Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
Copyright 2010
Philomel Books - YA/Paranormal
464 pages
Andrea Cremer's website

Calla Tor isn't a typical high school girl. A warrior and an alpha werewolf, she will soon turn 18 and be united with the alpha male from another pack, their packs combined in a secret ceremony. In the meantime, she goes to school as a human during the weekdays and takes her turn patrolling the woods with her best friend in the pack, Bryn, in her wolf form.

But, after Calla veers from her duties and risks her own life by saving the life of a human named Shay, things begin to change. When Shay appears at Calla's school and she finds that he has an unknown role in the lives of the Guardian wolves, nobody can figure out what's going on. While Calla tries to unravel the mystery of Shay's place in upcoming events with his help, she finds her attraction to Shay growing deeper. As they begin to uncover secrets and lies, she questions her place in a world where the male is the leader and finds the union with her future mate, Renier, threatened. Ren is none too pleased with Calla's obvious attraction to Shay. Will Calla abandon hundreds of years of her heritage and the destiny that's been hers since birth? What are the secrets being kept from Calla, Ren and their packs?

Nightshade is truly a knock-your-socks-off dive into an exciting new paranormal world. Before I even opened the book, my teenager managed to sneak off with my copy, read it in a single night and declare that I will be expected to acquire the next books in the series. I figured on that basis it was probably Kiddo's kind of book and not mine, but I was wrong. Nightshade held my attention with lots of action, interesting relationships between various pack members and their new leader or "Keeper", as well as a surprisingly believable love triangle that keeps the reader wondering, "Will she? Won't she?" till the end.

Calla is, at first, totally dedicated to her pack and convinced that her union, her job, her history is all as she has been told. She's a Guardian and she's tough, but she's also a follower. But, she slowly begins to question her place as she and Shay discover that the wolves' history is not at all what they've been led to believe. And, it's not just other wolves that she has to worry about.

I liked the dilemmas Calla was faced with, including the fact that she was going to fall second in leadership to the male head of the pack. Amy wrote to author Andrea Cremer to ask about the exploration of pack dynamics via gender in her fabulous review and got a terrific response. Actually, I just loved everything about Amy's review. Go read it. It's so much better than anything I have to say. I did manage to figure out Shay's place in the story long before the ending, but maybe that's just because I'm getting old and many, many storylines are becoming predictable for me. There were plenty of surprises and the book kept me guessing; I certainly had no idea what was going to happen in the end, in spite of guessing Shay's role.

The bottom line:

Action, emotion, group dynamics and a young woman growing as she learns to question her place and stand up for herself make Nightshade an exciting, well-paced addition to the world of paranormal reading and a book worth talking about. Definitely recommended for teens and adults.

Cover thoughts:

I just love that cover. The female looks like the heroine described in the book and calla lilies speckled with blood fit the name of that same character as well as depicting the dangerous, bloody world of werewolves at battle with other evil forces. My thanks to Penguin/Philomel for the advanced reader, which I received via Shelf Awareness.

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Snow White illustrated by Charles Santore

Snow White, a tale from
the Brothers Grimm
Illustrated by Charles Santore
Copyright 2010
Sterling Children's Books -
Ages 4-8
48 pages

A beautiful queen pricks her finger while sewing in a window trimmed as black as ebony and thinks to herself how lovely it would be to have a daughter as striking as the colors of her blood lying against the snow, framed by the ebony window. Later, she gives birth to a beautiful daughter with ruby-red lips, fair skin and ebony hair, named Snow White . . . and the lovely queen dies.

Snow White's stepmother is vain and has a magic mirror that gives her vanity daily doses of reinforcement when it declares her the fairest of all, till Snow White turns 7 and the mirror says, "Too bad, sucker, you're not the fairest anymore." So, naturally, the evil stepmother-queen decides to have a huntsman kill Snow White and bring back her heart as proof that she's dead. The huntsman lets the young princess flee and brings back the heart of a deer, instead, while Snow White dashes off to the forest and ends up the happy little slave girl to 7 charming dwarves who work in a mine.

Anyone who has been Disneyfied nearly to death -- I couldn't help it; I grew up in the years of The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights -- has seen or read a much-prettified version of this story and, frankly, one that makes more sense.

I just reread this version of Snow White and I'm feeling a little tongue-tied (or finger-tied) but I'll do my best to describe it. Illustrated by the amazing Charles Santore, the best thing about the book is the knock-out illustrations. The tale itself is either the original Grimm's fairytale or an adaptation to fit the size of the book and when I first read it I was baffled. Each time the wicked stepmother-slash-queen attempts to kill off Snow White, the young girl stupidly lets her into the cottage, gets killed, and then is revived by the dwarves until the poisoned apple incident does her in for good and they put her in a glass coffin because . . . well, it's a fairy tale and in fairy tales even dead people can still look pretty and keep on growing.

I suppose the problem I have with the Brothers Grimm version is all that falling down dead and being old enough to know you don't lie dead for hours or years and come back. That just bugs me. In that way, I honestly prefer the Disney version in which, as I recall, she doesn't die repeatedly but finally gets zapped by the bad apple. It makes more sense and it doesn't mislead children into believing it's possible to die and then pop back up looking just as pretty as ever (at least till the end). Plus, I must admit that the way Snow White happily agrees to be the dwarves' household slave is annoyingly outdated. So, it's definitely my preference that a fairy tale is updated in a case in which an older tale has become almost completely nonsensical given the current knowledge.

However, having babbled on about the story, I must say the illustrations are marvelous. On the first reading, I was surprised at Snow White's tender age, but by the end of the book she does appear to have aged enough to marry the handsome prince. You do have to wonder why on earth a guy wants to haul a coffin back to his kingdom, even if the contents happen to be so pretty they make him delirious. In the end, the chunk of poisoned apple falls from Snow White's lips and that is what brings her back to life.

The bottom line:

The real fairy tales can be really weird and grim. If you can stand them and don't mind explaining away the weirdness and the reason the young girl is so happy to become basically a young housemaid (she is, after all, under the impression that she'll be safe from her evil stepmother, at first), the illustrations alone make Charles Santore's Snow White a book worth staring at for endless hours. Charles Santore is really a tremendously skilled artist. I recommend that those interested in purchasing classics for their children pick this one up before buying -- look at the illustrations, read through the text and decide for yourself if it's something you could bear to read and explain to your child or someone else's. I dislike the text but love the illustrations, so I recommend it for the illustrations if you're seeking out classics beautifully illustrated, but it's not a favorite.

In other news:

No books have shown up at my house. Zero, zippo, nada. Okay, well, there was that one book that I bought at Borders, yesterday. I read The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong and it was such a page turner (a Young Adult novel about a girl who inadvertantly summons ghosts) that I rushed to my library to find a copy of The Awakening (book #2). I'm nearly finished with The Awakening and my library sucks, so I went ahead and bought The Reckoning (book #3) on the assumption that I'd want to dive right into the third book and it wouldn't be available at my library. Good decision. Except, I really need to stop and focus on some ARCs because I just found out I'm even further behind than I realized. I've been having fun buddy reading, this past week. The Summoning was a buddy read with Tammy and I'm reading The Ship of Brides with my friend Paula. Well, sometimes you need a break from the ARCs.

But, I'm aware that the further I go, the behinder I get.

