Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Inky's Great Escape by Casey Lyall and Sebastia Serra

This is the last review of 4 children's book reviews I've posted, today. 2 were Christmas stories, 1 a winter tale. I'm taking the rest of the week off for the Thanksgiving holiday, since I have family in town, and I'll return next Monday. Happy Thanksgiving, American friends!

Subtitled The Incredible (and Mostly True) Story of an Octopus Escape, Inky's Great Escape is the story of an octopus who is retired from being an escape artist. Now living in a local aquarium to rest, Inky enjoys playing games with his pal Blotchy (also an octopus) and telling him stories about his great escapes. One day, Blotchy tells Inky he doubts Inky can escape the aquarium and Inky sees it as a challenge. He draws up a plan and then waits for the right opportunity, which turns out to be an opening left in the tank by one of the keepers.

Of course, in real life the octopus was not probably a dramatic storyteller (who knows -- you'd have to speak Octopus) but Inky's Great Escape really is based on the true story of an octopus who slipped out of his tank and down a drain into the sea at the National Aquarium of New Zealand. In the book, Inky comes back to visit by way of the drain, telling the stories of his great escapes. In real life, I presume he never returned.

Highly recommended - A wonderful story, colorful and funny and sweet. When Inky's Great Escape landed on my doorstep, I read it aloud to my husband. He's not really all that interested in listening to children's books but he eventually set down his phone and smiled. Inky's story is fun to read and very entertaining. It's boldly colored with cheerful-looking animals. Children will love the idea of a playful octopus taking a challenge, succeeding, and coming back to visit his friend.

Note about the cover: You can't tell in the image above, but the blue-green background of the cover has a gorgeous metallic sheen. It's also notable that every spread is as colorful as the cover (not always the case). Absolutely eye-popping illustrations.

©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.

Mice Skating by Annie Silvestro and Teagan White

Lucy is not like the other mice, who huddle in their burrows during the winter. She likes everything about winter. But, she isn't having any luck convincing her friends to go outdoors. She's tried bringing them snowcones, staging an indoor snowball fight, and showing them an icicle without convincing them.

After Lucy discovers how much fun it is to slide around on homemade ice skates, she comes up with an idea and quietly works in her room. Everyone's curious what she's up to. Finally, Lucy finishes her job and gives each of her friends a warm hat. Then she asks them to follow her outdoors, where Lucy shows them how she ice skates.

She spriraled and swirled,
swizzled and twizzled, 
She was flying!

"Marvelous!" cried Mona.
"Spectacular!" called Millie.
"Brie-vissimo!" cheered Marcello.
"We want to try!" squeaked her friends. 

Besides the hats, Lucy has made each of her friends a pair of ice skates from pine needles. They teeter, wobble, and fall, but eventually their practice pays off. Now, they understand the joy of winter.

Highly recommended - A delightful winter tale about one little mouse sharing her greatest joy with her reluctant friends. Mice Skating by Annie Silvestro and Teagan White is my favorite of the three books in this batch. I love everything about it: the storyline, the softly colored illustrations, the beautiful writing, the cheese jokes. If you live in a hot climate like I do, you and the children in your world might be tempted to pull it out in the summer to remember cooler days and it serves as a great reminder of all the things that make winter fun.

©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.

The Bear Who Didn't Want to Miss Christmas by Marie Tibi and Fabien Ockto Lambert

In The Bear Who Didn't Want to Miss Christmas, all the animals (each labeled with their name in the first spread) are excited about Christmas and talking about what they plan to ask for, except Little Bear. Little Bear is sad, he explains, because he always misses Christmas. Every year, he hibernates:

Oswald the wise owl explained, 'Yes, it's true, bears go to sleep before the big freeze comes and they don't wake up until the warm days of spring arrive." 

