Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday Malarkey - Back to blogging and an apology cat

Hello, I'm back! Did you miss me? There's a little camera shake in this photo but I like the angle so I'm going to leave this shot here rather than switching to the clear shot from a boring angle:

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • The World According to Bob by James Bowen - purchased
  • Mendocino Fire by Elizabeth Tallent,
  • Forgotten by Linda Hervieux, and
  • All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani - all from HarperCollins for review
  • Elwood Bigfoot: Wanted: Birdie Friends! by Jill Esbaum and Nate Wragg - from Sterling Children's Books for review

The World According to Bob was sort of a whim but kind of not. I've been considering it for quite some time. As it turned out, I bought the wrong book. I meant to get the first book about Bob, the cat who saved a homeless man from a self-destructive spiral. I'm reading The World According to Bob now, though, and I don't think order really matters, at least to me. I knew the backstory, already. I've read about James Bowen and viewed a video of him with Bob. I will probably go ahead and buy the first book soon, though.

I'm not a Trigiani fan and didn't actually request All the Stars in the Heavens, but I may go ahead and read it, since I enjoyed The Shoemaker's Wife. We shall see. I'm guessing HarperCollins ran out of the book I requested and tossed the Trigiani in, instead, although I've occasionally just gotten titles I thought they sent by mistake. Hard to say what happened at the envelope-stuffing end.

Posts since last Malarkey:

  • What the cat saw and a break to heal - I did get some routine maintenance done (clearing out the email in-box -- which has emails dating as far back as 2008!), but most of the week I avoided the computer. Not a bad thing, really.

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Your Alien by Tammi Sauer and Goro Fujita
  • Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon
  • Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth by Jeff Anderson
  • Elwood Bigfood: Wanted: Birdie Friends! by Jill Esbaum and Nate Wragg
  • Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie by Lauren Redniss

I've temporarily set aside The Dust that Falls from Dreams because I didn't manage to read any more of it, this week, and I want to start over from the beginning. But, when I picked it up to restart I was not in the right mood and it's a bit of a chunkster at over 500 densely-packed pages. I'm going to need to be invested in that book when I start. What I read I loved, so I'm sure I'll return to it soon.

Since it was a low-concentration week (partly because I had trouble sleeping with a brace on my wrist), I opted to read mostly children's books and a graphic biography. I found Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie particularly difficult to set down . . . so I didn't. I finished it in one sitting and ended up reading later than I should have. I have no regrets.

Currently reading:

  • The World According to Bob by James Bowen

I've dipped into my book of letters written to Eleanor Roosevelt during the Great Depression, occasionally, but that's best taken in small doses. I also finished reading the "book of my heart" (written in the late 90s or early 00s -- I probably mentioned that, last week), which started out good but went downhill. I can see why I abandoned it in spite of knowing how it was going to end, but the distance of years definitely helps. There's one character that will have to be cut entirely -- she totally bogged down the story -- and I presume I didn't realize that, at the time. At any rate, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading my own writing and how much has changed since I wrote the book. At the time, landlines were still common, rollerblading was still a fad, though fading, and my characters mostly listened to music on CD.

Because there was no Fiona Friday, I offer you an apology cat photo:

I thought it was pretty funny the way Isabel cuddled up to this garden glove, which Fiona likely knocked off the nearby table.

In other news:

Taking off a week has naturally thrown me further behind on reviews. I'm fascinated to find how little this bothers me. Since I changed my approach toward blogging, early this year, and did that catch-up post that filled in where I'd skipped reviews, I feel much more relaxed about blogging. Plus, many of the books I've read recently are children's books and I'm planning to do a Children's Day, soon. That always allows me to knock out a bunch of books in a single day (and it's also very, very fun).

But, I do hope this will be a good blogging week.

I don't sign up for challenges, anymore, but I'm excited to find that Andi and Heather are hosting the RIP challenge at The Estella Society, this year:

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril X

I'll be reading along casually, since I like ushering in the fall with a few creepy/atmospheric reads. Are you joining the RIP X challenge?

