Monday, February 28, 2011

My Love, My Enemy by Jan Cox Speas

My Love, My Enemy
By Jan Cox Speas
Copyright 2011 - Sourcebooks Casablanca
Orig. published 1961
Historical Fiction/Some romance but not like that--->
249 pages

"Don't look so distressed," he said, sounding somewhat amused. "It was not so easy to unseat me, as you see, and I acquit you of deliberately wishing to kill yourself in such an unpleasant fashion. Please do me the honor, however, of promising to be more careful in the future. It is always wise, you know, to look before you leap."

He bowed again, murmured, "Your servant," and rode on, followed by another man clad in sober black and mounted on a sober black horse. Plainly a gentleman's gentleman, the second man gave Page only a slight bow as he passed, but something in his face seemed to convey a friendly sympathy that took some of the sting from her embarrassment. [. . . ]

Page gave an imperceptible sigh. Nothing was going the way it should. It was really quite strange, she reflected with a swift amusement, how the day refused to fit into its normal ordinary pattern. She had been seeking an escape from boredom, but perhaps one should be wary of a boon so readily and generously granted.

--from pp. 12-13 of My Love, My Enemy (Advanced Review Copy: Some changes may have been made to the final printed edition)

My Love, My Enemy takes place during dual conflicts: The War of 1812 and the final year of the Napoleonic Wars. Page Bradley is an American living in Annapolis. 18 and adventurous, she has managed to sneak onto the boat of a fellow named Duncan MacDougall (who works for her father) to accompany him into town for a bit of shopping. Shortly after she's nearly run over by a horse in town, thanks to a little daydreaming, Page finds the rider of the horse of her earlier encounter surrounded by an angry mob in a killing mood. The crowd is convinced he's a British spy. Page saves the day with a little quick thinking, managing to convince everyone that the British man is with her (in 1812, it's safe to say that everyone would know a prominent citizen's daughter), but when their sloop is captured by a British frigate, Page and MacDougall become prisoners. And, then an American ship attacks.

Page goes from ship to ship and then from Bermuda to France, followed by London as plans to return her to Annapolis are continually thwarted by the war on the home front and war in Europe, poor weather and the determination of an American pirate who simply can't be bothered to drop off a young lady when there's such great treasure to capture. Will Page ever make it home to Annapolis? Was Jocelyn Trevor, Lord Hazard, really visiting his sister in America or is he a spy? Why must everyone persist in treating Page like a child?

As you can tell from my description, My Love, My Enemy focuses on history, action and adventure more than romance, although it is Page's story and the reader remains in her point of view. The affection between Lord Hazard and Page Bradley develops gradually and there is nothing steamy, nothing that screams of the common romance -- no deep, impassioned longing or admiration of bodies, nothing beyond a few kisses and even those occur in the latter half of the book, possibly later.

What I Loved about My Love, My Enemy:

This is the kind of "romance" I love, in which the love story is merely one of many things happening, not the sole focus of the novel, beautifully written with exciting battles and an adventurous journey across an historical backdrop of war. The touch of romance, slowly developed, as the hero and heroine often are forced to part company, is quite nearly perfect, in my humble opinion. I'm not a fan of the kind of romance with graphic sex and gushing about each other's bodies and desire. I prefer a gentle, chaste romance that develops at a realistic pace. The blend of adventure and sweet interaction make the My Love, My Enemy both compelling and delightful.

My Love, My Enemy also has an excellent, built-in conflict. Page is American; Lord Hazard is British. They are at war with each other. Much as she finds herself drawn to him, Page is a patriot and Lord Hazard is a soldier. At one point, he actually leaves Page for several months to go fight against Napoleon.

Realistic setting, great characters (I really liked them all . . . well, maybe there were one or two exceptions, but I'm pretty sure you're supposed to dislike them) and rocking fine dialogue make My Love, My Enemy a winner. Don't avoid it if you detest romance. It's a good story. At times, shipboard dialogue sounds very much like that of the Hornblower series.

What I disliked about My Love, My Enemy:

There was one point at which I thought, "How long is this bouncing from ship to ship going to go on?" And, in fact, just after I wondered that, the scenery changed. Page was dropped off far from home. So, honestly? There's nothing I dislike about the book. I know zippo about the War of 1812 and I learned a little -- enough to pique my interest, but not a great deal.

Cover thoughts:

I'm not a fan of the "steamy" romance cover, although I understand the reasoning behind them (romance sells, period) and I do love the background, a ship at sunset. Lord Hazard is never shirtless, as far as I can recall; the book is totally G-rated, definitely a great one to hand to your impressionable teenager. And, ooooh, I love that dress.

Book club report:

I totally forgot to talk about the last meeting of my book club. I missed the December meeting (even though I managed to read both books) because I wasn't feeling well and I skipped the January meeting because I found the book so distressing I didn't want to even think about it, much less discuss it. But, I really was enjoying Let the Great World Spin and our fearless leader encourages members to come, even if they haven't completed the reading. So, I did. It was fun. I really adore this group. They were every bit as enthusiastic as the first time I attended, occasionally raising voices and hollering right over each other.

I learned a bit about the book that I probably would not have caught but nothing that will spoil the reading, so I still intend to read it, eventually. Next month's book is Cutting for Stone, a book that I had not intended to read. I think maybe the size and the title put me off (and, to be honest, I absolutely hated that hardback cover -- I have no idea why). Our group leader encouraged me to find a copy, though, so I can join in on the discussion (after taking me on a tour of her personal library, which is so fabulous I'm still mentally drooling), even though it isn't one I planned on purchasing. And as it turns out . . . I'm loving it, so far.

In other news:

We have four painted walls in my office!!! It's a big, freaking mess in here and the walls need a little touch-up, then another coat. Meanwhile, we've also begun ripping up the flooring. As soon as the walls are finished and the flooring replaced, I'll have my neighbor come over to measure and we'll talk about the L-shaped desk and shelves I'm going to have him build. I'm so, so excited to have the chance to plan my own office arrangement. I haven't had room to spread out and do crafty things (you know, beyond laminating, and you can do most of the work for that on the floor) for so many years I can't even remember how long it's been. Wahoos in progress!!

What wonderful, wahooey things are happening in your life?

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Creation: Laminating Nathan Fillion

Sometimes, you just need to do something that has nothing to do with books, right? Other people knit or scrapbook, cook or run races. I laminate. And, thanks to an article in Entertainment Weekly that included a nearly-complete, full-length photo of Nathan Fillion as Firefly's endearing former Browncoat, Captain Reynolds, I had a project in the making! I decided to laminate Nathan Fillion and turn him into a standing figure.

Step 1: Cut out the photo of Fillion from EW, leaving a little room for error around the edges with about a millimeter of white edge. I didn't photograph the early steps.

Step 2: Using stick glue, paste the photo to poster board. I put the glue on the poster, rather than the back of the photograph, because sometimes putting glue on the back of a picture can cause tearing, even if you don't get too vigorous with the glue.

