Thursday, February 28, 2013

Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell

Outlaw Platoon:  Heroes, Renegades, Infidels and The Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan by Sean Parnell with John R. Bruning tells the story of the author's time with a platoon nicknamed "Outlaw Platoon" while based at Bermel Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Afghanistan.  His purpose -- and I think he succeeded brilliantly -- was to clearly show readers what it's like to serve in the army during a time of war.

I was thoroughly impressed with Outlaw Platoon.  In fact, I found it so gripping that it took a few days to recover from the reading hangover I got after staying up till 3AM to finish the book.  Bermel FOB is located on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, which was an incredibly dangerous place even before Pakistan (our alleged allies) made a deal not to interfere with Al Qaida.

What I liked about Outlaw Platoon:

Outlaw Platoon is beautifully paced and extremely well-written, probably at least in part because it was co-written by John R. Bruning, a man who has done a lot of military writing.  Bruning spent some time in Afghanistan and I'm sure that helped with the descriptions.  Point being, the book is exceptional for its type.  The author avoids the typical military-memoir format (which can get old if you read many memoirs of its type), skipping the description of training and diving right into the soldiers' arrival at FOB Bermel.

When I say the book is well-paced, I'm referring in particular to the fact that there are scenes from everyday life at the base to help describe the people, the life and the circumstances but, for the most part, the book focuses on times that the platoon was attacked -- or, in one case, the base itself.  Those scenes are so vividly drawn that I found my heart nearly beating out of my chest.  The actions, emotions, sights, sounds and smells are acute.  There were even times I found myself actually wrinkling my nose, imagining I could smell the rank odor of soldiers who had been out on patrol with no showers, no change of clothing, sleeping in their Humvees for 5 or 6 days at a stretch.  Ugh!

The wounded and dead were described with every bit as much detail, which may be a problem for a lot of people.  I've read quite a few war memoirs so I handled that fine.  I'm not okay if I see such graphically violent things as limbs flying on a movie theater screen, but I can read about them.  Weird.  At any rate, the violence didn't bother me because I was in the reading to get a good idea of what it's really like in Afghanistan.

It's also worth mentioning that Outlaw Platoon is among the most humbly written soldier memoirs I've ever read.  Those guys have egos; it's drilled into them that they're tough, they're warriors.  They need that confidence to get through the terror, although, as the author and others I've read explain, they're not mentally prepared for the reality.  You get to hear the good and the bad -- the author doesn't hesitate to talk about people who couldn't cope (although he gave them new names).  But, it's not a self-indulgent memoir.  It's about the platoon, the way the men worked together and the fine balance of leadership and teamwork required to keep the team functioning.  Seriously.  So impressed.

What I disliked about Outlaw Platoon:

I get so, so tired of the word "warrior" in modern war memoirs.  As I said, I know it's drilled into them and it's important because they need the confidence instilled in them, but it still gets tiresome.  "Rage" is another word that was used a great deal.  The rage bit is pretty scary, to be honest.  When you read Outlaw Platoon, you will understand how veterans can end up murdering back on home soil, after they leave the service.

Interesting addendum in the paperback:

The author received a letter from a person who also worked at FOB Bermel but did not go out on dangerous patrols.  Parnell refers to the people who seldom leave the base as "Fobbits".  The letter's author expressed his dismay at Parnell's disrespect for the other soldiers, those who don't necessarily spend time on patrol but are still important to the operation of the base and also live in a dangerous place.  Again, totally impressed that the author published the letter and wrote an apology for using a derogatory term to describe his fellow soldiers.  He didn't change the text of the book -- maybe that wasn't possible -- but he did admit it was demeaning and apologized.

Highly Recommended with Graphic Violence Warning - Outlaw Platoon is a rough read.  It's graphic, violent and disarming.  And, yet it's one of the best modern war memoirs I've read -- "modern" meaning from the last 25 years or so.   I have read Vietnam and WWII memoirs but war changes, the way people fight is not necessarily the same and the way people are prepared for war or treated upon their homecoming changes, as well, so I would not compare wars or memoirs between different wars.  I was immensely impressed with the author's humility and willingness to accept and embrace people for their unique skills and traits without judging them.  The author is a Christian (and a Harry Potter fan), but he didn't preach.

Upon closing the book, I found myself wishing that it had a small section on what individuals can do to help make the time of our men in uniform more tolerable.  If I could get in touch with the author, that's what I'd ask.  What can a single person do to make one or more soldiers get through their deployments a little easier?  I'd really like  to know.

My thanks to TLC Books for the review copy of Outlaw Platoon.  

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I'm working on it, I promise!

