Saturday, June 01, 2024

Everything I Read in May, 2024


51. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann - If you read last month's post, you know I avoided this book for ages because the murders happened a bit too close to my hometown in Oklahoma. But, my local book group (which I no longer attend, although I'm still keeping in touch) was planning to discuss Flower Moon this month and friend Linda encouraged me to read and share my thoughts by email. Well, I was pleasantly surprised. It's still a miserable thing to read about, just knowing the horror the Osage Indians went through and the trauma they still live with, today. But, I thought the book was thorough, well-written, and it held my attention. I also appreciated all of the photographs. The "Birth of the FBI" side of the story was much more fascinating than I expected. I particularly admired the FBI agent in charge of the investigation into the murders. True crime is not generally my thing because I find it so upsetting, and often nightmare-inducing, but I would definitely recommend Killers of the Flower Moon

52. The Hopkins Manuscript by R. C. Sherriff - A new favorite Persephone title. Edgar Hopkins is an amateur astronomer and a country gentleman, retired school master, and avid chicken breeder in the 1940s. When his astronomy club announces that the moon is going to crash into the Earth, his story begins. Long after everyone in England has died of starvation, his manuscript is found in a Thermos flask, telling the story of how he found out about the coming cataclysm, the early years with those who survived, and then the reason everything went downhill. The story is both gripping in the lead-up to the cataclysm and has a lovely "found family" aspect. Just a rocking fine bit of storytelling. I didn't want to put it down. 

53. Otis and the Kittens by Loren Long - This children's picture book is one from a big box of Dolly's Imagination Library books that was donated to our local library sale. I grabbed just the one (we have a lot of children come to the library sales so I felt like they needed to be saved for the littles) because kittens . . . a favorite children's book subject, of course! Unfortunately, the story was really about Otis; it was not a kitten story at all. It told about Otis the Tractor, how he loved to play tug-of-war with his animal friends, and then his heroic trips into a barn that caught fire to save a litter of kittens, the last trip ending in the disaster of Otis falling through the floor. I found the story a little too frightening and not the message I would ever want to send to a small child about how to react to fire. From reading reviews, it appears Otis has an entire series. I'm not surprised. The illustrations are marvelous and a friendly tractor on a farm is always a fun subject but this particular book is not one I'd give to a child in my family. 

54. Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow - I got this book from the library sale, as well, a cutesy book in which there's a single sentence on each page and sometimes just a word. "Frolic!" with an illustration of Tootle, for example (Tootle the Train frolicking amongst the buttercups). It's silly and I expected that. I was really in it to enjoy the illustrations from various Little Golden Books and the words were almost superfluous. I enjoyed looking at the illustrations because they bring back memories. But, honestly, I'd rather just sit on the floor with a pile of the old Golden books. The only one I know we still own is actually Tootle, though, so that's not happening. If you're a person who loves old illustrations, this book is fun to flip through. Otherwise, it really has no purpose; it's just a novelty book. 

55. Glitch by Laura Martin - A super fun middle grade time travel. Elliott and Regan are Glitchers, people who have the genetic ability to travel through time. On a secretive island, there's an academy to train them in traveling to the past without doing damage while capturing the bad guys, known as "Butterflies" who seek to change history. Unfortunately, Regan and Elliott can't stand each other. But, when they're put together to train as a team and then things go horribly wrong, will they be willing to break the law together to save everyone they know? I enjoyed this book, although I thought the animosity between the two kids went on for an annoyingly long time and then the segue to getting along was a bit abrupt. But, it's adventurous, thrilling, and even a bit educational as the main characters travel to the past and historical events are described, so it gets a big thumbs up. 

56. French Windows by Antoine Laurain - The latest from one of my most recent additions to my favorite authors is about a psychiatrist, a patient of his who will only speak through typewritten stories, and a dark secret. Nathalia is a photographer but she's been unable to do her job since she witnessed a murder. Dr. Faber can get no more out of her but she mentions that she writes, so he suggest that she write stories and then analyzes the stories for clues to what's going on. Each story is about someone living in Nathalia's apartment complex, in the building visible from her windows. From them, he draws clues. But, what is Nathalia trying to say? I've been working on slowly trying to read everything Antoine Laurain has written so it's especially exciting when an unexpected Antoine Laurain book shows up in the mail. His stories have two elements I love: an especially surprising ability to make the reader think, "Where is this headed?" and then pull all of the various strands together beautifully and with wit; and, a unique charm, often due to a romantic element. The charm is lacking in this story, but the pulling together of elements in a clever way is there, so I still enjoyed it. I received an ARC of French Windows from Meryl Zagarek Public Relations. Its release date is sometime in June. Thank you so much, Meryl! Here's a link to another of Antoine Laurain's books that I enjoyed: Red is My Heart

