Thursday, March 31, 2011

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Copyright 2011
Philomel Books - YA/WWII
352 pages

Lina, a Lithuanian, is 15 years old and looking forward to art school when the Soviet secret police pound on her family's door, allowing them mere minutes to pack. It's 1941. Her father has already been taken away, probably imprisoned, maybe already put to death in a prison camp. Lina, her brother Jonas and her mother have no idea where they're going. Ahead of them lies a treacherous journey to Siberia.

Along the way, Lina draws clues to let him know where they've gone, hoping he will be able to follow their path. Will Lina's father find her messages? Is he even alive? How long will her family be able to survive the cold and starvation?

One thing that never ceases to amaze me: How completely bottomless the well from which the stories of WWII are drawn. Ruta Sepetys is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee and in the author's notes she describes how and why the stories of Lithuanians were suppressed. Stalin "cleansed" the Baltic region? I had no idea.

It's been a couple weeks since I finished reading Between Shades of Gray and Lina, upon reflection, is an interesting but fairly flat character so she hasn't stuck with me all that well. What has continued to roll around in my head is the story, itself. As Lina packs, she sets a loaf of bread in the window without realizing how valuable food will become to her family, instead packing the art supplies she values. When soldiers try to separate Jonas from Lina and their mother, her mother finds a way to keep them together. Cold, hunger, endless train rides followed by life working as slave labor on a farm and then more travel and deprivation, disease and cruelty -- and occasionally, amongst the horror, small acts of friendship. Those are the things that really linger in my mind.

Between Shades of Gray is a young adult novel that is gut-wrenching, believable, shocking and moving. The fact that it's aimed at a teen audience does not diminish the story in any way. I particularly loved Lina's mother. She's a character of immense strength and grace who not only manages to keep the family together and fed but also manages to make friends with almost everyone who crosses her path. Definitely recommended.

In other news:

I was aiming for "brief" with this review. How did I do?

I finished reading Home to Woefield two days ago and it was so completely wonderful that I'm having trouble getting excited about the books in my sidebar. I can't wait to babble about Woefield. In the meantime, I'll just go ahead and tell you it's worth buying. It's a five-star book. Trust me on that.

For the last week or two of March, I dropped the ball and didn't bother to keep track of books in/books out. But, I've got two arrivals sitting beside my head (there's a dresser not far away) and I'll dash to the bedroom to grab the others. Here you go . . .

Arrivals:

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See - from Random House
The White Devil by Justin Evans - from Harper (YA - creepy-looking!)
In Grandma's Attic and More Stories from Grandma's Attic - from B & B Media Group
True Courage by Steve Farrar - from B & B Media Group
The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin - from St. Martin's Press

6 books went out the door, this week. I can probably get my records up-to-date but last time I looked, I had a net outgo of approximately 106 books for March. Not bad. I think I'll shoot for another 100-150 in April.

It has cooled off dramatically in our area but thanks to early heat, Mississippi is looking ridiculously colorful. It got so hot so fast (record-breaking upper-80s temps, last week) that a lot of things bloomed early and I totally missed the chance to photograph the wisteria. I always look forward to the wisteria. Here are some wet flowers from our library's garden:

And, a planter, still at the library. I haven't planted, yet, but I have some flowers sitting on the porch. It's rained most of the week. Hopefully, this weekend will be dry so I can get to the planting.

Kiddo read Jumper by Steven Gould, yesterday and has verified the comments I've read that the book is better, much better than the movie. Every time I turned around, there he was with the book in his hands. He used a paperclip as his bookmark. He's not particular, but he doesn't dog-ear (Thanks be to God Almighty -- I abhor dog-earing).

I'm a little worried about My Jane Austen Summer. Woefield after-effects aside, it's striking me as . . . weird. I just can't seem to follow the author's thought process. It's a tour book so I'll do my best to finish but I find I'd rather put it in a hamster cage than read it. Probably a good thing I don't own a hamster.

I think that's all the news. My headache has boomeranged on me and returned with a vengeance. Crap. I hate that. How has your week been?

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Staying at Daisy's by Jill Mansell

Staying at Daisy's by Jill Mansell
Copyright 2010
Sourcebooks Landmark
Orig. Published 2002
501 pages

Daisy MacLean has had her fill of good-looking, dishonest men. Even when tragedy brings her together with her no-good, soon-to-be-ex husband's mistress, it's no great surprise. She's better off without him. Daisy's got a great job working at her father's hotel and she's perfectly content.

But, when the handsome athlete Dev Tyzack becomes a guest at the hotel, it's clear he's interested. Daisy tries to stay away from him, but it's nearly impossible to avoid such a magnetic attraction. Then, a former boyfriend shows up in need of a place to sleep. Josh may not be the handsomest man she's dated, but he's trustworthy and kind. Will Daisy settle for a relationship lacking zing or take a chance, again?

Maggie is in love but she's middle-aged and the man she's seeing is not interested in commitment. She's got to be realistic. Their arrangement is for only one purpose and, like it or not, she knows she will continue seeing him, even if it breaks her heart and she finds their clandestine affair humiliating. Will Maggie be able to give up the man she loves when he starts seeing someone else? Or is she hopelessly hooked on him?

Tara's dating life has been nothing but a string of disasters. One man after another has used her and walked out. Now, a former love has shown up in her life and he makes her feel loved and appreciated. There's only one catch: He's a newlywed. Is Tara being used or does he really love her? And, what if Daisy finds out? If there's one thing that will upset Daisy, it's finding out Tara is involved with a married man.

The cover of Staying at Daisy's says, "You never know what to expect when you're . . . Staying at Daisy's." Boy, that's the truth. In fact, I never know quite where Jill Mansell is taking me, when I open one of her books. She is a master at creating characters who are entangled with more than one person and confusing the issue of who everyone will end up with. She's a carrot dangler, really. It took me a long, long time to figure out who Daisy and Tara were going to end up with and what would happen to Maggie. I love not knowing. It's always so much more satisfying to read a romantically-themed book that isn't transparent and predictable.

Daisy is a slightly more subdued character than Mansell's usual heroine, but she's really no less spunky and admirable; and, there are lots of characters to love. The only real problem I had with Staying at Daisy's was that it seemed like the theme leaned toward, "Men are tremendously unreliable bastards, in general, but now and then you get lucky and find a decent chap." I think that was because Daisy, Tara and Maggie were all hurting or frustrated in some way. But, as usual, there was a lovable cast with a few people you wanted to swat for either arrogance, stupidity or for being just plain rotten. They're a realistic hodge-podge, really.