Step 3: Wait for glue to dry and then cut out the figure, again with a slight margin for error and with the addition of a wide base for propping (see first photo, below).

Step 4: Laminating plastic and a laminating machine are handy items in this house, since making bookmarks from my own photographs is a personal hobby. There was plenty of extra room to throw in a couple pre-printed bookmarks that have been sitting on the piano, so I tossed in two and waited for the machine to warm up. There's a John Mayer song about this step that you may have heard: "Waiting, waiting to be laminated . . . I keep on waiting, waiting to be laminated."

Step 5: Check for proper seal. Oops. When the green "ready" light glows, apparently that does not mean the laminating machine is hot enough. Notice the foggy areas and the halo around Nathan's head? I ran the plastic through two more times before deciding I needed to give the machine 5 or 10 more minutes to thoroughly heat up.

Step 6: Sigh of relief when laminating perfection has been reached.

Step 7: After making a third cut around the full figure (leaving a tiny margin around the sealed plastic edge around the laminated item) cut a triangular shape out of poster board. Make it nearly, but not quite, the full length of the laminated hunky subject and fold about 1/4" along the length, using scissors to press down the fold.

Step 8: Glue the folded 1/4" edge to the back of the figure. Note that because there's a margin of clear plastic at the bottom, where the plastic sealed, the poster-board stand is going to show through the plastic just a bit.

Step 9: Before glue has dried, prop up your cut-out figure to make adjustments in case he's leaning one direction or another. I had to adjust mine a few times and then I realized I needed to make a second fold at the bottom in order to get the figure to tip back just a fraction.

Step 10: Display. If you live in a home with cats, it's probably best to prop your laminated Nathan Fillion in a place the cats can't knock him down or make teeth marks in his head. I photographed him with a fairly neutral background and cleaned the background up a bit, just in case something unexpected occurs and I'm forced to redo the project. Or . . . you never know. I might want to print that photo out and make a Nathan Fillion bookmark.

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fiona Friday - Feline Whispers

Isabel says, "Pssst! I have secret!! Don't tell human."

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

A Billion Reasons Why by Kristin Billerbeck

A Billion Reasons Why
By Kristin Billerbeck
Copyright 2011
Thomas Nelson - Christian Chick Lit/Romance
320 pages

I'm going to make this review a quickie because it sounds like the end of the world is happening outside my window, here (big storm -- no lightning or I'd be unplugged).

Katie McKenna is about to get engaged to her boyfriend, Dexter. Dexter is reliable and he wants the same things Katie wants. At least, that's what she thinks until her old boyfriend, multi-millionaire Luc DeForges, walks back into her life. 8 years ago, Luc humiliated Katie in public, back in their hometown, New Orleans. Since then, she's become a special ed teacher in Northern California. Katie's put the past behind her and she's perfectly happy. But, Luc wants her to sing and dance at his brother's wedding. Really, he's trying to lure her to New Orleans but I won't go into the details apart from the fact that she needs her grandmother's ring to get engaged and Luc has it.

Katie has a fascination with the 1940s and she finds herself just a little bit excited at the idea of returning to her old passions, even briefly. But, there are a billion reasons why she shouldn't have anything to do with Luc, again. So, why is she suddenly spotting all of Dexter's flaws and finding herself so magnetically drawn to Luc? What if God wants her to stop hiding her talents and avoiding her passion for the 1940s? Could it be that Luc offers what she's really wanted all along?

Well . . . obviously, this is a romance so you know going into the book just how it's going to end and who the heroine will choose. I've wanted to read a book by Kristin Billerbeck for quite some time because I've read a lot of raves about her Christian chick lit (that's definitely how I'd classify it, although the Christian element is, again, not very prevalent).

Unfortunately, there were a lot of things I didn't like about A Billion Reasons Why. I thought the writing was weak, in general. Conversations that should have been brief and to the point dragged on for pages and were a bit stilted. And, I thought the idea of being "about to be engaged" made no sense, whatsoever. A ring does not a commitment make. A woman's engaged the moment he asks and she says "yes", in my mind.

In spite of all those dislikes, I did like the characters and I loved Katie's obsession with the 1940s. During the first half of the book, it seemed like it was taking forever for the author to explain the past -- what Luc did to humiliate Katie, what happened to her father, why Luc had her grandmother's ring. But, once those answers were revealed, I did like how it came together.

Also, I've always found myself drawn to the 1940s, its movies and clothing, the way people spoke -- and especially the strength of people dealing with WWII. Nice suits and hats!! Why can't we bring back hats on every head?! Okay, yes, they mush your hair.

I did think the whole New Orleans thing was forced--meaning, it seemed like the author went out of her way to try to make it sound like she knew New Orleans when, in fact, I was almost immediately convinced she just thought it was a cool setting. I looked up the author's bio and found out she's a 4th-generation Californian. I guess that means I've been in the Deep South long enough to recognize someone trying to "write Southern," as opposed to writing by a genuine Southerner.

Anyway, I liked A Billion Reasons Why enough to read to the end because sometimes it's just nice to read something a little light and predictable. but, I won't go out of my way to read more books by Billerbeck because I didn't like the lengthy, repetitive dialogue. However, the fact that the book is dialogue-heavy did make it a quick read and it was definitely good timing for a breezy read. I've been a tiny bit slumpy in recent weeks.

Recommended for romance lovers, in particular. A clean, sweet romance.

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
Copyright 2009
EgmontUSA - Young Adult/Paranormal
372 pages

The Dark Divine is the first e-book I've completed, which is possibly much more exciting than you can imagine. When I first got my e-reader (just after Christmas) I found that I'd read a chapter or two and then completely forget I was reading an e-book for a few days. It didn't come as naturally to me to grab the reader as it seems to for a lot of people, but I finally decided I was just going to have to work on making it a habit. Success! I finished an e-book!

Grace Divine has never known what happened between her brother Jude and Daniel Kalbi or why Daniel disappeared. Now he's back in town and she finds herself curiously drawn to him, even though Jude has warned her to keep her distance. Why is Jude so angry with Daniel? What's causing the arguments between her father, a pastor, and her slightly obsessive-compulsive mother? Is it really so wrong to love and want to help someone who has hurt the people you care for? Doesn't the Bible tell us to forgive?

I don't believe it's a spoiler to say there's something to do with werewolves in The Dark Divine because I know I read that much before I picked up the book and it takes a very long time before you actually get to the werewolf part of the book. The vast majority of The Dark Divine is about relationships -- the relationship between Daniel and the Divine family, how they took him in and then he abruptly left their lives and how Grace still finds him magnetically appealing. Even though she knows his absence was difficult for her family and they're strongly opposed to her having anything to do with him, as the daughter of a pastor Grace is accustomed to helping people and Daniel seems to need a friend.

