Monday, October 18, 2021

The Apothecary (The Apothecary #1) by Maile Meloy

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy is the first in a magical Young Adult series set in the 1950s. Janie Scott's family has moved from Los Angeles to London after her parents — both in the film industry — are accused of being Communists and feel obligated to leave the country. In London, Janie feels totally out of place but she's fascinated by Benjamin Burrows, the son of the local apothecary, an unusually defiant student who pointedly refuses to get under the table for atomic bomb drills. 

When the apothecary's shop is invaded and he disappears, Janie and Ben set out to find him and discover the apothecary's Pharmacopoeia, the book filled with magic potions that Russian spies were seeking when the apothecary disappeared. To find Ben's father, keep the Pharmacopoeia out of Russian hands, and prevent nuclear disaster, they will have to try some magical potions that do amazing things like turn people into birds. 

Highly recommended - Magic, adventure, and a touch of romance make The Apothecary a total delight. I'm kind of disappointed that I only have the first book in the series. The next two don't get quite the ratings the first does at Goodreads, but I enjoyed The Apothecary enough that I'd still like to read on. I just looked and my library system does have the second book, but not the third. I need to drop off donations, anyway, so I'm tempted to check it out in spite of my library check-out ban —  part of my book-buying ban. I haven't checked out a single book since the pandemic began so one can't hurt, right? Right?

©2021 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, October 15, 2021

Fiona Friday - Getting in the spirit

©2021 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier

Oh, Daphne. You sure could write. 

Near as I can tell, The Birds and Other Stories is my 9th read by Daphne du Maurier and it's my second deliberately spooky/atmospheric read for fall in 2021. I never did figure out how to sign up for this year's RIP Challenge, but that's OK. I've become so accustomed to reading at least one or two books that are spooky, witchy, atmospheric, or scary to usher in autumn that I do so by force of habit. I'm not in touch with Carl, who started the RIP and helped me form this habit, but I'm grateful that he started it as it helps to make those last hot, sticky days of summer feel like they pass a little more quickly. Our second cool front is finally on its way, this weekend! 

Back to Daphne. I've had The Birds and Other Stories on my TBR for a year or two but it didn't click for me till last week. I loved all but one of the stories. Unfortunately, the least enjoyable of them was the longest. It was more odd and mysterious than creepy or frightening. But, the rest were suspenseful, spooky, atmospheric. Du Maurier had a knack for building tension in the most unexpected ways. Summaries of the stories follow with my thoughts below in italics:

The Birds - The most well-known story, thanks to Alfred Hitchcock, is different from what I know of the movie (I've only seen bits and pieces). A farm hand, injured in the war and only able to perform the easier chores, is shocked when he hears a tapping at his window one night and is attacked by birds, then discovers that his children have left their windows open and are being attacked, as well. The next day, he realizes the birds are hovering offshore, waiting to attack when the tide comes in. So, he rushes his children home and boards up all of the windows. The family hunkers down during the evening attack while the farm hand worries about supplies. How will they survive if this continues? They have barely any food left and there seems to be no end in sight to the attacks. 

I can see why this story is a classic that has given plenty of people a fear of birds. Absolutely kept me on the edge of my seat. 

Monte Verita - When the beautiful wife of the narrator's friend disappears into a strange mountain complex, he's determined to wait for her to emerge. But, she'll only communicate with him in writing and she says she's never coming back to him.

This is the longest story that asks, "Will the man ever figure out how to get his wife to emerge?" and "Do the people inside this complex stay forever young, as the nearby villagers have told him?" A strange story that I didn't particularly enjoy. 

The Apple Tree - When a man's wife dies and he notices that one of his apple trees looks like her, he wants it cut down. But, his gardener is determined to keep the tree alive as it's blossoming for the first time. Each time a piece of the tree enters the house, something goes wrong. Is the tree out to get him? 

One of my favorites. I will never think about apple trees in quite the same way. 

The Little Photographer - A Marquise on holiday with her children and nanny is captivated by the local man who runs a photography business. Bored with her life, she begins meeting him during siesta time on a cliff where he likes to take photos. But, what will happen when her husband decides to come to the seaside a little earlier than expected? 

Trouble, that's what. Good story. The tension is in the fact that they could be caught at any time, but then something shocking happens. 

Kiss Me Again Stranger - When a mechanic goes to see a movie, he falls for the usherette and they take a walk together. A few strange moments intersect with a news article, the next day, and he becomes aware of the danger he was in. 

