue the nightmares and gradually starts to spiral out of control. Then, Jess's mother discovers the diaries of Jess's great-grandmother, Rose, whose husband Alfie went through the exact same thing after WWI. As she begins to see similarities in herself and Alfie, Jess begins to find the courage to reach out and get the help she needs. I loved this blend of historical and contemporary fiction. Unlike most, it doesn't jump around a lot. You stay with one character for a long time before going back to the other.

34. The Giant's Necklace by Michael Morpurgo - A children's book (~80 pages, as I recall, but no chapters, so Middle Grade Light) about a girl named Cherry who is collecting shells to make a giant necklace. Cherry needs enough more shells for her necklace to reach to the toaster so she goes with her family on one last trip to the Cornish Cove near their rented cottage. While she's collecting shells and after her family has returned to the cottage, a storm moves in and she falls into the water but later washes up, climbs the rocks, and finds a cave where the ghosts of two miners help her return home. But, it turns out she's a ghost, too. This one shocked me. Some other readers thought of it as a "ghost story" or a good way to help kids deal with death but I found it horrifying. 

35. The Summer of Broken Things by Margaret Peterson Haddix - Most of the books I've read by Haddix have been eerie Middle Grade series books, so this one's a departure, a YA about two teenagers. A rich teen's father says she has to spend the summer in Spain with him but he'll let Avery take one friend. Then, he chooses the friend, a poor girl she used to play with but now looks down upon, Kayla. They don't get along at all. Both learn to get around Madrid, Kayla following the plan to take immersive Spanish courses and making lots of new friends, Avery doing whatever pleases her. But then things fall apart and it's only the steadfastness of Kayla and her strength in a crisis that finally teaches Avery her lesson. Loved the armchair travel, in particular. 

36. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher - Carrie Fisher's story about her time as a 19-year-old actress making a little sci-fi film that became a surprising success. Not about the making of the movie, unfortunately, but still interesting. Instead, a good 2/3 of the book is about Carrie's affair with Harrison Ford, who was married with two children and his 30s. Part is recollection, part is her (very poetic and beautifully written but angsty) diary entries, the rest is mostly about being Princess Leia for life, no matter where she went, although other side topics like her mother's failed marriages and their difficulty finding trustworthy people to manage money are mentioned. 

37. Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes - One of my favorites of the month, a YA about two mixed-race brothers attending a fancy private school after moving from an area in which both were accepted. One brother looks black, the other white. In the new school, the darker-skinned brother, Donte, is always getting into trouble, although he's not a troublemaker. It's partly because he has a bully getting him into trouble, partly racism. But, instead of lashing out, Donte chooses to take fencing lessons. His bully is a champion fencer and Donte's goal is to become skilled and beat the bully at his own game. What a wonderful story! I love it that Donte never tries to get off the hook by accusing his bully and never attacks him, physically or verbally. Instead, Donte chooses to win by bettering himself. 

38. Birds by Miranda Krestovnikoff and Angela Harding - A children's picture book I bought for the illustrations. I followed Angela Harding on Instagram for a while (she fell to the thinning out of accounts that don't follow me back). I love her art and have wanted to own something by her, for a while, and this book looked like a good shot at getting some of her art to admire. Humorously, after reading the book I can say that I think it really needed photographs so that you could see what the birds looked like in real life and I knocked a point off my Goodreads rating for that. But, wow, what an informative book! I learned so much more than I would have expected from a children's picture book. 

39. The Eighteen-Carat Kid and Other Stories by P. G. Wodehouse - A book of Wodehouse's early short stories. For those who are unfamiliar with Wodehouse, he wrote a number of series', including the Jeeves and Wooster series. The stories in The Eighteen-Carat Kid include the story of a headmaster at a private school who tries to thwart the efforts of various bad guys attempting to kidnap the son of a wealthy American. That's probably my favorite and it's the title story. Great stories, as always. The only one I had a little trouble following was one that took place at a cricket match but it was only the cricket bits that I didn't get. The story itself was a good one.

40. Fault Lines by Emily Itami - Another favorite, the story of a Tokyoite named Mizuki who is a stay-at-home mother with two children. Mizuki doesn't feel like she's all that great at mothering and her husband hardly notices her, anymore. So, when she meets a man who enjoys her company, she has an affair (which surprisingly remains platonic for a long time). Whether or not you've been to Tokyo, Fault Lines is another great one for armchair travel. I particularly enjoyed it when the main character went to areas with which I had some familiarity. Fault Lines is very light-hearted. The author has a great sense of humor. But, there are darker moments that she manages to turn funny, as in the time when Mizuki decides to jump off her balcony and then changes her mind and her pants get caught in the railing. From then on, she refers to it as "the suicide balcony". Highly recommended. 

