Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Everything Austen II Challenge Wrap-Up

Aha! So it is possible for Bookfool to successfully complete a challenge! Nice to know.

Here are the items I read and viewed for the challenge, with links to my posts:

1. & 2. Emma - the classic novel by Jane Austen and A & E movie

9. Persuasion - the Rupert Penry-Jones movie version on DVD

Only 6 items were required, but I love Jane Austen, so I just kept on reading and watching movies and such till I was satisfied. The last three links all lead to the same post for the convenience of random strangers who might wander into my happy little blog home looking for something specific.

I was going to write about what I liked and disliked, but the truth is that I pretty much enjoyed everything except for the Jane Austen biography on DVD. Each had its strengths and weaknesses. I've recently grown weary of classics with a paranormal twist, such as Emma and the Vampires, but I enjoyed the reading of that title and simply will avoid reading similar titles in the future, at least for the time being.

In other news:

Last night's storm did, in fact, turn out to be quite a doozy. I have a weather radio because we have dangerous storms practically year-round in Mississippi. The radio's warning siren was activated 4 times and frightened the kitties so much they nearly hit the ceiling. Good thing they're short. I borrowed the following image of all 47 tornado warnings covered by Jackson's WLBT weather team to show you what a wild night we had.

Our safe spot is the bathroom so I piled blankets, a comforter and pillows in the tub, put folded towels on the floor for the kitty girls to lie down upon and took a flashlight, a phone, books and a canned drink (you never know when you're going to get really thirsty) into the room. And, then I had a good time reading while Fiona sought an escape route and Izzy snoozed.


I've had a lot of books lingering in my sidebar for a while, so I'm going to attempt to do mini reviews to knock out as many as possible. Are there any particular titles you'd like to read about in depth?

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Jane Things - A biography, The Making of Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion 2007

While I'm waiting for the worst of the storm to arrive (I hear we're likely to have a bit of ducking in store, shortly), I'm going to tell you just a wee bit about some Jane Austen things I've meant to talk about for quite some time.

The first is a bio of Jane Austen, which is included as one of the extras in my 10th Anniversary Limited Collector's Edition of Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version, of course). It is billed as the "new Jane Austen documentary from the Emmy-winning BIOGRAPHY series".

Well, my friends, that sounds like a case of too big for your britches, after viewing the bio. I just can't think of a better descriptive term than "sucked". It was truly awful, not in any way fresh or revealing, and the visuals were horrendous. To avoid putting a face to Jane, every time they showed an image of an actress playing Jane, the image was deliberately blurred. Sheesh. That makes for some pretty pathetic viewing and the bio itself was all rehash.

After viewing the Jane bio, I cleared my palate with a viewing of yet another extra in my anniversary edition, a film about the making of the same film version of Pride and Prejudice. The "making-of" was absolutely enthralling and well made up for that sucky bio. Several members of the cast shared their experiences: Lucy Briers (Mary Bennet), Alison Steadman (Mrs. Bennet), Benjamin Whitrow (Mr. Bennet), Adrian Lukis (Wickham) and David Bamber (Mr. Collins -- and, wow, he looks great when he's not playing an obsequious little toady).

The story of how that particular version of Pride and Prejudice came into being, how the locations were chosen, etc., is all quite fascinating and if you can get your mitts on a copy, I highly recommend it. My 10th-anniversary set also included a companion book, The Making of Pride and Prejudice by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin(shown at left) and I plan to read that, but not as a part of the Everything Austen II Challenge, which I'll wrap up with a final post linking up to everything I've read and viewed.

Last but not least, I checked out the more recent version of Persuasion, starring Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot and Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth. And, I am torn. There's such a huge difference between the 2007 Penry-Jones/Hawkins version and the 1995 Root/Hinds version I reviewed a while back that it kind of stunned me.

Here are my thoughts, though. In the 1995 version, I thought Anne was a little too subdued and unemotional but the film was admirably accurate to the storyline and the lack of emotion is probably, in fact, more in line with the subtleties of Austen. At any rate, it is certainly well done, but I would have liked to see a little more emotion on Anne's part, at least at times when she was not in the presence of The Captain Who Made Anne Swoon.

And, the Penry-Jones/Hawkins version (ITV, 2007)? Well, when it comes to emotion, they really went whole-hog. As to the accuracy; I'm afraid that's sadly lacking. And, of course, those of you who have seen Anne runnning through the streets shared a good laugh with this viewer. But, it's still awfully fun to watch and who can look at that photo of Penry-Jones and not think, "Oooh. Ahhh." Not I.