The Bottom Line: While I wouldn't say Staying at Daisy's is my favorite by Jill Mansell, I became every bit as immersed in the storyline and invested in the characters as I have with the rest of her books and I still highly recommend it. Believable, likable characters with plenty of spunk and wit, a nicely twisty storyline that keeps you guessing and delightful writing make Staying at Daisy's a winner. Infidelity, tons of innuendo and falling into bed with the opposite sex too easily tend to be a little annoying. But, the writing is done with such flair -- zippy dialogue and loads of surprises -- that I'm convinced there's no such thing as a bad book by Jill Mansell. Definitely recommended.

Cover thoughts: I love the cheery covers of Jill Mansell's books, although I don't think the content is clear from the covers and recent releases -- while colorful and lively -- also are hard to distinguish from one another. So, I like the cover but I don't think it says much about the content and I'm hoping there will be some changes to covers of future Mansell titles.

In other news: I've got a hair-pulling migraine, today, although at least my medication has taken the edge off it enough that I can look at a computer screen. Earlier today, I couldn't even do that without the light of the monitor causing blinding pain. So . . . I'll just keep this post "short" (for me) and chatter more, another time.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, March 28, 2011

If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Copyright 2009
Dutton Books - Young Adult
199 pages

I got a copy of the sequel to If I Stay from Dutton Books, so I rushed out to my public library to check out If I Stay and read the two books back-to-back. I feel very fortunate for having the opportunity to read them that way, since my library's Young Adult section, while growing, is still pretty thin and I doubt Where She Went will show up for quite a while after its release.

If I Stay is a tragic story and I'd actually avoided it because I kept hearing what a tough read it is, but I've read some difficult books. I told myself I'm tougher than I look. I look like a jelly roll. We won't go there, though.

17-year-old Mia has a lovely, funny family that she adores and a boyfriend she loves. But, she is a brilliant musician and she must choose whether or not to leave her family and boyfriend when she's offered a spectacular opportunity to continue her musical education far from home.

Then, suddenly, tragedy strikes and Mia has a completely different choice to make. I love this part of the blurb on the cover flap: "If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make."

Here's where I put up a spoiler warning. If you haven't read If I Stay, skip down to The Bottom Line!!! I'm not going to give away the ending (unless you move on to read about Where She Went, which will spoil the ending of If I Stay) but there might be some spoilery bits and I'd prefer not to ruin this read for anyone. ***SPOILER ALERT!!! You have been warned.***

Mia and her family go for a drive on a snowy day. One minute, Mia is enjoying the music, the scenery and the company of her family. The next minute, she's on the ground. She walks around and discovers the mangled bodies of her parents, then sees her own body and watches as paramedics take her away. She can hear her rescuers and follow along. She knows she's alive but she doesn't have any idea how she can see what's happening or what it means. She's afraid to find out whether or not her beloved little brother Teddy has perished along with her parents.

As Mia lies in a coma, she reflects on her romance with her rock guitar-playing boyfriend Adam, her family life, and how she came to play the cello and grow in skill. Meanwhile, she's also able to walk around the hospital, look down on herself during surgery, see people coming and going and hear what they say. I won't spoil how she comes to make her decision to live or die or even what the decision is, but the book ends on a surprisingly hopeful note.

***End Spoiler Warning***

The Bottom Line - I thought there were times If I Stay was just a little slow and it is a roller-coaster, emotional read, but I loved the story. I was crazy about Mia's family -- her father, in particular, reminded me of my own light-hearted father (whom I was constantly told was "such a cool dad") and I found the dilemma so compelling that I couldn't bear to put the book down till I finished. I liked the writing and was impressed by the musical detail. And, I loved the relationship between Mia and Adam. While the book has been referred to as "tragic," I think it's also uplifting and thought-provoking. I definitely recommend it but I recall thinking it deserved a PG-13 warning for some sexuality.

Please don't read the following review unless you have read If I Stay!!! Again, skip to The Bottom Line for my thoughts. There WILL be spoilers in the text of this review!!!

Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Copyright 2011
Dutton Books - Young Adult
272 pages
Release Date: April 5, 2011

If you read If I Stay and enjoyed it, you will definitely want to read on. Where She Went is even better. Three years have gone by since the tragic accident that changed Mia's life forever.

When I saw there was a sequel to If I Stay, I wondered if Mia had chosen to live or die. It could have gone either way. A sequel could easily have taken her to a spiritual world or she could have become a ghost who helped Adam find new love, hence the bold spoiler warnings. I think it's best not to know in advance how If I Stay ends.

But since you've read it, you know she chose to live. Now, we find out that Mia walked out of Adam's life; eventually, the author reveals her reasons, but you're kept in suspense for the majority of the book.

Adam has gone on to become a rock star with a celebrity girlfriend. Mia is a rising star at Juilliard and is getting set to go on her first tour. While Adam is in New York, he sees a poster about Mia's debut and quietly shows up to see her perform. But, Adam is too well-known to sneak out unnoticed and Mia finds him. Thrown together for the first time in three years, Mia and Adam spend all evening and the next day together, exploring Mia's favorite sites in her new home, revisiting their mutual grief and rekindling their romance. But, both of them are scheduled to tour the world and they're going in opposite directions. Now that Mia and Adam have found each other, can they work out a relationship? Or is this goodbye for good?

The Bottom Line - Where She Went is told from Adam's viewpoint and the differing perspective gives the story told in the two books a fullness that would likely have been missing, had the sequel continued in Mia's voice. Like If I Stay, I found Where She Went utterly impossible to put down. Because Adam loved Mia's family and shared in her grief but had to grieve in silence, he's really kind of a wreck and you can't help but hope they'll at least resolve whatever caused the rift between them so that Adam will be able to move on. But the story is better than that, so much better. It is equally emotional and stunningly satisfying. For those who have read If I Stay, Where She Went is not to be missed. Again, the book contains sexuality and language, so I'd say it's a PG-13. I'm anxious to find out what else Gayle Forman has written.

In other news:

One of the reasons I mentioned that I'll have less time for blogging is that we've got not one but two family weddings coming up, this summer. Because I don't want to be the "fat mother of the groom, over there," I decided I've got to get in shape. I mentioned that to a friend, L. L told me she attends a local gym with dance aerobics classes, including Zumba, and my ears perked up. She invited me to go as her guest and I had such fun I immediately signed up for a 6-month membership.

The anecdote that goes with this tale:

At Bible study, last night, I asked one of the women who routinely goes on mission trips about the upcoming mission. The timing is all wrong, so I can't go but she mentioned the meetings and said feel free to come if you want to plan ahead for next year. L said, "Oh, we can't come that day. We have to dance," and I laughed and said it's true, we've got to groove. That perked up another woman's ears and there may soon be three of us grooving together. What fun!