Oswald wonders if there's anything they can do to help Little Bear experience "the magic and wonder of Christmas" and Bill the badger has an idea. They can celebrate an Almost Christmas. Big Deer asks Little Bear to go for a walk while the others prepare Little Bear's home with food, decorations, and gifts, including a banner that says, "Merry Almost Christmas". After the celebration, Little Bear beds down for his long winter nap, looking forward to sweet dreams.

Recommended - I've read similar books about animals who are going to miss Christmas because of their annual hibernation, so this particular theme of celebrating Christmas early isn't a particularly new or fresh one. And, yet, the story is heartwarming. If you have small children and they don't already own a book with a similar storyline, The Bear Who Didn't Want to Miss Christmas is a good one, with cute animal illustrations, a theme of caring for friends by filling a need, and a sweet, uplifting ending.

©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.

We Wish for a Monster Christmas by Sue Fliess and Claudia Ranucci

Time for a few Christmas books! I have three children's Christmas/winter books to review and one regular children's title, so this will be the first of four reviews posted today, all of which were sent to me by Sterling Books for review.

Our monster is causing trouble.
Request backup on the double!
The playroom has turned to rubble, 
which we have to clear. 

We Wish for a Monster Christmas by Sue Fliess, illustrated by Claudia Ranucci, is the story of two children who wish for a monster for Christmas and get what they asked for but find that monsters are troublesome. The book has a rhyming pattern that matches that of the song "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". You'll need to read through it before reading it to children to familiarize yourself with the rhythm. I personally found it a little unpredictable when the rhymes will match the pattern of regular verses and when they end up matching that of the bridge (the part that goes "Good tidings to you, wherever you are," in the song), although I'm sure that's not a problem once you've familiarized yourself with the book. I read the book aloud to my cats, figured out the trick pretty quickly, and finished off singing the final pages.

As to the story, it's super cute. The two unnamed children in the book imagine how fun it will be to play with a monster. But, their parents tell them you can't rent or buy a monster and the answer to their request is "no". It doesn't occur to them that Santa may be willing. So, the children end up receiving their monster from Santa and he doesn't turn out to be their idealized playmate at all. Instead, he trashes the house and has to be sent outdoors, where he makes a very nice guard and is more tolerable for play. The book ends with the children planning what they'll ask to receive for Christmas, next year: five hundred monkeys!

Recommended - While I was a little put off by the rhythm (sometimes, I really think it's best just to write a children's book in prose rather than trying something fancy), I like the story and I love the illustrations. They're vibrant with plenty of action, so it's a particularly good picture book for little ones who can't yet read and enjoy looking pictures; the story is clear from the illustrations alone. My favorite spread is the final one, in which the illustrator imagines what it will be like getting monkeys for Christmas in the coming year. It's got so much going on it'll keep little eyes busy searching out the details.

©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, November 20, 2017

Monday Malarkey

It's a holiday week in the U.S., so I'm going to do my Monday Malarkey post, as usual, and then tomorrow will be a day for children's books (mostly Christmas titles). After that, I think I'll take a few days off to enjoy family and return on Monday. So, early Thanksgiving wishes to the Americans and safe travels to those who will be flying or driving!

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • The Living Mountain - Nan Shepherd
  • Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane
  • The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane
  • How to Stop Time (illustrated edition) by Matt Haig and Chris Riddell
  • The Hidden Ways by Alistair Moffat
  • The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

Apart from the illustrated version of How to Stop Time (which I've already read but have been thinking I want to reread, ever since I finished it), this week's books are all by naturalists and the entire stack was purchased. I've been following Robert Macfarlane on Twitter for a while and I love his posts. It was his recommendation of The Living Mountain that set me on the path of this crazy spree and, yes, the "If you like this, try that" thing probably did me in a bit. I had planned on buying The Lost Words, anyway, so The Living Mountain and The Lost Words were the first in my cart. I'd just read there's an illustrated edition of How to Stop Time. Into the cart it went. And, so forth. I think it's partly Macfarlane's posts and partly a desire to get away from city vacations that have me craving nature, both in my reading and in real life. It'll be interesting to see where we end up traveling in 2018.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  • The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

I have thoughts about the latter two so I'd really like to get the reviews written before I shut down for the holiday but I don't know if I'll have time. Short version: I want to see the new Orient Express movie and ohmygosh, The Lost Words (a children's book) is breathtaking. The illustrations alone are worth the price (would make a great Christmas gift).

