Thursday, March 02, 2023

Everything I Read in February 2023 (in brief)


February:

15. Reunion by Fred Uhlman - The story of a friendship between a Jew and an Aryan during the rise of Hitler and what the narrator finds out many years after the war. An excellent novella with a killer ending. 

16. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes - After Jerome is shot and killed by a police officer, his ghost observes his family's grief, talks to the daughter of the cop who killed him, and is guided by the ghost of Emmett Till. I think I'd have liked Ghost Boys better if the daughter had initially defended her father's actions (a natural conflict). Instead, she was open to the idea that it might have been killing caused by unconscious racial bias on the part of her father from the beginning. But, the bottom line is clearly that way too many innocent Black boys have been killed and I thought it was a pretty powerful read in many ways. 

17. Space Cat Meets Mars by Ruthven Todd and Paul Galdone (e-book/Hoopla) - The third in a children's book series that I've been reading via Hoopla, astronaut kitty Flyball and his human are returning to Earth for a break when they're pulled off course by an asteroid. They manage to get away but then realize they've got a problem, so they land on Mars. While his human friend, Capt. Fred Stone, works on chipping away crystal that has melted and reformed inside the engines, Flyball goes off exploring and discovers a Martian kitty. 

18. A Man and His Cat #1 by Umi Sakarai - The first in a manga series, A Man and His Cat is a goofy, sweet, funny manga about a lonely man who adopts an adult cat who's been overlooked because people think he's ugly. I was surprised to find myself literally laughing out loud while reading this manga and, ugh, there went the book-buying ban. After I closed it, I got online and ordered 5 more. Like Spy x Family (which I plan to continue reading as new books are released), I'm hoping to read only one book per month to stretch out the joy. Cat lovers will appreciate this series. 

19. McSweeney's, Issue #51 - The last of the McSweeney's issues in my stacks, another nice selection but my hands-down favorite was the first story, by Nick Arvin. In "The Interview", it's a Friday afternoon and it's snowing. Everyone has gone home but the new employee, who has scheduled interviews for this afternoon. Not knowing what else to do and in fear of losing her new job, she stashes all the interviewees in a room and leaves. Chaos ensues. 

20. The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Renée Watson, Nikkolas Smith - The origin story of the first people stolen from their West African homes and taken to a new land where they were enslaved for many generations. Born on the Water is about the fact that they were people with full lives, traditions, and family, and how they survived and kept their music and traditions while maintaining faith that they would be free in the future. Probably banned in a number of places but Born on the Water doesn't even mention slave owners. It's written as a story of history, hardship, and hope. The illustrations are stunning. 

21. Uncharted Territory by Connie Willis - My latest stationary bike read (really appreciated the large print in this library sale purchase). A fun sci-fi story but kind of goofy, typical Connie Willis humor in what feels like a Western with Sci-Fi exploration on a planet that has been largely unexplored. The best part was the indigenous Bult, who spent most of his time keeping a log of fines like, "inappropriate tone and manner in speaking to an indigenous person," and "forcible confiscation of property" (when one of the explorers tried to grab his own binoculars back). 

22. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain - Well, this was unexpected. I've heard of the movie(s) and just made the assumption that this story was a horror story in which there's a dangerous, murdering postal worker. I had no idea that it's an erotic story of love and murder set in a diner in the 1930s and that, in fact, it was banned in Boston when released. I read this novella on Valentine's Day for no particular reason other than an urge to throw something different into the reading mix. And, honestly, I was impressed. It has the minimalist tone of other writers of the era but it's much easier to follow than most, not so understated as to become confusing. Also, it turns out that the title is a metaphor for justice coming to get you. Cool. I would definitely like to read more by Cain. 