So, the blogging thing:

Well, I'll just get to it when I can. There may be times that I'll need to write a week's worth of mini reviews. If so, I think I'll attempt to write them as separate posts unless I'm so pressed for time that I need to combine a few for the sake of catching up. I haven't had much reading time, lately, so that's kept me from falling too far behind on reviews. And, I'm just not going to kill myself trying to keep up, for now. If I have time to read and review, great. If not, I'll get to it when I get to it.

A Cat Tale:

Isabel jumped into the tub and chased her tail, one day (fortunately, when there was no water in the tub) and that night I dreamed that she jumped in the tub and it was filled with blue water, so as she chased her tail she turned her white fur blue. It took me a while to figure out where the blue bit came from. Husband had painted a second coat on the office walls, that day, and I'd been slightly worried that the cats, who watched in utter fascination as the paint roller went up and down, would end up rubbing against the wall and come away covered in blue paint. They didn't; both girls were actually very well behaved and didn't get in the way or into the paint.

I have a Kiddo anecdote to share, but this post is getting a bit long, so I'll save it for another day. Happy Reading!

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fiona Friday - We don't quite fit but we're happy

Before I took this shot, I got a picture of Fiona with a look in her eye that seemed to say, "Seriously? Can I just give her a good shove with the left foot?" But, of course, she didn't. Fiona's patience never fails to surprise me (nor does Isabel's neediness).

The two girls eventually shifted around a bit and ended up with Izzy hanging out the other end.


As you can see, there's another kitty bed in the background. Sharing isn't necessary. It's just that Isabel craves closeness. I truly believe an abandoned kitty never forgets what it was like to be alone and hungry. That's why they make such amazing companions.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and a book group report

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Copyright 2009
Vintage - General Fiction
Read in e-book form, which had no page numbers (but Amazon says the paperback has over 600 pages)

Cutting for Stone is an epic tale, but I've written a paragraph, deleted, written, deleted. I'm stuck. I think I'm going to have to go with Ye Olde Faithful interview format. Today, the cats are not available due to nap time, so I'm going to be interviewed by the color Green.

Green: Hello! I am ubiquitous. I am life. What's up with you?

Bookfool: Hello, Green. Yes, I see you everywhere outside my window. You and Yellow are making me sneeze. So, the book . . .

G: Yes, the book. Why did you read Cutting for Stone?

BF: I read it to discuss with my book group.

G: Would you have read it, otherwise?

BF: Nope. For some reason, I deliberately avoided Cutting for Stone for over a year. I read the description at Amazon, saw a million reviews online, looked at the cover (I really hated the hardback cover) and was totally turned off. Our Fearless F2F Group Leader talked me into reading it so that I could participate instead of sitting there, looking like I was watching a tennis match (I adore the way people get excited and talk right over each other, in that group).

G: What's the book about?

BF: That is the hard part to describe. It's about twin brothers born to a nun and a surgeon at a hospital where both work, in Ethiopia. The mother dies, the father immediately runs away, and two of the other doctors raise the boys, Marion and Shiva, as their own. Both boys, raised on the hospital compound, choose to become doctors, but with different specialties. Eventually, a rift develops between the twins and, thanks to political upheaval, one of them is forced to flee the country, where he goes through an entirely new experience as an immigrant. I thought it was about relationships, life, love, politics. Ethiopia is almost a character in and of itself. There is so much that happens and that would be spoilery that it would be best not to go into too much detail.

G: But, the author has something different to say.

BF: Yes, if you watch the video of Verghese at Amazon, you'll see he says Cutting for Stone is about how geography shapes your destiny (and more; I recommend the video -- he doesn't give anything away).

G: What did you like best about this book?

BF: There's a lot to love. I loved the characterization, the writing is beautiful, the details about Ethiopia are fascinating and it's really a story you can sink your teeth into -- meaty and very absorbing. I did the, "One more chapter, just one more chapter, okay one more," thing and wrecked myself thoroughly, one night. I didn't personally think there were any wasted words. Also, I adored the character Ghosh (one of the doctors who raised the boys) and his relationship with Hema was really a charming, tender love story.

G: What did your fellow book group members think about "wasted words" and the medical aspect?

BF: They agreed, for the most part, that the book was not overdone (as some critics have said) and absolutely everyone liked the book. But one or two people found the medical scenes a little Too Much Information, at times, and one person skimmed them without feeling like she missed out on anything important. There are a lot of medical scenes; medicine is integral to the lives of many of the characters. I found those scenes/descriptions a little gruesome, at times, but fascinating.

G: Was there anything you disliked about the book?

BF: I wanted to reach in and shake a couple characters and there was one time I said, "Oh, no!" out loud. So, no. I think you could say I became very involved and cared enough to want to give people who did bad things a kick in the shins and to wish I could stop Marion from disaster, at least once. But, apart from that, I guess the only thing I disliked was probably some of the medical bits that were so vivid I can't get them out of my head. I am way the heck too squeamish to have ever become a medical practitioner.

G: One of the reasons you avoided the book was . . .

BF: . . . the fact that everyone kept saying, "It's by a doctor!!" I've read a lot of medical thrillers and physicians who write have a tendency to write arrogant protagonists who mention (in dialogue or internally) their opinion that doctors are intellectually superior to other humans. There is one author in particular that I gave up reading because his protagonists did that in every single book. Physicians are superior to all the CEOs, lawyers, engineers, linguists, inventors . . . really? I just can't swallow that.

G: And, did you find this to be true of the author in Cutting for Stone?

BF: Absolutely not. In fact, there were so many physicians in the book that you got a broad viewpoint of different opinions about doctoring. Some were constantly questioning their ability to handle this or that, to make the right diagnosis or keep from doing damage to someone already in distress. One or two may have been a little arrogant. But, most were humble people who simply loved their chosen profession.

G: Do you recommend the book? If so, to whom would you specifically direct your recommendation?

BF: Never let it be said the color Green has no grasp of grammar. Yes, I highly recommend the book to anyone who loves a good story. Chunkster fans? You'll love it. Chunkster haters? I think you'll find it's such an engrossing read that you will not mind the thickness. Squeamish people? Well, I'm squeamish and I survived but if medical detail makes you heave . . . I guess you might want to skip. I'd advise you to skim, though, instead. I really think Cutting for Stone is that wonderful. I'm still thinking about the characters.

G: Any other thoughts?

BF: I really dislike Yellow. I can't say why.

G: That's very colorist of you. You realize I'm half Yellow.