Posts since last Malarkey:

Most of those posts were made in a single day because I was foggy from migraine meds and decided I might as well write a few reviews if I wasn't up to much else. So many terrific reads in that bunch. 

Currently reading:

  • Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich - Believe it or not, this is my first by Erdrich. I'm enjoying it, although there are things about the dystopian world that I don't understand (or, maybe don't find well enough explained). I should finish it, today. 
  • Quackery by Lydia Kang - I set this aside to finish The Graveyard Book and Murder on the Orient Express but I'm pleased to report that after the first section, the quack cures described have been decidedly less disgusting than the earlier ones, which basically amounted to poisoning patients (often to death). 

In other news:

I need some local friends to dump books on. Anyone want to move near me and be my book buddy?

©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, November 17, 2017

Iowa: Poems by Lucas Hunt + a Fiona Friday pic

I haven't read any poetry in quite some time so I was super excited to get a copy of Iowa by Lucas Hunt. I've read two other volumes of poetry by the author and enjoyed them both.

Iowa is just what it sounds like: poetry set in the state of Iowa, where the author grew up. Because I grew up in the Plains, there is a lot of subject matter I totally relate to in Iowa. Here's a great example:

They take the air like words in blue display,
planes of rain that pass with outspread wings
and ride round the sky in sure, slow turns
to hunt hypnotic, float and dive--
birds witness wider fields,
their eyes survey a storm and pass
through light that changes everything in space.
~p. 19

The author has a lovely way of bringing the experiences of growing up in Iowa to life, whether he's talking about riding a bike down a dusty road or lying in a corn field with a girlfriend, the type of beer can you're most likely to see by the road, the experience of working on a farm. It's all very reminiscent of home to someone who grew up in similar territory. I got a particular buzz out of any poem with wind and wheat, my two favorite things about Oklahoma. Seriously, I love wheat fields.

Here's another excerpt (not the full poem):

Rusty and dusty on blacktop pavement
American flags in yards
train trestles piled by the tracks
country on the radio
deer sausage
chills in the bed of our Chevrolet.

~from "Wheatland Car Wash", p. 65

Highly recommended - A wonderful, transportive volume of poetry full of slice-of-life Americana in verse. You'll especially love this book if you appreciate the Plains or you're from Iowa, but there's something for every poetry lover in Iowa.

And, it's Friday but I didn't take any great photos of the cats, this week, so Fiona Friday is a cheat -- one of the photoshopped pictures of my girls that were done by people in my online cat group, this one of a conga line by Lauren Boutz. I can't look at this without smiling.

©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 16, 2017

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - Thoughts and F2F group discussion

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was a reread for me and I'm not sure I ever actually wrote about it on the blog when I read it, before. At least, I couldn't find a review when I looked via Google. Incidentally, this serves as a great reminder that my blog search feature has not worked in years. The best way to look for a review on my blog is to go to Google and type in the title of a book you hope I've reviewed and "Bookfoolery". If I've reviewed the book at this blog (or even mentioned it), there will be a link.

Back to the book. The first time I read The Graveyard Book, I checked it out from my local library because I've always been a little iffy about Gaiman. I fall instantly in love with about half of his books and the other half are let-downs. I never know which will be the case and will often check his books out from the library before buying them.

I remembered exactly why I didn't love The Graveyard Book, the first time. It's got a pretty scary opening. At the beginning, a toddler's family is murdered but he's saved by the fact that he's a wanderer and the door to the house was left open. After roaming to the local graveyard (which is also a nature reserve and has been closed to new burials for some time), the murderer pursues him but the ghosts in the graveyard agree to let one ghostly couple adopt him and to work together to protect him from the man who wants him dead.