Can't sleep so I decided I might as well quickly type an update.  I'm working diligently on my Life After Life review and F2F report.  I know a lot of you are anxious to read about Life After Life but it's one of those books I loved so much that I'm all agitated about the need to do it justice.  So, I'm taking my time, hacking away at it, bit by bit.  I may have to break the Life After Life post into 2 parts because our group discussion was so amazing that there's plenty to say about that, as well.  There may be a post or two before then. I've got a tour to post on Thursday and at the rate I'm going . . . well.  

Permission to whine at me in the comment section, granted.

In the meantime . . . books that have walked in:

Legacy of Rescue:  A Daughter's Tribute by Marta Fuchs (Holocaust memoir, for review)
Serving Victoria by Kate Hubbard - It probably involved a lot of bowing and scraping and, "Yes, Your Majesty."  
Pain, Parties, Work by Elizabeth Winder - About poor, miserable Sylvia Plath.  Hope it's not too depressing.
Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of WWII - Kind of speaks for itself with that massive subtitle, eh?

The latter 3 are ARCs from Harper.  It doesn't sound like the arrivals are lightening up, does it?  I'm trying.  It's possible I'm an addict.  Is there a 12-step program for ARC addiction?  If so, please tell me you must go somewhere excessively cool like a windswept Irish coastal village or a villa in Italy to be cured.

Funny cat story of the day:

After I brought in a fresh, clean litter box, Isabel tried to dig a tunnel to China.  She literally put her front paws into the box and started digging, flinging litter everywhere.  I just stood there, a little dumbfounded, but then she jumped into the litter box and started turning circles.  First time in my life I've ever chased a cat out of a litter box!

The photo above is just a picture of a helicopter in gorgeous puffy clouds that made me think about the sheep I need to be counting.  

Back to bed.  I'm reading The India Fan by Victoria Holt and enjoying it.  What are you reading?

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Good-Grief-What-a-Busy-Posting-Week Wrap-Up

I wasn't expecting this to be such a post-heavy week but you have to go with the flow when you feel like it, right?  'Bout time, really.  Since it's Friday and usually I post a pic of Fiona on Friday but I did that on Thursday and then whipped out 4 children's book reviews, today, I figured a wrap-up is in order, so here you go . . . with a bonus photo of Isabel.  Aren't you lucky?

Last week's delayed Fiona Friday post:  
Fiona Sunday Life is Sucking Mash-Up

Things have improved since then.  Just thought you'd like to know.  Thanks so much to those of you who commented, prayed and sent good thoughts.  It really helped!!!!

On Monday, I did a DNF post with a link to a free chapter:
The Emotionally Healthy Woman (DNF) by Gina Scazzero

Then I posted my New Review Policy (kind of a misnomer because I ditched my old review policy quite a while ago and went without one for probably a year):
New Review Policy

I knew I was going to make today Children's Day, so I went ahead and posted my Fiona photo and an update on books that have recently walked in on Thursday:
Fiona Friday Fursday and Recent Arrivals

And, today I wrote four reviews of Children's books:
Pigs in Love by T. Slater and A. Boyd (board book)
Time for a Hug by Gershator, Green and Walker (board book)
Wooby & Peep by C. Liu and M. Peterson (for ages 3-7)
Maya was Grumpy by Courtney Pippin-Mather (picture book, which is labeled for ages 5 and up, but I think would be fine for kids as young as 2 or 3 if they've exited the page-tearing phase)

That's all, for now!  Hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Maya was Grumpy, written and illus. by Courtney Pippin-Mathur - #4 for Children's Day

Maya was Grumpy by Courtney Pippin-Mathur just happened to arrive after one of those days that I grumped around the house all day and even coffee wasn't doing the trick.  Excellent timing.  I smiled and even laughed out loud a little because I could so totally relate to little grumpy Maya.

She didn't know why she was grumpy.
She was just in a 
crispy, cranky,

She didn't want to read
or color or eat banana chips,
or wear her favorite shorts, or go outside and play.

The only thing Maya wanted to do
was grouch around the house and share her bad mood.

Yeah, exactly.  And, obviously, she was having every bit as bad a hair day as I was.  Haha.  Fortunately, Maya has one of those terrific grandmothers with a crazy sense of humor.

"Well then," said Gramma, "I guess that means 
no hunting for hippos after breakfast."

After Gramma talks about not being able to stick her head in a crocodile, swing with the monkeys or slide down the neck of a giraffe, etc., with Maya grumping the whole time, finally she weasles a smile and a hug out of Maya and fixes her hair.  You can usually peek into Flashlight Press books at their website (link leads to info about Maya was Grumpy), but I don't see a link to an inside view for this one.  Trust me, it's great, though.

