Monday, September 21, 2020

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and
  • Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi - both purchased
  • Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain - gift from publicist Meryl Zegarek (Thank you!!!)
  • The Magic in Changing Your Stars by Leah Henderson - from Sterling Kids for review
  • Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse - bought for an Instagram buddy read
  • Rage by Bob Woodward - purchased
  • Not pictured: Becoming by Michelle Obama - also purchased

Confession: I gave in and accepted a few books from publishers, this past couple of weeks. Only one has arrived so there will be probably be a few ARCs in the next Malarkey. I have no regrets. But, while I've updated my review policy to say I'll take on children's books, I'm thinking of the other books I accepted as a hiccup. Hic. Oh, excuse me. 

Books finished since last . . . well, it was a Tuesday Twaddle (thank you, holiday):

  • Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
  • Finna by Nate Marshall
  • Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
  • Fear by Bob Woodward

Yikes, not my best fortnight. 

Currently reading:

  • The Magic in Changing Your Stars by Leah Henderson
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama

I didn't mean to start Becoming but it arrived Sunday afternoon (still strange getting mail on Sundays) and I was stuck with a cat on my lap, a pair of reading glasses, and Becoming. The other books I was reading were in the bedroom. So, I had no choice but to pick it up and start reading. Uh-huh. No choice at all. 

Posts since Tuesday Twaddle:

In other news:

Our first cool front arrived so we were able to open the windows part of the day, starting Friday! That first cool day of fall is always my favorite day of the year. And, I was also excited to catch and release (with the help of Huzzybuns, who took the jar outside) a Mediterranean gecko that was hanging out in my bathtub before the kitties spotted him. The perfection of Friday was wrecked by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, unfortunately. Favorite tweet of the day:

TV-wise, we haven't watched anything new and it just occurred to me that I haven't even checked to see if my favorite shows have returned for the fall season or the possibility of new episodes evaporated with the arrival of the pandemic. Except for one. We're looking forward to Season 2 of The Mandalorian. But that's about the only thing I know about that's coming up, soon. In the meantime, we've decided we need to watch Hamilton, again. We've only watched it once. Once is not enough. 

©2020 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, September 18, 2020

Fiona Friday - Kissies


©2020 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, September 17, 2020

Five Minute Pete the Cat Stories by James Dean

I bought this Pete the Cat collection out of curiosity and because I love cats. It's clear the stories are meant for beginning readers. In fact, it's such an easy-reading book that I felt like I'd been caught in the act of doing something subversive when my husband walked in the door while I was reading 5-Minute Pete the Cat Stories

Having said that . . . they're simplistic, yes, but I love Pete's attitude. His boundless cheer had me smiling all the way through the book. Too bad my grandkids are 1200 miles away. I'll hang onto this book and hope we can read it together (or eldest granddaughter can read it to me) when the pandemic ends. 

Recommended - Simple text for early readers, cute illustrations (who doesn't love a blue cat?), and everyday happenings and adventures that most children can probably relate to make 5-Minute Pete the Cat Stories a great book for gift-giving or having on hand when grandchildren visit. As to parents . . . sorry, guys, you're really going to have to fight to keep from being asked to read 12 stories in a row. I'd make sure to have a bookmark on hand for bedtime reading and say, "We can read X Pete stories, but then we'll save more for later!" Been there with the begging for more. 

On a different note: Blogger has rolled out its new platform and no longer offers the option to revert to the historical version. I don't like it; I never like dramatic change because I become accustomed to a certain set of icons and learn to use them quickly. I'll get used to it, I know, but there is one thing I haven't figured out and if anyone knows how to work it, I'd appreciate the help. I tried to remove the image above and replace it with one that is more accurate as to color (Pete is blue, not black) but I cannot find a "remove image" feature, anywhere. And, now the option to contact Blogger about problems with the new platform has also disappeared. Anyway, let me know if you can help!

©2020 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, September 16, 2020

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yū Miri

I never carried any photos with me, but I was always surrounded by people, places, and times gone by. And as I retreated into the future, the only thing I could ever see was the past. 

~p. 17

And in the winter, my mother and Setsuko would knit sweaters for everyone in the family. We could only afford cheap yarn and thread so the sweaters quickly developed holes, but the women would repair them neatly.

