Friday, December 01, 2023

Everything I Read in November, 2023

132. Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson - I'm a fan of short stories, in general (although I like them to feel complete), but particularly quirky ones and Kevin Wilson's writing is nothing if not bizarre. In the title story, "Tunneling to the Center of the Earth," for example, three recent college grads are unable to decide what they should do with their lives, having chosen their degrees badly. Then, one day they come to the mutual decision to start digging. For months, they dig tunnels and chambers while the protagonist's parents drop food down to them. It's compelling because you have no earthly idea where the story is headed. In "The Museum of Whatnots," a 30-something woman with almost no possessions lives above her workplace, a museum of odd collections. She's not interested in much of anything or anyone, apart from a doctor who comes in to stare at a collection of random spoons. And, these wonderful stories were written while the author was still in college. Amazing, mature writing for a man who was so young. I want to read everything Kevin Wilson has ever written. His writing reminded me of George Saunders, another author whose work I've been trying to read in its entirety. 

133. The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi - Jamie loses his job during the pandemic and ends up delivering food. When one of his customers offers him a mysterious job with significantly better pay, he accepts. But the new job is on a different Earth with Godzilla-like creatures and it's both dangerous and smelly. A very silly book but fun reading. My only complaint is that everyone sounded alike to me; they all had the same sense of humor and verbal quirks. I was fine with that. While not Scalzi's best, I can appreciate The Kaiju Preservation Society for what it is, a light-hearted multiverse sci-fi. 

134. Step Ball Change by Jeanne Ray - Step Ball Change was my most recent stationary bike read and it was perfect for the purpose! The text was large enough to see, the story is lighthearted, and it was an older book so it fell flat in its little book holder. What a fun read. Caroline and Tom have been mostly happily married for over 40 years and have four grown children, a house that's falling apart, a contractor who practically lives with them he's there so often, and busy lives, she in her dance studio and he as a lawyer. When Their only daughter, Kay, gets engaged to a son from the town's wealthiest family and then Caroline's sister Taffy comes to visit because of her impending divorce, things get a little wild. Taffy's dog is a nuisance and her soon-to-be-ex won't stop calling. Kay's fiancee's family expects them to pay for half of a wedding for at least 600 guests, son George keeps bringing Kay's former fling Jack for dinner. It's a madhouse. But, it's a very fun madhouse and I loved this book. It's an older title I once passed on to a friend, thinking I'd never get to it. She handed it back saying, "I laughed so hard I spit in it. Sorry about the spit, but you really must read this book." She was right. 

135. The Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton - The second in the Borrowers series begins shortly after the disaster of the first book. Driven from their home beneath the floorboards, Pod, Homily, and Arrietty must traverse the fields, hedges, and orchard to find the badger's set to which their relatives moved long ago. While searching, they find a temporary home and meet another tiny person who is called Spiller. He's dirty and fiercely independent; he can't bear to be asked questions. But, he's also very helpful to the Borrowers because they are accustomed to living in a home with people from whom they can easily borrow food and other supplies. But, even Spiller isn't enough to stop the fight against the elements and, eventually, some dangerous humans. This series is so much better than my vague memories. 

136. Fing by David Walliams - I've been curious about why the comedian from Little Britain is such a wildly popular children's book author for ages, so I tossed a couple of his books into my cart when I broke my book-buying ban to load up on Kevin Wilson's older titles (yep, did it again). Fing's reviews are pretty polarized and I fall into the middle. The story of a terrible child who is always asking for more, more, more till one day she asks for a "fing" and her librarian parents must plumb the depths of the library to find out what exactly that is. Then, the father goes to the deepest, darkest, jungliest jungle to obtain a fing, which is nasty and mean and bitey. Because the parents are total wimps, so they give her everything she desires. There's a bit of bathroom humor, an overload of onomatopoeia, and the "world's worst child" trope that's been done to death. But, Walliams gave the trope his own unique spin and I did like the moral at the end of the story. This one would probably be best loved by 10-year-old boys who like all things gross. I didn't hate it enough to say "never again" but I'm hoping my second Walliams book is a little less yuck and more story. 

137. Spy x Family, Vol. 10 by Tatsuya Endo - I think this may be the best of the Spy X Family books, if not the funniest, as it goes into Twilight's (the spy father's) origin story but it also has plenty of fun things going on. For example, Anya gets a dreaded Tonitrus Bolt, a form of punishment. It is her second and Twilight is so upset that he passes out. When her bus is delayed, Anya is asked to help the headmaster carry some things. I think Anya's attitude in this particular story is pretty funny. Yor goes shopping and it's a sign of how different she is, not knowing exactly what Anya's referring to when she asks for "crunchy cakes". She stops a disaster from happening when a woman almost falls down a flight of stairs with a pile of boxes and the woman is so happy that Yor is invited to join a mother's group for tea and later volleyball. These things make Yor very uncomfortable but she's hoping to learn how to fit in and act like a mother. So fun. 

138. Women Heroes of World War II: The Pacific Theater by Kathryn J. Atwood - I won a copy of this book from the author via a Facebook drawing and started reading it practically the moment it hit my mailbox. A Young Adult set of historical bios, not in-depth but enough to make you feel like you knew each of the women and understand how stunningly courageous they were. I have read more about WWII in Europe, Eastern Europe, and Great Britain than the Pacific, so I learned some answers to some of my questions about the Pacific Theater, the reason Japan initially attacked China, and how the Japanese occupation spread, in addition to what these women did, at risk of their lives. I appreciated the clarity of the writing. The author warns readers that there are some disturbing descriptions of torture and rape and I'm glad I was prepared for that as they are definitely hard to read. But, you need to read the hard parts in order to understand just how much the heroes in this work of nonfiction risked. I had about a week-long book slump before this book arrived. One note: I read about the Bataan Death March right before bed and that triggered one whopper of a nightmare, so I advise not reading right before you go to sleep. 

139. The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag - This story about a magical house that appears only to those who are drawn to it and the women who come there to heal is absolutely wonderful. I feel like saying much more would be to give too much away. But, it is reminiscent of Sarah Addison Allen's writing, with its magical touches, set in Cambridge, England, and loaded with literary references. I've already found a new home for my copy. I feel like this is a book worth sharing. 

140. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss and E. G. Keller - A sweet, silly, and surprising story about a bunny named Marlon who meets another boy bunny. They play all day and decide they want to get married so they can continue to be together all the time. But, a few of the animals tell them that two boy bunnies can't get married. No biggie, there are plenty of others who think it's fine, so they are married by a cat. I've been curious about this book for some time because it's a banned book and I always want to see for myself whether or not a book is worth banning. As usual, there's nothing rude, sexual, or offensive, in my opinion. And, I liked the storytelling. It was a little on the quirky side, which you know I love since I already said so in regard to book #132. 

141. Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo - Raymie's father has left her mother for a dental hygienist, so she's decided to learn how to twirl a baton in order to try to win a local talent competition to catch her father's attention. Louisiana is poor and lives with her grandmother. They steal food in order to survive and she wants to win the same competition to pay for food so they can stop stealing. Beverly has been in competitions all her life and she just wants to sabotage the whole thing. When they end up taking twirling lessons together, what starts out as an unexpected trio competing for the same prize ends up as three girls banding together, a sweet tale of how friendship makes difficult times more bearable. I got a little teary, at the end. Side note: I bought my copy of Raymie Nightingale at the Mississippi Book Festival about 7 years ago when Kate DiCamillo was a featured speaker. She is hilarious. If you ever get a chance to see her speak, go!

142. A Christmas Memory and Other Stories by Truman Capote - If you've been following me for any length of time, you know I reread several favorite stories every year during Christmas season. "A Christmas Memory" is one of them and I have a lovely children's version. Last year, I found out there was a Thanksgiving story, as well, so I ordered a copy I saw on Instagram of a book with both stories and one additional Christmas story and read the Thanksgiving story on Thanksgiving Day and the two Christmas stories the day after. I enjoyed all three but the two that were new to me are particularly bittersweet. "A Christmas Memory" is the most tender and joyful of the three. I missed the illustrations so I'll probably reread the children's version of "A Christmas Memory," as well, in a couple weeks. 

143. The Worst Noel: Hellish Holiday Tales (essays) by Various Authors, including Ann Patchett, Louis Bayard, Marian Keyes, and Elizabeth Noble - I meant to reread The Worst Noel in 2022 but didn't get around to it so it's just been sitting out, waiting for a year to pass. Published in 2005, I apparently read the book before I became a blogger in 2006. Some of the essays are, indeed, about hellish experiences but some are not so bad. The point is that it's a book in which the authors try to make light of bad experiences, although some just wallow in them. The first time I read this book, I recall laughing a lot. This time, I found them a little sad. So, apparently, your mood has a lot to do with how this book lands. It has gotten terrible reviews at Goodreads. I gave it a 3.5/5. It's nothing great. I enjoyed some of the essays and I don't think it deserves such a low rating (less than 3) but I don't plan to keep it for another reread. 

This month was pretty good but not brilliant, as reading months go. My one bad reading week was due to busy-busy things wearing me out. But, then Women Heroes of WWII arrived and it broke the spell. 

