Wednesday, January 26, 2022

A History of Pictures for Children by Hockney and Gayford and The Collage Ideas Book by Alannah Moore

Both of these books are about art, one focusing on history and technique, the other a book of ideas and examples; one for children, one geared to adults but I wouldn't keep it away from the kiddos. 

I've been a fan of David Hockney's art since I saw "Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy" at the Tate Gallery in London when I was 17.  I loved it so much that I bought one of those little art cards of the painting in the museum shop and started paying attention to the artist. Of course, back then we didn't have the Internet so I only got glimpses of his work on occasion for many years, but I've always been drawn back to his work. 

So, when I saw that there was an art history book by Hockney, I grabbed it. It didn't matter to me that it's for children since my art education was pretty much cut off after elementary school and everything else I know has been learned in classes and workshops (mostly online — meaning, I don't know a lot). What I hoped for was a general overview of art with some of Hockney's work represented to show the various principles or techniques. And, that is exactly what you get in A History of Pictures for Children. It's written as a discussion between the artist and art critic Martin Gayford. It's not an in-depth look at art through the ages but a glimpse of art across time and how it has changed since our ancestors drew the first pictures in caves. It's also about some concepts artists try to portray, like shadow and light and styles like realism vs. cubism. Bonus: "Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy" is one of the Hockney paintings in the book, yay. It's still a personal favorite. 

Unsurprisingly, a lot of the concepts are shown via Hockney's own works and his descriptions of how and why he chose to create a particular work of art. Not a problem for this fangirl. A good introduction to some basics with a glossary and extensive references. 

Highly recommended - Remember, this is a children's book so it doesn't go into great depth. But, if you're a Hockney fan and/or just want yourself or your child to learn some basics about art history, this book is an entertaining read and informative but breezy, nothing taxing. I loved it. And, I did learn a few new things. A History of Pictures for Children is illustrated by Rose Blake. 

The Collage Ideas Book by Alannah Moore is a book in which an artist's work is shown on each spread with a concept that was used in the artist's work. For example, "Embellish with stitching," "Create a fantastical world," or "Be brave with color". 

OK, details. This book is very small, about 5 1/4" x 4 1/2" (this is a ballpark figure based on the proportions of the index card I plopped on top of it; I did not take measurements). It needs to be the size of a more normal book, as in 8 1/2" x 11" because the details are very, very hard to see. In some cases, several works of art by an artist are shown and the smaller images are only about 1" or 1.5" tall and similar in width. I had to pull out a magnifying glass and even then I felt like I wasn't getting a good view of the artworks. That's the bad. 

The good is everything else. I loved seeing the diversity of collage art in The Collage Ideas Book and I figure I will be looking up a lot of these artists online, so perhaps I'll be a able to enlarge their artworks and see them better in that way. Also, there are so many great methods to spark ideas. 

Highly recommended - Small as it is, The Collage Ideas Book is inspiring and, in fact, I did test that idea to look up artists online and it worked well. I looked up the cover artist, Niky Roehreke. Wow, what an explosion of color! I love her work. At any rate, the bottom line is that I'll definitely be referring back to this book repeatedly, so it was worth the money as a reference book. I guess one just has to put up with the size and enjoy the inspiration. 

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

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Spy x Family #1 by Tatsuya Endo

My first manga! And, it was a good one, which I read thanks to the recommendation of a friendly librarian (who leads the online book group I joined during the pandemic). Yay for librarians!

Spy x Family #1 is about a spy who is ordered to infiltrate a prestigious school. At first he thinks, "I just need a daughter" and goes about adopting a child and getting her accustomed to acting like he's her father. And, then, he finds out that both a mother and father are required for the interview to get his child accepted to admission in the school. So, he has to go out and find a wife. 

The joy of this story is in the silliness. The adopted daughter, it turns out, is a telepath. And, the wife is an assassin. This is, of course, entirely nuts. I loved every moment; I smiled pretty much all the way through the reading. And, it was definitely interesting learning how to read from back to front and right to left. 

Highly recommended - A very entertaining story. Spy x Family #1 is mostly set-up, but I can imagine I'm going to really continue enjoying this series if even the set-up is this amusing. I'm balancing six books at this moment (January does this to me — I want to read everything and I want to read it all now) but I keep looking longingly at Spy x Family #2. I can't wait to read it. 

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

Monday, January 24, 2022

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

Well, this is unusual . . . a book I finished but didn't really like. That seldom happens since I made a commitment to abandoning books that I'm not enjoying. 