~p. 37

I confess that I bought Tokyo Ueno Station by Yū Miri (who also goes by Miri Yū) for two completely shallow reasons:

1. I loved the cover
2. It has Tokyo in the title and I've been slowly collecting Japanese titles, particularly if the setting is a place I've visited.

The interesting thing is about buying Tokyo Ueno Station based mostly on the cover is that I saw the train station, the bus, the man in the fancy suit, the runner, the panda . . . and totally overlooked the homeless people lying on the ground, on a pile of possessions, in front of a makeshift hut. But, that's the one of the main settings and the viewpoint of the main character, who is looking back at his life. He's speaking from beyond, now, but his last years were spent in a homeless encampment in the park adjoining a Tokyo train station. And, as you're reading it, you can't help but theorize about how he ended up there.

Kazu was born in Fukushima in 1933. His family lived in poverty and even after marriage he had to travel wherever necessary to earn money. Most of the time, that meant he wasn't home to spend time with his wife and see his children grow. When tragedy struck for the first time, Kazu was shocked to his core and grieved deeply. More tragedy followed and eventually he moved to Tokyo, but why? What happened that led to Kazu's homelessness? And, what are the odd parallels between Kazu's life of struggle and the Imperial family?

I think one of the things that fascinates me the most about Tokyo Ueno Station is that it sounds like it is an utterly depressing story and yet I didn't find it depressing. Yes, Kazu's life appears to fit the words, "Life sucks and then you die." And, yet, there is something about his acceptance of all of the hardship thrown at him and his final passing that I found almost uplifting. At any rate, I didn't find the book depressing at all.

Recommended - I would not read this book when you're already down in the dumps because it might affect other people negatively, but I found Tokyo Ueno Station brilliantly written and engrossing. The story jumps back and forth in time but you don't know till nearly the end (although, when you hear the name "Fukushima" you can assume the final tragedy) what happened to Kazu to drive him to life in a hut made of cardboard and other scraps. It was not exactly what I expected.

What I love best about Tokyo Ueno Station is the way it places you in Kazu's world, so you really get a feel for why that expression about poverty being expensive means. The story about the cheap yarn made me think of the story I recently read about how a wealthy person can afford quality boots that will last years and years but a poor person will have to buy several pairs over the same time period because s/he can afford only a lesser quality that falls apart. In the long run, the person with less money ends up spending more.

You also see how the homeless are overlooked, almost invisible until they become an eyesore and must be tucked out of sight. You get an idea how grief can drive someone to run away from himself and his life. Tokyo Ueno Station is a harsh story but a deeply meaningful one. I'm so glad I bought it on impulse.

©2020 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, September 14, 2020

One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes

The raspberries, Mrs. Marshall said, would he net the raspberries? That, too, was pushed through the keyhole, and back came the little shrill whistle. Oh yes, he would net them. If he netted himself, the birds would see no difference. He would bud, he would blossom, his toes would take root in England, his fingers would splay down comfortably into the soil. 

~p. 46

But first, thought Laura, she would start some of the evening's cooking before eating. She began to move pans back and forth off the stove. She used the colander, the grater, wooden spoons of various sizes, and a small army of basins. Her cheeks became flushed. Would the sauce bind? And lo, it bound, while her heart did likewise. But with a hiss, something else boiled over disastrously, so that the cat, who knew Laura, got up and withdrew in prudent haste. A sad brown smell invaded the cluttered kitchen. Mopping up the ruins, Laura thought of Mrs. Abbey, their former and best cook, Mrs. Abbey, who had been killed by a flying bomb while taking a cup of tea with her niece Flo in Putney. 

~p. 66

Now that her father was home, her mother always seemed to be standing by the stove, stirring things, and frowning at the book in her hand. Victoria's bedtime, which had been an elastic affair, returned to a legal appointed hour. 

~p. 156

I must be in a Mollie Panter-Downes mood, lately, because I went looking for One Fine Day after reading her Postwar stories, Millie's Room, and now I'd really, really like to start on her WWII dispatches (but I think I'll wait so I don't totally run out of Panter-Downes books).