41. The Maid by Nita Prose - Molly is perfectly suited to be a maid. She grew up with a grandmother who cleaned the home of a wealthy family and had certain chores for the days of the week to keep their apartment sparkling. But, Molly's grandmother has passed away, she has lost her grandmother's nest egg, and now she's found a dead body and is being accused of murder. What Molly has on her side is a flawless memory for detail, her unique directness, and a few good friends willing to help. Absolutely delightful and another new favorite. Highly recommended. I loved every minute of the reading. 

42. Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley - The story of a teen, Liv, whose brother horsed around and accidentally shot himself with the neighbor's loaded gun. Jonah is permanently brain damaged and his mother is suing the neighbors to try to get his medical care covered. Meanwhile, sister Liv acts out at school but then begins meeting Jonah's best friend Clay secretly (and, occasionally Clay's mother, as well) and slowly they begin to heal. This YA, told completely in verse, kept me up into the wee hours of the morning. I had some issues with it (some people and circumstances were a little too perfect) but I'm glad I read it. 

43. Sisters of Night and Fog by Erika Robuck - This is the only book I reviewed in March so you can hop through the link to read my full review. The short version is that it's the fictionalized true story of two women who worked fighting the Nazis. They're quite different but their stories eventually intertwine. They alternate chapters: Violette, Virginia, Violette, Virginia. So, if you don't like bouncing back and forth, this one might bug you a bit. But, it's an excellent book, very detailed and clearly well researched. It is both heartbreaking and uplifting. Save this one for when you can handle the horror of Nazi cruelty. Parts of it are rough. 


©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, April 01, 2022

Fiona Friday

No, of course they're not lazy bums lolling around with catnip toys. 



©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


Thursday, March 31, 2022

Sisters of Night and Fog by Erika Robuck


Violette is young, energetic, athletic, and smart. She is also half-British, half-French and staying with her aunt in France as the country is invaded during WWII. Quickly hustled away with her younger brother, she vows to return to France but her life is complicated. When she finally gets the chance to return with the Special Operations Executive, parachuting into France to help out with the Resistance, she is thrilled but knows that it means her child may grow up without a mother. 

Virginia is an American married to a Frenchman and living in France. When the country is invaded and then occupied, she could easily escape to Florida and sit out the war. But, she won't even entertain the idea. Philippe is everything to her. When Virginia and Philippe realize they can help with the Resistance by working to house soldiers who have been shot down or escaped from Germans, they are happy to have the chance to do their part.

Although they have very different lives, the two women cross paths when they're caught and imprisoned. But, will their fates be the same? 

If you hang around here much, you might recall that I took a writing workshop in August of last year and Erika Robuck was one of the guest speakers. She talked a little about Sisters of Night and Fog, at the time, although I don't think it had an official title, yet. The Invisible Woman (link leads to my review) was either about to be released or just had been and she talked about how she discovered the stories of Violette and Virginia during her research about Virginia Hall for The Invisible Woman

Although much of Sisters of Night and Fog has been fictionalized to fill in the gaps, their general storyline is based on the true stories of these remarkable women who risked their lives to fight the Nazis. 

I had trouble getting into the story, initially, but it was my problem, not an issue with the book. I wasn't in the mood to have my heart broken and a little piece of your heart is always shattered when you read about WWII. There was so much cruelty. But, there was a great deal of heroism, as well. and Sisters of Night and Fog is absolutely a story of women willing to lay down their lives in the service of others. 

Highly recommended - I can't say much more without giving away plot points and details that are best revealed slowly but while Sisters of Night and Fog is definitely heartbreaking, it is also uplifting and awe-inspiring to read about the courage of these two women and the people they worked with. I recommend reading it during a time when you're feeling like you can handle intrigue, tension, danger, and sadness. I was fighting depression hard this entire month (improving, now) so I kept picking the book up and setting it aside to read lighter fare but when I finally felt up to it, it was difficult to put down. 

I have a feeling Violette and Virginia will stick with me for a long time and I'd like to read more about them. Obviously meticulously researched and another beautifully written book by Erika Robuck, if a tiny bit overlong. Be aware that the book tells their stories from the beginning of the war to the end and their work was later in the war, so much of Sisters of Night and Fog feels like backstory if you're expecting to jump right into the action, as I was. Initially, I thought the book started too far back in time but I trusted the author's timing and it turned out that you really do need to understand where they came from.

My thanks to Berkley Books for the review copy!

©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Monday Malarkey


Recent arrivals:


  • Artful Memories by Jane Chipp and Jack Ravi
  • The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling
  • Round the Bend by Nevil Shute

All three of these were purchased and now I'm back on my book-buying ban, pinkie swear. 