What I loved about The Dark Divine:

I think Bree Despain did a great job of slowly peeling away the layers of the story, revealing the secrets Grace's father and brother kept close in the past, whilst simultaneously developing a romantic dilemma with plenty of conflict. And, the conflict simply grows stronger as Daniel's story is revealed. I also love the way the book is written such that Christianity is simply a part of Grace's identity. The Dark Divine isn't about Christianity at all. Grace's beliefs are simply inseparable from who she is and how she reacts.

What I disliked about The Dark Divine:

There were some minor strands of the story that confused me. I don't know if there were extremely small holes in the plot or I missed something, but toward the end I found myself thinking, "I don't get it. Why is Grace thinking that to herself? Where's her logic coming from?" In the end, some of those confusing bits were explained but I can't say I was totally satisfied. And, yet, I really enjoyed the reading and think the main reason the book ended up my first completed electronic read has to do with the fact that the story was compelling enough that I pretty much didn't touch any other books for the few days it took me to read The Dark Divine.

In other words, the "dislike" section of this review is pretty weak. If I still gave numerical ratings, I'd go with 3.5 or 4 stars, depending on my mood. That's one reason I don't use numerical ratings, anymore. I'm so moody that I find myself thinking, "This was about a 4-star book," when I finish and then 2 weeks later, I'll reflect on scenes I loved or hated and suddenly I want to go back and change my rating in one direction or another.

At any rate, I hope to read the second book in the series. But, so far my upper limit on e-book prices hasn't cracked $5 and the next book, The Lost Saint, is not what I consider a reasonable price for an e-book.

Cover thoughts:

Well . . . it's pretty. Very eye-catching. I have no idea what bare legs wrapped in hot pink tulle with matching toenail polish have to do with Grace Divine or the story, though.

Thoughts on defining genre:

I've occasionally hesitated to use the word "paranormal" because I haven't been certain I'm using it correctly, but I looked up the definition online and Merriam-Webster defines paranormal as "not scientifically explainable." Oh. Okay, that seems to work for werewolves. The American Heritage Dictionary goes a little further: "Beyond the range of normal experience or scientific explanation." That works better, in my mind, because (if I recall right) I'm pretty sure the prefix "para" means "beside" and when I think of the word paranormal, I think "beyond the normal" but "beside the normal" makes sense because it beside contrasts whatever you're talking about (ghosts, werewolves) with the normal but also implies a coexistence, right? Am I overanalyzing, here?

And a question:

I recently asked the people in my book group if they have an upper limit they're willing to pay for e-books or simply download whatever books they desire, regardless of price, for the sake of not adding additional clutter to their homes. The responses were interesting and quite varied. I'm curious about those of you who read my blog. If you own a reader, does the price of an e-book matter to you? Does it frustrate you if you find that a book you desire to read is cheaper in paperback than e-book form or are you willing to pay more to keep yet another book from cluttering up your home?

Time for a kitty fix!

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, February 21, 2011

2 DNFs - both temporary - and a book I'm loving

I'm sure you guys are going to think I'm off my rocker when you see the second of these DNFs, but I have my reasons for both.

Mike White Presents Impossibly Funky: A Cashiers Du Cinemart Collection is a collection of writings about film that I'm pretty sure I received from the publisher or author-slash-editor (not positive about that). It looks really good and I enjoyed it, at first, but let me tell you how it starts and why I set it aside.

The first article is about how Mike White observed some very striking similarities between Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs and an older, lesser known film, City on Fire, directed by Ringo Lam. White claims that Reservoir Dogs is based on City on Fire and made a now-notorious film called Who Do You Think You're Fooling that showed parallel bits from the two movies to show that Tarantino had gone so far as to steal entire scenes.

Because Reservoir Dogs was a huge break-out hit for Tarantino and a money-making, award-winning movie . . . well, he ticked off a lot of people. A lot. The intro and first several articles are about White's attempt to get Tarantino and Miramax to fess up. This involved a lot of phone calls, interviews, acceptance of White's film into the New York Underground Film Festival and a whole lot of denial from the Tarantino/Miramax camp.

The articles are very interesting but there were several in a row and by the time I hit the 4th, I was ready to move on to reading just about anything else but more of the same. I didn't bother to even look to see how much more there was about the whole controversy, White's follow-up film, etc. (oops -- just a whopping 2 pages). I don't like skipping portions of a book, though, so I set it aside thinking, "I'll get back to this one, soon." Well, if you've been watching my sidebar you know Impossibly Funky has been lurking there for quite a while.

There are times that I'll get a mental block about returning to a book and the only way I'll ever get back to it is to set it aside, leaving the bookmark in place (I often don't have any trouble remembering what I've already read), remove it from my sidebar and come back to it in a few months. That's what I plan to do. Now that I've been sitting here flipping through the book, I almost feel like changing my mind and going ahead with the reading. Almost. Not quite. But, I can already say I think it's fun reading if you're a film buff.

I watch movies almost exclusively because I prefer seeing an entire story rather than the bits you see in weekly television (although I make exceptions -- I'm a Michael Westin freak, a Hugh Laurie afficianado, a Chuck obsessive, and I am still waiting for someone to bring Firefly back). But I don't watch obscure films and really don't think you need to in order to enjoy Impossibly Funky.

This is the one that'll make you think I'm crazy. I set aside The
Pioneer Woman's new bio (which I just purchased about a week ago), Black Heels to Tractor Wheels: A Love Story -- at page 225! That is totally unheard of for me! Usually, if I abandon a book, I stop around the 50-100 page range. And, I really enjoyed a lot of what I read. If you've read her blog, you know Ree Drummond is an excellent storyteller with a great sense of humor; she's utterly charming, really.

What I wasn't expecting was that this book would dredge up so many emotions about my home state and how much I still miss home and family (both of my parents and my last living grandmother have died since we moved to Mississippi). Around page 225, Ree and Marlboro Man's wedding was ending and I was in pieces, absolutely sobbing my eyes out. It wasn't just that the romance was touching and lovely and she and her man had these wonderful extended families (which I totally envy) but that it took me back to some very important plans I left behind when we moved out of Oklahoma -- things I haven't figured out how to get back to, in spite of years of trying.

So, do not avoid Black Heels to Tractor Wheels based on the fact that I set it aside. It really is a sweet story of an oddball true romance. I'll probably still manage to finish it, but not this moment. I have to give it some space and time and come back when when I'm good and ready. In case you haven't peeked inside the book, it does include a few recipes. In fact, I considered not returning to the book and put it in my get-rid-of bag. It was Huzzybuns who retrieved it to seek out some new recipes and that was enough to make me rethink getting rid of the book without finishing.

On to other topics . . .

Why Bookfool Deserves a Time-Out:

When I met up with the lovely Amy of Amy Reads on Friday, I had an armful of books because Borders was having one of those terrific $1 clearance sales and there were so many appealing titles -- some of which I've had on my wish list for quite some time -- that my friend Donna (who works at Borders) fetched me a little hand basket and took the books out of my arms so I wouldn't have to haul them around while Amy and I chatted. That turned out to be a mixed blessing. When Borders announced that they were preparing to close, I decided to just go ahead and buy everything in the basket. They were only $1 each, after all. I came home with one heck of a pile and you know I do not need more books. I'm trying to purge, not add to my shelves. But, I came home and looked through them; and, only one book turned out to be a reject. I can always haul that to the homeless shelter store or donate it to the library. No biggie.

