Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam

I asked you why you loved me and you said love's arguments are always teleological. You love someone because you already love them. You love their particular qualities, because you love them in the wholeness of their being. And because you love them in the wholeness of their being, you love the things about them that wound you.

You quoted Rumi: "The wound is where the light enters you."

"This was a more complicated answer than I bought," I said, "I was going for the five-dollar answer."

~fr. pp. 283-4 of Advance Reader Copy, The Bones of Grace (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

I realized, as I was fetching the image for The Bones of Grace, that it's one of those rare books that's already slipped from my mind after less than a month. So, I gave it a couple days and the story is slowly coming back to me. The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam is the story of a Bangladeshi woman, told upon reflection.

At the beginning of the book, Zubaida receives the bones of Grace, a walking whale whose bones may be a missing evolutionary link. She is back at Harvard, now, where her story begins. You know from this beginning that she has loved, betrayed, and lost touch with a man named Elijah, and now she hopes he will miraculously appear someday, but probably knows better. From here on, the book jumps back and forth in time.

Elijah is a laid-back American guy, a lover of music that Zubaida meets by chance as she's winding down her days in Cambridge and preparing to go dig up bones in Pakistan. She is engaged to a man she's known all her life but the attraction between Zubaida and Elijah is immediate and powerful. They stay in touch when she leaves the country; but after tragedy strikes at the work site, she goes home to Bangladesh and marries. Then, a second heartbreak makes Zubaida reconsider her life and she takes a job working on a documentary film about shipbreaking in Chittagong, away from her husband and family. While she's away from her new home, she attempts to locate her birth mother and Elijah comes to visit her.

Zubaida has known she's adopted since she was young, but nobody will tell her the details and this leaves her feeling incomplete. Will Zubaida ever uncover her roots? What happened between her and Elijah in Chittagong that broke them apart forever?

Recommended but not a favorite - I loved Tahmima Anam's writing style, apart from the beginning, which I found confusing. I thought she tried to keep things mysterious and the only real mysteries were the origin of her birth -- which is so important to her that it's at the root of everything she does, for better or worse -- and what exactly she did to betray Elijah. There was no reason to make the occasional scene so vague. Still, I liked her writing enough that I kept going. In the end, I liked the atmosphere more than the story itself. The theme of bones is everywhere - the bones of the whale, the bones of ships, the bones of family and whether those of birth and that biological connection are more important than the connections of child and parent who raised her, regardless of biology.

But, the tone is deeply melancholy and I had trouble relating to Zubaida. Why was her origin story so important? Why was she so easily able to give up her career -- after obtaining an advanced degree at Harvard, no less -- but unable to follow her heart? I found her a baffling character, so quick to travel to far places, so frustrated about her birth story, yet completely unwilling or unable to simply say, "I've met this guy and I need to figure things out before I say yes to something as permanent as marriage." So, it was an average read because the story itself felt like it was somehow unbalanced. And, yet, I would consider reading more by Anam, in the hopes that she can tie things together better. I know people are mysterious and confusing and weird in real life and what we do doesn't always make sense. But, that's one reason I like to escape to novels. I like a little more order in my reading than I see in the world, sometimes and I felt like The Bones of Grace was a bit too amorphous for my taste.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie - from Quirk Books for review
  • Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down by Anne Valente - from HarperCollins for review
  • Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods by Tania Del Rio and Will Staehle - from Quirk Books for review
  • Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night by Dee Leone and Bali Engel, and
  • A Couch for Llama by Leah Gilbert - both from Sterling Children's Books for review

So . . . this isn't actually everything that walked in my door, last week. Remember that local bookstore that was closing? They decided to extend their sale for a few extra days and marked everything to 90% off. It took me a day of fighting with myself before I went in to see if there was anything left worth buying and it was fascinating - chaotic, because there were still a lot of books and about half of them were in boxes. Some of the books were boxed in anticipation of being moved to the antique store across the street, some boxed by people who were buying them (I avoided the boxes). Most of the bookshelves in the store had been sold and hauled away by their new owners, so there were also books lined up on the floor and only a few scattered shelves of books remaining. While I was there, a woman bought a mirror off the wall. At any rate, there were quite a few books left, so I managed to find another embarrassingly nice little pile. Want to see them? If so, tell me and I'll add them to next week's pile. I just didn't feel like grabbing them for today's photograph.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
  • Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night by Dee Leone and Bali Engel
  • A Couch for Llama by Leah Gilbert
  • Artemis by Andy Weir

I was glad to finish The Radium Girls because it was so, so sad. But, I'm also happy to have read it. It was certainly a good reminder of how deceitful a company can be when its owners fear they'll lose money - even to the point of knowingly continuing to expose its employees to deadly radiation when they knew it was killing people. The two middle books are children's books from last week's arrivals and I'm looking forward to reviewing them. I loved them both. Artemis is a book I borrowed from my youngest son and read hurriedly, in case he had the urge to snatch it back. I will try diligently to work on getting caught up, this week, so I can review some of these books soon!

Posts since last Malarkey:

After Tuesday, I had a headache for several days and I am still fighting to get my prescription for migraine meds filled, so it was not the best week for writing. But, I'm happy that I managed to get three posts published. Hopefully, this will be a better week. 

Currently reading:

  • Force of Nature by Jane Harper
  • Al Franken: Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

Those of you who enjoyed The Dry (which I have not yet reviewed but found gripping) will be happy to know that I'm having an equally hard time putting down Force of Nature

In other news:

January isn't even over and I've read 16 books. That's pretty typical for a January (usually, my biggest reading month) but, wow, does a good reading month throw the book reviewing behind! Fortunately, not all of the books I've read have been from publishers, so I'll be able to whip out a few mini reviews.

TV-wise, we've just subscribed to Brit Box channel for Roku (we haven't had cable or satellite service for something on the order of 16 years - also have never subscribed to Netflix, believe it or not) and discovered that they have Doctor Who episodes all the way back to the very first Doctor! Cool! Some of the early episodes are missing (I know I read that somewhere, but I'd forgotten) and the pacing of a show from the Sixties is remarkably slow. But, we're enjoying watching from the beginning for the historical context. I had no idea the Daleks had been around practically since Day 1! We're also watching a travel show starring Robson Green, in which he travels around the English Coast.