Books finished since last Malarkey:


  • Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • Birds by Miranda Krestovnikoff and Angela Harding
  • The Eighteen-Carat Kid and Other Stories by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Fault Lines by Emily Itami
  • The Maid by Nita Prose
  • Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

Currently reading:


  • Sisters of Night and Fog by Erika Robuck

I suspect the reason I've been picking this book up and putting it aside for weeks is because I feel like it started too far back in time, although it might just have been my mood. We're getting a ton of backstory about two women who apparently end up in concentration camps. There's the war timeline in WWII and a second timeline in 1995 in which two women are returning to the concentration camp. I'm about 1/3 of the way into the book and while there have been some exciting/tense scenes, I keep thinking, "When are we going to get to whatever they did to lead to their imprisonment? Where's the meat of the story?"

Having said all that, Erika Robuck's writing is stellar. I'm presuming the backstory for both women will all become relevant, at some point and after a couple weeks of it not being the right read for the moment, I'm finally really getting into it. 

The other books in which there are bookmarks have not been touched, this past 2 weeks, and some for much longer, so I'm thinking about clearing my Goodreads "Currently Reading" shelf and putting those other books back in the Currently Reading file when I get back to them, rather than having them linger and glare at me. 


Posts since last Malarkey:



Clearly, I still am not in the mood to review. Because Sisters of Night and Fog is a book I received from the publisher, I will review it when I finish it but I will likely just do a round-up post with the rest of the titles I've read in March. 


In other news:

I finished watching Being Erica and absolutely loved the way it was wrapped up (there are 4 seasons). If you're unfamiliar with it, Being Erica is a Canadian series about a 30-something gal whose life is a mess. She goes into therapy and her therapist has the ability to send her back in time to relive her regrets. So much fun.

I'm still watching Chicago Fire. I'm close to the end of Season 3. I don't know if there are still quite so many episodes per season but I'm on episode 21 of Season 3. Wow, that's a lot of episodes. I think the current season is something like the 14th, so I have a long way to go. 

We also watched Weekend at Bernie's, this weekend, after the whole Clarence Thomas thing ("Is he really alive or are they going to do a Weekend at Bernie's to keep the judicial slot?") and subsequent memes reminded us of what a fun movie it is. 

And, that's it. I confess to otherwise spending a bit too much time doomscrolling the news about Ukraine. They're using white phosphorous, now? OMG. I wish I could understand why we can't do more to help (you know, apart from trying to prevent WWIII or a nuclear attack). I just read President Biden's Warsaw speech, a few hours ago, and was mightily impressed but I felt like, "OK, now do the unity thing back home." By all accounts I've read (I read many news sites, not only American), Biden has been the unifying force the world needs, at this moment. Nice to know. 


©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Fiona Friday

These are the only photos I've taken of the kitties, lately. I spend so much of my time watching Isabel (top) to see if she's still twitching (she is, unfortunately) that I forget to pick up my camera. She is energetic and lovable and eating well, but I'm worried out of my mind. Fiona is happy as ever. She still doesn't like being pilled and will clamp her teeth together but other than that she's incredibly easy to pill. Once I pry her jaws apart, I just pop the pill at the back of her mouth. I don't even have to pick her up or chase her down. I just walk right up to her, open her mouth, pop the pill in, and hand her her treats. If you're going to have to pill a cat for life, this is the kind of cat you want to end up pilling. 

Hope all are well. 



©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Fiona Friday


©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Everything I read in February (in brief)


February:

19. Knight's Castle by Edward Eager - A classic English children's book about a boy who is transported through time when he makes a wish while holding a beat-up old toy soldier that has been passed down through generations of his family. He travels back several times with cousins and sibling but his wish can't come true unless he proves himself. Very fun and a bit goofy.
20. Letters of Note: War by Shaun Usher - A collection of letters written either about or during times of war. Some are funny or fascinating or horrifying. One moved me to tears. 
21. The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman - This seems to be my year for reading banned books. I bought The Complete Maus after hearing a Tennessee school board had removed it from their curriculum for spurious reasons. An important book that brings up lots of discussion-worthy topics, not just the Holocaust (although that's what it's mainly about and the graphic novel presentation is an excellent way to show its horrors) but also suicide and difficult relationships between parent and child.
22. Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman - A collection by the poet who became famous for her poem at President Biden's inauguration (included in the book). I felt like she was at her best when describing the frustration and pain of being Black. But, in general, I struggled with this particular collection and felt like it would have been better on audio. Even the inauguration poem, which I loved when she read it, left me flat. So, clearly I needed to hear it read. 
23. Store of the Worlds by Robert Sheckley - A collection of short stories that are satirical, humorous, off-beat, absurdist . . . and mostly sci-fi. This is a 5-start collection that I'm certain I will return to. 
24. The Arrow Book of Funny Poems, collected by Eleanor Clymer - A very silly book of poetry from my childhood, reread to see if it still holds up. Yes, it's every bit as goofy and fun as it ever was. 
25. Spy x Family #2: Mission Start by Tatsuya Endo - The first Spy x Family graphic novel was set-up. The second shows the characters in action, although not successfully. I am absolutely loving this series.
26. The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo - Based on real events from WWII. When families along the English Coast have to leave their homes so that soldiers can practice beach landings and a cat is left behind, the main character keeps slipping back into the danger zone to search for her. The MC is unlikeable, at first, but softens up so I ended up enjoying this middle grade story. 
27. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates - The story of a slave in the American South (he refers to fellow slaves as "the tasked") who discovers he has a special ability and becomes involved in the Underground Railroad. I liked this book mostly for the vivid portrayal of the horrors of slavery. I was less enamored with the magical realism, which I thought detracted from the theme that no man should be slave to any other. 
28. The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis  - A contemporary/historical novel about women living in the Barbizon Women's Hotel in the 1950s and a modern journalist who is determined to tell the story of those who stayed for decades and were grandfathered in when the building went condo. A bit contrived, as a friend said, but I still eventually became swept up in the story and enjoyed it. 
29. Caste by Isabel Wilkerson - Nonfiction about the American caste system that puts Blacks firmly at the bottom, the structure that has kept them from thriving, and the recent rise of white supremacism, thoroughly researched. By far one of the most important books I've read. I've recently seen Caste on a banned book list. There can only be one reason to ban this book: someone doesn't like what it says. But, there's no disputing the depth of research involved. Fascinating, infuriating, discussion-worthy.
30. Blame by Simon Mayo - An unusual dystopian YA in which families are imprisoned for the crimes of their parents and a teenager who is determined to break herself and her family out of the prison in which they are cruelly held with a band attached to their spine that identifies them as people who are held for "heritage crimes". Quite a rollercoaster ride, as all of the books I've read by Mayo have been. 

