Friday, December 08, 2017

A Christmas to Remember by L. Kleypas, L. Heath, M. Frampton, and V. Lorret, and a couple final Fiona Friday pics


I can't leave for a holiday break without being completely caught up! And, I just finished A Christmas to Remember, last night. So . . . one last review, at least for now. I'm not going to stop myself from jumping online to review over the holiday break, if I feel like it, this year. Youngest son is the only person coming home and he isn't going to be around for long, so I'll return or just drop in to do a post or two if I feel like it.

A Christmas to Remember is a book of short stories with a Christmas theme (although, honestly, I don't recall a reference to Christmas in the first story -- I might have just overlooked it). I'm not a regular romance reader, so it's worth mentioning that I may approach this book through a different lens than the romance crowd, although I used to hang out with romance writers and published a romantic short story, myself (long ago, in a land far, far away). I'm completely unfamiliar with all four authors but I've heard the name Lisa Kleypas and her name appears in the largest font, so I presume she's the better known of the four. A little about each:

"I Will" by Lisa Kleypas - With a father on his death bed and threatening to cut off all money (but not the rest of the estate), Andrew, Lord Drake, needs to come up with a solution to convince his father to release the funds. He must find a young lady with an impeccable reputation and convince his father that she has reformed him from his dissolute ways. He convinces Miss Caroline Hargreaves to help him, promising to clear her brother's debts and stop leading him astray. But, Drake is surprised to find that the petite Miss Hargreaves hides a passionate, lovely personality behind her stiff exterior and spectacles. Will she reform the rake or will he use her and leave her hanging?

"Deck the Halls with Love" by Lorraine Heath - Lady Meredith Hargreaves is soon to be wed to Lord Litton, thanks to a kiss in a garden. Caught by her father and brothers, a wedding was considered the only possible solution to her compromising position. And, Lady Meredith thinks Lord Litton will make a fine husband. Months after the Season, she's still stung by the rejection of Alistair Wakefield, the Marquess of Chetwyn. Now, Chetwyn's intended is marrying another man and his sights are back on Lady Meredith. With a Christmas wedding soon to take place, can Chetwyn convince the only woman he ever truly loved that he's right for her?

"No Groom at the Inn" by Megan Frampton - Lady Sophronia Bettesford's father was not wise with his money and now she's on her way to take care of a relative's children and chickens. While she's waiting for her coach to arrive, James Archer shows up and asks her to marry him. Then, he clarifies. He needs a fake betrothed to accompany him to a party in the country. For mere weeks of pretending, he's willing to set her up in a country cottage. Sophronia is thrilled to have her lady's maid restored to her side and no prospect of chickens in her future. But, will she be able to tame the restless traveler who is slowly stealing her heart?

"The Duke's Christmas Wish" by Vivienne Lorret - Ivy Sutherland has passed her season without success and is now firmly planted on the shelf. But, her friend Lilah is in need of a husband and Ivy is certain that the Duke of Vale will perfectly fit the bill. Lodged in the duke's immense castle with at least 100 guests, there are plenty of young ladies from which the duke might choose. But, he's distracted by his science experiments and inventions, especially a formula for marriage that the duke believes will save the trouble of going through that awkward Season business. In his ledger, he says Ivy is of "no consequence". Then, why does he find that he has eyes only for her? And, how can he resist a woman who comes up with a better idea to fix a problem with one of his inventions than he himself has imagined?

So . . . not the typical romance reader and I would not have thought to buy this book, but Avon sent it to me, unsolicited. And, wow, am I happy they did! Some years I'm in the mood for holiday reading, sometimes I avoid it. This year, I was craving a little Christmas spirit and I am perfectly fine with a bit of fluffy, predictable romance. And, for the most part, these stories were very predictable. While the final story, "The Duke's Christmas Wish" was, in my humble opinion, a little rough around the edges, I thought it was the least predictable of the four. But, I enjoyed them all.

