Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tuesday Twaddle - Mostly *yikes* news

Our phone service (and, therefore internet -- and I have no smart device) has been down since Sunday and the robot who answered my service call said we won't be back up and running till Thursday. Can you believe that? This is the second time we've lost service for 5 days in the last few months. Ask me if I'll be choosing AT&T for my new home. Go ahead. Ask. ;)

So . . . I have no photos to upload and I'm in a coffee shop. I'm going to have to make this quick because I'm using Kiddo's laptop and he doesn't really feel like sharing.

Last week's reading . . .

Sucked eggs. I finished one book: Dreaming in English. I enjoyed it. More on that, later.

Right now, I'm reading . . .

Shadow Show, ed. by Weller and Castle - A book of short stories written in tribute to Ray Bradbury. I'm on p. 262 and finding the stories are stellar. Definitely loving this one.

The Aleppo Codex by Matti Friedman - Still enjoying this one, although I did take a break from it for a couple days. I hope to finish this one tonight, but I can't bank on that.

Cat news:

On days that the guys are around to move furniture, the poor kitties get a little frantic. But, otherwise, they're adapting just fine. They're still playing in boxes, climbing new spaces, checking out empty cabinets. As long as I spend a little time with them, they seem pretty happy.

Husband news:

Men should just stay out of the way and let their women decide how to do their own freaking packing jobs. Just saying the spouse could stand to leave his manager title at work, thankyouverymuch.

Worst news of the week:

My best friend and neighbor is now a widow. I'm bummed. I considered Mike a great guy, a friend and a man I respected and admired. The funeral was really uplifting and wonderful, though, so it turned something awful into a beautiful time of hope and reflection.

Update on the house:

We have a date on our mattress arrival and all that's left of the bedroom painting is a little trim work, then I can put the outlet plates back on and we can move on to the living area, our final paint job! Woot! We're getting pretty decent at this painting business, now. The bed frame has been put together and we've moved in quite a bit of furniture. We still haven't found a couch we agree on, so we sit on our one area rug, our IKEA chair (still just one comfy chair in the house) or a dining chair when we need breaks. The cats won't move into the new house till we do.

I'll mention book arrivals when my home internet is functioning. Wow, Kiddo is REALLY TWITCHY when you borrow his computer. Gotta run. Happy Last Day of July!

©2012 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, July 27, 2012

Fiona Friday - Favorites from this week

©2012 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, July 23, 2012

Tuesday Twaddle - Including Un-greening and mini reviews of A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute and The Knights of Derbyshire by Marsha Altman

Hello! Monday Malarkey turned to Tuesday Twaddle because of an evening of painting at the new house.

We're all done de-pinking the "library". So, after cleaning the floor, we'll start bringing in shelves and books. Meanwhile, I've moved on to un-greening the master bedroom. Here's what the bedroom looked like when the previous owner was still in residence:

Oddly, she left that headboard in the garage.

I'm actually quite fond of green, but I prefer a neutral color in my bedroom so I can change bedspread/quilt colors without having to paint, again. Plus, I had a different color scheme in mind. We have to buy new linens because we are finally getting a new bed, after 29 years on the same old mattress and box springs. Woot! I am so ready for a new mattress!!! I'll show you the color I settled on, when the room is all painted and put together.

In other news:

Kiddo got the keys to his apartment in Oxford and took a load of his possessions, including his bed (without the frame), this weekend. He then came home and agreed with his father that they should put a twin mattress and box springs on his full-size frame, in spite of my noisy protests. Kiddo sat on the bed and promptly broke one of the slats. I have been heckling my husband the engineer about how he should have known the amount of stress would not have been spread as evenly over the slats and breakage was a likelihood. He responded that he's a better manager than engineer. Haha.

Kitty news:

Isabel has been sick, again!! Can you believe it? I don't know if she didn't get enough antibiotic or she's got something new, but she was sluggish all weekend (but smiling -- seriously, she stayed near me instead of hiding and seemed fairly happy, in spite of being miserable) so I took her to the vet, yesterday, and found that once again she had a fever, this time 104.2.

She got a shot of antibiotic, anti-nausea and something else -- not sure what. Well, it did the trick. This morning she was all bright-eyed and chipper. She chattered away at me, begging for head-to-tail rubbings and generally making a nuisance of herself. I was so thrilled to see her back to normal! She's angry with me, at the moment, since I took her to the Scary Place and she got an additional, long-lasting antibiotic shot to keep the magic going. Update: Isabel's huff lasted about an hour. I have been forgiven. :)

Mini reviews of books finished, this week:

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute is a book I read for my Face to Face book group, although I didn't make it to the meeting because I got the meeting week wrong in my head and had only managed 100 pages by meeting time. It's about a woman named Jean who was captured during WWII in Malaya and marched around the country with a number of other women and someone else's baby till Jean manages to find them a place to sit out the rest of the war, working the rice paddies and dressing like the natives. She recounts her story after finding out she's inherited a large sum of money.