Here, the story gets worse. After blubbering about how much I miss home and, gosh, real estate is so freaking cheap in my hometown that maybe I should just buy a house there, my husband decided I clearly needed to spend some time out of the house. Our little cluttered house does drive me nuts. Guess where he took me? Among other places . . . Borders.

Darned if they didn't still have about a million fantastic titles. This time, I sat in the cafe and narrowed down, but not by much. I was getting set to walk back to the shelves when the spouse hustled me to the cash register and out of the store. I'm reading one of those purchases, High Points and Lows: Life, Faith and Figuring It All Out by Austin Carty. I love his down-to-earth thoughts about faith versus religion and since it's a fairly short book I'm pretty sure I'll whip through this one and review it some time soon. Here's my favorite quote, so far:

The one remarkable truth about Christianity is that it's all a matter of heart. You can avoid curse words your whole life, bake brownies every day for bake sales, lead prayer meetings at your house, never touch alcohol, never have premarital sex, and still, if it isn't because you really believe that Jesus is still alive and you love him for it, you're wasting your time. That is the beauty of the Christian religion, and also the rub. Only each individual can determine whether he's committed, abstaining, practicing, etc. for the real reason.

--from p. 3 of High Points and Lows by Austin Carty

Cool. I love that paragraph so much that I handed the book to my husband and asked if he agreed and wasn't that a great way of putting the whole Jesus thing? Nod, nod.

Okay, off to bed with me. All that bawling, last night, has caught up with me. I'm frazzled. I must go bury myself in a book to recover. Nighty-night!

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl by Amy Parham

10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl: Living with Less of You and More of Life by Amy Parham
Copyright 2010
Harvest House Publishers - Healthy Living
189 pages

Amy Parham, the author of 10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl, was a contestant on The Biggest Loser. I've never seen the show, since I very seldom watch television, and I'm not even sure I knew she was a contestant on The Biggest Loser when I signed up to review the book. I was just interested in reading about the principles that helped one person lose weight and keep it off.

10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl isn't specifically about her experience on the television show; it's about how she had to face up to some misconceptions about weight that she'd lived with all her life and change her way of looking at food and exercise. She does so from the perspective of a Christian, peppering the text with Bible verses about health and emotions and how the "fat girl" inside must alter the way she thinks about food in order to bring out the "fit girl".

When you say things about your lack of control over certain foods, you are practically admitting defeat before you even begin to wage war on the battle of the bulge. The Bible tells us, "For whatever is in your heart determines what you say" (Matthew 12:34 NLT). What you really believe in your heart will come out of your mouth!

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. --Voltaire

--p. 34

She talks about the fact that we all have a "God-shaped hole" in our hearts that some people try to fill with food or other obsessions and makes suggestions for filling your life with living (particularly in a Godly manner) rather than focusing on what and when you're going to eat, emphasizing that God wants us to be healthy.

In 3 John 1:2 (NKJV), John tells us, "Beloved I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." Our health is important to God. He wants to help you in your fight against the fat girl.

--p. 45

Mostly, though, the book is about learning to change the way you think about food and change your habits by finding alternatives. The author gives some great examples but I was most fascinated by her way of winding down at night. After work, she would relax in front of the TV and munch on a bag of chips. She'd had this same nightly ritual for so many years that it was particularly difficult when she returned home from the isolated ranch where The Biggest Loser is shot and there was that couch. Sofa, TV, chips. They went together for Amy Parham.

Now back at work, she had to find ways to incorporate what she'd learned during her intense training into her real life. And, the couch was one of her problem areas. She discovered that exercising before spending time in front of the TV helped to change both her thought process and her craving. After exercising, she loses her appetite for a while.

There were other occasions she found needed a great deal of work because they were tangled up in either emotion or tradition.

God created us with a soul, which consists of our mind, will, and emotions. Therefore, we feel things like guilt, sadness, happiness, and fear. While we don't have control over an initial feeling, we can control how we manage our emotions. . . . The difference between being a fit girl and a fat girl is how you deal with your emotions.

--p. 66

Going home for the holidays was one example. The author has a mother who spends days cooking and baking before major holidays and she makes quite a few sugary treats. The author talks about healthy alternatives and how to kindly decline certain foods and fight the expectations as well as the envy of others after losing weight.

Obviously, that portion of the book is best to hold and reread after one has lost weight, but it doesn't hurt to read it in advance. I've actually been through similar when I lost a great deal of weight running, about 10 years ago. Suddenly, people who have always ignored you look at you with approval and those who knew you as an unattractive chubby girl may react in unexpected ways, snubbing you or trying to sabotage your efforts to keep the weight off. Many people will even sabotage their own success by eating out of guilt.

What I Loved about 10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl:

I think the author does an excellent job of hitting many aspects of the mental process that leads people to gain weight and then keep it on. She really delves into emotions and how to remove emotion from concept of nourishing the body. She nicely backs up her principles with well-chosen scripture. There are some additional little tidbits I liked, such as this bit:

7 Stress-Busting Foods (the value of which the author elaborates upon in the book, pp. 86-87:

Oatmeal, oranges, salmon, spinach, almonds/pistachios/walnuts, avocados, skim milk

I just love having a list of foods that are good for you to tack up on the refrigerator as a reminder. There are lots of questions to ponder and space to write your thoughts. I've mentioned before that I tend to not want to do the work in books like this, but this time I thought, "I want to go back and do the work after I've done a read-through."

What I disliked about 10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl:

While I understand that the entire concept is based on changing a thought process in this book, I really get weary of repetition and the "fat girl" vs. "fit girl" concept was a bit annoying. I had to pep-talk myself a bit to not allow that to frustrate me and it worked. It's really about how those who eat out of emotion due to specific triggers and/or to fill something missing in their lives think -- that's the "fat girl" thought process -- contrasted with that of the way "fit" people think. It may be repetitive, but it would take a lot longer to describe it any other way.

Like any book in which an author talks about his or her own journey to fitness, there are things that simply don't apply. I don't associate television with food, for example, and I kind of hate holidays that are centered around eating because I've never felt any need to stuff myself for the sake of celebration. In other words, the reader will have to ponder what will best work for him or her (the book is directed at women, but I think men might also enjoy the book if they can tolerate the fat girl/fit girl references) and what areas of his or her life need attention.

The author does not tell you what to eat, although she mentions a few foods that she's substituted in her own life, what she eats for breakfast and why many small meals are better than skipped meals followed by a large meal eaten out of fierce hunger.