I'll have to stop, here, as my weather radio has just screamed that we're under a tornado warning and that means I must shut down the electronics and duck. The official wrap-up will come in a later post.

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday Post-Turkey Malarkey

I'm back! Did you miss me? I missed you. Mwah.

Okay, enough of that mushy stuff. I hope all of the Americans had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. We had fun. Part of our week was spent doing some of that mad housekeeping and clutter removal that goes on when there are actually two willing adults present. Let's face it, I'm just not great at doing clutter removal on my own. So, I had a little help. Nice. And, then we did a quick up-and-back trip to Oklahoma to dine with the in-laws (excellent meal, great company), snap pics of the Golden Driller (above) and, apparently, make our clutter problem worse.

Guilty, as charged. The damage, top to bottom:
  • Castle Dor by Arthur Quiller-Couch and Daphne DuMaurier
  • The Artificial Man by L. P. Davies
  • Gerald: A Portrait by Daphne DuMaurier
  • Promised Land by Connie Willis and Cynthia Felice
  • Light Raid by Connie Willis and Cynthia Felice
  • The King's General by Daphne DuMaurier
  • Haunted and
  • Dime Store Magic, both by Kelley Armstrong
  • Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham
  • Consequences by Penelope Lively
  • Devil May Cry by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Good heavens. Do you realize this means I have to dig up 120 books to get rid of? 10 for every 1 brought into the house. Rather hard to fathom, but I think I know my chore for the week. However, I did part with 6 books, last week. That gets us down to 114, if I can still subtract, although I'll have to peek back at recent posts to see whether or not I've mentioned everything that has arrived in the mailbox. In case you're interested, most of the books above came from Gardner's, a delightful secondhand bookstore in Tulsa. A few were remainders and some were foolish full-price purchases, but I don't do that often so I think I can be forgiven. You'll have to ask my spouse.

I obviously have a weakness for Daphne DuMaurier's books and some of you know I've recently become a crazed Connie Willis fangirl, so that explains the two books co-written by Willis. As to the others . . . I loved the one book I read by Penelope Lively, although I can't seem to extract the title from my brain. My friend Mike has been pushing me to read The Yiddish Policemen's Union for two years and I am determined to find something to love by Sherrilyn Kenyon because she used to be in my (former) writers' group and she is such a sweet, funny, cool lady that I desire to love her books. I confess I haven't succeeded at loving her books, so far, but I'm going to keep trying. The Kelley Armstrong books gave no hint as to order, so I wild-guessed, didn't succeed, and now will have to find the first two books in the Women of the Otherworld series. [muffled curses]

In spite of the fact that I had plenty of reading time, I only managed to finish one book, last week: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. And, guess what? It was a library check-out. So, I can't swap it or give it away, but wow . . . Before I Fall is definitely a title worth checking out. The story of a teenager who dies and then keeps reliving the day of her death until she figures out what she must accomplish, the book is consistently surprising and nicely written. I've already added Lauren Oliver's second book -- which has not yet been released -- to my wish list.

I am on the verge of finishing The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, which is also engrossing and beautifully written.

As I write, I am in a cat-less home. We boarded our little darlings for a few days and they can't be picked up after noon on Saturday, nor at all on Sunday. Misery! It is way too dull without cats in this house.

In case you're interested, in this photo Fiona was watching an anole lizard and Isabel was watching Fiona's tail slap back and forth. At one point, Izzy got a mouthful of tail, which was followed by a mild set-down by Fi (a swat on the top of the head).

I guess that's about all the malarkey I've got, for now. I'll return to whipping out reviews, ASAP - maybe even later today. We shall see. Did you do anything exciting, last week?

Update: It's supposed to storm all day (rain has just arrived, as I type), so I have a feeling my review plans are about to be thwarted. The kitties are home!! They're sniffing everything to make sure it's real and happily chasing each other. Also, I neglected to mention a second book I finished, early last week: Fade by Lisa McMann. I feel slightly less the slacker knowing I managed to finish 2 books, not 1.

