Friday, February 23, 2018

Fiona Friday - Clearly, there's a story here.

©2018 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, February 22, 2018

Two DNFs, why I stopped reading them, and whether or not I'll give them a second chance

I haven't done a DNF post in quite a while and my friend Sandie just reminded me that I need to get back to one of these books, soon. The other is a recent DNF. Seems like a good time to talk about a couple unfinished books and why I set them aside.

The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker is an unusual DNF in that I was enjoying it immensely when I stopped reading. It's a Viking saga, something I've never read before, and I was absolutely captivated by the story, amazed at the depth of characterization, impressed by what was, I thought, well-researched and unusually convincing writing.

So, why did I set it aside? Time and place. I started reading the book while I was on vacation in Hawaii and I was honestly so distracted by the palm trees, the ocean waves, and the constant packing (we moved quite a bit from one hotel to another on two separate islands) that I was reading in bits and snatches. As wonderful as The Half-Drowned King is, I needed some lighter reading and switched to reading a middle grade book. At home, I was just worn out and decided I'd come back to the story later, when I could give it more attention.

I will definitely return to The Half-Drowned King and hope that will happen soon - probably when I've finished Don Quixote, since The Half-Drowned King requires a bit more concentration than I can probably give it while balancing 4 books. In spite of only having made it 92 pages into the ARC, I can already tell you I highly recommend The Half-Drowned King and look forward to finishing it as soon as I can.

Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down by Anne Valente is a book that has an unfortunate relevance at this moment because it's about the aftermath of a school shooting. I'd read 70 pages when we left for Oklahoma, on Friday, and I opted to leave it at home because I was pretty sure I was going to abandon it but I wanted to let it rest for a few days.

I came home to a reply on Goodreads. I'd asked a reviewer whose thoughts seemed to mirror my own something to the effect of, "Do you regret finishing the book or are you glad you read it in spite of not feeling like you connected with the characters?" He replied that he didn't think it was worth finishing because it was so depressing.

So, what's the problem I had with Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down? Distance from the characters. I wanted to step into the shoes of a person experiencing a school shooting, feel the terror with that person and the grief afterwards. Instead, the author chose to write about a circle of friends using "we" as the subject, part of the time, and then diving into a particular character for certain scenes. I think that was a mistake. While I was getting to know each of the 4 characters' lives slowly, by page 70 I was frustrated about how difficult it was to connect to them. I also thought there was a bit too much focus on what they intended to write about the victims in their yearbook. The 4 friends all were yearbook staff. I was on my yearbook staff and we had some shocking losses during my sophomore year. It wasn't all that difficult -- at least, not enough to make a focal point.

There are also some arsons in the book and only one of the arsons had taken place when I gave up. Will I return to this book? I don't think so. That inability to feel like I really knew and cared for the characters and had a strong sense of what they were feeling just ruined it for me. But, boy is it a book for our time.

©2018 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, February 21, 2018

January Reads in Review, 2018

January Reads (links to reviews may lead to combined review posts):

1. Saving Tarboo Creek by Scott Freeman and Susan Leopold Freeman (illustrated) - A wonderful memoir about a family who purchased an abused plot of land and then set out to restore both the land and the creek that ran through it, making it healthy and supporting wildlife that had disappeared (including salmon).

2. Forty Autumns by Nina Willner - The story of a family divided by the Iron Curtain. One child of this large family escaped to the West. The rest remained in East Germany. Nina Willner is the child of the one who escaped and eventually ended up in America. A terrific family memoir with some tense scenes that took place when the author was a U.S. Army Intelligence officer working in Berlin during the Cold War.

3. The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam - Just as she's preparing to leave Harvard to dig up the bones of a walking whale, Zubaida meets Elijah and they spend her final three days in Cambridge together. Told in past tense, the story is about Zubaida's tragic choice not to follow her heart and her search for her birth mother.

4. Braving the Wilderness by BrenĂ© Brown - I had a little trouble understanding what this book (nonfiction) was about, but I think it was about being true to yourself and the importance of reaching out to others. Don't quote me on that, though.

5. The Dry by Jane Harper - Aaron Falk returns to his tiny hometown in Australia for the funeral of his friend's family. Everyone assumes Jake killed his family and himself (except for his infant daughter) because of the drought that's causing so many local landowners to lose their livelihoods. But, Jake's parents think he was murdered. The first in the Aaron Falk mystery series.

6. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (e-book) - A very short book of poetry that talks about love, abuse, and other subjects. Trigger warning for those who've been assaulted. Illustrated by the author.

7. If This Isn't Nice, What Is? by Kurt Vonnegut - A collection of a half dozen speeches by Vonnegut, mostly graduation speeches.

8. A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole - Celeste is a basket-weaving mouse who is looking for a home. From her little hole in the wall, she moves to the bedroom of an the nature artist Audubon's apprentice, then to a dollhouse in the attic of the same home.