During her imprisonment, she met an Australian man who tried to help them and was killed for his efforts. Or, so she thought. It's a war story, a romance, a story of one incredible woman's strength. Although A Town Like Alice is fiction, it's based on a true story. If you haven't read it, grab a copy. You will absolutely love Jean. She's tough but kind, savvy but a woman who uses her abilities to help everyone, not just herself. Excellent, excellent book -- copyrighted in 1950 and no wonder it's still around. Highly recommended in a very pushy way, with fireworks and dancing. I've got a pending post of quotations to which I'll add my favorite bit from A Town Like Alice.

The Knights of Derbyshire by Marsha Altman is, I think, the fifth in her Pride & Prejudice spin-off series -- the only series of its kind that I have become addicted to. Seriously addicted. I absolutely love Altman's adventurous, witty tales.

In The Knights of Derbyshire, the Darcy's eldest son, Geoffrey, becomes the victim of dangerous men. Will he survive? Meanwhile, George Wickham the Younger rescues his sister from a marriage for her inheritance and is kicked out of Oxford for missing his final exams, then kicked out of his family's house for not happily sharing his inheritance with his mother, Lydia. There is the usual fun, tension, adventure and romance. The Knights of Derbyshire is definitely one of my favorites in this series, so far. You absolutely must read this series in order -- and should, if you have any interest in P & P spin-offs.

This entire series is highly recommended. Be advised that Altman has had several different publishers. The Knights of Derbyshire is available through Amazon, as are the rest of her books, beginning with The Darcys and the Bingleys. See my review of The Ballad of Gregoire Darcy for a link to all of my other reviews.

There are quite a few small errors in the new book, but I was forewarned by the author and told they will be eliminated. That was 2 months ago, so hopefully things have been fixed by now. The errors didn't get on my nerves; none were huge and I was expecting them.

Books that walked in, this past week:

Sin by Zakhar Prilepin - from Glagoslav Publications for review
The Lost Button by Irene Rozdobudko - from Glagoslav Publications for review
The Wild Princess by Mary Hart Perry - from HarperCollins for review
Shadow Show ed. by Sam Weller and Mort Castle - from HarperCollins for review
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness - win from Amy at Life by Candlelight (Thanks, Amy!)

And, what am I reading, now?

I'm reading two books, one nonfiction and one fiction. The Aleppo Codex by Matti Friedman, which I got unsolicited from Algonquin Books (I love Algonquin -- the unsolicited books they send are often among my personal favorites). The Aleppo Codex is an adventurous tale of the author's search for the truth about how a book known as the oldest copy of the Bible was smuggled out of Syria and taken to its original home in Jerusalem.

My fiction choice is a backlist title: Dreaming in English by Laura Fitzgerald. It's another unsolicited book and it was kind of a satisfice. I wanted to read something light and I had a particular recent arrival in mind, Enchanting Lily. But, guess what? I took Enchanting Lily (and a few other titles) to the new house because I wanted to have some books on hand, in case I got stranded at the house in a thunderstorm. We had big storms popping up daily, for a while. So, when it came time to choose a new title to start reading, the book I wanted was at the new house . . . and I was at home in the old house.

I didn't read Dreaming in English when I received it because I read a review advising readers not to skip the first book, Veil of Roses. This time, I looked up Dreaming in English at Goodreads and found different advice: "It stands alone well, but it will totally ruin Veil of Roses, for you." Fine. I never did get around to finding a copy of the first book and Dreaming in English fit my needs, right now.

I'm enjoying both books -- reading slowly, of course, since we're still packing and painting and all that, but when I sit down to read I'm immediately swept away, regardless of which book I'm in the mood for.

Interesting development:

We have been asked to rent our house out to someone who works with my husband (temporarily) by September 1. Oh, dear. I thought we'd have a bit more time to get the place cleaned up thoroughly. The fellow who asked is going through a divorce and he's tired of staying in a hotel. So, we're probably going to say yes, just to be kind to him. If necessary, I'll take a blogging break but as long as I can keep up with two posts a week, I will.

What's up in your world?

©2012 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, July 20, 2012

Fiona Friday - Ceiling Cat Rules the Roost

I am currently emptying Ceiling Cat Fiona's cabinet. I got nipped on the finger for annoying her (probably for frightening her by reaching up to pet her from below -- cats are so sensitive, sometimes). We're going to paint that ceiling before we put the house up for sale, I swear. I know some of you have seen plenty of photos of that crappy, unfinished paint job. This is the room in which Fiona occasionally makes a rrrrrip noise that indicates she's yanking off pieces of wallpaper. Very helpful, since we also started removing the wallpaper and never finished. I don't even remember why that project went by the wayside, anymore.

So . . . how was your week? Mine was very sweaty and Smurfy. I'm a very sloppy painter and I even managed to flip my ponytail into the wet paint but our "library" walls are almost done:

We used one-coat paint, but you can see there are still some pink streaks so we'll go over it one last time with a roller and then we should be done with our first room (we're painting three of them) and will be able to start moving in books and the cabinets we plan to put them in -- which just happen to be like the one Fiona is on in the top photo.

