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by to look for any old book that was either falling apart or had no particular value in the library sale corner (like outdated reference books) for the sake of tearing out pages to use in collaging and came across the cart. Oh, and I did find a terribly outdated reference book that has about 1500 pages, so lots of nice page ripping is in my future.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 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 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 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 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 for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Fiona Friday

I call this photo "Smells like chicken."

©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 for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

In Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea, Nayeli's village in Mexico, Tres Camarones, has been invaded by dangerous drugs runners/bandidos but almost all of the men have gone to the United States to find work. Her father has been gone for years without sending money or even a postcard. When Nayeli realizes there is nobody around to save them, she's inspired by the movie, The Magnificent Seven. She and her friends will go to America to bring home her own Magnificent Seven to drive the bandidos away. 

Highly recommended - A marvelous read that treats the "illegal" characters like the humans they are, with joys and sorrows like the rest of us. Nayeli is an especially strong character but a believable one, as are her friends, flaws and all. I was expecting the usual, harrowing border crossing adventure and there's plenty of that. What I didn't expect was the humor. Mexicans complaining that they need a wall on their Southern border. Border Patrolmen who put illegals on the bus back to Tijuana and, after asking, "Will you cross over again?" and being told yes, say "See you next week!" Just an all-around fabulous read, respectful, surprising, and hilarious. 

I don't own any other books by Luis Alberto Urrea, unfortunately, but now I want to read his entire backlist. I love his sense of 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 for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

A Boy Named Isamu by James Yang and Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper

Both of the following are children's picture books. Full disclosure: James Yang, author of A Boy Named Isamu, is a high school friend. While these are both 5-star reads, I have very little to say about either, so this will be just a couple of slap-dash, quickie reviews. 

A Boy Named Isamu by James Yang is a story that imagines artist Isamu Noguchi as a boy, on a single day when he goes to the market with his mother and drifts away. It shows his boundless curiosity and sense of wonder as he notices the shapes and textures that will inform his art. 

The illustrations are fabulous. I'm a fan of James's art but I think he really knocked it out of the park in A Boy Named Isamu. And, I loved the way he portrayed how an artist sees and thinks. There's a nice bio of Isamu Noguchi in the back of the book. 

Highly recommended - I loved A Boy Named Isamu so much that I read it, recorded it in my reading calendar, and then read it again. As I said elsewhere . . . forget the grandkids, this one's for me. But, I'm sure the grandchildren would appreciate it, as well. 

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper (illustrator) is a book I bought after seeing it on a list of books that some politician or conservative group wants banned. I was curious why on earth anyone would want to ban a children's picture book, especially about such an important topic. 

Brief note: My husband and I grew up in Oklahoma and neither of us ever heard of this particular historical event, although Hubby says his friend told a story of his grandfather hiding a Black man in the 1920s and he's pretty sure it was during what has elsewhere been called the "Tulsa Race Riot" (a name which, this author notes, places blame on the victims). 

Unspeakable tells the true story of the Tulsa Race Massacre  and places the blame squarely where it belongs, on the people of that time period who murdered, looted, and burned a prosperous black community to the ground. It's well written, appears well researched, and the illustrations are marvelous. It ends with a photo of the burned remains of Tulsa's Greenwood district. As an Oklahoman who didn't hear about this violent travesty until a few years ago, I'm glad to see it talked about. 

Highly recommended - The hardback was sold out everywhere when I looked this book up, so I bought the e-book and the electronic version is perfect. There were no issues at all with the images. This story was suppressed for far too long and I can't imagine why anyone would desire to ban it other than a continued desire to suppress the truth. It's told in a very positive way and the illustrations are just stunning. 

©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 for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (above):

  • The Swimmers by Chloe Lane - from Meryl Zegarek Public Relations for review (unsolicited)
  • The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman - purchased 

And, one pile from my break from the book-buying ban (above, top to bottom):

  • Blame by Simon Mayo
  • Nora by Nuala O'Connor
  • The Nesting by C. J. Cooke
  • The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Brat: An '80s Story by Andrew McCarthy
  • The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz
  • We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker
  • The Quiet Boy by Ben H. Winters
  • Falling by T. J. Newman

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Runaways by Holly Webb
  • A Boy Named Isamu by James Yang
  • Knight's Castle by Edward Eager
  • Letters of Note: War by Shaun Usher
  • The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
  • Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman
  • Store of the Worlds by Robert Sheckley

My momentum from January continued into the first week of February but then this week I kept trying to drag myself through a book that wasn't working for me and finally DNF'd it at 128 pages. I still would like to finish it but I don't know if I will. Fortunately, the book I picked up to replace it is excellent. 