©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Everything I read in January

I reviewed all of the books I read in January so I've just linked to the full reviews.  This photo is a little hard to see because I can't lighten it without washing out the image of Unspeakable, but you should be able to click to enlarge it. January was a very good month with an eclectic mix of children's books (one of which was by a high school friend), a classic, a feminist work, some nonfiction including books about art, and one book from a banned list. 


January:



©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Monday Malarkey


Recent arrivals (clockwise from left):


  • The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps: 1939-1945 by Lawrence Ward - purchased
  • Sisters of Night and Fog by Erika Robuck - from Berkley Books for review
  • Slightly Foxed #73: Spring 2022 - from subscription
  • Strongmen by Ruth Ben-Ghiat - purchased after friend talked about it
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett - purchased for F2F book group discussion


OK, yes, I broke my book-buying ban, again. But, I'm back on the proverbial horse. 


Books finished since last Malarkey:


  • Joan is Okay by Weike Wang
  • Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen
  • The Poppy Factory by Liz Trenow
  • The Giant's Necklace by Michael Morpurgo
  • The Summer of Broken Things by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

At least I've been reading (if not posting about books). And, all of these were enjoyable, although I don't think any got 5 stars, except maybe The Poppy Factory

Currently reading:


  • Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes


I have some other bookmarks in books but this is the only one I'm currently reading. I started Sisters of Night and Fog and realized I needed to set it aside briefly but plan to read it next. I can't recall why; it's already shaping up to be an excellent read but perhaps it was too heavy for a day in which I was sobbing harder than usual over the bombings. I'll start over from the beginning when I read it, probably tomorrow. 

Black Brother, Black Brother is going to be a quick read. The main character is a 7th grader so I'm not exactly sure how to classify it. 7th grade is a bit too old for middle grade, but it doesn't quite feel like a YA, either. Maybe YA Lite. Regardless, I'm enjoying it for the way the main character has chosen to stand up for himself by challenging himself physically rather than lashing out at anyone. 


Posts since last Malarkey:



In other news (aka, "Where ya been?"):

Last week was one of those weeks that I tried to write a review and stared at the screen for hours. That was Monday. On Tuesday, I sat down to try again and found myself still unable to write. So, I walked away from the computer for a week. I've periodically checked email but just realized that I haven't even done that for at least 3 days. So, that's why there were no blog posts, last week, not even a Fiona Friday. In fact, I might have put up a Fiona Friday photo if I hadn't been hauling a cat to the vet. Isabel is still on antibiotics after a month, still twitching, but we haven't done follow-up blood work, yet, or further testing. Two more weeks till her next visit (approximately — since going to the vet means I have to catch her and she is too clever for her own good). 

I'm on Season 3 of Chicago Fire. I don't know why that show is able to serve as my escapist bolt hole, but it is. When the news is unbearable, I turn on another episode of Chicago Fire. My husband can't bear to watch it. "It's so stupid," he says. To that, I have to say . . . well, yeah. Maybe that's why it's so great for escapism. I've noticed something interesting about the show that I never noticed when watching it every week or so (I'm not good at tuning in at the right time for anything, unfortunately, so I've never seen it regularly for an entire season). They have a tendency to run a storyline for a few episodes and then just drop it with no mention ever again. For example, Shay decided she wanted to have a baby, talked her dad into paying for in-vitro treatment, and went through with it. That took several episodes. Then, she found it out didn't take, was envious of the pregnant girlfriend of her best buddy for a short time and . . . nothing. It was never again mentioned. That happens a lot and once you've noticed, it's hard not to keep a running list of all the abandoned storylines, but I don't care. It's a bit of a soap opera, typically, and while it'll never quite be the joyful viewing that Emergency! was, I still love it. 