After Gramma fixes Maya's hair, they go to the playground, where all the animal references make sense.  There's a hippo-shaped sandbox, monkey bars with a monkey figure hanging at the end, a giraffe slide, an open crocodile-mouth tunnel to climb into.  That makes for a very smile-worthy and perfect wrap-up.

Highly recommended - Hilarious and perfect to read on a cranky day.  Gorgeous, bright, funny illustrations, a great story and a perfect conclusion made Maya was Grumpy a personal favorite.

Maya was Grumpy is my final review of 4 for Children's Day.  Next up will be a recap of this week's posts, since I have written quite a few, then on to my review and F2F report on the discussion about Kate Atkinson's Life After Life.

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wooby & Peep: A Story of Unlikely Friendship by C. Liu & M. Peterson - #3 for Children's Day

Wooby & Peep is subtitled "A Story of Unlikely Friendship" because Wooby (a dog?) and Peep (oh, dear -- a duck? a chicken?) have decidedly different personalities.  Wooby has a nice petunia garden and an ancient tree he loves and he's accustomed to a quiet home in a sedate neighborhood "where the neighbors minded their own business".  Peep is very happy-go-lucky, noisy and friendly.  Wooby and his neighbors are not sure what to think when Peep begins to move in and the movers pull out her enormous sound system.  All the neighbors are invited to a housewarming party that promises to be the "wildest" housewarming party of the year.  

The other neighbors are so nervous that they all make alternate plans for the time of the party.  All except Wooby, who arrives with his goldfish, Wendy.  The party is a total flop.  The next day, Peep tries to do something nice for Wooby that ends in disaster.  And the pattern continues.  Peep is determined to make friends with the only animal who showed up for her party but disaster seems to follow her.  

Peep has a pet iguana and Wooby has his goldfish, but the truth is that they're both lonely.  When Peep tries to make everything right and admits she's lonely, ". . . do you have any idea how hard it is to play Go Fish with an iguana?  No offense again, Ricardo," the light dawns.  They have more in common than Wooby realized.

Wooby & Peep is a sweet story (and pretty funny) but I was a little unsure about it, at first, because the illustrations are a little bit busy, with the various animal neighbors peeping over fences and making comments that are essentially animal jokes.

"What are the neighhh-bors doing now?" asks a horse.

"They really should use bamboo," says a panda.  

After rereading it and pondering the days when I had little ones to read to (and I read to my kids a lot), I remembered that if you just read the main storyline you don't have to point at everything and explain it. By the time your kids are old enough to get the animal jokes, they're so curious that if you try to get away with reading nothing but the story itself, they'll point at the other things happening and ask, "What's he saying?" then giggle when they get the joke or nod when you explain.  

Recommended - A lovely tale of friendship with colorful, cartoonish illustrations in which there's quite a bit going on.  If possible, I'd recommend flipping through the book in a bookstore or going to a site where you can peek inside Wooby & Peep before buying, if you're concerned about the "busy" aspect, which irritates some children but others love.  After reading the book a few times, I've come to the conclusion that my anti-busy-book child would still have enjoyed Wooby & Peep because of its pleasant storyline. 

Wooby & Peep was sent to me by Sterling Children's Books. The suggested age range is 3 to 7 years.  I agree with that.  It's a sweet story to read to little ones but has enough text that beginning readers will appreciate it, as well.

This is review #3 for Children's Day.  One more to go!

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Time for a Hug by P. Gershator & M. Green, illus. by D. Walker - #2 for Children's Day

I reviewed the 24-page version of Time for a Hug, last year, and liked it a lot but for some reason I like the board book version even better.  You can read the opening text from the book by following the link to my earlier review.  I give away most of the children's books I review, but I can't recall whether or not I kept Time for a Hug.  If I did, it's still packed so I'm unable to compare the original book with the board book.  However, just from looking at last year's review and the board book, it appears that the text is exactly the same.  The only difference is that the Time for a Hug board book is smaller (looks like about 6" x 6") and the pages are, of course, very sturdy.  

The moon comes out,
The stars shine, too.
The clock says eight.
What shall we do?

Bathe, brush, floss,
say goodnight,
hop into bed,
turn out the light.

Pull up the covers
warm and snug--

What time is it?

Time for a hug!

A big bear hug
and a little hug, too.
Every hug says 

Awww.  What a sweet little book.  Time for a Hug is one of those children's books that makes me long for the early mommy days.  I'm tempted to hang onto the board book, just in case of future grandchildren. 