BF: Oh, I'm so sorry. I just meant on walls, you know like eggshell is yucky compared to bright --

G: You might want to stop while you're behind.

BF: Thank you for interviewing me. You may now return to the plants and photosynthesize to your little heart's content.

G: You're welcome, but I don't have a heart because I'm actually just something your mind thinks it sees, just as the sky is not really blue and--

BF: THE END

Book group report: We had fun!! I took a bottle of hard cider, for which the host gave me a lovely etched crystal glass in which to pour. I came home relaxed and happy! Nobody argued about this particular book, so it was really a much tamer meeting than usual. I just adore this group and had a great time.

Fiona Friday will appear, later today!

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Mountains Bow Down by Sibella Giorello

The Mountains Bow Down by Sibella Giorello
Copyright 2011
Thomas Nelson - Mystery
4th in the Raleigh Harmon series
373 pages

I've only read two of the books in the Raleigh Harmon mystery series (apparently, the first book had a different publisher) but I think it's worth mentioning, up front, that the books stand alone well. In the third book, The Clouds Roll Away, Raleigh solved a murder and made a personal decision that she's now questioning, hoping time and distance will help her find an answer.

The Mountains Bow Down takes Raleigh away from her home. The entire book is set on or near the ship on which she takes a cruise to Alaska with her mother, her aunt and another woman. Raleigh, a forensic geologist working for the FBI, is serving as a consultant to a movie crew filming an action flick on board, although she has plans to explore Alaska's geology and get some much-needed mental rest.

But, when a woman goes missing and is found dead of an apparent suicide, Raleigh's vacation becomes a working trip. The suicide is suspicious and Raleigh has a limited amount of time to prove the woman was murdered before the cruise ends and a killer walks away. After asking for help from the FBI, her handsome rival from Seattle, Special Agent Jack Stephanson, shows up to assist. Jack treated her like a jerk when she was working in Seattle, but now he's oddly kind and surprises Raleigh by treating her with a fair amount of respect -- which, naturally, only adds confusion to her complicated personal life.

Will Raleigh change her mind about that decision she made back home? Can she protect her mother from information she's sure will send her mom beyond the edge of sanity? Will Raleigh be able to solve the murder before it's too late?

Well . . . it's a mystery and mysteries get solved so I think I can safely say you know the answer to the last question, but the journey to the answer is really quite a ride. Not being a big mystery fan, I was pretty surprised how gripping I found The Clouds Roll Away and how much I liked the stolid (but privately emotional) heroine and I can tell you Raleigh is consistent and I liked her just as much in The Mountains Bow Down.

What I loved about The Mountains Bow Down:

I really like Raleigh Harmon. She's a fascinating character. When I read The Clouds Roll Away, I thought she sounded like the kind of woman you hear about in Alaska -- the kind who can hike a mountain, camp for weeks without whining, build a cabin, heft food into the trees, shoot a moose, defend herself from a bear and then go home and make a meal for an entire village. Alaskan women are tough!! So, it really didn't surprise me to find out the author is a native Alaskan and I was actually hoping the author would eventually set a book in Alaska. While there's not a lot of Alaska in the book because it mostly takes place on the cruise ship, there was enough talk about the beauty of Alaska and the towns the ship visited to satisfy me.

The mystery itself was suitably complex (Giorello kept me guessing right up to the end) without becoming overwhelming and the other characters were well described. I was so fond of Jack and the man in Seattle who was Raleigh's former boss that now I'm absolutely dying to go back to the beginning to read the first two books in the series. I love, love, love the fact that Raleigh is a big eater. There are so many female characters who worry about food and their weight in fiction that it's nice to read about one who can put away a big meal, for a change. In general, The Mountains Bow Down is an engrossing read with excellent characterization, taut plotting and intelligent writing.

What I disliked about The Mountains Bow Down:

Oh, hmm. I can't think of anything. There are some icky characters but some of the movie people were meant to be overblown, arrogant, unlikable caricatures -- or, maybe I should use the word archetypes -- but I didn't find that they pushed believability beyond reason. There are some graphic descriptions of filth, a bit of gory body description and sexual deviance. The language is clean and there are occasional thoughts about Christianity on Raleigh's part, but I would say it's not for the faint of heart and in some ways deserves an R rating. It's been long enough since I finished reading the book that a few things have slipped away and I'm not certain how graphic the talk about the nastiest characters was, but it did turn my stomach a bit.

Recommended for mystery and thriller fans. Definitely not for the squeamish.

Cover thoughts: While I love the look of the cover, if you look very close it appears that the view of the skyline from the ship is . . . well, more like Hawaii than Alaska. But, the rest of the image is okay. I have a feeling there was a bit of cut-and-paste involved in the making of that cover, but it fits the story if you don't look too closely.

In other news:

I had a busy-busy week but I'm way too tired to write about it. Maybe later. The coming months are going to be unusually hectic for me, so I'm considering making only weekly or bi-weekly updates (apart from the 2 remaining tours I have scheduled). That would mean weekly mini-reviews and probably the usual Fiona Friday posts. The alternative is to do only monthly updates; I definitely will not have time for frequent posting but I don't want to give up the blog completely. Thoughts are welcome.

Fiona missed you:

But, she had an excellent time watching birds. So did Isabel.

Did anyone get to see the Supermoon? We lucked out and got to see it from the moment it rose over the horizon to well after it lost that gorgeous orange glow. But, we had to hop into the car and rush to the high school parking lot to take pictures because trees were blocking the view. I had loads of fun snapping pictures and have really enjoyed looking at the gorgeous photos other folks took.

I managed to finish Cutting for Stone in time for my F2F book group's meeting. I'll tell you about that, later. Gotta get some shut-eye. Nightie-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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Taking a break

Quick, how many cats does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Answer: Just one and her name is Isabel. She's very talented.

Izzy, Fi and I have about 10 very busy days coming up. I'll be cleaning and enjoying family; the fur girls will help in a way that only felines can.

<---"Here, Mom, let me help you fold that towel."












"Housework? Where's the nearest cat-sized escape hatch?" ----->

At some point, either next week or the week after, I'll be touring The Mountains Bow Down by Sibella Giorello. But, I don't have a date for that tour, yet, and The Mountains Bow Down is the only book left in my sidebar that I haven't reviewed! Like, freak me out, dude.

Seems like a good time to take off, doesn't it? Maybe I can catch up on some reading, in between tossing out piles of whatever the heck is in those corners. Who puts all that junk in the corners of my house? I don't think I can blame the cats for the clutter (although they do have a massive kitty-toy collection).