As to the best and worst, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth and The House at the End of Hope Street were my absolute favorites. But, there was only one book I could have done without entirely, Fing, and two I enjoyed but didn't love as much as expected, The Worst Noel (because I found it funny the first time and not so much, this time around) and The Kaiju Preservation Society (there were brief moments that I found a bit dull, although I love Scalzi's sense of humor and that got me through the repetitive bits). The rest were varying shades of wonderful. 

I completely forgot to do a flatlay photo and had already started distributing books to their places (library donation stack, classics shelf, shelves where the rest of a collection lives) before I realized I'd forgotten. Oh, well. A stack photo will do. 

©2023 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Everything I Read in October, 2023


121. We Are the Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade - I've wanted to read this children's book for ages and knew it was available at Book Outlet, so when I went there to make a birthday purchase, this children's book was the first to be tossed into my cart. We Are the Water Protectors is about Native American beliefs that require them to be stewards of the Earth and how those beliefs led them to protest (unsuccessfully) the Dakota Pipeline, which began leaking even before it was finished. Spectacular illustrations and meaningful, lovely text make this book a winner. Reading about the Dakota Pipeline took me back to the cruelty protestors experienced. I'm still sad that they were not able to protect their water. 

122. The Borrowers by Mary Norton - Another purchase for my birthday was the boxed set of The Borrowers books, chosen so I could revisit my childhood. As a child, I was so fascinated by the story of The Borrowers that I would often dream (at night) and imagine (during the daylight) that there were little people living in our house. But, as it turns out, I pretty much remembered nothing about this first book, apart from the fact that the Borrowers were very small and used everyday items like matchboxes and spools to furnish their house. This first book is narrated by an older woman remembering her brother's story about seeing the Borrowers when he was sent to stay with an elderly relative in the English countryside after becoming ill while in India. The ending is quite harrowing and a bit on the cliffhangery side, so I'm pretty eager to read on and hope I'll be able to fit the next book in, soon. 

123. Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch - The second in the Rivers of London mystery series begins with the suspicious death of a jazz musician. Cyrus Wilkinson died of an apparent heart attack. But, when both Dr. Walid and Constable (and magician-in-training) Peter Grant hear the sounds of the jazz classic "Body and Soul" while observing his body, they know this was no ordinary death. Peter sets to work cross-referencing the deaths of other jazz musicians while also dealing with an unusual murderer he calls  the Pale Lady. There's a lot going on in the Rivers of London mysteries and I found that in both of the books I read, I had a little trouble keeping track of all of the characters and threads of the various magical things happening, but Peter Grant is such a fun, witty character that I think what I'll do in the future is just try to slam through the books as fast as possible so that I don't forget elements. I will definitely keep reading this series. 

124. The Museum House Ghosts by Judith Spearing - This story is the second in either a series or duology about a family of ghosts. In the first book the children (the entire family was apparently killed by lightning) went to school and made friends, so in the second book the living children are unfazed by the fact that their ghostly friends fade in and out. Now, the house they live in is going to be turned into a museum and the ghosts will continue to live in the house as caretakers and run the museum after a parade and dedication. Hijinks ensue as the family accidentally keeps driving away contractors working on preparing the house and the children occasionally spook people while playing with their friends. I'd love to read the first book but this was a 50-year-old library discard so it may be difficult to find the previous book. A fun, silly, entertaining read. And, it had an actual card in the library pocket with signatures dating back to 1972. Cool!

125. So Late in the Day by Claire Keegan - The story of a single day in the life of a man in Ireland begins with a mistake made while he is working. He's clearly flustered and upset. As he finishes his work day and spends the evening alone, the story of a former relationship unfolds and you understand why this particular day is having such a profound effect on him. I'm a Claire Keegan fan but this 47-page story is a bit on the depressing side so it wasn't my favorite. However, I found myself wanting to discuss it with someone, especially one scene that I found very disturbing. I wondered if it was the key to the entire story or I was just mistaking it for being so because it was so unsettling. I will continue to read Claire Keegan, in spite of not really enjoying this novella, which I gave a slightly above average rating on Goodreads. 

126. She's a Killer by Kirsten McDougall - Things are changing rapidly for Alice and her countrymen in New Zealand. With the world in the midst of a climate apocalypse, wealthy refugees known as "wealthugees" are buying their way into the country, using up resources and buying stolen land with the help of a corrupt government. Alice is a genius and easily bored. She and her mother don't get along well so they communicate by Morse code. And, her one and only friend is getting ready to move to a protected compound where they'll grow their own food and hopefully stay safe as things decline. When Alice meets a wealthugee and then he offers to pay her to watch his teenager, she finds that there is more to the story of 15-year-old Erika than she could have imagined. Now, she's caught up in events that are quickly spiraling out of control, her only friend wants nothing to do with her, and she's not sure she's going to get out of this mess alive. Not that she cares; Alice is a bit of a sociopath, as well. A very dark, twisted satire that will make you think about what could happen if we don't get climate change under control. 

127. Jane and the Final Mystery by Stephanie Barron - The 15th and final mystery in the Jane Austen Mystery series takes place with Jane's health in decline. When her nephew informs her that there has been a death at Winchester College and her dear friend Elizabeth Heathcote's son is implicated, Jane summons her strength and goes to stay with her friend. After attending the inquest, where young William Heathcote is accused of murder and taken away, Jane is determined to prove his innocence. I have got to read this entire series. I've only read the last two and they're fabulous, both with a convincing Jane as heroine and sleuth but also a learning experience as each story is placed in the historical context in which Jane lived. In both cases, there was familiar information (I've been to some of the locations in the two books I read) and plenty of info that was new to me. I spent a lot of time looking up photos of locations and particular sites described. A great series for fans of cozy mysteries, Jane Austen, and Anglophiles in general. 

128. The Way of the Househusband, Vol 5 by Kousuke Oono - Tatsu is left alone with the cat when his wife goes away on business and has big plans till his young friend shows up. In another story, he has a rap battle with a butcher. And, when he and his wife visit family, they get a little too enthusiastic about cooking hot pot. I can't remember which of the stories made me laugh out loud, but if you make me laugh, you're likely to get 5 stars and this series is such fun that it's difficult not to go with 5 stars, anyway. Another great entry in this hilarious series. 

129. McSweeney's Issue 71: The Monstrous and the Terrible, ed. by Brian Evenson - Like it sounds, the 71st issue of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern is a collection of short horror stories that range from a little funny to the mildly creepy to gruesome. My favorite was "The Haunting of the Wilsons by Me and That Bitch Todd," a funny ghost story about a couple who died by murder-suicide and are stuck haunting their old house together. As always, there were a few stories that didn't work for me and I even abandoned one halfway (very unusual) but the vast majority of the stories were surprisingly entertaining to a gal who is prone to nightmares and usually avoids horror. I love McSweeney's

130. The Masterful Cat is Depressed Again Today, Vol. 2 by Hitsuji Yamada (ebook) - The second in this manga series was a surprise as I found the ebook on sale and had enough credit to cover it — I had not planned to read on, due to my book-buying ban. Saku's boss has a niece who adores Saku's giant cat, Yukichi, and she has invited them to her birthday party. But, very few people have seen Yukichi and there's really no way to disguise a giant cat. What will they do? Saku feels obligated to go. You'll have to read to find out their clever plan. This is the first of the stories, some of which are told as flashbacks to when Saku found Yukichi freezing in the snow and took him in. I laughed a couple of times and loved the fact that each chapter is called a "can" with a sketch of a can of cat food. 

131. The Premonitions Bureau by Sam Knight (nonfiction) - 'The world is full of people who claim to have seen something coming but they always speak out after the event,' Fairley said. This man, quoted in The Premonitions Bureau, was a science and math journalist who got involved with two psychiatrists interested in premonitions and whether they could be used to prevent tragedy. The idea came about shortly after a disaster in which a coal mining tip (dump) slid down a mountain and killed over 100 children in Aberfan, Wales. Dr. John Barker worked in a mental hospital and wrote a book about the possibility of being frightened to death while his concept, The Premonitions Bureau, was collecting data. Did collecting predictions to prevent tragedy work? That would be telling. I read about this book on Instagram and bought it because I wanted to find out if other people had the same kind of premonitions I have had most of my life. The writing is jumpy and sometimes frustrating but what I wanted to hear about was other people who've had similar experiences to my own and I enjoyed it for the descriptions of some of their premonitions and the actual events that they were tied to, so I'm glad I read it. 

Looking at this list, it appears that the only book I was kind of disappointed with was the Claire Keegan. But, even that was a book that is worth rereading and discussing, so I'm going to declare October a very fine month. 

Jane and the Final Mystery and She's a Killer were ARCs. The rest came from my personal library, although they all arrived or were purchased within the past few months. We Are the Water Protectors and The Borrowers were in the most recent Book Outlet purchase, which led to my current book-buying ban. The Premonitions Bureau broke the ban and so did So Late in the Day, but I have no regrets. My book-buying ban is causing the desired result in that I'm buying very few books and I'm choosing with greater care. 

In November, I'm hoping to finally get one of my 2023 goal books, East of Eden by John Steinbeck. We're doing a lot of packing and shifting in this house as we're repurposing a room and have emptied it almost entirely (wow, that's been a job) so I need to figure out what I've done with another of my goal books, the Complete Illustrated Sherlock Holmes — one of my all-time favorite library sale discoveries. I've just dipped into it and read a story on occasion, thoughout the year, so I'm only halfway into it. I'd like to finish it before the end of 2023. 