Movie-wise, I really, really want to see The Darkest Hour but for some reason we never seem to manage to talk ourselves into going to the theater. We always end up dragging our feet and then having to wait for movies to show up on some streaming site or on DVD. If you've seen it, tell me what you think of it, please!

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Fiona Friday - Here I am. Pet me?

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Forty Autumns by Nina Willner

First sentence:

I was five years old when I learned that my grandmother lived behind a curtain. 

Forty Autumns: A Family's Story of Courage and Survival on Both Sides of the Berlin Wall by Nina Willner is the story of a large German family, from just after the end of WWII to the present day, with emphasis on the four decades that the family was split apart by the Iron Curtain.

Only one child in the family managed to escape East Germany and it took her three attempts. While Hanna got a job in the West and was able to advance at work and eventually marry and move to the United States, the rest of her family lived through hardship and desperation, often hungry, standing in line for hours to obtain necessities, always in danger of being arrested if a neighbor or friend suspected them of saying or doing something subversive against the government. The author, Nina Willner, is one of Hanna's children.

The book begins with the end of WWII in 1945 and the division of Berlin. While families waited for the men to come home, American, British, and Soviet troops divided Germany. There were rumors of atrocities committed by the Soviets, so when the American troops pulled out of the area where Hanna's family lived, some German citizens either left with the soldiers or tried to send their daughters away.

The reality of Soviet occupation and what was to come was immediate. Everyone was told they must turn in all their food to be equally divided and anyone who hid food would be shot. But, the food was never divided and redistributed as promised, so the Soviets brought hunger. That was just the beginning of life in East Germany. Forty Autumns is a well-rounded family biography that takes you through the entire 40 years, till the family was finally reunited after the fall of the Berlin Wall, including the years that the author worked as a U.S. Army intelligence officer serving in Berlin during the Cold War. There are some tense scenes in which she describes various missions into East Berlin.

Highly Recommended - History buffs and fans of memoir, particularly anyone with a fascination for the Cold War, will enjoy this meticulously researched story of a single family in which the author compares and contrasts life behind and outside the Berlin Wall. Included are maps, a Family and Historical Chronology (a comparative timeline that shows what was happening historically and within the author's family), photographs, and epilogue describing what's happened since the fall of the wall, an extensive bibliography, and index.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Saving Tarboo Creek by Scott Freeman and Susan Leopold Freeman

The idea that any organism lives and acts independently of others is a myth. The realization that all organisms are connected is a profound insight.

~fr. p. 175 of Advance Reader Copy, Saving Tarboo Creek (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

Saving Tarboo Creek: One Family's Quest to Heal the Land by Scott Freeman is about how the author and his family purchased a damaged plot of land and set about restoring it to bring back the plants and animals that once made it a healthy environment, including restructuring the original creek to make it a safe place for salmon to breed.

The author's bio is worth mentioning as it shows his expertise, which is important to those who might be skeptical when he talks about such things as climate change:

"Scott Freeman worked in environmental education and international conservation before completing a PhD in evolutionary biology at the University of Washington." He is married to the granddaughter of Aldo Leopold, author of the conservation classic A Sand County Almanac (click through to visit The Aldo Leopold Foundation) and wife Susan Leopold Freeman illustrated the book. Here's an interior view I located online to give you an idea of the illustrations:

The intro to Saving Tarboo Creek is strongly worded as it talks about the dangers of our current administration to our land, including the effect of policies ignoring climate change, although the text of the book is directed more at the history of that particular plot of land and the process of restoration (and what's involved in restoration, in general). It occasionally feels a bit like the author is giving you a college lecture -- in a good way; I felt like reading Saving Tarboo Creek was a learning experience. Freeman speaks from an expert viewpoint, both as a scientist and a person who married into a family in which observation of nature was simply a way of life. Toward the end of the book, he mentions one of the children of Aldo Leopold and how she recorded her observations of the changing climate over the span of many decades. The Leopold family is unusually connected to the land.

But, let's back up a bit. Saving Tarboo Creek will teach you a few interesting lessons about conservation, in general, and some fascinating history but it's specifically about a plot of land in Washington. Freeman purchased this piece of land knowing it was damaged. Trees had been harvested by past owners without any thought to replanting and a former creek had all but disappeared, no longer welcoming to the animals it would have hosted in the last century after decades of abuse. After buying the land, the family went about determining which trees and plants were original to the land (some of that involved intelligent guesswork, some of it viewing the original tree stumps) and then hired someone to dig out the creek and restructure it so that there would be a strong current in some places, quieter, sheltered water in others. He also balanced the replanting of original plants with others he thought more likely to survive the altered climate.

I can't recall what he called the planting sessions -- plantathons? (it's been a few weeks since I read the book) -- but I found one story particularly interesting. In order to fully plant the land, which was a huge job done in sections, the family needed a lot of help, so they got volunteers to join in on huge planting sessions and there was one particular area where the trees kept dying. After the first year, the author assumed the volunteers may have not known how to go about planting those trees properly and thus the die-off was caused by planting error. But, then it happened for a second and third year. Further investigation led to the realization that the soil in that particular area was not what he expected. It was clay that trapped water and was drowning trees that were intended for a drier area. The land was replanted successfully with trees that prefer wet roots.

Highly recommended, particularly to lovers of nature and science. There were a few scattered pages where the biological aspect of flora and fauna got a little too technical for me, but I found Saving Tarboo Creek absolutely fascinating. It was my first read of the year and a terrific way to start the reading year.

