Friday, August 27, 2010

Fiona Friday - Ahhh

Regular bathing is a must.

Pre-posted, in case of continued technical difficulty. Don't worry if I'm unable to approve your comments. I'll get to them when possible!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind:
Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope
By William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer
Copyright 2010
320 pages

If this paragraph remains at the top of the post, please return for a full review, next week -- Wednesday, September 1 (my birthday -- no, no need to lavish me with gifts). I am experiencing technical difficulty and posting this portion in advance, just in case.

At this point, I'm about 35 pages into The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and enjoying it.

A description copied from Amazon:

American readers will have their imaginations challenged by 14-year-old Kamkwamba's description of life in Malawi, a famine-stricken, land-locked nation in southern Africa: math is taught in school with the aid of bottle tops ("three Coca-Cola plus ten Carlsberg equal thirteen"), people are slaughtered by enemy warriors "disguised... as green grass" and a ferocious black rhino; and everyday trading is "replaced by the business of survival" after famine hits the country. After starving for five months on his family's small farm, the corn harvest slowly brings Kamkwamba back to life. Witnessing his family's struggle, Kamkwamba's supercharged curiosity leads him to pursue the improbable dream of using "electric wind"(they have no word for windmills) to harness energy for the farm. Kamkwamba's efforts were of course derided; salvaging a motley collection of materials, from his father's broken bike to his mother's clothes line, he was often greeted to the tune of "Ah, look, the madman has come with his garbage." This exquisite tale strips life down to its barest essentials, and once there finds reason for hopes and dreams, and is especially resonant for Americans given the economy and increasingly heated debates over health care and energy policy.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind begins with stories about the author, Kamkwamba's, early creative experiences, making trucks from available boxes with bottle caps for wheels and other toys via the creative use of spare parts. He tells stories of what life was like growing up in Malawi and the beliefs of many of the locals in magic versus his own father's trust in God. I'm still knee-deep in background material, so all I can tell you is that the writing is clear and at this point is providing a fascinating glimpse into another culture and lifestyle. I'm particularly fond of the legends he's sharing. I love reading legends.

If I'm unable to fix this post, I'll also be unable to approve comments. Please be patient with me! I shall return. My thanks to TLC Books for the review copy of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and apologies for the posting delay.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

In The Rearview Mirror - What I've Read, Lately

I know I've been very, very bad about blogging. So, I figured maybe a little bit of brief summarizing about the things I've read would be nice. I think I'll just move on to the books I finish during the time I'm adjusting to empty nest life, when I get back to regular posting. These mini reviews are just meant to tide you over, you know, if you're hanging around missing me.

Stash by David Klein - The story of a young mother, Gwen, who smokes a little marijuana in the park to relax. A friend is supposed to pick up her children, but when their arrangement falls through and Gwen is in a fatal automobile accident she must decide whether to turn her former lover and supplier over to the police or face potential jail time. Paired with a story about legal drugs used unethically, this is an interesting and thought-provoking story. There were some little things about this book that really, really bothered me. I found myself wishing I had a group to chat with about the book, actually. I highly recommend this one for book groups because I think it could easily generate some intense discussion. And, just think how fun it would be to paint marijuana leaves on your cookies. No, you may not lace the brownies with pot. That's not legal.

Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti - Two grieving people meet in the cemetery. They are polar opposites in many ways but they fall passionately in love. Can they work out their differences or will they end up having to make do with decent matchmates lacking the passion (and conflict) of their wacky relationship? A really quirky little romance. My utterly delightful friend Care sent me her copy of Benny & Shrimp because she thought I would like it. As always, Care was correct. It's a strange little story, almost an anti-romance, and I liked the fact that Benny and Shrimp turned out to be not quite the characters I expected and much less willing to adapt to each other than the typical romantic hero and heroine.

Moose Dropping & Other Crimes Against Nature by Tom Brennan - A collection of tales and folklore, mostly gleaned from other works, all of which provide tickling insight into the Alaskan sense of humor. Published by Epicenter Press, one of my favorite small presses. At least, I think they're still small. They've had a number of runaway hits, but they're still all about Alaska. I snickered my way through this book and learned a few things in the process. Like "eco-greenies" is one of the nicer terms Alaskans use to describe environmentalists who try to get in the way of their ability to earn a healthy income from land and sea.

Emma and the Vampires by Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson - Some people call this kind of book a "mash-up" (a very overused and lazy term, in my humble opinion), some call it the destruction of a classic. My friend Melissa calls this type of book "classic/paranormal combos" and I'm leaning toward "classic with a paranormal twist." Whatever floats your boat. In this case, Emma Woodhouse is surrounded by vampires. Many of the gentlemen, including Mr. Knightley, are vegan vampires. Wives meet an unfortunate fate - bitten and turned. There are also wild vampires who prey on the local populace. It's a bit of a mess, that combination of wild and gentlemanly vampires, but I loved reading Emma and the Vampires because Mr. Josephson used the paranormal twist in a humorous way. A fun read and a great excuse to revisit Emma, my new favorite Austen character. This book was #2 completed for the Everything Austen II Challenge.

