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. 


Click on image to enlarge. 

©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.

Friday, December 02, 2022

Everything I Read in November (in brief)


November:

1. War Horse by Michael Morpurgo - I didn't realize this classic children's tale of a horse that serves in WWI was a book (although I'd heard of and not seen the movie or play) until I randomly bought a couple books by Morpurgo because they had cats on the cover and a friend informed me that War Horse was one of his better books. The tale of Joey is told from the time he arrives at a farm after being purchased by a farmer who always gets drunk on market day, through his breaking and training by the farmer's son Albert, and then through his years after being sold to the British army for service in WWI, including hauling artillery and carts full of the injured, staying on a French farm, then working for the Germans until he is wounded and ends up in familiar hands. A lovely story told from the viewpoint of the horse and definitely my favorite by Morpurgo, so far. 

2. Spy x Family #8 by Tatsuya Endo - Oh, no! The next Spy x Family book won't be out till March of 2023. I am so bummed. I might just have to start back at the beginning to fill the time between. In Spy x Family #8, Yor (the mother in the fake family and an assassin) is charged with going on a cruise where she'll be protecting a woman whose entire family — except for her baby — has been killed. But, fake daughter Anya and husband Loid have won a cruise on the same ship so she has to keep a low profile. As it turns out, the enemy is everywhere and meeting up secretly with a boat that will take the endangered woman and her baby to safety is going to be nearly impossible. I've given every single one of the books in this series 5 stars . . . till this one. The last 25% or so is almost entirely fight scenes between Yor and the enemy and I find those a bit hard to follow. And, it's a bit more serious than most, although it has moments of levity. I still loved it, just not 5 stars' worth. 

3. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb - Nonfiction in which the author, a psychologist and talk therapist,  intertwines stories of her own therapy patients with the tale of how a crisis sent her into therapy herself. All of the stories are at least partially fictionalized out of necessity (because therapy is private) and maybe a bit too perfectly wrapped up but effective. My favorite patient was John, who called everyone "idiots" and was quite a jerk but softened as his truth emerged. 

4. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute - The story of a 70-year-old Englishman who has gone on a fishing trip to France. WWII has begun but he's unconcerned till the Germans invade France and he decides it's time to leave. He is asked to take two children with him on the journey to England and it begins well enough but then things go wrong, transportation is held up or halted, the Germans move in faster than expected, and he keeps picking up more stray children on the journey. A tense, heartwarming, vivid tale of the hardships of war and the kindness of a character who goes out of his way to ensure the safety of strangers' children. A new favorite, both in the WWII category and books by Nevil Shute, published in 1942, when the war was ongoing. 

5. Spy School: Revolution by Stuart Gibbs - There's a new enemy for the CIA to fight, hundreds of years old and bearing a grudge. Now that SPYDER is out of the picture, the Croatoan is free to create mayhem and do damage. It appears that Erica Hale is involved. But, when Ben is asked to help capture her, he's hesitant. He knows Erica well. Surely, she wouldn't join an evil spy organization. In his search for Erica and the Croatoan, Ben uses his natural skills and his understanding of his friend. But, when he asks another friend for help, things become tangled up. Who is a friend and who is an enemy? A wild adventure around the Washington DC area and over to Mt. Vernon. Interesting side note: some readers of this lengthy series (I believe this is #8) found the Croatoan hard to buy into. I had no such trouble. The absurdity is part of the point, although I appreciated the author's note clarifying whether certain details were true or false, since American History was involved. 

