Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why We Fight, edited by Simon Van Booy and some nifty timing

Why We Fight, edited by Simon Van Booy
Copyright 2010
HarperPerennial Modern Thought
216 pages

I believe that philosophy is a subject we have a natural gift for, but a subject often regarded as one with no practical value--and closed to anyone outside the walls of universities. I am committed to the idea that these central questions of life are part of our everyday lives--that we all possess the skill and agility to tackle them, and that by pondering them, we can experience more fulfillment in our relationships, in our work, and in how we view ourselves.

Inside these books are readings, poems, quotations, and visual images that will inspire you to continue exploring the subject for years to come. I have tried my best to present philosophical ideas with no immediate resolution as immediately accessible for everyday thinking.

--from the Preface to the Series in Why We Fight by Simon Van Booy

The material in Why We Fight is an interesting collection that explores why humans argue, bicker, go to war and in other ways battle with each other. I chose to read Why We Fight first of the three books in the series -- which includes Why Our Decisions Don't Matter and Why We Need Love -- because it was the one that interested me the least and I wanted to save the best for last. That makes me chuckle, now, because I found Why We Fight absolutely fascinating and thought-provoking.

Beginning with the biblical story of Cain and Abel, each entry is introduced by the author. The story of Cain and Abel is described as follows:

. . . an etiological story that explores the nature of an aggressive biblical tribe called the Kenites. However, for most people it's a story about murder, crime, punishment, envy, and sibling rivalry--all major themes in ancient literature.

In many ancient stories and myths, people fight because of excessive pride--an emotion that often arises after the experience of rejection.

I've read the story of Cain and Abel dozens of times and loved the way Simon deftly captured both the history and the context of the story in a minimum of words, as he did in all of his introductory descriptions. I've been taking my time reading these philosophy books (I'm currently in the middle of Why Our Decisions Don't Matter) and finding it fascinating how the reading seems to parallel my thought processes along with some of my other reading material and even a photograph viewed this week. I'll provide a link to the photo and explain why the reading folded nicely into my thoughts about the photo when I review Why Our Decisions Don't Matter. It has to do with Hamlet. And, stars. But, back to the subject . . .

Two of the articles in Why We Fight particularly grabbed my attention because the first article, written by an animal psychologist and zoologist, describes human aggression as no different from that of other animals while the second article flatly disputes the concept of inherited tendency to defend our territory. Are we territorial by nature or not? Therein lies the joy of this book and the entire series: food for thought, discussion and to tempt one to further reading.

Love it, love it, highly recommended. There were 2 readings that literally put me to sleep but I did finish them and I think we can at least partially blame fatigue.

And, lest you think, "For crying out loud, everything's been 'highly recommended', lately," I must tell you that's because of that slumpy business I went through during the summer. I've only been reading books that totally grab me and suck me in. Anything that doesn't capture my interest and keep it is still getting set aside. Hopefully, I will soon find the time to share a little about some Did Not Finish books; and, I do plan to review one children's book I didn't like, soon. But, it's not the one in the sidebar. The little chimp book is another one I loved. You'll see.

The Coffin Quilt by Ann Rinaldi is a book that I consider one of those serendipitous reading choices that closely aligned with the thought process in Why We Fight, although I didn't think about the parallel when I picked The Coffin Quilt up to read.

The Coffin Quilt is a fictionalized account of the feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families -- a vicious, bloody feud that began with the theft of the McCoys' pigs in 1878. Ha! Territorial fighting, right? The pigs were a valuable and crucial possession because every part of the pig was used for either food or some other important need, such as soap-making. After the McCoys lost their pigs in a court battle (because some Hatfields were involved in the legal doings and they stuck with their kin, no matter what), the feud exploded into all-out war with ruthless killings after beautiful Roseanna McCoy ran off with Johnse Hatfield and the Hatfield patriarch refused to allow them to marry, destroying Roseanna's reputation.

The Coffin Quilt is told from the perspective of Fanny McCoy, the youngest daughter, and it is by far the best book I've read by Ann Rinaldi. I'm going to quote from the cover blurb (no spoiler included):

As the killings, abductions, raids and heartbreak escalate bitterly and senselessly, Fanny, the sole voice of reason, realizes that she is powerless to stop the fighting and must learn to rise above the petty natures of her family and neighbors and find her own way out of the hatred.

There's a lot of senseless violence, but the novel is a young adult and not too awfully graphic. I wouldn't be surprised if someone, somewhere thought it was worth banning (ha!--got in my comment about Banned Books Week!) but I thought it was well-written and, judging from the author's notes, meticulously researched, the perspective and fictionalized portions chosen with logic and insight.

The Coffin Quilt definitely provided more food for thought on the concept of why humans fight and I also recommend it as a good read with one caveat: The book is written entirely in vernacular. In general, I avoid books that are written in a regional dialect but I've lived in the South long enough that I had no problem understanding the mode of speech. I would advise flipping through The Coffin Quilt or reading an excerpt before purchasing, though, if you dislike books written in that particular style.

In summary:

Why We Fight, edited by Simon Van Booy - Philosophical readings, both fiction and non-fiction, and other material -- highly recommended to both the higher-minded and those who think they're too dim to handle philosophy. I think those of you with slow cogs like mine will be pleasantly surprised at the readability.

The Coffin Quilt by Ann Rinaldi - Solid young-adult fiction based on the real-life feud between two families, recommended for both youngsters and adults with the caution that it's written in Southern dialect.

It took me all evening to write this post, partly because the kitties are kind of needy and getting into a heap of trouble. There have been some fluffed-up tails, banging noises and other bits of excitement. Hope you enjoyed it and that you had a very wahooey 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, September 28, 2010

Calvin Can't Fly by J. Berne & K. Bendis

Calvin Can't Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie by Jennifer Berne
Illustrated by Keith Bendis
Copyright 2010
Sterling Kids - Children's (Ages 4-8)
32 pages

As the other little starlings were learning to swoop and
hover and fly figure eights, Calvin buried his beak in books.
And there his mind soared.

Calvin the starling isn't interested in the normal starling things like learning to fly; but, he loves to read books. He is teased and called names, but that doesn't stop Calvin from going to the library or dreaming about legends, poetry and becoming a great writer (while his brothers and sisters are dreaming about delicious bugs). When the time comes to migrate, though, Calvin is in dire straits. He has no idea how to fly and sadly watches his huge starling family leave without him.

But, then his brothers and sisters and cousins return with string and scraps of cloth. They carry Calvin . . . until the family comes upon a hurricane. Of course, Calvin is the only bird who knows about hurricanes -- because he has read about them. He saves the day by advising everyone to take shelter and the whole starling family celebrates their safety after the storm has passed. Calvin is so excited that he jumps and flaps and flaps his wings until his relatives tell him that he is, in fact, flying.

And, that's pretty much the end. I absolutely loved Calvin Can't Fly, except for one little thing. I did think that ending was a little abrupt, when I read the book aloud to the cat. Incidentally, Fiona is not a good listener. She walked in and out of the room and I ended up reading to nobody until my husband showed up with a silly grin on his face. He's used to me, but he knows weird when he sees it.