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Break for the holiday

Taking a break to enjoy having the family around. Happy Thanksgiving to the Americans!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Désirée by Annemarie Selinko

Désirée by Annemarie Selinko
Copyright 2010
Sourcebooks - Historical Fiction
Originally published in 1953
591 pages

There's a scene in Désirée, which is far too long to copy for the purposes of review but one of my favorites from the first time I read the book -- probably in the 70s. In this scene, Désirée is outside her home in Marseilles and, as she talks, she is also following the progress of a beetle across a picnic table. When I think of Désirée, that is the scene that comes to mind because I recall my fascination at the way the author seamlessly melded the beetle's antics with the conversation taking place. I wanted to write like that! Still a favorite, many decades later, I came out of the most recent reading with entirely different feelings about it. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Désirée is the fictional account of the life and loves of Bernardine Eugenie Désirée Clary, daughter of a wealthy silk merchant in Marseilles, France, first love of Napoleon Bonaparte and, eventually, the Queen of Sweden. It's not entirely accurate and the author admitted she took the raw facts and told the story as she desired it to have happened. A quick perusal of the Wikipedia entry about Désirée made the differences clear.

But, the general framework in which the story is set -- as Désirée and a young Corsican named Napoleone Buonoparte fell in love during the tumultuous days after the Revolution -- through the rise and fall and rise and fall of Napoleon, throughout Désirée's marriage to a brilliant general who became the Crown Prince of Sweden and then king . . . the basic skeleton is there and the book serves as a decent starting point for learning about the Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. It's a time period I tend to avoid reading about -- such a violent, horrific time for France -- so I deliberately checked Wikipedia to learn what was real and what was not. I would caution those who know history well to go into the book knowing it's not wholly accurate.

As the book opens up, young Désirée (then known as Eugenie) is preparing to go with her sister-in-law to request the release of her brother Etienne from prison. I love the opening paragraph:

A woman can usually get what she wants from a man if she has a well-developed figure. So I've decided to stuff four handkerchiefs into the front of my dress tomorrow; then I shall look really grown up. Actually, I am grown up already, but nobody else knows that, and I don't altogether look it.

The book is written as a series of lengthy diary entries and, thus, is told entirely from Désirée's point of view. At the prison, she meets a young guard named Joseph after falling asleep while waiting to see Deputy Albitte about her brother's imprisonment. Her sister-in-law, Suzanne, leaves Désirée behind when her turn to see the deputy comes up and she is unable to wake Désirée. By the time she awakens, it has become dark and the crowd is gone. Joseph offers to escort Désirée home and she thinks it best to trust him rather than risk walking alone. He tells her about his younger brother, a general, and Désirée is captivated. Plus, her sister Julie really needs a husband. So, she invites Joseph and his general brother for dinner.

The younger brother is, of course, Napoleon. As Julie is romanced by Joseph (primarily for her dowry), Désirée finds herself falling madly in love with the general. Eventually, Désirée and Napoleon become engaged but Josephine de Beauharnais enters the picture and Napoleon, driven to succeed, marries her for her connections. The marriage of Julie and Joseph connects Désirée and Napoleon for life; and, they continue to cross paths until his final exile and death on the island of Saint Helena.

What I love about Désirée:

I've always felt like reading Désirée brought the Napoleonic era to life. When I first read the book, I had already fallen in love with historical fiction but Désirée was somewhat different than other stories I'd read. It is not only the story of a lost love, but a view of life in France during that time period and the fascinating parallel between Napoleon's life -- as he conquered nations, crowned himself Emperor of France, and passed out royal titles to relatives and friends like candy -- alongside Désirée's rise as the wife of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, a man who would be adopted by the king of a struggling Sweden and eventually become the leader of a country that desired his expertise to save Sweden from debt and potential occupation with his insider knowledge of politics and war. Fascinating stuff.

What surprised me about Désirée, upon this recent reading:

Although Désirée is one of my most-read books and I've bought and given away more copies of it than any other book, I was kind of surprised that I enjoyed it when I read it at such a young age. There are many conversations about about war and politics, both of which tend to bore me. I didn't love Désirée any less, though. Désirée has an important place in my reading history and I think you could say I was determined to love it just as much as ever and, in the end, I did. I no longer think of it as a love story, however. It's a story of interconnected relationships, a view of a particular time and place, and a fascinating study in how the reason of one man won over pure maniacal drive of another -- and how one woman was connected to those two men.