My hands-down favorite was the third story, "No Groom at the Inn," by Megan Frampton. Sophronia starts out the story a bit on the stiff side. She doesn't want to be called Sophy or Sophycakes, as James lightly proposes. She has a love of words, her father having played the Dictionary Game with her for many years, and each chapter begins with a quiz - which of the three definitions fits the word? The answers are at the end of the story. There are loads of references to the chickens Sophronia will no longer have to tend, some surprisingly witty dialogue, and a marvelously clever ending in which James plays a game to let Sophy know his feelings have been altered. Even at around 100 pages, I found "No Groom at the Inn" surprisingly convincing because the two characters seem suited to each other. They're able to catch each other's meaning when necessary with vague gestures and their dialogue is frankly adorable. By the end of the story, Sophronia is fine with whatever James wants to call her and even responds in kind.

Highly recommended - I'm not sure how regular romance readers would feel about this set of short Christmas stories, but I loved being swept up in a little holiday romance and thoroughly enjoyed A Christmas to Remember. There were several deflowerings of young ladies, so I added a family warning for those who are sensitive about sex scenes. When I regularly read romance, I favored clean romance but I that was primarily because I prefer that a romance is about the things (apart from sex) that make a relationship magnetic, like what two characters have in common, what makes them laugh or lean in to hear more or think twice about that person that didn't appear to be their type, at first. I thought the interaction between the characters was charming and I was enchanted by all four stories.

Final cat photos! It would be easy to blame today's cat crazies on the unexpected snow we got overnight (!!!!) but they never go outside, so I think it was just cats being normal. Here's a pic of their dust-up, followed by the innocent look, after they finished whacking each other.


Wishing the happiest of holidays to all!

Bookfool, with Isabel, and Fiona

©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, December 07, 2017

November Reads in Review, 2017

Links provided: click on the title to leap to the full review.


November

107. Blackout by Marc Elsberg - The power starts going out in countries across Europe. When a hacker discovers the reason is sabotage, people frantically work to restore power and uncover the culprits while food and medical supplies begin to run low.

108. The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange - A young girl's family moves into an isolated home to recover from grief but things grow increasingly worse when her father leaves home and her mother's mental state declines. Can she save her family? Lyrical writing, scary story.

109. The Underground River by Martha Conway - When a seamstress is caught in a boat explosion and loses the job working for her actress cousin, she gets a new job on a traveling theater on the river that separates slave territory from a free state. What will happen when she is forced to help spirit slaves across the river? A favorite. I absolutely loved this book.

110. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - A little boy escapes the murderer who kills his family and is raised by ghosts. But, the mysterious group that tried to kill him will not give up. A reread; liked it even better the second time.

111. Inky's Great Escape by Casey Lyall and Sebastia Serra - The tale of an octopus who has retired from his job as an escape artist but becomes determined to escape the aquarium where he lives, after he's challenged. Wonderful illustrations, great story, based on a real octopus escape.

112. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie - The classic murder on a train stuck in a snowbank. The train made the book; the mystery didn't do much for me.

113. The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris - The most gorgeous, oversized, illustrated book of words you'll ever see. Humble opinion.

114. Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich - Dystopian fiction about a near future in which climate change has screwed things up and evolution has decided to start going backwards. Loved the writing and characters but the world building was somewhat lacking.

115. The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne - Cyril loves Julian. Julian loves women. Ireland hates gays. An absolutely brilliant story of what it was like to live as a gay man in Ireland, from birth in the 1940s to present day. Immersive, funny, horrifying. One of the best novels I've read, this year.

116. Quackery by Lydia Kang and Nate Pederson - Delightfully silly, a bit gross, and heavily, beautifully illustrated nonfiction about the really bad ways people have tried to cure each other of ills, over the past couple thousand years.

117. Animal Expressions by Judith Hamilton - A small, stunning book of animal photographs with quotations that fit the image.


©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.

October Reads in Review, 2017

Wow, October was quite a month, thanks to all the children's books I read! Look at that stack. Links to full reviews are provided, below (just click on the title).