Apart from that ending, I think Calvin Can't Fly is so wonderful that I would consider it for gift-giving purposes. It's not just about a bird who is different from the rest (aka, your average "fish out of water" children's book); it's about the joy of reading. And, the illustrations are marvelous -- colorful, perky, bright, joyful illustrations. I'm a big advocate of reading children books that encourage a love of reading as early as possible; and, picture books that suck little ones in with an upbeat story about reading's benefits combined with great illustrations? Perfect.

Highly recommended. This one's going on my keeper shelf. I'm not yearning for grandkids (I am way the heck to young to think too hard about that) but hopefully someday I'll have a little one to share this with. If not . . . I may need to volunteer to read at schools. What do you think? Should I do that, anyway? It seems like a decent idea. My thanks to Sterling Kids for this unexpected bit of reading joy.

Many books have walked into my house, this week (which means I need to get to work escorting a few more out the door).

From Paperback Swap:

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi
Frederica by Georgette Heyer
The Line by Teri Hall

From Hyperion, via Shelf Awareness:

Kasey to the Rescue by Ellen Rogers

From Algonquin Books (all surprises):

The Puzzle King by Betsy Carter
A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein
Missing Lucile by Suzanne Berne

Your Tuesday dose of kitty joy . . . Isabel: The Glamour Shot

And, that leads to a reminder that I need to go wash the kitty bowls.

Happy, happy, joy, joy to all!


©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, September 27, 2010

London's Strangest Tales by Tom Quinn

London's Strangest Tales: Extraordinary But True Stories by Tom Quinn From Over a Thousand Years of London's History
Portico - Nonfiction/History
378 pages

I'm going to try to keep this review short and sweet because my butt is numb. I am actually doing my darnest to return to blog-hopping and man . . . I can feel the fat cells replicating. But, I'm having fun.

London's Strangest Tales is a book I purchased either from Waterstone's in Greenwich or Foyle's in Charing Cross (London). All I recall is the sensation that I wanted to take both bookstores home with me or, at the very least, get a hammock and move into Foyle's. They have plenty of room for campers. If you're ever in London, you must go to Foyle's. Your eyes will tear up with joy at the sight of all those beautiful books. Five floors!!! They have an entire 5-shelf section on climate change!!!

But, I digress. I purchased the book because I like to read about the places I visit, after the fact, in order to keep the escapist sensation of travel going. London's Strangest Tales looked like pure fun and a good dose of history. It is, in fact, not only extremely entertaining and informative but also a worthy book to read before traveling to London because one might find some interesting little sights to search for that would otherwise be easily overlooked.

Beginning with the tale of why Great Scotland Yard has remained Scottish territory since the year 950, the book progresses forward in time. There are tales of historical or unique buildings and cemeteries, the origins of various place names, the odd habits of royalty and other eccentric Londoners, how various businesses came into being and expressions (such as "robbing Peter to pay Paul") originated in London.

I enjoyed all of the stories, but found those that described places I've visited particularly fun to read about, such as why Trafalgar Square is permanently unfinished and how William Fortnum (a footman to Queen Anne who made a nice little sum of money selling candle-stubs from St. James Palace) and Hugh Mason (a shopkeeper and friend of Fortnum) combined their talents to create the wondrous Fortnum & Mason store.

On why Trafalgar Square is unfinished:

The unfinished bit is the empty plinth in the northwest corner -- this has been empty ever since the square was first built and though in recent years some bizarre sculptures have been placed on the unused plinth (including an upside-down see-through version of the plinth itself!) there are still no plans to erect a permanent statue here.

--from "Trafalgar Square -- Permanently Unfinished" in London's Strangest Tales, p. 193

I believe this is the unfinished plinth in question, with a temporary ship-in-a-bottle display:

Loads of fun and highly recommended. London's Strangest Tales would have been a terrific book to read on the plane home because I have a dramatically short attention span on planes (usually, I give up and watch a movie or sleep) but the brevity of each of the tales resulted in a book that lends itself well to reading in bits and pieces.

No other news, today, at least not that I'm willing to share because I need to open a window or two and breathe the cool air. Cool!!! Wahoo!!!!!!!

Bookfool, a wee bit excited about the Autumn thing

©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.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

For the King's Favor by Elizabeth Chadwick

For the King's Favor by Elizabeth Chadwick
Copyright 2010
Sourcebooks Landmark - Historical Fiction
517 pages

In the 12th Century, Ida de Tosney is presented at court. Shy, lovely and innocent, Ida hopes King Henry II will grant her a decent marriage. Instead, she catches Henry's eye and becomes, to her horror, his new mistress.

Roger Bigod's father, Hugh, is a nasty man, bent on picking his son to pieces. As Roger's father and his army of Flemish mercenaries prepare an attempt to oust King Henry from the throne, Roger decides he has had enough and leaves, fighting instead in defense of the king. But, after Hugh Bigod's loss, his earldom is stripped from him and his castle's defenses torn down. That earldom and the lands are Roger's inheritance.

Upon Hugh's death, Roger is left with a dilemma. His stepmother and her two sons dispute the lands and the title that is legally Roger's by birth. And, his participation in one battle may not be enough to convince the king to rule in his favor.

When Roger arrives at King Henry's court intending to settle the dispute, young Ida catches his eye. Ida is equally captured by Roger's respectful manner and dashing looks. When the king's interest fades, she sees a chance to escape an unhappy life as the victim to Henry's whims by marrying Roger. But, leaving Henry will lead to the hardest sacrifice of her life. Will Roger ever succeed in regaining the lands and title that are justly his? And, will Ida and Roger be happy in spite of the loss that continues to tear at her heart?

Well . . . I'm not going to spoil it for you, but here's the thing you probably most want to know about For the King's Favor: I could not put this book down. Both Ida and Roger are likable characters, flawed in their own ways but honorable, loyal and kind. Their tale is a fictionalized account of real-life characters the author came across while researching her two books about William Marshal. I've read the first Marshal book and have a copy of the second, but it's been a while since I read The Greatest Knight and it took me a bit to realize that was the same William Marshal dropping in and out of the story. Then, I realized I was reading about many of the same events from a slightly different angle.

Oh, how I loved reading the same story from a different viewpoint. As I've mentioned many times, I'm not well educated in history and for that reason, I love reading accurate, well-researched historical fiction from which I can learn. Chadwick is, in my opinion, very much like Georgette Heyer in her painstaking research, in this case of Medieval England, as well as her sometimes-baffling detail (again, a lexicon is a very fine thing). In the author's notes, she admits to altering a few details as as she learned more in her research, but primarily by way of a change in the timeline and not by a large number of years. The shift wasn't enough to cause confusion and you have to appreciate an author who is so dedicated to accuracy.

The bottom line:

Highly recommended. I absolutely loved For the King's Favor. Like Heyer, Chadwick has already written a large number of books and that means many years of excellent Medieval reading to come. Wahoo!

In other news:

I am fighting a lingering migraine and computer issues. It's apparently time to upgrade my computer; but, since I had a really good time this summer, I'll have to wait. There are days that my computer is so sluggish it's like being on dial-up, all over again. Hopefully, I'll be able to hold out until I've finished paying for my vacation fun. Fingers crossed.