Happy Reading to all!

©2023 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, October 03, 2023

Everything I Read in September, 2023 (in brief)


107. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin - My first fictional work by James Baldwin is a heartbreaker. Fonny and Tish have been together forever, first as friends and then gradually they fell in love. Fonny is in jail and Tish has brought him the news that they're expecting a baby, that her family is working hard to get him out of jail for a crime he didn't commit. Then, the storyline goes back to the beginning of their friendship and you get to know Fonny and Tish's characters and friendship, the unique quirks of their family members (for better or worse), how their relationship developed, and how Fonny came to be accused of a crime he didn't commit. A distressingly realistic tale of poverty and the consequences that can come of being Black, even when one has done everything right. This story will definitely stick with me for a long time. Incredible writing and character development for a book of just under 200 pages. Published in 1974.

108. The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons - My first creepy read for Readers Imbibing Peril, Colquitt and Walter live in a quiet, upscale Georgia subdivision. Next door, there is a forested lot that they've been told is not suitable for building. So, they're surprised when it's sold and a modern house slowly takes shape. They become friends with the architect but weird things begin happening during the building. After a quick succession of families occupy and leave the house, all under tragic circumstances, the architect decides the house is evil. When Col and Walter decide he's right, is it too late to keep the evil from spreading? Published in 1978, I feel like I've just taken a trip from the poor side of the 70s to the upscale and wow, what a contrast. In the James Baldwin, the era inserted itself mostly through language; clothing certainly wasn't a priority. In The House Next Door, it was architecture and fashion that asserted themselves as icons of the time period. Humorously, as I'm writing this, I'm reading another book published in 1978. Back to the book, I thought it was a bit overlong and heavy-handed, but I enjoyed it and I'm glad I stuck it out because the ending was perfect.

109. Breaking Away (aka, French Leave) by Anna Gavalda - I was well into Breaking Away when I looked up a particular detail, apparently fictionalized, and found out that this book was also published under the name French Leave. I hadn't heard of Breaking Away, but I knew I'd heard of French Leave. 3 siblings ditch the rest of their family at a wedding so that they can go visit the brother who didn't show up. A very shallow read in which nothing much happens . . . about family, growing up, hope for the future, nostalgia for the past, and knowing a special day will never come around again. Breaking Away is sweet, puerile but also uppity in a very French way, as in "If you have an extra 5 pounds on you we're laughing about how fat you are and heavens, boxed wine is so lower class." It's kind of cringe-inducing. But, it was also a refreshing change of pace for me. As it turns out, I read the Europa version under the title French Leave, 10 years ago. I didn't remember that till I saw the cover and checked the blog to make certain I'd read it. I did not love it, the first time. I didn't love it this time, either, but I enjoyed it and related in some oblique way that I didn't before. Timing is everything.

110. The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis - A story told in three acts, like a play, The Chelsea Girls is about Hazel and Maxine. In the first act, they become friends and work together both in the USO and writing a radio show during the last months of WWII in Italy. They go their separate ways and the next act takes place during the Red Scare, when they're both caught up in the House Un-American Committee's hunt for Communists and one of them, we find, has a secret. The two women are then separated for a long time and the final act takes place in 1967. Throughout the second act, the Chelsea Hotel has become a bit of a character in and of itself as you get to know the history of the hotel as a haven for artists of all sorts and how they often traded their art for rent. In the third act, one of the women is still living in the hotel and the other has become famous. What will happen when they're forced to reunite? Loved this story for the history. I do find the relationships and writing a bit on the stylistically fluffy side but Davis does a deep dive into her subject matter and it shows. I loved the history lessons I got from reading The Chelsea Girls

111. The Mirror by Marlys Millhiser - In 1978 in Boulder, Colorado, Shay is preparing to marry, while in 1900 her grandmother, Brandy, is doing the same. Both are given a family heirloom, a hideous old mirror, although neither is aware that it's cursed and has already killed many people. It doesn't kill Shay and Brandy, but it does switch them into each other's bodies. Shay is shocked to find that, as Brandy, she's being forced into marriage when in 1978 marriage is by choice. Life becomes even more unexpected when she's taken to her new husband's home in Nederland, Colorado and she finds it's no more than a shack and because she talks confidently about the future she's considered crazy. In 1978, Brandy is mortified by the way people dress and behave, as well as the missing sense of community. Everything smells like nothing and tastes bland. Like Shay, Brandy is considered crazy. Will Shay and Brandy ever be able to return to their own time periods? I guess that's a spoiler so I won't answer it but I can tell you that the mirror continues to assert itself (mostly by killing people) throughout the novel and the historical parts are utterly fascinating. I was absolutely mesmerized by The Mirror. This was a great choice for fall reading.

112. The Bird King: An Artist's Notebook by Shaun Tan - This book is a peek into Shaun Tan's process, how he gets inspiration by putting pen to paper and seeing where it takes him: "taking a line for a walk" as Paul Klee says in a quote Tan put in the book. Well worth the money to just sit and stare at his sketches, marveling at Tan's imagination but it's also a nice peek into how he got some of the ideas for books he's written (and films, he says, although I haven't seen any of those). 

113. The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown (writing as Golden McDonald) and Leonard Weisgard - Beginning with a description of an island, the weather and changing seasons, The Little Island is written in Margaret Wise Brown's typically lyrical prose. Then, it gets a little weird. A kitten sails up and disembarks. There, it makes a wisecrack about the island, the island replies, and the kitten doesn't believe the island is attached to land, as it has said. So, the kitten catches a fish and threatens to eat it if it doesn't tell her the truth. What a strange turn. The kitten is satisfied and leaves, then the story returns to things like the lovely fog and the colorful leaves turning and the waves washing ashore, etc. So, not her best but I like kittens and the illustrations are phenomenal so I loved it, anyway, although I could have done without the kitten threatening the fish. A children's picture book. 

114. Poetry for Kids: Carl Sandburg by Ed. by Kate Benzel, Illus. by Robert Crawford - The best thing about this book, like the others I've read that were published by Sterling, is that words are defined in their written context and then, at the back of the book, there is an explanation about each of the poems and what the author was thinking at the time he wrote them. I found that I misunderstood quite a few of them, so reading it is quite an education in poetry and the use of words. I had several favorites but I particularly liked the poem about laborers and how they work so hard for the fat cats who end up with buckets of money. I neglected to write the title but it feels particularly relevant during a time in which labor unions are on an upswing and people are fed up with CEOs making ridiculous salaries but not sharing the profits equitably. 

115. Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Immigrant and Artist Tyrus Wong by Julie Leung and Chris Sasaki - A perfect book for Asian America and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Paper Son tells the story of artist Tyrus Wong (his Americanized name), a Chinese-American who is probably best known as the artist who came up with the concept for the background images in Bambi. It tells of his boat ride to the United States with his father, using forged documents, and how difficult it was to enter the U.S. at the time (especially for Chinese immigrants). The author then talks about how Wong was able to get into art school, got a job at Disney and then was not credited for his idea but only as one of the art team, and eventually was fired. He went on to paint other things like scarves and in his later years made elaborate kites. A wonderful story of immigration, determination, and skill. Another children's picture book! 

116. Charlie Thorne and the Lost City by Stuart Gibbs - The second in the Charlie Thorne series begins with Charlie hiding out in the Galapagos Islands and doing a little volunteer work. She is a fugitive, both from the CIA and anyone who wants the secret she carries in her mind. Then, one day people begin showing up. The CIA is looking into yet another genius's secret, this time Charles Darwin, who spent 4 years in South America during his voyage on the Beagle. A journey from the Galapagos to the Amazon takes Charlie on a dangerous trail of clues. But, what did Charles Darwin find and then hide from the world? It's fiction, of course, so the secret's made up, but there are plenty of interesting details that are true. I've read Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle, so I enjoyed the references to the book and what Darwin did on his long journey. And, you just can't beat one of Stuart Gibbs' middle grade books for adventure. I absolutely love them. 

117. What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer - Ohmygoodness, I absolutely love this book of poetry. And, in fact, even the author's note at the end is wonderful. A book of poems that are fictional except when they're not and which might be written for revenge, or something of that nature, I can't imagine a woman who doesn't see herself somewhere in this slim book. My favorites were all apparently the most common favorites as they're all discussed on the book's cover blurb, but if I had to choose one favorite poem it would be "Things My Girlfriends Teach Me". Read this if you're female. You deserve it. 

118. A Man and His Cat, Vol 6 by Umi Sakurai - In this 6th volume of A Man and His Cat (unfortunately, the last one I own and will be reading as I'm now on a book-buying ban), Mr. Kanda's friend and friendly rival goes on tour with his band and asks Mr. Kanda to cat-sit his kitty, who is Fukumaru's sibling. While the cats happily play and compete for the best spot on Mr. Kanda's lap or the bed, disaster strikes for Kanda's friend when his band doesn't show up. But, Kanda and others save the day and then everyone is back to trying to convince Mr. Kanda to return to performing on the piano and attending concerts. He's improving, slowly, but it's still difficult for Kanda, who associates piano with the memory of his wife's death. Not my favorite but I love this series and would read on if I had access to more.