I'm also on the third season of Being Erica and it's taken an unusual turn, this season. Otherwise, it's all been news of Ukraine and I confess that there have been only a couple of news reports that didn't have me in tears. I've read comments to that effect from other people on social media, along with the fact that people feel similarly helpless watching an entire country being heartlessly bombed. At the same time, my admiration for Ukrainians is unbounded. What an amazingly strong, resilient, hopeful people. I want to be as tough as a Ukrainian. But, mostly, I want Putin defeated so they can go home in peace and rebuild their country. 


©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, March 04, 2022

Fiona Friday

Photos of the two kitty girls relaxing harmoniously are always favorites. 


©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman


I bought a copy of The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman (both the Pulitzer-winning original and the follow-up in one volume) after reading about Maus's removal from a curriculum in Tennessee. I'm sure you've all heard about that if you're in the US. I've had it on my wishlist for years and at one point actually owned a copy of the original with a cover that was falling off but got rid of it without reading it during one of my book purges. At the time, I didn't know what it was about; I'd bought it used on a whim when I'd never read any graphic novels or biographies, probably out of curiosity. Then, I didn't get around to reading it. 

For those who don't know, Maus I: A Survivor's Tale is a graphic memoir about author and artist Art Spiegelman's parents' experiences leading up to and during WWII and the author's difficult relationship with his father. Art Spiegelman's father was a Polish Jew. Maus I first tells the story of how his parents met, married, and started a family as Hitler was coming into power. During the early years of the war, Art's parents either managed to find jobs, hide, or escape arrest numerous times but had many harrowing close calls. The book goes back and forth between Vladek Spiegelman's experiences and Art's determined effort to get the full story of what happened to his family, including a brother who died during the war, out of his father and try to locate his mother's diaries. 

The second book, Maus II, describes his father's experiences in a concentration camp after he and his wife were imprisoned and separated. Again, it goes back and forth in time as the author deals with his difficult father and gradually learns the complete story. 

I chose to buy The Complete Maus so I could judge its merits for myself after reading that the Tennessee school board members had complained about nudity, violence, and profanity in the book. My questions were, "How much nudity and profanity are there in the book(s)? Is anything portrayed genuinely offensive or is the storyline important enough to negate any negative aspects?"

First of all, you must know that we're talking about people portrayed as mice (Jews), cats (Nazis), and other animals (pigs were, I think, Poles who were not Jewish, but I'm not certain), except when he portrays his mother's suicide. In that case, he reverted to human images and showed a partial image of his mother's naked body in the bathtub, where she took her life. I counted a total of 7 instances in which profanity was used, all of which are words heard regularly on TV. When the Jews were forced to stand around naked, you do see tiny little man parts on the mouse bodies. And, yes, there are images of legs and feet when Nazis hanged Jews, either as punishment or for sport. All of this is less offensive than the factual horror of what the Nazis did, of course. Who cares about a few bad words and a little nudity when Maus has, as teachers say, told the historical truth of Nazi cruelty effectively?

Highly recommended - There is nothing in The Complete Maus that kids today haven't seen when it comes to the items school board members in Tennessee found offensive, and Maus is an important book, one that not only describes the Holocaust and its horrors but also portrays a difficult relationship between father and son that likely has made a lot of people with equally difficult relationships feel a little less alone. Suicide is a third topic that is addressed, although only marginally as his father describes his mother's battle with recurring depression that first began as postpartum depression. 


©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

The Runaways by Holly Webb and Knight's Castle by Edward Eager

Both of these books are middle grade and (surprise!) I read an e-book! You know how often that happens. 

The Runaways by Holly Webb is a WWII story about a young London girl whose mother refuses to evacuate her to the countryside when war is coming. She is a widow and wants to keep her remaining family (two children, one of whom is a teenager) close and needs help running her shop. 

Molly is already upset about her friends leaving when she finds out her mum is going to have the dog and cat put to sleep in preparation for possible bombing. So she packs up, takes the animals, and runs away. 

The cat gets out of her basket and runs back home (which naturally gave the cat lover in me anxiety) but Molly continues on with the dog and eventually comes across two children who are also runaways but from an abusive home. The three travel together until they find a place to settle. But, even that may not end up well. 

Recommended - I thought The Runaways was a very good story, although the writing was occasionally a bit awkward. The occasional awkward sentence, though, certainly wasn't enough to stop the momentum. I felt like you really got a feel for the hunger, the dirt, the grief, and the general horror of war in The Runaways and I'll be watching for more by Holly Webb. 