57. Clarice the Brave by Lisa McMann - Clarice and her brother Charles Sebastian were born on a ship at sea. There, they were taught to be cautious by their mother before her tragic demise. There are many dangers on the ship, including cats, the boots of humans, and some very mean chickens. When a band of mutineers take over the ship and toss the captain and his loyalists into a launch boat, Clarice ends up on the launch with one of the ship's cats, Special Lady, and Charles Sebastian must fend for himself on the ship. Before the launch pulls away, Clarice shouts to Charles Sebastian that she believes in him. He's been coddled all of his life and she worries about his ability to make it on his own. Determined to find each other, they must first find a way to survive. Clarice wisely finds a way to keep Special Lady (who ate her sister) from turning her into lunch while Charles Sebastian befriends a girl who has been thrown into a cage and chained for the error of overhearing the mutineers' plans. While each of the mice is forging special relationships, they must also survive their own harrowing adventures. Will they ever find each other? There were times I thought Clarice the Brave might be a little too frightening for middle graders and one time the events were so upsetting I refused to believe a particular death had occurred but I closed the book feeling immensely satisfied. What an adventure!

58. Sipsworth by Simon Van Booy - Yippee! A new book by Simon! Helen Cartwright has lost everyone she loved and returned to her hometown in England after 60 years in Australia. She spends her days simply, eating very little and drinking lots of tea, taking warm baths to soothe her aching body, watching TV and listening to the radio. She is waiting to die. When a neighbor puts an aquarium full of toys and garbage outside, Helen is drawn to an object that stirs a distant memory. But, bringing it home leads to a mouse entering her life and the mouse will change everything. Helen doesn't want a mouse in her house. The mouse, though, ends up bringing new friends into her life. Found family! My favorite trope. Sipsworth begins slowly as you get to know Helen and her routine while experiencing her pain and loneliness, but then the pace picks up as Helen reaches out for help. Another lovely, heartwarming story from Simon Van Booy, highly recommended. 

59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest - In my quest to read and part with older books I've been hanging onto for eons, I found this 1970s gem that was made into a movie and it became my latest stationary bike read. Cal and Beth, Buck and Conrad were a happy, active family until tragedy struck. Now, Buck is dead and Conrad has attempted to take his own life. Cal is the sensitive parent, the one who tries to understand what happened and guide Conrad back to normality. Beth seems distant, eager to escape from home and keep herself busy with tennis and golf. While Conrad drifts from his friends and goes through therapy, tension builds between Cal and Beth. Then, a second tragedy rocks Conrad but simultaneously helps him understand his own emotions. And, new love will help him regain his hope. The book is much like it sounds, a story of ordinary people dealing with loss in their own ways but ending with a ray of hope. I liked it, although it was an emotional rollercoaster. Now, I want to rewatch the movie. 

60. Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring - I found a copy of this play (which you may know from the movie starring Cary Grant) at a recent library sale and decided to read it when I was looking for something quick to read while we were going through a very busy week with a guest in the house. As it turned out, it's a fun, easy, slapstick read and I could practically see Cary Grant while I was reading, but it took me days because having a houseguest is not a typical thing for us and I was flattened by the end of each day. At any rate, I'd normally read it in an afternoon and it was an absolute delight in spite of being spread out over several days. Now, I need to re-watch the movie. 

61. Pioneer Women: The Lives of Women on the Frontier by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith - A heavily-researched (the bibliography is huge) book about women who lived on the American Frontier, including non-whites, single women, women left on their own to cope when the men were away, and widows. A nice, all-encompassing look at what life was like for women and how many of the early female settlers of the West went on to be leaders in business, law, medicine, social structure (including the building of churches and libraries as well as organizations for women's suffrage, temperance, etc.). I think the most eye-opening thing about this book is the fact that it appears that life was somewhat more progressive amongst the Western settlers than American life is today, although there were certain religions that were adamant about a woman's place being in the home. The second and third generation women of the West pretty much ignored them, though. Lots of photos in this book and enough information to make me want to read more. 

62. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin - A reread for group discussion but the leader of this discussion never did set a discussion date, so . . . can't say what others think. I liked this book just as much the second time around with one exception: I got tired of the Navy SEAL jargon. Otherwise, the concepts still resonate with me. I'm all in favor of the idea that one should own his or her actions. My husband has participated in the Echelon Front leadership training and believes it's made a difference to his team at work. But, I have no use for business advice so I looked at the various concepts from more of a viewpoint of interacting with others. At any rate, it's a good book and I still highly recommend it after a second reading. 