Things Isabel has done, this week:

Chewed an earphone cord into two useless pieces, learned to occasionally show tender affection to her big sister Fiona (I took some touching photos of Isabel sharing a windowsill with Fi, touching one of Fi's paws with both of hers, but missed the moment when Izzy reached up to bat Fi's whiskers and Fi didn't even flinch), chomped a window-blind pull into 4 worthless chunks, convinced a Bookfool that maybe declawing is worth remote consideration, and swung from a chair cushion after a failed leap onto a breakfast-nook chair. Said Kiddo, after rescuing her: "I wish I had that on video."

Best news for us:

Our first real cool front has arrived!!! Wheeee! Time to party!! I'm off to drink cider on the porch with hubby and enjoy the air. Happy Autumn!

©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, September 24, 2010

Fiona Friday - Enough, already

©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.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Man Gave Names to All the Animals by Bob Dylan, illustrated by Jim Arnosky

Man Gave Names to All the Animals by Bob Dylan
Illustrated by Jim Arnosky
Copyright 2010
Sterling Children's Books - Ages 4-8
32 pages; Includes a CD of the original Bob Dylan recording
I've chosen to post an unusually large cover image of this book because it's so gorgeous you need to see it in as much detail as possible. Man Gave Names to All the Animals is absolutely stunning, vibrant, beautiful . . . think of any other adjective that has to do with eye-popping color and you've got the gist. Illustrator Jim Arnosky requested permission from Bob Dylan to use the lyrics to his song "Man Gave Names to All the Animals", from the album Slow Train Coming, and illustrate them to create a children's book. The result is 32 pages of rhyming fun, including a copy of the catchy original song on CD.

I no longer have small children and my cats aren't into dancing (except when they're boxing each other or chasing ribbons), but my husband and I played the CD and we were rocking. We both agreed that our kids would have absolutely loved both the song and the book. You can't beat the combination of bright colors, rhyme and music. Here's a sample page spread, without the words:

Art used with permission from Man Gave Names to All the Animals, (c) 2010 by Jim Arnosky, Sterling Children's Books.

The cover image at the top of this review is what you see on the book jacket, but if you take the jacket off this glorious, hardcover book, underneath is a cover just as pretty but totally different. On the front is a close-up of a tiger and the back shows butterflies floating from one corner to another. I'm one of those people who take off book jackets to keep them pristine, so I always appreciate it when the cover beneath is also nice to look at.

The bottom line: A perfect combination of words, rhythm and illustrations; and, you can't lose with a CD of Dylan's playful tune to jazz up the reading with children. Highly recommended.

In other news: Look!!! Kitties at peace!

Not long after I snapped this photo, Fiona rolled onto her back and Isabel scooted over and chomped on Fiona's ear. Izzy got a little tap on the head for bad behavior, which promptly sent her into an urgent bath ritual, followed by another stretch of good behavior, with her head even closer to Fi's. Awwww. So cute. And also . . . Wahoo!!!

Just walked in, this week:

Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens by Jennifer Schaertl (I have a crappy little kitchen)

Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper (cat book!)

Desiree by Anne Marie Selinko (a Sourcebooks rerelease of one of my all-time favorite books!)

My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger

All but Desiree were from Paperback Swap. And, just so you know, plenty of books are going out the door, too. I'm not sure we've hit balance, yet, but I'm trying.

©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, September 21, 2010

Georgette Heyer's Regency World by Jennifer Kloester

Georgette Heyer's Regency World
by Jennifer Kloester
Copyright 2010
Sourcebooks - History/Reference
374 pages

For those who have never read Georgette Heyer's fiction, Heyer was a prolific author who wrote books set in the Regency period. I'm not sure how many of them I've read -- maybe 5? I've got years and years of Heyer reading ahead of me. Her books are absolutely delightful. Those I've read have been light-hearted, romantic, adventurous reads with only one exception and that particular title leaned toward Gothic.

The problem with Georgette Heyer's books is that she was such a thorough researcher and worked so hard to maintain accuracy that if you don't know your Regency history her books can be a bit baffling, particularly the lingo. I've printed out a few lists of Regency cant and slang to help me with the reading. Like Shakespeare, eventually you will get the drift via context, even if you aren't able to define a word or two or fifty. But, I've wished for a lexicon for quite some time.

Georgette Heyer's Regency World is not a lexicon, although there are sections with definitions. The book, however, goes way beyond simple definitions and serves as an excellent history lesson on the Regency period. It includes such things as methods of transportation and entertainment, styles of both men's and women's clothing, marriage traditions, royalty and other real-life characters and lifestyles of the privileged. Within that text, Kloester uses examples from both real life and Heyer's fiction.

Truly, Georgette Heyer's Regency World is an amazing read. I learned so much about the Regency period that my admiration for Heyer has been multiplied ten-fold and I'm certain that, although I'll undoubtedly refer back to the book, I will go into future Heyer reads with an understanding of the time period that should make her books even more enjoyable.

The bottom line:

Highly, highly recommended for readers of Georgette Heyer's books, particularly those who know little about the Regency time period. My edition is an ARC and the index is not complete (the page numbers for the index portion had not yet been inserted) but the index looks very thorough and should make it an easy reference book. My only complaint -- and it's minor -- is that I would like to see a complete alphabetical lexicon section rather than one divided into topics like money, men's clothing, clubs, sport, etc.

In other news:

Little Isabel is sleeping behind my monitor. I can see her tail and a little bit of white fur body. How cute is that?

My high school is having a reunion, this weekend. It's a big-number reunion. It makes me cringe. I was on the list of "missing students" so I didn't hear about it till yesterday. That's fine. I'm still trying to plow through some books to try to catch up with myself, now that my summer slump appears to have ended and traveling would have nipped that in the bud.

It is still way hot in Mississippi but we've at least dropped from mid-to upper 90's to lower 90's. I'll party when it hits 78. We're also having quite a little drought here. If you know a good rain dance, please feel free to dance for rain for us. Does that work, doing a rain dance for someone else? Maybe I need to get up and dance. Just FYI, I am one awkward dancer. I'd probably end up getting Mother Nature to drop frogs or something.

One for the road: A photo of our little Isabel playing with a ball on her scratching post. When she arrived at our home, she had to climb the scratching post with all four legs to reach the ball. Now, you can see she just stands on her tippy-toes only three weeks after her arrival. She is growing ridiculously fast. I think Fiona wishes she'd hurry up and just turn into a boring old cat, but every day we seem to see a little improvement in their relationship, if that's what you call it.

What exciting things are happening in your world? Read anything fabulous, lately?

©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, September 20, 2010

Whisper on the Wind by Maureen Lang (review)

Whisper on the Wind by Maureen Lang
Copyright 2010
Tyndale - Historical Fiction
407 pages (includes discussion questions)

WARNING: This review may contain spoilers!!! Stop right here if you plan to read this book right away!!!

The year is 1916. Belgium is under German occupation and Isa Lassone is doing something very unusual -- sneaking into Belgium in order to try to save the family she used to live with and came to think of as her own. But, it's not as easy as she hoped.

Edward, a young man she has loved since she was 7 years old, is working with other Belgians to keep up morale among his countrymen by helping to print and distribute La Libre Belgique (Free Belgium), a newspaper to keep Belgians notified of the real, uncensored news and lift their spirits.

Edward refuses to leave the country but encourages her to help his family leave. However, Isa cannot bear the idea of leaving without him. So, they all remain and Isa moves into her old home -- with a German officer billeted in one of the large home's bedrooms. When a new location is needed for a printing press, Isa offers up a secret room in her cellar. But, in doing so, she risks not only her own life but the lives of the people she loves most. Only her faith in God keeps her going during the most dangerous times.