First on the reading agenda: I must finish Cutting for Stone by next Wednesday. I have not yet managed to finish a chosen book in time for my face-to-face book group's reading discussion (well, except for those two in December . . . but the point is lost if you don't make it to the meeting), so I'm going to focus on that one. It should take me a few days, since Cutting for Stone is a chunkster. Otherwise, I'm just going to read what calls to me.

See you soon!!

Bookfool on a brief break

2010 Reading Year in Review

A wee bit late, yes . . .

Number of Books Read - 159
Total Pages Read - 39,795
Average Book Length - 250 pages

Longest Book Read in 2010 - The Passage by Justin Cronin - 766 pages

Shortest Book Read in 2010 - Little Critter's Where is My Frog? by Mercer Mayer (lift-the-flaps) OR Merry Sparkling Christmas by Spurr & Madden (board book) -- both too short to bother counting pages

Fiction Reads - 121

Favorite Fiction -
The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien
The Winter Sea - Susanna Kearsley
The Ship of Brides - Jojo Moyes
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower - C. S. Forester
Bellwether - Connie Willis
Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
The Passage - Justin Cronin
Postcards from a Dead Girl - Kirk Farber
The Founding - Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Veracity - Laura Bynum
The Doomsday Book - Connie Willis

Nonfiction Reads - 38

Favorite Nonfiction -
First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria by Eve Brown-Waite
Flyaway - Suzie Gilbert
A Hundred Feet Over Hell - Jim Hooper
Field Notes from a Catastrophe - Elizabeth Kolbert
Why Our Decisions Don't Matter - ed. by Simon Van Booy
Under the Overpass - Mike Yankoski
Shakespeare Wrote for Money - Nick Hornby
They Were Just People - Tammeus and Cukierkorn
London's Strangest Tales - Tom Quinn
The Secret Holocaust Diaries - Nonna Bannister

Number of authors new to me - It would be easier counting the number of authors *not* new to me. Most were new. A few exceptions: C. S. Forester, Simon Van Booy, Michael Palmer, Marsha Altman, Jill Mansell, Jojo Moyes, Annemarie Selinko

Biggest smile-inducers:
Flyaway - Suzie Gilbert
That Cat Can't Stay - Krasnesky & Parkins
I'll Mature When I'm Dead - Dave Barry
Bellwether - Connie Willis
Moose Droppings & Other Crimes Against Nature - Tom Brennan
Ten on the Sled - Norman & Woodruff
London's Strangest Tales - Tom Quinn
Ship of Brides - Jojo Moyes
Let it Snow - Green, Johnson & Myracle

Tear-jerkers:
They Were Just People - Tammeus & Cukierkorn
The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien
Making Rounds with Oscar - David Dosa, M.D.
A Dog's Purpose - Bruce Cameron
Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs - Heather Lende

Nightmare-inducing (literally):
The Passage by Justin Cronin was the only book that gave me nightmares in 2010 and they were doozies -- all-night, frequent-waking, they're going to eat me nightmares.

Most awesome writing:
The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien
The Reapers are The Angels - Alden Bell
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower - C. S. Forester
Anything by Connie Willis or Simon Van Booy is awesome, period.

Most surprising books:
Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver (much better writing and more depth than anticipated)
The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien (did not expect to be so thoroughly blown away)
A Dog's Purpose (surprisingly touching and meaningful)
The Reapers Are the Angels - Alden Bell (Zombies written in a literary manner? Shocker!)
Bellwether - Connie Willis (Funny, sharp, thought-provoking, astute writing)

Biggest wastes of time and/or books that totally pissed me off in some way (remember, these are only my personal opinion!!!!!):
F My Life - Valette, Pasaglia & Guedj
The Swan Thieves - Elizabeth Kostova
Stealing Heaven - Elizabeth Scott
The Last Surgeon - Michael Palmer (an author I usually like)
Winging It - Jenny Gardiner
The Amazing Book of Useless Info - Noel Botham
Rhymes with Witches - Lauren Myracle
Fireworks Over Toccoa - Jeffrey Stepakoff
Bird Girl and the Man Who Followed the Sun - Velma Wallis (another author I usually like)

Page-turning, gripping, can't-put-down books:
The Clouds Roll Away - Sibella Giorello
The Passage - Justin Cronin
A Hundred Feet Over Hell - Jim Hooper

Authors I read more than once:
Simon Van Booy (4)
Jill Mansell (2)
Ciji Ware (2)
Connie Willis (2)
Kelley Armstrong (3)
Lisa McMann (2)
Shana Galen (2)

Authors I wish would hurry up and write more:
Simon Van Booy - always, always
Patricia Wood - ditto
Alden Bell

Books read which were by authors I know personally:
All four books by Simon Van Booy, the only author from my 2010 reads that I have met in person.

Authors I wish I knew (or at least could spent a dinner or two interrogating):
Sibella Giorello
Alden Bell
John Green
Patricia Wood (someday we'll meet and talk over drinks with little umbrellas)
and I've been longing to hang out with Simon Van Booy a bit longer for years.

A few new categories for 2010 -

Favorite Children's Books:
That Cat Can't Stay - Krasnesky and Parkins
Little Chimp's Big Day - Schroeder and McCue
Ten Big Toes and a Prince's Nose - Gow and Costanza
Ten on the Sled - Norman and Woodruff
Calvin Can't Fly - Berne and Bendis

Favorite YA series:
The Summoning/The Awakening/The Reckoning - Kelley Armstrong

Favorite YA stand-alone titles:
A Mango-Shaped Space - Wendy Mass
Eyes Like Stars - Lisa Mantchev
Twenty Boy Summer - Sarah Ockler
Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver



©2011 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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

It Happened One Bite by Lydia Dare

It Happened One Bite by Lydia Dare
Copyright 2011
Sourcebooks Casablanca - Romance/Paranormal
390 pages

Goodness, that's a steamy cover, isn't it? Guess what It Happened One Bite is about. Go ahead, guess.

Kiddo: "There's a vampire, right?"

Yes, but not just a vampyre (<---that's how the author team known as Lydia Dare spells it). There are witches, too. And, a werewolf. But, please, don't call him a werewolf. That's an insult; he's a Lycan. "Werewolf" is the equivalent of calling a vampyre a "blood-sucker". Who knew?

It Happened One Bite begins with a coven of witches casting a spell on James Maitland, Lord Kettering, basically putting him into a form of stasis. He appears to be a sweet, innocent vampyre just minding his own business, out for a smoke. But, the witches are really pissed off about something. At least, it seems that way.