119. In the Lives of Puppets by T. J. Klune - An old man named Gio who isn't actually a human goes into the forest and finds a ruined house. He says it will do, then he rebuilds the house and up in the trees he builds a series of labs and other rooms connected by rope ladders. Then, he raises a child named Victor in the forest, teaches him how to build things, and Victor manages to eventually put together two robot friends. All is well until the day that everything changes, when Victor finds some decommissioned robots in the Scrap Yard and one of them looks like it might be repairable. Why did Gio go to the forest to live alone? Is he telling Victor the truth about where Victor came from? And, what will happen when The Authority (aka, the bad guys) finds Gio's home? I'm trying to be vague because there are some plot points best left to unveil as one is reading but this is a super weird book and I liked it but it occasionally made me squirm. It wasn't at all what I expected. I guess because of the whimsical covers, I thought Klune's books were middle grade or maybe YA. This one is actually quite adult. 

120. Less by Andrew Sean Greer - When author Arthur Less receives a wedding invitation from his former partner, Freddy, he decides there's no way he can bear to go the wedding. So, he accepts absolutely every writerly invitation he's received and leaves on a world tour. As he travels around the world, he finds a temporary lover and flirts with a few other men, comes close to accidentally plunging to his death when he gets locked out of his room, cringes as his birthday nears, and reevaluates how he feels about love at the age of 50. Less started out as one of my stationary bike reads but every time I biked, I couldn't stand it and would read at least a chapter or two. Then, I finally gave in and finished it off. One of those rare books that made me literally laugh out loud and shed tears. Occasionally, this book made me feel kind of stupid (this guy's writing is way out of my league) so I deducted a point for making me feel dim, but I really loved this story. It's sweet, funny, and touching. 

September was a fabulous month! I know I write this repeatedly but I seldom read any duds because I'm so quick to ditch anything that's not working for me and that means all were liked or loved, as usual. Learning to give up on a book is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. There was a single book that I started and then set aside in September, but it wasn't a DNF because I didn't get far enough to call it that. Instead, it was an "eh, I'll read this another time," when it didn't grab me on the first page. If I had to choose one favorite from this month, it would be The Mirror, which I found utterly engrossing and delightfully creepy. 

©2023 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.

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Everything I Read in August, 2023 (in brief)


96. Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by Stuart Gibbs - Quite possibly my new favorite middle grade book by Gibbs, Charlie Thorne is a 12-year-old girl who is as brilliant as Einstein. And, that will come in handy when the CIA snatches her off a ski slope to help them find a missing equation written by Einstein himself. In the right hands, it could be a miracle. But, if someone dangerous finds it first, it will mean disaster. Charlie has used her intelligence to pile up money and her high IQ has been taken advantage of by so many people that she has no interest in much of anything but fun. She's not even all that intrigued by the challenge of finding Einstein's equation. But, as the clues stack up and Charlie realizes how useful her brain can be in a positive way, she learns that working hard and learning are not just an improvement on goofing off but the only way she and her friends in the CIA can survive. A massively plot-twisty, wild ride. This is middle grade but better than most adult thrillers I've read.

97. The Way of the Househusband, Vol 1 by Kousuke Oono - Tatsu used to be known as "The Immortal Dragon," a dangerous and deadly member of the Yakuza. But, now he spends his days cooking, cleaning, taking lessons, and playing with the cat. He still frightens people, but this is where the comedy comes in. He speaks like a criminal and people will think he's about to reach for a knife and instead he'll whip out something harmless like a coupon. He meets another former Yakuza from his disbanded family and takes him to a cooking class. He wears an apron everywhere and when he runs into other Yakuza, he shocks them by doing benign things like feeding them tea and sandwiches. There are a number of individual stories but they all add up to quite a funny read about a guy who is completely dedicated to his newer, gentler life. 

98. A Man and His Cat, #5 by Umi Sakurai - In #5, little Fukumaru looks through a glass door and sees a cat he recognizes as the cat who was in the next cage at the pet shop. But this kitty looks beat up and lost . . . and the kitty is outdoors where it doesn't belong. Worried, Fukumaru runs out the door when Mr. Kanda opens it. He wants to find his former neighbor and help. But, instead, Fukumaru becomes lost. Mr. Kanda is beside himself but spends his hours looking for Fukumaru and puts up a poster in the pet store. When the clerk who used to cuddle Fukumaru finds out he's missing, she gives him advice and joins in the search. Meanwhile, Fukumaru is getting into fights and finding that the world outside of his home is cold and cruel. But, he never stops believing that his daddy will find him. Wow, this one was a tearjerker! The author once lost his cat and there was clearly some emotion he was mining. Anyone whose beloved pet has gone missing will relate. 

99. The Way of the Househusband, Vol 2 by Kousuke Oono - In this second volume, Tatsu decides that he's becoming a little soft and decides to get back into shape. He begins by using a hula hoop in his apartment but his wife puts a stop to that and he follows the neighbors to a gym. At the gym, he is hilariously scary as his words sound like the words of a killer as he follows along with his neighbors, getting into various poses to get into shape. I can't recall if it was the first or second volume in which his cat created chaos but that was another fun scene. The cat got into everything, knocked stuff over, and as the neighbors walked in, Tatsu is covered in wine. So, the cat is also a fun addition, although often it's just peeking around doors. 

100. The Way of the Househusband, Vol 3 by Kousuke Oono - Among other stories in this volume, Tatsu runs into some of his former Yakuza family. In the usual, "This is about to be scary" scene, things become comical when the older man shows off his new dog and Tatsu's neighbors observe that that the dog is kind of skinny. The older Yakuza, also retired, says his dog hasn't been eating well. Tatsu to the rescue! He whips up a meal for the dog with clam broth and other healthy ingredients and the dog digs in. There's also a big fight with a nasty insect that I'm trying to forget about. So far, I am loving this series. I bought 6 or 7 of them (I know, I know) and read two on vacation, the third when I was too tired to move after arriving home. I think I'll save the rest to spread out and enjoy over the coming months. 

101. The Dirty Dozen by E. M. Nathanson - A fictionalized account of a real-life event in which rapists, murderers, and other criminals are released from their date with the hangman and trained for what's basically a suicide mission in occupied France during WWII, just prior to D-Day, I found the creepy, misogynistic, yucky-people factor ranked way up there with Lolita and A Simple Plan. So, it took me a month to read The Dirty Dozen because I had to take breaks from it. But, in the end it was a really good story and I'm looking forward to viewing the movie, which I've never seen, very soon. Side note: "The Filthy Thirteen", the real-life criminals who were trained and sent on a dangerous mission, were led by a man from my hometown in Oklahoma. I'm hoping there's a book about them somewhere. 

102. The River of Doubt by Candice Millard - The true story of Teddy Roosevelt's dangerous journey into the Amazon, The River of Doubt was the first selection for a new book group I was invited to join recently. I'd read about Roosevelt's trip to the Amazon in other books about the Roosevelt family, but just in passing. So, I knew about the journey but not in any detail. The River of Doubt is quite in-depth. It begins by describing how downcast the former president was, after losing his attempt at a third term as president. When he was invited on a speaking tour in South America, he looked at it as an opportunity to get away and forget about his loss. The Amazon trip was kind of tacked onto his agenda and then it became something entirely different, a trip to uncharted territory where the explorers encountered dangerous insects and animals, disease, natives who tend to kill visitors/enemies (and sometimes eat them), plus rapids and waterfalls that their dugout canoes couldn't handle, and eventually a lack of supplies. Utterly fascinating. I liked it more than the other group members, I think, but discussion was fun. 

103. Felicity by Mary Oliver - While packing up the books stacked on my library floor (I was tired of looking at them and tripping over them), I came across Felicity and set it aside in my "Read This Right Away" pile. As the title indicates, it's a happy book and mostly about the joys of being in love. There are lots of tender love poems. I personally think Mary Oliver was at her best when describing the natural world, her love of it, its harshness, etc. So, Felicity wasn't a favorite. But, you honestly can't lose with Oliver. Even a book I don't describe as a favorite was a terrific read. She was a wonder, with such a unique eye for beauty and the senses. 

104. He Started It by Samantha Downing - One of those rare books with a cover that made me think I had to read it (it looks, shall we say, explosive), I noted that the general rating was only average before I bought a copy and went for it, anyway. I have no regrets, although I am left with questions. The story is that twenty years ago, Eddie, Beth, and Portia went on a road trip with their Grandpa. One of the unanswered questions is "Why?" But, I didn't realize I never knew the why till I closed the book. Now, in the present, they're required to repeat the road trip and this time take Grandpa's ashes along. Should they fail, they won't receive their inheritance. And, it's a pretty substantial inheritance. I liked the story for the road trip/people annoying each other/weird stops/everyone's up to something aspect. To say more would give too much away but I will say I hated the ending even though I sort of predicted it (without a particular twist that did surprise me). But, I found the book compelling enough that I didn't care. I've just rewritten the ending in my head. And, I would definitely read more by Samantha Downing.