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway - Another paranormal book, this time a young adult novel about three sisters who develop unusual powers. April sees scenes from the future, May can become invisible and June reads minds. Apart from the fact that I thought the author did a poor job of explaining how or why the three girls came to suddenly redevelop their powers after a single childhood incident and it took time for the story to develop, I enjoyed this book. Once the story picks up speed and suspense, it's interesting and fun and I loved the ending. It's as much about sisters as it is about unusual abilities and learning to cope with them . . . and about coping with life, in general. Very light reading.

Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs by Heather Lende - Heather Lende's second memoir about her life in small-town Alaska, its joys and hardships, with particular focus on Lende's horrific bike accident and her recovery, her faith and friendships and the lives and deaths of those around her. Heather Lende has a charming writing style, much like that of Anne Lamott. She's an emotional writer who will tug your heartstrings. I loved this book almost as much as her first, If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name, and hope she'll write many more books about life in Alaska. Of particular interest was her story about a recovered alcoholic's totem pole. I literally sobbed through that one, but most of the time I found that when I set the book down I was smiling.

That's all the recently-finished books in my sidebar, so I'm going to clear the sidebar before I dash off to do my thing. Kiddo is home for the weekend -- wahoo! He's been asleep all day -- boo! Well, it's better than nothing. I like having him nearby.

Happy Reading!


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

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fiona Friday - The Evidence

Evidence that someone's been somewhere and the cat is delighted to help unpack:

Evidence that someone had better quickly unpack the cat or expect to buy a new suitcase:

Evidence that one of the humans recently left for college and took plenty of ramen noodles with him:

Happy weekend from Fiona and family!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Solitary by Travis Thrasher (sneak peak)

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:


David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings Senior Media Specialist
The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Travis Thrasher is an author of diverse talents with more than twelve published novels including romance, suspense, adventure, and supernatural horror tales. At the core of each of his stories lie flawed characters in search of redemption. Thrasher weaves hope within all of his tales, and he loves surprising his readers with amazing plot twists and unexpected variety in his writing. Travis lives with his wife and daughter in a suburb of Chicago. Solitary is his first young adult novel.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764214
ISBN-13: 978-1434764218


1 . Half a Person

She’s beautiful.

She stands behind two other girls, one a goth coated in black and the other a blonde with wild hair and an even wilder smile. She’s waiting, looking off the other way, but I’ve already memorized her face.

I’ve never seen such a gorgeous girl in my life.

“You really like them?”

The goth girl is the one talking; maybe she’s the leader of their pack. I’ve noticed them twice already today because of her, the one standing behind. The beautiful girl from my second-period English class, the one with the short skirt and long legs and endless brown hair, the one I can’t stop thinking about. She’s hard not to notice.

“Yeah, they’re one of my favorites,” I say.

We’re talking about my T-shirt. It’s my first day at this school, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think carefully about what I was going to wear. It’s about making a statement. I would have bet that 99 percent of the seven hundred kids at this high school wouldn’t know what Strangeways, Here We Come refers to.

Guess I found the other 1 percent.

I was killing time after lunch by wandering aimlessly when the threesome stopped me. Goth Girl didn’t even say hi; she just pointed at the murky photograph of a face on my shirt and asked where I got it. She made it sound like I stole it.

In a way, I did.

“You’re not from around here, are you?” Goth Girl asks. Hersparkling blue eyes are almost hidden by her dark eyeliner.

“Did the shirt give it away?”

“Nobody in this school listens to The Smiths.”

I can tell her that I stole the shirt, or in a sense borrowed it, butthen she’d ask me from where.

I don’t want to tell her I found it in a drawer in the house we’re staying at. A cabin that belongs to my uncle. A cabin that used to belong to my uncle when he was around.

“I just moved here from a suburb of Chicago.”

“What suburb?” the blonde asks.

“Libertyville. Ever hear of it?”


I see the beauty shift her gaze around to see who’s watching. Which is surprising, because most attractive girls don’t have to do that. They know that they’re being watched.

This is different. Her glance is more suspicious. Or anxious.

“What’s your name?”

“Chris Buckley.”

“Good taste in music, Chris,” Goth Girl says. “I’m Poe. This is Rachel. And she’s Jocelyn.”

That’s right. Her name’s Jocelyn. I remember now from class.

“What else do you like?”

“I got a wide taste in music.”

“Do you like country?” Poe asks.

“No, not really.”

“Good. I can’t stand it. Nobody who wears a T-shirt like that would ever like country.”

“I like country,” Rachel says.

“Don’t admit it. So why’d you move here?”

“Parents got a divorce. My mom decided to move, and I came with her.”

“Did you have a choice?”

“Not really. But if I had I would’ve chosen to move with her.”

“Why here?”

“Some of our family lives in Solitary. Or used to. I have a couple relatives in the area.” I choose not to say anything about Uncle Robert. “My mother grew up around here.”

“That sucks,” Poe says.

“Solitary is a strange town,” Rachel says with a grin that doesn’t seem to ever go away. “Anybody tell you that?”

I shake my head.

“Joss lives here; we don’t,” Poe says. “I’m in Groveton; Rach lives on the border to South Carolina. Joss tries to hide out at our places because Solitary fits its name.”

Jocelyn looks like she’s late for something, her body language screaming that she wants to leave this conversation she’s not a part of. She still hasn’t acknowledged me.

“What year are you guys?”

“Juniors. I’m from New York—can’t you tell? Rachel is from Colorado, and Jocelyn grew up here, though she wants to get out as soon as she can. You can join our club if you like.”

