Friday, March 16, 2018

Fiona Friday

With apologies to Facebook friends, who have already seen this - my favorite photo of the week. Fiona was on my lap.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James weaves together two stories. Idlewild Hall is a boarding school for girls who are unwanted or difficult. Established in 1919 and never maintained well, the uniforms and many of the textbooks have never been updated. In 1950, four girls attending the school become friends. Then, one of them disappears. In 2014, a reporter who has spent her time writing fluff pieces finds out that the long-closed and derelict school has been bought and is being restored. But, why? Surely it could never turn a profit. As Fiona seeks to uncover the reason for the purchase and a body is discovered on the property, the search for answers may lead the intrepid reporter into danger. How did the body found on Idlewild property end up where it has been found? What was the girl's story? Does her disappearance have any connection to the death, in 1994, of Fiona's sister?

By far one of the best mystery/suspense books I've read in months, I found The Broken Girls so compelling that I ditched my chores and spent an afternoon curled up with the book, unable to bear putting it down.

Highly recommended - Gripping, well-written, creepy, and satisfying. I was most surprised by the fact that The Broken Girls has a believable ghost (seriously, most ghost stories are just disappointing) as well as the realization that I had no preference between the historical and contemporary stories. Usually, in a historical/contemporary book with interwoven storylines, I'll find myself wishing the author had focused on one storyline or the other. Not so with The Broken Girls. I loved being at Idlewild Hall in 1950 and I was equally mesmerized by Fiona's story: the unfolding clues, her relationship and how it complicated her research, her family history.

I received a copy of The Broken Girls from Berkley Books in exchange for my unbiased review and wow, am I glad I said yes to this title! I've read some really disappointing attempts at suspense, this year. The Broken Girls is exceptional and I'll be be watching for future releases by Simone St. James.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Nothing Left to Burn by Heather Ezell

An incredibly gripping YA novel that's almost impossible to put down but also quite disturbing, Nothing Left to Burn tells the story of 16-year-old Audrey, who must evacuate her home (alone - the rest of the family is away) on the morning after she lost her virginity. The story alternates between the 24 hours after she's told to evacuate and scenes from the months she's been dating Brooks -- starting with when they met and slowly moving forward. Audrey's sister Maya has recently recovered from lymphoma and Maya's dream is to become a professional dancer. Because Maya was unable to dance while going through treatment, Audrey continued on with ballet to make Maya happy. Once Maya recovered, though, Audrey ditched the ballet because it was never really her thing.

Now, she's unsure what her thing is. But, she's met Brooks and he's even more of a mess than she is. Brooks lost a brother and plans to be a firefighter. Brooks and Audrey spend all their spare time together and they're wildly in love. Or, are they? Is this a case of two flawed people creating an even more dysfunctional couple? How did Brooks' brother die? And, what happened to set off the fire that may very well consume Audrey's house?

Nothing Left to Burn is edge-of-your-seat reading but it's also pretty horrifying. There's mention of kittens being burned alive, which I had to almost mentally block, being a cat lover (no graphic scenes of burning, just mention). There are bits and pieces of the characterization/plot that are obvious but the author does a good job of only giving you so much information, and the rest is left to your imagination till she finally reveals all, in the end. In spite of figuring a couple things out, the end was not at all what I expected and because it solved the mystery but not everything turned out as expected, I found it very satisfying.

Highly recommended with warning for some disturbing behavior - Not a happy story but certainly one that makes you think. Nothing Left to Burn would probably make a great discussion book for a YA group, especially something involving adults (maybe a Mom and daughter discussion group) who could talk about the various subjects that come up, like whether or not Audrey really wanted to sleep with Brooks or felt pressured, what kind of help the two teenagers should or could have gotten for their problems (depression, guilt, anger), spotting the danger signs in a relationship. There's a lot to talk about. I found myself wondering the age-old question, "What would you save if your house caught fire?"