105. The Duke Gets Desperate by Diana Quincy - Raya Darvish has been corresponding with her cousin, who married a duke and was then widowed. Unfortunately, her cousin has died by the time she arrives in England for a visit. There, Raya finds that she has inherited her widowed cousin's castle. Anthony Carey, the Duke of Strickland should have inherited but his father let the entail lapse. In a classic hate-to-love trope, "Strick" falls for the beautiful Arab-American and tries to find a way to buy back his castle while Raya, who has an uncommonly sharp business acumen, is finding ways to keep the estate viable. I accepted this ARC (thanks, Avon!) because I've missed reading the occasional romance, and I really enjoyed the storyline. It's a bit spicy and I prefer clean romance that tiptoes around the bedroom but I have no problem just skimming or skipping the scenes I dislike. Fair warning: the duke likes to talk dirty so it can be a bit vulgar. I didn't care. I love stories with strong, smart women and the setting is the Gilded Age, when the nobility was struggling with the upkeep on their castles so Raya's ability to come up with money-making ideas worked well in this setting. 

106. The Way of the Househusband, Vol 4 by Kousuke Oono - The 4th volume of this hilarious manga series begins with Tatsu trying to buy a fish then chasing the cat who steals his fish until . . . well, you'll have to see what happens. As with all of these books, there are a number of stories and Tatsu is almost always wearing his apron (there's one time he actually just wears regular clothing), which hasn't yet ceased to make me smile. He shows a visitor how to cook steak like the Japanese, goes to an amusement park with his wife, and freaks people out when he speaks, including small children. I didn't think I could love any manga as much as I love the Spy X Family books but The Way of the Househusband series is every bit as fun. 

I didn't read all that much, this month (ugh, this whole year I've been reading painfully slowly, although vacation contributed, this month) but wow, did I have fun. I was trying to hold off on reading more of the Househusband books till next month but when I realized I wasn't going to finish the only book with a bookmark in it and that I kind of needed a breather from it anyway, I grabbed Vol 4 and I have no regrets. As to the rest . . . yep, I liked or loved everything. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Charlie Thorne as I like an action-packed book and Stuart Gibbs never lets you down. But, there were no duds or DNFs, this month. 

©2023 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, August 01, 2023

Everything I Read in July, 2023 (in brief)


85. Harry and Sue by Larry Baker - Harry and Sue were in love but a single, fateful decision ended their romance. 40 years later, Harry is a taxi driver living in a boarding house. He still isn't over Sue. On a rainy night, someone waves him over and invites him into the closed Centre Theater and gives him a tour. Inside the theater there are many ghosts and the manager wants Harry to move in. But, one of the ghosts (Houdini) warns Harry that it's a trap. Why does the theater manager want Harry to move in? Will Harry ever see Sue, again? And, what's up with all the cats? Suspension of disbelief is required and the middle is a little big saggy but ultimately, I found the ending of this story so satisfying that I was very glad I read it. 

86. The Railway Children by E. Nesbit - How have I missed out on this incredibly warm, sweet, funny, sometimes frightening classic? I have no idea, but now that I've read it I'm certain it will stay in my heart forever. Roberta, Phyllis, and Peter are surprised when strangers arrive at their door, their father hastily leaves, and their mother goes pale. What has happened? They're accustomed to a life with servants in a large house but shortly after bad news on the doorstep, they pack up their things and move to a house in the countryside, where they must do with a single woman coming to help and Mother is now feverishly writing stories. Left mostly to themselves, the children become captivated by the nearby railway. They make friends, have adventures, and are courageous when necessary. The ending had me in tears. I would have eaten this up as a child and read it over and over again. 

87. Heartstopper, Vol 2 by Alice Oseman - The continuation of Nick and Charlie's story. Reminder: Nick has dated a girl in the past, while Charlie was outed as gay before he was ready. Nick was surprised to find himself attracted to Charlie in the first book. In the second volume of Heartstopper, Nick is trying to figure out what's going on. What does his attraction to both males and females mean? He reads up on bisexuality and then slowly comes to terms with who he is with the help of his ex-girlfriend and Charlie. This book is mostly about how individuals often have to go through the process of accepting their sexuality if it's confusing to them, but also then must figure out when and how to come out as gay, bisexual, etc. Charlie and Nick's ex, who also happens to be gay, are very helpful and encourage Nick to take his time and only let people know when it feels right. Another sweet entry in this series. 

88. Eloise and the Big Parade by Lisa McClatchy - Eloise and Nanny go to their 4th of July parade, where Eloise is so excited that she is a bit of a troublemaker, climbing where she shouldn't, stepping out into the street, catching as much candy as she can. An easy reader that was sent to me by mistake and which I will find a new home for but definitely a cute book for a new reader if you're looking for something specifically related to Independence Day celebrations in the US. 

89. Firefly: The Unification War, Vol 2 by Greg Pak, et al - The second in the series has Mal captured by Boss Moon (the Unificator who was trying to kill Zoë and Mal in Vol 1) and then crash-landing on a planet with some pretty creepy giant bug-looking critters, Zoë running a rescue mission, and the rest of the crew trying to help in different ways. There was a lot going on in this particular storyline but it was fun. The author, Greg Pak, does a great job of sneaking in some of Mal's typical wit and when Jayne is captured, the Tams do a great job of briefly convincing his captors that Jayne is Wash, which is also quite funny. Very entertaining. 

90. Heartstopper, Vol 3 by Alice Oseman - In Volume 3 of the Heartstopper graphic novel series, Charlie and Nick go on a school trip to Paris. While there, they discuss whether or not they should tell their friends they're dating. Meanwhile, other relationships are brewing. One of Charlie's friends is falling for a trans girl and the two adult male chaperones are eyeing each other. In a new development, Nick is worried when he realizes Charlie hardly eats at all. The thing I particularly love about this series is that it's about the emotional impact of being LGBTQ and it also focuses on LGBTQ relationships so there's a lot of unique representation. And, in spite of the fact that Nick and Charlie's relationship is progressing, this volume still doesn't go beyond a little kissing, hand-holding, and fully-clothed playful wrestling. 

91. The Castle of Adventure by Enid Blyton - The 2nd in the Adventure series stars the children from the first book (Phillip, Dinah, Jack, and Lucy-Ann) along with a new girl, Tassie. During summer break, Phillip and Dinah's mother rents a cottage with a castle on the hill above. When Jack spots a pair of golden eagles, he's convinced that they must be nesting in the castle and the children go to investigate. Their new friend Tassie helps them find their way into the castle. But, when Jack spends the night at the castle so that he can photograph the eagles in their nest, he discovers that he's not alone. And, when the children arrive and discover something strange is going on, they are all in peril. This is such a fun series. Childhood me is sad that Enid Blyton's books were not available to read at the time. Adult me is happy to catch up. 

92. Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagen - During the summer of 1959 in Wisconsin, someone is molesting and murdering young girls. Sally O'Malley thinks she knows who the killer is. But, during a summer in which she and her sister Troo are mostly left on their own after their mother becomes dangerously ill, their stepfather stops coming home, and their older sister is too busy with beauty school and her boyfriend to look after them, Sally will uncover a lot of surprising secrets. Really enjoyed this book and hope to read more by Kagen. It was my stationary biking book and it's worth mentioning that the characters and scenes were so vividly drawn that I never had any trouble remembering where I was in the story, in spite of reading it in small chunks over several weeks.

93. The One by John Marrs - The world has been revolutionized by the discovery of DNA-matched romance. But all is not as perfect as it seems in the world of matched souls. What will happen to each of the individuals matched in The One, including a woman who is matched to a serial killer? I'm not a big fan of thrillers and don't particularly find murder entertaining (although the unraveling of clues can be fun) but I reviewed a John Marrs book, a few years ago, and enjoyed it enough that I wanted to read more. There are a lot of characters to follow in The One and a good half to two-thirds of this book I kept wondering where the author was taking me, although I was thoroughly engaged in the various couple stories. The last third pulled everything together in a satisfying way. 

94. Heartstopper, Vol 4 by Alice Oseman - In this 4th volume of the Heartstopper graphic novel series, Charlie and Nick are separated during the holidays. Meanwhile, Nick is becoming more concerned that Charlie has an eating disorder and he researches what to do about it, what to say, and how to help Charlie get treatment. I was planning to stop at #4, figuring this series would continue on for a long time, but then I read the author's note saying that #5 would be the last in the series. So, I've pre-ordered it and am very much looking forward to the last entry in the story of Charlie and Nick. As always, the book remained clean and was more about emotion than physicality. Any tussling is done fully clothed but there's mostly just kissing and hand-holding. It's a nice, clean series that I'd recommend to anyone. 

95. Firefly: The Unification War, Vol 3 by Greg Pak - The final entry in the Unification War series is again chaotic and, admittedly, my least favorite. The former Browncoats are worried about an upcoming land war and their enemy has landburners, a device that was outlawed after they were used to destroy entire planets. To save their own hides, they'll have to try to capture the landburners. Also, Mal's mother shows up and she's one tough cookie. To be honest, I absolutely hated Mal's mother being brought into the story. Plus, I found this entry a bit harder to follow, although the art in this series is wobbly and it's often hard to tell the characters apart. I'm still glad I read them. It was nice to revisit Firefly. 

This month was not my best because I was, and am, immersed in a 500-page book that's a bit dense and also has such appalling characters that I've had to routinely take breaks from it. I'm a little over 2/3 of the way into that, so it will show up in my August post. Meanwhile, most of the rest of my reads were books that were read on the side (as breaks from the dense book), with the exceptions of Harry and Sue, which I read at the beginning of the month, and Whistling in the Dark, my stationary biking book. Having said that, as usual I liked or loved everything I read. I have gotten very good at abandoning books that I'm not enjoying. The only one that was iffy was The One. The first 2/3 of it were just baffling. I thought it was a serial killer book . . . and there is a serial killer. But, it was about the couples who are matched and the serial killer just happens to be among those who are coupled. Once the author began to show the consequences and it began to make more sense what the book was about, I really enjoyed it. 