Kitties, kitties:

Isabel is currently attacking Fiona's tail, which is surprising because she got her last set of booster shots about 2 hours ago and I expected her to be conked out, by now. Fiona is attacking the window. I'm not sure what exactly she's after but it's a wonder she hasn't turned and taken a bite out of Isabel. When we returned from the veterinary clinic, Izzy was still shivering from nerves and Fiona was truly concerned. Fi sniffed Izzy and nudged her a little and then they snacked on kitten chow and all was well. It's those moments of true affection between pets that melt my heart.

Our Sunshine and Spooky never did get to the point of a mutual groom-fest, as in the photo above, so they're already getting along famously. Except, there's this little wound on Izzy's ear . . . oh, well, I guess they're not perfectly in love but at least they haven't killed each other.

Off to read and maybe will do a second review, later. Yesterday, I went house shopping and we took Kiddo and Kiddo's Girlfriend out for dinner. Fun!

Happy Reading!

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell

The Reapers Are The Angels
by Alden Bell
Copyright 2010
Henry Holt & Company
225 pages

WARNING: This review may contain some spoilers. Read only if you don't plan to read The Reapers Are The Angels, right away (or you're really forgetful).
You have been warned!! Sounds ominous, eh?

. . . you know what my gut tells me? My gut tells me that's my old friend Moses Todd who's got some business he's gonna want to finish up with me. It's a wonder how he's trackin me, but you can't put nothing past these southern boys. They just sit around waiting for somebody to kill their brother so they can get started on some vengeance. It's like a dang vocation with them.

p. 62

I could write this entire review in quotes alone, simply because The Reapers Are The Angels is so beautifully written and utterly profound and even funny, at times -- strikingly literary in tone for a novel about a young teen surviving in a world of zombies, a world where the humans are as much if not more of a danger than the risen dead. But, let me tell you a little bit about it and then I'll besiege you with quotes.

Temple is fifteen years old. The world was overtaken by zombies before she was born. A world dominated by dead people who eat or turn living humans along with a smattering of survivors is all she knows. As a young child, she was trained in survival and at one point she had a young brother to watch over. But, then she was left alone. As The Reapers Are The Angels opens, Temple is living alone in a lighthouse on a small island off the coast of Florida. But, then her safe haven is breeched and she must move on.

Right from the beginning, the reader knows young Temple is no ordinary teenager. She's a survivor but she's also a loner. When she does encounter civilization, things go terribly wrong and she ends up being pursued by a man who is determined to take revenge, even though he knows the crime she committed was an act of self-defense.

The Reapers Are The Angels is a brutal tale that is absolutely startling in the beauty of its telling. It truly blew my mind. I'm pretty sure it's billed as a Young Adult novel and that bothers me because I'd say it's at least R-rated in content. And, yet, it's such an incredible read that I'd probably hand it to my 18-year-old with a warning, if he expressed interest. I'm pretty sure zombies aren't his thing. They're not what I'd call "my thing", either. But, if you can stomach the gore that goes with stinky, rotting zombies and the brutality of people who will do anything to survive, the book is truly a stunning work of craftsmanship that took my breath away. A few more quotes, before I conclude:

Beyond the pursuit of meaning and beyond good and evil too, she says. See, it's a daily chore tryin to do the right thing. Not because the right thing is hard to do--it ain't. It's just cause the right thing--well, the right thing's got a way of eluding you. You give me a compass that tells good from bad, and boy I'll be a soldier of the righteous truth. But them two things are a slippery business, and tellin them apart might as well be a blind man's guess.

p. 107

Fifteen! You're too young to be wanderin the countryside. Too young by a mile.

I tried to be older, she says. But it's something that's hard to force.

p. 168

And she turns her back on the lost and the dead and the trampled down, she leaves them to their airy graves, and she and the big man next to her look upward at heaven and find there not just gates and angels but other wonders too, like airplanes that go faster than sound and statues taller than any man and waterfalls taller than any statues and buildings taller than any waterfall and stories taller still that reach up and hook you by the britches on the cusp of the moon, where you can look and see the earth whole, and you can see how silly and precious a little marble it really is after all.

p. 171

The night comes, and when the sun rises again it rises over a motionless desert, over streets full of rusty, broken-down automobiles, over tumbleweed towns filled with derelict buildings, signposts twisted and bent so that their arrows become nonsensical, pointing into the dirt or up into the sky, billboards whose sunny images and colorful words flap unglued in the breeze, shop windows caked with the grime of decades, bicycles with flat tires abandoned in the middle of intersections, their wheels turning slowly like impotent tin windmills, some buildings charred and burnt out, others half fallen down, multistory tenements split down the middle, standing like shoebox dioramas, pictures still hanging on the upright walls, televisions still in place on their stands teetering over the gaping edge of the floor where the rest of the living room has collapsed to the ground in great mountains of concrete and dust and girder like the abandoned toys of a giant child.

p. 177

The bottom line:

Graphic, violent, brutal, honest and even humorous, at times, The Reapers Are The Angels is, quite simply, a work of art. It is deep, dude -- quite spiritual, in fact. Highly recommended, but be forewarned . . . it's a hard, hard read and it will break your heart. This book gets a family warning for violence and sex. If you're considering handing it to a young adult, I'd advise reading it, first, so you can discuss it with your teen.

In other news:

Two reviews in one day! I think I deserve some kind of reward, like a nice bath with a lavender fizzy. Hope everyone in the Midwest survived today's bizarre weather.

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Take a Chance on Me by Jill Mansell

Take a Chance on Me by Jill Mansell
Copyright 2010
Sourcebooks - General Fiction
432 pages
Jill Mansell's website

Cleo finally has the perfect boyfriend. He's handsome, sexy and loves her. It just figures that Johnny LaVenture, the boy who accepted a bet that ended up in years of torment for Cleo, is back in town. Can't some people just go away for good? When her job as a limousine driver puts her in Johnny's path, Cleo tries to leave the past behind. But, Johnny is not so easy to ignore, especially when that perfect boyfriend turns out to be quite the opposite of what Cleo expected.

Cleo's sister Abbie is having a rough time, as well. When she finds a letter hidden in a drawer, she suspects her husband's hiding an affair from her. But, after Abbie decides to get back at her cheating husband, she finds out she got it all wrong. And, now what will she say to her husband? He'd never forgive her if he found out . . .

I don't know how Jill Mansell does it; I really don't. I've been reading her books for many years (see my 2004 reads to appreciate a good Jill Mansell Overdose Year) and they are endlessly, unfailingly entertaining. There is no such thing as a typical plotline in a Jill Mansell book. They're all about love and life, getting knocked down and picking oneself up, finding love -- sometimes when it's staring you in the face and you've been skirting around it. But, each is completely unique in its characters and situations. Jill Mansell is a true original and an absolute genius at creating characters a reader simply can't help caring about.

Take a Chance on Me is, at its heart, yet another story of a broken hearts mended and found love. It is a funny, sweet, touching, wonderful story with several flawlessly interwoven plotlines and a magical ending. You will love Cleo, Johnny and the other characters. If you haven't read Jill Mansell, yet, and you like a story that you can believe in, characters you'll adore and a satisfying ending . . . run, don't walk to your nearest bookstore. And, don't fall for the crazy idea that her books are "just romances". Nuh-uh. No way. They're complex stories of relationships -- not just between one couple but more like a dot-to-dot with crossing lines of interconnected relationships, situations and dilemmas.