9. Another Quest for Celeste by Henry Cole - After she goes outside to forage for food, Celeste falls asleep in the wrong place and ends up on a cart and then a steamboat. When the steamboat sinks, she makes it to land and lives in the forest, for a time, then becomes friends with a young Abe Lincoln.

10. Bagel in Love by Natasha Wing and Helen Dardik - Bagel wants to join in on a dance competition but he can't find a partner until he meets the lovely Cupcake.

11. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes - Charlie is profoundly retarded but hardworking and determined. When he's chosen for an experimental surgery, he goes from having a low IQ to way above average intelligence. But, the experiment is doomed to fail. Written as a series of journal entries that show Charlie's progression.

12. The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen - Richard has been married, before. Now, his former wife is shattered and only wants to warn his future bride of the dangers in store for her. Will she be able to warn her in time?

13. The Radium Girls by Kate Moore - The true account of the women who painted watch dials, airplane controls, and other items with luminous paint made from toxic radium and how the small industry fought to keep the reason for the painters' deadly health issues secret.

14. Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night by Dee Leone and Bali Engel - A gentle nighttime poem to relax little ones, filled with nature references.

15. A Couch for Llama by Leah Gilbert - The story of a family who goes to buy a new couch. The couch flies off the roof of their car and is found by a llama, who makes it his own. But, the family needs the new couch, so they replace it with their old one and everyone is happy.

16. Artemis by Andy Weir - Jazz is a smuggler living in the moon colony Artemis. When she's offered a huge sum of money to sabotage some machinery, she agrees. But, she's in for more than she bargained for and the entire moon colony may end up paying.

17. Force of Nature by Jane Harper - The second in the Aaron Falk series, this time the story of a woman who disappears while on a company outing with four other women. Will she be found dead or alive? Was her help investigating her employer's dangerous connections responsible for her disappearance or did she simply become lost?

OK, deep breath. This was a fantastic month for quantity, although there were a few books I didn't like or even quite "get".

Absolute favorites were Saving Tarboo Creek, Forty Autumns, The Dry, Force of Nature, Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night, A Couch for Llama, and Flowers for Algernon. All were terrific reads.

I liked Artemis, the Celeste books (especially Another Quest for Celeste), and The Radium Girls, although the latter was tough to read because it's about the willingness of people to let other people die for the sake of the corporate bottom line and the Celeste books contained a surprising number of violent scenes. I liked the writing in The Bones of Grace but found the story lacking. And, while I enjoyed Artemis, it is the typical disappointing sophomore effort and I briefly considered abandoning it. I'm glad I stuck it out for the exciting scenes in the end.

I was often lost while reading Braving the Wildnerness, although it had its moments. Similarly, If This Isn't Nice, What Is? had its moments of wisdom but was repetitive enough that it's not worth keeping. In the future I'll stick with Vonnegut's fiction. Milk and Honey and Bagel in Love were my least favorites but I loved the illustrations in Bagel in Love and simply didn't love the storyline, while I thought Milk and Honey was pretty much the worst thing I've read in ages (and I only finished it because it was short).

On to February!

©2018 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, February 20, 2018

Tuesday Twaddle

Recent arrivals:

Nothing arrived via the mail, but we went to Oklahoma for a long weekend (hence the Tuesday Twaddle -- we were in transit, yesterday) and I did some swapping at Gardner's Books in Tulsa. I opted to stay in the classics section and look for Virago Classics, in particular, and this is what I ended getting with the credit (and about $7.50 -- they charge a minimum on top of credit, just to ensure that they continue making money, according to the clerk).

  • The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck
  • Seducers in Ecuador and The Heir by Vita Sackville-West
  • Plagued by the Nightingale by Kay Boyle
  • The Happy Foreigner by Enid Bagnold
  • Cindie by Jean Devanny
  • The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois

The final choice was for Black History Month but I probably won't get to it, this year. After a fabulous reading month in January, I've nearly skidded to a halt. Hopefully, I'll at least get in one book for Black History Month, though. Fingers crossed.

Books finished since last week's Malarkey:

  • Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth

I also DNF'd Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down by Anne Valente and will write a DNF post about that book, in the near future.

Currently reading:

  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  • The Statue and the Fury by Jim Dees

Book group is this week, so I need to focus on finishing up The Statue and the Fury. I'm a little behind on my Don Quixote reading and everyone else is, as well, so we reevaluated our goals and I added a catch-up week to the reading schedule. Still enjoying it immensely. And, since I've just removed one book from my current reads, I'll start at least one more (probably two), in the next couple of days.

Last week's posts:

Not a big week for reading or posting, but I'm happy to say that I managed to finish reviewing everything I read in January, finally. And, since I haven't read that much in February, I'm not too far behind. Yippee!