Fast-forward 20 years and there's an entirely new generation of witches, the daughters of the women in the original coven. Blaire Lindsey is one of them, a "battle-born" witch. Her brother, Captain Aiden Lindsay, has inherited a castle that Blaire didn't know existed and of which he had only unconfirmed, vague memories. And, he's just dying to see his new digs. Blaire, Aiden and their little brother, Brannock, take off to check out the castle and find a very dusty castle in good condition -- and a little surprise. There's a vampyre in the cellar.

Blaire's return has broken the spell, but with the awakening of a very smelly James Maitland comes something even more sinister (Yippee -- danger! Conflict!) Plus, naturally, it's a romance and you can probably figure out who is going to fall in love with whom and why there might be some problems involved in the romance. Why did Blaire's mother and the other women of the previous coven lock Lord Kettering up for 20 years? Can Blaire really save her family from his dangerous enemies by letting Lord Kettering do that to her??? Yes, of course, it involves some erotic blood sucking and at least one graphic love scene; fortunately, there's not a great deal of sex.

What I loved about It Happened One Bite:

Fluff break! I like a little romance, now and then. Admittedly, It Happened One Bite is pretty silly and I don't get the whole concept that having one's blood sucked can be in some way erotic. I just don't. But, there was definitely something about this particular story that kept pulling on me. I liked Blaire and Lord Kettering. Blaire's brother Aiden was nice in a "big brother protector" way and young Brannock is just as cute as a bug's ear. I liked the setting and the storyline, although I did think there were some plot holes and the ending and beginning didn't quite mesh. In general, a plucky heroine and a romance that was at least unusual from my end (I've never read a witch/vampyre romance) made It Happened One Bite a pretty good read -- not great, not awful. Pretty good.

What I disliked about It Happened One Bite:

Vernacular. Argh!! Scottish vernacular!!! Major ugh!! I do not like having to mentally translate. Example found at random:

"Brannock Lindsay!" a woman cried. "I doona have time for such nonsense. Climb inta bed. We've got a long day ahead of us tomorrow."
"But, Blaire," the child complained, "I just want ta catch the kitty first."
"Aye. Ye always have somethin' ye have ta do first. But tonight I doona have the patience for it." Her voice dropped as she grumbled, but he heard her nonetheless. "Only ye, Brannock, could befriend a mangy, mottled bag of fur as soon as we arrived. "Ye're lucky it dinna scratch yer eyes out."
"It's no' a bad cat, Blaire."

--p. 27 of It Happened One Bite, Uncorrected Advance Copy. Some changes may have been made to the final print version.

Personal opinion and one I share with the author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark: Accent can be detected just fine via the use of properly-spelled wording. The structure, cadence and the use of local slang will make dialect clear. It's not necessary to guide readers like the blind via misspelled words. That's my opinion and I stick to it . . . well, most of the time. Sometimes I change my mind. It's a woman's prerogative, you know.

The bottom line:

Don't go into It Happened One Bite expecting brilliant writing. Read it for escapist paranormal entertainment and offbeat romance. There are some astoundingly stupid moments. You won't believe how the battle between vampyres ends, for example. To be honest, I didn't care. I knew what I was getting into when I picked up the book and I liked it. I did hang my mouth open a bit, a couple of times, and there were moments that the tension was oddly broken when it should have remained taut and action-filled. Truly, it just didn't faze me. I was in the mood for a change of pace and It Happened One Bite was definitely something different. I'd particularly recommend this one to paranormal romance lovers.

Speaking of fun:


Wheeee! Ceiling fan pulls are a hoot! I didn't like the photos I took of Izzy chewing on the chain and the little crystal pulls, but I'll keep trying to get one I like. It's so fun watching her play up there. She's going to be irritated when we finish painting and move that cabinet away from the ceiling fan.

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Christian the Lion by Bourke and Rendall

Christian the Lion
by Anthony (Ace) Bourke & John Rendall
Copyright 2009
Delacorte Books - Nonfiction/Ages 9-12
128 pages

I can't get enough of reading about Christian the Lion, the lion bought by authors Bourke and Rendall at Harrods in London and eventually released into the wild with the help of the actors who played Joy and George Adamson in Born Free, as well as Adamson, himself. You may have seen the YouTube video of Christian greeting Ace and John after they returned to Africa to see how he was doing. It brought tears to my eyes, of course. I'm a total sap, after all, but it is really an unusual and deeply touching video. Plus, he's just a big ol' kitty cat. That'll do it. Christian the Lion is the story of Christian, up to the time of the video.

I read a children's book about Christian, last year, and when I happened across this version for older children in the homeless shelter store, I grabbed it so fast you'd have thought I was trying to keep it away from someone. There was actually nobody else in the store at the time, but I was truly excited to see yet another book about Christian.

Born to zoo lions, Christian and his sister were the only two remaining cubs at Harrods when Ace and John, two Australians living in London, happened to see him in 1969. They thought a cage in a department store was a horrible place for a lion cub and decided almost immediately that they would buy him in order to give him a better life (his sister had already been sold). Christian the Lion begins with their discovery of Christian at Harrods and tells how they got to know the cub, brought him home to their flat over a furniture store and were granted permission to exercise him in a churchyard. As Christian grew, he eventually was no longer allowed to roam freely in the furniture store or play in the churchyard because he frightened people. By then, Ace and John had already begun to make plans to release Christian into the wild.

No matter how great the detail, the story of Christian is an uplifting true tale of human compassion, deep affection, and tender love. Christian the Lion satisfied my desire to know a bit more about Christian, but I'm still hankering to read the even more complete full-length version. There's a lovely section crammed with terrific photos, in the middle of the book.

I highly recommend Christian the Lion to animal lovers, people who love memoirs (kids and adults alike, although most adults probably would like to read a more in-depth version) and anybody else whose ears perked up when they saw the cover of the book. You should have seen my ears perk and my eyes widen, heard my pulse race.

Here's a more time-appropriate video of Christian's story (with music from that era). It goes a bit farther, showing how John and Ace spent time with Christian's pride. Lions are in extreme danger. I've been getting quite a few emails about lions from one of my favorite organizations, Defenders of Wildlife. Apparently, a very deadly poison is being used in their habitat -- and since there are only two places that lions still exist in the wild, their already rapidly declining population could easily be driven to extinction. Yikes! Did you know the Eastern Cougar was officially declared extinct, this week? ~sniffle~

Here's my little tiger, Fiona. If she read my blog, she'd undoubtedly have felt neglected, this week, so I figure it's her turn.


©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Books are like hamburgers (a philosophical post)


There have been several really interesting articles by authors that have me thinking, lately. Justine Larbalestier's "I Love Bad Reviews" is the only one I bothered to save for the purpose of linking, unfortunately. Here's the a link to the article by Janni Lee Simmer that began the conversation (which is mentioned in Larbalestier's post). Both are well worth your time.