This has been a pitiful reading week, so far, and the weekend will likely not be an improvement. I'm on the verge of finishing a book. One book. It's an excellent read, though. I found out a little too late in the game that my Face to Face book group was meeting this week (I thought I had one more week) and started reading A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute the day before the meeting. I only managed 100 pages and opted not to go because I was enjoying the book so much that I didn't want to risk having it potentially spoiled. I was sad to miss my F2F meeting but I'm glad I didn't risk potential spoilers.

There's not much other news, at this point. My life is all about boxes and tape, shelf liner and paint. I love my evenings, when I can finally settle in, read, roll jingle balls and get climbed upon by cats. They don't seem to be bothered too much by the upheaval, probably because there are loads of fun boxes to play in (I've turned one on its side and placed a towel over the front so they have a cool hideout), although they like it best when Mom is lazy and/or available for playing with lasers, giving luxurious head-to-tail rubs, etc. I love cats. They're so easy to please.

Happy weekend!

©2012 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, July 16, 2012

Monday Malarkey - De-pinking and reading and other jazz

This week made my head spin! We're almost done de-pinking the Pink Room in our new house. Woot! I'll post an "after" photo, when I get one. This is the textured wall before we taped and began painting -- the rest were just flat pink (including the closet). I know you've seen this awful room, before, but I'm pretty sure Huzzybuns doesn't want me to share pics of him painting, so . . . you get a step stool.

I'll take photos of our progress, as we finish things. Other than painting, I've cleaned and lined all of the kitchen drawers and we've managed to hang three decorative items: a clock and Portuguese bowl in the kitchen and a framed print a local artist gave me in the half bath.

Amazingly, in spite of driving to the house to take small loads and start the cleaning and painting process, I managed to finish three books, last week!

Books finished in the past week:

Johnson's Life of London by Boris Johnson - If you read my blog regularly, you already know this one is about people who have made an impact on the city of London, over its lengthy history. The link leads to a mini review.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (on sale July 24, 2012) is the story of a man who sets out to mail a letter in reply to a woman who has written to tell him she's dying of cancer. He let her down, many years in the past, and decides that the letter just doesn't seem like enough. So, he keeps walking and decides that he's going to continue walking hundreds of miles to see her, thinking the anticipation will keep her alive.

What an amazing book! The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry could have easily been far-fetched or trite, but instead it is meaningful and incredibly believable. Harold and his wife are logically flawed and real. There was only one brief section that I found a little hard to swallow. Otherwise, the book is darn near perfect because the characters are so utterly human. Harold has his doubts, now and then, and the way he goes about his walk even changes from time to time. Along the way, he encounters helpful, kind people and some whose motives are not so noble. Wonderful, wonderful book. Highly recommended.

The Bond by Wayne Pacelle is subtitled "Our Kinship with Animals; Our Call to Defend Them" and it's authored by the current president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The Bond is a difficult read. Most people think of the Humane Society as an organization that's all about rescuing dogs and cats. But, their reach extends to animals of all kinds, all over the world and the book is both about the bond between humans and animals and the various kinds of abuses HSUS is working at halting.

Like the recent books about food sources, The Bond will make you want to avoid the meat aisles at your local grocery -- not only because of the incredibly cruel practices of the meat industry but also because those same practices are dangerous to humans. Downer cows, for example, are still routinely allowed to slaughter. You know what that means, right? Downer cows can be cows that are exhausted from miserable treatment and dehydration during crowded rides to slaughter, but they may also be suffering from what's commonly known as "Mad Cow Disease". No cow that's unable to walk from trailer to slaughterhouse floor should ever become a part of the food chain, but they do . . . and with USDA officials present. I've only recently returned to eating beef (after the first Mad Cow death and the death of a friend from Mad Cow -- which was not publicized at all -- I decided the USDA couldn't be trusted, for quite a few years), but it didn't last long. I will not eat beef, again.

Other abuses discussed are puppy mills and why AKC or other pure-bred licenses do not guarantee that you're purchasing a healthy animal (and may even mean the opposite) that was raised by a caring breeder; dog- and cock-fighting, including why the HSUS chose to allow Michael Vick to speak out against dog fighting for the organization; the cruel treatment of chickens, cows and pigs by industrial farmers and why crowding and other poor conditions mean a danger to humans; the annual seal slaughter in Canada and why it's finally tapering off; why wolves and mountain lions are still being slaughtered in spite of the fact that they're necessary predators; how ending the killing of whales has led to tourist income; why one zoo no longer has elephants, and more. The politics of all this killing and mistreatment are mind-boggling.

There were times I thought the author didn't explain things well enough (for example, he didn't go into detail about why a certain practice may have caused the Asian avian flu epidemic) or left me feeling like a particular story wasn't thoroughly wrapped up. And, obviously the book is a painful read for animal lovers. But, it's a necessary one, definitely recommended -- especially to those who may want to become involved in protecting animals and who care about the sources of the food we eat in the U.S. A little preachy, at times, but that's probably necessary. And, I'm a little confused. Doesn't the Humane Society still euthanize healthy animals? I need to look into that.