Highly recommended, 'cause who doesn't love any excuse to get a hug from a little one?

This is post #2 for Children's Day.  Two more to go.

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Pigs in Love by Teddy Slater, illus. by Aaron Boyd - #1 for Children's Day

Pigs in Love by Slater and Boyd is a board book that was sent to me by Sterling Kids.  I planned to have a "Children's Day" well before Valentine's Day, but then life went all blooey on me.  Anyway, sorry this one is late.  You can tell from the cover alone that this one would be a great little book to read to kids on or near Valentine's Day, but here's a peek at some of the text:

Pretty pink pigs on Valentine's Day,
All dressed up, with something to say.
They say it with flowers.
They say it with hearts.
They say it with candy and strawberry tarts.

Each line is either a page or page spread's worth.  So, Pigs in Love is a great book to read to very wiggly little ones or to let little ones going through a book-tearing phase flip through on their own.

Great things about Pigs in Love:  It's sweet, a little funny, tough, big (about 8" x 8", eyeball measurement) and colorful with a metallic sheen to the illustrations that is pretty much impossible to photograph.  Trust me, though; if you like all the shiny things or your kid does, you'll love the look.   

Recommended with a reminder that the book is seasonal.  I'd particularly recommend Pigs in Love to people who don't mind reading about Valentine's Day any old time of the year (because otherwise you'll feel limited to a very short time in which the book will feel right to read) and teachers of preschoolers who want something quick and sweet to read for circle time.  It's a good one to hang onto if you have good reason to keep a book for preschoolers to read year after year or to toss in a box for the little ones to "read" on their own.

This is post #1 for Children's Day.  3 more reviews forthcoming.

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fiona Friday Fursday and Recent Arrivals

I need to dive into reviews, ASAP, so I'm going ahead with the weekly Fiona pic of Fiona with our Easter centerpiece, along with book arrivals I haven't gotten around to mentioning.  Tomorrow, I'm going to shoot for doing a Children's Day post.  I have 4 picture books to review.

Recent arrivals (which apparently smell very interesting):

Top to bottom:

Blitz: The Diary of Edie Benson, London 1940-1941 
Love Lessons by Joan Wyndham
Nella Last's War, ed. by R. Broad & S. Fleming
Betty's Wartime Diary 1939-1945, ed. by Nicholas Webley

All four were purchased used for a writing project via Abe Books.  Love Lessons is a rather grubby former library book that I don't think deserved the "very good" classification.  But, I'm a little weird about dirt, so maybe other people wouldn't feel that way.  The pages are intact and unlined. Wahoo for that.

The Woman from Paris by Santa Montefiore - from Simon & Schuster for review

I just received Children's Wartime Diaries: Secret Writings from the Holocaust and WWII by Laurel Holliday in today's mail, another secondhand purchase.

And, a brief note on last night's F2F meeting:

We met to discuss advance reader copies of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, last night, and my review of the book and meeting will likely be enthusiastic, to say the least.  Not everyone loved Life After Life, but there was a great deal to discuss and we had a very noisy, entertaining meeting.  I can't wait to tell you about it, but I need a little more sit-down time for that and I've just got a few hours to tackle my do-list before I leave for a photo editing class.  So . . . more to come.

I'm currently reading Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell and Firefly Island by Lisa Wingate, both for scheduled tours.

Also, one minor change at the blog - very minor.  

I flipped through recent blog posts and noticed I've been doing mini reviews a lot, in recent weeks/months.  I haven't yet sought out my old easy-peasy reviewing format and just noticed I've written 1,800 posts during the time I've been blogging.  Lordy.  Fortunately, I have a pretty good idea when I used that easy format. In the meantime, I'm just going to stop labeling mini reviews, as such, and write whatever length feels appropriate.  Some people write brief reviews all the time, so there's probably no sense labeling them.

Gotta dash.  Children's books, next!

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Review Policy

New Review/Blogging Policy - updated May 27, 2014:

5/27/14 - I currently have a significant backlog of review books. At least two are from 2013, possibly more. Until I've caught up on the reading of books already received, I will not be accepting any books for review (apart from those already anticipated).  I'll update if/when I decide to begin accepting books for review, again. 

1.  I review only paper/cloth books.  No e-books, ever.  I tried electronic books and discovered that I need and desire a solid book in hand, the ability to mark passages with Post-its, the feel of placing a bookmark inside a book and the satisfaction of closing a book when done.

2.  I am no longer accepting books for review on specific dates, aka "book tours" (unless I deliberately seek out a particular book and that's the only option).  Those that have already been scheduled will still appear on the correct date.