6. There There by Tommy Orange - A diverse cast of Urban Natives comes together for a Pow-Wow that has been scoped out as a decent place to rob, due to the prize money offered in gift cards. It doesn't take long to figure out that something tragic is going to occur, but first you get to know the cast of characters (which is quite large) and their backgrounds. Notably, almost everyone is either facing the challenge of poverty, discrimination, and/or alcoholism somewhere in their family. At one point, the author talks about how easy it is to become an alcoholic Native American. Alcohol, he says, is cheap and it helps you forget. This was a rough read for me but an impressively written story. I've mentioned the fact that I don't drink, on this blog. What I probably haven't said is that a Native American family friend is the reason I've avoided alcohol, as I had a front-row seat to his self-destruction. He died at only 49 after many previous accidents that came close to killing him, all drink-related. When he wasn't drinking, he was a charming, well-educated, successful guy. Otherwise, my only problem with the book was that the chapters could have used dates for clarity, as the story went from the 70s to present day and could be a bit confusing, time-wise. Read for Native American Heritage Month and highly recommended. 

7. Cable on Academe by Carole Cable - A book of comics on life as a university professor, bought eons ago, when we were occasionally returning to Ann Arbor, Michigan and Husband was working on the research for his PhD. I'm emptying a shelfing unit to pass on to my younger son and came across this book. While I read Cable on Academe when it was new to us, I figured I should give it a quick reread before parting with it. Lots of fun pokes at academia, some very outdated but I'm old enough to understand them. Published in 1994. 

8. Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken - A multi-generational story that begins with the unusual discovery of a live woman in a graveyard. Bertha Truitt has been found unconscious but once awakened she remembers her name and is cagey about her life and how she arrived in Salford, Massachusetts. She chooses to stay in the small town in which she's appeared and opens a candlepin bowling alley. From there, the reader follows her family line and the changes that take place in the bowling alley over the years. A unique story with a sense of humor. I noticed Bowlaway's ratings are meh at Goodreads. In truth, I felt like it dragged a bit. But, I still loved it. I particularly loved Bertha and missed her when she was no longer part of the story. 

9. Where You'll Find Me and Other Stories by Ann Beattie - Each of the stories in Where You'll Find Me is a window into the world of a set of characters for just long enough to get an idea what may be next. These are the kind of stories that irritate people who aren't regular short story readers because their endings are abrupt and leave what follows to the reader's imagination. I enjoyed them for their simplicity, the turn of phrase, and the occasional bit of wisdom, but like another volume of short stories I read not long ago (probably in 2021), the sheer quantity of characters who were unfaithful got on my nerves a bit. Still, excellent writing (also outdated; published in 1986 and you can't miss it when music and items contemporary to the time are mentioned). Most of the characters grew up in the 60s and 70s and each story is a peek into their romantic or familial struggles. Favorite sentence:

It's a bright day, and the sun shining through the kitchen curtains, patterned with chickens, gives the chickens an advantage they don't have in real life; backlit, they're luminous. 

10. Happening by Annie Ernaux - A memoir of the author's abortion in 1960s France, when abortion was outlawed and the only options were shady back-alley abortions or self-administered injury. Finding herself pregnant during her college years, Ernaux knew immediately that she couldn't go through with a pregnancy. Not only would it ruin her plans but she was the first of her working-class family to go to college and it would devastate her parents and humiliate them. The most interesting part of this book, I thought, was that her personal physician wouldn't even look her in the eyes when she said she needed to end the pregnancy but when she later informed him that she was going to get an abortion, he prescribed penicillin to take before and after and gave her clear instructions. He didn't want to go to jail but he also didn't want her to die. The author also mentioned that having an abortion freed her to have a family when she was ready. A very emotional read, written nearly 40 years after the abortion. 

11. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway - Yes, this is my first time reading this classic! And, I confess, I liked it more than some of Hemingway's other writings. The "I'm a man; I can take pain and I will not be defeated and I'll keep doing manly man things like arm wrestling till I die," was all there but it felt a little different than it does in some of his books and stories because of the age of the protagonist. Also, I've never paid attention to any detailed description of the book, so I found it surprising. I was sure X was going to happen but instead Hemingway went to Z with a whole lot of Y in between. No, I haven't gotten into some eggnog. As far as Men Proving Their Manliness stories go, I also liked this better because the man himself was on a losing streak and so dirt poor that if he didn't fight hard to catch a fish he was probably going to starve, sooner or later. It felt like his battle with the marlin was a close to being a necessity, in other words, although I can see why some guy on Goodreads said, "Good grief, worst book ever. Just let the fish go, already." 