©2023 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.

Sunday, July 02, 2023

Everything I Read in June, 2023 (in brief)


74. The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center - Katherine Center's debut is about a pregnant woman who is engaged to her unborn child's father. When he abandons her and a good-looking neighbor steps in to help, Jenny realizes what she was missing in a relationship. But, is she too stung to move on to a new romance? Sweet, predictable romance feels secondary to the story of pregnancy and single motherhood but I loved the romance so much that I plucked the book off my stationary bike to rush through it. Apart from the focus on being a new mother (which I confess bored me a bit), my only complaint is that Jenny got a lot of help financially and was able to stay home on her own with no job. Maybe the author thought adding a financial struggle would be too much but that aspect felt unrealistic to me. Most single mothers have finances to deal with as well as the ordinary stresses of new parenthood. 

75. Did I Ever Tell You This? by Sam Neill - I ordered Sam Neill's new memoir before Book Depository was shut down because I've been following him on Instagram for some time @samneilltheprop and find him charming and full of joy. Did I Ever Tell You This? was written during the pandemic, as Neill was going through chemotherapy, and while he occasionally mentions realizing that he might not survive his illness, the book is generally an upbeat, chatty, and warm book of anecdotes, mostly about growing up, the joys of work, farming, and making his own wine, and his love of people and animals. He's a good storyteller and I kept turning to tell my husband anecdotes from the book, so he finally went off to fetch The Dish, my all-time favorite movie, which just happens to star Sam Neill. It worked if he was trying to shut me up. I highly recommend both the book and the movie. 

76. The Dead of the Night (Tomorrow series #2) by John Marsden - The second in the Tomorrow series, which begins with Tomorrow, When the War Began, has the remaining teenagers angry and hurting after their friend Corrie was injured and Kevin never returned from taking her to town for help. After a month recovering, Ellie suggests that they go in the other direction from their camping spot in a place known as Hell. They leave one of their band behind to feed the animals and find a large group of people who call themselves Harvey's Heroes. While they begin to settle in, they want to go back to bring their friend Chris, in spite of the fact that the males are separated from the females and the chores are also divided in a sexist way. But, when the "heroes" go on a mission and it ends in tragedy, they're forced to run for their lives. Back in Hell, they find that Chris is missing. And, then they get tired of recovering, again, and go on a mission in the dead of the night. So good. I love this series and I'm glad I bought the boxed set for rereading.

77. The Shadow Hero (The Green Turtle Chronicles #1) by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Lieu - A remake by graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang of a story first told in a set of 5 comic books at the dawn of their popularity, The Shadow Hero tells the story of the Green Turtle, a teenager whose father runs a grocery store in their city's Chinatown district. When Hank's mother is saved by a superhero, she decides her son must become a superhero, as well. But, there's more to being a superhero than a fancy costume. After his first attempt at saving the day ends in disaster, Hank is trained to fight by his uncle and sets out to end the corruption that has his family paying a crime family to stay in business. I think this is my 5th graphic novel by Yang and I love his sense of humor. Also, very cool that he found the first Asian superhero and updated the story. 

78. The Expanse: Origins by James S. A. Corey et al. - A graphic novel tie-in to the television series, The Expanse: Origins tells the backstories of the main cast of characters. Each had some sort of traumatic experience that led them all to end up together on the Rocinante. While not the greatest graphic novel, I'd like to read the second in the Expanse series, soon, and it was a good refresher course on the characters as they've faded a bit from my memory since I read the first in the series. 

79. The Masterful Cat is Depressed Again, Today (#1) by Hitsuji Yamada -  A manga that's not at all what it sounds like! The so-called "Masterful Cat", Yukichi, is an oversized cat who walks on two legs, cooks, cleans, and goes grocery shopping. Saku took him in as a kitten and the kitten was horrified by her sloppy apartment and tendency to over drink. So as he grew larger, Yukichi set about putting Saku's life in order. Now, the cat does most of the cooking, including preparing delicious lunches for Saku. When Saku finds out her boss has seen her messy apartment in the past, she is utterly horrified. He knows she has a cat. Has he seen the size of Yukichi? How will she keep people from finding out her cat is so unusual and that her life isn't at all what they believe? Very entertaining! I may continue with this series. It's ridiculous and delightful. 

80. The Arrival by Shaun Tan - Shaun Tan blows my mind every time. A beautiful, wordless story about a man who escapes his home during a dark time but must leave his family behind. In his new country, he seeks a place to stay and a job and is aided by the kindness of strangers. Heartwarming and gorgeous.

81. The Adventures of Little Tiger by Marielle Sohier - A throwback read . . . way back. This is probably one of the first chapter books I owned, a small book that's 249 pages and heavily illustrated. Little Tiger is a cheerful little guy who loves color. He sets out to bring the beauty of the outdoors inside by painting his walls a cheery sunflower yellow. From there, the story follows Little Tiger visiting with friends, taking a ride on the back of an alligator, going on a submarine ride, flying a helicopter, vacationing in Venice, visiting the mountains and the North Pole, and returning home (among other adventures). It's a crazy "one thing leads to another" type of story in which you never know where the main character is going to end up next. But, it's the illustrations that really take me back. I still love it. The Adventures of Little Tiger is a wild ride and extremely colorful. 

82. The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain - Albert is about to turn 65. For 50 years, he's been a postal worker and lived in his family home after the love of his life said he never wanted to see Albert again. At the time, being gay was illegal in Britain. But, now, as he's on the verge of retirement, Albert's decided it's time for a change. To begin with, he reaches out and becomes fast friends with a single mother, Nicole, and her daughter. Nicole is also an outcast as a black single mum in a new town, but she's working hard to become self-supporting. She has been abandoned by the father of her child and recently fallen for a man whose parents think he could do better. As Nicole encourages Albert to come out of the closet and chase his dreams, Albert encourages Nicole to be forthright in her own relationship. There were some scenes I found uncomfortable but this is the sweetest book. I lost track of how many times it brought me to tears. And, I think the author did a fantastic job of showing that we're all humans and in this together. I would love to read more by Matt Cain. 

83. Firefly: The Unification War, Part One by Greg Oak, Dan McDaid, and Marcelo Costa - The first in a series based on the Firefly television show. When Serenity is attacked, the crew has no choice but to land on the closest planet. They need money to replace their engine, so they go in search of jobs. There, they find a religious faction that needs protection from bandits. Meanwhile, the Unificators, the people who shot Serenity's engine, are hunting Mal and Zoë, whom they consider war criminals. From the cover: "War can make villains of even the best men, and Mal's quest for redemption will put him at odds with his own crew, forcing him to make a choice: fix the past or fight for the future." Nicely stated. I thought it was a fun graphic novel and I'm glad I have two more of them, although I think there are quite a few more in the series (10 or 12). 

84. Heartstopper, Vol. 1 by Alice Oseman - Another first in a series! I started a lot of new graphic novels, this month. Heartstopper is a perfect example of why LGBTQ books need to stay on school shelves, especially if they're as sweet and thoughtful as this graphic novel. Charlie is openly gay after being outed a couple years prior to the beginning of the story (not by choice). He's very smart and a quick runner so when Nick sees him running, he tells Charlie there are some openings on the rugby team and invites him to come to practice. Nick is a big, athletic guy with a lot more confidence than Charlie but as their friendship develops, Nick begins to realize that he likes Charlie a bit more than he thought possible. A seriously sweet romance that does not go beyond kissing and does a great job of showing how people come to the realization of their sexuality at different ages and stages. Charlie knows he's gay; Nick is figuring himself out. I think any teenager can relate to the emotions, confusion, and general angst of this story, regardless of their orientation. 

What a month. I began in such a terrible reading slump that I had only read three books by the three-week mark. To try to shake myself out of it, I started reading a bunch of graphic novels, a manga, a children's book from my childhood, a wordless book. The easy reading finally did the trick and I ended the month content with what I'd read, although most of my books read didn't involve a whole lot of words. 

The rams are a reference to Sam Neill, by the way, as he was in a movie entitled Rams. We had a brief journey into the world of Sam Neill films, including Rams, after I finished Did I Ever Tell You This? but, unfortunately, it didn't last long because the spouse was disinterested and I usually watch TV only in the evenings, so compromise is necessary. At any rate, this was the typical month of "liked or loved everything" and while I did abandon one book at the first of the month, when I could barely stay awake to read and couldn't concentrate when I did, that book was just fine after I emerged from my reading slump and is my first finished book for July. Come back at the end of the month and I'll tell you all about it. 

©2023 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, June 01, 2023

Everything I read in May, 2023 (in Brief)



59. Wished by Lissa Evans - A middle grade story about 3 children who discover magic candles in the home of an older woman who is watching them temporarily. Each candle will allow someone a wish but only so long as the candle is burning. When the older woman (can't remember her name but she's a fun character) finds out about the candles, she sets out to fulfill a list of adventurous wishes written in her childhood and the children are swept along. Loads of fun. Lissa Evans can't write a bad book, in my humble opinion.