October

88. Iowa: Poems by Lucas Hunt - Just what it sounds like, a book of poetry about Iowa written by a poet who grew up there. Especially lovely for those of us who came from a small town in the Plains with the wind and the wheat and the beer cans by the dirt road and all that.

89. My Little Cities: London by Jennifer Adams and Greg Pizzoli - London's my favorite city in the world, so naturally this title is my favorite of the four Little Cities board books I reviewed.

90. My Little Cities: New York by J. Adams and G. Pizzoli - The My Little Cities board books are low on words, but info about each location shown is detailed in the back. I discovered I don't know New York all that well, as I recall.

91. My Little Cities: Paris by J. Adams and G. Pizzoli - Paris. Board book. Really cute. Not much else to say, except this series is a great way to introduce extremely small children to cities around the world.

92. My Little Cities: San Francisco by J. Adams and G. Pizzoli - They're also great for travel with very young children because they won't get as beat up as books with tearable pages. I had some minor issues with San Francisco. I mean . . . what's an Embarcadero, anyway? Sure, I've been there but it wasn't clear.

93. Goodnight, Little Bot by Karen Kaufman Orloff and Kim Smith - I would be all over this book if the young robot hadn't eaten batteries. Just too nervous that a child might try to mimic the robot. The illustrations are marvelous.

94. Dough Knights and Dragons by Dee Leone and George Ermos - A boy and a dragon are meant to be mortal enemies but when these two meet and discover their mutual affection for cooking, they become fast friends and come up with a plan to avoid having to try to kill each other. So cute.

95. Rufus Blasts Off by Kim Griswell and Valeri Gorbachev - A book loving and very determined pig wants to go to space and works hard at figuring out the way to make it so. The third of the Rufus books; I advise reading them in order. Rufus is adorable.

96. Gertie Milk and the Keeper of Lost Things by Simon Van Booy - A mysterious island filled with lost things, a girl who has no memory of who she is, a time-traveling car, and a bit of magic make for a cool way to introduce middle readers to some interesting historical events.

97. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch - A scientist who gave up his dream to start a family is kidnapped by another version of himself, one who managed to finish the project he intended to make his life's work. Can he find his way home? By far the most gripping book I recall reading, possibly ever.

98. The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy - After attending a Nazi Youth summer camp, two boys return home to learn their father's business and work on their uncle's boat. When war breaks out, will they be forced to join the Nazis to survive? Very good, but not a favorite WWII book.

99. A Bigger Table by John Pavlovitz - Part memoir, part Christian living, the author tells about how he became a pastor and struggled with his beliefs vs. how the church expected him to behave and eventually, after being fired, began to preach what's in his heart - the concept of opening up the church to anyone and everyone, literally and figuratively building a bigger table like he believes Christ would do. A total comfort read for me.

100. The Goddess of Mtwara and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing, 2017 - A book of African stories (set in many different countries), some a little too African for this reader. The title story was one of my favorites.

101. Bonaparte Falls Apart by Margery Cuyler and Will Terry - A skeleton and his buddies have to figure out a way to keep him from having to constantly chase down the bones that keep falling off of him. He's not a very sturdy skeleton. Super cute.

102. Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu - Admiral Dr. Grace Hopper, that is. A picture biography that tells the story of the woman who was the original coder. Girl power! Get this one for the young girl in your life. It's terrific.

103. The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor - A contemporary/historical blend that tells the story of the two girls who pretended their photos of fairies were real (based on the true story) and the entirely fictional story of a woman who inherits a bookstore, reads about the Cottingley fairies, and realizes she hasn't been true to herself. Absolutely charming.

104. We Wish for a Monster Christmas by Sue Fliess and Michael Michell - Two children wish for a monster for Christmas, their parents say "no" but Santa brings one, anyway. Havoc ensues. Lovely illustrations, slightly awkward rhyme.

105. The Bear Who Didn't Want to Miss Christmas by Marie Tibi and Fabien Ockto Lambert - Bear hibernation is always messing up Christmas. Good thing friends are willing to party early. An old theme, nicely told with cheerful illustrations.