The bottom line:

A highly recommended story of love, loss, and learning to move beyond the painful hurts of the past.

Just finished reading:

The Human Bobby by Gabe Rotter - Book club material!!! I don't know what I'm going to say about that book. The ending had my head spinning. Also, you can see I'm not helping myself to catch up any, the way I keep finishing books when I'm already so dreadfully far behind on reviews.

But, I'm having fun. On to the next review . . . expect a little brevity (or, maybe you should cross your fingers, pray, or wish for brevity because everyone knows it's not my strong suit).

Spoiler warning: Michele's comment about the ending of The Reapers Are The Angels (in the comment section to this post) contains a potential spoiler, so please skip over her comment if you plan to read The Reapers, etc. soon!


©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Recent DNFs, mostly abandoned because I'm a moody reader

Before I dive into book reviews for the week, I've decided to go ahead and describe a few books I Did Not Finish (DNF'd in the current slang) and share why they ended up abandoned.

Please bear in mind that there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these books, even if I mention something specific that stopped my reading. I simply have been trying my best not to allow myself to sink back into a slump and the best way to do that, I've found, is to simply abandon anything that isn't grabbing me like crazy. All of the following titles will get a second chance. I have not abandoned them permanently; they simply either weren't right for the moment or require greater focus than I was willing to devote to them.

The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart is a book I intended to take along with me to London, for obvious reasons. As it turned out, the book didn't make the final cut when I was choosing vacation reads. And, then I ended up falling into bed exhausted the moment I'd doctored my feet with sticking plasters and antibiotic ointment (oops . . . bad shoe story that makes me blush) in London. So, it's likely I wouldn't have gotten to the book anyway.

However, I did eventually pick The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise up; and, it was just not the right book for the moment. At the time, I recall thinking I really wanted to read something suspenseful and taut, instead.

Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan is a totally different story, when it comes to Novel Abandonment Issues. When I picked the book up, it captured me so thoroughly that I couldn't put it down. I read about 100-150 pages in the first sitting. And, then I got busy and didn't read any more for about a week. When I picked up the book, again, I'd forgotten enough of what was going on to totally mess up the fun.

I became frustrated because of that gap between readings and opted to set Of Bees and Mist aside till later. Obviously, this particular case of Did Not Finish was my own darned fault. Like many books that I set aside for stupid reasons, Of Bees and Mist is one that I think deserved my full attention. It's a book I plan to return to when I can devote myself fully to the reading.

Solitary by Travis Thrasher had the misfortunate of hitting the top of the pile when I was still in the midst of my reading slump. I read about 50 pages or so and it didn't seem like anything was happening. But, I'm not sure if that was really the case, since I was in such a "grab me or I toss you" mood, at the time.

Maybe it just wasn't the right book for the moment. It's a YA suspense and I typically love suspense. But, almost nothing was grabbing me, during the week I happened to pick up Solitary. I set aside so many books that week that I can't even remember what all I abandoned. Solitary stands out in my mind because I was looking forward to it and kind of ticked at myself for not being able to get into it.

Wicked Company by Ciji Ware is my most recently abandoned book. I think it may be the fact that it's not only a chunkster but pretty dense-looking chunkster that's putting me off, in spite of the fact that I love Ciji Ware's writing and actually have enjoyed what I read. It's one thing to enjoy the writing and another to want to pick a book up, every time you sit down. This one simply isn't calling out to me, at the moment, but it's about a young playwright who is female, "a love story, and a compelling glimpse into what life was like for a strong and independent-minded woman in an emphatically man's world."

I know I'll come back to this one, hopefully very soon.

In other news:

I dropped off 30 books at the library, this weekend (donations) and checked out 4 DVDs. I intended to watch Northanger Abbey, last night, but discovered I'd ended up with an older version and I really was hoping to watch the Andrew Davies version. So, I turned that off and watched The Student Prince with Robson Green, instead.

Isabel says, "Females love a man who reads."

I did watch "The Making of Pride & Prejudice" (the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version) and the Jane Austen bio by Biography, today. More on those, later.

Just walked in:

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce - The story of a 12-year-old boy who looks like he's about 30 and cons his way into a special civilian space flight for kids . . . as the adult chaperone. The cover flap describes the book as "a funny and touching story of the many ways in which grown-upness is truly wasted on grown-ups." Doesn't that sound fun?

Pre-slam announcement:

Before I bury you in book reviews, I need to make two disclaimers:

  • I'm only planning to bury you in book reviews. I don't know whether or not it'll actually work out, since I'm as moody in my writing as I am at reading.
  • If it does work out, there should be about 8-10 reviews posted by the end of the week. But . . . who knows if that'll happen. If I do succeed, I promise I'll take a break after I'm done. The idea is to catch up, not to kill my readers. Aren't you grateful that I care?

How was your weekend?

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fiona Friday - Laser Eyes of Doom

"Stay away from my space ship, little alien, or I shall zap you with the laser eyes of doom." -- Fiona to Isabel

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Making of a Gentleman by Shana Galen

The Making of a Gentleman
by Shana Galen
Copyright 2010
Sourcebooks Casablanca - Historical Fiction/Romance
364 pages
Shana Galen's Website

Well, there's just no getting away without mentioning the romantic elements, this time, but after reading Shana Galen's The Making of a Duchess, I jumped up and down and waved my hand when The Making of a Gentleman was offered to me for review and it is every bit as fun and adventurous as The Making of a Duchess.

The Comte de Valere has spent twelve years in prison and lost the ability to speak. He has no manners and cannot bear to be touched. When his family hires a lovely tutor to teach him how to speak, he begins to change, emerging from the protective shell in which he has wrapped himself.

Felicity Bennett has a problem. Promised to a devious rogue, her only way out of a potentially disastrous marriage is money. In order to escape her commitment, Felicity takes a job as a governess. But, she's stunned to find that her job is to help the handsome Armand Valere learn to speak and act like a gentleman. As Felicity teaches Armande, attraction grows between them and Armande begins to remember his past. But, the secrets buried in Armande's mind are frightening and some dangerous men are determined to find answers.

Will Felicity ever break free of the nasty man who threatens to ruin her life if she doesn't pay up? Why has Armande forgotten his past? And, will the secrets he harbors destroy their growing attraction?

Well. You'll just have to find out by reading the book, won't you? Shana Galen captured me, again, with this delightful story of passion, adventure and pure fun. Galen has a delightful sense of humor and a tremendous knack for page-turning plots. I absolutely loved this book.

One warning: There are graphic sex scenes and this time they happen between an unmarried couple. Oh, the shock. I survived. But, I thought I'd give you fair warning.

The bottom line:

Highly recommended, especially to those who love a little more action in their romantic reads. The setting is a few years after the French Revolution, in England, although there's a wee little jaunt to France to make sure you get a good dose of, "Oh, no, they're all going to die!!"

What else is up in Bookfool's world?

The kitten is not yet afraid of the toilet. In fact, little Izzy likes to pad around in the bathtub after the water has drained. We have paw-prints on our bathroom floor. They're dry, don't worry. She likes to take drinks out of the sink, too.

Today, I started reading The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong. Ghosts! Sometimes they're scary ghosts, but ghosts!!