Knight's Castle by Edward Eager is an older book, the second in the "Tales of Magic" series, copyrighted in 1956. It sat on my wish list for many months (because of last year's book-buying ban) after I read that it was the childhood favorite of an author I admire. 

After I added the book to my wish list, I threw away the interview in which Knight's Castle was mentioned, so I have no idea who recommended it but she said she'd been waiting for it to have it's time in the sun as she thought it was better than Harry Potter. While I'm not a huge fan of Harry Potter, I tend to disagree, but I still enjoyed Knight's Castle.

Knight's Castle is the story of a boy who has a collection of toy soldiers that have been passed down through his family. The oldest one is in terrible shape but when the boy closes his hand around it and makes a wish, he's transported back in time and the way he's positioned the toy soldiers around a play castle is how they are when he materializes in this magical world and the toys become human. 

There's a whole backstory with the boy, his sister, and two cousins. The boy and his sister end up at their cousins' house because something's wrong with their father and he must urgently go to the hospital.The boy is originally transported through time when he makes his wish and then the other children eventually begin to travel back in time with him. But, his wish can't come true until he proves himself worthy. And, he's running out of time.

Recommended - While I wouldn't call Knight's Castle a favorite, I enjoyed it enough to wish I had the entire series to read. I always enjoy time travel and there's a silliness to the book that tickled me. When the soldier's talk, it's like they're trying to speak as if they live in the Middle Ages but they don't quite know how, so it's a bit gibberish and quite funny. I can definitely see how this story would have left an impression on a child. 

©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Monday Malarkey


Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • Anthem by Noah Hawley
  • Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen
  • Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff Vandermeer
  • Fuzz by Mary Roach
  • The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
  • The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Delilah Harris
  • The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton
  • My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson
  • Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson 
  • Becoming Abolitionists by Derecka Purnell
  • Heard it in a Love Song by Tracy Garvis Graves
  • Ghosts by Dolly Alderton
  • Maid by Nita Prose

Not pictured: 

  • Joan is Okay by Weike Wang

This shockingly large and unexpected pile brought to you by the "Free ARC" cart at my old library. I dropped by to look for any old book that was either falling apart or had no particular value in the library sale corner (like outdated reference books) for the sake of tearing out pages to use in collaging and came across the cart. Oh, and I did find a terribly outdated reference book that has about 1500 pages, so lots of nice page ripping is in my future. I can't bear to just tear apart any old book. They have to be useless or in poor condition. 

At any rate, I was not expecting to get a pile of free books. There were 4 shelves full but I stuck mostly to books that were already on my radar, either ones that I'd seen reviewed and put on my wish list or by authors I love (Tracy Garvis Graves, Noah Hawley) and I think I ended up with some pretty exciting books. I'm especially thrilled that there are plenty by Black authors because I've decided that Black History Month should just go on all year, especially when it comes to books that have been banned or challenged. 


Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Spy x Family #2 by Tatsuya Endo
  • The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis
  • Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
  • Blame by Simon Mayo


Currently reading:

  • Joan is Okay by Weike Wang

I have the Beatles Book still going but didn't touch it, last week. The same is true of Paint Mojo (which I've also had a bookmark in for several weeks) because I have all sorts of art projects going and it's not actually a good time for that one, although I'll keep reading a chapter, now and then, when I think of it and then return to it when I'm ready to use it for inspiration. 

Joan is Okay was not pictured because I didn't pick it up from the cart, for some reason, although I kept looking at it. It was obviously calling me but I think I just decided I had more than enough and I needed to stop. Fortunately, it was still there when I went back the next day. I had to return to Vicksburg to take Isabel to the vet and since it was 40° out, she was safe and comfy in the car while I ran in and snatched it off the cart (I would not have left her for a second if it had been warm out and the sun shining). I started Joan is Okay last night, and I am loving it. Always listen when books holler at you. 

I'll be adding a new nonfiction read tonight, now that I've finished Caste


Posts since last Malarkey:


In other news:

I was actually expecting to share the children's books from my recent non-buying break purchase in my "recent arrivals" today. Both piles (the ARCs from the library and the children's books from Book Outlet) have already been dipped into. Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo is one I bought from Book Outlet primarily because of the combination of WWII story and a cat on the cover. Haha, figures. It's a good story and I hope to review it very soon. I had never heard of Michael Morpurgo but apparently he's one of England's most admired writers of middle grade books. I bought two more of his and I'm excited about both. 

I'm reading a little too fast to keep up with myself, review-wise, this year. Such a relief after two years of not reading at my normal pace. It's the old problem boomeranging on me but when you're reading almost exclusively off your own shelves, it's a lesser one. There are no required reviewing dates, hence no pressure. That's the reason I'm doing more combined mini reviews — while I know people do drop by to read my reviews, I started this blog as a place to spill about the books I've read and it's become a nice reference to look back upon. But, I don't necessarily need to write separate reviews for everything.