Will Isa, Edward and his family survive the German occupation? Or will they die trying to do their part to keep hope alive?

First things first: I spent all day reading Whisper on the Wind. That's partly because I'm a slow reader (le sigh) and partly because I couldn't put that sucker down. It has its flaws. At times I thought, "Seriously? I don't buy that," but then I realized I kept sticking poor Isa mentally into the wrong time period. I've read very, very little about World War I and have no idea what German security was like in that time and place. So, it's possible that Isa may have gotten away with a few squeaks past the Nazis as she entered the country.

My general feeling about the printing press in her cellar (which I don't believe is a spoiler, but I've gone ahead and added the spoiler warning, just in case some might consider it to be) was that it was crazy but insisting that she must move back into her own home in an occupied country, knowing at least one Nazi was billeted there, was just ridiculous. I just had a terrible time getting past that.

Otherwise, I loved the book. I've mentioned before that I read My Sister Dilly by Maureen Lang and enjoyed it. This was an opportunity to read something vastly different (historical versus contemporary) and I found that I liked her writing as well as I did the first time. At the beginning, there are some tense moments but they're nothing compared to the danger that occurs later in the book. In that regard, I found it very realistic -- the further they became entrenched in their work and the more strangers they encountered, the more dangerous their situation became.

The bottom line:

While the premise is a bit over-the-top and there are moments and situations that I had trouble swallowing, Whisper on the Wind is absolutely engrossing and I highly recommend it, especially to fans of Christian historical fiction. Danger, intrigue, tension, romance (not gushy or overdone, but one of many elements) and a satisfying conclusion make for a page-turning read.

Whisper on the Wind is apparently the second in Lang's "The Great War Series", although it's a stand-alone and there was no hint that it's the second book in a series. I only found out it was not the first book in the series when I saw an excerpt from the third book in the back.

In other news:

I'm going back to that make-no-promises rule I had, a while back. I would really, really like to whip out a bunch of reviews, this week, but can't make any guarantees because I never know from one day to the next if the words will come. Obviously, no problem tonight. Maybe doing nothing but read and play with cats is a good way to prepare to write. ;)

Over the weekend, I finished Georgette Heyer's Regency World by Jennifer Kloester. I'd like to review that next, while it's fresh in my mind. But, I'd also like to run a 10K, again. I'd like world peace. Just wish me luck, okay?

A new book has arrived at my home, today: Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper. A kitty book!! Wahoo! I also got a copy of Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter (4th in the Gallagher Girls series, which Kiddo and I love). Both were from Paperback Swap.

And, Sterling Kids sent me 4 books from their new "Inside" series: Inside Dinosaurs, Inside Hurricanes, Inside the Human Body and Inside Tornadoes. I'm a weather freak, so I read Inside Hurricanes immediately and I'll go for Tornadoes, next. I haven't decided whether I'll review them as a group or individually -- that will depend on whether I find them consistent. I really liked Hurricanes, apart from one little quibble that is not unique -- it's in every single freaking book that mentions Hurricane Katrina and you can probably guess what that is because I can't shut up about it.

Best news of the week: I have caught the two kitties sleeping within 18 inches of each other twice!!!! How exciting is that? Fiona's still more skittish than normal and Isabel chews on things she shouldn't, climbs curtains (eeks -- we hardly have any curtains but she's found them!) and frequently provokes Fiona . . . and sometimes Fiona bats her for no other reason than, "That is MY toy and I don't want you touching it," but, hey, we'll take any progress at all.

Happy . . . oh, Monday is almost over. Well, then. Happy Today!

Bookfool with whuppita, whuppita, whuppita noise in her hallway (I knew a day of cats sleeping might mean a long night)

©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.

Whisper on the Wind by Maureen Lang (sneak peek)

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:

Whisper on the Wind

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (August 4, 2010)

***Special thanks to Maggie Rowe of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***


Maureen Lang has always had a passion for writing. She wrote her first novel longhand around the age of 10, put the pages into a notebook she had covered with soft deerskin (nothing but the best!), then passed it around the neighborhood to rave reviews. It was so much fun she's been writing ever since. Eventually Maureen became the recipient of a Golden Heart Award from Romance Writers of America, followed by the publication of three secular romance novels. Life took some turns after that, and she gave up writing for 15 years, until the Lord claimed her to write for Him. Soon she won a Noble Theme Award from American Christian Fiction Writers and has since published several novels, including Pieces of Silver (a 2007 Christy Award finalist), Remember Me, The Oak Leaves, On Sparrow Hill, and My Sister Dilly. Maureen lives in the Midwest with her husband, her two sons, and their much-loved dog, Susie.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (August 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414324367
ISBN-13: 978-1414324364


Part I

September 1916

Scope of War Broadens

Rumania joins Allied Powers with hopes of shortening the war

Germany has declared war in response, claiming Rumania disgracefully broke treaties with Austria-Hungary and Germany. The Allied Powers, at the forefront including France, Britain, and Russia, welcome additional men and arms. They remind the world which country was the first to break a treaty when Germany marched into Belgium in direct defiance of an agreement to respect Belgium’s neutrality should international strife begin.

Fifteen nations are now at war.

La Libre Belgique

Chapter One

“Oh, God,” Isa Lassone whispered, “You’ve seen me this far; don’t let me start doubting now.”

A few cool raindrops fell on her upturned face, blending with the warm tears on her cheeks. Where was her new guide? The one she’d left on the Holland side of the border had said she needed only to crawl through a culvert, then worm her way ten feet to the right, and there he would be.

Crickets chirped, and from behind her she heard water trickle from the foul-smelling culvert through which she’d just crept. Some of the smell clung to her shoes and the bottom of her peasant’s skirt, but it was Belgian dirt, so she wouldn’t complain. The prayer and the contents of her satchel reminded her why she was here, in this Belgian frontier the occupying German army strove to keep empty. For almost two years Isa had plotted, saved, worked, and defied everyone she knew—all to get to this very spot.

Then she heard it—the chirrup she’d been taught to listen for. Her guide had whistled it until Isa could pick out the cadence from any other.

She edged upward to see better, still hidden in the tall grass of the meadow. The scant mist cooled her cheeks, joining the oil and ash she’d been given to camouflage the whiteness of her skin. She must have grown used to its unpleasant odor, coupled with the scent she had picked up in the culvert, because now she could smell only grass. Twigs and dirt clung to her hands and clothes, but she didn’t care. She, Isabelle Lassone, who’d once bedecked the cover of the Ladies’ Home Journal with a group of other young American socialites, now crawled like a snake across a remote, soggy Belgian field. She must reach that sound.

Uneven ground and the things she’d hidden under her cloak and skirt slowed her crawl. Her wrist twisted inside a hole—no doubt the entrance to some creature’s home—and she nearly fell flat before scuttling onward again. Nothing would stop her now, not after all she’d been through to get this far, not after everything she’d given up.

Then her frantic belly dash ended. The tall grass hid everything but the path she left behind, and suddenly she hit something—or rather, someone.