©2015 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, August 25, 2015

What the cat saw and a break to heal

This was a cute moment. Can you see what Izzy spotted?

It is harder to type than I expected and I'm supposed to wear this little brace thingie on my wrist/hand for about 10-14 days, so I'm going to step away from the computer until it at least stops throbbing. As I mentioned, I have some routine maintenance to do, anyway (and I think I can do most of it one-handed). I'll be back in a week, maybe two! Till then, Happy Reading!

©2015 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, August 24, 2015

Monday Malarkey - Of sloths and aliens and things in plastic bins

I'm slowly but surely realizing that on Mondays I'm reminded of what a crap blogger I've become. Yet another week of meh posting, meh reading. But I got some great book mail!

New arrivals:

  • Your Alien by Tammy Sauer and Goro Fujita
  • Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon, and
  • Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth by Jeff Anderson - all from Sterling Children's Books for review.

  • Dragonmede by Rona Randall - a pretty exciting-looking gothic library-sale find.
  • Poldark by Winston Graham - won in the recent Sourcebooks Poldark giveaway.

I'm thrilled with everything that arrived. As to the library find, I chose Dragonmede thinking it would make a nice, atmospheric autumn read to usher in the cool weather. What little I read when I flipped through the book was definitely intriguing.

Posts since last Malarkey:

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (for F2F book group discussion)
  • Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders by Julianna Baggott

The discussion of Salvage the Bones was pretty lively. I don't think anyone loved the book (one person liked it; the rest of us liked the writing, although not necessarily the story) but the fact that it was set in Mississippi with Hurricane Katrina as a backdrop meant it hit close to home in some way for all of us.

Currently reading:

I just started reading The Dust that Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernieres, 2 days ago. I was sleepy, at the time, and only managed to read 15 pages. Then, yesterday (still working on going through various bins and boxes) I found a binder that contained what I would refer to as the "book of my heart" - an almost-finished novel that I wrote in the late 90s/early 00s. At the time, I knew the ending but didn't manage to finish the book before I abruptly stopped writing fiction. I put it away -- and always considered it unmarketable, even had I finished -- but after I began reading and found that I didn't want to put the book down, I realized that I was finding words and entire scenes I would cut but plenty I'd keep. The fact that the book appears to be something I can work with actually shocked me.

Huzzybuns is encouraging me to type my old novel back into the computer (it was written about 3 computers ago) and make changes as I go. I've really struggled to get back into the swing of writing, this year, because I'm so badly out of practice but . . . yes, I think that's something I can do. If I disappear for a while, you'll know why. I'm really pretty excited about the idea of updating the book. It's unintentionally startling in some ways. Everyone still had a landline when I wrote the story, for example. So, it almost feels like sort of a "historical document", even though it's no older than about 15-16 years.

Here's another thing I keep finding in plastic bins:

In other news:

Because I've accepted a number of children's books for review, recently (more are coming), I've decided to bring back "Children's Day" - a day when I post several reviews of children's books on a single day. I always enjoyed doing Children's Days because they're a great excuse to pile up children's books, flop on the bed and have fun digging in.

I will be taking a week off for routine computer maintenance, soon (cleaning the email in- and outboxes, etc.) but I'm just going to do that when the mood strikes me. If I don't manage a Monday Malarkey post, next week, that's one possible reason why. I also have a cyst that suddenly popped up on the back of my hand, a couple weeks ago, and I'm having that drained because that sucker hurts . . . and it looks ridiculous, like someone injected a marble under my skin. Weird. I don't know if the splint I have to wear will get in the way of typing or not, but if it does I'll have no choice but to disappear for a week or so. We'll see. I don't anticipate it being a problem but you never know. I've never had this done before.

Happy Everything!

©2015 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, August 21, 2015

Fiona Friday - Because cats are just toddlers in fur

When the cats tired of their ribbons and balls, this week, I spun a top for them. They were seriously fascinated.