I received an advance review copy of Saving Tarboo Creek from Timber Press (via Shelf Awareness, in exchange for an unbiased review) and Yoohoo! I'd love to read more of your books, if you're listening, Timber Press people! Closet environmental fanatic, 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom - all purchased, except for Bagel in Love):

  • The Virago Book of Christmas, ed. by Michelle Lovric
  • Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  • The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna
  • The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
  • Bagel in Love by Wing and Dardik - from Sterling Children's Books for review

The Virago Book of Christmas is a book I returned to purchase when the local shop that went out of business (gone, now) marked things down further. They had it marked as a "new" book, although it's out of print, so I opted not to buy it when the discount was minimal. It was still there when they bumped up the discount in the last few days, though, so I grabbed it. The Kurt Vonnegut books were purchased after I read his speeches, last week. I've read 4 or 5 Vonnegut books and always planned to read more. Reading his speeches was a nice reminder of how much I appreciate his writing. Don Quixote (this version translated by Edith Grossman) is a book I've attempted to read 3 times and failed. I bought this particular version when Ryan of Wordsmithonia and I decided to buddy read it, starting in February. I thought it would be easier if we used the same version, so we can refer to specific pages if we want to. I'll talk about that more, as we get closer, but anyone who wants to join in is welcome to read along with us.

The Hired Man was a total whim. I don't even know what I was thinking. It sounds good, though. I think I looked up an older book when someone mentioned a newer book by the author. Weird. I need to work on those buying whims (suppressing them down to nothing would be good). And, I bought The Opposite of Loneliness after seeing someone mention it on Facebook and reading about it. The author was described as a prodigy, although her work was published posthumously, gathered by her family and published after her death. I'm always curious what people consider prodigious.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole
  • Another Quest for Celeste by Henry Cole
  • Bagel in Love by Wing and Dardik
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  • The Wife Between Us by Hendricks and Pekkanen

I ended up enjoying A Nest for Celeste (which, you may recall, I found a bit too filled with violent images, at first) so I decided to continue on with its sequel, Another Quest for Celeste. I thought both were interesting for the historical perspective and the illustrations are beautiful. Flowers for Algernon was another one I started out not enjoying. It ended up being a 5-star read, in the end. Just a brilliant book. Yes, it's sad at times, but it's also deeply moving. And, The Wife Between Us . . . sigh. I guess I should avoid the most hyped books, unless they overwhelmingly appeal to me. I liked it but didn't love it. I had mixed feelings about most everything I read but I'll go into the details when I review them.

Posts since last Malarkey:

Currently reading:

  • Artemis by Andy Weir 
  • The Radium Girls by Kate Moore 

Kiddo loaned me his copy of Artemis (a Christmas gift) and, in fear of having it yanked back, I started on it immediately. So far, it's a fun read but not as enthralling as The Martian. I've been working on The Radium Girls for several weeks, now, and I didn't see any posts in the discussion group for which I bought the ebook (ebook!), so I think I'll try to blast my way through the latter half, this week, and move on to another nonfiction read. It's such a sad story. Imagine getting a job that paid well, thinking you were living the life, and then finding out that not only were you going to die because of that job, but also that the company was covering it up and allowing more people to die. Anything to fatten the bottom line.

In other news:

Now, I really, really want to see the movies based on Flowers for Algernon. I saw the first movie, Charly, when I was young and it was because of that memory that I originally bought the book (probably a decade ago - I'm almost positive I bought it at our former salvage store, long since closed). Obviously, the movie was memorable but it's been too long to remember it at all, now.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Fiona Friday on the Wrong Day

I humorously approved comments at the blog, yesterday, and completely forgot to post a Fiona Friday pic. Today's photo was taken by Kiddo, this morning. Fiona was hanging her head over her fluffy bed and looking adorable. Of course, she had to scowl when someone came along with a camera.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Books Read in 2017


1. Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now - Maya Angelou
2. Leopard at the Door - Jennifer McVeigh
3. Yesternight - Cat Winters
4. Faithful - Alice Hoffman
5. We Should All Be Feminists - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
6. The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah
7. The Wars of the Roosevelts - William J. Mann
8. The Little Book of Hygge - Meik Wiking
9. March, Book One - John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
10. March, Book Two - Lewis, Aydin, and Powell


11. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
12. March, Book Three - Lewis, Aydin, and Powell
13. Geekerella - Ashley Poston
14. Dragon Springs Road - Janie Chang
15. In Farleigh Field - Rhys Bowen
16. The Possessions - Sara Flannery Murphy
17. Survivors Club - Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat


18. The Last One - Alexandra Oliva
19. The Almost Sisters - Joshilyn Jackson
20. You'll Grow Out of It - Jessi Klein
21. A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman
22. A Piece of the World - Christina Baker Kline
23. The Mermaid's Daughter - Ann Claycomb
24. Big Little Hippo - Valeri Gorbachev
25. Hoot and Honk Just Can't Sleep - Leslie Helakoski
26. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart - Stephanie Burgis


27. Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters - Margaret Dilloway
28. Elly and the Smelly Sneaker - Leslie Gorin and Lesley Vamos
29. The Rain in Portugal - Billy Collins
30. Tequila Mockingbird - Leo Cullum
31. Sammy's Broken Leg and the Amazing Cast that Fixed It - Judith Wolf Mandell
32. The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains - Jon Morris
33. The Day I Died - Lori Rader-Day
34. Little Known Tales of Oklahoma - Alton Pryor
35. The Plague - Albert Camus
36. My Life on the Road - Gloria Steinem
37. Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast - Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney
38. Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast: The Case of the Stinky Stench - Funk and Kearney
39. Caring for Your Lion - Tammi Sauer and Troy Cummings
40. Mister Monkey - Francine Prose


41. The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors - Drew Daywalt and Adam Rex
42. Ella Who? - Linda Ashman and Sara Sanchez
43. Dance is for Everyone - Andrea Zuill
44. The Marriage Bureau - Penrose Halson
45. No Man's Land - Simon Tolkien
46. We're All Damaged - Matthew Norman
47. Almost Everybody Farts - Marty Kelley
48. Same Beach, Next Year - Dorothea Benton Clark
49. Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler - Trudi Kanter
50. Shadow Man - Alan Drew
51. 5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior - Siegel, Siegle, Bouma, Rockefeller, and Sun