One Fine Day is about a small family, the Marshalls, and it's set a year after the end of WWII on a single day. You're mostly in Laura's head, but occasionally you'll also spend a little time in the minds of her husband Stephen and daughter Victoria.

Before the war, the Marshalls had a bustling household with servants, a nanny, and at least one gardener. Their house is large for a family of three and they're clearly very well off but now that the war is over, the young gardener has been killed, and many of the servants have found alternative employment, the majority of the cleaning, cooking, and some of the gardening is left to Laura to handle.

The reader follows Laura as she does a little gardening and cooking, goes to pick up her food rations, visits the home of a young man to see if he'd be willing to help out her elderly gardener, bikes to a young Roma man's home to which she knows her dog will have run after escaping the house, stops on the way to visit with the family who own the largest home in the village, and visits a scenic point.

Both Laura and Stephen consider the fact that their house is too large and their chores overwhelming. Should they sell and move to a smaller place? They think about the fact that upkeep of their home dominates their time and energy. Maybe they should take more time to enjoy life and occasionally take a holiday or go for a nice visit to the point to picnic and enjoy the view. They think about their lives and how they've changed: what life was like before and during the war, and how different everything has become in a few long years.

Recommended - A very understated, very English story of a day in the life of a family that survived the war. I had a little trouble getting through the book because I was having a tired week and kept falling asleep, but at the same time I kept marking passages and I was very aware of Panter-Downes' unique turn of phrase. She was really quite a brilliant wordsmith. If you want to know what life was like in England during or after WWII, Mollie Panter-Downes places you within everyday life like nobody else I've encountered.

©2020 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, September 11, 2020

Fiona Friday - Isabel desires a jelly doughnut

She is genuinely driven crazy by the scent of strawberries. And, yes, I was eating in bed. tch, tch

©2020 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, September 09, 2020

Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake and Jon Klassen

In Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake, Badger lives in his aunt's brownstone and spends his days studying rocks (although I don't think the word "geologist" is ever used). Since Aunt Lula moved out, Badger's had the place to himself and he's turned the living area into a study with all of his rocks and tools. He's content. He has a routine. Then, one day Skunk shows up on his doorstep and is shocked to find that Badger has no idea why he's there. Skunk says Aunt Lula has told him he can stay with Badger.

They have a little conflict and Badger rudely tries to pass off a small closet as the guest room, but Skunk is a happy-go-lucky little stinker and spends his time making the acquaintance of all the neighborhood chickens, cooking very nice meals for the two of them, and generally being a nice housemate. As they get to know each other, Badger begins to question his desire to have the brownstone to himself, again. But, he's already written a letter to Aunt Lula insisting that he can't work properly with a housemate.

When Badger finally goes far enough to offend Skunk and Skunk abruptly moves out, Badger realizes that a little compromise is not a bad thing if you have a companion to enjoy meals and conversation with. He doesn't want to go back to being alone. Will Badger be able to find Skunk and make amends?

Highly recommended - I'm not sure of the age range for Skunk and Badger but I'm presuming it should be called a middle grade book. You could read it aloud to a not-quite-yet-reading child and readers in second to middle grades would probably read it on their own, depending on the individual's skill level. What I love most about Skunk and Badger is that it's very silly but has a sweet theme. I loved the chicken invasion and the way Badger slowly softens to the chickens. I also just happen to be a fan of rocks (I wanted to be a geologist, at one point, hence the availability of rocks to photograph with the book). So, I had fun reading a children's book with a geologist in it, even if he happened to be a badger.

Also, very important: the illustrations are marvelous. It's a fine thing when even illustrations make you smile or laugh, as these do.

I received an ARC of Skunk and Badger from Algonquin's Young Readers line in exchange for an unbiased review and I can tell you in a completely unbiased way that it's one of my favorite books of the year. I found myself yearning to have my grandchildren nearby. I know Skunk and Badger will make them giggle, when we're finally able to see each other, again. I loved the characters, the often-unexpected word choices, the wackiness, and the gentle undercurrent about the importance of friendship.

The scheduled release date for Skunk and Badger is September 15. Many thanks to Algonquin for the review copy!

©2020 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.