It was the gory opening that I disliked. I'm prone to nightmares and have been since I was small, so I tend to be sensitive to books that are marketed to children but which I think could give some of them nightmares. And, The Graveyard Book certainly would have given me nightmares as a child.

On the second reading, though, I knew what was coming and enjoyed it for the atmosphere, the unique setting, and the story. I didn't mind the murder at all because I knew it had to happen for little Nobody Owens, or "Bod", to enter the world of the ghosts in the graveyard. In other words, I was free to appreciate the book, the second time. And, boy, did I. Especially at the beginning of the book, I could imagine reading the book aloud to children. It's so beautifully written and atmospheric, just a stunning beginning with fog creeping around the door frame and this giggly little child completely unaware of the danger while you're thinking, "Hurry, child, hurry," and feeling the chill in the air.

And, then, the happenings in the graveyard are both wildly creative and somehow believable.  "What would happen to a human who grew up with ghosts?" One of the group members asked, and then answering herself, said: "He'd learn to fade." In other words, those little magical touches within the book seem utterly sensible, given the context.

We didn't do a show of hands but I'd say more than half of my group liked The Graveyard Book. Of the ones who didn't like it, one said it was just too geared toward children and he's not really interested in children's books. One was the member who had stopped discussion of Gaiman completely when I tried to recommend his books for discussion, earlier in the year, and she said she's just not interested in anything otherworldly at all - ghosts/spirits, scifi, fantasy, etc. She's only interested in realistic fiction. One woman said, "I don't have a problem with that. I've seen ghosts." One said, "I didn't understand the purpose of the murder, apart from placing the child in the graveyard. Why was the murderer after him, in particular?" And, another member said, "I can't analyze books like you guys do, but when I opened the book I stepped into the graveyard with Bod and stayed till I closed it. I enjoyed it. It was an experience."

What a fun discussion! We didn't have any discussion questions and we went off-topic a bit more than I think some of us would have liked to but the discussion was noisy because the opinions were so divided. I was not the only person who had trouble with a book with such a terrifying opening being marketed to children. But, apparently, I'm the only person in my group who hasn't read The Jungle Book. One member commented on the episodic nature of the book (which I noticed this time - it almost felt like interconnected short stories rather than a novel) and the group member who recommended The Graveyard Book noted that it's based on The Jungle Book, so that episodic aspect is deliberate.

OK. So, I have to read The Jungle Book, soon. Fortunately, I have a copy. The bottom line is that I liked The Graveyard Book much more the second time around. Whether or not it's appropriate for children seems to be up for debate, but the writing is stunning, you get a little peek into history via the ghosts from different eras (one of whom, for example, has no idea what a banana is), and it is, in fact, a book that won an award for excellence in children's writing, so somewhere there's a panel of people who thought it was just fine and dandy for kids. I'd still keep it from children who are prone to nightmares or read it with them.

©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, November 14, 2017

The Underground River by Martha Conway

I've read a lot of really terrific books, lately, and The Underground River by Martha Conway is way up high on the list of new favorites.

The year is 1838. May is a seamstress who works for and travels with her cousin Comfort, taking care of all of Comfort's costuming needs as an actress. Comfort has located a job in St. Louis so she and May are traveling on a paddleboat down the Ohio River from Pennsylvania to Missouri when the boilers blow up and their steamboat, the Moselle, sinks. Both May and Comfort survive and are taken in by residents in the closest town but they're left with no money, no possessions, and no jobs.