The bottom line:

Definitely recommended. A solid book that helps those who need to lose weight dig deep into their thought process in order to alter it and lose the weight, then keep it off. Very spiritual, with lots of Bible verses and references to God, yet I think non-Christians can definitely benefit from reading the principles and delving into their emotions to figure out where change is needed.

Total change of topic:

I had the coolest dream, last night. You can skip this part if you hate reading about dreams. You know how some make sense when you describe them but others are just come out as complete nonsense when you try to share them with people? Well, last week I had what is known as a lucid dream. I was aware I was dreaming, so when someone in my dream said something that was total nonsense, I actually woke myself up and wrote it down. It reminded me of the reporter whose temporary aphasia, brought on by a "complex migraine" aura, was broadcast on the night of the Grammys. Here's what the person in my dream said:

"They're not playing swift down is number 2 cuckoo."

I woke up, wrote it down, laughed and went back to sleep. But, that's an aside. Last night, I had one of those exciting dreams in which there were spies and people pursuing me for no apparent reason -- a movie-like dream involving airplanes and car chases, which ended with a final run down a neighborhood alley. The person chasing me claimed to be on "my side" (whatever that means) but then when we reached our destination, he pulled out a huge knife.

At that point, I slipped back into lucid dreaming. I don't like scary nightmares and it's not unusual for me to recognize them and either alter my dreams or wake myself. In this case, I decided to make something materialize. I told the person with the knife that if he was going to kill me, he ought to use a gun so it would be a little less painful. The bad guy replied, "I don't have one," and I said, "Well, I do." I'd created a gun in my pocket after the dream wasn't headed in a direction I liked.

I'm still replaying some of my favorite scenes from that dream. The airplane chase and the cocktail party that ended in a dash out the door and a car chase are my favorites. Do you ever have lucid dreams or simply dreams so vivid that when you awaken you feel as if you've had a fun night at the movies? I find dreams utterly fascinating. And, in fact, I believe the airplane bits came from my reading of a scene in Cutting for Stone, just before I fell asleep.

Okay, back to the housework. Our weather has been darn near perfect and that's keeping me busy, indoors and out. The fat girl side of me would rather sit and read but my fit girl side enjoyed cleaning the garage! :)

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Curse of the Crocodile God by Stewart Ross (mini review) and something cool

Curse of the Crocodile God
by Stewart Ross
DK - Children's Graphic Novel

Curse of the Crocodile God never made it into my sidebar because it's a children's graphic novel (published by DK in 2007) and at just 48 pages it's naturally a very easy read so I finished it within a short time of picking it up to read.

Set in ancient Egypt, Curse of the Crocodile God tells the story of Methen, a young boy, and his slave friend, Madja. When Methen and Madja see robbers stealing from a pyramid, they set out to find the grave robbers, putting their own lives in danger.

For a children's graphic novel, Curse of the Crocodile God packs a surprising punch. It has both an exciting storyline and a lot of useful information about Egypt. Each page has a line of text on relevant historical facts running across the bottom and there's a very informative illustrated glossary at the back of the book.

Curse of the Crocodile God would make a great resource for teachers or just a fun book for kids to enjoy. Amazon has the age range listed as 9-12 years. Unfortunately, the book appears to be out of print. I read a copy borrowed from the homeless shelter store just for the fun of it and actually learned a few new things.

In other news:

I've finished 10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl and will review that, next. I liked it. Details later.

Yesterday, I got to meet Amy from Amy Reads! I look grumpy in this picture but Amy leaned way over in this shot so I like the fact that I don't look quite so shrimpy. Isn't she a doll?

We had so much fun chatting about blogging and books that Borders practically had to kick us out of the cafe. We didn't cease chattering until they announced that the store was about to close. Fun!!! Amy's the first blogger I've met in person. We have quite different taste in books, although we both love nonfiction for the chance to learn about a variety of topics. Did it matter that we don't read the same books? Not one bit. We probably would have chatted till the cows came home if Borders hadn't stopped us by inconveniently closing in the midst of our conversation.

And, on that note . . . I'm really happy that we still have a Borders.

Happy Weekend!

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fiona Friday - Why Fiona Deserves a Medal

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two Mini Reviews - Gone by Lisa McMann and Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman

Quickies! Because somebody needs more Vitamin B (yawn). Brief as it is, my review of Gone may contain spoilers, so skip the first two paragraphs if you plan to read the series any time soon.

Gone by Lisa McMann (published by Simon & Schuster Teen last month) is the third and final book in the Wake trilogy with heroine Janie and her equally flawed and challenged boyfriend, Cabel. In this third installment, Janie's decision to continue "dream-catching" in spite of the physical damage it will eventually cause comes into question after she meets a dying man. I'm not going to give away who the dying man is, even though you find out near the beginning of the book. But, suffice it to say, Janie's dilemma is a doozy.

I really enjoyed this series and thought Gone was an excellent conclusion. Janie is the child of an alcoholic and Cabel has been through some very serious abuse at the hands of his father. Because of the horror they've experienced in their own homes, Janie and Cabel are very emotional people. As the series progresses, they gradually learn to cope with their inner demons and to trust in others.

All three books are consistent in writing style and pacing. Even though each is nicely wrapped up so that you don't close them with that nasty "cliff-hanger" sensation, I always felt compelled to read on and I'm glad I did. I'll miss Janie and Cabel. I bought all three books in the series. That doesn't happen often, so it gives you a good idea how nicely the author sucked me into the first book.

You can read my other reviews, here:

I've been in a reading slump, this week, but the weekend before last, I had a bit of a young-adult/middle reader binge weekend and Night of the Twisters (published by HarperTrophy in 1984) was on the top of one of my stacks. 12-year-old Dan and his friend Arthur are used to tornado warnings in their Nebraska home. Arthur's large family is not originally from Nebraska and they typically ignore such warnings but Dan's mother is a worrier and he's accustomed to sheltering in the basement.

When Dan is left in charge of his baby brother during a tornado warning, he considers leaving the peacefully slumbering child in bed because he has been miserable from teething. But then Dan hears a strange sucking noise in the pipes and decides to take the warning seriously. While Dan, Arthur and the baby shelter in the basement bathroom of Dan's home, the house is ripped away around them. The hours after the tornado are harrowing as they make their way out of the rubble-filled basement then go in search of their families.

Night of the Twisters was almost too realistic for me. Having spent all my life in tornado territory, I've seen the after-effects and spent way too many long afternoons and evenings in bathrooms and hallways. This photo shows the kind of damage described in Night of the Twisters:

I liked the realism of the book, though. Even in places like Mississippi, where tornadoes are pretty common and very destructive, people often ignore warnings until it's too late. Night of the Twisters is certainly a good way to get the "better safe than sorry" point across to youngsters.

Incidentally, that reminds me of my experience seeing the movie Twister. I just happened to view it in a theater in Oklahoma. Oklahoma is right smack in the middle of that part of the U.S. known as "Tornado Alley". A lot of people think they live in tornado alley, but the highest number of tornadoes that form each year form in the mid-sections of Kansas, Oklahoma and northern Texas. Here, might as well show you:

Image Source

Check out that image source if you're fascinated by tornadoes and thunderstorms. It's pretty awesome.