52. On Tyranny - Timothy Snyder
53. The Baker's Secret - Stephen P. Kiernan
54. Shrill - Lindy West
55. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli
56. World Pizza - Cece Meng and Ellen Shi
57. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows - Balli Kaur Jaswal
58. The Explorers: The Door in the Alley - Adrienne Kress
59. Bellwether - Connie Willis (link to review written in 2010; brief notes on 2017 reading, here)
60. Whatever You Do, Don't Run - Peter Allison
61. Goodnight from London - Jennifer Robson


62. Afterlife - Marcus Sakey
63. Exit, Pursued by a Bear - E. K. Johnston
64. Just Fly Away - Andrew McCarthy
65. More Was Lost - Eleanor Perenyi
66. The Hidden Light of Northern Fires - Daren Wang
67. How to Stop Time - Matt Haig
68. The Punch Escrow - Tal M. Klein
69. Brave Deeds - David Abrams
70. Another Brooklyn - Jacqueline Woodson
71. Woman at Point Zero - Nawal El Saadawi and Sherif Hetata (translator)


72. The River at Night - Erica Ferencik
73. The Woman Next Door - Yewande Omotoso
74. Searching for Sunday - Rachel Held Evans
75. The Salt Line - Holly Goddard Jones
76. Amazing Animal Friendships: Odd Couples in Nature - P. Hanackova and Linh Dao
77. Cap'n Rex and His Clever Crew - Henry L. Herz and Benjamin Schipper
78. Ally-saurus and the Very Bossy Monster - Richard Torrey
79. Pretty Girls - Karin Slaughter
80. Reincarnation Blues - Michael Poore


81. Defining Moments in Black History - Dick Gregory
82. The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC's (the Hard Way) - Patrick McDonnell
83. Noor's Story - Noor Ebrahim
84. The Way to London - Alix Rickloff
85. Snowspelled - Stephanie Burgis
86. An American Family - Khizr Khan
87. Alan Cole is Not a Coward - Eric Bell


88. Iowa: Poems - Lucas Hunt
89. My Little Cities: London - Jennifer Adams and Greg Pizzoli
90. My Little Cities: New York - J. Adams and G. Pizzoli
91. My Little Cities: Paris - J. Adams and G. Pizzoli
92. My Little Cities: San Francisco - J. Adams and G. Pizzoli
93. Goodnight, Little Bot - Karen Kaufman Orloff and Kim Smith
94. Dough Knights and Dragons - Dee Leone and George Ermos
95. Rufus Blasts Off - Kim Griswell and Valeri Gorbachev
96. Gertie Milk and the Keeper of Lost Things - Simon Van Booy
97. Dark Matter - Blake Crouch
98. The Boat Runner - Devin Murphy
99. A Bigger Table - John Pavlovitz
100. The Goddess of Mtwara and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing, 2017
101. Bonaparte Falls Apart - Margery Cuyler and Will Terry
102. Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code - Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu
103. The Cottingley Secret - Hazel Gaynor
104. We Wish for a Monster Christmas - Sue Fliess and Michael Michell
105. The Bear Who Didn't Want to Miss Christmas - Marie Tibi and Fabien Ockto Lambert
106. Mice Skating - Annie Silvestro and Teagan White


107. Blackout - Marc Elsberg
108. The Secret of Nightingale Wood - Lucy Strange
109. The Underground River - Martha Conway
110. The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
111. Inky's Great Escape - Casey Lyall and Sebastia Serra
112. Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie
113. The Lost Words - Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
114. Future Home of the Living God - Louise Erdrich
115. The Heart's Invisible Furies - John Boyne
116. Quackery - Lydia Kang and Nate Pederson
117. Animal Expressions - Judith Hamilton


118. When They Call You a Terrorist - Patrisse Kahn-Cullors and Asha Bandele
119. A Christmas to Remember - L. Kleypas, L. Heath, M. Frampton and V. Lorretj
120. Spies in the Family - Eva Dillon
121. The Last Mrs. Parrish - Liv Constantine
122. The Power - Naomi Alderman
123. The Dark is Rising - Susan Cooper
124. A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles
125. Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe - K. Howes and V. Fabbretti
126. Marigold and Daisy - Andrea Zuill
127. Walkabout - James Vance Marshall
128. Odd Child Out - Gilly Macmillan

Links lead to reviews, although some may be as short as a sentence or two within a monthly reads post.

©2017 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, January 18, 2018

Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan

Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan is the second in the Jim Clemo detective series. Here's a quick link to my review of the first Jim Clemo book:

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

If you click through that link you'll find that I didn't fall in love with What She Knew, but I found it memorable enough that I wanted to read the next in the series and I'm glad I made that decision.

Noah Sadler has been fighting cancer for many years and now he's losing the battle. His best friend, Abdi Mahad, has been the one constant companion in his life who doesn't let the illness get in the way of their friendship. But, when Noah is found floating in Bristol canal and Abdi is unable or unwilling to answer any questions about what happened, he comes under suspicion. Did Abdi push Noah into the canal? If so, why? If not, what exactly happened?

Detective Inspector Jim Clemo is back on the job after a bit of a breakdown led to mandatory leave. Noah's case is the first one he's been given and he's determined to get it right. But, the more he learns, the more convoluted and confusing the case becomes. What does a photograph taken by Noah's father have to do with Abdi? Did it have anything to do with Noah ending up in the canal? Does Abdi's Somalian background have anything to do with what's happened, the friendship, his behavior? Noah's mother is suspicious of Abdi, but is she merely prejudiced?

I found Odd Child Out utterly gripping but also a difficult read. Gilly Macmillan is hard on young characters. You do know at the outset that Noah Sadler is going to die, but you don't know if he'll recover from his near-drowning in the canal and then die of his long-term illness and the author actually puts you in Noah's point-of-view, at times.

While Detective Clemo and his partner are trying to get to the bottom of what happened, the story of a Somalian man in the photograph taken by Noah's father unfolds and, toward the end, there are some heart-pounding scenes when the strands finally wind together. While I don't remember what exactly caused Jim Clemo to break down in the first book, I found him likable and enjoyed reading about his troubled background in this second book. He's turning out to be a more interesting and complex character than I initially suspected, so I'm looking forward to future books in this series.