Hmm, not much else is going on. I need to work on that.

Something bright to go with the dress on that cover:

That's a little girl feeding a squirrel in St. James Park, London.

Happy, happy day!

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Matthew and the Bullies by Sarah, Duchess of York

Matthew and the Bullies
by Sarah, Duchess of York
Copyright 2010
Sterling Children's Books - ages 4-8

Matthew can run fast, but he's smaller than most of the kids in his class and because of his size, he is bullied. He's nervous about going to school but afraid to tell anyone about his problem. Matthew considers fighting back, but hasn't, yet. Sometimes, he lingers amidst a group of children to protect himself. But, it doesn't always work. When John and Daniel gang up on him, he runs away and cries.

A friend finds Matthew crying and she encourages him to talk to the teacher and his parents. His parents talk to the teacher and the teacher tells the bullies that picking on people will not be tolerated. She also talks to their parents to let them know about the bad behavior of their children and the potential consequences. After Matthew does a show-and-tell presentation of his athletic awards, he's pleased at how well he did. John and Daniel tell him they won't bully him, anymore, and Matthew asks them if they'd like to practice soccer with him, over the weekend. All is well.

What I liked about this book:

Matthew and the Bullies offers parents an opportunity to discuss bullying with their children and to let children know that they're willing to listen, that parents and teachers are there to help. There are some excellent tips by a psychologist in the back of the book.

What I disliked about this book:

It's a little too easy for Matthew, in the end -- pretty unrealistic, I thought. I especially disliked the fact that it turned out that Matthew was a talented athlete. What does that say to those who aren't? It's pretty common for brainy kids to be bullied, even at a very young age, and if they happen to be burdened with awkwardness and lack of athleticism, this book could just be like poking a bruise if it's read or handed to those children. I'm not sure how exactly I would have ended that book, but it definitely had an oddly narrow focus and a too-easy solution.

On bullying, in general, and the usefulness of this book:

Bullying and cruelty to those who are different is a hot topic, these days, due to the recent suicides of gay teens -- and it's an important one. Our own experience has taught us that teachers cannot be expected to catch everything, so the most important thing a parent can do is keep communication open with their children. In this way, I think Matthew and the Bullies is a book that one can use, in spite of its flaws. It's geared to younger children and opening up the subject early may help them to deal with it later in life.

The bottom line:

I'd advise purchasing Matthew and the Bullies when your child is on the younger end of the spectrum, as a way to open up the topic. But if your child is already being bullied because he's unathletic, skip it and find another book. As to the writing, it's a little flat and lifeless but gets the point across. The illustrations didn't thrill me. In general, I'd call this an average book and recommend it with slight hesitation because of its overly-simplified ending.

In other news:

No photos, today. But, I do have a kitty story. Isabel has always been fascinated with the toilet and today I made the mistake of flushing with the lid up. Little Izzy was sitting nearby and jumped directly into the toilet as it was flushing, then popped back out backwards. Oh, do I wish I'd had a video camera, although it's not likely I'd have carried it into the bathroom, anyway. Fortunately, Isabel got a clean-water bath. The jerky shake-off-the-water dance after her experience was half the fun. I'll call that my Wednesday Wahoo!

And, this is unusual for me: I'm planning to do a product review for CSN, which has about a million stores and sells everything from cat beds to human bed sets to cooking utensils and bookshelves . . . you name it. I've seen a lot of reviews of bookshelves and I actually have plenty of those, so I'm still pondering what exactly to review. It'll have to be something related to the blog, though, meaning something that has to do with books, blogging or cats. I'll let you know when I figure it out!

Just finished:

The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell and
Take a Chance On Me by Jill Mansell

I enjoyed both and hope to review them very soon. My sidebar will give you an idea of how serious the review backlog has become. Eeks. It's kind of scary. I shall do my best to catch up, but you know how that goes. Don't hold your breath.

May your Wednesdays be full of wahoos and the rest of your days happy and healthy.

Bookfool, feeling wahooey

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo

Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo
Copyright 2009
Guideposts - General fiction
270 pages
Author's website

Emma's life has recently gone down the drain. A former professor at a prestigious university, she made her living studying Jane Austen and thought her husband was her Darcy or Knightley until a betrayal left Emma alone and jobless. Now she realizes Jane Austen's happily-ever-after romances have misled her.

Lured to England by a woman who claims to possess the correspondence Jane Austen's sister Cassandra told the world she destroyed, Emma ends up finding herself performing a number of tasks and only slowly getting a glimpse of a few choice letters that hint at the reason Austen chose not to share her secrets with the world. She's also thrown into the paths of two very handsome men, one of whom used to be her best friend.

What was Jane Austen's secret? Is Emma being led on a wild goose chase or will she be able to publish the letters and restore her tarnished reputation? And, what about those men?

I read Jane Austen Ruined My Life primarily because I was in the mood for something light; and, a quick perusal of the book made it clear that some fluffy fun was in store. Emma is a basically decent person in a disastrous situation. Low on money, out of a job and humiliated by her husband's affair, spending the last of her money on the chance that Cassandra Austen really kept her sister's letters is a big chance that could cost her dearly if it doesn't pay off.

What I liked about this book:

Jane Austen Ruined My Life is pretty predictable and I was in the mood for a book that was low on brain power. But, Pattillo still managed to surprise me now and then, which is always a positive thing. London is one of my favorite cities, so the setting is a favorite and I enjoyed reading about parts of London and locations related to Jane Austen that I haven't seen or experienced, yet. It was also very fun to read a book with a theoretical "What if?" about Jane Austen, simply because Austen is a fascinating character, herself. And, since Jane Austen Ruined My Life was published by Guideposts, it's clean. It does not, however, have any kind of Christian theme or elements, apart from the fact that Emma is the daughter of a preacher.

What I disliked about this book:

There were a few minor problems with the author's research and those kind of stopped me in my tracks, now and then, just to ponder how on earth she came to write them. For example, when Emma used the Tube, she didn't mention escalators or stairs and there was little description of the hustling, tightly-packed crowds. Instead, Emma boarded elevators. The London Underground is ancient and very unfriendly to the handicapped (and heavy-luggage burdened), although I can't say whether or not the stations the fictional Emma used did have elevators. Usually, they're really tricky to locate and a pain in the patootie to use, though, so it's an odd oversight. Most of the errors I caught or thought I detected (I'm no expert on London, myself) had to do with transportation.

Would I read this author again? Yes.

Cover thoughts: I used to write my thoughts about covers regularly and somehow managed to get away from doing so. This cover appeals to me because the soft edges and bright red against a muted background make for an eye-catching image, in my humble opinion. Does the cover give potential readers a decent idea of what's inside? Well, Emma never did lie around on a bench looking like she had a migraine, but she did sit on one and the cover depicts Emma's distress, so I'd say yes, it's pretty well done.

This is the 6th item I've read or watched for the Everything Austen II Challenge and I'm still pondering whether or not to wrap it up. I have an anniversary edition of the A & E Pride & Prejudice mini-series on DVD, which includes a Jane Austen documentary that I plan to view soon. So, you know . . . I'm going to carry on with my Jane experience, either way.

In other news:

It's raining!!!!! Squeeee!! We have had the longest stretch of no rain or hardly-any rain I think I've ever experienced in Mississippi, so it's pretty exciting. Also, I love a good thundery-rainy day. I spent all afternoon reading myself silly.