The bottom line:

I love Désirée and highly recommend it to historical fiction fans. There's a depth to the intrigue and political dialogue that can be a bit tiring but I'm finding myself less patient with detail as I age. I didn't feel that way at all the first half-dozen times I read Désirée and I still love the book. It left me with a yearning to revisit some of my other all-time favorites, like The Count of Monte Cristo.

A side note:

At the age of 17, I spent a weekend in Paris as a side trip from London with my childhood best friend, Diana (who, incidentally, ended up with my mother's copy of Désirée). I was staying in London with Diana and her father, who lived and worked in London at the time. I didn't see Napoleon's tomb, didn't walk into the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, but I did manage to walk around the Tuileries, along the Seine, and other places Napoleon and Désirée would have walked. Someday, I'd love to return. My stay was brief but very satisfying.


Is there any particular location you've traveled because of a book, or that you still yearn to visit after reading about it?

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes & an F2F Report

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes
Copyright 2005
Hodder & Stoughton - Historical Fiction (Post WWII)
482 pages

'Do you fancy going to one of these lectures?' Jean shouted, chewing gum as they made their way past the projection room. 'There's one on the strains of marrying a foreigner, next week.' Her voice, as it had all morning, carried over the noisy vibrations of the engines and the repeated piped calls, summoning Petty Officer Gardner or special sea dutymen to the commander's office.

Avice pretended not to hear her.

'I quite fancy the one on common difficulties in the first year,' Jean went on. 'Except our first year has been dead easy so far. He wasn't even there.'

--from The Ship of Brides, p. 91

But it was really the ship she loved: the size of it, like a leviathan, surely too huge to have been created by mere men, propelled by an epic strength through the roughest seas. She loved the scars, the streaks of rust that, despite years of painting and repainting, were visible on her skin, testament to the time she had spent at sea. Frances loved the infinite space visible all around her, the sense of boundless, irrevocable movement west. She loved the sense of possibility that the ship bestowed on her. The nautical miles and unfathomable fathoms that it opened up between her and her past as it glided through the water.

--from The Ship of Brides, p. 236

I wrote a little about The Ship of Brides when I finished reading and that was apparently enough to convince at least a few people to read the book. Maybe I should stick to two-line reviews? Nah.

The Ship of Brides is is a story based on an actual event. After WWII ended, 600 Australian WWII brides took a 6-week journey on an aircraft carrier to Great Britain to meet their husbands and begin their new lives. The story focuses on a set of brides who ended up living as roommates in the aircraft carrier, although you also get a broader perspective of the entire ship's population, as well as an understanding of the captain's frustrations and the thoughts of a marine whose wife found new love and desires a divorce from him so she can remarry and take the children along to the United States.

I could honestly go on all day about how wonderful this book was. The character development, the situations, the dialogue -- both that of the men and women on board -- the many interactions, friendships and even horrors were all utterly believable. There are endings both good and bad for brides on the ship, some of whom receive telegrams saying they're no longer wanted. The captain has his own challenges in a festering wound that he can't have treated because the replacement doctor is useless. He also must deal with the letdown of being forced into retirement.

What I loved most was the complete satisfaction felt upon the book's ending, which is utterly romantic for several of the characters, heartbreaking for others. The ending is absolutely perfect.

The bottom line:

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes is definitely going to end up one of my favorite reads in 2010. I was swept away; I laughed, I cried. Lovely, believable writing and deft characterization with a tremendous amount of both internal and external conflict make The Ship of Brides a perfect read, in my humble opinion.

And, now the F2F report!

Many, many people asked me to share what my first experience with my new Face-to-Face book group was like. First, I should tell you the group read two books: Loving Frank by Nancy Horan and The Women by T. C. Boyle. I managed to check out Loving Frank from my library but didn't locate a copy of The Women. Both are about Frank Lloyd Wright's passion for women and his affairs, although Loving Frank focuses on Mamah, whom many consider the love of his life.

I didn't finish reading Loving Frank and actually had to return it to the library because there was a hold on it, but I knew about the shocking ending (which I won't spoil for those who haven't read it) and the members of the group described a portion as quite graphic and violent, so I'm perfectly happy with not having completed the reading of the book. Our leader encourages members to attend, whether or not they've managed to read a word.