Highly recommended - Painful as it is to know that a character is going to die, regardless of how the case turns out, Odd Child Out is suspenseful and the pages absolutely flew. I enjoyed it immensely and found the heart-pounding scenes toward the end of Odd Child Out incredibly satisfying. I did figure out one strand that I think was supposed to be surprising (which is not unusual) but it was not enough to give away the most important piece of the puzzle. This is a page turner, in my humble opinion.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Walkabout by James Vance Marshall

I read Walkabout by James Vance Marshall as an ebook (shockingly, I've actually read two e-books in the past month and am in the middle of another) because my eldest son had just finished it when I put Walkabout on my wish list and he said, "It's very short. I'd advise you to just read the e-book instead of ordering a paper copy."

Walkabout is the story of two children who are the only survivors of a plane crash in the Australian Outback. Brother and sister, Peter and Mary are from Charleston, South Carolina, their destination Adelaide, where they planned to visit their uncle. The book begins just after the plane crash. The two watch the plane burn and then curl up together and fall asleep, although Mary intends to watch for hazards but is overcome by exhaustion.

I finished Walkabout in a single December afternoon and have forgotten some of the details, like how old the children were, but I'm guessing Mary was around 10 and Peter 6. At any rate, they're young enough not to know that it would be best for them to stay close to the wreckage, which is near a creek. Instead, they set out to walk to Adelaide. It's desert dry and they're unfamiliar with the land and its creatures, so they're likely within hours of death when they encounter an Aboriginal boy. They can't communicate but they're able to convince him to help them.

How much of the story is accurate to the life of Aborigines I can't say, but the introductory material in the NYRB version says James Vance Marshall was not the real name of the author but it was, in fact, a real man's name - the name of a man who had spent some time in the Outback and whose notes the author obtained access to, with the permission of his son. So the author did have access to knowledge, if not first-hand experience.

The biggest frustration for me, and probably this is true of most females, was the fact that once the Aboriginal boy (who has gone walkabout as a rite of passage) realizes Mary is female, he treats her like a pack mule or servant rather than a fellow human being. I'm curious if that was true in a particular tribe or just something the author came up with, perhaps a product of the times or an assumption about natives, as the book was originally published in 1959. Walkabout left me with a lot of questions. But, the bottom line is that I enjoyed following the children and their new friend as he helped them learn to forage, follow the shadiest path through the desert, and gave them instructions on how to survive the final leg of their journey.

Recommended - My son drew my attention to some minor anachronisms that I missed and the story is not a perfect one, but I enjoyed Walkabout primarily for the survival aspect. Peter worked to learn the Aboriginal language during their days in the desert; Mary did not. But, the level of communication, while shallow, was enough that even when the Aboriginal boy died (the implication being that he willed himself to death after the girl looked at him in shock and he decided she'd seen death in his future) he was able to let them know where they needed to travel to reach water and, therefore, survival. Fascinating but very brief reading. You can finish this one in an hour or two. It's closer to novella length than novel length.

Notes on the movie by the same name: I have not seen the movie based on Walkabout, which my son says is a bit of a cult classic, but there are some significant differences. I read about the movie and decided it definitely isn't something I want to watch, especially since it's so very different from the book. The movie begins with a man taking his children in the desert to kill them, not with children surviving a plane crash.

Addendum: It wasn't till I posted a link to this review that I remembered a second frustration besides the way Mary was treated by the Aboriginal boy and that was the fact that the children called the boy, "Darkie". I kept hoping they'd try to exchange names but it never happened and they continued calling him "Darkie" or referring to him as "the darkie" throughout the story. It's also worth mentioning that the children didn't particularly sound American. They occasionally used expressions I know to be common in the UK.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Marigold and Daisy by Andrea Zuill

Marigold and Daisy is the second book I've read that's both written and illustrated by Andrea Zuill. I'll add a link to the first book in a sec.

Marigold had a good life. And, then her little sister arrived (first as an egg, then a snail). Daisy was adorable. In fact, the other creatures were charmed by everything about her: her swirly shell, her size, her poop (yes, her poop)! Marigold tried to talk to her Dad about Daisy but he just didn't get it. Daisy was, Marigold decided, an evil genius who had set out to conquer the world by being adorable.

Then, things got worse. Daisy started following Marigold around, invading Marigold's personal space, singing loudly. She even tore up Marigold's favorite toy. That was enough to set Marigold on edge. "I'm out of here," Marigold said. 

While munching on a flower, she complained about little Daisy and ended up getting chewed out by a bee. "Hey, Slimy! This flower is mine! Quit munching on it!" the bee shouted.

Amazingly, Daisy came to Marigold's defense and chased the bee away. Now, Marigold and Daisy got along just fine. And, then one day they were called to see their new brothers.

Recommended - I liked Marigold and Daisy better, the more I read it. It's a cute story that does a good job of showing that, yes, a new sibling can be really annoying. But, sometimes a little brother or sister can turn out to be terrific at the least expected moment. My eldest might have appreciated this book, a couple decades ago, when Kiddo came along and everyone thought he was adorable except the big brother whose toys Kiddo kept stealing. A sweet story and I'm particularly fond of Zuill's color-on-white illustrations.

Another book that I reviewed by the same author/illustrator:

Dance is for Everyone by Andrea Zuill

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday Malarkey

When I look at the stack of books I acquired, this week, I feel like one of those characters in a movie who has done something terrible and shouts (as he's being handcuffed), "I can explain!" All of this week's acquisitions were purchased. I'll tell you why there are so many, in a bit.

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • Caesar's Vast Ghost by Lawrence Durrell
  • Three Tales by Gustave Flaubert
  • In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
  • L'Amante Anglaise by Marguerite Duras
  • The Red and the Black by Stendhal
  • The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G. B. Edwards
  • Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymore, an Introduction by J. S. Salinger
  • Emily L. by Marguerite Duras
  • Summer Crossing by Truman Capote
  • The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West
  • Wildlife by Richard Ford 
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
  • The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy
  • The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
  • Some Horses by Thomas McGuane
  • The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley
  • War Birds: Diary of an Unknown Aviator by John MacGavock Grider, Ed. by E. W. Springs
  • The Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino

OK, so why the huge stack? Our local secondhand bookstore (the only bookstore within 30 miles, actually), Pentimento Books, is going out of business. Normally, I seldom go there because they're a bit pricey but at 50% off the prices were reasonable. I decided to focus on books that are either classics or by well-known authors I've enjoyed (I often like their less famous books better), authors I've had on my mental radar but not gotten around to, and WWII.