63. Vertical Run by Joseph R. Garber - Another reread, a 90s thriller that I first read not long after publication. David Elliott served in the Special Forces in Vietnam. 25 years later, he's a successful businessman. So, why does everyone suddenly want to kill him? While a large number of people who clearly have the same training as Dave are hunting him down in the NY skyscraper in which he works, Dave uses the same skills to set traps and elude them while trying to unravel the mystery of why he's being pursued. The story is a bit dated and becomes more implausible the farther you get into it. Even the main character is baffled as to why they didn't just tell him the truth, when he finds out. No biggie. It's taut and exciting with an intelligent hero, if a bit high in body count. I enjoyed it every bit as much the second time around.

64. No Better Medicine by Kelly Meister-Yetter - What a lovely memoir. Kelly Meister-Yetter tells about her love of animals and how they and a new man in her life helped her heal from childhood abuse. Told as a series of vignettes, the author describes how she, known locally as "the Critter Lady", helped care for discarded pet ducks and her own little menagerie of cats while also visiting a local barn full of rescued animals, where she learned how to ride horses and eventually leased a horse who needed help dealing with his own fears. You can't help but admire Kelly's fierce love of animals and the time and dedication she has given to caring for them. I confess to tearing up a little, at times. I may not be acquainted with any ducks or horses but I can relate to the deep affection she has for animals and how they help one deal with chaotic emotion.  

May was a pretty good month! There was only one book I didn't really like: Otis and the Kittens, although Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book was just a gimmick, much as I liked the illustrations. Fortunately, both of those took no time at all to read. I had a lot of favorites: Glitch, The Hopkins Manuscript, Sipsworth, and Vertical Run are among them. No Better Medicine, Arsenic and Old Lace, Clarice the Brave . . . oh, goodness, just about everything was fantastic. Ordinary  People eventually became tiresome but that's often true of stationary bike reads. I end up taking them off the bike rack to finish. 

I included the cat picture because I'm relieved that Isabel has more energy than she's had, recently. I can't recall if I've mentioned that she has a degenerative neurological condition. She was looking scruffy, not grooming herself as well and acting a bit sluggish for a couple weeks. But, her steroid shot seems to have finally helped her perk up, even though it took about a week to take effect. At any rate, she's looking better, for now, and I have my fingers crossed that she'll keep on ticking. 

©2024 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. 


  1. I just got a copy of Sipsworth. Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

    1. Yay! To be honest, I just love Simon's writing, in general. Be patient with Sipsworth. It starts out slowly to give you a feel for the pace of her life and the grief that hasn't let go, but once the mouse and some new friends enter her life, that's when it really pays off.

  2. such a wide variety! I'm still avoiding Killers of the Flower Moon, but I'm intrigued by the theme of Sipsworth. My favorite by Antoine is still The President's Hat!

    1. I don't blame you for avoiding it but Killers of the Flower Moon was more tolerable than I expected. In Mean Spirit by Linda Hogan, you got more of a feel for the terror and grief experienced by the Osage Indians as their family members were being killed. In Killers of the Flower Moon, you get more of an investigative feel, which helps make it more distant from emotion, awful as it is. It's a good book. Sipsworth starts slowly but then it gets so sweet. I think you'd enjoy it. I haven't read The President's Hat! I think I have a copy. I'll have to go look. I love Antoine Laurain's writing!

  3. I remember really enjoying Vertical Run!

    I worked for David Grann’s mother when she ran Putnam. It is amazing how his books have taken off. However, I also felt this one would be too disturbing. I visited Tulsa last fall and bought several books about the race massacre which I am also wary about beginning.

    1. I'm so glad I hung onto my copy of Vertical Run! It's a good one. I've now passed it on to my youngest son because it seems like something he'll enjoy and I need to stop hanging onto everything.

      That's so interesting about David Grann's mother! It's disturbing; it can't help but be. Greed results in such horror. My husband's from Tulsa and knows someone whose father sheltered a black man during the massacre but he didn't put two and two together till I started talking about it and he realized that was the event that the man was being sheltered from. I have a couple books about it and all I've read is a children's picture book. Same. Kind of nervous about how unsettling it will be, but it's important to understand our past so I'll get to it!!


Thank you for visiting my blog! I use comment moderation because apparently my blog is a spam magnet. Don't worry. If you're not a robot, your comment will eventually show up and I will respond, with a few exceptions. If a comment smacks of advertising, contains a dubious link or is offensive, it will be deleted. I love to hear from real people! I'm a really chatty gal and I love your comments!