©2015 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, August 18, 2015

Pamela by Samuel Richardson

Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson
My book: Copyright 1958, W. W. Norton & Co. - Fiction
Originally published in 1740
533 pp. 

Pamela has a terrible rating at Goodreads (but some pretty humorous reviews) and for good reason. It's difficult to get through, not only because it's extremely repetitive, but also because it's so horrifying to read about how women were treated and believed they should behave. You have to be in the right mood and very, very patient to read the story but it was worth sticking out.

Pamela is only 15 and a startling beauty who works as a maid at a large estate. Her mistress has just recently died and her new master, the deceased lady's son, is a cad. Struck by her beauty, he decides he wants to have his way with her. But Pamela has been taught that she must protect her virtue at all costs. The master is determined and whenever he can get her alone, he molests her but is unable to get very far. Pamela is so frightened that she enlists the help of some of the other servants and decides she must return home to her parents. The housekeeper kindly shares Pamela's bed to protect her (although even she says the master can't help himself and it's clearly Pamela's fault he can't control his impulses because she's so pretty), another tries to smuggle letters to her parents when the master finds out about her prolific writing and insists on reading everything she writes.

After pretending to dismiss her to return to her parents, Pamela's new master instead sweeps her off to another of his homes, where he continues to try to take advantage of her. Here, the housekeeper is not so kind. Pamela continues to write letters to her parents, tries to get the local curate to help her escape, prays that her purity will survive and -- if not -- better to die a virgin than have her purity destroyed. Truly, it's a soap opera and a bit tedious, at that, but I found Pamela fascinating for its perspective on the time period. How far we've come! In the end, the author describes each character's actions as a lesson in morality. Meekness, purity, obedience to the menfolk and generosity are among what was expected of women. Poor Pamela was also frequently lectured on what was expected of her after marriage, including the importance of continuing to dress nicely for the entire marriage lest her husband's eyes stray.

Today we'd call the lord of the house an ass. He admits to Pamela that he was a spoiled man, accustomed to having his way and only softened and convinced that marriage was worth considering by Pamela's continued refusal to give in to him, her piety, her simpering obedience (argh, painful to read) and kindness to all. Of course, the modern reader may find herself, as I did, talking to the book. I kept telling Pamela she was crazy, for one thing, because she waffled about everything. No, of course you shouldn't convince yourself you've fallen in love with a guy who held you captive and molested you, stupid girl, I told the book. She married him, anyway. You can't call Pamela the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Wordy and monotonous as Pamela could be, it was entertaining. It's also memorable. Even when I set the book aside for several weeks, I was able to return to it as if I'd only set it down the day before.

Recommended to a limited audience - I'd particularly recommend Pamela to those who enjoy classics and especially during a time when you're in a tolerant mood, looking for a bigger novel that you can enjoy for the sake of observation about the time period. Pamela is an epistolary novel. Apart from the moral lessons at the end, the book consists entirely of letters written by Pamela to her parents. Here's how Richardson set off the moral section at the end:

The reader will here indulge us in a few brief observations, which naturally result from the story and characters; and which will serve as so many applications of its most material incidents to the minds of YOUTH of BOTH SEXES. 

Among my favorite bits from that section:

From the same good example, let children see what a blessing awaits their duty to their parents, though ever so low in the world; and that the only disgrace is to be dishonest; but none at all to be poor. 

Side note:

When I looked up the original publication date during the reading, I came across a blog where Pamela was described as "The Twilight of its time." Unfortunately, I didn't bookmark the site but I found it fascinating that the book was so popular that there was Pamela merchandise. Who'd have thought that kind of marketing went back so far in time? Fascinating.

©2015 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, August 17, 2015

Monday Malarkey

There's very little to say, this week. Last week was a quiet week at home and the weekend was all about reloading the master bedroom closet. Kiddo returned from Memphis and will be bringing more of his possessions home soon, so it's become a critical task making room for All That Stuff. Fortunately, it's going very, very well.