What are they saying? Larbalestier is just one of many authors who are trying to make the point that authors need to be accepting of reviews, regardless of whether they're positive or negative. She goes so far as to say that a negative review -- even one in which a blogger or other reviewer truly stomps on the author and doesn't say a single positive word -- is a good thing, simply because it's better to have someone read your book and spout off about how awful it is than to sink into obscurity. Great point, I thought.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, last year or the year before, Shannon Hale wrote an article that asked bloggers to consider why they rate books and then send their words out into the universe to potentially wreak havoc and wreck lives. That wasn't her wording at all, but I will tell you I initially found her article upsetting because I had never thought of myself as a person who placed my reviews out there for the world to see. I have always blogged for myself. The whole reason I began blogging was to have a place to simply write my honest thoughts and purge about the books I read.

I had to give Shannon Hale's words a lot of thought. And, really, although I still don't think of blogging as a way of "presenting my thoughts to the world", I suppose the fact that most of my readers arrive via Google means . . . well, yes, I am. It was thanks to Hale's post that I ceased to rate books numerically. I'd never really liked giving books a rating, since I've found that the way I feel about a book can change a week or a month after I set it aside. In a way, she gave me permission to let go of numbers. It was difficult to let go of numerical ratings, at first, simply because I knew my readers liked seeing how I rated a book. I've worked diligently to try to rate in words rather than numbers, since then -- in other words, present my thoughts clearly enough that a reader can gauge how I feel as well as he or she would by glancing at numbers -- although I know it's not the same.

Getting to the point: How are books like hamburgers?

Here's my thought: Books are like hamburgers in the way we feel about them and the kind we choose. Some people like mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup. Some people like pickles and tomatoes only . . . or just cheese (that was me, a hundred million years ago, little miss "Plain, with cheese"). Some folks will not touch a hamburger because it's got meat in it or they want something just a little offbeat between the buns (bookwise: between the covers). One person's hamburger is another person's gag reflex. The same is true of books.

Sometimes, you get even get e-Coli from the contents. There is such a thing as a bad hamburger and there is such a thing as a totally awful book. I believe both are the exceptions. But, how we react to what's inside our hamburgers and our books is very individual. In both cases, it's a matter of taste, preference, sometimes even the way we happen to feel on a particular day.

The bottom line is that I have always believed and still feel strongly about the importance of honesty in reviewing. It's important to me to attempt to find something I like about each and every book and mention it, if at all humanly possible, simply because I've been published and I know what it feels like to be reviewed. But, I know it's not always possible. Some books just don't work for everyone. I love this particular line of conversation amongst authors. What do you think? Have you ever felt like you had to adjust your thoughts to avoid hurting feelings? Have you ever had an author attempt to debate your impressions of his or her book? Is complete honesty the best policy?

Addendum: Here's one blogger's response to the "pressure to be nice" at Literary Life. I don't personally feel pressured, but I am a bit of a nonconformist (nobody's going to tell me how to blog -- I'm here to do my own thing, period) and always try to be nice, anyway. If a book stirs my passions in some way, I'm going to say so . . . but as kindly as possible. At least, that's always my intent.


©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, March 07, 2011

February Reads in Review - 2011

February was yummy. Lick, lick. It's true that I just said that because I wanted to use the photo above, but it was a decent month.

Incidentally, I hope this blog doesn't seem to be turning into the All Izzy, All the Time Channel. She's just so darn cute that I'm having a blast photographing Isabel. Fiona is still every bit as charming and lovely but Izzy is the one who is currently into everything and practically omnipresent (she's a little needy), so she's the kitty who tends to be handy for photography. I hope you'll pardon me for the onslaught of Izzy pics.

February Reads (with links to my reviews):


13 books, about 3,000 pages. It looks like I went super light on the reading, this month, with a little romance, a little non-fiction (nothing intense), a couple children's books and some very fun young adult reads. In fact, I'm kind of craving a little depth and thinking I may dive into a classic, soon. I've got The Phantom of the Opera sitting at my bedside and some historical fiction chunksters on the agenda.

Back to February: I really liked most everything I read, but How to Ditch Your Fairy, Moonface, The Procrastination Equation and My Love, My Enemy were my favorites. High Points and Lows was a really interesting perspective on faith that I couldn't always relate to, but I adored the author's down-to-earth thoughts, so it was an almost favorite, way up there in the enjoyment level. Gone was an excellent wrap-up to a series I've enjoyed. Overall, I'm happy with February.

How is your reading and blogging year going, so far?

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

The Mental Floss History of the United States by Eric Sass

The mental_floss History of the United States
By Eric Sass
with Will Pearson &
Mangesh Hattikudur
Copyright 2010
Harper - NF/History
414 pages

If you can't actually declare war and whup on your enemy, the next best thing is accumulating colossal military power and loudly declaring that if there were a war, you would totally whup them worse than they could whup you. The great thing about this strategy is you never have to find out if it's true or not.

--p. 297 of The mental_floss History of the United States, Advanced Reader Copy (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

It took me about 2 or 3 months to read The mental_floss History of the United States, not because it was boring (it's absolutely not) or dry (obviously, it can be very entertaining) but because I liked it so much that I decided to stretch out the reading. Plus, the book is divided into short, topical sections, which makes it a perfect book to keep in your purse, the bathroom, the car -- wherever you tend to end up reading in bits and snatches. I kept mine in one of those places until I decided I'd goofed long enough and HarperCollins would probably like me to just get the reading over with and review the book, for crying out loud. Although, to be honest, nobody nudged me or gave me a hard time. HarperCollins publicists are really patient souls.

What I loved about The mental_floss History of the United States:

Oh, baby, this is the way to make history fun. Tm_fHotUS is not just informative. It's deliciously playful. The author has a terrific sense of humor and clearly had a great time poking fun at historical figures, but there's a plain-spoken authority to the text. As Sass melted down key facts -- beginning with the first human habitation of North America during the last Ice Age -- he also clarified events about which we've typically been misinformed ("Lies Your Teacher Told You"), broke up the text with pertinent (often side-splitting) quotes . . . shoot, even the topic headings are lively.

For example:

"Mr. and Mrs. Smith (and Mrs. Smith, and Mrs. Smith)" describes the unusual beliefs that led to Joseph Smith, Jr. being chased out of a number of places he tried to settle as he founded the Church of the Latter-Day Saints. The larger sections are divided into time periods, such as "A Superpower is (Accidentally) Born: 1930-1955," subheadings like "Profiles in Scourges" describe various people who did really awful things, and "Made in the USA" sections naturally are about American inventions.