The title character in Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore lives in one part of her life for a single year and then gets swept off to another year of her life and is stuck there, having to figure out where she is, how old, and what's going on in her life. She may live in a 50-something body, one year, and then return to her twenties. The Oona we follow almost always arrives in a time in which a future Oona has lived, so there's a notebook with hints about investments she needs to make (so that she can be filthy rich) but she has a "no spoiler" policy and, except for an often-cryptic note that she leaves at the end of each year, Oona has no hints of what's to come, for better or worse. 

OK, so it's an interesting premise and I know there are plenty of people who enjoyed this book but I had some major issues with it. Chiefly, I didn't like the main character at all. She is too quick to give in to drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex. I should have stopped at her second life, when she arrives at a club, takes drugs, and has sex in full view of the DJ. Gross. She doesn't even take the time to find out what's going on in her life or if she's dating anyone. But, I kept going. 

I was also disappointed that Oona was so focused on her investments and staying wealthy. She never actually does anything but invest, as I recall. She has no job and  . . . ugh, I thought the "no spoiler" thing was ridiculous. If I jumped from one time period of my life to another, you can bet I would leave myself copious notes. She does eventually start working to improve at a particular skill but otherwise isn't much into learning. That bugged me. 

Meh - I'm sure there were plenty of people who loved this book (It has a 3.86 rating at Goodreads and the friends who've finished it enjoyed it, although one friend did mention that she ditched it when I posted to Instagram). I wouldn't have added it to my wishlist if I hadn't read a positive review or two but it was absolutely not for me and while I don't entirely regret reading it in the hopes that it would improve, a part of me would really like to go back in time and put it in the donation bag at Life #2. This book was definitely not for me. Having said that, I did like the ending because it was exactly how I hoped it would end. And, I did not mind the fact that parts of it were predictable, since much of it was not. 

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

Friday, January 21, 2022

Wordy Birdy and Wordy Birdy Meets Mr. Cougarpants by Tammi Sauer and Dave Mottram

Just a couple quickies. I bought these two books shortly after seeing a review of one of them and thinking, "Oh, how cute!" But, I likely wouldn't have bought them if the author, Tammi Sauer, didn't happen to be a favorite children's book author. Good decision. 

The eponymous bird in Wordy Birdy by Tammi Sauer and Dave Mottram (illustrator) is just what she sounds like, a bird who can't stop talking. But, she's not a good listener and doesn't particularly pay a lot of attention to her surroundings. So, when she sees a danger sign, she just admires it and keeps going, ignoring the message. Her friends try to stop her but she doesn't listen to them, either. And, then a second warning sign . . . same thing. When she arrives at the point of danger, her friends are there to help her escape. Wordy Birdy will be paying more attention, from now on. 

A sweet, funny, charming story with vibrant, expressive illustrations and a nice lesson in friendship and paying attention to one's surroundings. I loved it. 

In Wordy Birdy Meets Mr. Cougarpants by the same author and illustrator, Wordy Birdy and her friends have gone camping. She talks so much that nobody can get to sleep. But, then a hungry cougar shows up at their campsite and she drives him out of the camp with her chattiness, saving herself and her friends. 

There's one fantastic line in this book and it's the cougar saying, "Did she just call me Mr. Cougarpants?" Ohmygosh, the expression on the cougar's face is a hoot!

Both highly recommended - I loved both of these books but my personal favorite is Wordy Birdy Meets Mr. Cougarpants because of that moment when the cougar is stunned and the sheer hilarity of a bird talking a predator away from the camp because he just wanted a nice peaceful meal. So, so cute. Also, I hate to say it but Wordy Birdy reminded me of myself as a child. I got told to please be quiet a lot

These are picture books for younger ones, with few words. My only issue with them is that I never have liked reading picture books that have word balloons to small children because I always felt obligated to point at whoever is speaking. I prefer dialogue to be described within text saying who is saying what. But, that's a personal preference and it's really not a big deal. The stories win out. 

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

Fiona Friday - Cute face-washing photography fail

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

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

2021 Reading Year in Review

2021 followed on the heels of 2020 as one of my worst reading years (quantity-wise) in recent decades and I'm not entirely sure why but some years are just like that, I guess. There were many days that I simply didn't feel like reading. I was just off. But, I still managed to fulfill some of my annual goals and I'm very happy about that. 

2021 Reading Year in Review

Number of books read: 110

Total pages read: 27,899

Average book length: 253 pages

Longest book read in 2021: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - 1057 pages

Shortest book read (not including children's books): Fox 8 by George Saunders - 21 pages

Fiction reads: 101

Nonfiction reads: 9

Short story collections/anthologies: 14

Number of book titles that give me a negative feeling: 5

Classics or modern classics read: 13

Sci-fi: 14

Biggest surprise in the stats: That sci-fi number. I had no idea I'd read so much sci-fi in 2021. 