Just walked in (in the last week or so):
  • The Baby Bible Christmas Storybook - from B & B Media for tour/review
  • The Secret River by Kate Grenville - from PBS, with thanks to Paula for the recommendation
  • Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye - from PBS, thanks to Amy's excellent review

Things I'm currently pondering:

  • Why are people still signing up to follow my deceased cat on Twitter?
  • Why haven't I bothered to remove my dearly-departed feline's Twitter account? Oh, yes, I remember. Not sure of the password, anymore. Eeks.
  • Should I try to plot or at least come up with an idea for NaNoWriMo or just wing it, like I always have? Winging it seems to work better than planning for me, but I deeply desire to be a planner.
  • Why am I suddenly in the mood to use bullet points?
This seems like a good time for a London photo.

Ah, the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon in London's lovely Green Park.

Happy Reading!

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Books that are calling to me and finding that their calls land upon a deaf ear

Since I'm not quite back in the mood to review, I thought I'd do something different and list a few books that have been calling to me but which I haven't managed to fit into the reading schedule, yet.

Books that are calling to me and finding that they are hollering into a deaf ear:

Baby Shark by Robert Fate

I read Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption in 2008 and absolutely loved it. Shortly after I posted my review, the author sent me an autographed copy of the first novel in the crime series, Baby Shark, with an hilarious inscription based on the fact that the bad guy in High Plains Redemption shared my last name. I've been anxious to read the book ever since, but I keep bogging myself down with review books (yes, in spite of that declaration in the sidebar, I keep taking on review books). Baby Shark is kept on a prominent shelf and it glares at me, now and then. I need to make time to gobble that puppy down.

Random Passage by Bernice Morgan

Random Passage is historical fiction set in Newfoundland, a stunningly evocative book I actually began to read and then set aside for a reason that doesn't occur often. It was so good that I wanted to devote myself to it completely. At the time, I was signed up for a Canadian reading challenge. For one reason or another, I kept putting it off until it ended up neatly filed on a shelf. Like the others on this list, I occasionally glance at it longingly and think, "As soon as I stop reviewing books for other people." Hmm, wonder when that will happen?

Under the Dome by Stephen King

And, yes, I also need to read The Stand. Confession: I am a sucker for the underdog -- in this case, meaning I like to read books by first-time or lesser-known authors and I tend to avoid those who are making millions, like John Grisham and Nora Roberts (James Patterson, Stephen King, blah, blah) because I figure they don't need me -- although, actually, I've read all of those authors and only one of them thrilled me. But, Under the Dome has appealed to me from the moment I heard about it and I don't let my silly prejudice against filthy-rich authors stop me from reading anything that does, in fact, pique my interest. However . . . it's so big. I mean, Under the Dome is a really, really BIG book and I'm a fairly slow reader. So, it's holding down the table top in our den, just waiting for me to pick it up.

The Ship of Brides by JoJo Moyes

Same song, different tune. I read Foreign Fruit by JoJo Moyes, a few years ago, and absolutely loved it. So I bought The Ship of Brides and The Peacock Emporium. The Ship of Brides is another chunkster but it also happens to be a post-WWII novel and you'd think that would be enough to make me sit down with it. A bunch of military brides from Australia traveling to meet with their husbands in England via a ship full of naval officers? Oh, oh. Want to read now!! But, again . . . fat book, obligations. Maybe if I picked up my computer and dropped it from the rooftop that would give me the reviewing break I need?

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy

I don't even know where I heard of The Forsyte Saga, although I suspect someone in my reading group mentioned it. After hearing the title, I just happened to find the entire series on DVD in the library. I dragged it home and spent the entire week watching it, little by little. And, then I bought the book. You know the rest of the story. Incidentally, that is the cover of the DVD set but it's the same picture that's on the cover of my copy of the book. One thing I truly loved about the series was the casting. Several actors I'm very fond of were in the series, but The Forsyte Saga also introduced me to someone new to me, the uber-talented Damian Lewis.

Lewis played a particularly nasty character, but he did it so convincingly that I've sought him out elsewhere and have not been disappointed . . . except when he drops his lovely accent -- I hate that. I think there should be an organization devoted to saving British, Australian and other wondrous accents from being mucked up by American roles. Find an excuse to make your Brits and Aussies and Welshmen and Kiwis keep their accents and write it into the script! Are you listening, Hollywood?

Thus, we come full circle to the concept of the deaf ear. But, you never know. Maybe one ear will perk up and save an accent.

Enough for now. There are plenty more books begging me to make 2011 an ARC-free year. We'll see if I bother to listen.

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fiona Friday and Mindless Meanderings

I absolutely love this photo of Fiona because it shows her typical patient, relaxed expression. She is such a lovely cat in both looks and personality. Fiona has continued to grow, since Isabel arrived, and she is a big, sturdy cat, now.

Some of you already know that yesterday was a banner day for our kitties. We've been slowly letting Isabel spend the night outside her room (the utility room) but I was planning to put her to bed in the usual way until I spent some time reading in the bedroom. Fiona was sleeping at the end of the bed on her cardboard scratching pad and it was cold, so I moved her onto the bed. Then, in marched Isabel, once Fiona had finished her luxurious bathing ritual and dropped off to sleep.

Fi was nervous, at first, afraid the little hellion would pounce on her. So, I petted her head and told her, "It's all right." Isabel was obviously tired and ducking in submission. Fiona relaxed and groomed Izzy. Izzy kneaded on Fi's belly a little, feeling instinctively mothered, I suppose. And, then Isabel walked around behind Fi and put both her paws around Fi's neck and groomed her head. Then, she curled up within inches of Fiona. Awww. I can't believe my two kitties have only known each other for about 7 weeks! I ended up letting Isabel sleep outside the utility room and was rewarded with the warmth of two nearby kitties, most of the night.

On the book end of life, I finished reading The Puzzle King by Betsy Carter, Thursday evening. I loved the ending and had to reach for a tissue when I read the brief Epilogue, which touched me deeply.

I'm getting close to finishing Nightshade by Andrea Kremer, a book my son gobbled down in a single evening. It's taken me a bit longer, but I'm enjoying my jaunt into a world of werewolves.

I'm also reading Detectives Don't Wear Seatbelts by Cici McNair, a former Mississippian and world traveler who now owns a private detective agency. And, I started Why We Need Love, edited by Simon Van Booy but the first entry bogged me down. I'm going to get back to that, today. It's an excerpt from Silas Marner and I think I was just too tired for George Eliot's lengthy sentences when I first picked up the book. Oh, and one more -- I started reading Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Patillo, two evenings ago. It's mildly fluffy and totally fun, thus far.

In other news . . . I'm a klutz. No, really. In the midst of the read-a-thon, my husband called to ask me to measure two prints so he could search for frames. I fetched one from the mantle and then climbed on a chair to retrieve the other from the top of a bookcase. I fell off the chair and hit the back of another dining chair, just below my ribs. Yeow. And, then I cut myself while opening a parcel. I was chatting with someone and told her I've become Superklutz and she said, "That's nothing. I sliced my lip open on a popsicle, this morning."

That definitely made me feel better.