Did I tell you even the quotes are often hilarious?

We should declare war on North Vietnam. . . . We could pave the whole country and put parking strips on it, and still be home by Christmas.

~Ronald Reagan, 1965, as quoted in The mental_floss History of the United States, p. 282 of ARC

What I disliked about Tm_fHotUS:

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The bottom line:

Whether you're history-stupid (like me) but love reading about history, anyway, or you like learning new things or you're pretty sure you missed an entire time period during your education in American History or you have a friend who has a birthday coming up, you need a copy of this book. Really. It's so fun you practically have to pinch yourself. Can history really be that entertaining? Apparently so. Highly recommended.

Oh, the utter coolness:

When we were in London, last August, we saw a performance of Les Miserables. I was in cheapskate mode and decided not to even buy a program, which I regretted. Last night, hubby was watching PBS and they were playing a 25th-anniversary performance that included an encore with original cast members. It was so awesome it literally gave me goosebumps all over, again, but it was doubly cool to see some of the cast members we fell in love with in August. I want to go back and see Les Miserables, again!!!

But it doesn't look like I'm going anywhere, anytime soon. Guess I'll have to just keep admiring and photographing kitty noses.



©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Butt Book by Bennett and Lester

The Butt Book by Artie Bennett
Illustrated by Mike Lester
Copyright 2010
Bloomsbury - Children's (Ages 4-8)
32 pages

Eyes and ears are much respected,
but the butt has been neglected.
We hope to change that here and now.
Would the butt please take a bow?

So begins The Butt Book, one of the funniest children's books I've read -- and there is nothing I love more than an excuse to laugh. The Butt Book is just plain silly. I read it to my cats and I read it to my husband. My husband snickered pretty much all the way through. Fiona took it very seriously:

The spread above is the second page spread. In case you can't see, it says:

Buttocks is the formal name--
and no two buttocks are the same.
Butts can come in every size.
Some will droop and others rise.

The Butt Book continues with a "celebration" of backsides, including words for bottoms used in other cultures, pictures of animal rear ends, and descriptions of the heinie's usefulness (don't worry -- nothing disgusting), including a nice padding to sit upon. The illustrations are as hilarious as the text and delightfully bright and cheery.

By far my favorite part of The Butt Book (shown here on the back cover, although it's also a page inside the book):

Why do we have butts? Perchance,
a place to place our underpants?

Any mother of little boys has probably seen this view a time or two. Both of my boys thought it was hilarious to pretend their underpants were hats. Believe it or not, that image brought back fond memories. I loved The Butt Book and so did everyone else I showed it to, although one of them yawned a lot. But, Izzy needed her nap desperately. Cats make excellent audiences, awake or not, if you're lacking in small children. Many thanks to the author for sending me a copy of The Butt Book, which will find its way into the hands of a little tyke of my acquaintance!

©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Fiona Friday - Regardless of the mess . . .

. . . we can make ourselves at home anywhere.


©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 bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Moonface by Angela Balcita

Moonface: A True Romance
by Angela Balcita
Copyright 2011
HarperPerennial - NF/Memoir
222 pages

I seem to be having a bit of difficulty starting this review, so I'm going to go to the old standby method of review-block breaking: the self-interview! Only, I think it's about time Isabel interviewed me. I'm pretty sure she's never had a turn.

For those who are just dropping by, Isabel is my 9-month old kitten. Or, that's about how old we think she is. She's a rescue.

Isabel: Meow. Meowoo?

Bookfool: Good morning to you, too, and I'm fine. It's rather important to ask questions in Human English.

Izzy: Nonfurries are dull. What is Moonface about?

BF: Moonface is a memoir that tells about Angela Balcita's repeated kidney failures and how the man she fell in love with sacrificed a kidney for her. It's both a story of one woman's fight throughout a continuing health crisis and how love has helped her survive as well as a tremendously unforgettable true romance.

Izzy: Why did you decide to read Moonface?

BF: I have a friend who has had a kidney transplant due to polycystic kidney disease and she still faces constant challenges. I hoped this book would help me understand what she's gone through and what she endures, so that I can be a better friend to her.

Izzy: What did you like best about this book?

BF: I liked pretty much everything about it. I learned a lot, as I'd hoped. But, it's especially inspiring and touching the way a man who barely knew his girlfriend willingly sacrificed for the author. It's truly a love story. There were a number of people who were willing to give the author a kidney and that is also absolutely amazing. I also think the author is a great storyteller. Her writing has a nice flow.

Izzy: The boyfriend wasn't the first person to give her a kidney, correct?

BF: No, her kidney disease is a constant battle. By the time "Charlie" met Angela, she had already had one kidney replacement, thanks to her brother. The story is really focused on the romance between Charlie and Angela, though.

Izzy: In particular . . .

BF: The importance to Angela that her body not reject Charlie's kidney, because if his kidney was rejected, she feared he would reject her, as well.

Izzy: It smells good outside.

BF: That's because it's raining and the air is very fresh. Ask me what I liked about the writing style.

Izzy: Okay, what did you like about the writing style? And, please don't leave the room, again, because I feel obligated to follow.

BF: Sorry, I was hungry. I love the fact that Charlie and Angela both kept their sense of humor. The book can be really funny. It's emotional, but there's always a little bit of either Angela's or Charlie's sense of humor creeping through.

Izzy: What was the hardest part to read?

BF: There were many difficult moments, but I found it particularly difficult to read about Angela's downturn after . . . okay, there's a part I don't want to give away, but at some point she went through a kidney rejection and she kept hoping it would turn around but it was just one of those knock-over-a-domino health moments. Things just kept cascading out of control. And, it was also very hard to read about Charlie's agony.

Izzy: Apparently, donating a kidney Really Hurts.

BF: Yes, and that makes this story even more heartwarming, just to know that so many people were willing to go through that kind of misery in order to keep a friend/sister/girlfriend alive. It is truly a beautiful tale of how far a few individuals are willing to go -- beyond kindness to self-sacrifice.

Izzy:
Recommended?

BF: Absolutely. I'd especially recommend the book to people who like memoirs and tales of true sacrifice and love. You will love the author and Charlie.

Izzy: Thank you for answering my questions. And, please . . . do not bring strangers into the house and try to let them pet me. Do. Not. Like.

BF: Sorry. She was harmless, though. You'd like that so-called "stranger" if you gave her half a chance.

Izzy: Hmmph. Buy Moonface. My human says it's great and I believe her. The end. I must go munch on dry food, explore underneath the drop-cloth and climb in places I don't belong. Maybe I'll check out the ceiling fan, again.


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