Part of me wonders if I’d have to wear eyeliner and lipstick.


“The misfits. The outcasts. Whatever you want to call it.”

“Not sure if I want to join that.”

“You think you fit in?”

“No,” I say.

“Good. We’ll take you. You fit with us. Plus … you’re cute.”

Poe and her friends walk away.

Jocelyn finally glances at me and smiles the saddest smile I’ve ever seen.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified.

I might look cool and nonchalant and act cool and nonchalant, but inside I’m quaking.

I spent the first sixteen years of my life around the same people, going to the same school, living in the same town with the same two parents.

Now everything is different.

The students who pass me are nameless, faceless, expressionless. We are part of a herd that jumps to life like Pavlov’s dog at the sound of the bell, which really is a low drone that sounds like it comes from some really bad sci-fi movie. It’s hard to keep the cool and nonchalant thing going while staring in confusion at my school map. I probably look pathetic.

I dig out the computer printout of my class list and look at it again. I swear there’s not a room called C305.

I must be looking pathetic, because she comes up to me and asks if I’m lost.

Jocelyn can actually talk.

“Yeah, kinda.”

“Where are you going?”

“Some room—C305. Does that even exist?”

“Of course it does. I’m actually heading there right now.” There’s an attitude in her voice, as if she’s ready for a fight even if one’s not coming.


She nods.

“Second class together,” I say, which elicits a polite and slightly annoyed smile.

She explains to me how the rooms are organized, with C stuck between A and B for some crazy reason. But I don’t really hear the words she’s saying. I look at her and wonder if she can see me blushing. Other kids are staring at me now for the first time today. They look at Jocelyn and look at me—curious, critical, cutting. I wonder if I’m imagining it.

After a minute of this, I stare off a kid who looks like I threw manure in his face.

“Not the friendliest bunch of people, are they?” I ask.

“People here don’t like outsiders.”

“They didn’t even notice me until now.”

She nods and looks away, as if this is her fault. Her hair, so thick and straight, shimmers all the way past her shoulders. I could stare at her all day long.

“Glad you’re in some of my classes.”

“I’m sure you are,” she says.

We reach the room.

“Well, thanks.”

“No problem.”

She says it the way an upperclassmen might answer a freshman. Or an older sister, her bratty brother. I want to say something witty, but nothing comes to mind.

I’m sure I’m not the first guy she’s left speechless.

Every class I’m introduced to seems more and more unimpressed.

“This is Christopher Buckley from Chicago, Illinois,” the teachers say, in case anybody doesn’t know where Chicago is.

In case anybody wonders who the new breathing slab of human is, stuck in the middle of the room.

A redheaded girl with a giant nose stares at me, then glances at my shirt as if I have food smeared all over it. She rolls her eyes and then looks away.

Glancing down at my shirt makes me think of a song by The Smiths, “Half a Person.”

That’s how I feel.

I’ve never been the most popular kid in school. I’m a soccer player in a football world. My parents never had an abundance of money. I’m not overly good looking or overly smart or overly anything, to be honest. Just decent looking and decent at sports and decent at school. But decent doesn’t get you far. Most of the time you need to be the best at one thing and stick to it.

I think about this as I notice more unfamiliar faces. A kid who looks like he hasn’t bathed for a week. An oily-faced girl who looks miserable. A guy with tattoos who isn’t even pretending to listen.

I never really fit in back in Libertyville, so how in the world am I going to fit in here?

Two more years of high school.

I don’t want to think about it.

As the teacher drones on about American history and I reflect on my own history, my eyes find her.

I see her glancing my way.

For a long moment, neither of us look away.

For that long moment, it’s just the two of us in the room.

Her glance is strong and tough. It’s almost as if she’s telling me to remain the same, as if she’s saying, Don’t let them get you down.

Suddenly, I have this amazingly crazy thought: I’m glad I’m here.

I have to fight to get out of the room to catch up to Jocelyn.

I’ve had forty minutes to think of exactly what I want to say, but by the time I catch up to her, all that comes out is “hey.”

She nods.

Those eyes cripple me. I’m not trying to sound cheesy—they do. They bind my tongue.

For an awkward sixty seconds, the longest minute of my sixteen years, I walk the hallway beside her. We reach the girls’ room, and she opens the door and goes inside. I stand there for a second, wondering

if I should wait for her, then feeling stupid and ridiculous, wondering why I’m turning into a head of lettuce around a stranger I just met.

But I know exactly why.

As I head down the hallway, toward some other room with some other teacher unveiling some other plan to educate us, I feel someone grab my arm.

“You don’t want to mess with that.”

I wonder if I heard him right. Did he say that or her?

I turn and see a short kid with messy brown hair and a pimply face. I gotta be honest—it’s been a while since I’d seen a kid with this many pimples. Doctors have things you can do for that. The word pus comes to mind.

“Mess with what?”

“Jocelyn. If I were you, I wouldn’t entertain such thoughts.”

Who is this kid, and what’s he talking about?

And what teenager says, “I wouldn’t entertain such thoughts”?

“What thoughts would those be?”

“Don’t be a wise guy.”

Pimple Boy sounds like the wise guy, with a weaselly voice that seems like it’s going to deliver a punch line any second.

“What are you talking about?”

“Look, I’m just warning you. I’ve seen it happen before. I’m nobody, okay, and nobodies can get away with some things. And you look like a decent guy, so I’m just telling you.”