106. Mice Skating by Annie Silvestro and Teagan White - One of my favorite children's books of the month, the story of a mouse who loves winter but has to really work at convincing her friends to come out of their nice, warm home to share in the fun. Wondrous, sepia-tinted charm, lovely writing, and cheese jokes.


©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.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

All the leftovers - More Was Lost by Eleanor Perenyi, The Goddess of Mtwara, and The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

I haven't skipped reviewing many books, lately, but there are a handful I haven't gotten around to -- all purchases -- so I'm going to do a quick wrap-up of those, before writing my October and November review posts.

More Was Lost by Eleanor Perenyi is a memoir that tells the story of a WWII-era romance. The author met and fell in love with a Hungarian baron in 1937, at the age of 19, while on a European tour. His family owned a castle and a working farm with a number of outbuildings, although not the kind of crenellated stone building that one typically sees in picture books or photos (there's a photo section in the NYRB Classics edition, shown at left). After their marriage, the couple moved into the family castle and set about bringing the farm back to life and eventually dealing with the changes wrought by WWII.

The majority of the book describes the romance and the author's everyday life, running a large household and farm, learning the Hungarian language, rearranging the castle to suit their needs, interacting with the locals, the farm workers, society, and family, and the complexities of the changing borders. I don't know that I ever fully understood or followed the the intricacies of what was going on around the castle and the reasons it came in and out of the family's ownership (although I got the gist of it) because I'd never heard of some of the ethnic groups in the area. It was a little challenging to sort out their characteristics and the details of the changing political situation. But, I found More Was Lost immensely entertaining.

Highly recommended - Eleanor Perenyi was one determined and impressive woman. For a 19-year-old to marry the man of her dreams, in spite of expectations, and not only learn the language and how to run a farm and maintain a castle but deal with the coming war and the changing political situation was pretty astounding. The ending is fairly sad, but I found this memoir charming and a very enjoyable read.

The Goddess of Mtwara and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing, 2017 is a book I bought when I had time to waste while waiting for a flight at O. R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. The stories are so diverse that it's almost impossible to describe them all, plus I spaced the reading out pretty dramatically. Some are so very, very African -- with words from various African languages mixed into the text -- that I found them difficult to follow and longed for a glossary. Others were only different from other English language stories in their setting or their very uniquely African type of magical realism. Some were favorites, some less so because they were disturbing and one was almost completely incomprehensible to me (I ended that one feeling as if it was, perhaps, a bit of experimental writing).

Recommended, if you happen to be in South Africa. There's not even an image of The Goddess of Mtwara at Goodreads, so I presume it's not an easy book to get hold of outside of South Africa, but I would definitely recommend it to those who are interested in reading some uniquely African writing.

I kind of hate not writing a full post about The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris but I'll try to show and describe as much as I can in a small space. I think I've mentioned the fact that I started following Robert Macfarlane - an Oxford professor, collector of words, naturalist, and author - earlier this year. I'm not sure of the accuracy of what I've read, but somewhere I read that The Lost Words is the result of his determination to bring words that were being taken out of the Oxford English Dictionary back into use after he heard they were being removed.

The resulting children's book is beyond impressive, a book of words in which each letter of the word has a sentence of its own. Kingfisher, for example:

Kingfisher: the colour-giver, fire-bringer, flame-flicker, river's quiver.
Ink-black bill, orange throat, and a quick blue, back-gleaming feather stream.
Neat and still it sits on the snag of a stick, until with . . .
Gold-flare, wing fan, whipcrack the kingfisher - zingfisher, singfisher! -
Flashes down too fast to follow, quick and quicker carves its hollow
In the water, slings its arrow superswift to swallow
Stickleback or shrimp or minnow.
Halcyon is its other name - also ripple calmer, water nester,
Evening angler, weather-teller, rainbringer and
Rainbow bird - that sets the stream alight with burn and glitter!
I don't have a photo of the kingfisher spread but here's an interior shot of one of the other illustration spreads -- some of the artwork is across a single, facing page, some spans two:


This is an oversized book, probably what one would call coffee-table sized and it is absolutely breathtaking.