“Say nothing.” She barely heard the words from the broad-shouldered figure. He was dressed as she was, in simple, dark clothing, to escape notice of the few guards left to enforce the job their wire fencing now did along the border. Isa could not see his face. His hair was covered by a cap, and his skin, like hers, had been smeared with ash.

Keeping low, the guide scurried ahead, and Isa had all she could do to follow. Sweat seeped from pores suffocated beneath her clothes. She ignored rocks that poked her hands and knees, spiky grass slapping her face, dirt kicked up into her eyes by the toe of her guide’s boot.

He stopped without warning and her face nearly hit his sole.

In the darkness she could not see far ahead, but she realized they’d come to a fence of barbed wire. A moment ago she had been sweating, but now she shivered. The electric fences she’d been warned about . . . where bodies were sometimes trapped, left for the vultures and as a grim warning to those like her.

Her guide raised a hand to silence whatever words she might have uttered. Then he reached for something—a canvas—hidden in the grass, pulling it away from what lay beneath. Isa could barely make out the round shape of a motor tire. He took a cloth from under his shirt and slipped it beneath the fence where the ground dipped. With deft quickness, he hoisted the wire up with the tire, only rubber touching the fencing. Then he motioned for her to go through.

Isa hesitated. Not long ago she would have thought anyone crazy for telling tales of the things she’d found herself doing lately, things she’d nearly convinced her brother, Charles, she was capable of handling despite his urgent warnings.

She took the precious satchel from her back and tossed it through the opening, then followed with ease, even padded as she was with more secret goods beneath her rough clothing. Her guide’s touch startled her. Looking back, she saw him hold the bottom of her soiled cotton skirt so it would touch nothing but rubber. Then he passed through too. He strapped the tire and its canvas to his back while she slipped her satchel in place.

Clouds that had barely sprinkled earlier suddenly released a steady rainfall. Isa’s heart soared heavenward even as countless droplets fell to earth. She’d made it! Surely it would’ve been impossible to pass those electrified wires in this sort of rain, but God had held it off. It was just one more blessing, one more confirmation that she’d done the right thing, no matter what Charles and everyone else thought.

Soon her guide stopped again and pulled the tire from his back, stuffing it deep within the cover of a bush. Then he continued, still pulling himself along like a frog with two broken legs. Isa followed even as the journey went on farther and took longer than she’d expected.

She hadn’t realized she would have to crawl through half of Belgium to get to the nearest village. Tension and fatigue soon stiffened her limbs, adding weight to the packets she carried.

She heard no sound other than her own uneven breathing. She should welcome the silence—surely it was better than the sound of marching, booted feet or a motorcar rumbling over the terrain. Despite the triumph she’d felt just moments ago, her fear returned. They hid with good reason. Somewhere out there German soldiers carried guns they wouldn’t hesitate to use against two people caught on the border, where citizens were verboten.

“Let me have your satchel,” her guide whispered over his shoulder.

Isa pulled it from her back, keeping her eye on it all the while. He flipped it open. She knew what he would find: a single change of clothes, a purse with exactly fifty francs inside, a small loaf of bread—dark bread, the kind she was told they made on this side of the blockades—plus her small New Testament and a diary. And her flute. Most especially, her flute.

“What is this book?” His voice was hushed, raspy.

“A Bible.”

“No, the other one. What is it?”

“It’s mine.”

“What is it doing in this satchel?”

“I—I wanted to bring it.”

“What have you written in here?”

Instantly flushed with embarrassment, she was glad that he couldn’t see her face any better than she could see his under the cover of darkness. No one would ever read the words written in that diary, not even the person to whom she’d written each and every one. Well, perhaps one day he might, if they grew old together. If he let her grow old at his side.

“It’s personal.”

He thrust it toward her. “Get rid of it.”

“I will not!”

“Then I will.” He bolted from belly to knees, hurling the little book far beyond reach. It was gone in the night, splashing into a body of water that no doubt fed into the culvert she knew too well.

Isa rose to her knees, the object of her gaze vanished in the blackness. The pages that securely held each intimate thought, each dream, each hope for her future—gone. Every page a visit with the man she loved, now forever lost.

“How dare you! You had no right.”

The guide ignored her as he resumed the scuttle forward.

Fury pushed Isa now. That diary had meant more to her than this dark figure could know. When at last he stopped and stood beneath the low branches of a forest to scrape the wild heath off his clothes, Isa circled to confront him.

At that moment the clouds parted enough to allow a bit of moonlight to illuminate them. And there he was, in glorious detail—older, somehow, and thinner, but the black brows, the perfectly straight nose, the square jaw, and the eyes that with a single look could toss aside every sensible thought she might have. The very man about whom—and to whom—that diary had been written.

Her heart skipped wildly, rage abandoned. “Edward!”

All he offered was confused scrutiny, a glance taking her in from head to foot. She took off her hat and her blonde hair tumbled to her shoulders. In the dim light he might not be able to see the blue of her eyes, but surely he saw her familiar smile, the shape of her face, and the welcome that sprang from the deepest part of her.

The look on his face changed from confusion to recognition. Then astonishment.


She threw herself toward him, and he received her as she dreamed he might one day, with his strong arms enveloping her, his face smiling a welcome. His eyes, if only she could see them better in the darkness, must be warm and happy. She longed for him to kiss her and raised her face, but there the dream ended. He pushed her away to arm’s length.

If there had been any warmth in his eyes a moment ago, it was gone now, replaced by something not nearly as pleasant.

“What are you doing here? I thought it was a fool’s mission to bring somebody in. A girl, no less. And it’s you, of all people!”

She offered a smile. “Well, hello to you too, Edward. After more than two years I’d expected you to be happy to see me. A guide was supposed to take me to you; no one told me it would be you.”

“We’ll retrace right now, young lady.” He took one of her hands and moved away so easily that he must have believed she would follow.

“I’m not going anywhere, except home. If you knew what I’ve been through to get here, you wouldn’t even suggest such an absurd notion.”

“Absurd? Let me give you the definition of the word, Isa. Absurd is smuggling someone into a country occupied by the German army, into a starving prison camp. Do you know how many people have been killed here? Is the rest of the world so fooled by the Germans that you don’t even know?”

“Edward, I’m sure no one on the outside knows everything that’s going on, except maybe Charles. He was in France, caught behind the lines. And now he’s working with the British, not far from where you were born. In Folkestone.”

“Your brother? Working? Now there’s a new concept. He should have talked you out of coming here.”

Isa wouldn’t admit just how hard Charles had tried. “I found my guide through him. Mr. Gourard—”

“Gourard! He was here—he was with us the day my father was shot.”

“Oh, Edward.” She leaned into him. “He told me your father was killed.” Tears filled her eyes, an apparently endless supply since she’d been told the news. “I’m so sorry.”

He pushed her away, but not before she saw his brows dip as if to hide the pain in his eyes. “Look, we can’t stand here and argue. The rain was working with us to keep the sentries away, but if we have to go through that fence when it’s this wet, we’d better go now before it gets worse. We’ve got to keep moving.”

“I’m not going back.” If he knew her at all, he would recognize the tone that always came with getting her way.

He stood still a long moment, looking one direction, then the other, finally stooping to pick up her satchel—now lighter with the absence of one small diary—and heading back to the grassland.

She grabbed his arm. “No, Edward! I won’t go. I—I’ll do anything to stay. I’ve been through too much to give up now.”