Back to my story about seeing the movie. Because of sheer quantity and excellent weather coverage, Oklahomans are pretty well-informed about tornadoes and how to shelter from them. And, they knew Twister was not realistic, so there was quite a bit of laughter. I can imagine I'd have made a fool of myself watching the movie just about anywhere else but Tulsa.

Anyway, bottom line, both books were enjoyable and I definitely recommend them. Night of the Twisters ought to be required reading in quite a few states, if you ask me.

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Notes on a delayed review

My apologies for the delayed review of 10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl. I'm having a slumpy reading week and a busy week, all-around; I have not finished a single book. I'm enjoying 10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl very much and will review it as soon as I finish. It's a very spiritual book, about how each of us has a "God-shaped hole" in our hearts and we try to fill it with things other than God -- food, shopping, drugs or drink, even exercise.

I hope to finish the book today, but I still don't feel much like reading, so I can't say I'll succeed. You can now find the sneak peek chapter from 10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl at my free chapter blog; and, I'll post my review as soon as I'm able.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel, PhD with an apology to the author

The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done
By Piers Steel, PhD
Copyright 2011
Harper - Psychology/Self-Help
320 pages

Before I get into the review of this book, I must apologize to the author for thinking him arrogant within the first 30 pages of The Procrastination Equation (and saying so on my blog). I believe I owe him an official apology.

Dear Piers,

Thank you for your very polite message requesting that I continue to read your book and for clearly explaining that you asked your editors tone down the portions I considered annoying. Thanks to the fact that you were kind and persuasive, I finished your book; and, it may possibly have even earned the this year's award for Most Post-it Filled Book. I enjoyed The Procrastination Equation, learned some new techniques to avoid procrastination, and plan to hang onto the book for a reread. My humblest apologies for misinterpreting your attempt to explain your qualifications as "arrogance". I was wrong.


Nancy, aka "Bookfool"

And, yes, I mean every word. I was definitely put off by the opening section of The Procrastination Equation, but after the author left a very polite comment I actually asked my husband, who has a doctorate in engineering, if there was some reason he knew of that the author would feel obliged to spell out his qualifications. Huzzybuns informed me that one has to insert such information in journal articles (and added that's why he hates writing them).

In The Procrastination Equation, Dr. Steel describes why we put specific tasks off and what we can do to stop ourselves from continuing to indulge in bad habits and time-wasting activities instead of doing what we know we really should be doing. He describes the difference between the limbic system and the pre-frontal cortex and what those parts of the brain have to do with being lured away from our tasks versus reigning ourselves in. In other words, you can blame being lured from your tasks by the part of your brain that responds to certain signals, but you can overcome the limbic system by doing a few things that will help you maintain focus: turning off your computer volume to avoid e-mail signals or simply unplugging from the internet while you do a set number of hours of work, for example.

Every time you stop your flow, you have to once again decide to work and then it takes time to become fully re-engaged. Unfortunately, we are conditioned to answer e-mail instantly, responding to the tell-tale "ding" like Pavlov's dogs. Unless you have a pressing reason, check your e-mail at your convenience, during natural breaks in your productivity.

What we are doing here by changing our e-mail settings is regaining stimulus control. Part of our decision making occurs subconsciously, in our limbic system. This is not the brightest part of our minds; it takes much of its lead from environmental cues--that is, from the stimuli of sight, smell, sound or touch.

--p. 178 of The Procrastination Equation, Uncorrected Proof: Some changes may have been made to the final print version

The author talks about how much dawdling costs individuals and organizations and how easy it is for people to get distracted by games, television and other mindless activities. And, he talks about the fact that we feel guilty because we know what we're doing is illogical.

Incredibly, after graduate students have gotten into a competitive academic program, done all their course work, perhaps even gathered their dissertation data, and need only to write it up and defend their thesis, at least half never complete the process despite the immense investment of time and the significant rewards for completion (on average, a 30 percent increase in salary). Procrastination is the primary culprit.

--p. 87

I think one of the most interesting aspects of this book is that the author talks about not only putting things off because they're just not fun to do, but how some people delay work because they're overly optimistic and believe they can get work done in less time than a job actually requires to be done well. He describes why some positive thinking books feed on over-optimism in a way that's counterproductive (my wording).

The Law of Attraction separates positive belief from action, leaving belief free-floating and unconnected. It changes the story of the Little Engine That Could from "I think I can" to "I think it will." That's a big difference.

To prevent ourselves from falling into over-optimism, we need a teaspoon of pessimism. As Freud put it, we need to activate the reality principle: to confront the reality of the situation when we are seeking the best way to achieve our goals. Invoking the reality principle is a sign that we have outgrown our childish and impulsive ways and can acknowledge the price we must realistically pay for our dreams. This entails imagining what could go wrong and how you would prevent or mitigate potential pitfalls. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, used this principle during his lunar escapades. "Well," he would say, "I think we tried very hard not to be overconfident, because when you get overconfident, that's when something snaps up and bites you."

--pp. 131-132

I also love the bits about breaking down large or overwhelming work into small, manageable tasks, which are well-described in this quote by Mark Twain:

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."

--Mark Twain

The author uses the word "subgoals" to describe those smaller tasks and tells how one should break down larger tasks into subgoals, "allowing work motivation to crest above the temptation line sooner." Setting subgoals also naturally makes tasks less intimidating. There are quite a few more principles but if I wrote down all the quotes I marked you'd be here till March, so let's just move on, shall we?

What I loved about this book:

The Procrastination Equation is well-written (be patient if you plan to read this book; after the first 30-40 pages it picks up) and the author has a great sense of humor. Plenty of anecdotes liven up the material and make it easily accessible. There are some fresh ideas and he clearly describes the various procrastination triggers, why we react the way we do and how to prevent procrastination. The principles in this book can be used in just about any area of life -- at work, at school, at home, to make your diet and exercise program work.

What I disliked about this book:

The one thing that I found lacking in The Procrastination Equation is a good, solid summary. As soon as I closed the book, I thought to myself, "This is great stuff. But, I'm going to have to read it again and take notes." I think a tear-out sheet with bullet points to remind readers what they've read and jog the memory about how to prevent problems would have been really helpful. I'm planning to create my own list when I reread this book. I have to flip through it to remind myself what I'm supposed to be doing, already. The information slipped away pretty quickly and I'm sure it will take time and practice after I manage to get those reminders written down.

The bottom line:

Great ideas for how to fix your procrastination problem, written with humor and backed by solid research. Keep a notebook handy to take notes to remind you of the principles you need to put in action; there's no summary so it's best to write your own. Recommended for both individual and group use (in the workplace) and for just about anyone who needs help figuring out how to stop waffling and just get the job done.