Just walked in, this past week:
  • Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers - from Paperback Swap (Kiddo already read this one and gave it two thumbs up)
  • The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison - unsolicited from Algonquin Books
I am reading:

The Knights of Derbyshire by Marsha Altman. I believe this is the 5th in Altman's Darcy series. I started reading it in the midst of reading The Bond. I needed a little sweetness and light as an antidote to reading about the horror of animal cruelty.

Some animals have very cushy lives, thank goodness:

They give us their trust, companionship, love and loads of belly laughs. I'll always wonder how people can abandon animals. It's a mindset that makes no sense to me.

Wednesday will be our first day of curbside recycling!

Since we don't live in our new home, yet, I'm dragging my recyclable items along with me. Exciting!!!

I'm down to 2 posts per week, at best, right now. Will try to at least keep up the Monday Malarkey and Fiona Friday posts, if nothing else. Happy Monday to all!

©2012 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, July 14, 2012

Fiona Friday - Pinks

Every kitty should have a quilt that matches her nose, don't you think?

©2012 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, July 12, 2012

A Sentimental Centennial

I've been looking forward to July 12, 2012 all year because it signifies the 100th anniversary of the first item I'd grab (excluding humans and kitties, of course) in the event of a fire--a painting by my grandmother:

100 years old, today! When I was a wee thing, I used to climb up onto the crushed velvet chair in my parents' living room to admire that painting and, yep, when I finally settled into a permanent home, I pleaded with my mother to please, please pass it on to me. It was her favorite, as well, although it was in a closet by that point.

My grandmother was not a known painter, although she did teach art at university level for a couple of years. So her paintings have no monetary value. What makes this painting particularly special is not just the fact that it's one of the prettiest paintings I've seen by my grandmother but the fact that it was painted 5 months before her 12th birthday.

That's right. My grandmother painted this when she was 11 years old. Cool or what?

©2012 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, July 11, 2012

Two Mini Reviews - Johnson's Life of London by Boris Johnson and Truth Be Told by Larry King

Johnson's Life of London: The People Who Made the City That Made the World by Boris Johnson is a book of mini biographies about the people who shaped the city of London, from ancient times to modern. Author Boris Johnson is currently the mayor of London and was reelected to a firestorm of rather humorous tweets, like this one:

London, the rest of the country is looking at you in the same quizzical way they looked at the US when they re-elected George W.

I really know very little about Boris Johnson, although since that tweet I've read a little bit about him and find him a rather fascinating man. I'm very impressed with Johnson's writing. It's a delightful blend of erudition and humor. Thanks to his rocking vocabulary, I have a boat-load of words to look up and will just leave the Post-its in place, for now, since I'll be shy on time for a while. Here's a random paragraph from the intro about London Bridge:

By the time I get to cycle home, most of the morning crowds have tramped the other way. Like some gigantic undersea coelenterate, London has completed its spectacular daily act of respiration--sucking in millions of commuters from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and then efficiently expelling them back to the suburbs and the Home Counties from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. But the rift home is more staggered. There are pubs, clubs and bars to be visited, and as I watch the crowds of drinkers on the pavements--knots of people dissolving and reforming in a slow minuet--I can see why the city beats the countryside hands down. It's the sheer range of opportunity.

-- from p. 3 of Advanced Reader's Copy, Johnson's Life of London (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

Johnson's bios cover the following characters and their impact on London: Boudica, Hadrian, Mellitus, Alfred the Great, William the Conqueror, Geoffrey Chaucer, Richard Whittington, William Shakespeare, Robert Hooke, Samuel Johnson, John Wilkes, J. M. W. Turner, Lionel Rothschild, Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole (a shared chapter), W. T. Stead, Winston Churchill, Keith Richards and . . . rather oddly . . . The Midland Grand Hotel.

Some of these characters appear to be surprising choices and several may only be known vaguely by Americans. When I saw the name "Richard Whittington," my first thought was the story of Dick Whittington's cat, which he happily debunks. Johnson chose a variety of characters from science and engineering, the arts, politics, royalty, industry and health care so that everything from invention, the English language, eradication of disease, musical trends and law to the funneling of huge numbers of people throughout the city is covered.

Highly recommended to lovers of history, biography and the city of London, as well as general Anglophiles and anyone who enjoys a solid work of nonfiction. Johnson's Life of London is impressive. I need to reread it after I've defined all those vocabulary words. Definitely a 5/5.

Truth Be Told by Larry King is subtitled "Off the Record about Favorite Guests, Memorable Moments, Funniest Jokes, and a Half Century of Asking Questions."

In general, I figured Truth Be Told would be a gossipy book full of fun anecdotes about the many people Larry King has met and interviewed, over the years, thus a name-dropping sort of memoir. I'm not really a big fan of "star" memoirs but I like Larry King and the idea of reading anecdotes that go as far back as the years of Sinatra and Jackie Gleason was just too intriguing to pass up.

Truth Be Told is an interesting blend of narrative with sections entirely devoted to categorized anecdotes, many from friendships rather than the show itself. I found that I enjoyed the anecdotes better than the narrative portions, although the narrative offered plenty of interesting information.