He turned on her then, with a look on his face she’d never seen before—and his was a face she’d studied, memorized, dreamed of, since she was seven and he twelve. That the war had aged him was obvious, and yet he was still Edward.

He dropped the satchel to clutch both of her arms. “Do you think I’ll let you walk into a death camp? That’s what Belgium is, even your precious Brussels. Go back home, Isa. Your parents got you out. Before all this. Why would you be foolish enough to come back?”

“I came because of you—you and your family. And because this is my home.”

His grip loosened, then tightened again. He brought his face close, and Isa’s pulse pounded at her temples. But there was no romance in his eyes. They were so crazed she couldn’t look away if she wanted to.

“Isa,” he said, low, “I’m asking you to go back.”

Her heart sped. “Only if you come out with me,” she whispered. Then, because that seemed to reveal too much and yet not enough, she added, “After we get your mother and Jonah.”

He dropped his hands and turned away, facing the grassland instead of the trees.

She could tell him what she had hidden inside her flute; surely that would change his mind about the wisdom of her actions. But something held her back. If she gave it to him now, he might simply accept the flute but return her to the border anyway. No, she wouldn’t reveal her secret. Not yet.

Isa picked up her satchel and started walking—deeper into Belgium, away from the grassland, into the wood that no doubt served a nearby village. Beneath her skirt and blouse, the other goods she carried tightened her clothes so she could barely breathe, but she didn’t stop. She didn’t even look back.

Before long she heard Edward’s footfall behind her. At first they did not speak, and Isa didn’t care. Her journey had ended the moment she saw his face. This was where she’d longed to be. She’d prayed her way across the Atlantic, escaped the wrath of her brother and all those he worked with. Days of persuasion led to downright begging, until she’d tried going around them and contacted Brand Whitlock, the American ambassador to Belgium, to arrange her passage home to Brussels.

But her begging had accomplished nothing.

Yet her journey had not ended there, thanks to the whispered advice of a clerk who worked in Folkestone with her brother. When Charles went off on an errand, another man approached her and spoke the name of a guide who started Isa on the final leg of her journey to Edward’s side.

“We’re coming to the village road,” Edward said flatly. “I was told your papers would give your name as Anna Feldson from Brussels, which match mine as John Feldson. We are cousins, and I am bringing you home from visiting our sick grandmother in Turnhout. There is a German sentry on the other side of this village, and we’ll no doubt be stopped. There won’t be anyone on the street at this hour, which is a good thing because even the locals won’t trust us. Nobody likes strangers anymore, especially this close to the border. So if we do see anybody, keep to yourself and don’t say a word.”

She nodded. A few minutes later the trees parted and she saw shadows of buildings ahead. The rain had let up to a drizzle again, and the moon peeked out to give them a bit of light. She wasn’t soaked through but knew a wind would send a chill, especially now that the anxiety of crawling through the underbrush was behind them.

Edward stopped. “I’m only going to ask once more, Isa, and then I’ll not ask again.” Now he turned to look directly into her eyes. “We have enough darkness left to make it safely. Let me take you back to the border.”

“I can’t,” she whispered. When the crease between his eyes deepened, she said, “This is where I belong, Edward. It must be where God wants me, or I never would have succeeded.”

“God.” He nearly snorted the word before he turned from her and started walking again toward the village.

“Yes!” She hurried to catch up. “If I told you all the ways He’s protected me so I could get this far, you wouldn’t doubt me.”

Edward turned on her. “I refuse to hear it, Isa. God’s not in Belgium anymore; you’ll find that out for yourself soon enough.”

His words stung. God had used Edward to show her His love to begin with, and she knew He wasn’t about to let Edward go. Had Edward let go of God, then? When? And why, when he must need God more than ever if things here were harder than she had imagined?

They walked through the quiet village without incident, the soft leather soles of their wet shoes soundless on the cobbles. The village was so like many others of Belgium: a few small homes made of familiar brick, a stone church with its tall bell tower, and a windmill to grind grain into flour. So different from the frame homes or sprawling businesses Isa had left behind in New York, but so dear that she wanted to smile as deeply as Edward frowned.

At the other end of the narrow village street, there was indeed a German officer stationed on the road. Isa’s heart thudded so loudly in her ears she wondered if she would be able to hear over it, or if the soldier would hear it too.

But he said nothing, not a word, at least not to her. He looked at them, looked at their papers, then asked Edward in rather bad French why they were traveling so early in the morning, having come so far from Turnhout already.

Edward replied that the steam tram was unreliable but that they hoped to reach the next village in time to catch it anyway.

The soldier waved them through.

“That was easier than I expected,” Isa whispered once they were well away.

“Don’t underestimate other soldiers based on that one. A suspicious one with a rifle can do as he pleases.”

But Isa was too relieved to be gloomy. “Amazing how I can still understand you through your clenched jaw, Edward.”

Edward didn’t look at her. “We have to be in Geel in less than an hour if we expect to make the tram.”

They made their way in silence, under sporadic drizzle and meagerly emerging sunlight. When at last they came to the next town, it was quiet until they reached the tram station, where soldiers outnumbered civilians. So many soldiers did what the rain couldn’t: dampened Isa’s spirits.

She had a fair understanding of German, but she could barely keep up. Not that she needed to; the soldiers ignored her, speaking of mundane things to one another, hardly worthy of interest. She prayed it would stay that way, that she and Edward would be invisible to each and every armed soldier.

A commotion erupted from the front of the platform. German commands, a snicker here and there. Silence from the civilians.

A man not much older than Edward was forced at gunpoint to open the packet he carried, to remove his coat and hat, even his shoes. A soldier patted him from shoulder to ankle.

Isa could barely watch and wanted more than anything to turn away. To run away. She told herself to look elsewhere, to allow the victim that much dignity, but was transfixed by the sight of such a personal invasion. Her throat tightened so that she couldn’t swallow, could barely breathe. She couldn’t possibly withstand such a search, and not just for modesty’s sake. “Edward . . .”

“Keep your eyes down and don’t say a word.”



A tram entered the station and the man was allowed to board, everyone else soon following. Edward nudged Isa and they took seats.

The secret goods beneath Isa’s cloak and clothing clung to her skin, as if each sheet, each letter were as eager as she not to be noticed. She feared the slightest move would sound a rustle. Carefully, slowly, she stuffed her satchel beneath the seat, wanting to take comfort that it had escaped notice. If her flute was looked at with any scrutiny . . . She couldn’t bear to think of it.

The vehicle rumbled along far slower than the pace of Isa’s heartbeat. She wanted the luxury of looking out at the land she loved, the fields and the villages, the rooftops and steeples, the mills and the farms, but her stomach didn’t allow her eyes to enjoy any of it. At each stop a few soldiers departed, but new ones joined them. She tried not to study what went on, at least not conspicuously, but longed to learn how the soldiers chose which civilians to search. It appeared entirely random. More men were searched, but women weren’t spared. One holding a baby was made to unswathe her child, who screamed and squirmed when jostled from its secure hold.

Isa did as Edward told her, kept quiet, eyes cast downward or upon the passing landscape that under any other circumstances would have been like a gift from the finest art palette. One hour, then two. After the third she could stand it no longer. Surely they were near their destination? But she had no idea how far Louvain might be at the rate they were going with so many stops and searches. No doubt they could travel more safely by foot without losing much time.