Highly recommended - Spectacular in every way, with beautiful, poetic wording and stunning illustrations. The book is British and a bit pricey (I ordered my copy from Book Depository) but worth it. There are some British spellings (like colour in the kingfisher wording, above) and at least one word that may not be familiar to Americans: "conker". A conker is a kind of nut that you'll occasionally read about in British lit, mostly in regards to children playing games with them, but I can't say I know what kind of nut it is - from what tree, that is. No biggie; it's an excuse to learn something new and I can't imagine any word-loving, reading fanatic child not falling instantly and deeply in love with this book.

OK, this is all the leftovers but one. I just noticed I missed one book. I don't want to make this post any longer, so I'll save it for another day.

©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.

When They Call You a Terrorist: a Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele


I love reading memoirs but sometimes they just rip your heart out and that's the case with When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Kahn-Cullors, the story of the author's life and how she and two other women came to found the Black Lives Matter movement.

Beginning with her childhood in Van Nuys, California, Kahn-Cullors describes what it was like growing up impoverished, hungry, black, constantly dogged by law enforcement, and without much parental guidance. The author had 3 siblings and her mother, originally from a middle class background, was forced to fend for herself after her family kicked her out for becoming pregnant at 16. From the time she was small, the author knew her mother as a woman who left for work before dawn and came home late at night, working 2 or 3 jobs just to get by. Her father came and went after he lost his factory job and, eventually, Kahn-Cullors found out that she had a different biological father from that of her siblings. Both were unreliable in their own ways, so young Patrisse looked up to her brothers, the only reliable men in her life.

The author became aware of how black people were singled out by police at an early age, noting that the black people around her were treated differently by the court system, almost expected to become criminals, even in schools. The latter is something I was aware of when my children were in school. Posted in the window of the middle school office and outside the high school office were posters listing crimes and their likely punishments. I tried, unsuccessfully, to get them removed.

The author is bisexual (she prefers the term "Queer"), her eldest brother has a severe mental illness, and the entire family has been impacted by the targeting of blacks that came about due to the so-called "War on Drugs," so she has a lot of different challenges to tackle and all are described in gut-wrenching detail. Her experiences led her to become an activist at a young age and she describes the various movements that she participated in before she and two other women founded the Black Lives Matter movement.

What a shocking, horrifying, eye-opening read. One of the biggest surprises: I had no idea that the Black Lives Matter movement was founded by women and is still a women's movement. Kahn-Cullors expressed her frustration about this. There are men who participate and even they were well aware that in our patriarchal society the press gravitates toward the men for statements. I found myself nodding. Had the press focused on the fact that women founded the BLM movement, I wouldn't have gone into the reading of Patrisse Kahn-Cullors' memoir thinking otherwise.

The author talked about other efforts she's been involved in, besides the attempt to bring awareness to how the police and court systems treat black men vs. how they treat others. Some of those efforts were finding success until the recent presidential election set them back: the attempt to halt the building of prisons and instead funnel public funding into programs that positively impact impoverished communities, for example, and the effort to demilitarize police forces.

I found the challenge the author's brother and her family have faced, just in dealing with his mental illness, particularly interesting because it touches on a subject I've heard about, the fact that police officers are either not trained to discern the difference between mental illness and deliberate violence or too focused on racial profiling. I've heard of cases in which family members carefully warn police officers that someone is mentally ill and needs to be approached a certain way, only to be met with (often deadly) force, instead. The author speculates that the trauma of being targeted by police, treated violently, left without parents or support when their elders are imprisoned, and being imprisoned for offences in which nobody is harmed may even be the source of some mental illness. It took quite a few terrifying years and two imprisonments before her own brother even had a solid diagnosis, more time to get his medication balanced properly, and a continuing effort by a network of family and friends to keep him on his medication and get him the proper help when he needs it.