Recent Arrivals (both from Paperback Swap):

So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore by Jacobsen and Coleman
The Republic of Nothing by Lesley Choyce

I tried to write a review, yesterday, and found myself staring at the computer, instead, so I've still got plenty of catch-up reviews to write. Hopefully, next week I'll feel more inspired. At least I'm enjoying the reading.

Update - forgot to mention:

If you subscribe to my feed, you will have probably noticed a number of posts containing nothing but lists of reads in years past, yesterday or the day before. That is because I just happened to find a stockpile of old calendars and decided to update my sidebar so that you can now peek into my past reading life as far as 1997. I began keeping track of books I'd finished primarily because I was reading a lot of titles by Dick Francis and the titles didn't necessarily have a clear association with his storylines, so I kept accidentally buying them twice. That was sometime in the 90's. During the early years, my reading wasn't always accurately recorded and often I had trouble reading my writing because my calendar was cluttered with children's activities, work schedules, travel notes, running mileage during the years I ran regularly . . . you name it. Sorry about that mess in your readers. Just page past it to get to the normal posts.

Happy Weekend, Everybody!

Lovable, furry old Grover Bookfool

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dewey's Nine Lives by Myron & Witter

Dewey's Nine Lives by Vicki Myron
with Bret Witter
Copyright 2010
Dutton - Non-fiction/Animals
306 pages

We don't love cats out of need. We don't love them as symbols or projections. We love them individually in the complex manner of all human love, because cats are living creatures. They have personalities and quirks, good traits and flaws. Sometimes they fit us and they make us laugh in our darkest moments. And then we love them. It's as simple as that.

Dewey's Nine Lives is a book of nine stories -- two Dewey tales and seven other stories about cats who in some way deeply touched the lives of their humans. I gobbled down the first half of the book so quickly that I actually set Dewey's Nine Lives aside to force myself to extend the joy. I enjoyed it that much.

Each chapter of Dewey's Nine Lives is headed by the name or names of the cats whose stories are revealed within the following pages. I had some personal favorite stories, like that of Mr. Sir Bob Kittens, also known as "Ninja", a cat who was reserved enough that he was practically unadoptable but made his humans laugh when they discovered why he'd originally been nicknamed "Ninja". You just have to read it to believe it.

What I loved about this book:

As I read each of these stories, I couldn't help but think of my own cats and how they've touched our lives, often in similar ways. Our Sunshine, for example, was the most outgoing, empathetic and intelligent cat I've ever been owned by. I'll never forget the time I was crying and she climbed up on my chest, licked the tears off my face then tucked her head under my chin and stayed with me until I felt better. Most of the cats in this book are in some way special because of how they responded to their people, kept them company in their darkest hours, made them laugh, came running when they called. I smiled a lot while reading this book and occasionally wiped away tears.

What I disliked about this book:

These are small complaints, but the stories are often a bit meandering. Sometimes it takes the author a long time to get to the actual cat portion of a tale, although I always found that the background was relevant and helped you to understand the reason a particular cat was so special or important to helping a human get through rough times. I also kind of disliked the way the author inserted her own story into those of others -- although, again, there was a relevance to her comments about her own experiences and I've found that even as I'm writing this review there are many, many stories that I'm bursting to share. So, I can certainly understand why the author chose to do so.

Highly recommended to pet lovers everywhere.

Dewey's Nine Lives is a feel-good book about cats that any pet lover will appreciate, even those who aren't enamored of cats. I was surprised and pleased at the final story of the book, a continuation of the author's tale that connects to the story of another person with a very special cat.

The author politely warns readers that some stories may make them cringe and she doesn't necessarily condone how the humans chose to care for their cats. I felt that way about the many cats who spent their days outdoors and those who were not neutered, although we have always neutered but we used to have indoor-outdoor cats. After our Spooky was injured several times (once by a pack of dogs that nearly killed her) and after I read about how cats are contributing to the sharp decline in songbird populations, we opted to make our cats indoor pets. During her last years, we accompanied Miss Spooky outdoors and called her back if she started to walk out of sight. It's difficult to turn a cat who loves spending time outside into an indoor-only pet, so we started out fresh with Fiona and Isabel. They like sitting in open windows, but that's as close as they get to the outdoors.

My thanks to Dutton books for the Advance Review Copy of Dewey's Nine Lives! My copy will be traveling to the home of a cat-loving reading buddy in Upstate New York.

In other news:

Saturday's 24-hour Read-a-thon wiped me out, but I recovered pretty quickly. I've just been busy. We returned Kiddo to school on Monday and then went shopping for necessities and to check out whether or not Bookfool had a preference for particular monitor sizes (I'm not picky). Husband surprised me by ordering a new computer almost immediately. It will be a relief to have a computer that doesn't continually lock up. It's taking me forever to accomplish anything online. I'll warn you when I go offline to switch out computers.

Just walked in:

The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham - about Margaret of Anjou (from Sourcebooks)

The plan, such as it is:

Since I managed to finish three books and a graphic novel during the read-a-thon, I've got a bit of a backlog of reviews to complete, now. I don't want to give any of them short shrift (although I confess I might just skip Fables: Legends in Exile) but I don't plan to review them in any particular order, although I seem to be doing best alternating between adult and children's books, lately, so I may continue to review that way.

This post obviously requires a cat photo and today is Wednesday, so this one's a Wahoo!

I love it when my kitties hang out together harmoniously. Always very wahooey.

Happy Wednesday!

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In which Yours Truly wraps up her Read-a-thon thoughts and decorates them in jungle print with a pretty cat

I was going to steal the Readathon End of Event Meme from Amanda the Zen, but then I decided . . . nah. I'm too much of a free spirit to use a standard old form. Instead, I'll just chatter the way I usually do. This time, I'll chatter in list form.

So . . . Bookfool's Ending Summary of 24-hour Readathon Experience:

1. It was cool.

2. Finished - 3 books already in progress:

Why Our Decisions Don't Matter, ed. by Simon Van Booy
The Making of a Gentleman by Shana Galen
Dewey's Nine Lives by Myron & Witter

3. Read from cover to cover:
Fables: Legends in Exile

4. New reads started:
Why We Need Love, ed. by Simon Van Booy
Detectives Don't Wear Seat Belts by Cici McNair
The Puzzle King by Betsy Carter

5. It would have been helpful to read the instructions a little more thoroughly; I didn't have a clue what the mini-challenges were about because I threw myself in so last-minute that I didn't bother to read about them. Silly Bookfool.

6. I am seriously ADD.

7. Cats are the bestest best reading companions, ever.

8. Next time, I'm stocking up on healthy snacks in advance.

9. There will be a next time.

10. I had as much fun taking cat photos as I did reading, but that's par for the course.

11. The reading was awesome. My goal was pretty much to finish those 3 books and start some new ones. I didn't care about page count.

12. If you pressed me, I'd estimate my page count was somewhere in the 4-500 range, but that's really just a S.W.A.G. (Scientific Wild-A**ed Guess).

13. Cave-in time: Approximately 01:00 Hours

Cat proximity at time of horizontalness: Fiona nearby; Isabel in her room for the night
Sense of satisfaction upon collapse: 10/10
Easily satisfied? Well, yes. But, I did meet my mental goal.

14. Because you can't end with 13 or certain people will get freaked out.

14 1/2. Next time I'll give something away and keep track of pages for donation purposes. I forgot about both and I always have plenty to share. Since I had no specific plan, the ASPCA is getting a donation because my cats have me thinking about the work they do to save animals.