Cover thoughts:

I love that cover. I'm assuming the clamp on a clock is a visual metaphor for getting a grip on the time you've got, but that's just a guess. It's definitely visually appealing and refreshing to see such a nice bold, colorful image. Books on time management, procrastination and other "get it together" issues are often very, very dull. I am particularly put off by books with big, splashy photos of their authors on the cover.

My thanks to Harper for the review copy and to the author for the gentle nudge to continue reading. Actually, Piers, could you write to me at the address in the "About Me" portion of my sidebar? I have a few questions.

In other news:

I hope you all had a terrific Valentine's Day or Singles Appreciation Day (<--stolen from a comment made by Bermudaonion) if you're significant-other-less. My spouse was out of town on business, so he didn't get to hear the tremendous bang when a teenager hit our mailbox post, last night. That was interesting. I went outside to see what had happened and the fellow who hit it had already driven away but came running up the street to say, "Hey, sorry, I hit your mailbox. I'll replace it for you, no problem." I thought that was just lovely. He could have easily skipped out on the responsibility. For today, though, I've got an indoor mailbox and had to chase down the mail truck to get my mail.

I haven't received any books in the mail, this week, and I've been too tired to read so I may take off a day to see if I can catch up on rest. I'm only on page 30 of Let the Great World Spin, my F2F book club's February choice, and our meeting is tomorrow. Eeks! I'm just going to go unprepared, again, I guess. I'll save the book for some other time; I do want to read it but it's definitely a heavy read. As soon as I've rested up, I want to move on to some other books that are calling to me. I am still enjoying The Mental Floss History of the United States, believe it or not. I'm going to try to finish that by the end of the month (if not sooner), although I've loved reading it in little bits and pieces. It's about time for it to take its turn being reviewed, so I need to shove forward a bit.

Later, gators.

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Valentine's Card to You

I wanted to give you a dozen red roses,
But all I could find was pink noses and toeses.

Happy Valentine's Day from Bookfool!

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

How to Ditch Your Fairy
by Justine Larbalestier
Copyright 2008
Bloomsbury - Young Adult/Fantasy
305 pp. incl., List of Known Fairies and Glossary

In New Avalon, everyone has a personal fairy, although not everyone believes they exist. Charlie's stuck with a parking fairy; whenever she rides in a vehicle of any kind its driver finds the perfect parking spot. A perfect nuisance is what her fairy is. Charlie doesn't even drive. Her best friend has a clothes-shopping fairy and the most hated girl in school, Fiorenze, has an all-boys-will-like-you fairy. Either of those would be preferable to a parking fairy.

Charlie has heard that to drive your fairy away, you must not give the fairy a chance to use its special magic, essentially boring the fairy so thoroughly that it decides to leave. With that in mind, Charlie's been walking everywhere for 60 days. And, she intends to keep walking until she's certain her fairy is gone, in spite of all the demerits she's racking up for arriving at her high school classes late. But, what Charlie doesn't realize is that there are consequences to changing fairies that she can't possibly anticipate.

I really had no idea what I was getting into when I grabbed How to Ditch Your Fairy off the library shelf. I've heard of Justine Larbalestier, thanks to the big cover controversy over another of her books, Liar, but I haven't read Liar and it was really just a combination of familiar author name, cute cover, serendipity and a pinch of impulse that led me to check the book out. It's the fact that I just realized the book is way overdue that's nudged me to write a review. Oops.

How to Ditch Your Fairy is charming and lively, with a heroine who is both hilarious and enchanting. She has a crush on the new boy at school and he seems interested in her when they're alone, but Fiorenze (whom she refers to as "Fiorenze Stupid-Name" because of her fancy, hyphenated last name) can't help but draw him away because of her boys-will-always-like-you-fairy. Fiorenze, as it turns out, is the only person who can help Charlie rid herself of that annoying fairy and, in the process, the strange boy who keeps kidnapping her so that he can always get a good parking spot when he needs one. Fiorenze's parents are experts on fairies. To discover the secret of how to ditch a fairy, Fiorenze and Charlie will need to work together to find a way to peek into the unpublished book her mother has written.

There is so much to How to Ditch Your Fairy that you wouldn't expect from looking at its cover. It's clever and original with surprisingly sharp writing in spite of its obvious levity. The heroine is likable and feisty -- there are plenty of unique challenges for her to deal with, some of which are so hilarious that I don't think you could have much more fun without requiring stitches. Charlie learns a few good lessons but the author doesn't bog the story down by trying too hard to make it meaningful. It's just good, clean fun. The characters in New Avalon have a private language all their own, hence the glossary, and even that little bit of lingo is a treat.

The bottom line:

A unique story, great characters and magical, clean entertainment, perfect for when you're looking for something light and humorous. I'm really going to hate taking this one back to the library. It seems like it would be an awfully fun book to keep for a reread during times I'm in need of an upper. Highly recommended.

Finally, I kept a week's worth of mailbox books together long enough to photograph!

Top to bottom:

Strangers by Taichi Yamada
Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart
The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French (ARC from Doubleday)
Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli (ARC from Crown)
The True and Authentic History of Jenny Dorset by Philip Lee Williams
The Butt Book by Artie Bennett (for review, from the author)

Strangers, Summer at Tiffany and Jenny Dorset are all swap books.

The color isn't anywhere close to reality but the background behind those books is a freshly-painted corner of my office. It'll probably continue to be an in-progress painting job for a few more weeks because my husband and I are really slow and don't work well together. I like a room to be completely empty before I paint and he likes to just toss drop-cloths over everything. I fill in every little dent and nick; he likes to just slap on paint and call the job done. It usually takes a few weeks of his paint-slapping and my convincing before everything gets moved out and we finish the job. Strange, I know, but I'm so excited about updating the office that I'm just going to Make It So. Thank you, Jean-Luc, for the inspiration.

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fiona Friday - So much for sneaux

Aww, no more pretty white stuff.

Not only is most of the snow gone (exception: a few shady spots), it was warm enough to throw open the windows, today. I'll bet you snowbound Northerners are thinking maybe Mississippi might be a good place to vacation in February, yes? Well, you'd be right. Our daffodils are on the verge of blooming and the first purple martins have been spotted nesting, both of which are harbingers of spring. We're supposed to hit 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) by Wednesday.

And, to think . . . just yesterday the poppets were having a blast, ice skating!

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck

Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck
Copyright 2011
Sterling - Young Adult
400 pages
Book #1 in a series

I felt overwhelmed. I didn't expect a first kiss to be so . . . life altering. In a few brief moments, the rule book of my universe had been rewritten. Suddenly I was a brand new person. I was as fragile as a newborn, and I worried that the deeper I allowed the relationship to progress, the worse it would be if Ren left. What would become of us? There was no way to know, and I realized what a breakable and delicate thing a heart was. No wonder I'd kept mine locked away.