23. The Beautiful Struggle (Adapted for YA) by Ta-Nehisi Coates - There's a lot of slang and cultural references that I know nothing about — too much to stop and look everything up – in this YA version of Ta-Nehisi Coates' memoir. However, it's possible to read between the lines and what you get out of it is a lot about his relationship with his father, struggles in school (probably because he wasn't challenged), his growing awareness of what it meant to be Black, and the stunning differences a few blocks could make in the quality of education and life in general. From looking at reviews, I get the impression that the original version is more readable for those who aren't the target audience. 

24. Biased by Jennifer M. Eberhardt, PhD - A fascinating and often horrifying book about unconscious bias, how it affects lives and livelihoods, and what can be done about it. 

25. My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson - A book of short stories and a novella. A couple of the stories didn't work for me, but they were the first two and after I warmed to the author's writing style, I began to really love her storytelling. But, what made this book for me was the title story, the novella, about a world in which climate change has taken out power and water and roving bands of white supremacists are terrorizing people of color and burning buildings. When a group of neighbors are driven from their homes, they end up living at Monticello, where they learn to work cooperatively to survive. 

26. Sneakers, the Seaside Cat by Margaret Wise Brown and Anne Mortimer - A children's picture book that I bought mainly because it featured a cat, Sneakers, the Seaside Cat is about a cat who goes to the beach with his family and explores the seaside, discovering waves and sand creatures and smelling the delicious, fishy scent of the sea. Gorgeous, gorgeous artwork. 

27. Walk the Blue Fields by Claire Keegan (e-book/Hoopla) - I'm very grateful that I've been able to find Claire Keegan's books on Hoopla because her writing is my latest obsession. Walk the Blue Fields is a collection of short stories. While I still love her writing, this particular collection is currently my least favorite of her works, mostly because the stories were a bit bleak while the two novellas I've read both ended on a brighter note. I'd still recommend it. Keegan is a skilled writer. 

28. American Primitive by Mary Oliver - I love Mary Oliver's poetry but I was having trouble concentrating on this book so I read the poems under my breath, moving my lips as if to recite but without speaking aloud. Weirdly, that did the trick. 


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

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Everything I Read in January 2023 (in brief)


January:

1. How to Connect (Mindfulness Essentials #8) by Thich Nhat Hanh - In June of 2022 I read a Thich Nhat Hanh book and a book of Mary Oliver's poetry and both were so refreshing that I decided to start the year with the two authors, although I got a later start on Mary Oliver. I was right, it's a good idea to start the year with Thich Nhat Hanh. While this particular book is very short (I read it on my Kindle app, which claimed it should take 37 minutes to read but then fell asleep reading so it took me a bit longer), it is the usual blend of soothing, thought-provoking, and instructional. (e-book)

2. Foster by Claire Keegan - A little girl is taken to her aunt and uncle's house for the summer, although she has no idea how long she'll be there or why she's been sent away. As the summer progresses, she learns what it means to be truly loved and cared for as her foster parents teach her to work in the kitchen and gardens, draw water from the well, and run fast. They keep her clean, well-fed, and clothed. She learns about the family's tragic past and senses that her foster parents are happy to have her around. When the summer ends, will she have to return home? Another wonderful book by Keegan, a new favorite author. I want to read everything she's written. (e-book/Hoopla)

X. Scout Stories #1 by Nick Carr - This zine is not big enough to count as a book but I think it's worth mentioning. Nick Carr is a location scout for various film productions. I started following him when he posted under the name "Scouting New York" on Facebook (and probably Twitter) for the fascinating photos of New York that he took and the stories that went with them. He has since branched out and no longer does all of his scouting in New York. This first zine has some of his stories and photos, including a series of photos of the Boneyard where planes are taken to be dismantled for parts. It's like sitting down for coffee with a very entertaining friend who has lived a full life and has time to share a handful of anecdotes. I loved it. I would love it if someone would publish a coffee table book of his stories and photos. 