Cover thoughts: While the story takes place in an upscale part of Southern California and I think it's safe to say that most, if not all, of the characters have a house with a pool, there are no pool scenes at all and I'm perplexed by the cover choice. However . . . it may change. My copy is an ARC. I'm kind of hoping the final cover will be fire-related because it really is about the devastating impact of fire and fire is what gives the book its urgency. The cover is beautiful; I just don't think it fits the content.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • None. But, clearly spring has arrived so you get a glimpse of tulips, this week. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Nothing Left to Burn by Heather Ezell
  • The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Both of these were excellent and almost impossible to put down. I stayed up late one night to finish Nothing Left to Burn and blew off most of my chores on Saturday to finish reading The Broken Girls.

Currently reading:

  • Don Quixote by Cervantes 
  • The Saboteur by Paul Kix
  • Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

I am absolutely loving everything I'm reading, right now, and last week was a terrific reading week. As of last night, I'm 48% into Don Quixote. Nearing the halfway point! And, I'm still every bit as entertained as I was, at first. In fact, I think pages 350 - 400 of the Edith Grossman translation I'm reading were among the best so far. Don Quixote's second visit to the inn where Sancho Panza was tossed into the air by some men with a blanket was masterful.

The Saboteur is nonfiction about a man who was in the French Resistance during WWII and Orphan Monster Spy is a YA novel about a blonde Jewish girl working in the Resistance, as well (but in Germany).  Both are so amazing that I'd really be happy to just ignore the chores, again. But, no. Someone left me a really messy kitchen (Huzzybuns experimented with his first attempt at making gyro meat) so I've done Round 1 of tackling the kitchen and Round 2 is coming up. So much scrubbing and sweeping and dishwashing to be done.

Last week's posts:

  • None. I took the week off. Did you miss me?

In other news:

The week off helped restore my urges to read and write but I didn't manage to totally shut off social media. I closed Facebook completely for about 5 days and have mostly succeeded at avoiding it, so that was good. Twitter, though . . . total failure. I continued to tweet and read tweets, all week, and I really need to walk away from it for a while. I'll try to just post blog links to Twitter, this week. Wish me luck.

Otherwise, the week was a huge success. What is it about Facebook that's so stressful? I can't figure it out but I always feel better when I close Facebook. I don't think it's merely that it's a time suck -- that's problem enough, though, and just closing Facebook really helped me to spend my time more wisely. I got some tidying done in the guest room before Kiddo arrived home for Spring Break, caught up completely on laundry for a day, enjoyed my reading more than I have in weeks, and spent more time at the gym. It's been sunny and gorgeous, most of the time, with a couple random days of heavy rain. The sunshine is always helpful for restoring one's soul.

I watched Saving Mr. Banks, last week, and am still watching the first Dr. Who, now on Season 2 of William Hartnell, because I only watch an episode on occasion, usually when I sit down with my lunch. We watched Thor: Ragnarok and Logan's Run, this weekend. All were great but I found Saving Mr. Banks a little too sad for my taste and it was the first time I've actually felt like Tom Hanks slipped up. He just didn't sound like Walt Disney, to me. Yes, I'm old enough to remember Walt Disney introducing movies on Sunday nights, although I was young enough that the Walt Disney voice I hear in my head may not be accurate.

The tulip photo above is from the gardens around our Whole Foods, of all places. They always have the most gorgeous tulips in spring. Here's another one:

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals:

  • Rocket Men by Robert Kurson - from Random House for review via Shelf Awareness
  • Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen - from Viking Books for Young Readers for tour

I'm thinking two book arrivals is a nice number - not too many, not zero. I get kind of antsy when nothing at all shows up. At the moment, I'm quietly boycotting Amazon so I don't know when I'll buy any books (and I was trying to stop buying, anyway). I miss bookstores. There's not a bookstore within 30 miles of us, now.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Our Native Bees by Paige Embry
  • The Brontë Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne by Catherine Reef
  • Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires by Shomari Wills

I started out the week feeling seriously slumpish, although I enjoyed Our Native Bees immensely. It was after I closed Our Native Bees that I thought, "Ugh, argh, I don't feel like reading." Sometimes, just ignoring my stacks and picking up whatever calls to me will fix that problem and I'd been glancing at The Brontë Sisters for days, wondering if it was any good. So, I listened to its call and spent an evening with the Brontës. I don't know if I'm cured, but I had fun reading Black Fortunes, after that, and I don't have that slumpish feeling, so fingers are crossed that the Brontës broke the spell.