“Telling me what?”

“Not to take a fancy with the lady.”

Did he just say that in an accent that sounded British, or is it my imagination?

“I was just walking with her down the hallway.”

“Yeah. Okay. Then I’ll see you later.”

“Wait. Hold on,” I say. “Is she taken or something?”

“Yeah. She’s spoken for. And has been for sometime.”

Pimple Boy says this the way he might tell me that my mother is dying.

It’s bizarre.

And a bit spooky.

I realize that Harrington County High in Solitary, North Carolina, is a long way away from Libertyville.

I think about what the odd kid just told me.

This is probably bad.

Because one thing in my life has been a constant. You can ask my mother or father, and they’d agree.

I don’t like being told what to do.

Note from Bookfool: I screwed up and neglected to write down the tour date for Solitary in my calendar, which helped nudge my airheaded self into confusing it with another book that was not a FirstWild tour book. My apologies to the author and publisher. It is actually next in line on my stacks but I haven't begun to read the book, yet. I have flipped through it and read bits; that's what got the book moved to the top of the stack next to my bed. I'm really looking forward to reading this book soon and will review it when I finish!

Monday, August 16, 2010

2 DNFs; 2 Arrivals

It seems like I've abandoned more books than usual, recently, but at the moment I can only find two. One I will return to and one I will not. Here's why I didn't finish them, and whether or not I'll give them a second go:

Jane's Fame by Claire Harman

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Jane's Fame. Don't let the fact that I've set it aside twice fool you. The first time, I simply had too many books going at once. The second time was one of those phases when non-fiction was just not grabbing me, although even then I enjoyed what I read. In fact, I totally dumped everything I was reading and started over on a new batch, at some point. So, Jane's Fame was simply a victim of an attention-deficit summer. I will definitely continue to read Jane's Fame, when I get over my summer slump . . . which seems to be lingering.

The Outer Banks House by Diann Ducharme

I got an ARC of The Outer Banks House from Shelf Awareness, based on the description and that gorgeous cover. I'll admit, the cover really grabbed me. Read this excellent review at Fiction Addiction for a full description of the story. To be honest, there's little that I remember apart from how I felt as I read. My general feeling, as I was reading the book, was that the story was too contrived. It didn't work for me; it didn't flow and the book never succeeded in capturing my interest. After two attempts, the book went into a roving book box being passed around by friends and I will not give this book another try.

Just walked in:

Beneath the Thirteen Moons by Kathryne Kennedy - An ARC from Sourcebooks to be released in December, 2010. I really like the cover at left, but that's a cover from a previous edition. The new Sourcebooks cover has a slightly mystical look at the bottom and a man with his shirt open on top. Have I ever told you what I think of bare-chested-man covers? About the same thing I think of scantily-dressed female covers. I think they're self-limiting, meaning some people will look at them and assume "romance" then refuse to touch them. Romance is actually the top-selling genre, so it's probably a good move for Sourcebooks to go with the bare-chested look, but it's one I tend to dislike. Fantasy is not as big a seller, but I do love a beautiful fantasy-related cover and that's why I thought I'd share the old cover.

Part of the cover description: She's an outcast, but at least she has her independence . . . Mahri Zin would stop at nothing to save her village, and when they needed a healer she didn't think twice about kidnapping one. But when she realizes that the healer she so impulsively stole is none other than the crown prince of the Sea Forest, Mahri knows that she has a chance to change the fate of her people.

Whisper on the Wind by Maureen Lang

Whisper on the Wind follows the story of Isabelle Lassone, a Belgian-American socialite whose parents whisked her away to safety at the start of the war. Yet at great personal risk, Isa sneaks back into the country to rescue those dearest to her, Edward and his mother. But Edward refuses to go, and soon Isa is drawn into his secret life working on the newspaper -- and into his heart.

Again, that's just a portion of the publisher's blurb. I requested Whisper on the Wind for a blog tour because I read Lang's My Sister Dilly in 2008 and thought Maureen Lang's writing was excellent. I've kept her name in the back of my head but hadn't managed to acquire any more of her books, so I jumped at the chance to review another. My Sister Dilly was contemporary, so it will be fun to see how the author handles historical fiction.

In other news:

Gosh, there's not much of that to be had. It is still way too quiet, around here. I'm trying to motivate myself to clean like crazy but it might take me some time to get into a new routine that doesn't revolve around Kiddo. The best news is that I hear from him regularly. Although he plans to come home on weekends, he's already reconsidering because he doesn't yet have a roommate and that means his dorm is a quiet place where he can study and get plenty of sleep -- better sleep than he's ever managed with an insomniac mother padding around at all hours. He's happy, so far, and that's nice to know.

In case you missed my last post, I'm giving myself 2-4 weeks to catch up, get used to the empty house and ponder what to do with myself. I have a lot of reviews to catch up on and I've found that I write best in spurts, so don't be surprised if one day I write three reviews and then you hear nothing for a week or two. Be patient with me. I've been a stay-at-home wife and mom for over 25 years. This empty nest business is a bit of a shock!