So, what was the group like? They were a hoot! I have never sat with a group of women (and one man -- another fellow was unable to come, so it's not an all-female group) who are so passionate about books. They are noisy and fun, completely willing to accept each other's opinions, diverse as they are. In fact, they get so excited that they just holler right over each other. One woman said she thought Wright was, quite simply, "an S.O.B." and couldn't be convinced to view him otherwise. Almost all had viewed some of Wright's homes and one woman said, "He's gone down a notch in my mind. It'll be hard to look at his homes from the same perspective." Our fearless leader said, "I admire him," and sat quietly smiling.

What a blast!! And, even more fascinating . . . the home in which we met was designed by "a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright," and a man who was associated with Wright in some capacity. I believe the builder studied under Wright, but don't quote me on that. It was designed with the same long, low perspective -- a flat roof, sprawling rooms with high ceilings, the wondrous sense of spaces opening into spaces, and lots of windows placed to let in as much light as possible. The outdoor-indoor concept was evident and the sound of water bubbling in the background was soothing, although one member said, "It makes me want to pee."

Readers, your mouths would have dropped at the sight of the gorgeous floor-to-ceiling built-in shelves in more than one room. If I can talk our leader into letting me take a few photos, in the future, I will. But not till I've been around the group a while and gotten to know everyone. I'm really looking forward to our next meeting, which I'm told will be a relaxed Christmas affair at fireside with eggnog and "spiked and unspiked punch". Woot!

Just walked in, this week:

  • The Dressmaker by Posie Graeme Evans from Atria Books
  • The Pursuit of Happiness by Douglas Kennedy, also from Atria and
  • A Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates from Ecco

In-Out Report:

-9 books donated

-7 books swapped

+3 books from publishers

+2 books from the library sale

Net: -11 books

My goal is to get rid of 10 books for every 1 that comes in. It's going to take a lot more work to get to that point, but I currently have quite an interesting line of stacks to sort through, in my hallway. Wish me strength.

Up next will be my review of Desiree by Annemarie Selinko and I'll attempt to pre-post some reviews before I take off a few days for Thanksgiving holiday. Kiddo is home!! So happy to have him around for a week!


Would you like to read future updates about my F2F group?

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fiona Friday on the wrong day - Tuckered Kitties

Fiona played with her little birdy-on a string so hard that she fell asleep right next to it. She likes chewing on the little loop meant for humans to hold onto as much as the bird itself.

Meanwhile, little Izzyboo conked out underneath a blanket. Awww.

Naturally, there are books in the background in both photos. Figures, eh?

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski (review)

Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America
By Mike Yankoski
Copyright 2005/2010 reprint
Multnomah - Memoir/Christian
235 pages

I sat there in church struggling to remember a time when I'd actually needed to lean fully on Christ rather than on my own abilities. Not much came to mind. What was Paul's statement in Philippians? "I have learned what it means to be content in all circumstances, whether with everything or with nothing." (Philippians 4:11-12)

With nothing?

The idea came instantly--like the flash of a camera or a flicker of lightning. It left me breathless, and it changed my life. What if I stepped out of my comfortable life with nothing but God and put my faith to the test alongside of those who live with nothing every day?

--from the first chapter of Under the Overpass. Read the entire forward and first chapter of Under the Overpass here.

Mike Yankoski was a college student when the epiphany he described above took place. Troubled by "the hypocrisy in my life" and the concern that he wasn't doing enough as a Christian to help others, Mike decided to spend time living with almost nothing, sleeping on the ground and in shelters, carrying his few possessions -- including a guitar for the purposes of begging -- with him. But, he didn't think it would be wise to play the role of a homeless man alone, so he recruited a friend. Together, Mike and his friend Sam spent 5 months on the streets of a number of different cities: Denver, Washington, D. C., Portland, San Francisco, Phoenix and San Diego.

I'm not quite sure why Mike and Sam chose to move around from one city to another, but each city had a unique character in the way residents treated their homeless, how those who lived in each city became homeless (there were quite a few veterans in D.C., for example) and the amount of money they were able to earn by singing for donations or, sometimes, flat-out begging. Most of the time they didn't make enough to get by and they often went hungry or ate very nasty food -- whatever they could acquire with each days earnings.

As they spent nights in a shelter (in Denver, to break into their new life slowly) and then in parks, under bridges and on the streets of their chosen cities, they learned about what the homeless really need, experienced plenty of humiliation and a great deal of personal discomfort, and were deeply touched by a few random acts of kindness.