3. McSweeney's, Issue #69 - I think this is the second issue of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern that I've read and I'm beginning to detect some stylistic commonalities in the choices they make. Not to say that they all sound alike but there's just a similar feel to them in some offbeat way. At any rate, I am loving McSweeney's and glad I finally took the plunge and bought a subscription, plus a couple of back issues. As always, I liked some of the stories better than others. That's always going to be true. I'm a short story fan and good with that. I like reading collections for variety, anthologies for consistency. My favorite in this issue was surprising: a story about two trans males glamping and the tension over their separate Go Fund Me accounts (one successful, one not) for the same procedure they're hoping to get. When they have an argument, one goes off for a walk and what he comes across is hilarious. I don't want to ruin it, but I just loved the absurdity of the story, "18 or 35 Miles from Perennial Square" by Max Delsohn. 

4. No Surrender: My Thirty Year War by Hiroo Onoda - If you're a WWII aficionado, you may have heard of Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who was sent to the small Philippine Island of Lubang in 1944 and stayed in the jungle for 30 years, at first with some of his comrades and then finally alone after two of them were killed. It's fascinating not only for the survival skills that they honed and how they managed to stay hidden for so long but also for the ways in which they managed to convince themselves that every attempt to lure them out of the woods because the war had ended was a ploy by the enemy (chiefly, the Americans). It's a story of determination, absolute adherence to duty, and how humans fool themselves. I was deeply touched by the ending, when Onoda left the island alone, mourning the leaving of his friends' spirits on the island when they had hoped to return to Japan together. 

5. Space Cat Visits Venus by Ruthven Todd and Paul Galdone (illustrator) - Second in the Space Cat series, the first of which I read in 2022, sees Flyball and his human now living on the moon and waiting while a new rocket is built. The two of them fly to Venus and find that under the heavy clouds that nobody can see beyond is a world lit by violet light and ruled by plants. Only a 6-legged mouse-like creature represents the animal community and the plants live on a daily ammonia rain from which Flyball and his human must protect themselves. They learn to communicate with the plants — and each other! I found it particularly fascinating how one man imagined the fantastical surface of a planet nobody has landed upon and how he visualized space flight. Published in 1955 and illustrated by the same author who illustrated the award-winning Anatole books. (e-book/Hoopla)

6. We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury - I followed Michael Rosen on the Bird Site for years without actually paying attention to him until he slapped back at someone who accused him of sitting in an ivory tower safely while Covid raged. Curious, I read the memoir he wrote about his experience recovering from a coma after being hospitalized with Covid. Before that, I looked him up and watched the video of him reading/performing this children's picture book that was published in 1989. What an expressive guy! I am not good with phones and kept accidentally closing the video but I loved what I saw and grabbed a copy when I came across it at Book Outlet. I love it. The ending made me laugh. Since there aren't any little ones in the house, I read it to the cats. I'm sure they enjoyed it, too. That might be what that wide-eyed look meant, right? 

7. Marshmallow by Clare Turlay Newberry - Another older children's book (originally published in 1942), I bought Marshmallow at the same time because I was craving children's books, the one thing I really, really miss about reviewing for publishers. Marshmallow is a true story, according to the author. Oliver is a tabby cat who lives indoors and has never encountered other animals. When his human brings home a tiny baby bunny, he's at first frightened and then tries to pounce on it. He's separated from the bunny but when he manages to escape from his room, Marshmallow confuses Oliver for his mother and snuggles up to him. In response, Oliver treats Marshmallow as his own kitten. So sweet and the illustrations are gorgeous. Marshmallow is a Caldecott medalist. 

8. Before and After by Andrew Shanahan - A dystopian tale about a 600-pound man. Ben Stone is morbidly obese and diabetic. On the day he is to be taken to the hospital, a wall of his apartment is removed and he's strapped down to be hoisted through the wall. But, then all hell breaks loose. A disease has stricken the world and Ben is stuck in an apartment missing the exterior wall with his tiny dog while outside there are zombie-like people who are dangerously angry, called "wraths". Ben has no food in the apartment and he can't leave. So, he drinks water and begins to lose weight. While this book is dystopian, it's really about paralyzing anxiety, bullying, fat-shaming, love and kindness (his
 mother's love for Ben; his love for his dog), and ultimately about summoning the courage to do the thing you find most difficult. Loved the author's sense of humor. 

9. Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh - Allie Brosh's first book about her struggles with depression, Hyperbole and a Half, was a little too relatable to me but I loved it for that. Solutions and Other Problems does contain some stories about her mental health issues but it's less cohesive, a broad range of anecdotes with the graphic illustrations she's known for, beginning with her determination to fit into a bucket at the age of 3. Very entertaining but at times a story would lose me a bit. And, I can't relate to divorce or drug and alcohol use because I'm a teetotaler but I still enjoyed reading about her life, for better or worse, and the hilarious antics of various animals in her life. While I didn't like Solutions and Other Problems as much as I loved Hyperbole and a Half, I highly recommend it. 

10. Dodsworth in London by Tim Egan - An early reader about Dodsworth (a mole, maybe?) and his friend the duck. While visiting London, Dodsworth and the duck become separated when the duck doesn't hear Dodsworth suggesting they wait for the next bus. But, there's another duck nearby, the Royal Duck. Both get on the next bus and Dodsworth thinks the Royal Duck is his friend being goofy with a British accent and a fancy hat. Then, Dodsworth realizes his mistake and the two go searching all over London for his friend. They're having no luck till the Royal Duck suggests asking the queen for help. A cute story with a sweet tale of a character desperately searching for his friend. I had two small problems with this book. I read it because it's set in London (and I love children's books) but there was no introduction of the characters because it's not the first in the series. A brief intro would have been helpful. Second, there were some flaws in the illustrations, chiefly the police uniform and car. 

11. Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London - I like Jack London's short stories better than these two classics but of the two I preferred White Fang. The beatings of dog and wolf and all of the animals attacking each other were difficult reading. I guessed the point was to show that nature is merciless but that is simply the way of the Wild and a friend commented that the "law of club and fang" was included with intention, she having studied it in school. 

12. McSweeney's, Issue #68 - There were no stories that stood out enough that I remember them, a couple weeks after reading, but I enjoy the short stories and letters in McSweeney's immensely and I'm so glad I finally caved and bought a subscription. 

13. Anatomy by Dana Schwartz - In 1817, Hazel lives in a castle and is promised to the future viscount of an Edinburgh family. All her life, she's wanted to be a doctor and has conducted experiments at home. But, when she finds out that an anatomy class for aspiring doctors is going to be held, she is determined to attend. Jack is a resurrection man, an impoverished teen who digs up bodies and sells them to doctors to dissect, among other jobs. When Hazel's deception is discovered and she's kicked out of class, she enlists Jack's help bringing her bodies (and then patients) so she can continue her studies. Well written but a bit gruesome and therefore not a favorite. 

14. Life Sentences by Billy O'Callaghan - Told in three sections, each in the voice of a member of the same family over several generations, this work of historical fiction begins with Jer's POV (Jeremiah). Jer and his sister Mamie grew up with a single mother. As Mamie is laid to rest, he burns with anger at the brother-in-law who made her life miserable and ponders his own life and meaning. Nancy, Jer and Mamie's mother, is a teenager when she leaves her island home to seek a living. Young and easily swayed by the advances of handsome gardener, she falls pregnant and ends up in a workhouse. Then, she falls even further. But she summons her courage and fills her home with love, eventually making a decent home for her children. Nellie is dying in the home of her daughter. The youngest of her siblings, she is not the first to go. As she reflects on her life, she remembers the heartbreak and love and how her family held her up when she needed comfort. A beautiful, heart-filling little gem of a book. At 220 pages, it could be read in a single sitting but I chose to stretch it out, one section per day so I could stay with Jer and his family a little longer. 

My favorites of the month were Life Sentences, Foster, No Surrender, and We're Going on a Bear Hunt but of all of these, Life Sentences is the one that had the deepest impact on me. I didn't read as much as I usually do in January (typically, my biggest reading month) but it was a terrific month with lots of really great reading. 