When Comfort finds employment giving public speeches in favor of abolition, May is no longer needed and the wealthy abolitionist who hired Comfort offers to pay for May's return to Ohio. But, there's nothing waiting for May in Ohio, so she finds a job in a floating theater on a barge. The owner, an actor named Hugo, lost his sister when the paddleboat sank and May works hard at taking her place. As she slowly becomes acquainted with her job and her fellow passengers, May begins to develop independence and confidence, and she finds herself increasingly drawn to Hugo. But, when the abolitionist discovers May didn't use the money given to her to return home, she blackmails May into helping smuggle slaves from the Kentucky side of the river to the free side, a dangerous job that becomes even more perilous when the unexpected happens and May is forced to come up with a creative way to keep herself and a young slave from being caught.

Kind of a long description for a gal who said she was going to try to keep her reviews short but I didn't think the Goodreads synopsis was as accurate as it should have been.

I started reading The Underground River after ditching a book that wasn't working for me and was immediately pulled into the story. May is an introvert and a hard worker, a little lonely but content with her job helping cousin Comfort. But, when Comfort doesn't even defend May against the abolitionist's condescension, May realizes she's on her own.

I liked this new perspective on slavery. The thought that a slave could be separated from freedom by no more than a river was not something that had occurred to me. What must it have been like for a slave to know that some mere line, whether on water or land, separated him or her from freedom? Also, there were some details about escaped slaves that I had given little or no thought to. The Underground River was not just entertaining; it was a learning experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Highly recommended - I loved everything about The Underground River. Martha Conway's writing is lovely, the character development and historical setting perfect, the plotting balanced between some very tense scenes and some that were relaxed and happy, and the ending hopeful. I'm normally not a fan of books with actors or the theater at their heart but there's a mixed bag of personalities on the traveling theater barge. Some I grew to love, some stayed further in the background, some were varying degrees of villainous. May is a wonderful character and I enjoyed accompanying her, seeing her grow into herself, wondering if Hugo was just being polite to her or if his apparent affection was what it appeared (he was an actor, after all). The Underground River completely swept me away and I will absolutely seek out more books by Martha Conway.

©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.

A Bigger Table by John Pavlovitz

When it comes to removing barriers between people or between people and God, we as the body of Christ should be on the very front lines. We should be leading the charge. We should be defining the movement of equality and justice, not bringing up the rear and definitely not digging in our heels and fighting against it with all that we have. That simply doesn't glorify God, and it isn't making disciples either. The world is seeing this and rejecting it. I hear their stories every single day. The name Christian is no longer synonymous with Jesus out in the world, but with bigotry, with power, with discrimination. This is the script that we who desire the bigger table must flip. 

~p. 140

I'm having trouble starting this review, so I'm going to do a self-interview to help myself out a little. Today, I will be interviewed by an unbiased wooden table. Is it a bigger table or a smaller one? I don't know, since it doesn't actually exist. You can picture it however you like.

Unbiased Table (UT): Hello, Bookfool.

Bookfool (BF): Hello, Table.

UT: Tell me a little about why you chose to read A Bigger Table by John Pavlovitz.

BF:  I've been following John Pavlovitz on Twitter for around a year or so, having discovered his articles through a shared link on Twitter. Pavlovitz has been vocal about the dangers of our current U.S. President and his administration, the wave of Christian support that he received in the 2016 election, and the changes he believes need to be made to churches if they want to bring people back during a time when many are fleeing the church. We hold similar (if not perfectly matched) viewpoints about Christianity and inclusion. So, when his book was released, I was eager to read it.

UT: What kind of viewpoints are you referring to?

BF: John Pavlovitz believes church memberships should be more inclusive and reflect the practices of Jesus. The theme is building, metaphorically and realistically, a "bigger table" and not excluding anyone at all from joining in. He also believes church members should be allowed to express their spiritual doubts with each other in order to work through them, rather than feeling silenced and having to fear being cast out, ignored, or snubbed by members of a church.

UT: Tell us a little more about A Bigger Table.