Currently reading:

  • Don Quixote by Cervantes - same old, same old. 3 or 4 more weeks to go!

I started reading a YA, also: Nothing Left to Burn by Heather Ezell. Unfortunately, the next morning I only vaguely remembered what I'd read, so I'm going to have to start that one over from the beginning. But, I have no plans to set it aside.

Last week's posts:

Clearly, I felt the same way about writing that I felt about reading, last week. And, I'm going to take a week off, so this will not be a better week.

In other news:

Oh, I think that was the other news. I've decided I need a break from the internet. I may sit down to write a book review, now and then, but only if I feel like it. Next week is spring break and I need to work on tidying up the guest room for Kiddo, so this seems like a decent time to step away for a week or two. I have a book tour scheduled on the 14th or 15th, so I'll definitely be back by then. But, it's possible I'll miss next week's Malarkey. I'll just find out when I get there.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Fiona Friday - Izzy says it's time to eat.

This is the look I get when she wants something. It was time for breakfast.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth

From the cover: 

Two brothers are exposed to the brutal realities of life and the seductive cruelty of power in this riveting debut novel -- a story of savagery and race, injustice and honor, set in the untamed frontier of 1880s Australia.

In Only Killers and Thieves, it's 1885 and the McBride family is trying to survive a terrible drought in Queensland, Australia. When the two teenagers in the family, Tommy and Billy, stray onto their neighboring landowner's property, they see something shocking and are threatened by neighbor John Sullivan. Not long after, tragedy strikes and a gun given to a former native hired hand is found on the McBride property.

Tommy and Billy escaped the tragedy and now they're out to find a killer. But, with Sullivan and the chief of the Native Mounted Police, Noone, leading the way, they find that their goal is not at all what they'd intended. One of the boys goes along with the brutality of Sullivan and Noone; the other is threatened and has no choice but to join in the atrocities or risk his own death. What will happen to Billy and Tommy? Will they find the killer they seek or end up going back home without tracking him down? Was their hired hand even the person responsible?

OK, deep breath. There's a lot to this story but I don't want to go into any detail to avoid spoilers. What I will tell you is that it's based on historical events that I wasn't aware of. During the late 1800s, there was a native police force that was involved in the slaughter of fellow Aborigines in Australia. The author paints this as a life or death choice. The white people were killing off the natives so thoroughly that the only way to survive was to join them. As in most cases of native genocide, the ones doing the killing described the Aborigines in demeaning ways. They were only killers and thieves, they ate their children, they were savages, etc.

Throughout Only Killers and Thieves, the boys make an assumption about who is responsible for the tragedy at their home. I had no trouble figuring out whether this was a right or wrong assumption but I didn't know the reasoning behind the answer and that kept me reading. Also, the writing is excellent. However, if you're squeamish about graphic violence or rape scenes are a trigger, you might want to avoid this one. It's brutal. I remember thinking, at some point, that the ending had better be a good one or Only Killers and Thieves was going to get a really low rating. Fortunately, the ending is really quite lovely, so I ended up giving it 4 stars. But, it was definitely the kind of book that can give a person nightmares.

Recommended with warnings for graphic violence including rape - A harsh but beautifully written story about the senseless killings of Aboriginal people in Australia and the men, including natives, who perpetrated mass murder. If you can tolerate the violence, the ending is very satisfying.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.