Currently reading:

  • Island: The Complete Stories by Alistair MacLeod
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Complete Beatles Songs by Steve Turner
  • Paint Mojo by Tracy Verdugo

Since I finished Store of the Worlds, I needed another collection of short stories to read and Island just happened to be sitting in front of my computer when I was thinking about what to read next. The Water Dancer is the book I referred to that replaced my DNF, A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow. I absolutely loved A Song Below Water and so wanted to love this sequel (or second in a series . . . I don't know if it will continue) but the heroine in A Chorus Rises is the mean girl Eloko (basically, the higher-class in a magical world, who is used to everyone admiring and adoring her and can't figure out what to do when she becomes a pariah). She's annoying. And, not much seems to be happening. I even tried skimming but I found the language confusing enough that I needed to slow down to digest it and . . . OK, sometimes a book just drags you down and you have to decide when enough is enough. But, I like the symbolism, like the Elokos standing in for, I presume, upper class whites who have everything handed to them on a platter. I might just read a chapter a day to try to finish it up. We'll see. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

Last week was obviously one of those weeks that I didn't feel like writing blog posts. Hopefully, this week will be a better one because I am way the heck behind on reviewing. Whatever, I'll catch up. 

In other news:

I don't know if this image can be clicked on to enlarge, but here's everything we've watched lately, or are in the process of watching (for the most part -- I just realized I missed one). Movies we've watched are The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, which I may have already mentioned, Charade, and My Man Godfrey. All were great. We were recently in a mood for older, classic movies, hence Charade and My Man Godfrey. I only occasionally watch an episode of Blake's 7 but I'm enjoying it. And, I've just started watching Station Eleven. I have not read the book but do have an electronic copy of it. I've also been watching Chicago Fire, Season 1. It's been a favorite for years but I am so not a TV person that I keep forgetting to tune in, so I decided to see if it would be possible to stream the entire series from the beginning. Thank you, Peacock! The one show I'm watching almost daily that I forgot to add to my collage is Being Erica, which I usually watch while eating lunch. 

It took a while but finally, after a couple of months during which had to dismantle my art space and then clear a space because it had become buried in clutter, I'm back to doing some artwork. Currently, I'm working on a tutorial of "happy houses" and I got the cover of a cat art journal finished, so now I need to start on the interior. I've never done art journaling and I fear I'm a bit too precious about it so I'll be working on trying to loosen up and just use it as a practice space. 

©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 for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Fiona Friday

This photo has a story. I had a sleepless night in which the cat contributed to the challenge, so at about 2AM, I decided to just document all that climbing around that Isabel was doing. Here, she's balanced on the edge of a bedside table drawer. I have photos of her climbing across my legs, walking across the drawer from various angles, close-ups, and one hilarious photo of her tail flopped across my face. It was a hell of a night. The next night was a normal one, thank goodness. 

For those who aren't on my Instagram, Isabel had some bad blood results and is currently on antibiotics. We're hoping the problem is just a bad infection, not something worse. If you've been around a very long time, you might remember our Sunshine, who is still in the sidebar. Sunshine was the same age both kitties are now when she died of cancer. And, recently both cats have come up with their own health challenges. Fiona's hyperthyroidism is under control with medication. Now, we just have to hope Isabel's problem will be fixed by antibiotics. Any prayers or good vibes are welcome. I'll be back to regular posting with next week's Monday Malarkey. 

©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 for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, February 04, 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 for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

Spy School Secret Service by Stuart Gibbs and Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

I don't know the order of the Spy School books by Stuart Gibbs but Spy School Secret Service is my 4th read and maybe the 5th or 6th book? Each of the books refers back to the others, on occasion, but I've found that skipping a title here or there is no big deal. 