Six times she nearly spoke, to urge Edward to take her out of this tram. Six times she held back. But one more search and she could resist her impulses no more.

“I—I must get off the tram, Edward. I’m sick.”


“Yes, I must get away from—” She wanted to say away from the soldiers but dared not in case any of them spoke French and overheard. “I must get away from this awful tram. The stop and go is making me ill.”

“Another hour. Surely you can last?”

She shook her head even as from the edge of her vision she saw a soldier looking her way. How do you not look guilty when you’re completely, utterly, culpable?

Isa stood as the tram came to a slow stop at the next intersection. She kept her back to the soldiers, jumping to the ground just as soon as it was safe to do so. Then, without waiting for Edward, she walked forward as if she knew exactly where she was going.

She walked a block, well out of sight from the disappearing tram. There she stood . . . not amid one of the lovely villages, with their ancient way of life so quaintly preserved and appreciated. Instead, she found herself at the end of a row of destruction. Crumbling homes, demolished shops. Burned ruins of a town she once knew. Aerschot, where she’d dined and laughed and dreamed of walking the street with Edward’s hand in hers.

A moment later Edward’s shadow joined hers. “Are you positively mad?”

“We’re in Aerschot?” she asked, barely hearing his question.

“Obviously. And several hours’ walk from Brussels. Do you know how ridiculous that was? We don’t need any complications, Isa.”

She faced him. “Your contact didn’t tell you what I’d be carrying, did he?”

Suspicion took the place of the anger on his face. “What?”

“Well,” she began slowly, “I would try to show you, but among other things, I’m afraid I’d never get everything back in place.”

He let out what she could only call a disgusted sigh as he ran a hand through his dark hair—hair that seemed thinner and yet sprang instantly back into place, symmetrical waves that framed his forehead, covered his ears. He needed a haircut, but she found she liked the way he looked too much to think of changing anything, even the length of his hair.

“Isa, Isa,” he said, shaking his head all the while. “I should make you take out every scrap and burn it right here and now. Do you know what could have happened if you’d been searched on that tram?”

“Which is why we’re no longer on it.”

“You might have warned me!”

“I tried!”

He paced away, then turned to stand nearly nose-to-nose with her again. Not exactly the stance she’d dreamed of when she’d imagined him at such close proximity, but it sent her pulse racing anyway.

“You could have been shot. Do you know that? Shot.”

She nodded. “They warned me.”

His brows rose and his mouth dropped open. “Then why did you agree to the risk?”

“Gourard told me there are no newspapers, no information at all about what the rest of the world is doing to try to save Belgium and end this war. How have you lived so long without knowing what’s going on? I have the best portions of a couple of recent newspapers. And I have letters, too. Letters from soldiers. Don’t their families deserve to know they’re all right?”

“It doesn’t matter what I think. Gourard shouldn’t have taken your life so lightly or trusted such things to a young, naive child.”

“Child! I’m perfectly capable of deciding what risks I will or won’t take. I’m the one to decide what I will or won’t do for Belgium.”

“It was bad enough for you to come back, but to bring contraband—it’s beyond foolish.”

“Edward, don’t be angry with me. I’ll deliver the letters and then be done with it if you like, if it’s too dangerous for us. But I won’t abandon what I brought with me.”

“I don’t care about the risk for me. I’ve done so many things the Germans could shoot me for that one more thing doesn’t matter. It’s you. Maybe the Germans wouldn’t shoot you—being just a girl—but who knows?”

“I’m not—” . . . just a girl. But she didn’t bother with the words. She doubted they’d convince him.

She looked away, embarrassed. All she could think of when she agreed to smuggle the letters was how desperately she had wanted news of him and how other families cut off from their loved ones must be desperate too. She couldn’t have refused to take a chance with the letters and lived with herself. “I agreed to take the risk for the same reasons you’ve taken so many. Your mother and father didn’t teach values only to you and Jonah, you know.”

He emitted something between a moan and a laugh, then took her arm. “We’re going somewhere for you to take out the letters. And the newspaper clips.”

“But, Edward—”

He looked at her then, and she could see he was not to be argued with. “I’ll carry them in my cloak. It won’t be the first time.”

Monster Armored Cars Used by British in Charge on the Somme

Called “tanks” by those who’ve seen them, Allied soldiers themselves refer to these huge traveling fort machines as “Willies.” Driven like motorcars but able to scale barbed wire, leap trenches, knock down houses, and snap off tree limbs, they are a formidable weapon indeed and will no doubt play an important role in the defeat of the Germans.

La Libre Belgique

Bookfool's note: I started reading Whisper on the Wind on Saturday and am enjoying it. My review will follow when I finish the book.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fiona Friday - Alert Level . . . Plus, Best-Laid Plans

Most of the time, Fi is on High Alert, thanks to the little nuisance known as Isabel.

But, sometimes she just can't take it, anymore.

Meanwhile, Isabel is growing like a weed. I'll share a photo or two of her, sometime soon, but I really don't want this to turn into an all-cat blog. Which leads to part two of my subject line:

The Best-Laid Plans Go Glug, Glug, Glug

I seem to be coming out of my summer reading slump, with the help of some wonderful children's books. This week, I read The Coffin Quilt by Ann Rinaldi about the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys, Ten Big Toes and a Prince's Nose (a storybook for ages 4-7 that is utterly delightful), and Inside Hurricanes (for older kids). All were wonderful and I don't feel so bogged down, anymore, in my reading. However, Monday Malarkey didn't get me back in the swing of writing, unfortunately.

Sometimes, if I just step away from the blog and write the old-fashioned way -- with pen and paper -- I can write a review when I'm unable to start typing. So, I'll give that a try, this weekend. Please wish me luck. I'm missing all my blogging buddies. When I can't get myself to type a review, I tend to walk away or just read blogs without commenting or (eeks) play Mafia Wars. I'm still in fly-on-the-wall mode when it comes to other blogs and I've leveled up a dozen times in Mafia Wars, this week. Somebody kick me.

Since quite a few people have asked me to share more photos of London, here's one for the road: Trafalgar Square in the rain.

This photo was taken from the steps of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church, where we were awaiting entry to attend a candlelight concert by The Belmont Ensemble of London. Baroque music! It was breathtaking.

Happy Friday!

Bookfool and Kitties

©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, September 13, 2010

Monday Malarkey

I'm still battling a late-summer slump (yep, it's still freaking hot down here in the underbelly of the nation) but I don't want you guys to think I've completely abandoned my blog. That's not my intention, anyway. However, I don't have the energy for Book Blogger Appreciation Week, this year, so I'm just going to carry on as usual and try to get at least 3 reviews written, later this week. Happy BBAW to book bloggers everywhere!

First the bookish malarkey:

I've finished reading Simon Van Booy's Why We Fight and enjoyed it. As soon as I get myself percolating, I'll write a review. Writing a Monday Malarkey post is at least in part designed to force myself to write something, anything. I think I've just gotten a little out of the habit.

Last night, I finished reading London's Strangest Tales by Tom Quinn. I plan to review that, as well as Man Gave Names to All the Animals by Bob Dylan, illustrated by Jim Arnosky (a children's book), this week.