The WWII pile is not shown, apart from War Birds, because it's doubly embarrassing. I bought Churchill's entire history of WWII in one volume and The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw, along with a very thick "Armed Services Edition" of a History of WWII. A couple of the books in that stack are just random titles that piqued my interest. The Go-Between just sounded fun and I've got one book by Lawrence Durrell, so I bought it a friend. Not pictured is a book I've already read, If This Isn't Nice, What Is? by Kurt Vonnegut. It's a book of speeches which I probably will not recommend, although there are bits of wisdom between its covers. It made me want to read more Vonnegut, so I ordered a couple Vonnegut books and they'll show up in next week's arrivals.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Braving the Wilderness by BrenĂ© Brown
  • The Dry by Jane Harper
  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (ebook)
  • If This Isn't Nice, What Is? by Kurt Vonnegut

Huh. Now that I look back, I can see that I didn't like much of what I finished last week. The Dry is excellent, but Milk and Honey didn't do a thing for me and If This Isn't Nice, What Is? was a bit on the repetitious side. Braving the Wilderness is a book that I sometimes enjoyed and sometimes found a yawn because I honestly could not entirely discern its purpose. But, I'll tell you more about that when I review it. I'll probably do a single post with mini reviews of those three.

Posts since last Malarkey:

Not a big posting week, unsurprisingly after the heavy posting of the week before.

Currently reading:

  • A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole
  • The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Oy. I can't say I'm in love with any of these books, either. A Nest for Celeste is lovely to look at and has its charming moments but it can also be brutal (the mouse watches a rat get killed by the cat of the house, a bunch of people shoot "thousands" of passenger pigeons out of the sky, and then the famous illustrator, Audubon, shoots an ivory-billed woodpecker and lets it slowly die before pinning it up to illustrate). It's harsh, to say the least. The Radium Girls (bought for discussion) is deeply sad because it's the true story of a company hiding the fact that their painting process was causing the slow, torturous poisoning deaths of its former employees -- the reason for all those "burdensome" regulations on corporations in a nutshell. And, Flowers for Algernon is also sad. But, I really want to finish it because I want to get back to reading a classic per month. I'll definitely need to find something a bit more upbeat to read after all this.

No other news, today. It wasn't a particularly eventful week, apart from visits to the bookstore that's going out of business and my very first Paint Night with a friend. We painted a snowman with sand mixed into the paint to give the snow texture and glitter spinkled on top of the snowman's body. Fun!

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Fiona Friday - Princess Izzy

No human fingers were damaged in the making of this image (thank goodness). You can tell she was thinking about getting back at me, though.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe by K. Howes and V. Fabbretti

Magnolia Mudd looks forward to Fridays because on Friday her uncle Jamie comes over to invent with her. Uncle Jamie is different than most adults. He's all about the science.

He says, "We can make it go higher!" and
"A little electricity never hurt anyone." 

Magnolia's favorite invention is the Super Jumptastic Rocket Launcher Deluxe, which runs on "Mudd Power" (a human jumping on an air pad to launch the rocket). It needs a bit of work and Magnolia's looking forward to getting help from Uncle Jamie. But, then he announces that it will have to wait because he's bringing over someone called Miss Emily. Uncle Jamie is getting married. And, he wants Magnolia to be their flower girl.

Uck, the last thing Magnolia wants to do is be a flower girl. How boring. Magnolia asks if she can do something different. Maybe something involving Mudd Power? She tries a number of inventions, none of which are quite right. But, then she comes up with a plan and enlists Emily's help. On the day of the wedding, her Dual-Directional Super-Jumptastic Flower Launcher Deluxe is a hit. Actually, it's a bit of a knock-out for the mailman who gets a bouquet of flowers in his face.

Highly recommended - There's only one minor thing I disliked about Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe and that's the cartoonish illustrations. However, that's simply a taste issue and the storyline - a young inventor kicking science butt - is the kind of girl power book I doubly appreciate now that I have a granddaughter, so it gets my highest recommendation.

Side note: I am loving the girl power trend in picture books. When I think back on my childhood favorite stories, I realize that all of them had heroines who were special in some way - bold, imaginative, gifted with some unusual power. But, I don't recall any of the picture books I loved being female-centric. This is a terrific trend. I've added a "girl power" category to my labels and will add it to some of my older reviews and any real stand-outs I review in the future.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is, as I may have already mentioned, a book I resisted reading because I tend to dislike a Russian setting. I don't know why that is and I do, at times, manage to overcome my resistance but it's a strong one. A selection for discussion in my F2F group, the book was only available in hardback (another thing I try to avoid) so I just decided not to buy it. And, then I missed the meeting. When I was told that the book is "delightful" I was kind of surprised. That was not a word I expected. What did I expect? Oh, probably a lot of dark, dreary scenes with grumpy people stabbing each other in the back . . . in the rain.

The reality of A Gentleman in Moscow could not possibly have been more of a contrast to my expectations. After the Russian Revolution, Count Alexander Rostov is lucky not to have already been killed or put in prison, but being a part of the aristocracy is still a problem. Put under house arrest in 1922 and told he'll be shot if he sets foot outside the Metropol Hotel in Moscow, A Gentleman in Moscow tells the story of the count's decades-long imprisonment, how he survives the passage of time, changes to the hotel and to Russia, and the many friendships he makes over the years.

I adored Count Alexander: his wit, charm, and sense of humor, his relationships, his young friend Nina's boldness and curiosity, the transformation of the Count's life over the decades, the characters in the hotel, and even the way he managed to transform his tiny living quarters. I also loved the fact that there was a character to have fun hating (including a surprising twist in which he gets what's coming to him). A few of my favorite scenes will probably stay with me forever. A couple of them brought tears to my eyes.

Highly, highly recommended to anyone and everyone - Absolutely the most charming, engaging, delightful, smart, funny, magical book I read in 2017.