BF: A Bigger Table is, in general, a memoir that goes into the author's beliefs and the eventual application of them. He begins by telling readers about his Catholic upbringing and early Christian beliefs, how he came to leave the church for many years, and how his experiences at work and at home informed the alteration of how he viewed Christianity. He talks about how he went from studying graphic design to becoming a pastor, how he feels like he fell into the typical patterns of Christian dialogue, and eventually how a move and getting fired from a pastoring job led to changes in his work as a pastor, finally reflecting his belief that churches should be more open and inclusive.

UT: Did anything about this book change how you personally feel about your beliefs?

BF: No. It was totally a comfort-slash-echo chamber read for me. It did, however, help me make sense of something I've wondered about for a long time.

UT: What was that?

BF: Why some people are completely unable to see the human behind the sin - or what they believe to be sin. Pavlovitz talked about how there are two kinds of Christians. This is a simplification - you really need to read the book to fully understand what he has to say about it - but he says there are those who see sin and those who see suffering. Those who see, or are focused on, sin emphasize the need for people to be saved and to those folks saving souls is the end goal. Those who are focused on the suffering of others desire to stop their suffering. The easiest example is probably homosexuality. Those who see sin are entirely focused on what they view as a sinful life - being gay as a sin that one must repent of to be saved, in their view, and until that sin goes away they're not interested in allowing gay people into the church as members. Those who see suffering see the inequity in how gay people are treated and their end goal is to stop the suffering and welcome them into the church as they are.

UT: Does the author believe homosexuals are mistreated by Christians?

BF: Yes, he believes that the church mistreats a lot of people by denying them membership. His philosophy is let everyone in and welcome them equally. The whole "bigger table" concept boils down to, "How can you grow a church if your entire belief system is based on exclusion and judgment of others?" He also believes that doubt is just a part of faith and that in order to grow in one's faith, church members need to be able to express their concerns and talk through them.

UT: What did you dislike about A Bigger Table?

BF: I would have liked to see the referenced scriptures included in the book. Sometimes, the author simply mentioned a scripture without explaining why he was referring to it and he never actually quoted them. He just referenced them, which meant looking up a Bible verse or passage and then trying to fit it to what the author was saying. It's easy enough to include a Bible verse in the text of a book. It's also incredibly easy to look verses up online, these days, but doing so interrupts the flow of the reading and means it's not handy for underscoring if you want to relate the assertion of the author to the verse in one place. And, I would have liked to see more Biblical references in general. The book is part memoir but it's also about why the author believes what he believes and it all comes back to Jesus, what he knows of Jesus' life and why Jesus' actions should apply to how we should treat people, today. If you're going to lean heavily on Jesus, I think it's important to show his words and actions. Personal opinion. I also thought the theme was hammered home pretty hard.

UT: Anything else you'd like to say about the book?

BF: My copy of A Bigger Table is so heavily marked up with flags that it's hard to know what to share and what not to, but I just flipped open to a passage that I think is worth mentioning:

The only way the table can really expand is when we, like Christ, are willing to take our place across from those who appear to be or even desire to be our adversaries. Jesus' call to embrace love as theology isn't merely a surface, sugary platitude. It's the most difficult, radical, time-consuming work of reflecting Christ to the world around us. In the end, the thing that glorifies God isn't our belief system, but how we treat those who don't share that belief system. We can be people of deep conviction without needing to pick up a bullhorn. 

~p. 121

UT: The bottom line?

BF: Highly recommended. While I was reading, I occasionally bopped over to Goodreads to read a review or two because I was curious what other people thought of A Bigger Table and the reviews are all over the map. A frequent complaint was the lack of exegesis (which I had to look up - it means "critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture"). The author actually wrote about that. He said that exegesis was not his intent in this particular book; in other words, he wasn't there to talk about specific Bible verses and deconstruct them, but to describe general practices (my words) - taking what Jesus did and applying it to church practice.