60. The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner - (e-book/Hoopla) The Lost Apothecary was recommended to me by the librarian who runs my Zoom book group, but when I say "recommended," I mean that I was intrigued in spite of what she had to say about it. What was most interesting to me was that there was a storyline that included mudlarking, something I've been interested in for years. However, she did say it was badly written and I agree. It was flawed in many ways and there were historical anachronisms. But, I still managed to enjoy it enough to finish and that same librarian said Penner's next book is better so I'm probably going to give her another shot. 

61. On the Horizon by Lois Lowry - A short book in verse that tells of the author's childhood in Hawaii and then Tokyo. It's about WWII, the USS Arizona, and Hiroshima, the horrible loss of life, and a surprising friendship made many years after the war. It's a tearjerker. I loved it. 

62. The Island of Adventure by Enid Blyton - The first in a series of 8, I bought this boxed set after years of hearing British friends gush about how much Enid Blyton's books meant to them as children.The Island of Adventure is about 4 children who meet during the school holidays at the house of a master (teacher) who is helping them work on their weaknesses. After cramming, Phillip invites Jack, his parrot Kiki, and his sister Lucy-Ann to Craggy Tops, the half-ruined home on a cliff where he lives with his aunt, uncle, and sister Dinah. The children have fun playing on the shore and in caves but they want to visit the Isle of Gloom, an island that's only sometimes visible off shore. After learning how to sail, they sneak off to the island using the handyman's sailboat and there they make a surprising discovery that will put them in terrible danger. Another great middle grade adventure . . . and now I get the appeal of Enid Blyton. 

63. The United States of McSweeney's: Ten Years of Lucky Mistakes and Accidental Classics, ed. by Nick Hornby and Eli Horowitz - A 10-year "best hits" type of book, and one that is heavily panned by those who are regular McSweeney's readers for repeated best-of stories rather than the use of newer ones. They were all new to me so no biggie. As usual with McSweeney's, there were stories I loved and some I didn't care for. One just lost me completely. My absolute favorite story was "The Ceiling" by Kevin Brockmeier, a story about a strange darkening in the sky that slowly lowers itself to earth. The ending made me wish I had a friend who'd read it with me so I could discuss. Coming in a close second was a story called "I Understand" by Roddy Doyle. No surprise. I love everything Doyle writes. 

64. An Astronomer in Love by Antoine Laurain - In the 18th century, Guillaume Le Gentil has embarked on a journey from his home in France to Pondicherry in India to view and make calculations based upon the Transit of Venus, an event that will occur twice in his lifetime and then not for over 100 years. In modern-day Paris, a real estate agent named Xavier has been asked to remove a chest from an apartment he sold when the previous owners ignore the new owner's request. In it, he finds a copper telescope, which he sets up on his balcony. Le Gentil is met with all sorts of disaster while Xavier is just trying to find happiness and keep his young son Olivier occupied on the weekends when he has custody. But, are both Guillaume and Xavier destined to find love? The title kind of gives you a hint. Once again, Laurain has knocked it out of the park. I loved both the historical storyline (based on the life of Le Gentil, who was real and equally unlucky) and the modern one. This is quite unusual. I tend to like either one or the other in novels with two storylines that are interconnected. (ARC - My thanks to Meryl Zegarek for the review copy)

65. A Man and His Cat #4 by Umi Sakurai - The 4th in the manga series has Mr. Kanda run into an old rival who has inherited a cat from his flighty mother. Mr. Kanda offers to help him learn how to care for a cat as the man has never owned a cat, before. When Mr. Kanda sees the cat, an exotic like Fukumaru, he suspects it is one of Fukumaru's siblings and asks if the cats can get together to see if they recognize one another. This is a manga series with surprising depth as it isn't just all goofy cat antics and a gushy cat owner (although there's plenty of that). Each entry delves deeper into both Mr. Kanda's story and Fukumaru's kittenhood.

66. Exquisite by Suzanne Slade and Cozbi A. Cabrera - A children's picture book about the life and poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks that focuses on her passion and determination, which led to a Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry book. Wonderful story about hard work and focus leading to a wonderful outcome with gorgeous illustrations. My only complaint is that there's a single poem by Brooks and I would have preferred it if the book had 3 or 4 more.

67. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell - Iris owns a small vintage clothing store in Edinburgh and is seeing a married man. Her life is tolerable if unexciting until the day she gets an unexpected phone call. Esme Lennox is being released from Cauldstone Hospital, a mental facility in which she's been locked up for 61 years. Iris has never heard of her, the sister to her grandmother Kitty, who said she was an only child. Esme has nowhere to go because the hospital is closing for good, so Iris ends up taking her on till she can find a home for her. But, in the short time she's with Esme, she can sense no mental illness and she does notice a resemblance to her own father. I won't share any spoilers but the ending is both vague and explosive. I had to look up other opinions of what had happened. Not my favorite by O'Farrell but it's excellent. It does require a bit of concentration to figure out what's going on, at times.  

68. Maizy Chen's Last Chance by Lisa Yee - I read a positive review of Maizy Chen when I was thinking about Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander month and wondering what I should read that fit the bill. It's middle grade (which I love) so I bought it on impulse. Good decision. Maizy and her mother have traveled from Los Angeles to Last Chance, Minnesota due to her grandfather's declining health. There, she makes new friends, learns about her family's restaurant and history, and experiences racism. The story of how an ancestor named Lucky came to the US from China and eventually opened the family's restaurant is a story within the story told by Maizy's grandfather and it's handled so beautifully that I can see why the book has won so many awards. It did take me a good 25 pages to get into the story, but then it just kept getting better. I laughed, I cried. I loved this book. 

69. Aliens in Underpants Save the World by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort - This children's picture book was an impulse purchase from Book Outlet when I went looking for a specific book. I have a thing for aliens in children's books because they're just so dang cute. In this rhyming tale, aliens wearing underpants discover that a dangerous meteor is headed toward Earth. What can they do to save the day? Spoiler: they stitch a bunch of underpants together and use them to alter the meteor's path. Super cute illustrations are marred a bit by awkward rhyming and I got the impression that there's a previous alien book that describes how they got their underpants in the first place so it felt like something was missing but I still really enjoyed the book. I like silliness and would have loved to read this to my kids if it had been around when they were little. 

70. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, and Henry Cole - (Audio) I've wanted to read this book for years, mostly out of curiosity. I knew it was a true story so it always baffled me that it was so frequently banned. What motivated me was reading banned book lists from Florida counties in which Tango came up several times. I was hoping my library would have the ebook but all they had was the audio. So, a controversial kids' book has just become my first Hoopla audio borrow (it's a whopping 8 minutes long). It's so sweet! There is nothing sexual whatsoever in this story. Two male penguins are affectionate (nothing beyond that) and they desire to hatch an egg like the other couples. It's a penguin couple who can't seem to deal with more than one chick that ends up having an extra egg taken from them for the male couple to hatch. So, it could be argued that Tango wouldn't have survived without their care. What a lovely story. 

71. What About Will by Ellen Hopkins - A middle grade novel written in verse about two brothers. 17-year-old Will has had a Traumatic Brain Injury that damaged his facial nerves and has changed his personality. Now, he's angry and sullen. To complicate matters, Will and his 12-year-old brother Trace are both frustrated that their mother has left the family to go on the road with her rock band and their father works long hours. Will is supposed to drive Trace to school (they attend the same school, in spite of their age difference) and ball practice. But, Will is unreliable and sometimes out of it, even when he does show up. Trace suspects his brother is buying drugs but neither of his parents are listening and Trace is careful about what he says because he wants to protect Will. But, then things spiral out of control. I liked this book but I kept aging Trace up mentally, in spite of the fact that he's in Little League. I don't know why I did that but it just felt more like YA to me. My first by Hopkins and I want to read more. I don't think this title has been banned but at least one county in Florida has banned nothing but books by Hopkins. So, now I want to read them out of curiosity.  

72. Spy x Family #9 by Tatsuya Endo - This 9th volume of the manga series finishes the story told in #8 with Yor defending a couple and their child on a cruise ship and Anya helping to save the day when it turns out the bad guys are trying to blow up the ship with numerous bombs having been planted. Back at home, Anya's friend Becky visits and swoons over Anya's "father". There are a number of other stories — too many to go into — but suffice it to say, this entry made me smile a lot. Still loving the series and I'm looking forward to #10 coming out in the fall. I've already pre-ordered it. 

73. Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Cafe by Toshikazu Kawaguchi - Four interconnected stories about time travelers and the people who work in the cafe from the author of the original Before the Coffee Gets Cold, which I absolutely loved. This book of tales is every bit as heart-tugging as the first book but because there are several stories and they intersect, you have a lot of characters to keep track of. I had to occasionally sit for a minute and think, "OK, who is this person that was just mentioned?" Part of the reason for that is the prevalence of characters whose names begin with the letter K. It's easy to get all of those K names tangled up in your brain. At any rate, I enjoyed the book and absolutely loved the ending. 

©2023 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, May 03, 2023

Everything I Read in April, 2023 (in brief)


All reads are pictured except for 16 Words, an ebook. Flatlay image at bottom. 

42. Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden (Tomorrow #1) - Ellie invites her friends for a week in the Outback during a holiday and they have a delicious time fending for themselves, lying by the river, and checking out the area known locally as "Hell". But, when they return, they discover that Australia has been invaded, their families taken prisoner. Should they retreat to their new home in the Outback and hide or do their part to fight the war? An explosive YA series with my favorite gutsy heroine of all time. Ellie and her friends are amazing. I'm excited to finally get around to rereading this series.

43. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh - Paul Pennyfeather is studying for the clergy at Scone College, Oxford, when an unfortunate event occurs and he's sent down (kicked out) for indecent behavior. But, he's British so he bucks up and finds a job as a master at a school in Wales. From there, he works as a tutor and then falls in love; then, he has an even steeper fall from grace. I said, "Oh, poor Paul," a lot while reading this book, but the ending is very satisfying and now I really want to read more Waugh. 

44. The Urban Sketching Handbook: Drawing Expressive People by Róisín Curé - The author mentioned this book in a free workshop I was taking (her class was one of my favorites) so I grabbed a copy. Curé talks about how to quickly sketch what you see and tips on how to finish up the bodies of people who don't stick around quite long enough, as well as how to paint with a minimal palette and things to observe like the way the light creates a crown at the top of a head and washes out color on the body. If you're interested in urban sketching, I highly recommend it. 

45. A Man and His Cat #3 by Umi Sakurai - The third in the manga series goes further into detail about all of the main characters: Mr. Kanda, Fukumaru (the cat), his dearly departed wife, and his best friend. We learn why he teaches instead of doing piano performances, Fukumaru's kittenhood, and a little about his best friend that makes him seem less the villain and more an immature guy but a loyal buddy. I loved this particular entry. 

46. Tell Me the Truth About Love by W. H. Auden - Lots of rereads, this month. I heard Tom Hiddleston reciting "Funeral Blues" recently and that made me crave some Auden. Fortunately, I already had Tell Me the Truth About Love on my shelf. Some of the poems in this slim collection are actually kind of funny. Some perplexed me. Nothing beats "Funeral Blues" for moving, emotional poetry, though. And, oddly, even Tom Hiddleston (who is fabulous) doesn't hold a candle to John Hannah's reading in Four Weddings and a Funeral. I can't even watch the clip on YouTube without tears. 

47. Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost, Ed. by Gary D. Schmidt, Illus. by Henri Sorensen - The "Poetry for Young People" series is wonderful: poems by well-known poets with a brief explanation and gorgeous illustrations. I wish I'd bought them all when they came out. I got one or two for review, at the time, and bought at least one more but that's all and now they appear to be out of print. I am a Frost fan so I reread this one, now and then. I love the explanatory paragraphs. While Frost's poetry is very straightforward, the introductory writings add a bit of depth and meaning to Frost's words. 

48. Sidney Nolan's Ned Kelly by Murray Bail - I bought a battered (and very grubby) used copy of this book after reading the exhibit book my husband brought back from Canberra, where I sent him to view the Sidney Nolan collection. I wanted a book specifically about the Ned Kelly paintings, which wasn't what I got from the exhibit book, although it was fascinating. In Sidney Nolan's Ned Kelly, the essays describe Ned Kelly's life and why Nolan chose to tell his story through paintings but how some of his paintings were actually about himself. The two books are quite different and I'm glad I read both. 

49. I Felt a Funeral in My Brain by Will Walton - Author Andrew Smith recommended I Felt a Funeral in My Brain on Facebook and I've found his recommendations are generally worthwhile, so I bought a copy and then . . . it didn't click. 3 or 4 years later, I picked it up again and loved it. Avery is 16, gay, a poet with an alcoholic mother and a grandfather who is also hiding an alcohol problem. His grandfather is like Schrodinger's cat in this book . . . he's dead, he's alive, he's dead. That's because it leaps around in time and is written in what feels like an experimental form. It's a bit of a head trip but it's about grief, addiction, being LGBTQ, poetry, and just being a 16-year-old trying to make sense of everything. Another great recommendation. I'm glad I finally read it. 

50. The Cats of Roxville Station by Jean Craighead George - My Side of the Mountain by this same author is one of my childhood favorite books. So, I was surprised how much I disliked The Cats of Roxville Station. In the beginning, it sounded like it was going to be a sweet story about a feral cat colony that hangs out at a train station where an old lady feeds them. A little boy is drawn to one of the cats, Ratchet. Ratchet has been abused and dumped so the natural expectation is that the boy will slowly gain her trust and adopt her. But, the boy's foster mother is a cat hater and, the author being a naturalist, much of the book is dedicated to the hardships of feral life. What ruined the book for me was the sheer quantity of cruelty and death. At least two people try to poison all of the cats (and do succeed at killing some of them) and when Ratchet has kittens, a tomcat eats some of them. This is an early middle grade book. It would have traumatized me to read this as a child and it's kind of haunting me now. Not for sensitive cat lovers. 

51. Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson, Ed. by Frances S. Bolin, Illus. by Chi Chung - Yet another reread. National Poetry Month is always a good excuse to revisit volumes of poetry that are sitting on the shelves. Emily Dickinson is not one of my favorite poets, but there are certain poems or even just lines (like "Hope is the thing with feathers") that resonate with me, so I haven't counted her out entirely. And, I do love this children's series, which I feel makes poetry more accessible. In this particular volume, words that children may not know within each poem are defined and there's an excellent intro about the poet. 

52. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch - The first in a series that I find a bit difficult to define. Paranormal, crime procedural, fantasy . . . all of the above. A constable in London discovers he has a special ability when he interviews the witness to a murder and the witness turns out to be a ghost. And the murder is only the beginning (there's a lot of murder in this book). I loved the history, the setting, the magic, and the author's sense of humor. I bought this book in a London charity shop about 7 years ago and liked it enough to order the next three in the series. 

53. Scout Stories #2 by Nick Carr (zine) - The second zine by a location scout, in which he shares more anecdotes from his time scouting. He tends to butt up against a lot of irascible homeowners who are either irritated by nearby film sets, have to be convinced to let a movie or series shoot happen on their property, or are fine with whatever filming is to be done, but it'll cost. I'm really enjoying these zines and wish he would just publish a big, fat book of his anecdotes but the zines will do. 

54. Toast by Nigel Slater - I read about Toast in The Guardian and added it to my mental wish list, a few months ago. When the announcement came out about Book Depository's closing, I decided to go ahead and order it. What I liked about the book was how his family influenced his love of food, desire to cook, and choice of profession. I don't think I've ever read about a more incompetent or less interested cook than Slater's mother and his stepmother's cooking was quite the opposite. Both were fascinating characters. What I disliked about the book was that it grossed me out. There were far too many horror stories of what people do in restaurant kitchens and way too much about his sexual experiences (not necessarily where he was involved, but a good bit of walking in on people or sheer voyeurism). 

55. Cat Massage Therapy #1 by Haru Hisakawa - I'm almost embarrassed about the fact that I bought such a silly manga, but the fact of the matter is that it made me smile. A young man is tense due to training at work and enters a massage parlor, where he finds that the manager is a cat. Cat massage involves a lot of toe beans and purring to vibrate people into relaxation. There are also several trainees who do some of the massage (kittens). The young man feels so much better that he asks the manager and trainees to accompany him to work to help his coworkers relax, as well. Goofy and adorable. I doubt I'll continue on with this particular series but I'm going to keep this book for rereads when I need a mental break and a smile. 

56. Poetry for Young People: African American Poetry, ed. by A. Rampersad and M. Blount, Illustrated by Karen Barbour - An anthology of African American poetry from as early as the 18th century, including both well-known poets and some not as widely read. Includes an introduction describing the evolution of African American poetry, intros to each poem, and vocabulary that explains the usage of some of the words in the context shown. I originally intended to donate this book (which I received for review in 2014) but decided I couldn't part with it. I love the poetry and it serves as an excellent resource for exploring African American poetry further by introducing the reader to a wide range of poets. Another reread and the last of this series on my shelf. I totally enjoyed revisiting this series. 

57. 16 Words: William Carlos Williams and "The Red Wheelbarrow" by Lisa Jean LaBanca Rogers, illustrated by Chuck Groenink - I was thinking about poetry when I happened across this book and discovered that I had enough credits to mostly cover the ebook edition. Then, one night when I couldn't sleep I decided I might as well read and chose this book specifically because of National Poetry Month and the fact that I was tired enough that I wanted to read something simply worded. The story of Williams, a physician who wrote poetry when not treating his patients, and how he came to write "The Red Wheelbarrow", I confess I was so sleepy when I read it that I'm uncertain whether the author was imagining how it may have happened or knows the actual story behind the poem. Regardless, it's a lovely story with beautiful subtly-colored illustrations and it made me want to read the volumes of poetry by Williams that have been languishing on my shelf. 

58. Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis - A Brazilian classic set in the 19th century. Dom Casmurro is a cynical nickname that the neighbors have given him, indicating that they think he behaves above his station and is a curmudgeon. He is alone, living in an exact replica of his childhood home, and reflects on his life. I must have glanced at the Goodreads description calling it a "classic tale of adultery". I disagree. While the story eventually leads to adultery, it's primarily about the narrator's love story, his enduring friendship with a fellow seminary student, and how ultimately betrayal and unbearable jealousy leads to bitterness and separation. But, while the story begins and ends on a melancholy tone, most of it is light and it's frequently quite funny. A common tale, beautifully told. 

©2023 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.