In other news:

Since I managed to acquire a few books, this week, I didn't have to put postcards at the top of my blog instead of a book stack. But the two I recently received from Kelly and Carrie are so cool that you get to see them, anyway.

Note: I just updated this post because I completely forgot to add my links to last week's posts, the first time. Long weekend.

©2018 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, February 16, 2018

Fiona Friday

This was one of those sweet moments that devolved into a spat with Fiona nipping Isabel and Isabel slapping Fi on the nose. Oh, well. At least they get along well most of the time.

©2018 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, February 15, 2018

Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night by Dee Leone and Bali Engel

Moths with powdery wings so soft
gently stir the air aloft.
Their flitter-flutter lullabies
barely whisper, "Close your eyes."

So begins Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night, a gently rhyming book about the sounds of nature at night.

Willow branches bend with ease,
slowly dancing in the breeze.
Back and forth their long arms sweep, 
shushing, shushing all to sleep. 

The title occasionally appears in the verses but I wanted to show you, in particular, the softness of the words in this book because they are truly special. Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night is the perfect, calming bedtime read. You can read it in a hushed voice and it's incredibly soothing. I can easily visualize the sound of a parent's voice calming a fussy child as the book is read. It really is a lovely, relaxing rhyme.

Highly recommended - Gentle nighttime images and soothing rhymes make Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night a book that will undoubtedly rock a few fussy little ones to sleep. I read it to my cats, of course, since my grandchild is over 1,000 miles away. Izzy and Fi have never loved being read to but they blinked happily, a good sign that the book is relaxing even to fussy furballs. Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night is another new favorite. I closed it wishing I had a child to read it to.

©2018 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.

A Couch for Llama by Leah Gilbert

The Lago family's couch was very well-loved
It was the perfect spot for snuggling and reading,
card playing, fort building, and hiding and seeking!

Unfortunately, the couch had lived out its useful life and it was time to buy a new couch, so the family went shopping. They looked for a couch that was just right, found the perfect one, and strapped it to the roof of their car. On the way home, though, the couch went flying.

It's a little difficult to see the words in this image unless you enlarge (if you can, do), but it says:

Llama found a couch. 

Photo credit: Leah Gilbert

I love the expression on the llama's face. Llama sniffed the couch, said hello to it (it didn't reply), tried to share his lunch with it and took a bite out of it. Meanwhile, the family discovered their couch was missing while Llama ignored it and then bounced on it, discovered he loved it, and made himself comfortable.

The finale to this wonderful book: The family finds the couch and takes it back but they bring their old couch back for the llama. And, everyone's happy.

Highly recommended - Adorable! The story is a simple one: lost and found, old replaced with new, both people and an animal wanting the same thing, and a compromise reached in the end. But, it's the illustrations that make A Couch for Llama a new favorite, at least for me. I adore the llama and the field of wheat. This may be a personal thing; I'm from Oklahoma and a field of wheat is home. But, I enjoyed the story, too, so it's not just the crazy llama and the wheat that make this book a winner. Any book that I close with a smile on my face is going to become a favorite and A Couch for Llama definitely makes me grin.

©2018 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, February 14, 2018

Bagel in Love by Natasha Wing and Helen Dardik

Bagel wanted to join a dance contest but had trouble finding a partner.

Poppy told him his dance steps were half-baked. 

He asked Pretzel, who was at the spa getting a salt rub. She told him his moves didn't cut the mustard. 

Matzo flat out told him no. 

Continuing with loads more puns, Bagel kept looking for a partner, unwilling to give up. The dance contest was already beginning at the Cherry Jubilee and Bagel had decided to try again, next year. But, the music had him tapping his foot. Someone tapped back. Cupcake admitted to not being a very good dancer, but they gave it a whirl and liked each other's style. They were barely in time for the dance contest, where they won the grand prize trophy. But, winning was "just icing on the cake."

Well, huh. There are two ways to look at this story. One way is to look at it as a fun book of puns in which a bagel's determination pays off. The other is to find the rejection up front frustrating and the abrupt ending a little weird. I fell halfway in between. The first time I read the book, I thought, "Wait. What?" The ending was a little too abrupt and maybe even a little too perfect, after all that rejection. But, I did love the puns. The second time, I still didn't love the abrupt ending but this time I was all about the puns and the determination. And, I suppose one could get used to the ending.

Iffy on recommendation - Bagel in Love is an average read, in my humble opinion, but if you happen to be a big fan of puns . . . this is your book. It's chock full of them. And, I did appreciate Bagel's can-do attitude. He didn't let a little rejection (well, a lot of rejection) get him down. The illustrations are bright and bold; and, for fans of shiny things, there's a nice touch of glitter on the slipcover. I received a copy of Bagel in Love for review from Sterling Children's Books and it came with a page of 6 Valentine's cards and a bookmark. I don't know if those are included with a purchase or if they were publicity material, but they're super cute.

Happy Valentine's Day!

©2018 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.