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

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Reading and Blogging Goals, 2023


2023???? How is that even possible? Yes, another year has flown by and it's time to come up with some new goals. 

So . . . ta-da! My reading and blogging goals:

1. The return of the book-buying ban - I confess, I let it go, mid-year. However, having lasted an entire year on a book-buying ban with only a few minor violations, I discovered that my personal buying ban definitely had an impact on my habits. I have bought some books this year, but the quantity of purchases has dropped significantly; and, since I allowed myself to buy the books I desperately wanted to read, I didn't feel like I needed to take a break and make a big Book Outlet purchase. So, I'm happy with how 2022 book buying went, in spite of falling off the ban wagon. Haha, ban wagon. OK, bad. 

2. Continue getting rid of as many books as possible - This has been going very well but since Kiddo and spouse moved into their first home and I gave him 3 shelving units, I need to get rid of a lot more. Because, yeah, I no longer have any place to put the remaining books that were on those shelves. 

3. Continue reading exclusively from my own shelves (including from my personal electronic library) - Almost everything I read, this year, was from my personal shelves. I did check out two library e-books and finished my remaining ARCs during the first months of the year after I decided to go to once-a-month blogging. But, it went really well. I had a particular shelf I was aiming to read from and I read 9 books from that shelf. However, I stepped on my own toes by immediately filling any blank spots with more books (because, ahem, I have many, many books stacked on the floor . . . still true, but I'm working on it). So, eventually I couldn't remember which books I'd planned to read and which were tucked in after something else was removed. I totally forgot that I'd posted an image of the shelf in question on my blog. Ah, well. I consider my attempt to read exclusively from my shelves a success. 

4. Read at least 100 books - This one is flexible. I have a lot of goals that may interfere with my reading time. Plus, I like to leave room for chunksters. Anyway, 100 books is usually doable for me. 

5. Continue to turn down ARCs - Not a problem, since most of the ARCs I've been offered have been e-galleys and I haven't been able to get Netgalley to work in years. There were a couple times I was tempted to read an ARC and return to the blog to review it, this year. In all cases, the fine print at the bottom of the email said, "We are not sending physical ARCs at this time." Screw that: auto delete. I don't even like e-books. I have had a couple physical books arrive unsolicited and one of them is on my TBR. I do plan to read it and review. Which brings me to . . . 

6. As of now, I've decided to continue doing only one post per month - If there is a particular book that either really stands out and I just have to write about it or if I just feel like posting, I will. I'm not going to stop myself. However, burnout is a real thing and I still feel like I've reached the end of the line when it comes to regular posting. I will make an exception for the unsolicited ARC that's currently on my TBR (if it grabs me, of course – I can never guarantee I'll finish reading a book) and any other unsolicited books that appeal to me, if they should appear in my mailbox. 

7. Chunksters of the year - After I read Gone With the Wind, a friend sent me Scarlett to follow it up because she enjoyed the modern continuation. I haven't read it, yet, but I needed a break from that world before continuing on. So, that's one book I'd like to read, this year. My classic chunkster choices of the year are East of Eden by John Steinbeck and The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. I've glanced at East of Eden longingly for years without picking it up, so I think it's about time. I also need to read the next two books in The Expanse series and then return them to Kiddo because he says I can't keep them. Big meanie.

8. Read a classic per month - This used to be a standard for me but I've slipped away from it in the last couple of years. I think first up will be Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London because that book also belongs to Kiddo and I need to give it back to him. 

As an aside, I am still at Twitter but no longer going there for any purpose other than to drop a link to my monthly round-ups. I no longer scroll through Twitter but I've decided to keep my account open so that nobody has the opportunity to replace my account with a clone and a paid-for blue check mark. 