3.  Any books accepted for review are subject to being ditched if they don't work for me.  If I choose to DNF (Did Not Finish) a book, I may write about it in a DNF post with other books that I did not complete.  However, I reserve the right to say nothing about the book at all.

4.  I will happily continue to accept unsolicited books and review them when I'm able (but, again, reserve the right to say nothing if I DNF a book).  I will not, however, hand out my address for unsolicited books.  I'm just going to stick with those who already have my name on a list.

5. I reserve the right to read what I want to read when I want to read it.  I'm a very moody reader.  While I try to read all review books in a timely manner, sometimes it will take me months to get to a particular book.

6.  Since my reading, blogging and internet time have been limited, I must limit the number of books I accept.

I am not currently accepting books for review.  Feel free to ask - occasionally if a book description really blows me away, I may change my mind, but my intent is to not accept anything at all for a while.  I do not ever accept erotica or other sexually explicit material for review, nor true crime.

7.  My 7th bloggiversary has come and gone.  Occasionally I have the urge to walk away.  I'm not the slightest bit tempted to give up blogging at the moment but if I ever do decide to give up the blog, I'm going to walk away without looking back.  If you choose to send me a book, that's part of the risk.

8.  I'm addicted to books, so I'll never stop reading and writing about them.  Even if I give up the blog, I'll still be writing reviews *somewhere*.  At the moment, I'm hooked on Goodreads, so if I walk away from blogging I'll still post my thoughts -- or, at the very least, a rating -- at Goodreads.

To request a review:

You may write to me at bookfoolery at gmail dot com.  I do not guarantee that I will reply because of time constraints.  However, if I'm interested, I will definitely contact you within 2 weeks.

Important addendum: 

My content at Bookfoolery is mine and mine alone.  No advertisements, guest posts or additional content will be allowed at Bookfoolery.  If you request a review, you will see a review if I finish the book (meaning if it doesn't become a DNF) but I will not post contests, interviews or other information, unless I choose to do so.

Second addendum:

I love books but I don't love only books.  I'm still working on the direction of my content because I'm at a weird, in-between stage in my life, having just moved and empty-nesting without a job to keep me busy.  Hence the potential to walk away.  But, right now I'm happy just altering my direction a little.

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri Scazerro (DNF with link to free sneak peek chapter)

The Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri Scazzero is subtitled "Eight Things You Have to Quit to Change Your Life".  I should have known better.  When I read the description of this book, I got the impression that The Emotionally Healthy Woman leaned more toward memoir than how-to, because the description talked about some pretty drastic things the author has "walked away" from.  But the subtitle is directed to the reader, clearly indicating that the topic is about how the reader can make changes, rather than how the author did so.  My mistake.

The Emotionally Healthy Woman was, in fact, a DNF for me because I was hoping to read about how one person walked away from or "quit" certain bad habits/practices in order to improve her emotional health.  As I was reading, though, I was frustrated to find that the author's personal accounts of changes she's made in her life ("quitting" the church at which her husband was the minister, for example, and becoming a member of another) were very, very brief.  Even if it was not a memoir, per se, I would have liked to read far more about the author's personal experience.  I only lasted about 50 pages.

The Emotionally Healthy Woman is also a little heavy-handed thematically.  I felt like I could get all I needed from the list of things the author "quit" and the actions with which she replaced them.  From what little I read, I was already getting fatigued with the use of the "quitting" concept.  It's not necessary to flog a theme to death; it's okay to just use it as a guideline.

You can read a free chapter from The Emotionally Healthy Woman at my free chapter blog, but here's a very brief excerpt to give you an idea what the author is referring to with the "quitting" theme:

When we quit fear of what others think, we choose freedom.
When we quit lies, we choose truth.
When we quit blaming, we choose to take responsibility.

If you need or desire to hear those concepts elaborated upon, the author appears to have done a nice job of seeking out scriptures and Biblical examples (The Emotionally Healthy Woman is a Christian book from Zondervan) to back up the ideas.  But, I didn't personally feel like I needed to make a Bible study of the concept.  I think, if anything, I'd be happy just tearing out the one-page list of 8 items to give up and their replacement actions -- to hang on the wall as a reminder.  At this stage in my life, I prefer reading a memoir because I'm just happier vicariously experiencing a concept via a personal account.

Recommended specifically to Christian women who feel like they need a little guidance and some Biblical reference points to help them make life changes for the improvement of their emotional health, particularly those who are heavily involved in church and feeling a little overwhelmed.  There's some good material in The Emotionally Healthy Woman; it just was not the right book for me.

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fiona Sunday Life is Sucking Mash-Up

This was my week.  I kid you not.

