Thursday, October 27, 2016

Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by S. Becker and E. Kaban

When superheroes don't get their way, 
When they're sad, 
When they're mad,
When they have a bad day . . . 

They could use super-powers to kick, punch, and pound,
They could shriek --
They could screech
With an ear-piercing sound. 

You can probably already tell where the storyline of Even Superheroes Have Bad Days is headed, just from those first two paragraphs (each of which is comprised of a two-page spread in this 40-page children's book). There are all sorts of terrible things superheroes could do because of their special powers -- if they just happen to be in a bad mood. And, perhaps a recent movie or two has shown them doing just that.

But, Even Superheroes Have Bad Days is a children's book and, as such, it stays on the positive side. Do superheroes do bad things, just because they're feeling moody? Do they "crush wooden crates and bend metal gates"? Do they "throw trucks and buses across several states"? No, of course not.

They could super-rampage--
They could, but they don't,
Because real superheroes just wouldn't--
They won't!

Nope, instead, they "acknowledge their sorrow, their anger, their pain, as they wait for their super-emotions to wane."

Recommended - It's a nice thought, isn't it, that superheroes are so terrific that they can keep their emotions in check? I confess, Even Superheroes Have Bad Days is not at all what I expected. I had a mental image of how I would have written a book with the exact same title, before my copy arrived from Sterling. But, I love the extreme positivity of Even Superheroes Have Bad DaysI adore the theme: emotions are messy and self-control is an important thing to learn and use. And, the illustrations are marvelous. Meditating superheroes! How cool to plant the idea of meditating to calm down.

I would personally save Even Superheroes Have Bad Days and pull it out only when the lesson of self-control needs to be reinforced, although some superhero-loving children might not being willing to put up with that.  Even Superheroes Have Bad Days is both a fun book to look at and a book that uniquely serves a purpose of reinforcing good behavior, definitely recommended.

©2016 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, October 24, 2016

Monday Malarkey

There's not much to say about this past week, so I'm going to dive right into the usual Malarkey format.

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope
  • The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Selected Poems by W. H. Auden
  • Ava's Man by Rick Bragg (my only ARC, from HarperCollins)
  • Still Life with Tornado by A. S. King
  • The Paris Review, Edition 218
  • Gemina by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

We went on a day trip to Oxford to visit Kiddo, this weekend, so several of the books I got this week were from Off-Square Books. Gemina was a pre-order -- which I will not do again; both times I've pre-ordered an Illuminae Files book, I accidentally ordered two. I thought Amazon warned you when you've already purchased a book, but I guess that's just e-books. At any rate, Kiddo will benefit from my mistake, again. I also ordered Still Life with Tornado because I enjoyed A. S. King's last book so much. I hope Still Life is equally weird.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave (for F2F discussion)
  • Killfile by Christopher Farnsworth 

Currently reading:

  • Spring Torrents by Ivan Turgenev - Just getting back to this after I photographed it for last week's arrivals pile and then humorously thought I'd misplaced it for a full 4 days. 
  • The Paris Review, Edition 218 - Purchased on a whim. I've been thinking I'd like to get subscriptions to a couple literary journals, lately, so I decided to give The Paris Review a try. Funny thing about that: Edition 218 has a terrible rating at Goodreads, so far. I'm enjoying it, though. Since it's my first edition, I have no basis for comparison - probably a good thing, in this case. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

I was happy to finish two books but didn't feel like writing reviews until yesterday. When the urge strikes, I think it's best to sit down immediately and get the writing done. I enjoyed Killfile enough to feel like I wanted to write about it, so that's good. I wasn't too enamored of Little Bee. The discussion was good and I'm glad I went to book group, but the story was a bit too sad for my taste. I haven't chosen my next modern novel to start reading, yet. I think maybe I'll focus on my classic choice and see if I can make some progress. 

©2016 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.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Killfile by Christopher Farnsworth

I just finished Killfile by Christopher Farnsworth a couple hours ago and it was such fun that I want to write about it right now. Well, that's helpful. I haven't much felt like writing, lately.