Another story with a good shock factor. It doesn't feel entirely creepy till the end; you just get the sense that something is off. 

The Old Man - The narrator has been advised to stay away from "the old man" who lives near the lake. Did he kill his children?

The surprise twist ending totally caught me off-guard. Not my favorite. In fact, I'd totally forgotten what this one was about and had to flip through the book. 

Highly recommended - The second book of short stories I've read by du Maurier (Don't Look Now is the other; link leads to a mini review). Of the two, The Birds is better in my humble opinion. Only one story fell totally flat for me and the last story felt like it had a bit of a cheap twist. 4 of the 6 were exceptional. And, as I said in my mini review of Don't Look Now, Daphne du Maurier's books are always worth reading because her writing is stellar.

This is my favorite cover of The Birds. My copy looks like the one at the top of the post. 

©2021 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Throwback by Peter Lerangis (Throwback #1)

All Corey Fletcher needs to travel through time is an artifact from the past. After Corey time travels by accident a couple times, he discovers that the ability to time travel runs in the family and sets out on a mission to save his grandmother, who died on 9/11 in the collapse of one of the Twin Towers. 

But, then something goes terribly wrong and Corey ends up stuck in 1917, hunted by a street gang, and befriended by a cowboy named Quinn. In order to end up back home, Corey will have to find an artifact from his own time. Will Corey be able to find his way home?

Recommended but not a favorite - I liked Throwback but didn't love it. However, I'm a big fan of time travel so I checked the ratings on this series before buying them and the latter two in the series have better ratings than the first book. So, I'm really looking forward to them, in spite of the fact that I wasn't thrilled with Throwback

All three books from the Throwback series were purchased when I placed that Husband-approved book order, a few weeks ago. I'm determined to make it to the end of the year without making any more book purchases at all. 

©2021 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, October 11, 2021

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (left, above - click on image to enlarge):

  • The London House by Katherine Reay - from Harper Muse for tour

Recent arrivals stacked above (all purchased), top to bottom:

  • The Complete Two Pints; Charlie Savage; and, Love -   all by Roddy Doyle
  • The Burning Chambers by Kate Moss
  • The Autumn of the Ace by Louis de Bernières
  • Stories from Suffragette City by various authors, ed. by M. J. Rose and Fiona Davis
  • Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

The Autumn of the Ace is the 3rd in the Daniel Pitt series. You might remember if you hang out here often that I recently read the 2nd. It was the desire to finish this series that compelled me to look Autumn, etc. up at Book Closeouts and I was utterly shocked to find the final book in the series. So, I looked up the Spy School series and found almost all of those books, as well. Then, I just kept going, looking up favorite authors and then flipping through fiction. I can get myself in all sorts of trouble that way. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Throwback by Peter Lerangis
  • The Boatman and Other Stories by Billy O'Callaghan
  • September Moon by John Moore
  • The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
  • The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

Throwback and The Apothecary are both the first in a series by the same name as the title. I don't have any more of The Apothecary series but I have two more Throwback books. They arrived with my last order (blessed by spouse) and I've posed them with the first book so I'll share that photo when I review Throwback

The two books of short stories were both fabulous. I've already reviewed The Boatman (link below) and hope to get to The Birds, soon. And, September Moon (also already reviewed with link below) was also a terrific read but an unusual one because we're so accustomed to the worst possible outcome in fiction, I suppose. Bad things happen but they always work out in September Moon. I so enjoyed how relaxing that made the reading. The Apothecary was good, clean fun, very adventurous and magical with a touch of romance (YA). The rest of the series doesn't get quite the positive reviews of the first book so I'll have to think about whether or not I want to eventually read on. 

Currently reading:

  • Lost Love's Return by Alfred Nicols (e-book) - for F2F discussion

Still also reading How to Astronaut by Terry Virts. Also still getting hollered at by the cat while I read and bike. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

In other news:

We watched a couple episodes of Blake's 7 and I'm pretty sure that's literally all I watched. Husband asked for subscription to a sports channel for his birthday so the rest of the time the TV was on, it involved some sporting event or other. 

Wait, I'm wrong! We watched one episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and the spouse got a recipe that interested us from that particular episode. I hated it. Nice try, though. 