I miss Twitter. It was my favorite social media hangout. I tried Mastadon and Post.news and settled on Post, where I am @bookfoolery. At Post I'm limiting myself mostly to cat and book photos, at the moment, with an occasional re-post of whatever interests me. It's full of refugees from Twitter and so new that they're constantly adding new features; it's really being built from the ground up, at this point. Patience is necessary but the atmosphere is extremely upbeat. I'm really enjoying Post. 

Hope you have a fabulous reading year!


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

Monday, January 02, 2023

Books Read in 2022

January:


February:


March: [All links in March lead to a summary post with brief reviews except #43: Sisters of Night and Fog]


April: [All links in April lead to a summary post with brief reviews except #45: Nazaré]


May: [All links in May lead to the same summary post with brief reviews]


June: [All links in June lead to the same summary post with brief reviews]


July: [All links in July lead to the same summary post with brief reviews]


August: [All links in August lead to the same summary post with brief reviews]


September: [All links in September lead to the same summary post with brief reviews]


October: [All links in October lead to the same summary post with brief reviews]


November: [All links in November lead to the same summary post with brief reviews]


December: [All links in December lead to the same summary post with brief reviews]


©2022 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Everything I Read in December (in brief)

 


December:

142. Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1) by James S. A. Corey - Oh, boy. Where to begin? Leviathan Wakes is the first in a space opera series. Julie is trapped in a locker on a space ship after she and her shipmates have been removed from their ship. Who has taken them off the ship and why? Jim Holden and 4 other people from an ice trawler that hauls ice from the rings of Saturn are sent to check out a ship that has sent a distress signal. Meanwhile, on Ceres a detective for Star Helix, a security company used in lieu of police, is tasked with finding Julie and bringing her home. But, Julie's disappearance and a series of events related to the ship in distress are part of something bigger and more horrifying than Detective Miller and Jim Holden could have imagined. What an entertaining read! I borrowed this one from Kiddo and he says I can't keep it. Fortunately, I have the next two in the series (also Kiddo's) so I can read on when I'm ready. I'm also enjoying the TV series. 

143. The Presence of Absence by Simon Van Booy - Max Little is dying. From his hospital room, he writes about how he met his wife Hadley and their life together, finding out about his illness, and his hesitance to tell her that he is going to die. A very philosophical and deeply moving book about life, death, love, loss, and how we can sense those we love around us, long after they've passed away. When I closed the book I was absolutely paralyzed by how much it moved me. I just sat with it pressed against my heart for a while. I particularly loved the way it ended and the occasional touch of humor. There is a line on page 63 in which the protagonist says he hasn't felt his foot for hours and thinks it's gone on without him that I thought was pure Simon. He has a terrific sense of humor. While this book is not upbeat and I often felt like I was hearing the direct thoughts of the protagonist (an apparently successful writer whose wife passed his notes on to Simon to tell his story — there's a note about this in the book), regular readers of Simon Van Booy will recognize the gorgeous touch of metaphor that always imbues his writing. 

144. One More River by Lynne Reid Banks - A Jewish Canadian teenager named Lesley is wealthy, cute, and popular. So when Les's parents tell her they're emigrating to Israel, she is shocked and upset. She loves her life. The story takes place over a little more than a year, in 1966 and '67 at a kibbutz, and the 6-Day War takes place during this time. Lesley goes from being coddled to wearing cheap but functional clothing, working at assigned tasks, and being an outcast. Will Les be able to adapt and make new friends? When war breaks out, what will happen to Lesley and her family? Sent by a friend and I found this book utterly fascinating. I loved the uniqueness of reading about someone leaving North America rather than struggling to enter. 

145. Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry - A childhood favorite, I have no idea what's become of my family's original copy and when something reminded me of the story, prompting me to recite the first few pages by memory, I absolutely craved a reread. So, I bought a new copy — guilt free because if I find the original there are always children in need of new books and I can happily pass it on. Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree is a rhyming story about a man who has a huge tree delivered to his home. But, it brushes the ceiling, so he has the top cut off and delivered to the upstairs maid. The top is too big for her space so she trims it again. This cycle of passing on the treetop and trimming it continues until the tiniest bit of treetop is placed joyfully in a mousehole in Mr. Willowby's own parlor. An absolutely charming, upbeat, smile-all-the-way-through story with wonderful illustrations. Time did not diminish this classic one bit. I'm thrilled that it's still in print. 