And, specifically, he was referring to Jesus' willingness to eat with anyone. I found the book a little repetitive but definitely worthy of discussion. And, by "discussion" I mean calm discourse, which can be a tall order. Pavlovitz acknowledges the fact that people become very emotional when you challenge the way they've been doing things and sometimes will get so upset they never return to church. But, he would rather upset a few people and embrace those who are traditionally outcast -- and believes that's what Jesus would do -- than continue to drive people away from God by rejecting them for who they are. The subtitle of the book reflects the difficulty the author has experienced in trying to change minds and hearts, convincing people to open up the church to folks who have typically been rejected outright from participating.

UT: This interview turned out to be longer and wordier than you intended.

BF: Amazing how an imaginary table can read my mind. Yes, it did. My personal beliefs tend to lean toward "the greatest of these is love" -- that little sound bite in First Corinthians that is one of many verses I believe to be the foundation of Christianity - loving everyone, no matter what. So, A Bigger Table was seriously a comfort read, like Rachel Held Evans' Searching for Sunday. Thank you for interviewing me. Goodbye, imaginary table.

UT: [disappears in a large puff of smoke because it was, as it turns out, a very big fake table]

BF: Well, that was a dramatic exit. This is my third book review of the day and I'm going to try to squeeze in one more, if I can.

©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.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

There's an energy to these autumn nights that touches something primal inside of me. Something from long ago. From my childhood in western Iowa. I think of high school football games and the stadium lights blazing down on the players. I smell ripening apples, and the sour reek of beer from keg parties in the cornfields. I feel the wind in my face as I ride in the bed of an old pickup truck down a country road at night, dust swirling red in the taillights and the entire span of my life yawning out ahead of me. 

~pp. 11-12

This is the only thing I wrote in my Goodreads review of Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: "Could. Not. Put. Down."

And, really, that's probably all you need to know, but nah. I want to talk about this book. Dark Matter is about a scientist whose life has not turned out quite as he originally intended. Jason's never finished the project that he planned on making his life's work, instead choosing to marry, have a family, and teach. Although his life isn't perfect, he's happy. Then, one night, everything changes.

Knocked unconscious by a masked man and taken to a place that appears abandoned, Jason awakens in a hospital and finds that he hasn't returned to the same Chicago he left. Instead, he's ended up in a world in which he's unmarried, his son doesn't exist, and he's a successful scientist rather than a college physics professor. Pursued by people who claim to be his friends, Jason must figure out how his own invention -- the one he didn't get around to finishing or even figuring out -- functions. Only then will he have a shot at returning to the home and family he loves. Can Jason survive long enough to find his way home? Or will someone stop him before he runs out of chances?

Highly recommended - The science aspect of Dark Matter can be a little hard to follow, at times, and the story is definitely mind-bending as the Justin Cronin quote says on the cover, but I didn't have any difficulty following the logic of Crouch's world building. And, Dark Matter is by far the most gripping novel I've read in years. Jason and his family are likeable so I rooted for him to find his way home. I also thought the book was well written. Fast-paced books are often not crafted with as much care as one would hope, so I appreciated the competency and care of the author's writing.

The cover shown above is, I assume, the American version (or one of them). My copy was purchased from Book Depository and looks a bit different:

Dark Matter is my second read by Blake Crouch. I also read Pines and enjoyed it enough that I downloaded the following two books in the Wayward Pines series to my Kindle app (haven't read them, yet). Dark Matter is a stand-alone novel. I enjoyed it so much that I'm going to hang onto my copy to use as a slump breaker, in the future.

©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.

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

I'm going to keep this review short because I think my reviews are creeping back up in length and I need to get a grip on the size of them. Feel free to let me know what you think about length. I'm naturally wordy but I can keep things shorter when I need to.

The Cottingley Secret is a combination historical-contemporary novel in which the historical setting is York, England during and a little after WWI and the contemporary setting is Ireland.