Most of my spare time has been spent on art videos, although I haven't done all that much. There's an annual event called "taster sessions" — which is pretty much what it sounds like, just two weeks of free videos that give you a taste of the courses you get if you buy the year-long membership to this thing called Lifebook. I've only actually tried a couple of the projects. Some I just watched. I found the sheer quantity so overwhelming that I just chose the few that interested me. Two were abject failures; two went well. I haven't decided if I'm going to buy the yearly membership because many of the tasters lean "crafty". But, I have learned a few new techniques and there are a couple artists whose classes pique my interest enough that I think it might be worth the annual fee for the sake of being able to watch them over and over again, even if it's just 3 or 4 artists whose courses I want to keep. Once you buy a year's membership, you allegedly have access to the classes for life (I don't honestly trust the words "for life" when it comes to online content, but . . . a year of access is fine). Anyway, still thinking about that.

I also took a course from London Drawing School on the art of Julie Mehretu and did the warm up and the regular exercise. I'd never heard of Mehretu but I really love the London Drawing School courses and I found this course particularly interesting because her art is so very, very different from anything I've done. It looks chaotic and meaningless, just crazy-looking stuff. But, the instructor, Lucy McGeown, did an exceptional job of explaining the meaning of Mehretu's abstracts and showing how to imitate her art. I came out of it just glowing with the joy of having learned something completely new to me.

Meanwhile . . . the only other thing I've been up to of any significance is trying to get Christmas gift purchases done and dusted because of the anticipated shortages and the new rules slowing down the mail (massively peeved about that and hope it can be undone, at some point). I made good progress on that, this week. 

I'm also already pondering my goals for 2022 reading and I think I've settled on a personal challenge that will be fun, the "Pick a Pile Challenge". As if that isn't obvious, it has to do with the fact that I have books stacked on the floor and those stacks line two walls of my home library. It occurred to me that there's a lot of variety in each stack, so why not challenge myself to pick a pile and stick with it till I've read them all? What do you think? Sound fun? 

©2021 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, October 08, 2021

Fiona Friday - Izzy is helpful

Wrong place, Mom. I'll move it for you. 

©2021 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

September Moon by John Moore

September Moon by John Moore is a book I ordered secondhand from Across the Pond for a buddy read hosted by @the_unhurried_reader of Instagram in 2019. Unfortunately, it didn't arrive till October of that year and the buddy read was by then over, having finished at the end of September. I've been eager to read it during a September ever since, but I must have been too booked up in 2020. 

September Moon tells the story of the harvest of hops in England's Hertfordshire. During the month, itinerant workers — some Welsh, many traveling Romany, one an older man who has been harvesting all his life — arrive to do the harvesting. This is not a fast-placed, tightly plotted book, but at the same time there's no waste of words and the writing is lovely enough to suit anyone who enjoys literature. Instead, what you get is a farmer with chest pains; his son who had a fling with a "gipsy" girl [I'm going to continue with the spelling and usage of the word "gipsy" for convenience and to match the book, although I know Romany is the proper term] and tries to resume their affair but finds that her personality has changed; the Gipsy King who is challenged by the other tough-guy gipsy; the farmer and would-be inventor who is not a natural to farming, frequently loses money on crops and attempted inventions, and tends to drink off his profits at the local pub; and, his half-French daughter who has returned from London and whom the villagers suspect left in the first place because she got in trouble with a boy. There's also the threat of a spreading fungus ruining the crops. 

Published in 1957, September Moon is a total comfort read. The tension is ever-present and there are plenty of questions to keep the pages turning, but in the end nothing awful happens. Literally nothing. All the fighting and drama and knives flashing by moonlight, the one farmer's illness and the other's threatened loss of his farm. Well, there's bloodshed and danger, but no tragedy and the plot twists are comfortable rather than nerve-racking. I think it'll be great going into the book in future Septembers knowing that it's that kind of read, taut enough to make the pages fly but pleasant enough to read when you're stressed out and just want to find something enjoyably tense in which nobody dies. 

Highly recommended but apparently out of print - I checked to see if there are any newer copies available and it looks like the only available options are secondhand. Abe Books has quite a few but the first one to pop up is in a shop in Melbourne, Australia, so perhaps it was never published in the U.S. At any rate, if you're ever looking for something that is enjoyable to read and not in the mood for anything horrible to happen, September Moon is perfect. If I didn't happen to still be on that book-buying ban (I am determined to make it to the end of the year without buying another single book, in spite of having broken my ban a time or two), I would see if I could find some other secondhand books by Moore. But, I won't. Maybe next year. 

©2021 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.