146. The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain - The Red Notebook is the story of a woman who is mugged in Paris. Book seller Laurent discovers her purse abandoned on top of a pile of refuse and it looks far too nice to be thrown out. So, he picks it up and sifts through the purse to find the identity of its owner. He learns a lot about her but will he be able to figure out her identity beyond her given name? Meanwhile, the owner of the purse has sustained a head injury in the mugging and fallen into a coma. Will Laurent ever cross paths with the woman he's come to know through her possessions? The Red Notebook is now tied with Vintage 1954 (a hard act to follow as it contains time travel, one of my favorite things to read about) for my favorite by Laurain, of the 4 I've read. A lovely story, short at 159 pages, slightly predictable but in a satisfying way and definitely a story that book enthusiasts will appreciate. 

147. The Story of the Snow Children by Sibylle von Olfers - Poppy is at home alone, watching the snow fall, when she realizes what she's seeing is not snowflakes but snow children. She goes outside to play with them and is invited to the castle of the Snow Queen, where she joins in the celebration of the princess's birthday, eating a feast and dancing, till she becomes weary and is returned home in a sleigh driven by polar bears. I'd never heard of this story until I saw it on someone's Instagram. It's kind of a silly story but I love the art nouveau illustrations and probably would have adored the idea of going off to hang out with a princess, as a small child. As an adult, I can't help but think it wouldn't be published today for fear of encouraging children to go off with strangers. It makes a nice addition to Christmas decorations. I got the mini version. 

148. Sea Change by Aimee Friedman - A Young Adult summer romance that takes place on an island with a legend that it was founded by a pirate and a mermaid. Miranda Merchant is a science nerd who will be doing an internship at the Museum of Natural History, soon. But, when her mother inherits a mansion on Selkie Island, Miranda defers her internship for a couple of weeks and finds herself caught up with a bunch of Southern girls looking for summer romance. They set her up with T. J., who just happens to be the son of a man who is hanging out with Miranda's mother. But, Miranda finds herself drawn to an equally science-infatuated boy from Fisherman's Village, a part of the island her friends frown upon. Miranda keeps coming across Leo at night, wet, and a book about the island's legends lists all the signs of a merman . . . which describe Leo perfectly. And, might explain why Miranda was born with webbed toes. A so-so book but I enjoyed it in spite of the fact that it could have used a bit more fantasy and less romance. 

149. Ollie's Ski Trip by Elsa Beskow - I saw a copy of Ollie's Ski Trip in the same post on Instagram with The Story of the Snow Children. Ollie is a boy who has been given a new pair of skis. But, he has to wait and wait for a decent snowfall before he goes skiing. When there's finally a good blanket of snow on the ground, Ollie's mother tucks sandwiches in his pocket and tells him to have a great day skiing. He goes off into the woods, where he meets Jack Frost (who blows frost on Ollie to show him what he does), the woman who does the spring thaw (Frost drives her away), and King Winter in his castle. Ollie has a fabulous day touring the castle and playing all sorts of winter games with the children, then he is driven home by Jack Frost. For Christmas, he finds a gift of ice skates on his doorstep from the King. This was another mini book and I confess to loving this one because it brought back so many great childhood memories, plus a lot happens. Elsa Beskow is called the "Swedish Beatrix Potter" in the afterword. Cool. I'd love to read more of her children's books. 

150. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote - In 2012 the leader of my F2F group asked me to look for a good, easy-read Christmas title for our group to discuss at Christmas. I asked around for suggestions and read three books. A Christmas Memory was one of them and I loved it so much that I've read it almost every year, since. Based on Truman Capote's childhood Christmases with his distant cousin, an elderly lady who also lived with some uptight relatives, it is sweet and sad and beautiful. A story of simpler times and a lovely friendship. I get teary every time. I love this book. 