Highly recommended - A rough read, but a good one, I spent a great deal of my reading time with tears in my eyes. Some readers might feel a little judgmental about many of the details of Kahn-Cullors' life. She's not straight, her mother had 4 children by two different men, and drugs were, in fact, a common problem in her community. It's important to look past what some of us may consider "sinful" and think, instead, "What can we do to stop the impoverished from taking drugs, getting pregnant young, etc., in the first place? What societal changes will help stop the destructive patterns?" Kahn-Cullors offers up some solutions: creating green spaces, offering support to those who have parents in prison, providing medical and mental healthcare, feeding those who are hungry. I hope this memoir will help to open a few more eyes to the dramatic inequalities faced by black Americans.


©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.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Animal Expressions by Judith Hamilton



Animal Expressions by Judith Hamilton is a small (large postcard sized, about 6" x 4") book of wildlife photography with quotations on the opposite side of each spread. The quotation opposite the cover photo, for example, says this:

In art and dreams, you may proceed with abandon. 
In life, you must proceed with stealth.
--Patti Smith

At only 72 pages in length and such a compact size, my first thought when I read it was, "Stocking stuffer!" It is, in fact, the perfect size for a stocking stuffer for the nature lover in your world. My eyes are getting old, so I'd love to see a larger version of Animal Expressions. It appears to be self-published, though, so I imagine that's where the size choice comes in. All of the photos are sharp, expressive, and beautiful. Even though it's small, it would be nice to plunk on a coffee table for guests to flip through.

Recommended - Gorgeous photos, fitting quotations, and half of the proceeds of Animal Expressions will go to a good cause: the Wildlife Conservation Society, where the photographer author has been a trustee for 15 years. Definitely perfect for gift-giving.

©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.

Quackery by Lydia Kang, MD and Nate Pedersen


I have a fascination for medical history and Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen, is a wacky look at the way medical practitioners -- going back thousands of years -- have attempted to treat illness, often poisoning, harming, or even killing patients in the process.

The first chapter, about such wondrous techniques as "purging" (from both ends) by way of various poisonings, is by far the most stomach turning. I'm glad to say that most of the remaining chapters (opiods, water treatment, mesmerism, bleeding, etc.) are an improvement, horrifying as they may be. Except maybe the one in which people were burned in one spot to stop pain in another. Ouch.

The authors insert a bit of the gallows humor medical practitioners are known for, throughout the book. If you've got medical professionals in your family or circle of friends, you know that's pretty common. I found the use of dark humor a tiny bit annoying, at first, even though I literally laughed out loud at least once. But, I became accustomed to the writing style and eventually it didn't faze me at all.

I found a few little tidbits particularly interesting, such as the information on leeches (still used in medicine, though more sparingly - eww) and the actual story of the first "snake oil" salesman from which we get the term that describes quack cures. But, I was particularly fascinated with the general impression I got about today's quackery. Yes, we still have quack cures popping up in our modern world. But, it's interesting to note that even some of today's fast fixes and medical advice have roots in fad "cures" of another century and that while most of what's mentioned in the book failed miserably, some real, functioning cures were merely poisonous at the wrong dosages and are effective, today.

The only problem I had with this book is that all of the image captions but one (not sure why there was one exception) were written in Latin. Update: At the time I wrote this, I had no way of finding out whether or not the captions in the final print copy were English or they'd left them those annoying Latin captions in place. Fortunately, a friend is reading Quackery and she said the final print version does have English captions beneath the photos and illustrations. Whew! Thanks, Michelle!

Highly recommended for history lovers with strong stomachs - You can't be faint of heart to read Quackery (well . . . maybe you can, but you'll need to take breaks), but it's very entertaining and definitely a book I'd recommend to those who like quirky history in general, medical history in particular, and gorgeous enough to make a great gift idea. I received an ARC from Workman Publishing and the ARC is entirely printed in black and white, but the final print version is, according to the publicity info, full color. Even in black and white the illustrations are stunning so I'm planning to seek out the full color version, if only to peek inside and see what it looks like.