I might just keep a single, running update post like Amanda did, next time, also. I'll ponder that for a few months. Hope everyone's having a super weekend! I do believe I'm going back to bed, now.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

9:03 PM or it would have been if my stupid computer wasn't freaking out

<---Laziest cat on the planet.

<---Also, I finished Fables: Legends in Exile.

I don't read that slowly. But, I am certainly discovering that I'm not the type to sit and read all day long. It's amazing how many things there are to distract a gal who doesn't like to sit still.

Also, I like to study the illustrations in a graphic novel. I don't just read, glance and flip. But, geez, it was only 119 pages.

How are you doing?

6:16 PM Avoidance Technique Report

Avoidance: My specialty (at least, after 8 hours of attempting to read on a somewhat continuous basis).

I actually spent nearly two hours not reading, during which I:

1. Cooked and ate something decidedly low in nutrition, high in fat and very tasty
2. Opened the window and waved a plastic bag beneath the smoke detector to get it to shut up because apparently the oven is in desperate need of a cleaning.
3. Fed the kitties some Kitty Crack, aka "Fancy Feast".
4. Played laser tag with both furballs.
5. Danced to the On the Rocks (University of Oregon's a cappella all-male choir) rendition of "Bad Romance".
6. Replied to several email and Facebook messages.
7. Collected on my Mafia Wars properties (it's an illness).
8. Visited a few blogs to see who is Read-a-thon-ing because I neglected to put a link in my sidebar.
9. Watched a video of Kiddo and Girlfriend on a ride at the state fair (I'm guessing Girlfriend's scream is soprano).
10. Dashed out to say, "Hello!" to Kiddo and Husband upon their arrival.

I'm sure there's more. I did, however, manage to finish reading Why Our Decisions Don't Matter, edited by the delightful and dapper Simon Van Booy, once I finally became aware of the clock thingie and how it had continued to tick on without my knowledge.

And, then I played "Stuff On My Cat," as you can see. What's next? Hmm, think, think. I only have one book remaining that is in progress: Nightshade by Andrea Kremer. If it doesn't beg me to read it, when I return to my pillowy reading throne, I shall lop off its head. I mean, I'll decide what to read next when I get there. I'll eventually let you know. Obviously, I'm addicted to updating. And, possibly becoming even weirder than normal. Scary.

2:39 PM - Two down and where's the food replicator when you need it?

I'm not actually counting hours or minutes of reading, eating, goofing off playing Mafia Wars (blush), etc., but the last few hours were definitely rougher than the first few because I went all ADD and did a lot of jumping up and down to do other things, got diverted by crazed cats and stopped briefly to eat some salmon with capers that my lovely husband cooked for me.

When I finally resumed reading, the kitten marched right in and hopped back onto the bed. Fiona really wanted a playmate but finally ended up curled up near a sunny window on Kiddo's bed after nobody cooperated. We had some interesting moments during which Izzy played "feet attack" and chewed on the blanket but then, wham, she ran out of gas and fell asleep. Apart from squirrels scampering across the roof and a bird climbing on the window screen, it's been pretty darned quiet around here - very conducive to reading (or napping, but fortunately I haven't felt sleepy since the salmon).

I've just finally finished my second book, Dewey's Nine Lives -- a very fun read about cats who have made a difference in the lives of their humans. What's next? Umm, a little scrounging in the kitchen? Why does reading all day make a girl so hungry? After I dig up a snack, I'll start in on whatever grabs me. I think probably Simon's book, Why Our Decisions Don't Matter. I've been dragging out the reading of that one because I love it so much, but I still have Why We Need Love waiting, so it'll be good to move on.

This is so much more fun than housework or cleaning a garage. ;)

10:55 and I feel like a slug . . .

. . . but I'm having fun read-a-thoning. A literal pain in the neck convinced me it was time to get up and stretch. I've been reading Dewey's Nine Lives by Vicki Myron for the past couple of hours. I've got at least another 100 pages to go and I was yawning and aching, so I got dressed and whined at my husband, who promptly offered to fix me a coffee. Aww, how sweet is he?

Isabel has continued to keep me company, lolling around on the bed after a good 5 minutes of tail chasing that probably did some serious damage to the blanket. You can tell I don't care. It's just a blanket. We only use them for about 3 months a year, anyway. Fiona returned to my desk chair after we all had our morning snack (Me: cheese & onion sandwich; Cats; Iams chunky stinky stuff). The kitty girls are playing chase, now.

I'm enjoying Dewey's Nine Lives immensely and excited at the thought that the read-a-thon may free me up to start an entirely new set of books. I think the coffee is working. Was just a little worried that we might be headed toward nap-a-thon territory. Also, I think my seriously introverted husband is really, really enjoying the lack of chatter. He'd already warned me he was going to be in need of some recharging time, so this is great for both of us.
Back to reading!

8:44 AM and all's well

It's 8:45 (time just keeps on ticking into the future) and I have finished reading The Making of a Gentleman by Shana Galen. I hope I wasn't supposed to keep track of pages because that didn't occur to me, although I'd guess there were about 75 or so. Very sexy book, adventurous and with a satisfying ending.

Next up . . . not sure, but something from the sidebar or Fables. I'll figure that out after I have a snack, if I can find anything. I came into this so late that I didn't think to go shopping but those Mini Wheats just didn't do it for me.

Little Isabel, whom I often call "Tiny" (although she's up to a whopping 3.5 pounds) has joined me in the bedroom and Fiona is hogging my computer chair, so I'm perched uncomfortably on the edge for this update. She doesn't seem to mind sharing the chair. Told you she's a sweetie pie. Off to forage in the kitchen.

Good morning!

I completely forgot Fiona Friday, so here you go. A quick shot. I may post another pic, later, but there's nothing like a cat by a kimchi pot in the morning to get you fired up.

It's 6:42 am and dark as night in my home territory. I've fed the cats, eaten my Frosted Mini Wheats (dry - I confess, I am too shattered to pour water into a bowl to make oatmeal) and I'm preparing to start reading in approximately 17 minutes. I'll be starting with The Making of a Gentleman by Shana Galen because I'm enjoying it so much that I want to finish it!

More later! Happy reading to all!!

Friday, October 08, 2010

24-hour Read-a-thon - I'm signed up!

Would you believe that in over 4 years of blogging I've never signed up for a Read-a-thon? They've always appealed to me, since way back when our beloved Dewey came up with the concept -- and I've participated casually (without signing up) in the past. But, till last spring I had swim meets and other events that interfered.

This year: Kiddo's coming home for the weekend and hubby wants to clean the garage "while it's cool". However, it shot up to 88 degrees, today, so maybe I can get away with hiding in the bedroom to read. We'll see.

I don't have any books specifically set aside. My goal is to finish the three four books I'm currently reading and I also hope to read Fables: Legends in Exile, the first of the Fables graphic novels. After that . . . whatever grabs me, if I find the time. I will not go without sleep, so it'll probably be more like a 12-hour read-a-thon, at best. I've got hints of a sinus infection that's making my eyes puffy and sore, so I just can't do without the sleep. But, I'll keep you posted on what I manage to read.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to the Canadians!!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Persuasion, the BBC film on DVD

Persuasion by Jane Austen
The BBC production on DVD
Copyright 1995

When I sat down to watch Persuasion, last night, I didn't have the Everything Austen II Challenge in mind, but since watching a video qualifies as an entry in the challenge, you get to hear about my quiet evening watching a DVD with two sleepy kitties curled up nearby. I viewed the 1995 verson starring Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth and Amanda Root as Anne.