I can't even begin to tell you what all went haywire and you wouldn't want to hear it, but pardon my absence.  I was so upset for several days that I couldn't read, couldn't think straight, didn't take any photos, didn't check email, couldn't write and had a Falling Skies streaming marathon.  Oh, that is bad, kidlets.  When Falling Skies is all your brain can handle, you are in dire straits.

Before my life began sucking mightily, I did manage to finish The Art Forger.  I didn't love it, but when I finally came to my senses after this week's fiascos (yes, plural), I picked up Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and I am totally going to tell you to buy, beg for or borrow that book.  I'm only 1/3 in but it's one of the most entertaining, sharply-written books I've read in quite a while.  There's always something to be grateful for, if you look hard enough.  

Meanwhile, since I didn't pick up the camera, apart from the one day I went outside with the goal of capturing a cardinal in motion (sort of a success), Fiona didn't get Friday'd, again.  I know you all desperately need your cat fix, so I'll share a photo I'm pretty sure I haven't put up on the blog:  Izzy in the bathtub.  

Also, there was this, which I call the "Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky, tippy, tippy, tippy, tippy-toe squirrel photo" because this little fellow was trying to get to the bird food without getting swooped upon and pecked by the dozen or so cardinals and finches that were having a party on our deck railing:

He did get dive-bombed at least once.

Actually, now that I'm flipping through the photo files, I'm finding all sorts of treasures.  We have only one bar stool because we there was only one at the Pottery Barn Outlet Store when we went looking, a couple months ago (and we haven't happened across its match-mate).  Eventually, someone may have to fork out the big bucks on a second stool. In the meantime, Fiona has claimed the one we've got:

Other wahoos:

  • A meteorite did not land on my head or blow out my windows.
  • I've done a reasonably good job of resisting offers for review books (only 1 arrived).  That helps to offset my horrible reading week, although I am well and truly behind on reviews . . . again.
  • Several used copies of personal accounts from WWII England arrived at our house, this week (titles forthcoming), and most of them are in terrific shape.  
  • I know Easter isn't about bunnies, but it's an excellent excuse to plunk a few bunny-shaped objects on your mantel. 
  • Brussels sprouts in cream sherry sauce.  O. M. G. 
  • It's already mid-February, but I haven't forgotten this little bit of Christmas fun:

Here's hoping the next week will be a great one, all around.  Feel free to share your wahoos with me.  I can use all the uppers I can get, right now.

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Interesting . . .

I just got an email from the National Theatre (in London) that had a link to an exhibition:

Lifework: Norman Parkinson’s Century of Style
1 March – 12 May, free

Oh, people, you really must click on that link.  I don't want to snatch the photo at that link for fear of copyright violation, but a black-and-white image by Norman Parkinson is obviously the photo from which the artwork on the cover of The Aviator's Wife was based.  So the cover is, in fact, an image of a model. I absolutely love the photo and cover image, but find it a bit upsetting disappointing that the choice was made to put a model on the cover, rather than an image/painting of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, herself.  What do you think?

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Malarkey - While I'm Pondering Changes

Totally random malarkey today -- mostly bits of utter coolness.  First, the postcard I got from Kelly. How cute is this?!

I'm a little bit of a weather junkie.  When I went out to run errands on Friday, it was heavily overcast as I entered a store but the sun was shining and the back side of the weather system that had clouded us over was lit by the lowering sun when I exited the store.  A new weather system was rolling in from the other side but it wasn't quite as interesting.  I snapped the exiting system while driving.  Good thing there weren't many other cars around, 'cause you really shouldn't do that. I edited out the bug splats.

You're welcome.

I got a little butterfly made from a carrot with my meal at a Japanese restaurant, recently.  We thought it was so cute that we actually brought it home, photographed it and then tried to make one.  Rather a failure, actually, but here's the original:

A few books arrived, this past week (including today - sorry, no stack photo):

  • All Woman and Springtime by Brandon W. Jones - Unsolicited from Algonquin, the new paperback copy.  All Woman and Springtime is still one of the most important books I've read in the past year, a story about the human trafficking of three North Korean women.  You should read it; it's quite eye-opening and human trafficking is absolutely everywhere, even in the U.S.  Isn't the new cover gorgeous?  I think it does a good job of showing the emotion of the story. 
  • Son of the Morning Star by Evan S. Connell - via Paperback Swap.  Connell just recently died and when Tom Franklin mentioned his death, I noticed the replies mentioned that he was under-appreciated.  I probably should have known his name, since he's written some titles I've heard of, but I didn't.  I figured I need to understand why so many people gushed in response and chose Son of the Morning Star, his novel about Custer's Last Stand, at random.
  • Thinking of You by Jill Mansell - from Sourcebooks for review
  • Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Cohn and Levithan - via Paperback Swap
  • To War With Whitaker:  The Wartime Diaries of the Countess of Ranfurly 1939-45 - purchased to use for research on my upcoming writing project and it's a wreck.  I swear I ordered a "very good" copy, but I got an "acceptable".  Not thrilled with Abe Books, at this point. 
That's all the malarkey I've got, at the moment.  Thoughts are with the people of Hattiesburg, MS, who are cleaning up after yesterday's tornado.  Grateful thanks to God that, in spite of many injuries, not one person lost his or her life.  If you've seen the images, you know that's a miracle.  