The bottom line:

An incredibly eye-opening, powerful read. I can't imagine how anyone could close this book and not see the world in a different way and yearn to help in some manner. Not Christian? Personally, I don't think that matters. You can ignore the Christian message and just read Under the Overpass for the glimpse into what life is like for the homeless. You'll get an idea who exactly is adrift and why, find out what you should and shouldn't do to help the homeless, and find yourself very, very thankful for soap, water and food.

The night I finished reading Under the Overpass, I closed the book with a growling stomach. It is still difficult to look at food the same way after reading about what it's like to live without food or have to dive into the garbage to grab someone else's leftovers. I spent a lot of time just looking at my food, that night, thinking about how much a plate of nachos would mean to someone who hadn't eaten all day.

What surprised me about this book:

I was stunned to find that even when they managed to buy food to pack away for later, they had to deal with things like rats . . . on the beach. Ewww.

I was not surprised to learn that a great majority of the homeless are either drug addicted or mentally ill, but I was surprised by the way people treated them. Ignoring them is one thing, but Mike and Sam were constantly told they had to move, denied the opportunity to eat restaurant leftovers that would have gone into the garbage anyway, and heckled. Occasionally, they heard people talking about Christianity -- one time, comparing favorite Bible translations -- but obviously without even contemplating offering food or help to Mike or Sam. They were taken out for a meal once. Here's another passage I love:

An ongoing struggle to find safety, a place to sleep, a bathroom, and food becomes dehumanizing for anyone. One experience at a time, a person's sense of dignity and sense of self-worth gets stripped away. I don't know what the experience would be like for someone who has lived on the streets for thirty years.

But I do know this: blithely allowing this terrible stripping to occur is a blot on the conscience of America, and especially on the conscience of the church. If we as believers choose to forget that everyone--even the shrunken soul lying in the dooryway--is made in the image of God, can we say we know our Creator? If we respond to others based on their outward appearance, haven't we entirely missed the point of the gospel?

--p. 103

What I kept coming back to:

My kids and I (or, maybe just one of my children) were eating outdoors at a local Sonic several years ago when a homeless man showed up and sat down. The outdoor eating facilities are pretty limited but I'd say the fellow was probably about 15-20 feet away from us. His smell was unbearably rank. He wore layer upon layer of clothing (which is enough to make anyone smell bad, in Mississippi, although it was an unusually pleasant day). We were disappointed to find that we couldn't tolerate the smell and had to leave.

It didn't even remotely occur to me that the nicest thing you can do for a homeless person is buy him a meal and talk to him. Yankoski advises readers to talk to the homeless and feed them, take a coat you're not using from your closet and give it to a homeless person on a cold night (but don't go alone), or volunteer at a homeless shelter.

My thanks to Multnomah for the review copy of Under the Overpass. I'm planning to pass this one around to some church friends and I've contacted a friend who does volunteer work at a local shelter. She's going to put me to work, soon.

Fiona Friday will be delayed till Saturday afternoon, but don't worry. It's a comin'.

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski (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:

Under the Overpass

Multnomah Books; Later Printing edition (March 31, 2005)

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael, Marketing and Publicity Coordinator, Doubleday Religion / Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***


MIKE YANKOSKI and his wife, Danae, are both graduate students in theology at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada. Mike is a board member for World Vision, and a frequent speaker for World Vision, Compassion International, Union Gospel Mission, and colleges across North America. The Yankoskis make their home in a community house on Vancouver's east side where they seek to live authentically among people in need.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books; Later Printing edition (March 31, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590524020
ISBN-13: 978-1590524022


by Francis Chan

I would like to write a few words about Mike Yankoski, and then I’ll give some thoughts about his book. . . I am a very skeptical person, and I struggle with cynicism. Like most people, I have heard so many lies that now I have a hard time trusting. I even struggle when reading a good book, because in the back of my mind I’m wondering if the person who wrote it is for real.

So what is it about Mike that inclines me to trust him? The sacrifices he has made.

Sacrifice promotes believability.

The apostle Paul defended his ministry in 2 Corinthians 11 with a list of hardships he endured. It was his suffering for the sake of the gospel that gave credence to his message. Paul showed that he genuinely believed what he taught. Why else would he suffer as he did? His argument in 1 Corinthians 15 is similar as he explains the foolishness of his lifestyle if the gospel isn’t true.

While there are many who say they live for eternity, Mike and his wife, Danae, are among the few I actually believe. Their actions have shown me that I can trust them. You can too.

Now about the book. . .