151. A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas - Another of the books I chose for my F2F group in 2012, A Child's Christmas in Wales is the second book that I absolutely must read every Christmas season. Originally meant to be read on the radio, you can still find Dylan Thomas reading it online (and you definitely should give it a listen). 

152. Invisible Ink by Patrick Modiano - Fifty years after Jean briefly worked for a detective agency, he reflects back on the case of a missing woman and the unsuccessful investigation. I think the "invisible ink" of the title is both a reality (something that is discovered years after the investigation) and a comment upon memories and how they come and go. I ordered a secondhand copy of Invisible Ink after reading The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain, in which author Patrick Modiano plays the role of a reclusive author who signed the book of the heroine for whom his protagonist searches. I was unfamiliar with Modiano, who is a Nobel Prize winner. I found Invisible Ink a little odd for a novel about a missing person (because it's less about finding a missing person than it is about how memories can be blanked out and brought back) but it's ultimately satisfying, although probably much better read in French. 

153. 2022 Short Story Advent Calendar, published by Hingston and Olsen - This is my third year of indulging in the Short Story Advent Calendar and while all collections of short stories are going to have some winners and some that leave you with question marks over your head, I think this was one of the best selections I've read, so far. I particularly loved the fact that the final two stories were by Arthur Conan Doyle and Kurt Vonnegut. Both were great reminders of why their names are instantly recognizable. So entertaining. 

154. Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan - Based on the true story of Magdalene Laundries in Ireland , where young mothers were worked like slave labor and many young women and babies died, this little gem has not a single wasted word. Bill Furlong was the child of a single mother taken in by her employer, the woman who owned the "big house" in his village, and raised with loving care. Now, Bill is a coal and lumber merchant with 5 daughters and it's the busy Christmas season. Scrambling to make his final deliveries, Bill makes a horrifying discovery in the coal shed of the local church. When he asks around, he is firmly warned not to interfere in the business of the church. But, Bill must battle with his conscience as well as the power of the nuns. Highly recommended. This kind of history should be known so it won't be allowed to happen, again. 

155. McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #66 - I bought a couple back issues and a subscription to McSweeney's after years of mental dickering about whether or not I should just go for it. #66 is a back issue. My eldest son has been a subscriber for a while and we were planning to read the first on that arrived in my mailbox together (#69, I think?) but he said he had to finish up #66 first and, long story short, I decided I might as well read #66 because it was just sitting there. I didn't take notes on the stories but most of them were pretty memorable, one grossed me out a bit, and there's a story by Stephen King that ends on a nightmare note. As to the letters at the beginning of the journal, I particularly related to the one (I think by Kate Folk) about why she continues to drive a 1998 Toyota Corolla and is perfectly happy about it. We have a "drive 'em till they drop" philosophy in this house. And, she's right. New technology is creepy. At any rate, it's a nice mix and I'm looking forward to more short stories and letters in future editions. 

156. The Survivors by Jane Harper - Years ago, tragedy struck a small beachside town in Tasmania. Two people died and another went missing. Now, Kieran has returned to the small town. His father has dementia and he's helping his mother pack to move him to a care home and her to a place nearby with the help of his partner, Mia. They have a 3-month-old baby girl. After an evening spent with friends, they take the better-lit road home instead of the beach. In the morning, a body is found on the beach. Tourist season is over but the residents find it hard to believe anyone in their town could have killed the girl from Canberra. Who killed her and does it have anything to do with the tragedy of the past? I was so disappointed with this book. It was one of those novels that you keep reading because the author has started other books off slowly and you're convinced it'll eventually improve. It didn't. Quite dull and repetitive. I'd advise staying away from this one. Reread The Dry, instead. I wish I had. 


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