Gotta go.  Laundry and all that.  Happy Monday!

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Changes are coming

This past year has been a year of huge changes for us, with the purchase of a new house and a dramatic alteration in our personal schedules, the youngest son going off to a different university, renting out our old house (and dealing with a renter), taking classes in photography, trying to keep up with all the cat fur in a home with almost no carpeting (that, my friends, is one hellacious job), etc.  Point being, I'm in a much different place in my life -- one that's apparently going to require a lot more adjustment time than anticipated -- and I think it's time to reconsider how I handle blogging.  For the most part, my reaction has been to dash out a review whenever I can and visit other blogs without commenting at all.  Personally, I find my own blog a bit dull and occasionally even realize I'm going out of my way to avoid the computer.

When I'm not busy trying to adjust to our new home and life, I'm often out on the patio watching our bird-sock bully.

Seriously, we have a bully at the thistle sock.  Note the fellow on the left is chewing out the bird on the right, whose little stomach is probably rumbling but who has no choice but to save his feathers.  Bully bird bites and will even snatch thistle from another bird's beak!  

I don't know what possessed me to type up that nonsense about the bird on the invisible perch but after fooling around with a few bird photos, I started to think about the fact that that's kind of what I'm doing -- sitting on my perch, waiting for God.  That's the wrong way around.  I need to get off my perch and fly.  So, I'll be working on that in the coming months.  I am writing up a list of changes that I want to make to the blog.  That will involve what types of books I accept for review (if any), which specific days I want to post and what kind of format I want to use to write my "reviews" or thoughts about the books I read, what blogger activities I may want to join in on.  Most important is how much time I'm willing to spend on the computer.  I'm finding that right now I need to move more and work on my creative side.  I'm not entirely sure how things are going to work out.

In the meantime, I'll keep working on night photography lessons, cleaning house, paying bills, reading, and pondering, going on walks in the nature center and around the neighborhood, trying to relearn how to cook.  

One thing I don't plan to mess with is Fiona Friday.  I don't have any photos of Fiona or Isabel worth posting, this week, but maybe I'll come up with one by tomorrow.  If not, there's always next Friday.  Change is good.  I'm ready.

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Lindbergh Spree - The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Under a Wing by Reeve Lindbergh

All three of the following books are about or by the Lindbergh family.  I started with The Aviator's Wife, refreshed my memory of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea with a reread and then filled in the blanks with Reeve Lindbergh's memoir, Under a Wing.  

I've already given away the copy of The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin kindly sent by my friend Paula, so I'm not going to bother writing down the details but you probably realize it's a February 2013 release, which arrived on shelves a little early.  I almost wish I'd read the author's notes first, as they do explain the way she chose to portray Anne Morrow Lindbergh's experiences through emotion, sometimes skimming over events that might have been interesting to learn about in greater detail because she considered the details of events less relevant than feelings.  

Told in first person, through Anne's eyes, The Aviator's Wife tells her story from just a bit before her first encounter with Charles Lindbergh, as she and her sister traveled to Mexico City, where her father served as the U.S. Ambassador.  In fact, if Paperback Swap is accurate about these things, the book may have been tentatively entitled, "The Ambassador's Daughter".  Either is factual, but I do wish the title didn't relate Anne Morrow Lindbergh to anyone but herself, although perhaps that's just a super-secret publishing trick to get the book to sell.  

I had mixed feelings about The Aviator's Wife.  I didn't like the manner in which it was told - a rather melancholy style that came off as very "women's fictiony" in my mind.  Of course, I enjoyed reading a little more about Anne Morrow Lindbergh's life, but in the end my sense was that she was a bit too compliant and Charles Lindbergh was an absent, cold and domineering man.  I can't think of Anne Morrow Lindbergh quite in that way.  She was probably very much of the time in regard to letting the husband rule the household (at least when he was home) but that doesn't necessarily mean she was a complete wimp.  