In 1917, Francis Griffiths moves from Cape Town, South Africa to Cottingley, England when her father is called up to serve in the war. She's unsure she'll like England but quickly takes to her cousin Elsie, who is 7 years older but lively and fun. When the two girls claim they've photographed fairies in the garden, they think their stunt is harmless. But, then more and more people become convinced that the fairies are real, forcing them into unwanted fame.

Olivia Kavanagh was not expecting to inherit her grandfather's bookstore in Ireland. She has a job in London and a wedding to plan. But, now she's not sure her husband-to-be is the right man for her and she needs to save the bookstore from debt. When she begins to read an unpublished manuscript written by Francis of Cottingley Fairies fame, she is reminded of her childhood and slowly discovers the connection between Francis and herself, helping her realize what's most important about her future.

Highly recommended - I loved this book. The Cottingley Secret is absolutely charming, with a little bit of a magical touch and characters I believed in. I only knew a little about the Cottingley Fairies - that they'd been declared fake by one of the girls after many, many years of denials (I remember hearing about it when the story that the photos were fake came out), but little else.

In the extra P.S. information at the back of the paperback edition, the author talks about how she befriended the daughter of Francis, who had privately published her mother's memoirs. Author Hazel Gaynor didn't mention whether she used the manuscript or rewrote Francis's thoughts in her own words but I can tell you I thought the excerpts from Francis's manuscript in the book, whether real or not, had the ring of truth. Francis' story always seemed completely genuine to me. The only problem I had with the book was minor - at the beginning of Olivia's story, she already was questioning her future marriage but she couldn't admit that to herself. I had a little trouble believing anyone would keep dragging her feet when she had this tremendous option to start a new life. But, after I closed the book I gave that some thought and realized that we're not always true to ourselves and change is hard. Maybe Olivia could have seemed a little less unsure at the beginning of the book and that would have made it utterly perfect, but how she felt at the beginning was not enough to mar one of the most delightful books I've read, this year.

©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, November 13, 2017

Monday Malarkey

The weather is tolerable! So, I went outside to pose this week's arrivals. The cats wanted to tag along but I wouldn't let them.

Recent arrivals:

  • Inky's Great Escape by Casey Lyall and Sebastia Serra - from Sterling Children's Books for review
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green - purchased on a whim (and it's a signed copy - but it looks like poor John Green had been signing for hours)
  • A Christmas to Remember: Stories by L. Kleypas, L. Heath, M. Frampton, V. Lorret - from Avon, unsolicited but I'm so excited! I've been craving holiday stories. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Inky's Great Escape by Casey Lyall and Sebastia Serra
  • The Underground River by Martha Conway

I got to p. 189 of The It Girls by Karen Harper before giving up, and I credit my friend Paula with the push I needed to DNF it. She's a fan of Karen Harper but didn't like The It Girls. I have The Royal Nanny by the same author on my stacks and Paula did like that one, so I decided that I'll definitely give Karen Harper a second chance. I moved on to The Underground River, which immediately sucked me in. And, the moment it arrived I read the picture book Inky's Great Escape. Husband was home, so I read it aloud to him. Humorously, he started out being annoyed with me for reading to him because he was trying to read something on his phone. But, he was listening and about halfway through, he put his phone down, turned his head, and smiled. He couldn't help himself. Inky's story (he's an octopus) is very entertaining!

Posts since last Malarkey:

Currently reading:

  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang

The Graveyard Book is a reread for F2F book club, which meets this week. It's not a favorite but I liked it enough to go ahead and buy a copy for rereading purposes and, lo and behold, I'm enjoying it much more the second time around. I think you could say I appreciated it without loving it the first time (because of the killings at the beginning). Quackery is nonfiction and it's entertaining but also gross because it's basically about the horrible things people did (poisoning themselves is a frequent thing) to try to cure their ills.

In other news:

I asked if anyone was interested in photoshopping a picture of my cats in my Facebook cat group and this is one of my favorite results (by Ash Thompson):

©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.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Fiona Friday on the Wrong Day - Are you my sister?

Just have to make sure.

©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.