Love to all,

Bookfool, a little wacky but eventually she'll figure it out

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

Misadventures in Travel by Paula Edwards (review)

Misadventures in Travel: A Missionary's Experience in Brazil
by Paula Edwards
Copyright 2010
Hannibal Books
191 pages, incl. photographs

Misadventures in Travel is about a couple who chose to travel to Brazil to do a job that primarily involved driving around the coastal areas to look for fishing villages that other missionaries might find good locations for evangelism (teaching the people about God, in this case the Baptist doctrine) with occasional stops to chat with people about Christianity. I've found it a fairly slow read, but part of that had to do with the fact that there's no map in the book and the Edwards' did a great deal of traveling but almost none of the city names were familiar.

Eventually, I decided to look up Brazil (which is huge) on GoogleEarth. I printed out the relevant section for reference. If anyone wants me to review a World Atlas, just let me know. I really could have used one.

Scouting out fishing villages along Brazil's coast had to be a monstrous job, driving often on muddy or dramatically pot-holed roads and catching rides on ferries, some large and tidy, some that looked like they weren't necessarily up to the job.

What I liked about this book: There are some excellent anecdotes, especially about the kindness of strangers as Paula and her husband, Van, often had to deal with the difficulty of finding a place to sleep at night in a country where the choice was usually a pousada -- apparently, a small, family-run place that was not clearly advertised -- in the small towns or a hotel in more populous areas. Sometimes, they simply couldn't find a place to stay as night was falling and they had to decide whether or not to take a chance on finding another town. They experienced numerous car breakdowns, which often resulted in friendships with the people who helped them find tow trucks, dealerships, places to eat and sleep.

What I disliked about this book: It's shy on detailed information and there is no map of Brazil to clarify where the couple traveled, hence the GoogleEarth print-out. The back cover blurb explains their job better than the text inside but I still feel as if I don't quite get the purpose. I think the deal was that they were supposed to find places for Baptist missionaries to go evangelize, but they were particularly seeking fishing villages. I never understood why they were specifically targeting fishing villages, nor did I get why they got so excited every time they saw a Baptist church. My assumption was that they were simply looking to fill in the gaps and when they saw a church it meant, "Nothing needs to be done, here."

I was also frustrated by what I considered slightly lazy writing. For example, the author translated a city name, Porto de Galinhas, meaning Port of the Chickens and said there was a story behind the name . . . but she didn't remember it. In non-fiction, facts are important. I found it frustrating that she didn't take the time to research the story because translating the name without explaining its origin simply meant she'd told half a story and left the reader hanging. It took me about 5 seconds with a computer and Google to find the information left out:

Porto de Galinhas means Port of Chickens. During the 18th century, when the traffic of slaves was forbidden, "chicken" was the code used to refer to the slaves. "There are new chickens in town" was the way to say that a ship loaded with slaves had arrived.

Who I think would like this book: Christians, particularly of the Baptist faith, who are curious what it's like to do this particular job and/or adjust to life in a foreign country, and people who enjoy memoirs. But, be aware that there's a lot of everyday life and the anedotes are really few and far between . It could have been a much better book with some added depth of detail.

In other news . . .

It's official: Kiddo has left me with an empty nest. Technically, I'll be a weekend nester because he's planning to come home on weekends, but it feels like an empty nest -- especially when Miss Fiona goes off to hide for her Serious Napping Time and the house becomes ridiculously quiet.

This next few weeks is going to be an adjustment time for me, so if I disappear for a few days or a week or two, don't worry. It just means I'm trying to figure out what to do with myself and that might involve stepping away from the computer for a while. I will still at least show up to post scheduled reviews.

Just (also) finished: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway, a slightly-paranormal YA. Will review that as soon as possible. There are some books that have been waiting for review for several weeks, but I'm not sure what order they'll end up getting reviewed. If there's a particular book I've recently read and for which you've been waiting for a review, just let me know. I'll try to push it forward a little bit.

Off to clean my nest!

Bookfool . . . pondering more kittens to add a little noise to the house

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

Misadventures in Travel by Paula Edwards (sneak peek chapter)

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Misadventures in Travel: A Missionary's Experience in Brazil

Hannibal Books (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Nelson, PR Specialist, Hannibal Books for sending me a review copy.***


Paula Edwards, a native of the piney hills of north Louisiana, received her bachelor's and master's degrees in music from Louisiana Tech University. Besides having served God on the mission field, Paula also has been a schoolteacher and enjoys riding and training horses. She and her husband, Van, are parents of two grown daughters. The Edwardses live in North Louisiana, in which Van serves as pastor.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Hannibal Books (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934749796
ISBN-13: 978-1934749791


Chapter 1 -- The Beginning

Everything started innocently enough. One evening we were sitting in our living room doing the usual things. The TV was on, I had a magazine of some type; my husband, Van, was browsing on his laptop. I had no idea what he was studying on his computer, although I was reasonably certain it was something harmless. Wrong assumption.

All of a sudden Van called out, “Found us a job.”

That was interesting to me, because I didn’t know we were looking for one. Anyway, what he said got my attention. To learn more I leaned toward his chair. Turns out he was browsing the site of the International Mission Board of the Southern

Baptist Convention; he was surveying opportunities to serve overseas.

At the time Van was the pastor of a small Baptist church in North Central Arkansas. We had been at this church for about three years. In some ways our time there had been good, but we also had experienced many challenges. Recently we had talked about believing that our usefulness at this church had reached an end and that God seemed to be calling us elsewhere. The way God speaks to His children is amazing. We both heard Him; we both heard the same thing—which brings me back to Van’s announcement.