The cover is gorgeous and yet a bit annoying as it portrays a tall, model-thin Anne.  Anne Morrow Lindbergh was quite short.  She was definitely thin, but that image doesn't resemble her at all. I think the real Anne was lovely and would have liked to see the cover modeled after the actual person.  There's just something offensive about stretching the image of a person who really existed to such proportions.

I gave The Aviator's Wife a 4/5 at Goodreads but then went back and revised it to a 3/5.  I liked it but disliked the style too much to give it a very good rating.  3/5 is average - good writing but something felt missing and the style was one I really dislike.  

In The Aviator's Wife, the author refers to the time when Anne went to Florida to reflect, write, take long walks on the beach and write some more.  Gift from the Sea was the result.  I've read it, before -- about 20 years ago.  At the time, I was the mother of two young children and I enjoyed the book enough to keep it on the good shelves.

Now, of course, I am a middle-aged mother with one married child and one in college.  Anne Morrow Lindbergh still had children at home at the time she wrote Gift from the Sea, but she talks a great deal about being a woman in mid-life and this time the book really resonated with me in a way it did not on the first reading.  It's a very personal book about working through the difficulties of being a woman, a mother, a wife, and trying to find and separate your own individuality in the midst of all the chaos and then, later, the time of adjustment when everyone flies the coop.

Gift from the Sea is definitely a book to hold onto for repeated readings.  I'm sure I'll revisit it, again.

Under a Wing by Reeve Lindbergh will be my final Lindbergh read, for now, although I'm pretty sure I have a copy of Charles Lindbergh's Pulitzer Prize winning memoir, The Spirit of St. Louis, somewhere.  Because The Aviator's Wife focuses on Anne Morrow Lindbergh's emotions but skims over some events, I was hoping Reeve would fill in the blanks a bit.  For the most part, she describes what it was like to live as the child of famous parents.

Reeve Lindbergh is the youngest of the six children of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  By the time she was born, the couple had stopped trying to escape the press with frequent moves between countries and states and finally settled.  Reeve Lindbergh grew up in a rambling, ocean-front house that was surrounded by heavy brush and forest to keep prying eyes away.  Although the death of their eldest child was far in the past and never spoken about, the Lindberghs were fiercely protective of their privacy. Reeve describes growing up within the Lindbergh family and various losses she has coped with in adulthood.

What I loved about Under a Wing:

The fuller description of Reeve's famous father was very satisfying.  I thought The Aviator's Wife focused too much on the negatives -- his absences and what a control freak he was -- painting him as a very cold man.  Reeve describes Charles Lindbergh as the more physically affectionate and playful parent.  While both were "distant" in some way, she comments that an awful lot of people describe their parents as distant.  When her father was home, there was a tension caused by his perfectionism and insistence that the children do everything on their lists, behave in a certain manner, etc.  And, yet, those were often the times they had the most fun, as well.  When he left, they were a little lost for a time and then they'd return to a more casual lifestyle.

I particularly loved the author's description of a time when she was flying with her father and the plane's engine died.  He skillfully landed the plane and it was an eye-opening experience for her -- revealing a bit about his courage, confidence, how he didn't just fly the plane but became the plane.  There's also a description of Reeve's loss of a son at about the same age as that of her famously kidnapped/killed brother and how her son's death helped her mother, who insisted on sitting with the body as she could not do with her own son, who was cremated immediately after identification.

What I disliked about Under a Wing:

Parts of the book are just flat boring.  Reeve Lindbergh describes her daily life as a child in quite a bit of detail.  Sometimes that detail is interesting; sometimes it is simply commonplace.  Her childhood was so far removed from the real world that she didn't seem to even understand what was typical and what was unusual.  Her descriptions of visits to the grandmothers' houses, particularly the Morrows' -- that grandmother had three homes and a raft of servants and her memories provided a nice peek into the life of a very wealthy woman who somehow managed to maintain a lifestyle that had faded elsewhere.  But, for a short book there were a lot of times I felt myself trying to pick up the reading pace to just get through some of the dull bits.

In general, Under a Wing did help to fill in the blanks and restored Charles Lindbergh's image, in my mind.  Yes, he was a perfectionist and control freak who was very old-fashioned.  But, he was also a loving father.  Nice to know. The author also didn't shrink from describing what little she knew of her older brother's death and described her father's death in a way that made a whole lot more sense than the novel does, portraying both of the elder Lindberghs much more kindly.  I got what I hoped for from Under a Wing and I'm content.

I'm kind of hoping I'll run across Charles Lindbergh's biography sometime soon, though.

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Fiona Friday - Here's peeking at you, kid

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.