And, now the babble:

Reading slumps suck!! But, you knew that. I don't go through reading slumps often but if I'm really scheduled there are times that my brain just refuses to read anything at all that isn't urgently calling out to me. To try to overcome that, I've dumped a lot of books, this summer, allowing myself to move on whenever one's not grabbing me. It took me a while to give in and start laying books aside, but I think doing so has helped and my reading is finally starting to pick up. Now, of course, I'm way behind on reviews so I'm getting much more serious about not accepting books. Feel free to lay odds on my success or failure.

This got in the way of my reading, too:

But, man, what a great excuse to not read, being exhausted after a day of zipping around London. We had such a great time. One of the coolest things I saw? People reading everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. I saw people reading while they walked and ducking under eaves to read when it rained, reading whenever they had to wait (in restaurants, at the theater, you name it). And, of course most everyone was reading whenever they were on the train or waiting on the train or sometimes going up the escalator.

I'm very envious of the fact that publishers in Great Britain put out new releases in paperback. I am a diehard paperback gal -- I don't like hardbacks at all -- so if I could have stuffed more books in my bag, I would have bought more of the titles I'll have to wait a year or more to see in paperback, here. Not that I needed them, but it would have been fun.

Seriously, just babble:

Yesterday, I stayed home while my husband dropped off Kiddo at school (he was home for the weekend) because I needed to stay home to make sure I made it to Bible study. The guys dropped by the Celtic Festival in Jackson and found a patch that said my mother-in-law's maiden name is Scottish. "So," said my husband, "the next time I'm in Scotland, I can get the kilt."

I wasn't quite sure what to say to that, so I just said, "Uh, okay," and then he went on: "I always knew there must be a reason I long to play the bagpipes." Okay, that cracked me up.

Kitty news:

Things are improving, little by little. Fiona still needs her quiet time at night, when Isabel goes to her own room (which, by the way, contains food, water, toys, a bed, a scratching post and a litterbox -- it's a little difficult finding the room to step around all that stuff to do the laundry, these days), but when they're together the harmonious stretches seem to be lasting a little longer each day. You can see why Fiona might find little Isabel a bit irritating:

I'm really quite proud of my little Fi for putting up with Isabel so nicely. Tomorrow marks two weeks as a two-cat family! I'm excited. I really think they're doing well. And, anyway, there is no way I can fathom making poor Izzy go to The Barn of Doom. She is a sweet kitten and deserves a decent home.

Off to read. Hope everyone has a fabulous week!

Bookfool, trying to deserve her name

©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, September 10, 2010

Fiona Friday - By Appointment to Her Majesty

Fiona made herself at home in a Fortnum & Mason bag (from London), this week. Maybe she wanted to leave the country to get away from Isabel.

©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, September 07, 2010

Peter Pan and Wendy by J. M. Barrie

Peter Pan and Wendy by J. M. Barrie
Illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Sterling edition, copyrighted 2004 (illustrations)/2010
Sterling Children's Books
216 pages, incl. foreward by David Barrie

I could gush all day about the illustrations in this edition of Peter Pan and Wendy, but let's start out by talking about the story. Everyone has heard of Peter Pan, right? Of course you have. I've intended to read this children's classic for quite some time, but simply hadn't gotten around to doing so. Thanks to Sterling Kids, I got the nudge I needed when they sent me a copy of this stunning edition that celebrates the upcoming 100th anniversary of the novel.

When Peter Pan flies into the window of the Darling children's nursery, Mrs. Darling slams the window and traps Peter's shadow. She means to tell Mr. Darling, but the subject frightens her just a bit; and, before she has a chance, Peter returns for his shadow and her children fly away with him to Neverland. Neverland is an adventurous world where a half-dozen Lost Boys look to Peter as their leader, a magical place of fairies, mermaids, pirates and redskins. When Wendy becomes the mother to the Lost Boys, Tinkerbell is envious and stirs up trouble. Meanwhile, the notorious Captain Hook intends to get his revenge, once and for all, on Peter for lopping off his hand. Will Wendy's presence weaken Peter's resolve? Or, is Peter simply too cocky for his own good?

Anyone who has seen the movie knows the general storyline but there is so much more to this book that I'm actually concerned that mentioning those little bits that make it special would ruin it for those who haven't read the classic. I'm glad I didn't know too much going into the book. There are plenty of surprises. For one thing, I had no idea the oft-repeated words "astonishing splashes of colour" came from Peter Pan and Wendy. And I didn't pay much attention to the fact that the children's nurse was a dog. Nana's part in the story was really quite funny.

I was also unaware that the full title of the story is Peter Pan and Wendy and that Wendy had such a prominent role. In fact, Wendy is lured to Neverland by promises that she can mend the Lost Boys' socks and do other household chores. When I wrote my review of the book at Goodreads, I skimmed a few other reviews and found that some people consider the book "sexist" or offensive. It did bother me a bit, at first, that Wendy's sole purpose was to play the mother and do all the work keeping house, but then it occurred to me that little girls at least used to pretend to do just that. I "played house", pretending to feed and tend my "babies", sewing little outfits for my dolls and bathing them in the sink. Maybe little girls don't do that anymore, but if nothing else the story was certainly a product of its time.

The biggest surprise to me was that the real book is dramatically different from and much, much better than the Disneyfied version. Peter Pan was never one of my favorite Disney movies, I must confess, and I'm still not fond of the idea of a little boy who refuses to grow up. But, you simply cannot beat the beautiful language of the classic and the surreal, wacky world. I definitely wasn't expecting an Alice-in-Wonderland-like, sometimes nonsensical story; although, who knows what I expected. Perhaps a more straightforward storyline, a bit magical but without that strange cross between dream and reality. I was also surprised by the violence, but being a person who avoids violence in books and movies, I suppose I'm always caught off-guard when there's a bit more than expected.

A side note: I began reading the book at home and then read part of the book on my husband's iPad on the plane flight to London. When I switched to the iPad version, I desperately missed the beautiful illustrations. I hardly read a word while we were in London, which was great because Robert Ingpen's illustrations are fabulous and I was happy to finish up by reading the book with the pretty pictures.

The bottom line: A fun, beautifully written and somewhat surreal classic. I particularly recommend this edition for collecting or gift-giving (or, if you're a sick puppy like me, unwarranted self-indulgence). Some may find either the violence or Wendy's role as mother to the Lost Boys upsetting. I found both a little jarring but the adventurous storyline captured me and I pretty much smiled through the reading of the book. It's really charming in many ways.

Mushy, gushy thanks to Derry and Sterling Children's Books for the surprise review copy!

In other news:

My life is currently completely dominated by two kitties duking it out. Argh. I truly had no idea what I was getting into with Isabel. Behind that cute little face is a surprising streak of terror. We have some discipline work to do. Fiona is still a bit miffed but she is definitely the calmer of the two girls. She really is my ideal cat, personality-wise, so it's been rough seeing that vaguely sad glance Fi gives me when Isabel dominates playtime. Sometimes, I have to put Izzy in "her" room (the utility room) to give poor Fiona a break. But, I do think they'll eventually adapt if Fiona doesn't let Isabel beat up on her. She is an awfully mild-mannered little sweetheart, my Fi.

Speaking of the little hellion: Izzy is very curious about the camera.

Fiona Friday will not be forgotten, but it might be posted a tad late. Happy Reading!

Bookfool and Kitties

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