“What?” I asked

“I said I found us a job.”

“Oh, yeah? Where?”


“Brazil? Doing what?”


“Mapping? What does that mean?”

Van can be maddeningly persistent in making me drag everything out of him without offering any unnecessary information that I don’t specifically ask for.

“For Pete’s sake, tell me!”

“It says ‘mapping team needed to explore fishing villages in northeastern Brazil’.”

My heart went thump-thump. I figured he could hear it, but I wasn’t ready to reveal the excitement those simple words caused in me.

“Hmm. That could be interesting.”

We spent a few minutes discussing the possibility; then I picked up my magazine and pretended to become absorbed in an article while at the same time I watched Law and Order. Actually my mind was spinning. I can be maddeningly persistent in hiding my true feelings . . . for a while anyway.

The next day while I was at my job as a band director/ music teacher, I had the opportunity to check out the job for myself. I had a study hall that had only one student in it. Our relationship was more one of friendship than teacher-student. I read the job description and then turned and looked at her.

“I’m going to Brazil,” I stated bluntly.

She gave me a confused look, so I told her about what had happened the night before and read the job description from the computer in front of me. A slow smile spread across her face. She said, “You’re going to Brazil.”

I really believed this was going to happen, but at the same time I couldn’t imagine going back overseas. I have two grown daughters whom I love fiercely; at the time I had two small grandchildren. How could I leave them for two years? How could I miss out on everything that would be going on? On the other hand, I knew God was speaking to me. If you have ever been in that position, then you understand that when He calls you to a job, you never will be happy doing anything else. If you never have been in that position, you won’t understand the way I was feeling at that moment. Believe me, the call is unmistakable.

For two weeks I wrestled with the idea, even though I knew what the final decision would be. I knew I would go to Brazil, but convincing myself actually to admit it out loud in words was difficult. Finally one Sunday after church Van and I went out to eat. Van had mentioned the job in Brazil a couple of times, but he hadn’t pressed the issue. He was absolutely ready to go. Now. This minute. But, you see, when a couple accepts a call to missions, it has to be a joint acceptance. If both parties aren’t completely on board with the idea, then some sort of compromise has to be reached. This decision is best not forced on anyone. So Van hadn’t pressed, but I knew exactly where he stood. The time had arrived for me to let him in on the fact that I was right there beside him. For a long time we sat in the restaurant and talked. I cried. I was so torn. I knew what God wanted me to do. And I wanted to do it, too, but I still had that nagging desire to stay near my family. After spending the biggest part of a year serving in Guatemala in a previous short-term missions assignment, I knew how difficult the separation would be. Ultimately, though, I knew I couldn’t put my family and my desires ahead of God’s will for my life. So we left the restaurant knowing we would pursue employment with the International Mission Board.

To be accepted for service with the IMB requires an exacting process, but we were hoping the fact that we had served before would hasten the schedule. It must have, because we went home that Sunday night and emailed the IMB, which meant that on Monday the agency received our communication. On Tuesday we had a response. We could begin the procedure to fill the mapping-team position. We were ecstatic. Having finally crossed that line to submit to God, I now was eager to get things on the road. All of this happened in February, but we had lots of things to do before we actually could go to Brazil.

The first item on our list was to resign from our present jobs. I was teaching, so I finished the school year. At the end of May Van resigned his post. In June we sold our house and most of our possessions and moved across the state to Fort Smith to be closer to our daughters while we made preparations to go to Brazil.

Another thing we had to do was to go to Richmond, VA, for training. While there we talked to our advisor. We learned that we could go to Brazil either for two years or three years. We chose to extend our term to three years. In the back of our minds we were thinking we eventually would spend even more time than that in Brazil. We also learned about the requirements to get a visa to Brazil. This sounded as though it was a very straightforward procedure, but from conversations with missionary colleagues in Brazil we knew that getting a visa for that country would be tougher than for Guatemala. The process turned out to be much tougher. Van, the planner and detail person in our unit, began gathering all the things we would need such as his diploma from seminary, his ordination certificate, and birth certificates and our marriage license. Once he was satisfied everything was ready, he sent it to the mission office in Richmond. The mission office promptly wrote back and said the birth certificates and marriage license we had submitted would not be acceptable at the Brazilian consulate. We needed certified copies of our birth certificates and our marriage license. Both of these things had burned in a house fire. So, even though we had the certified copies we had gotten for Guatemala, we would have to get new ones for Brazil from the agencies in the states in which they had been issued: Louisiana and New Mexico. When we checked online about having them sent to us, we discovered that just going to get them would be about as inexpensive and much quicker, but that required a road trip to those two states. We combined business with pleasure by visiting with family in Louisiana and then made the long trek to New Mexico to get my birth certificate. At last we believed we had everything we needed. All that remained was to go to the consulate in Houston and present everything to Brazilian officials there. Two days were necessary to get in to see the consul. When we finally sat down with him, he sat on one side of the glass and we sat on the other as he flipped through the huge pile of documents in front of him. He arrived at my birth certificate—the one we had traveled all the way to New Mexico to get.

“Who’s this?” he asked.

“Me,” I replied.

“I don’t need this,” he sneered as he tossed it back to us through the slot at the bottom of the window.

We were flabbergasted. They had specifically asked for originals of our birth certificates.

“But, you asked for it!” Van exclaimed. “We went to New Mexico to get it!”