©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.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Monday Malarkey



Recent arrivals (top to bottom): 


  • Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You by Donna Decker
  • Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
  • The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville
  • Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, and Double Lives by Tina Alexis Allen
  • The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
  • Lottery by Patricia Wood
  • Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy


Only one of these books was sent to me by a publisher: Hiding Out by Tina Alexis Allen. The rest were purchased for a whopping quarter each in the little corner of my former library where used books are sold for 25 cents per inch, stacked. So . . . $1.50 for the 6 of them, which makes abandoning the bad ones soooo easy. Lottery is an extra copy. One of my favorite books of the past decade, I couldn't pass up the chance to have a copy to pass around (I can't bear to loan out my own precious copy).


Books finished since last Malarkey:


  • Quackery by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen
  • When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Kahn-Cullors and Asha Bandele

I was so immersed in both of these books that I didn't even start reading any fiction for at least 4 or 5 days, last week. 



Posts since last Malarkey:




Currently reading:


  • A Christmas to Remember by Kleypas, Heath, Frampton, and Lorret 
  • Spies in the Family by Eva Dillon 


I've read the first two stories in A Christmas to Remember and they're (not entirely clean) fluffy romance but I enjoyed them and am looking forward to the remaining two. The first story . . . I'm not sure I ever got a sense of the Christmas season at all, but I liked the predictability of the romance. Sometimes predictability is comforting.

Spies in the Family is a book I started while on vacation but abandoned because I could only handle one book at a time, while traveling. I didn't make it far, the first time, but I was enjoying it so I'm looking forward to this second attempt (only on p. 8, at this point).


In other news:

A bit of trivial info about Lottery, for you. I normally don't remember character names unless a book has a huge impact on me, and it's been . . . oh, maybe 10 years? . . . since I read Lottery. I decided to test myself and managed to spit out 3 character names - Perry, Keith, and "a grandmother, but I can't remember what they called her." Sure enough, Perry was the main character, the grandmother was called Gram, and Keith was Perry's friend. I had to flip through the book to make sure, but the fact that I remember not one but 3 characters shows you just how much that book means to me.

I'm going to try to wrap up my final reviews, this week, and then go ahead and start my holiday break on Saturday. That means today's Monday Malarkey will be the last one for a few weeks. However, I'll keep writing posts until I'm completely caught up. I need to post about my October and November reads, as well. So much to do. I'll let you know when I'm caught up and ready to leave for my Christmas break. Happy Monday!

©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.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Fiona Friday

Izzy says, "Hey, there!"

©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, November 30, 2017

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne


Oh, no, not again. I keep looking at this empty post and thinking, "Where do I start?" Sigh. Time for another self-interview. Today, I'm going to be interviewed by the little green dragon on my desk. Normally, he just stands around looking like he's going to incinerate my pink fairy but I keep her in a jar to protect her and she can use a day off from being stared at by a dragon, so . . . off we go.

Green Dragon (GD): Please let me eat the fairy.

Bookfool (BF): Nope, sorry, not happening.

GD: Bummer. So, tell us about The Heart's Invisible Furies.

BF:  The Heart's Invisible Furies is the story of an Irishman's life that spans many decades. Cyril Avery's story begins with his mother, who is thrown out of her hometown at the age of 16 when she falls pregnant. She moves to Dublin and there she gives birth. The story then leaps ahead to when Cyril is 7 years old and living with his adoptive parents and follows him throughout his life, from the point of his realization that he's attracted to other boys to when he's a man in his 70s. The Heart's Invisible Furies gives you a good overview of life as a gay man across the many years of Cyril's life, from his birth in the 1940s, through the AIDS crisis, and into the present.

GD: So, what did you love most about the story?

BF: The depth of story and characterization. The Heart's Invisible Furies has almost a saga feel, even though it spans a single lifetime. It's just beautifully expansive. I immediately was drawn in by John Boyne's immense descriptive power as he began the story with young Catherine's removal from the church, which was both serious and light-hearted at the same time. The description of Catherine's brothers is a good example of the light-hearted side:

My six uncles, their dark hair glistening with rose-scented lacquer, sat next to her in ascending order of age and stupidity. Each was an inch shorter than the next and the disparity showed from behind. The boys did their best to stay awake that morning; there had been a dance the night before in Skull and they'd come home moldy with the drink, sleeping only a few hours before being roused by their father for mass.