Definitely should have bought a copy (I'll certainly want to reread it, someday) and I'm very grateful that my friend Linda said, "You really need to read this."

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • The Dry by Jane Harper - purchased
  • Zingerman's Bakehouse by Amy Emberling and Frank Carollo - purchased, but not by me!

It's so unusual for a book that wasn't purchased by me to arrive that I nearly fell out of my seat when I found out Husband had ordered one. But, since we once lived in Ann Arbor, home of Zingerman's Delicatessen, it was also a no-brainer that we'd buy a cookbook if they ever wrote one. Husband has already cooked the "Hot Cocoa Cake", which is so good (and, unfortunately, so pricey) that we generally just buy it for other people and seldom get to eat it ourselves. The flavor was fabulous but the cakes got stuck in their little mini bundt slots, in spite of the pan being well greased, so we have a glass container of Hot Cocoa Cake chunks. I'm okay with spooning out my cake instead of slicing it.

I bought The Dry (which has been on my wish list since shortly after its release) because I've got an ARC of Jane Harper's second book, Force of Nature, and I wanted to read the two books in order but my library system doesn't have a single copy of The Dry. I started reading it last night. A friend has been waiting to discuss it with me and I'm looking forward to that.

In case you're wondering, that's a bookmark from Australia sticking out of The Dry. I try to match my bookmarks to my books in some way - often by color but sometimes by topic or location. One of my recent reads was a perfect match to a paint sample I happened to have, colorwise, so I got a kick out of how perfectly color-coordinated they were every time I picked up the book.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Forty Autumns by Nina Willner
  • The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam

2018 is off to a good start. Forty Autumns is the true story of a single family divided by the Iron Curtain and how different their lives were on opposite sides. The Bones of Grace is the story of a Bangladeshi paleontologist reflecting on the way she hurt other people in her search for self. Both were hard to put down.

Posts since last Malarkey:

I don't know if I'll be able to keep up the same pace, this week, but since reading is like laundry (you never stop wearing clothes or moving on to the next book; therefore, there's never an end), I'd like to at least get December wrapped up for good by finishing off the last of my 2017 reviews, this week. We'll see how that goes.

Currently reading:

  • The Dry by Jane Harper
  • The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
  • Braving the Wilderness by BrenĂ© Brown

I'm enjoying The Dry, so far, and looking forward to discussing it with my friend, Heather. The Radium Girls is also for discussion. A Facebook friend just started up a reading group and The Radium Girls is the first book we'll be discussing. It's heartbreaking but a good reminder of why we need those "burdensome regulations" that protect us from heartless corporations who care only about the bottom line. And, I'm close to finishing Braving the Wilderness. I'll probably finish that one off tonight. I've found it interesting but not necessarily a book that fits my personal needs. The friend who recommended it called it a "comfort read" and I can see how it would be for the right person.

In other news:

I'm still mulling my reading goals for 2018 and I'm not sure I'll ever manage to post about them, but we'll see. Two years ago, one of my reading goals was to read a classic per month and, as I recall, I came very close with a final number of 11 classics read. Last year, I decided to add feminist reading and now I can see that it's better to stick with a single topic. I read a decent number of both classics and feminist books but didn't manage a book per month of either in 2017. However, looking at the classics on my shelves and deciding which one I want to read next has become a habit after two years and I already have chosen my next classic read. So, I feel like the end result was still positive. And, I really enjoyed the feminist reading, so I'll continue to insert some similar titles into my reading, this year.

Do you have any special plans for your reading in 2018?

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Fiona Friday - Cold weather friend

All I have to do is spread a blanket on my lap and I have an instant buddy. Love cold weather for the cuddle 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper is a book I've intended to read for ages. It was a read-along on Twitter, hosted by author Robert Macfarlane, that convinced me to go ahead and acquire a copy. I thought it would be fun to read with a group, to check out other people's thoughts, since this particular book is apparently up there with my favorite, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, as a stand-out childhood read that really means something to people.

I did not even hear about this particular series - the Dark is Rising Sequence - until maybe 10 or 15 years ago. It never even came onto my radar till then (although I would have been the perfect age for it in 1974), so I missed out entirely on the possibility of reading it as a child or young adult.

It wasn't till I opened the book that I realized it's the second book in the sequence. However, the author indicated that the stories each have a different focus so the hero, Will Stanton, is not in the first book. Interesting. At any rate, Will is an 11-year-old who finds out he's an "Old One" in charge of gathering a set of 6 signs (round disks of different materials). As a Seeker of Signs and an Old One, he is preparing for the ultimate battle between Dark and Light.

The writing in The Dark is Rising is lovely but at times inscrutable. I was a little relieved to find that friends who've written their thoughts at Goodreads felt the same. "Wouldn't it have been difficult for a child to understand?" friends and I wondered. It turns out the opposite is true, at least judging from the replies to Robert Macfarlane's first questions -- about the atmosphere, how one felt while reading, whether those who read while young remember where they were, the weather, how they came to read it. As broad as that sounds, those who read it as a child almost all had vivid memories of their first reading. They remembered where they were, whether it was given to them by a relative, found on a shelf, or a librarian encouraged them to check it out, whether they curled up by a fire or on a tall bed to read, whether it was raining or snowing or sunny - the kind of things you only remember when you've had a really meaningful experience.

As to whether or not they understood it as children - most definitely. It was mostly those of us who were reading it for the first time as adults who had difficulty understanding what was going on. One of the people who read it as a child expressed a feeling opposite to my sense that I needed more details to explain to me what was happening. Her opinion: "I liked the way the author gave the reader space to imagine." Ooooh. I know that feeling.