Wow, what a contrast with October! I read a lot fewer books because I had a couple weeks of recharging after reading 20 books the month before (and Bowlaway took me quite a while to read) but I liked or loved everything I read so I consider November an excellent month. Pied Piper is easily my favorite but I wouldn't tell you not to read anything in this pile. I considered trying to bump up my numbers with an easy read or two because I ended the month smack in the middle of Leviathan Wakes, the first in the Expanse sci-fi series. But, in the end I decided that was silly. 11 books is fine and the number of books read is less important than the quality. So . . . I'm happy. How was your reading month?

You should be able to click on images to enbiggen, btw. 

©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.

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Everything I Read in October (in brief)

Click on images to enlarge. 


October:

111. The All of It by Jeannette Haien - A book I've owned forever, probably bought at the salvage store in the 90s (yikes), The All of It is a short novel about a priest, a woman, and a dying man. Enda and Kevin have a secret and he's about to confess to the local priest. But, he dies before he gets the chance. So, Enda offers to share their story, but not in a confession booth and only on her terms. The priest listens and as he patiently hears her out, he admires her beauty. It seems the priest has had a crush on Enda for years. But, the secret is shocking. Or, is it? As the story is revealed, the priest makes an irrational assumption about the couple that may ruin the day. Interspersed with this story are chapters in which the priest is fishing at a local castle in the rain, reflecting on the story that Enda has shared and angry. But, is he angry with Enda or himself? Well, it's worth reading to find out. The ending is absolutely lovely and this book is a little gem, in my humble opinion. 

112. The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment by Thaddeus Golas - Another book I've had a long time, I'm assuming this one came from the bargain section of Barnes & Noble, bought back in my shopaholic days. It's pristine and looks like the typical bargain fare. The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment was published in 1972 and it's the work of a writer who attempted to reach enlightenment using psychedelic drugs (so . . . not an easy option, now, unless you like breaking laws). Basically, hippie mumbo jumbo about getting happy vibes but the undercurrent is about love and acceptance and there are a few sage bits of advice if you can put up with all the babble about energy. 

113. Many Different Kinds of Love by Michael Rosen - The story of wildly popular British children's author Rosen's experience with a dangerous case of Covid in March of 2020. Beginning with the story of how his wife got a doctor friend to bring a pulse oximeter to their house and told them to go straight to the emergency room, the book describes his 47 days in a coma via the notes written in an Intensive Care Diary kept by the nurses who cared for him (so he'd have a record of the time he was unaware of what was happening to him), notes from his wife to friends and relatives, and the tale of his recovery in verse by the author. An emotional read. Having been in a coma for weeks, Rosen is still occasionally told that Covid is a hoax, that he must have had some other illness, etc. Those comments and the fact that the government considered older folks (he was 72) expendable naturally upset him. And, he was left with some long-term damage. But, he is an upbeat guy and Many Different Kinds of Love is a really beautiful, inspiring read, in the end. 

114. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy - Much beloved by a couple friends of mine, this book seems to have mostly high ratings but some sharp polarization amongst those who consider it trite. I fall somewhere in the middle. I can't imagine a child asking the type of questions that are posed but it's about love and acceptance (including of one's self) so, yeah, it is a bit heavy on platitudes. But, the illustrations are fabulous so I liked it. I particularly liked the way the animals care for each other, although some are wary of each other in the beginning. 

115. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon - My first creepy read of the fall season, The Winter People begins with someone seeing a "creeper" in the woods, a dead person returned to life, and describes the disappearance of a little girl in 1908, alternating with the story of a missing woman in the present day. Both lived in the same farmhouse in Vermont near a formation called The Devil's Hand. What's become of Alice? Her two daughters are determined to find out. In their search, they find some surprising hidden clues and a relative they didn't know existed. Who or what is lingering in the closet and does it have an appetite for humans?