--from p. 250 of Tiger's Curse, Advanced Reader Copy (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

When Kelsey takes a temporary job at the circus, she's not sure quite what to expect beyond a little extra money and hard work. What she finds is a family atmosphere and a wide variety of odd jobs that include feeding a beautiful white tiger with stunning blue eyes. Kelsey is entranced by Dhiren (whom she almost immediately begins to call Ren), but she doesn't realize the tiger is no ordinary tiger but a prince who has been held captive by a curse for hundreds of years. Kelsey's presence briefly sets him free -- just for 24 minutes per day, but long enough for him to start down the path that will lead him home.

Unaware that Ren is a cursed prince, Kelsey willingly accompanies the tiger and a man named Mr. Kadam to India. There, they will see the tiger safely ensconced in a nature preserve. Or, so she's been told. But, once Kelsey and Ren arrive in India, things suddenly change. The human Ren appears and Kelsey is shocked to find that he is a stunningly handsome prince and that she is the only person who can help break the curse. And, she must go into the jungle alone, with only the tiger to accompany her.

Will Kelsey and Ren be able to find the clues to break the curse? Or, will Ren's brother, Kishan, find a way to lure Kelsey away from Ren? Can Kelsey and Ren survive the dangers of the jungle and the world of the monkey gods?

Warning: This review contains potential spoilers. Please read it only if you do not plan to read the book right away.

What I liked about Tiger's Curse:

I have mixed feelings about Tiger's Curse; I liked the idea more than the execution of the book. But, before I go any farther, I highly recommend that you visit the Tiger's Curse website (link in the header, above) if you're interested in the book. There, you can read the first 7 chapters of the book and view the trailer. It's the trailer that grabbed me. I've never actually requested a book based on its trailer, till Tiger's Curse. It's one of the most appealing trailers I've ever seen.

Kelsey was a character that I liked immediately because of her spunk. She had almost no fear around the tiger from the beginning, although you get a sense that there's a little magic drawing the tiger and Kelsey to each other. There are some exciting moments but what I liked most about the book was the opportunity to learn a little bit about some sites in India and a smattering of info about the Hindu religion. If you read Tiger's Curse, take the time to look up the various places Kelsey and Ren visit, like Hampi:

What I disliked about Tiger's Curse:

I might be a little on the picky side but I found the book was almost entirely devoid of conflict and that bothered me a lot. Apparently, the book is a big hit. It hit the #1 spot on Kindle's children's bestseller list for 7 weeks and that led to the print publication. But, I think it might be the tug of romance that sucks in younger readers. I kept thinking of Twilight as I read the book. There's almost no similarity to Twilight beyond the sometimes-gushy magnetic pull between the two characters and the pushing away to prevent heartbreak, but the romance aspect did have a familiar, overwrought feel. That might be a draw for younger readers but I found it annoying.

My biggest problem with the book, though, was that lack of conflict. I'll give you an example that is a bit of a spoiler but not much. At one point, Kelsey is hit on the head by a falling rock. My inner writer immediately thought, "Who pushed the rock from above or threw it?" There was, I thought, a perfect opportunity for conflict. Who would want to stop Kelsey and Ren from breaking the curse? Well . . . if there's a living villain in Tiger's Curse, I totally missed figuring out who it is. Kelsey is knocked unconscious and since she's in the water she nearly drowns. There are a few tense moments, but there's nobody behind that rock. It was simply a rock that fell. Like the falling rock, there are a lot of other little incidents in Tiger's Curse that come to nothing -- too many descriptions with no purpose.

I also thought the author was too easy on Kelsey. Rather than have her forage in the jungle when she begins to run out of food, for example, Mr. Kadam always fills her backpack with everything she could possible need -- food, energy bars, bottled water, first-aid kit, flashlight . . . you name it. And, if she gets low on food? The tiger goes dashing off to find Mr. Kadam or Kadam simply conveniently shows up.

There's a lot of Kelsey waking up, being handed food and drinks, a loaded backpack, even keys to a car when she and Ren inexplicably need to go somewhere on their own, without the aid of Mr. Kadam. I found that frustrating. Tiger's Curse would have been much more enjoyable if Kelsey had to find her own food, deal with injuries without a first-aid kit handy -- sometimes I even wished Mr. Kadam had some hidden evil side, a deep dark secret that would make things suddenly become more difficult. I literally craved conflict.

And, why Kelsey? What was it about her that made her the only person who could help break the curse? Kelsey was babied so much by both Ren and Mr. Kadam in India that she lost the appeal she had early on, when it did actually appear that maybe there was something special about her, something magical.

Kelsey and Ren go to some interesting places and, particularly in the last 100 pages or so, they have some dangers to overcome. But, I just felt like something was missing.

The bottom line:

A romantic quest that takes readers through some fascinating historical locations in India with an interesting fantasy storyline that is generally lacking in conflict, containing flat, awkward dialogue and too-easy solutions. Some danger and adventure perks up the story toward the last 100 pages or so and there are some mysteries that are left unanswered, as well as a little bit of confusion about which brother-slash-tiger is the "good guy" but if I hadn't requested this book and hoped something would improve, I don't believe I would have made it past about page 100. I think younger readers might not mind the lack of conflict because of the romance and the sense of adventure. I would have definitely enjoyed it more at a younger age and particularly recommend it to those who like books like Twilight that lean toward the romantic side.

Would I read the second book in the series? Maybe. Part of me wants to know what will happen to Ren and Kelsey. There are certainly some exciting moments and there's a hint that there may be a dangerous enemy who intends to steal the "Damon amulet". Kelsey wears a piece of the amulet and I can't remember but I think Ren wears a part of it, as well. The next book sounds like it has some potential.

Cover thoughts:

What a stunning cover! The image above looks pretty but in real life the cover is just flat gorgeous. The design at the top is textured silver and the tiger seems to be materializing through a beautiful background that looks like it's part jungle, part cloth with an intricate Indian design. Inside, the patterns continue at chapter headings and even the top of each page. Tiger's Curse is one of the prettiest books I've seen, this year.

My thanks to Sterling Kids for the review copy!

In other news:

We had snow, last night! Or, rather, sneaux. In fact, I began to write this review, yesterday, but I didn't get very far because I had to keep hopping up to look out the window. We were expecting snow or a winter mix around 3:00. At 3:00, it was raining. At 4:00 it was raining. Sometime around 4:30, the air suddenly cooled and the rain turned to sleet within minutes. A few fluffy flakes were mixed in but it didn't really become just snow till full dark, around 6:00 or 6:30. I'm guessing we got about 1/2" of accumulation, maybe a tiny bit more. It was enough to admire but not enough to cover absolutely everything or stick around for long.

This next picture makes me snicker. I photographed my first snow ghost!!! Okay, yes, I made that up. But, if you look closely, it looks like a man with a mustache. Can you see his face? And, he's reaching for the camera!!! WooooOoooo.

The cats seemed to enjoy the view, this morning:

We're supposed to reach 70 by Thursday of next week, so I'm just going to hold this snow memory close to my heart for a year or two. I think winter is just about done with us.

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