I'm not going to bother with a recommendation. The Dark is Rising Sequence is a fantasy series and you either like fantasy or you don't. I'm iffy. Sometimes I love it, sometimes it loses me. This story was a little of both. There were times I felt completely lost. And, then something would happen or some bit of dialogue would set me straight and I lost that sense of everything swirling around me and things came into focus, at least for a time. It certainly was a unique experience. But, it was not one that was so profoundly moving that I'd rush out to buy the rest of the series. Still, I'm glad I joined in. I didn't say anything; I just read as many of the responses as I could on the first day and that was enough to satisfy my curiosity about how others felt. I knew, at that point, that I could never look at it from the innocent viewpoint of a child but that I could at least enjoy knowing how others felt and what I got out of it, myself. There are definitely some vivid scenes that will stick with me for a long 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

This is going to be another one of those book reviews in which I confess to being the odd reader out. The Power has so many things going for it. It's a favorite of President Obama! Margaret Atwood wrote a positive blurb! It won the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction! It's dystopian!

And, I confess to loving the first 100 pages. It was gripping, unique, the writing is sharp, I was fascinated by the characters. I could barely put the book down. Then, it began to slip and here is probably where my opinion diverges from that of a lot of people who know and appreciate good writing. I didn't like the direction it took. It's not that the writing became any less tight or exceptional. Naomi Alderman is an excellent writer. But, the book didn't fulfill my personal hopes for a world in which the patriarchy is subdued by the sudden acquisition of physical power on the part of women. So, I acknowledge that The Power is an excellent piece of writing but one I grew to dislike because of the direction the author chose to take. It's a taste thing, not a writing thing.

Neither recommended or not recommended - Since I think the one thing I disliked about this book was its direction and the violence that came of the choice on the part of women to abuse power when it came into their hands, I would never tell anyone not to read The Power. But, it wasn't for me.

Incidentally, I decided to skip the synopsis because this one is everywhere, but I'd really like to know what my readers think about how I normally handle reviews. This is something I ponder, now and then (especially at the beginning of a new year). I like to write a brief synopsis -- admittedly, I am often not as brief as I'd like to be -- because when I go to a blog to read someone's thoughts, I don't necessarily know anything about the book they've opted to review. You, the blogger, may be my introduction to a book. I want to know what the story is about before you tell me your thoughts about it. Like everyone else, I hate spoilers. So, when I write a synopsis, I try to avoid them, but I've occasionally been informed about my failures.

Opinions? Thoughts?

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

I guess the first thing you need to know about this book (and maybe the only one, from this blog) is "Everyone liked it better than meeee!" No idea why that's true, but I'm often the odd reader out.

The Last Mrs. Parrish tells the story of a young woman who has chosen a wealthy man as her target for marriage. Amber wants to be wealthy. She has done some research, chosen her target, and studied up on his world and how to work her way into it. Amber buddies up to Daphne Parrish intending, of course, to take her place and using her friendship to determine the individual weaknesses of husband and wife. Will Amber succeed at luring the fabulously wealthy and handsome Mr. Parrish away from his wife Daphne and becoming the next and last Mrs. Parrish?

The book is told in several parts. Part 1 is told from Amber's POV and Part 2 from Daphne's. When you're in Daphne's point of view, things begin to change. You've only seen the marriage from the outside. Daphne's recollections are every bit as shocking as Amber's. While Amber has been studying them, transforming herself, even reading the books they read, she doesn't know what's really going on behind closed doors and you'll begin to wonder, "Who is really being played?"

I found the plotting clever, once I got to the second section and realized what was going on, but I found the first section so hard to buy into that I almost didn't make it that far. The dialogue was particularly flat and lifeless. I only stuck the book out because of a friend's gushy review. In the end, I liked The Last Mrs. Parrish enough to not think of the reading as a waste of my time, but I didn't consider it exceptional in any way. I thought the characters were far too easily manipulated, for one thing. But, it was the atrocious dialogue that killed the book for me.

Neither recommended or not recommended - It's worth noting that just about everyone else seems to love The Last Mrs. Parrish and it is, in fact, a pretty clever idea. But, I was unable to suspend disbelief and gave it an average rating. The positives were the plotting and the quick pace, although there were times I felt bogged down by dull dialogue and disbelief. The book improves after the first section because the second part is where the bones of the plotting are slowly exposed. "Oh," you'll say to yourself. "I had no idea." And, you'll wonder what's going to happen, but you might not care -- at least, I didn't. I think part of my problem was that there's nobody to really root for, possibly because the dialogue makes everyone sound like an automaton. They're not witty characters, although they're intelligent in their own ways.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Spies in the Family by Eva Dillon

Spies in the Family: An American Spymaster, His Russian Crown Jewel, and the Friendship that Helped End the Cold War is part memoir, part spy story about a CIA operative, Paul Dillon, and a Russian spy he handled. That spy, Dmitri Polyakov, was possibly the most important GRU agent ever "turned" by the CIA and the author is the daughter of the CIA operative who worked with him. Eva Dillon weaves her personal story in with the information she learned through personal interviews and extensive reading. But, the focus of the book is on the relationship mentioned in the subtitle: the people the two spies interacted with, the methods of their spycraft, the occasional betrayals and deaths of various spies, and what became of Paul Dillon and Dmitri Polyakov.

I was impressed with the readability of this particular work of nonfiction. Books about intelligence operations can be surprisingly dry or convoluted, but I never had any trouble at all discerning the relationships, remembering the real-life characters and distinguishing them from each other, following the use of various spying tools and methods, etc. In fact, the Cold War is a time period I tend to avoid because the little I've read has been too dry for me.

Not Spies in the Family. The story was told well and felt complete but left me wanting to read more about the Cold War era, particularly espionage memoirs of a similar nature. There's an extensive list of references in the back of the book and I may need to scratch down a few titles before I send my ARC on to Eldest (who is besotted with the Cold War era in the way I am with WWII). Kiddo has been begging me to read a biography of CIA Director William Casey that he loved, as well, and while I've been lukewarm about the subject matter and brushed him off for several years, I've moved the book to my bedroom TBR. My interest in Cold War spying has definitely been piqued.

Highly recommended - A well-written, easily digestible story of two spies, their families, the agencies in which they worked, and the methods they used. Really enjoyed this read and found it was easy to keep all the characters straight. I particularly found the communication methods and tools fascinating. And, I enjoyed reading about what it was like being the daughter of a spy, moving from post to post, while not aware of what her father's job entailed. I gave Spies in the Family 5 stars at Goodreads.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.