When the author discussed music, for example, he talked about how Natalie Cole's visit to the show led to the donation of a much-needed kidney to Cole, his surprise at how beloved John Lennon was when the phone lines were jammed with crying people upon the news of Lennon's murder, and a time when Elvis bought a limo driver the car as his tip. There are stories about Sinatra getting involved in a pie fight at a diner and how Mel Torme wrote his beloved Christmas song (the one with "chestnuts roasting on an open fire") because it was so fiercely hot that he wanted to come up with something that would make him think cool thoughts.

He talked about broadcasting and how it's changed over the years, how news has gone from informative to dramatic. King also wrote one of the best descriptions of President Obama's election versus his presidency that I've read:

Obama did stave off a Depression. He passed the first major health care bill in seventy-five years. He pulled our troops out of most of the principal cities in Iraq. He bailed out General Motors, settled the economy, and made money for the government in the process. Those were all winners.

He inherited Afghanistan. I don't know how you win there. . . .

Colin Powell told me that what Obama lacked was a main attack. He said Obama would have been better off if he'd focused on the economy and fixing unemployment to the exclusion of everything else. Not that the other issues weren't important. But it would have put a spotlight on this one area that was vital to every American and given him a clear way to communicate his victories. It could have been a Now we can! that opened the door to the other issues, like health care, that were deeply important to him.

--from p. 145 of Truth Be Told

Some of his thoughts about the presidential election are already outdated as the book was copyrighted in 2011, but many are still relevant.

The only thing I really disliked about Truth Be Told was the final chapter about Larry King's plans to become a comedian. "I am funny," he says. The occasional arrogant-sounding statement, like King's flat claim that he's funny, is undoubtedly to be expected. People who've achieved fame on a level of being a household name tend to be pretty pleased about it, so I expected a little bit of that. But, Truth Be Told is amusing, entertaining, juicy fun and King balances his occasional pride with plenty of humility. He really sounds like a very decent guy and there's no escaping the fact that he has plenty of interesting tales to tell.

Recommended to fans of Larry King, folks who enjoy memoirs by the famous and those who are curious about the wealthy and famous people King has interviewed, over the years. I particularly enjoyed anecdotes from the earlier years.

In other news:

We have closed on our house (on Tuesday -- I think I'm still recovering)!! Yesterday, we bought a scaffold for painting because the ceilings are high and we took some cleaning supplies and a few other essentials like water, hand soap and towels to the house. We'll start painting, this weekend. It'll be a while before we actually move in, but it's exciting to have the paperwork finished.

Also, today is a very special anniversary day for an object in my house. I'll do a separate post about that, in a while.

I miss visiting your blogs! With all the running back and forth and more packing, painting and then repair of our current home to get it ready to sell, I have a feeling it could be months before I regularly visit bloggers, again. When I have time, I do dip into a few blog posts but I'm usually so staggering tired that I can't even manage to say, "Nice review," or whatever happens to be relevant. Wish me strength in the coming months. I'm doing my best to avoid taking a complete break from blogging because it does provide me with a little personal time to sit and purge my thoughts about books.

Happy Thursday!

©2012 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, July 09, 2012

Monday Malarkey - Of ice cream bars and little fishies

Ever have one of those days in which you need to accomplish something like, say, write a Monday Malarkey post, but then you sit down and load a picture and decide, "Nah, that's not what I want." So, you look through your files and can't make up your mind between a photo of the cat trying to pull down a bowl you're holding over her head to keep her from grabbing your ice cream bar or one of the many photos of the same cat looking like The Laziest Fisherman on the Planet, sprawled over an iPad with little fishies sailing past her nose? That is my Monday. You probably don't need extra vitamins for this kind of stress.

So I've made an executive decision: Cat attempting to reach Haagen Dazs. Who wouldn't pull out the big moves for Haagen Dazs?

Last week was a week of waiting on the mortgage company to decide if we're worthy (we're worthy!) and trying to solidify Kiddo's apartment lease (done!) with lots quiet stretches between errand-running and packing, so I actually had a pretty decent reading week. I've already reviewed Kaytek the Wizard, so no need to say more about that.

The other books I finished, last week:

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley - A very basic book about writing a novel in a single year. Only 103 pages long, it's a breezy book that you can keep rereading repeatedly, if you need a little reminding about what the heck you're trying to accomplish when you do decide to write your novel in a year. This Year You Write Your Novel is a good refresher course, although it's really meant for new writers; the ratings at Goodreads are on the low end of the spectrum but I think it's actually quite decent, especially if you're not very patient with how-to books.

Truth Be Told by Larry King - A gossipy book of anecdotes by the retired talk-show host. I'll save my thoughts and try to write at least a mini review of this one. It's also a very light read.