116. The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson - A tiny book with three short stories, just 55 pages long. "The Missing Girl" is about a girl at summer camp who says she's going out and doesn't return. Days later, her roommate finally reports her missing and nobody seems to know much about her. "Journey with a Lady" is about a boy who goes alone on a train trip to his grandparents' and is surprised when a lady pretends he's her son until he realizes the police are after her. "Nightmare" . . . I just read all three, this morning, and I've forgotten the final story. Not the best of Jackson but I love her writing, even if the stories didn't amount to much. 

117. Bunnicula: The Graphic Novel by Howe, Dorkin, and Gilpin - Friend Jenn posted a photo of the new Bunnicula graphic novel and I jumped right on it and bought a copy. My kids and I laughed till we had tears streaming when we read the Bunnicula series during their childhood. So, I thought it would be fun reading the new graphic novel. While I didn't laugh the way I did when I read the series, I was thoroughly entertained and loved the addition of the visuals, which were beautifully done. Highly recommended, whether or not you've read the original stories. 

118. New Kid by Jerry Craft - A banned book (a graphic novel) that I bought during Banned Books Week but didn't receive till after it was over, New Kid is about a black boy who goes to a fancy school with mostly rich kids. There's a little diversity but being black and on financial aid both set him apart. I have heard this book is accused of containing Critical Race Theory, which would mean the history of the structural racism that exists in our country. Nope, none of that. Slavery is mentioned maybe once, and obviously race/prejudice comes up but naturally, through characterization. New Kid is really a book about being new, finding friends, kindness, discomfort with being a fish out of water, etc. I literally laughed out loud several times. It's sweet, funny book by a guy who clearly gets interaction in middle school and just the everyday challenges of being a kid. I loved it and would eagerly hand it to any child without qualms. It doesn't deserve to be on any banned list. 

119. Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman - Told in three parts, Skylight Confessions begins with Arlyn, who decides she'll marry the next man who comes along and speaks to her. John is lost when he asks her for directions. The first part is about their marriage, their son Sam, daughter Blanca, and a death. The second part involves a haunting, a new wife, a nanny, and Sam's growing drug use. The third part pulls it all together with Blanca now grown and returning home for a funeral. If I'd known there was a death from breast cancer in this book, I'd have put it in the donation box. But, I continued to read and I'm glad I did. It's a very rare book that leaves you with such a deep impression of the characters that you can rattle off the names of every single one of them. I really loved this story and found it had characteristics similar to Sarah Addison Allen's in its magical touches, both real and imagined. 

120. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis - The second in the time travel series that began with Doomsday Book stars Ned Henry, who has been tasked with repeatedly traveling to Coventry, England before and after the night of the bombing during WWII to search the Coventry Cathedral and various jumble sales in order to find a single item. Unable to locate it and suffering from exhaustion due to too many time jumps, he's sent to Victorian England to rest. Instead, he gets caught up in the saga of a missing cat, ends up on a boat with an Oxford don, a young man in love, and a bulldog, and himself falls for a beautiful time traveler who may have thrown an incongruity in the timeline. Can Ned and Kindle (aka Verity) right the wrongs caused by the incongruity or will they get stuck in Victorian England forever? Loads of fun, sometimes leaning slapstick, and makes me want to go back and read the first book. There are two more books that carry on the time travel and refer back to the Oxford Time Travel books, although they're labeled as a separate duology. Interesting side note: I read Doomsday Book in 2010 and I still remember the vivid description of Medieval stench, although I didn't recall much else. This series does need to be read in order. 

121. Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson (e-book) - After I closed To Say Nothing of the Dog, I felt drained and couldn't think of anything at all that I wanted to read so I flipped through my e-book library and found this graphic novel that's been sitting in my iPad for years. Kamala Khan is a Muslim teenager living in Jersey City, NJ. She's nerdy, loves Avengers fan fiction, and dreams of being Captain Marvel. She has two best friends but is mostly an outsider. One night Kamala — trying to be a joiner by attending a party — gets caught in a strange fog and suddenly develops the power to shape shift. She can make herself larger or smaller or grow a single oversized fist. She's able to save someone from drowning on her first night as a superhero. But, it turns out that having superpowers is not all it's cracked up to be and having a secretive second life just gets you grounded repeatedly. Told in 5 parts. I absolutely loved this story. Kamala is sweet and vulnerable but summons her inner strength. 

122. The Midnight Children by Dan Gemeinhart - Ravani is a lonely only child with no friends and a persistent bully making his life miserable. When he sees 7 children show up at the empty house across the street in the middle of the night, he's curious. And, when he gets to know Virginia after he leaves her a couple of surprising gifts, he feels like he's finally found out what friendship is all about. But, Virginia and her 6 siblings have a secret and there is a man hunting them. Will Ravani's friendship disappear, only to leave him back where he was? Set in a town called Slaughterville, the story has some unsettling descriptions of the local slaughterhouse, which might upset some children (it would have given me nightmares) but if middle graders can handle the gruesome bits, the story is a beautiful tale of friendship, found family, and finding your inner courage. 

123. You Wait Till I'm Older Than You! by Michael Rosen - After reading Rosen's Covid memoir, I wanted to see what his children's books were like so I ordered one, along with a second memoir about his search for the relatives who were never heard from after WWII. You Wait Till I'm Older Than You! is classified as poetry and some of it does seem like it's written in verse. But, it felt more like a book of anecdotes to me. Many were from his childhood but others, including one of my favorites, were stories from his adulthood. My favorite was Rosen's tale about the stupidest thing he's ever done, which took place in France and involved a car, a child, a ditch, and a couple of French Farmers. It's very similar to an anecdote my husband tells. A fun read. The author was such a typical boy, getting himself into trouble in creative ways. 

124. The Missing: The True Story of My Family in WWII by Michael Rosen - We were sitting in an ER when I read The Missing (all is well, no worries). I brought 5 books in a tote but the chair was hard and there was a lot of chatter so I chose the lightest read (easiest read not lightest subject, obviously) I could find. The Missing tells about how Rosen heard about his Polish relatives who had disappeared, from his childhood on, and always wondered what had become of them. As an adult, he decided that he needed to find out what had become of his family members so that they could be remembered. What follows is the unfolding mystery as Rosen dug into various records, read books (some in French, as two of the families had gone to live in France), and eventually found the answers. It's a children's book, again, and absolutely one of the best tales of finding missing Jewish relatives who disappeared during the Holocaust that I've read. I particularly loved the way the author explained things to children without condescending. Highly, highly recommended. 

125. Hold the Line: The Insurrection and One Cop's Battle for America's Soul by Michael Fanone and John Shiffman - Made famous by two photographs showing him fighting for his life on January 6 as he was dragged into the furious crowd, Michael Fanone relates his history as a police officer, describes his experience on January 6 in detail, and tells about the aftermath. What an interesting man. I've seen Fanone on TV and he's so well-spoken and intelligent that I never would have suspected he was a drop-out who later got his GED for the sake of getting into the police academy. Similar to Michael Rosen's Covid coma experience, Fanone has faced a lot of pushback with people telling him his body camera footage was faked, that the Insurrection didn't happen or was done by people from Antifa dressed as Trump supporters, etc. The fact that they tased him repeatedly (to the point that he had a mild heart attack) and tried to take his gun to shoot him tells a different story. Highly recommended, a really engrossing read. 