I was warned when entering seminary that if I was not careful, a dangerous habit could form: I could learn to read the Bible and do nothing in response. I still remember our seminary president warning us that study to the neglect of action becomes easier and easier with each occurrence. We should be terrified if we have mastered the art of becoming convicted and doing nothing in response. Don’t read Mike’s book if you’re not willing to change your attitude and actions toward the homeless.

As a person who considers himself sensitive to the needs of the rejected in our country, I learned from this book that I still have a ways to go. I look forward to seeing the changes God will bring about in my life because of it.

Mike shows much grace in pointing out weaknesses our churches may have in caring for the poor. It is embarrassing to admit, but I have often struggled with pride when encountering the homeless. I can’t say that I usually see them as having equal worth with me, much less consider them as “better” than myself (Philippians 2:3). Like many, I have found myself at times working to avoid rather than seeking to engage.

Far from condemning, this book actually causes me to look forward to my next encounter with those living on the streets. I believe it will do the same for you. As I followed Mike’s journey and tried to put myself in his shoes, it caused me to love Jesus more. As I thought of what a struggle it would be for me to leave my comforts, it stirred a greater adoration toward my Savior, who emptied Himself to dwell with us.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

(1 John 3:16–18)

I pray that the story of Mike and Sam’s five-month journey causes you to eagerly anticipate your next encounter with a homeless man or woman, created in the image of God. —FRANCIS CHAN

Twenty Minutes
Past the World
Real punches aren’t as sharp and clean as Hollywood makes them out to be. They’re much deeper, thicker. If you happen to hear them from close-up, the sound doesn’t give you a rush of adrenaline. It makes your stomach sink.

The punches, screams, cursing, and kicking we witnessed that night in the park were real. The blood was real, too. It was another cold night in San Francisco. . .


I had walked against the wind over to where Sam was sitting, his back up to the concrete and brick wall that circles the planter at the Haight Street entrance to Golden Gate Park. All I’d had to eat that day was a ninety-nine-cent hamburger, and it sat uncomfortably in my stomach. I groaned, stretched, and sat down next to Sam, rubbing my hands together to try to get some feeling back in my fingers.

“You know you’re cold when your fingers are too stiff to play the guitar,” Sam said.

He had laid his guitar carefully across some dead flowers in the planter behind us. Fog billowed high above us, and every now and then, a cold gust pushed trash and dust into our faces. The air was rank with the stench of alcohol, cigarettes, body odor, and joints. Even with the wind it was sickening.

Nearby, six street people played quarters, a game in which the person throwing a quarter closest to the wall but not touching it took everyone else’s quarters. It was a good way to pass the time and make a little cash.

One of the girls threw a quarter that clanked sharply against the wall. A horrible throw. She let out a string of curses, then ambled over to a heavily tattooed guy leaning against a cast iron fence and smoking a joint. She kissed him, not seeming to notice that she was interrupting his conversation with the man next to him.

“Can I have a quarter, baby?” she pleaded, looking into his eyes.

“Sure,” he growled. He reached into his pocket and pulled out two dirty quarters.

The girl snatched them and ran back to the game, ready for the next round.

“You’ll pay me back later,” he yelled after her.

“You bet I will,” the girl said with a wry smile in his direction.

A fresh gust of wet wind pushed me further into my filthy sweatshirt. San Francisco cold is weird—heavy and penetrating. Two months earlier on the streets of Washington, D.C., Sam and I couldn’t do enough to escape the heat.

Sam was talking. “There is this mountain back home we used to hike up early in the mornings just to watch the sunrise. One time we wanted to play worship music up there, so we carried a guitar all the way to the top. But when we got there, no one could play it because we were all so cold.”

Sam looked deeper into Golden Gate Park, stretching away from us for two miles to the Pacific Ocean. “Man. Seems like such a long time ago.”

“Yep, sure does,” I said, my own thoughts turning back to take comfort in familiar wonderings: My family would probably be sitting down to eat dinner together, while my friends back at school might be heading out to watch a movie.

“It sure does,” I said again.

That’s when the chaos hit.

“Who you think you are? You piece of. . . !” Marco, the undisputed leader of the gang at the mouth of the park, was screaming at a guy in front of him. Then with all eyes on him, Marco slammed both fists into the guy’s chest, forcing all the air out of the man with a sickening whoosh and knocking him down.