Johnson's Life of London by Boris Johnson - Finally finished this book that lurked in my sidebar for weeks. I loved it up with about a squillion Post-it notes. It may win a trophy for "Most Post-it-filled Bookfool Read of the Year." Or, maybe a handmade ribbon. Possibly some feeble applause. Johnson's Life of London is subtitled "The People Who Made the City That Made the World," so each chapter is essentially a mini-biography of an individual or, in one case, two people who were important to London in some way (although they weren't all necessarily native Londoners). Excellent, excellent book. I'll try to give this one at least mini treatment, too.

In other news, I've discovered that the only way to keep books from walking in my door is to come up with some form of book repellent. Well, that's not going to happen.

Just walked in, this past week:

  • The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian - a win from Goodreads, for review
  • Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake - from Paperback Swap
  • Truth Be Told by Larry King - from FSB Associates, for review (unfairly knocked to the head of the queue by virtue of its levity)

What I'm reading, now:

I started The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, this morning (from Random House via Shelf Awareness). I have bookmarks in a few others but Harold has grabbed me by the hair and I'm happily following his poor, blistered feet across England.

The Laziest Fisherman on the Planet (because two cat photos are better than one):

Disclaimer from Isabel: "I am not lazy. I was playing quite vigorously before Mom snapped this picture. Please don't judge me. By the way, did you know you can actually 'catch' the fish by sticking your nose on the screen and attempting to bite them? Also, no matter how close you get, your human will not let you have a bite of her Haagen Dazs. What a load of malarkey."

Cat on the Verge of Stealing Haagen Dazs (because three cat photos are even more satisfying than two):

©2012 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, July 08, 2012

Kaytek the Wizard by Janusz Korczak

Kaytek the Wizard by Janusz Korczak
Copyright 1933/2012
Penlight Publications - Fantasy/Translation
Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
272 pp, incl. Translator's Afterword and References
Wikipedia entry on Janusz Korczak (Wow, what an amazing man)

Kaytek the Wizard is a fantasy novel about a little boy (about age 10, as I recall) who desires to become a wizard but when he succeeds at becoming a wizard, he has trouble controlling his impulses and causes loads of trouble.

Kaytek is a precocious Polish boy. He taught himself to read and loves books but he's a little odd and doesn't fit in at school. Kaytek decides he wants to be a wizard and practices making things happen by saying, "I want, I demand . . . [whatever he wants]." He's a bit of a brat so he plays a lot of pranks and causes trouble. When he tries to do good, he finds that he's misunderstood (often blamed for trouble caused by others). Eventually, he is driven from his home in Warsaw. He cares deeply for his family so when he travels the world, he leaves behind a duplicate of himself so his parents won't be worried.

As he travels the world, Kaytek's ego is fed but his soul is not. He finds that what he loves more than anything is his home and family. He desires to do good but plans and follow-through have a rough time getting together. Will Kaytek ever learn how to control his impulses and restrain his powers?

What I liked about Kaytek the Wizard:

Kaytek the Wizard is very different from today's fantasy novels about wizards, in spite of that Harry-Potterish cover. He lacks the advantage of Harry Potter in that there is no school for wizards, nobody to tell him right from wrong and help him to learn self-control, although occasionally he'll get a mysterious invisible shove in one direction or the other, indicating that there are other wizards keeping an eye on him.

I enjoyed Kaytek the Wizard as much for learning about how children's literature has changed and reading a translation (both learning experiences) as for the story itself, although the book easily hooked me and kept me reading to find out what would happen and whether or not Kaytek would ever stop playing pranks and gain control over his powers.

What I disliked about Kaytek the Wizard:

One distressing oddity about the dialogue is that people are very rude throughout the book (including the hero). They don't just say, "Go away kid," if, for example, the obviously-impoverished Kaytek tries to eat in a fancy restaurant. They say, "Go away, you brat," or "Go away, you pig." There always seems to be an insult thrown in. There are a lot of blow-off responses akin to our current, "Whatever," as well. I don't know if that was common in Poland in 1933 or just a way of showing how difficult it was to be a poor child, as well as how temperamental Kaytek was. It's uncomfortable, in other words, but possibly with a purpose as the author ran an orphanage and the children likely experienced prejudice and rudeness.

Kaytek tends to like to get back at people who give him a hard time and doing so just adds to his trouble. At times, I did find him frustrating but again . . . I think the author was writing for his children and those few things that disturbed me probably were meant to be relatable to his audience.

A small warning:

Kaytek the Wizard is unfinished. It was apparently published in serial form. The author read it to his orphans (he ran an orphanage) and crossed out things they found too frightening but didn't make changes apart from removing the frightening parts because the book was already in pre-publication and he didn't have time or ability to fix those problems. So, there are big gaps where you have no idea what happened in Chapter 12 (I think it's 12) and then shortly after that, the the story just stops. I knew the book was incomplete so that part didn't bother me, but I didn't care for the unexpected gaps.

However, the book was originally published in 1933 and the original "scary" parts that were removed no longer exist in any form. It's my understanding that those portions that frightened the children had not yet been removed when Kaytek was published in serial form, but since they no longer exist there's no going back to find them.