Update: I can't believe I didn't even write what the story is about. Anne Elliot is unmarried and now considered well beyond marrying age, having been persuaded to reject Mr. Wentworth (her true love) because of his lack of income, 8 years in the past. Now, her family is on the verge of bankruptcy and when Anne goes off to stay with one of her sisters, Mary, she encounters her former love, now a captain in the Royal Navy. They're at first wary of each other, but tragedy and overheard conversations lead to the kind of ending you know you're going to get with Austen. So . . . back to my "review".

I flipped through 5 of the 6 years of reads in my sidebar and didn't find Persuasion, so apparently it's been more than 5 years since I read the book, which would account for my difficulty in remembering the storyline at the beginning of the movie. I did recall that Anne was considered beyond marriageable age and somewhat sickly-looking and, of course, that she was unable to marry the love of her life. But I couldn't remember why Anne and Wentworth parted.

Fortunately, while the movie is quietly paced and Amanda Root seems a bit devoid of expression a good portion of the time, the look of panic on Anne's face when Captain Wentworth shows up to pay his respects at her sister's house, followed by a conversation in which someone mentions why Anne rejected a completely unsuitable and common sailor (now returned from the first Napoleonic War a wealthy man) cleared things up nicely.

Anne and Wentworth's story is beautifully told in this film. The settings are lovely and the costuming goes a long way toward pointing out personality quirks. There are some nasty women in Anne's family and the outfits the characters wear tend to match their personalities -- Anne's clothing is as understated and demure as she is, while her icky sister Elizabeth's wardrobe matches her loud and offensive personality. I thought the fitting choice of outfits was a nice touch.

As the movie progressed, I became accustomed to Amanda Root and I liked her as Anne but I would have liked to see a little more obvious emotion. Reviews of a 2007 version describe the 2007 as more emotional but less accurate to the book than the movie I viewed. There's always a little give and take, isn't there? The accuracy to the book was admirable in the 1995 version, according to my memory and some comments at Amazon, and I will definitely watch it again and again. But, I'd also like to get my mitts on that 2007 version.

The best part, of course, is when Captain Wentworth signals Anne with a look to let her know he has left her a note -- and the heart-pounding moments as both Anne's and Wentworth's voices overlap in the reading of the note. It's terribly, wonderfully romantic.

Definitely highly recommended for the Austen lover.

Also worth mentioning is Samuel West as Mr. Elliot, Anne's cousin and the potential heir to her family's estate. Every time he showed up, I found myself struggling to remember where on earth I'd seen him. I had a feeling he was in one of the Hornblower movies, because I could visualize him in period costume but still could not place him. Sure enough, he played Major Edrington, a character I absolutely adored in "The Wrong War", an episode of Hornblower. He was also in period costume in Notting Hill, as the actor chatting with Julia Roberts in between the filming of scenes on Hampstead Heath.

Persuasion is my fifth entry for the Everything Austen II Challenge, but I don't feel as if I've finished. I'll ponder for a while. There's more reading I'd still like to do. Incidentally, Miss Fiona spent the better part of Persuasion happily curled on a blanket and Isabel spent the vast majority of the evening on my bed, but did pop by for a visit. Fiona gave the video four paws up -- or would have, if there'd been room to roll onto her back.

In other news:

I've kept in touch with Chef Alain Braux since reading his wonderful first cookbook, How to Lower Your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food. Now, he's just released his second book, Living Gluten and Dairy Free with French Gourmet Food. I'm not sensitive to gluten, as far as I know, but it never hurts to find new recipes that are healthy and I'm looking forward to reading the book and giving some of his new recipes a try.

Also, if you haven't already seen them, you really must take a look at author Shannon Hale's beautiful twins.

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post at Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Mr. Darcy's Obsession by Abigail Reynolds

Mr. Darcy's Obsession
By Abigail Reynolds
Copyright 2010
Sourcebooks - Historical Fiction
348 pages

"So you are the mysterious young lady who has been causing such an uproar. Since you are to be part of the family, you might as well call me Aunt Augusta. It is traditional to say it with a certain degree of exasperation."

"Aunt Augusta!" Darcy said. "This is hardly the time."

She pointed at him. "You see, Fitzwilliam is providing a fine example. He has the tone almost perfect. A few more years of practice, and he will sound exactly like his father."

Elizabeth made a slight curtsey. "You will have to forgive me, madam. It is beyond my thespian abilities to seem exasperated with someone I have just met. You will have to do something to exasperate me first."

Mr. Darcy's Obsession is yet another spin-off of Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice, this time imagining a world two years after Lizzy's visit to Rosings -- a world in which Darcy talked himself out of proposing, Mr. Bennet has died, the family estate has been entailed to Mr. Collins, and Jane has married a milliner.

When Darcy finds out about Elizabeth Bennet's reduced circumstances from an angry Bingley, he decides he must find out how she is doing in her new life as governess to her aunt and uncle's children in Cheapside. With that in mind, he journeys to Cheapside and traverses the street without learning a thing, until he meets a little urchin named Charlie.

Charlie is a smart little whippersnapper and he becomes Mr. Darcy's spy, enabling Darcy to renew his acquaintance with Lizzy by joining her for walks in a nearby park (and definitely resulting in the improvement of life for one little street boy). Will Darcy get over his pride and finally give in to his obsession, making Lizzy his wife? What will become of the rest of the Bennet family? And, what about poor Bingley? Will he ever return to London and find love?

To be honest, Mr. Darcy's Obsession is rather predictable after one has read the introductory material and become acquainted with the new background and storyline. Bingley is almost entirely out of the picture, now that Jane has married a much older man and is expecting a baby, but you can easily guess where that's headed. What's unexpected is the new cast created for purposes of changing the storyline. Reynolds has added to Darcy's family and the little urchin he pulls off the street to use as his extra set of eyes and ears is a charming addition.

The bottom line: If you don't mind a change from the original Austen, Mr. Darcy's Obsession is a pleasant, often clever, read and every bit as clean (no more than a kiss is exchanged) as the original. The additional cast adds a completely new dimension to the story and makes it unique. My only complaint is that sometimes I thought Mr. Darcy's intent was a little unclear, but one doesn't have to read far to untangle any confusion. Definitely recommended.

Just walked in:

How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway - An ARC passed on by a friend. Thank you, Paula!

Just walked in and out:

Isabel and her slave. We went to get the second half of her shots. Fingers crossed this batch doesn't knock her as flat as the last round.

People I don't know:

Because I haven't taken many photos, lately, and some of my favorite shots from vacations are those of total strangers, I decided I'll share one that I love of a family enjoying Trafalgar Square.

Aren't they lovely? They seemed to be having a very wahooey time. Incidentally, I chose to read Mr. Darcy's Obsession partly for the Everything Austen II Challenge and partly because I enjoyed The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice by the same author. I plan to read more by Abigail Reynolds. Mr. Darcy's Obsession is my fourth read for the Everything Austen II Challenge.

Happy Wednesday!

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post at Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.