“No, we never ask for that. It is not in our policy,” he asserted.

“But . . .,” Van began; then, thinking better of the matter, he let it drop.

After checking through the rest of the papers, the consul told us we could return the next day to get the visas. We were so relieved! The process had been long and tedious; at last it was over.

We were so excited as we arrived early for our appointment the next day. In just a matter of minutes we would have the visas in our hands and we would be on our way.

The consul entered. We sat together on a love seat; he took a chair near us. Although his attitude seemed a little lighter than it had the day before, he still was a pretty sour person. He began to speak, but we were surprised that he didn’t talk about us; he talked about his job and what a thankless position he held. He complained about his co-workers and his work environment. He was a miserable little man. I felt sorry for him. Then he shifted the subject to our visas. That was more like it. I was squirming in my seat.

“Your visas have been approved. You may return to this office next Friday and pick them up.”

My sympathy evaporated. Sometimes I am too impulsive; I opened my mouth to argue with him, but Van beat me to the punch.

“Next Friday will be fine. Do we both need to be here, or can I pick them up?”

My jaw dropped as I gaped at my husband. Then I realized the wisdom of his words. Even though this would require another trip from Arkansas to Houston, the process would be over. If we argued, who knew what additional hoops they could find for us to jump through?

The miserable man did his best attempt at a smile.

“You may come alone. We will see you next week.”

The next week we did get the visas. We were only a month behind our expected departure date. That was not bad.

On January 21, 2007, we boarded the plane for Brazil. It was a trip into the unknown—the first of many adventures . . . although the word misadventures ultimately would describe much of what lay before us.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fiona Friday

It's apparently "Play Hard and Crash" week for Fiona. She's either been at full speed or flat on the floor -- both of which are totally cute. I'm so happy to be back with my kitty girl.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Emma and Emma, followed by . . . Emma

Emma by Jane Austen

Another late review. I believe I read Emma in June. Never fear, Emma has totally stuck with me like that gunky stuff used to paste credit cards to card stock.

Emma Woodhouse is of marriageable age, living with her hypochondriac father at their lovely estate, where they regularly entertain. She's perfectly content with her life, as is, and does not intend to marry. However, her former companion has recently wed and Emma needs a new friend.

Convinced that she is responsible for the successful matchmaking that led to Mrs. Weston's joyous marriage, Emma befriends young Harriet and sets her sights on pairing Harriet with Mr. Elton, the local vicar. Meanwhile, Mrs. Weston's son-in-law, Frank Churchill keeps everyone on tenterhooks as the entire village awaits his much-anticipated visit. Frank was adopted by a wealthy couple when the first Mrs. Weston died and hasn't been seen by villagers for many years. When Frank finally arrives, Emma thinks he might possibly be the man for her.

Mr. Knightley is another regular visitor, a gentleman farmer whose estate is not far from Emma's home and a member of Emma's social circle, the brother to Emma's sister Isabella's husband. Isabella and her husband live in London and don't show up often, but there's always a great deal of joy when they do. At one point, Mr. Knightley made this reader cringe a tiny bit by commenting that Emma looked "well" holding Isabella's baby and recalled holding her when she was the same age. I got over it, though. Mr. Knightley and Emma have an interesting relationship. He likes to point out her flaws and she teases him in return. He is much more intuitive about matchmaking than Emma and tries to stop her from causing trouble but it's only later that Emma realizes he was right all along about pretty much everything.

There's much more to the story, of course -- always plenty of coupling, dancing, celebration, socializing and a few little shocking surprises. The key question is, of course, will Emma mistakenly end up with Frank or realize Mr. Knightley is the man for her? How many times can Emma screw with poor Harriet's mind before Harriet figures out she must go with her heart? And, how on earth can Emma ever marry if it means leaving her stressed-out father on his own?

What I loved about Emma:

Well, everything. You know I'm an Austen fan. But, Emma is definitely special. Emma Woodhouse has just recently become my new favorite Austen character. She is guileless, cheerful and optimistic, means well (even if she does end up causing a bit of heartache) and is truly distraught when she realizes she's caused anyone pain. Emma is an extremely lovable character.

What I disliked about Emma:

Only one thing . . . it had a slow start. But, I've found that's not unusual with Austen. I had a little trouble warming up to Anne and getting into her story when I read Persuasion.

On to the A & E movie:

I'd already planned to watch the A & E version of Emma (a TV movie released in 1996), starring Kate Beckinsale, when I signed up for the Everything Austen II challenge. I ended up watching part of it on a plane and finishing up at home. Or, maybe it was the other way around. Anyway, I thought A & E's adaptation was fabulous, if a bit "Emma in hyperdrive" because there really is a great deal to the story, with its large cast and all the little twists. To compress that story into a mere two hours is quite a feat. The crucial parts of Emma are all there and I thought the movie was beautifully scripted, the settings were lovely and fitting and the actors almost perfectly cast. I can't say the actress who played Harriet fit my mental image, but everyone else at least came close. Since I own a copy of the A & E Emma, I'll undoubtedly watch it many, many more times.

For a more detailed review of the movie, check out this post at Ribbons of Light.

And, now another round of Emma:

I'm currently reading Emma and the Vampires, which is credited to both Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson. It's another one of those crazy mixes of classic and paranormal, in which pretty much half of the Highbury residents are vampires. Some are vegan and some are not, which is a bit confusing because it means there are gentlemen and lady vampires who wouldn't think to chomp down on an innocent neck, yet there's a whole other set preying on young women.