The bottom line:

Recommended. A fascinating Polish fantasy that will appeal to many ages. Like reading a book and comparing it to the movie or reading a novel and comparing it to the script, it's fun to read Kaytek the Wizard to compare it to modern fantasy. Amazingly, in spite of its missing pieces, you'll see if you read about Kaytek the Wizard at Wikipedia that the book was immensely popular in its day and has been made into a movie several times. There's a lot that happens; some bits are funny, some horrifying. Kaytek the Wizard is definitely an adventurous story and, in the end, I closed the book satisfied.

About the author:

Janusz Korczak died with his orphans in Treblinka concentration camp. I think that was part of the reason I picked up the book and immediately began reading. I was curious about the author, who was well-known in his time, and how fantasy in 1930s Poland would read by comparison with today's fantasy. I advise reading it for historical context, but don't expect Harry Potter. Kaytek is adventurous but quite different. Footnotes and notes by the translator help the book to make sense and to give it added interest.

Cover thoughts:

I love the cover. It's a real grabber, very pretty and appears to fit the time and place. There's a castle in Warsaw (or was), there were trams and Kaytek does actually fly at some point in the book. The colors and the image of a flying Kaytek are definitely eye-catching!

Oops . . .

Anyone notice this post was up and then disappeared? I was trying to make some changes whilst eating a Haagen Dazs ice cream bar and Isabel attempted to help -- with the eating of the ice cream bar, that is. She ended up helping all the way across the keyboard and I had a slight fiasco to repair. Someday, I'll have to get a video of Izzy trying to get to my food. It's hilarious. She is one persistent little fur gal!

©2012 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, July 06, 2012

Fiona Friday - Another "Wow, look what Fi puts up with" photo

©2012 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, July 03, 2012

June Reads in Review and historical documents

I was flipping through my photo files, looking for a side-view mirror photo and came across the very first photo I took of Fiona, still in a cage at Petsmart:

See the little door between the two sections of her cage? She followed me from one side to the other and when I went behind the cages to hold her, snuggled right up to my neck. Of course she had to come home with me. :)

That was February of 2010, so she will be 3 years old in August.

On to the memory of my reads in the month of June, 2012:

76. Courage in Times of Disappointment - George Samuel

June was a slow reading month and I veered toward lighter reading material -- lots of children's books and YA -- because of all that paperwork mortgage companies now require (and then the beginnings of packing to move).

The only book I didn't write about at all was Courage in Times of Disappointment by George Samuel. This is not a time of disappointment for us, obviously, but it was one of those books that I started to read to see if I should get rid of it and I was swept up in the writing. The author starts out by telling a story about being kidnapped in Amsterdam by a cab driver and how he talked and prayed his way out of it. The book is by a small religious press so it's very heavily Christian. George Samuel is or was from India (the book is at least 10 years old) and it is absolutely amazing how much tragedy he lived through while still remaining positive. I really enjoyed Courage in Times of Disappointment; it's very uplifting.

The rest of the books were all decent to excellent. I'm not sure I can choose a favorite, although my two least-favorite books were Into the Free and Jasmine Nights. I loved all of the children's books, gobbled up the YA and enjoyed the action in Soft Target and Robopocalypse (which, by the way, does have some plot holes -- it's all about the action; please be aware that I'm less discriminating when I can't concentrate). Silver Sparrow was the most surprising. I had no idea a book about the daughters of a bigamist could be such a page-turner.

Links above don't necessarily lead to full reviews or even minis. In some cases I just wrote a paragraph about a finished book but I'm kind of impressed with myself for continuing to fit in blog posts, at this point, and if a paragraph is all I can get around to, cool. I'm happy.

One more dip into the historical files. Look how tiny Isabel was when she arrived, compared to her big sis!

©2012 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, July 02, 2012

Monday Malarkey - Our lives in boxes and a mini-review of Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

This is a terrible photo but I thought it was just so darned cute. Fiona is in a box full of flattened boxes, in the photo above. She thinks it's her throne-slash-scratching-pad-deluxe.

I'm spending most of my days packing, now, but the usual things are still happening. I'm reading, of course, just sloooowly. After last week's Children's Day fun (reading four books in a single day with breaks to write about them is like permission to regress: awesome), I finished one book over the weekend. We'll get to that in a minute because, speaking of Children's Day, look at this very cool photo of a soldier reading I Need My Monster to his child via Skype! I Need My Monster was my favorite of the books I reviewed, last week.

Back to the book I finished over the weekend:

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson is so action-packed that it's clear why the movie rights were sold before the book had even been released (to be directed by Steven Spielberg). The story of a worldwide robot war told in retrospect and how the humans overcame the odds, Robopocalypse is narrated by one of the people who went on a mission to save the world from the evil computer Archos. By narrated, I mean the same person introduces each chapter and occasionally a chapter is written from his perspective, but it's also told using the voices of several characters who survived the robot wars as well as presumed viewpoints of some of the dead whose accounts can be described using CCTV footage and overheard witness accounts. The viewpoints alternate.

While flawed in the sense that most of the chapters begin as a past-tense personal account and then shift to first-person present narrative (which means many of the chapters sound like they've been written by the same person, with only vague differences in style), I was in need of a fast-paced read and Robopocalypse perfectly fit the bill. My only big complaint was the strong rural accents of many of the Oklahomans.