Please note that when deciding on favorites: 

  1. I'm terrible at narrowing down, so . . . 
  2. I went by kind of a spark joy method. Which book titles gave me the strongest warm, happy feeling?
  3. I have eliminated rereads, even though most rereads are read because they're favorites. 
  4. I realize there are way more than the Top 10 most people end with in fiction favorites but please remember that I'm quick to abandon books and like or love most everything I read. This is a great thing.
  5. My choices may not correlate to my 5-star ratings because I went with the titles that give me that warm, happy feeling right now.  

Favorite fiction (adult): 

  • Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain
  • Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa
  • Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Yawaguchi
  • Milkman by Anna Burns
  • The Last Night in London by Karen White
  • Night Came with Many Stars by Simon Van Booy
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
  • Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
  • They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
  • The Boatman by Billy O'Callahan
  • September Moon by John Moore
  • The Sundial by Shirley Jackson
  • The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan 

Favorite fiction (children's picture books to YA):

  • The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
  • The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
  • Where is Our Library? by Josh Funk and Stevie Lewis
  • Ungifted by Gordon Korman
  • All of the "Spy School" series books I read by Stuart Gibbs
  • Two Girls, A Clock, and a Crooked House by Michael Poore

Favorite nonfiction:

  • The Gap by Benjamin Gilmour
  • Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria

Books that I don't think got enough attention: 

  • When We Were Young by Richard Roper - The tale of a broken friendship and how two young men take a long walk on an English path together to try to repair their rift before it's too late. Both heartbreaking and often hilarious. I love Richard Roper's writing. He has a knack for mixing light and dark with levity but I always sob at the end of his books. 
  • Climate Change and How We'll Fix It by Alice Harman and Andrés Lozano (illustrator) - Goodreads says only 8 people shelved this book, which is a shame because it would make an exceptional school resource. It explains climate change with clarity, including through imaginary conversations. 

Book I'm most pleased to have read: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I think this was my 4th attempt? I was enjoying it when we were on vacation, a few years ago, but the old mass market paperback copy I'd repeatedly tried to read for ages actually fell to pieces as I was reading it and it took me months to find a new copy at a decent price. Then another few years passed. I have wanted to read this book since I was a child (when I bought that paperback that fell apart, probably at a garage sale). I'm absolutely thrilled to have finally read it. 

The two books I cannot shut up about: 

  1. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir - By far the most entertaining book I read in 2021. You don't have to love sci-fi to appreciate the storytelling. Since I couldn't shut up, several people read Project Hail Mary on my advice. They all loved it and most have continued to talk about it throughout the year, as I did. 
  2. Night Came with Many Stars by Simon Van Booy - As you know if you've been hanging around for any length of time, I love Simon Van Booy's writing and I adore the author, whom I got to know in my early blogging years. I personally think Night Came with Many Stars is his best novel, although I love them all. Again, I was a bit of an evangelist for this book and several people have told me they read it on my recommendation and loved it. 

So far in 2022: I've read 10 books. But, 3 of those are children's books that came in my First of Year Book Outlet order, 1 from a middle grade series I had on hand, and one is a manga. Not exactly heavy reading material. Regardless of genre/type/age range, this year is starting out like a normal January — the first normal January in 3 years (it's usually my best month) so I have high hopes that this will be a better reading year than the last two. 

If you duct taped me to a wall and said you wouldn't unstick me till I told you my single favorite book in 2021, I would say, "Let me go!!!" OK, and then I'd admit it was Project Hail Mary. But, wow, I read so many terrific books. Since I did read 5 that give me a bad spark when I read their titles, I've been thinking about why I pushed myself through those particular books. I think in two cases I expected them to improve and the rest I forged on because they were short, so why not get my money's worth? As many books as I own, I need to never finish anything that isn't absolutely grabbing me, so I'll be working on that. In fact, after giving those negative vibes some thought I DNF'd a book but it wasn't awful; I think it was just not the right timing for that one.

Other things that were odd about 2021 were the fact that I didn't read as many nonfiction or classics titles as I normally do. Usually, I have a nonfiction title going at all times. This past year, I not only didn't always have a bookmark in a nonfiction title but also abandoned a couple halfway through. And, weirdly, I was enjoying them! I just felt so bogged down by my disinterest in reading that I felt like I needed to let them go because they were slower reads. I hope someday to return to both. 

As to the classics, I did read more than one per month on average if you include the Christmas books that I reread, but I normally try to read a minimum of one classic per month and my classic reads were not as evenly distributed throughout the year as I prefer them to be. I'll try to work on that, this year, as well, although my main goal is to just read off my shelves and let books call to me. 