I opted to read this book because I've been hoping I'd find a nice tongue-in-cheek Austen parody that would provide a few laughs. Mr. Darcy, Vampyre was a total let-down because the author took her subject seriously rather than simply using Austen's Pride & Prejudice as a framework and playing with it in a fun way. Josephson has his writing flaws, but I'm finding Emma and the Vampires fits my expectations. It's frequently funny and much of the original story is left intact; it's simply altered to fit a silly vampire theme. Fun. It will be interesting to see how the story plays out. I'm not far (about 60 pages in), but I am truly enjoying Emma and the Vampires.

The A & E version of Emma is my first completed item for the Everything Austen II challenge.

Just walked in:

A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell - an unexpected surprise from Algonquin Books. At 593 pages, I'm vaguely intimidated. And, yet, having read the promotional material, I'm also intrigued. It sounds like a good, meaty story.

Must dash. Happy Wednesday!

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

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas

Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas
Copyright 2009
St. Martin's Press - Fiction/Historical
305 pages

Hennie Comfort has lived in Middle Swan, Colorado, since the death of her first husband sent her in search of a new life. Now eighty-six and on the verge of having to leave her beloved home at her daughter's insistance, Hennie befriends 17-year-old Nit Spindle and is drawn to her by their mutual grief -- Hennie's, far in the past and Nit's more recent loss. As the two women endure the harsh life of Colorado in the 1930's, their friendship grows and they share secrets they thought they would never let go, helping each other in unexpected ways.

It's been several weeks since I read Prayers for Sale, my third read by Sandra Dallas. I can't say the details have stuck with me, but the general feeling remains. Hennie is a storyteller and a quilter and Nit is young and willing to both listen and take advice. Both are hard-working and come from similar backgrounds. Both have endured heartbreaking loss. Hennie slowly shares her story as they take turns visiting, quilting together and sharing food and conversation.

It's always surprising when a book that is essentially a quietly paced story is a page turner, but Sandra Dallas has a knack for making the pages fly and tossing in little surprises -- sometimes shocking, sometimes anticipated and satisfying -- that make her books eminently readable, the kind you want to shove into a friend's hands.

What I liked about this book: Everything. I like the pacing, the characters, the storyline, the surprises, the friendship, the writing style. There was nothing I recall disliking at all.
Prayers for Sale is sweet and rugged, full of hardship and grief and deep love, grueling hard work and gentle friendship. I like imagining myself in the place of such incredibly challenged characters, wondering whether I would survive and thrive or go to pieces. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy historical fiction and stories of friendship between women.

Update: After I wrote this review, I remembered the one thing about this book that really drove me nuts and that's the name "Nit". What a horrible name choice! No matter how hard I tried, I could never stop thinking of lice when I read that name.

Posts will continue to be short and sporadic, but I'm going to go ahead and try to dash out a review or two, whenever I have a few free moments, along with updates on arrivals and finished books. Happy Reading!

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

Monday, August 09, 2010

Well, hello there! How are you doing?

I've decided to go on part-time blogging status (Fiona is just going to be a full-time handful). That means I'll be here when I can, although not back to regular posting for a while. Blog hopping will not resume for a few weeks.

Update Thingy:

I've only finished 3 books in the two weeks I've been away from the blog:

Stash by David Klein
Benny and Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti (thanks to Care!), and
Moose Droppings and Other Crimes Against Nature by Jim Brennan

I'm not even certain how many books I've abandoned for lack of concentration or still need to review, but I'll gather them together and write a list as I'm packing Kiddo for college, purging and all that. His bedroom is scary. Teenagers.

I will be an empty nester within a week!! Like, freak me out, dude.

What the heck am I doing?

Well, besides all the tidying to pack up the Kiddo, we did kind of zip up to Alaska for a week of vacation. This particular trip was Kiddo's graduation gift. There was literally nothing else he wanted, so we offered him a vacation and he chose to return to Alaska -- which is, at this point, apparently his favorite place on the planet because it's cold! The Moose Droppings book was probably a big hint as to where we've been. I bought that at Sam's in Anchorage.

There's a bookmark view, for you -- a pic I took on the Seward Highway. It was one of the few times the sun came out on our trip, but the temperature stayed in the 50's to 60's, most of the time we were in Alaska. We cooled off nicely and we're very happy about that. A little rain didn't ruin the trip. Or, actually, a lot of rain if we must be honest.

There was a parcel from HarperCollins on my porch and may be more at the neighbor's house, as my next-door neighbor kindly watered the plants we hadn't already killed (our green pepper looks great!) and watched the porch, for us. Here's what I got from HarperCollins, "Compliments of the author":

Why Our Decisions Don't Matter by Simon Van Booy
Why We Fight by Simon Van Booy, and
Why We Need Love by Simon Van Booy

Let us pause for a moment of Simon Van Booy fan joy. Thank you Simon and HarperCollins!!! Oh boy, do I have some fun reading ahead of me. We'll see if there's more to come. I also have to go fetch the mail.

How are you doing? Read anything brilliant, lately?

Bookfool, on her 4th load of laundry and occasionally stopping to reassure the furball that I'm still here . . . it's okay . . . she can stop tearing the house apart (please, please).