126. The Nesting by C. J. Cooke - Lexi's boyfriend has asked her to move out after her suicide attempt has caused the loss of her job and medication has given her hallucinations. With nowhere to go, she rides the Tube and happens to overhear talk of a nannying job in Norway. She applies and goes off to take care of two little girls whose mother recently committed suicide. Their father Tom is an architect who is determined to finish the summer home he originally began building for his wife, Aurelia. When Lexi finds hoof prints in her bedroom and hears a voice calling her from the basement, she thinks she's still having hallucinations. But, then she hears about the Norwegian version of Mother Nature and how it takes vengeance on people who alter the land, something Tom has done. Did Aurelia really commit suicide or was she chased by an evil spirit? This book was so genuinely frightening that I had to stop reading it at night. Fortunately, Dewey's Readathon conveniently gave me an excuse to finish the book in the daylight. 

127. Spy School Goes South by Stuart Gibbs (Spy School #6) - Former Spy School student Murray Hill has been held in the school's jail because the evil group SPYDER keeps springing him from juvenile detention. Now, he says he knows where SPYDER's leaders are hiding and he's willing to take student Ben Ripley there, but not anyone from the CIA. Ben and his constant companion Erica head to Mexico but things go wrong immediately. Will Ben and Erica be able to thwart SPYDER's latest efforts? From the always plot-intense, exciting, adventurous middle grade series, another edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. This is my all-time favorite middle grade series. I think I'm totally out of Spy School books, now, so I may have to order another. 

128. Recursion by Blake Crouch - A scientist and a wealthy man discover a way to copy memories and implant them into a brain. The original intent of the scientist's invention, a "memory chair," is to help Alzheimer's patients. But when the wealthy man decides to use the chair for his own purposes and discovers a way to relive time, he begins a cascading set of actions that will lead to the utter destruction of the world unless the scientist and the man she loves can figure out a way to prevent everyone from remembering past timelines. A wild ride and another great one from Blake Crouch. I have not yet found a book by this author that I didn't love. 

129. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris and Mrs. Harris Goes to New York by Paul Gallico - Two novellas in one book. In Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, Mrs. Harris, a widowed London charwoman, sees two beautiful Dior dresses and decides she must scrimp and save then travel to Paris to buy a Dior dress of her own. When she gets to Paris, she charms nearly everyone she meets with her down-to-earth honesty and warmth. In Mrs. Harris Goes to New York, Mrs. Harris and her friend Mrs. Butterfield accompany one of Mrs. Harris's clients to New York and get themselves into a tangle when they try to do a kindness without thinking it through. Again, Mrs. Harris charms everyone. Such a pleasant couple of reads! 

130. A Kid for Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz - The "kid" of the title is a baby goat, not a human child. Joe's mother works in a millinery and during the daytime Joe stays with Mr. Kandinsky and his assistant. Mr. Kandinsky is a kind man and a bit of a storyteller. Since Joe's father is working in Africa, Mr. Kandinsky studies up on African animals and tells Joe all about them. But, his stories can be a little bit on the fantastical side. When he tells Joe about unicorns and how valuable their horns were (allegedly the reason they can no longer be found), Joe decides he wants a unicorn. In the market, he finds a unicorn — really, a sickly goat that appears to have a single, stubby horn. Joe and his friends take care of the goat but it never becomes healthy. Meanwhile, Mr. Kandinsky's assistant is building himself up in order to try to earn money wrestling so that he can give his fiancée a diamond ring. Not much happens in this quaint story but it has a unique atmosphere and very interesting characters so I enjoyed it. 

It would be almost impossible to choose favorites, this month, because it was just that good. I liked or loved everything I read and I was clearly in a reading mood all month, apart from one day when I had a high fever (that sucked). Several of these are graphic novels, two are memoirs (and the Guide to Enlightenment has some bits of autobiography), two included time travel, at least three were creepy, and then there were my usual upbeat and adventurous middle grade reads. Just a fantastic, all-around reading month for me. Feel free to ask me questions about anything. I think that would be easier than trying to choose favorites. 


©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.