I do have a single book that I accepted for book tour (because it was on my wish list). It has not arrived and the review date is just 10 days from now, so if it doesn't get here, no biggie. I'll eventually check it out from the library. But, every other request for review has gone in the circular file. 

TV-wise, I've been bingeing (sp?) on Chicago Fire but I'm still only on Season 2. Wow, there were a lot of episodes in those early seasons! Over 20 in Season 1. The only other thing I watched, this week, was the news. I have no personal connection to Ukraine, other than the head of my husband's dissertation committee and his family, second generation Ukrainian-Americans, whom we haven't seen or spoken to in probably at least a decade but I am well aware of just how dangerous this is. If Putin succeeds in keeping Ukraine from staying a democracy, he is going to continue saying, "I can't have a democratic country to the West" and invading the next country. Not to mention the horrible toll on human lives.

So, I am rooting for Ukraine, of course, and much bemused by the Americans who are traitorously siding with an authoritarian who has journalists, protestors, politicians who disagree with him, etc., murdered  regularly. My prayers are with the people of Ukraine, who have shown uncommon courage in the face of horror. To their strength, to victory for Ukraine, to democracy. 




©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


Friday, February 25, 2022

Fiona Friday


©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The Defiant Middle by Kaya Oakes


The problem is that today, the religious right has hijacked the conversation about how God talks to people. The language of white evangelicalism, particularly the politicized American version, rooted in its history of Calvinistic ideas of sin and predestination, emphasizes a person hearing Jesus or God speak to them not for the good of the community or the salvation of humankind like those mad women saints did, but for selfish, power-driven, and dangerous reasons. 

The faith of prosperity-gospel preachers, gun-rights advocates making rosaries out of bullets, and "pro-life" men who assassinate doctors who perform abortions or plant bombs in clinics is, for many of us, what really feels like madness. Watching the increasingly tightly bound ties between nationalism and religion, white supremacy and religion, and homophobia/transphobia and religion and the stripping away of the health care mentally ill people rely on is like witnessing a collective episode of mental illness in light of what the gospels actually preach. If the purpose of religion is to make us better people, more concerned with others, and participants in the liberation of all humanity, the religious right has foresworn belief in the opposite. 

The hatred, suspicion, and fear of visionary women is real, too, including in the Catholic Church, which has transformed its wild and untamable female saints into squeaky-clean, obedient, silent enigmas bereft of personality and representative of not much more than purity and piety. It is easier for religious or political institutions to point the finger and dismiss a woman as "crazy" than it is to unpack the overlapping social, cultural, and religious forces that exacerbate so many women's mental health issues in the first place. If those saints were just more crazy women littered throughout history, they're also easily erased. 

~pp. 62-63 of The Defiant Middle

Here's why I bought The Defiant Middle by Kaya Oakes, a description included in a review I read:

For every woman, from the young to those in midlife and beyond, who has ever been told, You can't and thought, Oh, I definitely will!--this book is for you.

That makes The Defiant Middle sound like it might be a book of positive thinking for women and the above quote shows that it's not that at all, although you may come out of the reading feeling like you're ready to grab your sword and take on the world and its ridiculous expectations. Author Kaya Oakes talks about how patriarchal society has influenced everything from the words in the Bible to the societal pillars for how women should behave, as well as how women through the ages have been punished for simply being who and what they are. The second paragraph from the publisher's description gives you a better feel for it:

Women are expected to be many things. They should be young enough, but not too young; old enough, but not too old; creative, but not crazy; passionate, but not angry. They should be fertile and feminine and self-reliant, not barren or butch or solitary. Women, in other words, are caught between social expectations and a much more complicated reality.

The author weaves her personal history as a Catholic and her knowledge of saints into the narrative about how women have been suppressed, notable women have been erased from history, and unique women have been treated as if they're nuts or, worse, heretics. 

Unfortunately, while I recall the author talking a lot about the conflicting societal expectations for women, it's been a bit too long since I read it to go into any detail beyond that of the publicity material. I do recall that it all made sense to me and made me steam. And, when I closed the book I immediately thought, "I'm going to need to reread this."

Highly recommended - A solid read that describes womanhood and the challenges of being female in a patriarchal society through a spiritual lens. Excellent and definitely discussion-worthy.

©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

A few minis - Slightly Foxed #71, Letters of Note: War by Shaun Usher, The Arrow Book of Funny Poems by Eleanor Clymer

Again, a few I don't have much to say about. 

Slightly Foxed Reader's Quarterly #71: August 2021
is my first Slightly Foxed journal. I had not heard of it till a friend mentioned it at Instagram, and I confess that I bought a one-year subscription for myself as a Christmas gift for no other reason than I knew nobody else would buy it if I asked. And, then it never did get put under the tree so it felt like a bit of a post-Christmas bonus.  