Killfile is about a man who goes by the name John Smith (I was never entirely certain whether or not that was his real name). John is a telepath and former military. He now sells his ability to read minds as a service to wealthy people who want to get inside the heads of others. Everett Sloan believes his former employee, Eli Preston, stole the algorithm upon which he built a successful data mining business called OmniVore. He wants the algorithm extracted from Preston's head and erased. This is something Smith can do, but it's not easy. As the book opens, you're treated to an example of Smith's abilities and the way his use of his natural talent can rebound on him. In short, when he hurts someone, he feels their pain and it takes time to recover.

Normally, he might be hesitant to try to erase information from someone's mind because it's something Smith has only done once and it was not a pleasant experience; neither is planting bad images. But, the pay is something he can't refuse: an island home where he can retreat from the noise of nearby people's thoughts. There are other methods for dimming the noise of everyone else's thoughts, but they have consequences.

I've decided the final paragraph of my review might be a tiny bit spoilery, so skip this paragraph if you're wary of potential spoilers.

John meets up with a woman named Kelsey Foster, who goes along to help him pitch a pretend job offer from Sloan to Preston at a gathering of Preston's employees. There, he will probe Preston's mind and earn his pay. But, things go horribly wrong and the two end up being pursued by dangerous killers. It gets worse when they try to contact Sloan, are completely cut off for not finishing the job, then Preston uses his data mining abilities to take away everything they own and track their every move. Will Preston's hitmen catch them or will Smith be able to find a way to save them both and finish the job?

Highly recommended - A fast-paced thriller with a unique hero and a tiny touch of romance, I found that there were times I had to work to suspend disbelief, but once done, I enjoyed the ride. The author's bio says Farnsworth is a screenwriter. I'm not surprised. The dialogue and scenes have a cinematic feel. It was easy to imagine the story on a big screen. There is quite a bit of violence, including torture, the kind of scene I often skim to get done with. But, I gave Killfile a high rating because I enjoyed the uniqueness and the fast pace - and it does have some light-hearted moments. I particularly appreciated the fast pace after reading a book that I found a bit of a slog for book group discussion, last week (more on that, later).

©2016 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, October 21, 2016

Fiona Friday - Haunted

Seems like a decent time to post a photo of Izzy in her haunted house. I think we bought this last year, maybe the year before (and I noticed Target has brought them back). I had to do a little taping to keep it together but Izzy is still enjoying it. I keep the haunted house in my library and she's been spending a lot of time in it, lately. Apropos for October.

©2016 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, October 17, 2016

Monday Malarkey

Happy Monday! My week off to read didn't result in a whole lot of reading because this has been another one of those months that I've repeatedly fallen asleep reading or don't feel like picking a book up when I have the time (a whopping 3 books read, so far) but I keep thinking, I'll always have September. You never know; the reading could pick up any day, now. Like before, I'll just keep trying not to fret about it.

Recent Arrivals:

I went to a secondhand bookstore, last week, so most of the incoming books were purchased; I have only received one book in the mail, since my last Malarkey post.

  • Mister Monkey by Francine Prose - My only arrival, from HarperCollins for review (shown at top)

Purchases (shown above):

  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  • Barchester Towers and The Warden by Anthony Trollope
  • Spring Torrents by Ivan Turgenev
  • Herbert Hoover at the Onset of the Great Depression, 1929-1930 by Robert Sobel
  • Science Fiction Quarterly, Nov. 1957 (a periodical, which includes an entry by Isaac Asimov - cool)

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam 
Yep, just the one. But, I've continued to flip through the Jane Green cookbook, Good Taste, because I love it so much. 

Currently reading:

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - for F2F discussion (this one is rough)
  • Spring Torrents by Ivan Turgenev - my October classic selection 

Posts since last Malarkey: 

I didn't have any new cat photos loaded and was busy doing housework and watching movies, this weekend, so I let Fiona Friday slide. Sorry about that.

In other news:

"We" (mostly "he") cooked four recipes from Good Taste, this weekend: the mostly-flourless orange cake, tomato tart, fish balls, and sweet and sour nuts. We screwed up the cake a bit. I thought the almonds should be pummeled to a flour-like consistency but Huz chose to leave them a little rough and I just shrugged it off. Sure enough, the consistency was off. But, the flavor was still amazing. The rest of the recipes turned out perfectly and we were kind of shocked at the flavors. The tomato tart was had a lovely, delicate crust and tasted a bit like dessert. We had no sauce for the fish balls so I was a little worried that they were going to be bland. Nope, they were so good I went back for seconds. You can add sauce if you like but they're fine without. Huzzybuns was less fond of the sweet and sour nuts than I was because he prefers a savory, spiced nut but he thought they were good, just not his thing. I loved them.