Recent arrivals:

  • The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje - via Paperback Swap

Yep, only one book arrived, again. I would say I may finally be improving but I happen to know that a book I pre-ordered is due to arrive, tomorrow. And, I may have said "yes" to reviewing a few more children's books. Confession: I adore children's books. They're the reading equivalent of adult coloring or playing with Lego blocks when there are no children around. 

Posts since last Malarkey:

Books finished since last malarkey:

  • The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray by Robert Schnackenberg
  • Tenth of December by George Saunders 

Both of these books were such fun. I have to return Tenth of December to the library, this week, and it's one of those rare books that inspired me (as in, made stories of my own swirl in my head) so it pains me to return the book but I can always check it out again, later.

Currently reading:

  • Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

I have bookmarks in other books but need to finish Salvage the Bones by Wednesday for F2F discussion, so for the moment that's all I'm reading.

In other news:

The chair I used to photograph The Cat's Table, above, is the chair I bought specifically to paint but it's been far too hot to do anything outdoors; and, as it turned out, Isabel loves my desk chair. I hate kicking her out of the chair when she's happily napping. So, I turned the old desk chair over to the cat and brought the elderly chair I intend to paint into the library (where my computer currently resides). The older chair is a little creaky but I figure we've made a decent compromise, for now. In fact, I'm rethinking my original paint palette. If I'm going to end up using the chair I plan to paint, I might as well paint it to coordinate with the library colors, right? Thanks, Izzy. Very helpful.

Positive thinking!

I may be having a major reading slump, this year, but there's always a plus side. I'm not falling behind on reviews at the rate I typically do. So, wahoo for that!!!

Also, I hear fall is coming, yay! Kiddo is no longer in school but Eldest has one more year to go at Rutgers  (on his second and third masters degrees) and then we may actually have a brief lull during which there are no students in the family. It won't last, I'm sure. This family seems to be addicted to college education.

Gotta run. Happy Monday to all!

©2015 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, August 14, 2015

This Old Van by Kim Norman and Carolyn Conahan and a Fiona Friday pic

This Old Van by Kim Norman, Illustrated by Carolyn Conahan
Copyright 2015
Sterling Children's Books - Picture Book/Counting (Ages 4 - 7)
30 pp.

This old van, she passed TWO,
friendly flaggers wave her through.

With a click clack rattle rack,
tooting at the crew,
this old van says,

Before I said "yes" to reviewing This Old Van, I already knew I couldn't pass up a book starring a van covered in the old "flower power" and peace-sign design. My hippie soul adores such things (I am, in fact, wearing a peace sign T-shirt as I type). And, I did indeed love the illustrations starring a couple of aging hippies and this crazy van racing across the countryside every bit as much as I expected. But, the bonus is in the rhythm. You can tell from the excerpt above (if you know the song) that the rhythm of the verses in This Old Van is the same as that of the song "This Old Man."

So, I actually sang the entire book to the cats. No, nobody has come to haul me to a room with mattress wallpaper, yet. And, in fact, the cats seemed to enjoy it but not as much as I'm sure my granddaughter will when I send it to her.

Highly recommended - A wildly fun counting book that has friendly, upbeat illustrations with plenty of detail to study, a super rhythm that allows you to sing the book to an old-fashioned tune, and unique things to count. On the page with two friendly flaggers, for example, there are also two dogs, two birds in hard hats, two bulldozers, two goats, two signs warning about falling rocks and two unexpected animals in hard hats. Loads of fun for kids and adults. Grandparents who remember the 60s will appreciate that crazy van.

It's Friday but I wanted to squeeze in a review so you get a combination post, today, including a combination of cats for Fiona Friday. I always love those moments when I find the two kitties squashed up next to each other.  It happened two or three times, this week, and I managed to catch the kitties between grooming and playing with their ribbon, on one occasion. It's possible somebody wiggled her fingers to get them to stop looking down.

Happy Friday!

©2015 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.