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

Monday, January 17, 2022

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (clockwise from left):

  • Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
  • The Mixed Media Photography Book by Nitsa Malik
  • Paint Mojo by Tracy Verdugo
  • The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams by Mindy Thompson
  • In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
  • Syllabus by Lynda Barry
  • 1500 Color Mixing Recipes by William F. Powell

This is just a fraction of the books I've bought since I lifted my book-buying ban (now resumed) for 2 weeks. Most were on my wish list but The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams is one I read several rave reviews of and bought on a whim. There will be more to come. I went a bit overboard. Fortunately, I'm parting with way more books, these days, so my hope is that more will go out than come in, by the end of the year. We're a bit skewed to incoming, at this moment. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Fortune Favors the Duke by Kristin Vayden
  • Spy x Family #1 by Tatsuya Endo
  • Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
  • Wordy Birdy by Tammi Sauer and Dave Mottram
  • Wordy Birdy Meets Mr. Cougarpants by Tammi Sauer and Dave Mottram
  • A History of Pictures for Children by Hockney, Gayford, and Blake
  • The Collage Ideas Book by Alanna Moore
  • Spy School: Secret Service by Stuart Gibbs
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Both Wordy Birdy books, A History of Pictures for Children, and The Collage Ideas Book are also purchases (you can see I had a lot of books about art on my wish list) but I didn't want to pull them off the shelf to photograph. You'll see them when I review. Oh, and the Spy x Family manga. I bought the entire series (6 of them) and am having a terrible time stopping myself from whipping through all of them. The first was an absolute delight. 

Currently reading:

  • Store of the Worlds by Robert Sheckley
  • The Founding Myth by Andrew L. Seidel

Both of these are books that are going to take me quite a while to read. Store of the Worlds is a collection of short stories and I try to read one or two daily but often go several days without picking it up. And, it's 400 pages long. The stories are excellent, though, so I don't mind dragging it out. The Founding Myth is nonfiction and it's being read in a similar fashion — a chapter or two when I feel like it. I'll add a novel to the mix, tonight, but I haven't settled on anything, yet. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

Blogger is giving me fits and refusing to let me post links to two of these so I'll return and try again, later. However, last year's complete list of books with links can be found through a link in my sidebar and the Fiona Friday pic is the last thing I posted so they're easy to find. 

In other news:

We haven't watched anything but random episodes of various shows that didn't stick, so there's no viewing news. And, we haven't done our annual viewing of O, Brother, Where Art Thou?, which became a New Year's tradition, a few years ago. Need to get to that. We did, however, finally get around to drinking our Golden Celebration tea, which is another tradition that we started after our trip to Japan. We were a bit late (about the 10th, I think?) but I'm fine with the New Year's traditions just landing any time during the month of January. 

There's not a whole lot else going on besides crazy cleaning and purging. Our couples gift, this year, was a robot vacuum cleaner. To map out the rooms, we had to get everything off the floor and, ugh, we are really bad about making little piles (books, canvases, art supplies . . . cat toys everywhere). We skipped mapping one room and threw a lot of stuff into it. And, now we can't even get from one end of that room to the other, but that's next, going through all those piles and deciding what to keep and what to part with. There are way too many canvases propped up in there.  Some of my artwork is in progress, all in various stages. Some is done and has just been lying around. It was fun to make but not worth hanging on the walls. I've begun painting over some early paintings and I mostly paint on paper, now, to save space. 

Anyway, the floors are so clean. I'm loving that. Because we have hardwood floors with throw rugs and both the broom and vacuum cleaner (even on the correct setting) tend to fling things off to the side, I've been cleaning my floors by using the suction hose and scooting around on my rear end. Wow, am I glad to not be doing that, anymore. 

Oh, and another thing I bought was a 5-year "One Sentence a Day" diary. It's more like a paragraph's worth of room. I'm enjoying the challenge of trying to boil my day down into a single paragraph without being incredibly dull. I could easily say "Did X loads of laundry" almost every single day. I'm not kidding when I say it's a challenge. 

Did you get snow, yesterday? We got flurries but it was so light that I had to strain my eyes to see that it was, in fact snowing (it melted on contact with the pavement), while 40 miles away they got an accumulation of about 2". Bummer. But, we already had snow flurries once, so I'm satisfied. I've gotten my snow fix. Meanwhile, the cold descended about a week or two ago and to avoid having to cover and uncover the plants (last year, we actually screwed up and lost a few), Husband bought a grow light, stuck many of the outdoor plants in the Guest Room bathtub and ran an extension cord to the light. The cats are dying for us to let them jump into the tub but we keep the doors closed because most are probably not cat safe and we're not going through that, again (poisoned cat fiascos: 2 to date). It's kind of hilarious. And, I guess it's good that nobody can visit because of Covid because there's no place for guests to shower. Life is kind of a riot when you think about it. 

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

Friday, January 14, 2022

Fiona Friday

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