So, the conversation after all that cooking?

Me: We're running at 100% approval, here, right?
Huz: Yep.
Me: Wow, that's unusual.
Huz: It is. And, this is great food for sharing.

Of course, that's part of the point of the book. None of those foods are heavy, so you won't send anyone home feeling painfully stuffed. It would be easy to pick a handful of recipes and put out a spread and you know everyone will find something they'll enjoy, if not everything, although we've liked everything.

©2016 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, October 14, 2016

Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green

I signed up to review Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends, today, but neglected to block off a quick jaunt taken this past weekend on my calendar. As a result, I won't be able to cook from the book until this coming weekend, since it's really my husband that does the bulk of the cooking and he has been gone for the better part of the last 5 weeks. When we cook together, I typically read the instructions aloud and he puts me to work chopping while he does most everything else. Having said that, I have to tell you that I want to cook absolutely everything in Good Taste, which is highly unusual because I'm kind of a picky person.

Here's what I love about Good Taste:

1. It's beautiful. The cover is, in my opinion, way too easy to walk past. But, open the book and flip through and you'll find at least one full-size photo for every dish, sometimes several smaller, decorative images, as well. I have learned my lesson about cookbooks that don't have photos of the finished product: we don't use them. So, the photos are not just great to look at, they're crucial.

2. The word "simple" is not an overstatement. While a few of the recipes have a longish list of ingredients, only one that I recall required the preparation of a second item to use in the recipe (and that ingredient is available at Trader Joe's, if you have one). Most ingredients are easily obtainable, even in our location, which is sadly lacking in options. So, the list of ingredients is almost always all you need. The curry shown above has one of the longer ingredient lists. Most fall closer to 8-10 ingredients.

3. My husband wants to cook just about everything, too. He'll eat just about anything once, but he very seldom finds a cookbook that he thinks is up to snuff, primarily because so many of them involve too many ingredients or complex preparation. After I gushed to him about Good Taste, he spent an hour or so flipping through the book and reading recipes. He was completely sold and is looking forward to cooking out of it, too. He's the chief cook in this house but I often foist recipes on him. If he's not interested, he won't budge. I also have let a couple other people flip through the book and they thought it looked appealing, too. We're at 100% approval, here, people. That's amazing.

4. The text is marvelous. If you've read Jane Green, that's probably not surprising. Jane Green is a novelist. She tells anecdotes about her family, her cooking history, her childhood, etc., in Good Taste, and they make the book just as fun to read as it is to flip through for the photographs and recipes. If you like a little extra material that goes beyond recipes, you'll enjoy the text.

Highly recommended with a side note - I've already mentioned this but it bears repeating that I have not yet cooked a recipe from Good Taste. However, the lists of ingredients are on the minimal side (always a plus) and I found the recipes easy to visualize preparing. Because I seldom cook, anymore, I often have a lot of questions about preparation -- I don't always "get" the instructions -- so that bodes well for less experienced cooks. I even want to try the meat recipes. Husband got a good belly laugh when I told him I even want to try the ribs because I'm one of those weird people you've heard about who don't like messy food -- you know, the ones who use a knife and fork on pizza? Yeah, I'm that weirdo. I don't like messes and I'm not a fan of meat. So, it's pretty weird that I want to try a rib recipe.

I may not do a full review of any recipes we cook this weekend, but I will definitely let you know the results in one of next week's posts.

UPDATE:  I talked about the 4 recipes from Good Taste that we cooked over the weekend in my Monday Malarkey post. Scroll down to "In other news" toward the bottom to read what we cooked and what we thought (in brief: we liked everything).

©2016 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, October 06, 2016

Week off to read

I've kind of fizzled out on both the reading and writing, this week. So, I'll be back for Monday Malarkey on the 17th. Hopefully, I will have read a bit and will feel like writing, by then. Happy week-and-a-half to all!

©2016 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.