In Spy School Secret Service, 13-year-old Ben Ripley is sent on an undercover mission to the White House. Chatter about a possible attempt on the president's life has been overheard and even the Secret Service is suspect. SPYDER, the evil spy agency whose plans Ben has thwarted in the past, is involved and they are very good at infiltrating government agencies. 

Ben's cover doesn't work out well, at first, so he has to be careful and clever to find a way to uncover the plot. But, when an actual attempt is made on the president's life, Ben is accused of the crime. Will Ben be able to find a way to stop SPYDER and get himself out of trouble? 

Highly recommended - I absolutely love this series. Every book is equally funny and there are always plenty of exciting action scenes. I think I only have one Spy School book left on my TBR pile and I'm going to read it soon. This is a series I'll hang onto to reread. They're so entertaining that it doesn't matter one bit what age range they're meant for. They're absolutely delightful. 

Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce is a British children's classic (you can probably see that it says "Sixtieth Anniversary Edition" on the cover, although it's a bit small). I'd never heard of it till I read a review of it but I immediately put it on my wish list and it's one that I bought during my break from what seems to be becoming my permanent book-buying ban. 

Tom's brother has the measles and to try to prevent Tom from getting them as well, he's hustled off to his childless aunt and uncle's home, a flat in a large house that's been divided. Tom is disappointed because he was looking forward to spending the school holidays playing in the garden with his brother. But, when the grandfather clock downstairs strikes 13, Tom is curious and he can't sleep, anyway, so he goes to peer out the back door, where he's been told there's a small parking area and a garbage bin but little else. 

When Tom opens the door, instead he finds a large walled garden with plenty of room to explore and trees to climb. He finds that he's invisible to most of the people in the garden but there's a little girl who can see and speak to him. She thinks he's a ghost but that doesn't faze her; they become playmates. Each night, Tom sneaks out the door to the garden and plays in another time. Where and when does this garden exist? Is Tom's playmate the ghost of someone who used to live in the house? 

Highly recommended - I can see why this book is a classic. It's beautifully written, mysterious, and absolutely sweeps you away to a magical time when nature was an endless playground. I loved every minute and was happy that the book ended exactly as I hoped it would. 

I also found it quite interesting how a child's dangerous illness was handled in an earlier time (guessing his aunt and uncle had already had the illness?). Tom's Midnight Garden was published in 1958, undoubtedly pre-vaccine. His brother is ill for weeks, which fits my own experience as my vaccination didn't "take" and I was one of the rare children of my era who had the measles after being vaccinated. 

Another book I'll hang onto for a potential reread and hopefully one that I can share with my grandchildren, someday. 

©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 for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I read The Midnight Library primarily because I needed an upper and Matt Haig's books are pretty much guaranteed to be uplifting in some way. Bingo. Definitely a book that gives you hope. 

The heroine in The Midnight Library has problems that she can't see her way out of. Nora Seed's lost her parents, her brother seldom speaks to her, her cat has died, and she's just lost her job. She can't find any reason to go on and decides to end it all but instead finds herself in a library, where she's told that she's between life and death by the woman who actually used to be her school librarian and helped her get through another rough time in her life. In this library, Nora can choose to relive her life if she'd made different decisions, large or small. All of them exist parallel to each other (so, it's a metaverse book). If she finds a life she prefers, she can stay. But, even the smallest thing that doesn't feel right will send her right back to the library.

At first, Nora relives changes to the most obvious regrets in her life. But, eventually Nora finds out that she can try things that are a bit outlandish. However, she doesn't have forever because it's possible that back in her known world, the body she tried to kill may die. If the clock in the library hits midnight, it's all over. Will she be able to find her perfect life and keep living it? 

Highly recommended - The Midnight Library gets some pretty polarized reviews and I can see both sides but the bottom line, for me, was that I couldn't put it down and it makes a nice point about life being imperfect but worth living. It's schmaltzy, but I loved it. I gave it 5 stars. Having said that, the ending wasn't what I'd hoped for and I think Haig got the same theme across better in The Humans. But, his writing is clever and compelling and I can actually visualize myself rereading The Midnight Library in the future, when I need an upper again. 

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