I mentioned that I was perplexed by the hick accents in Robopocalypse on Twitter and the author responded that perhaps I wouldn't be baffled if I'd grown up where he did. I told him where I'm from (just outside the Osage Nation, where the Oklahoma scenes take place) and I think he was a little stunned. My hometown was, however, heavily populated by people who were transferred in from the Midwest, at least during my youth, and strong rural accents were rare. Even amongst those I'd encountered, I don't think I came across anything quite so dramatic. The author told me he's from Tulsa "with a heavy dollop of Wagoner and Sallisaw," and, "I was channeling my own grandfather's voice through Lonnie Wayne." So, basically, I had called his grandfather a hick. Not that we don't have a few hicks in our extended family, but I need to learn to screen my tweets better.

At any rate, I still wish the author hadn't chosen to give a major character and quite a few others that heavy rural accent. I'm often frustrated by the way Oklahomans are portrayed (generally with a strong redneck bent, particularly in cinema) when most of the people I've encountered in Oklahoma have a soft Southern accent, at best, (think James Garner) and often a non-accent akin to that in the Midwest -- close to dictionary pronunciation. But, the book is great entertainment. I just tried to barrel through the heavily-accented scenes.

What I found most impressive was the technical aspect of the book. The author has degrees from the University of Tulsa and Carnegie Mellon in robotics (which I assume means he's a mechanical engineer; my sis-in-law, a mechanical engineer, did some robotics work in school). I always love reading a book written by an engineer because I'm comfortable with the way engineers speak. Also, Mathilda is an awesome character.

The movie is, unfortunately, going to be entirely filmed in Montreal, Canada. I was really hoping at least the Utica Square Mall scene would be filmed in Tulsa. It's scheduled for release in 2014. The book is pretty violent but it's about war so you have to expect that. I'd anticipate a lot of blood and screaming in the movie.

Books that walked in, this past week:

  • The Stars Shine Bright by Sibella Giorello - I keep swearing I'm not going to do any more tours but I love Sibella Giorello's mystery series so I signed up for a tour. The book just arrived from Thomas Nelson.
  • This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley - purchased at Off Square Books in Oxford, MS on Saturday (where we dashed up to look at an apartment for Kiddo).
  • Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles - freebie from Off Square Books, where they let you pick one of their old ARCs to take home with a $10 purchase.
  • Kaytek the Wizard by Janusz Korczak - Unsolicited book from Penlight Publications, for review.

And, that leads to what I'm currently reading:

I have some other in-progress books set aside but right now my focus is on two of the new arrivals. This Year You Write Your Novel is just 103 pages and I'm on about page 50-something. It's a very succinct book about what's important to know if you want to write a novel in a year, starting right now. It's extremely informative and nicely boils down the bare bones necessary to writing. Also, Mosley is superb at giving you a verbal kick in the pants. I'm enjoying This Year You Write Your Novel. I've completed several novels but haven't written fiction regularly in years so it's providing an excellent refresher course.

Kaytek the Wizard has a Harry-Potterish cover but it was written in 1933 and is quite different from today's fantasy novels. Kaytek is a young boy who wants to become a wizard and by concentrating on what he wants to happen, eventually succeeds. But, he's young and impulsive and most of his spell-casting causes chaos. Will Kaytek learn to control his powers and use them only for good?

I'm close to halfway into Kaytek the Wizard. I was intrigued when I read about the author, who ran an orphanage and chose to accompany his orphans to Treblinka concentration camp, where he died with them during WWII. Also, it was kind of cool to get a parcel with stickers saying it had originated in Jerusalem. Kaytek doesn't have the advantage of a handy school for wizards, but occasionally he'll get a helping hand (or a swift kick) from some invisible source.

Last but not least is an Izzy photo. Imagine wider eyes and the ears completely flat against her head (sheer terror, in other words) and you'll know what I see when I plop her post-medicine kitty treats into a bowl. Isabel is so smart that I have to change where I dose her and how, constantly. Otherwise, I'd never be able to catch her. She pretty much spit her entire morning dose onto my hand, today, so she'll be wrapped in a towel for tonight's medicine. Wrapping her up gives me just a tad more control.

Okay, back to packing. My life is just a series of bags and boxes, right now. What kind of malarkey is going on in your world?

©2012 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, July 01, 2012

Why My "Now Reading" Button Says "Temporarily Unavailable"

Now permanently unavailable.  Here's why:

I originally decided to stop posting images of current reads when we were packing to move.  I've found that looking at my sidebar when the same titles linger for weeks sometimes freaks me out and I feel oddly pressured to finish a book if it's showing in my sidebar.  I know it's weird, but that's just one of me.  After a few months of not having to worry about removing images of books I couldn't get into, I've decided to continue not posting images of current reads.

As always, a book's image will remain in the sidebar until I've written about the book. I'll still continue to mention what I'm reading and what has arrived in the mailbox in Monday Malarkey posts.

©2012 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.