For those who are unfamiliar with Slightly Foxed, it's a quarterly journal with essays about books, usually a particular book that is either tied to the author's memories in some way or was found during research, etc. The bottom line is that the authors of essays in Slightly Foxed tend to wax poetic about a particular book or several books and it is one delightfully dangerous little collection of writings. Yes, yes, I want nearly all of them after reading about how wonderful, memorable, controversial, or charming the books are. Of course, I'm on a book-buying ban so it's not happening. But, wow, if I was just building a library I would want to start a collection of Slightly Foxed books. 

Recommended if you're not afraid that reading eloquently-written essays about books will destroy your budget. And, even then I recommend it, just hold onto your hat and maybe freeze your credit card till you get over it. 

Letters of Note: War compiled by Shaun Usher is a book of letters either written during a war or about war. I was curious about it because I have a passion for reading about war, both as it's experienced by those who are in the military and the folks left back home. 

To be honest, I didn't read the description so I was quite surprised by the sheer variety. There is, for example, a letter written by a Roman soldier at Hadrian's Wall, asking someone to "send beer". I was certainly not expecting the letters to go back that far! There are also plenty of letters written home from wars closer to our time period, including one from the mother of a soldier killed in Vietnam, a letter from Evelyn Waugh telling a story about soldiers making a hash of tree removal during WWII, and a letter from Martha Gellhorn to Eleanor Roosevelt written as Martha was heading to Spain to fight the rise of fascism. 

Of all of these letters, by far the most moving was the one from a mother whose son died in Vietnam. I absolutely sobbed when I read that one. Some were funny, like Evelyn Waugh's story about the trees, some a little difficult to read because the language of the writer's time was a bit different. Martha Gellhorn's was my favorite for sheer readability and that's a positive because I just happen to have a book of selected letters written by Gellhorn. At any rate, compact as this book is, it was a fascinating read. 

Recommended to those who are interested in primary source material from various wars. There is a series of "Letters of Note" books and the Letters of Note website is still extant. I haven't spent any time there but it looks like a good way to waste an afternoon. 

The Arrow Book of Funny Poems compiled by Eleanor Clymer is a Scholastic book from my childhood with silly rhyming poetry. I chose to read it to see if it held up to my memories (as a child, I nearly beat the book to death, I read it so many times) after an Instagram friend reread a poetry favorite from her youth. I'd just spotted the book on one of my shelves, shortly before I saw her post. 

Answer: Yes, it holds up. It's just as silly as it ever was and I like the goofiness. While it's probably still best read as a child, I enjoyed it. A couple favorites:

The Optimist (Anonymous author)

The Optimist fell ten stories,
And at each window bar,
He shouted to the folks inside, 
"Doing all right, so far!"


The Ostrich is a Silly Bird by Mary E. Wilkens Freeman

The Ostrich is a silly bird, 
With scarcely any mind,
He often runs so very fast, 
He leaves himself behind.

And when he gets there, has to stand
And hang about till night,
Without a blessed thing to do
Until he comes in sight 


I'd recommend this book for children but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a copy, anywhere. Still, if you ever happen across it, it's loads of fun and especially suited for giggly kids who like humor. 

©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, February 21, 2022

The Founding Myth by Andrew L. Seidel

Jefferson also authored the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom, upon which the First Amendment would be based. That law, along with the University of Virginia and the Declaration of Independence, were the only achievements he wanted inscribed on his gravestone. The statute guaranteed religious freedom by guaranteeing a secular government. In the statute, Jefferson skewered "the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others."

~p. 36 of The Founding Myth

The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American by Andrew L. Seidel is about the separation of church and state, how and why the "founding fathers" of the United States chose to create this wall of separation, and what specifically they said about religion that indicated their personal beliefs. 

If you're a Christian, as I am, you'll struggle with certain opinions of the atheist author of The Founding Myth. He can be pretty strident when describing the negatives of religion. But, while he may get certain details wrong from our perspective, the bottom line is that the historical references and quotes lay out his assertion that the US was not founded as a Christian nation in a logical, detailed way. 

Seidel also asserts that the wall of separation between church and state makes both religious groups and the government stronger. I agree with him on that, but if the idea rubs you the wrong way, all the more reason to explore why he makes such a declaration. 

Highly recommended - I have always been a strong believer in the separation of church and state and the author of The Founding Myth does an excellent job of explaining why it exists and backing that up with historical references. As to his thoughts about Christianity, while there were some minor issues with some of his assertions about it, I like having my beliefs challenged and I can't deny that he makes a lot of excellent points about how Christianity has been used as a cudgel, whether to cause the submission of women or justify violence against enemies. Christianity has a terrible, bloody history, when you get right down to it. We see, in fact, the justification of gun ownership and use by Christians using a single, out-of-context Bible quote, even today. 

There are a lot more quotes I considered using for this review as this is my most marked-up book, so far in 2022. But, the book is so worth reading that I'd rather just encourage everyone to read it, instead. 

©2022 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.