~from p. 1 of Advance Reader's Edition, The Heart's Invisible Furies (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

GD: And, what did you dislike about the story?

BF: Only one thing and it was never enough to make me even remotely consider putting the book down. Wading through the years of promiscuity was rough. In Ireland, it was illegal to be gay and not unusual for someone to get the crap beat out of him, get arrested, or worse. So, for many years, Cyril ends up furtively seeking out sex in places where other gay men are known to hang out: bathrooms, parks. There are no relationships; it's just quick fixes to satisfy their libido. That was rough reading, not just because you know that Cyril (who is a really nice guy, in general, but perhaps too shy for his own good) could be arrested or brutalized but also because it's just so very, very sad that it wasn't possible for Cyril to just be himself. He always felt like he had to keep his true self in the shadows.

GD: There's another thing you want to mention that you loved.

BF: What a mind reader you are, little green dragon! Yes, I loved the way the story is brought full circle. It's not a spoiler to mention this, by the way -- it's mentioned in the first chapter -- but the story begins with Catherine getting kicked out of her hometown and ends shortly after her return to the graveyard where most of the family she left behind is now buried. There's another scene beyond that but it's a spoiler, so I can't share, but it ends on an uplifting note and I loved it.

GD: How did you feel about the main character, Cyril?

BF: I liked Cyril and thought he was a good person, at heart, but there were times I wanted him to speak up, especially when he was with those closest to him. While the author makes it clear how dangerous it was for a homosexual to share his truth in Ireland, till recently, even with family or close friends, I still yearned for Cyril to find the strength to tell the people most important to him -- especially when he knew that not sharing could be hurtful to others. Incidentally, the relationship between Cyril and his best friend Julian is also at the heart of the story.

GD: Anything else worth mentioning?

BF: Oh, yes, my favorite interactions and characters. There's a very strong-willed but kind woman who keeps reappearing, over the years. You can't help but love everything about her and the scenes with her and Cyril are all great. Cyril's best friend, Julian, also has a sister who makes a brief appearance early in the book and then Cyril gets to know her years later. I always loved their conversations. They were among the most entertaining in the book. I also found Maude Avery, Cyril's adoptive mother, a fascinating character. I have a feeling she was among the most fun to create, from an author's viewpoint: a published writer who thought recognition was tawdry but who became posthumously famous. The relationship between Cyril and his adoptive parents (and their insistence that he call them by their names because he was not "a real Avery") never lost the gloss of its silliness.

GD: So, what's the bottom line?

BF: Highly recommended, especially to those who love a novel that you can really sink your teeth into. The Heart's Invisible Furies is almost 600 pages long, brilliantly constructed, clever, and deeply meaningful. I'm leaving out certain details that I'd love to talk about because I personally enjoyed the unfolding of the story, the struggles, and the surprises so much, but the bottom line is that I absolutely loved this book and want to read everything John Boyne has written, now. I appreciated his stunning descriptive powers, the balance of serious storyline and quirky characters, the fact that the book made me think, broke my heart, and mended it. I closed The Heart's Invisible Furies with happy tears in my eyes. I've read a lot of wonderful books, this year, but The Heart's Invisible Furies is really something special.

GD: I have to go incinerate someone, now. Thanks for asking me to interview you. It was not as fun as breathing fire, but it was nice and all.

BF: Uh, you're welcome?

Cover thoughts: While I like the looks of the cover shown above, I don't understand its purpose and I like a book cover that speaks to me in some way or really relates to the storyline. There are several other covers (not all English printings) that I found more fitting:


The one at left (apparently, the Brazilian cover) speaks to me of Cyril's loneliness during a good portion of his life, when he had friends but not the love and companionship that he desired. The other two images relate to the friendship between Cyril and Julian, which dominates a good portion of the book.

End note: This is my first read by John Boyne. Surprising, considering how much I love WWII fiction. I don't have the foggiest idea why I haven't read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, the author's best-known title, but it is definitely going on my wish list.


©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.