Instantly the park erupted with screams and profanity as everyone seemingly rushed to join the fight. The coin tossers next to us ran to join in, too, the last throw spinning unheeded until it clinked to a stop.

Within seconds, about twenty guys were throwing punches, kicking, yelling, cursing, and tearing wildly at each other. Dogs barked and snarled. And thirty or so other park people, many of them drunk and staggering, gathered around to cheer.

In the center of it all, Marco was pulling on one end of his victim while the man’s friends were pulling from the other. Allies of Marco saw their opportunity and set about to pound the defenseless man’s face or plant steel-toed boots in his gut.

When blood started dripping onto the cement, the brawl seemed to get more feverish. “Take him in! Take him in!” someone yelled. They wanted to drag their prey deeper into the park, away from the cops or any passerby who might try to spoil their fun.

By now, Sam and I were standing, looking around for a squad car—for any sign that this wouldn’t end with a dead man in Golden Gate Park. Nothing.

“We probably need to get out of here,” I mumbled. Sam agreed.

As we picked up our stuff and shuffled off, the brawl shifted further into the park. All I could think to do was pray—and wonder again what Sam and I had been thinking when we decided to step out of our comfortable world. . . and into this.

A Flicker of Lightning

The idea had dropped into my brain one Sunday morning while I sat in church. The pastor was delivering a powerful sermon about living the Christian life. The gist of it was, “Be the Christian you say you are.”

Suddenly I was shocked to realize that I had just driven twenty minutes past the world that needed me to be the Christian I say I am, in order to hear a sermon entitled “Be the Christian you say you are.” Soon I would drive back past that same world to the privilege of my comfortable life on campus at a Christian college.

Thinking ahead to my next week, I knew several things would happen. I knew I’d hear more lectures about being a caring Christian or living a godly life. I’d read more books about who God is and about what the world needs now. I’d spend more time late at night down at a coffee shop with my friends kicking around ultimate questions and finely delivered opinions about the world.

Then I’d jump into my warm bed and turn out the light. Another day gone.

But we were created to be and to do, not merely to discuss. The hypocrisy in my life troubled me. No, I wasn’t in the grip of rampant sin, but at the same time, for the life of me I couldn’t find a connecting thread of radical, living obedience between what I said about my world and how I lived in it. Sure, I claimed that Christ was my stronghold, my peace, my sustenance, my joy. But I did all that from the safety of my comfortable upper-middle-class life. I never really had to put my claims to the test.

I sat there in church struggling to remember a time when I’d actually needed to lean fully on Christ rather than on my own abilities. Not much came to mind. What was Paul’s statement in Philippians? “I have learned what it means to be content in all circumstances, whether with everything or with nothing” (Philippians 4:11–12).

With nothing?

The idea came instantly—like the flash of a camera or a flicker of lightning. It left me breathless, and it changed my life. What if I stepped out of my comfortable life with nothing but God and put my faith to the test alongside of those who live with nothing every day?

The picture that came with that question was of me homeless and hungry on the streets of an American city.

Hard on the heels of the idea came the questions: What if I didn’t actually believe the things I argued with so much certainty? What, for example, if I didn’t truly believe that Christ is my identity, my strength, my hope? Or worse, what if I leaped in faith, but God didn’t catch me? My mind reeled.

And then there were the practical questions. Could I survive on the streets? How much did I really want to learn to be content always with nothing? What would my friends think? What would my parents think? My pastors? My professors? Would I be okay? What if I got sick? What if I starved? What if I got beat up? What if I froze?

What if I’m wrong?

Am I crazy?

Will I die?

But already, I had decided. I walked out of church that morning seized by a big idea, assaulted by dozens of questions, and sure that I had heard deep in my heart a still, small voice saying, “Follow Me.”

“Why Would You Want to Do That?”

Of course, what my idea might actually require took a while to sink in. I would have to put the rest of my life on hold, leave school, and sign up for months of risk, rejection, and plain old misery. There aren’t too many brochures for that kind of thing.

I started with my family. When I called to give them my long, excited ramble, I heard only silence on the other end. Then a few expressions of stunned disbelief.

“Why would you want to do that?” my dad asked.

Determined to hear him out, I asked him to explain what he meant.

He did. “Why would you want to leave school, leave your friends, leave your family, leave your life, and do this? Why would you put your mother and me through the stress, confusion, and worry? Why would you jeopardize all that you’ve worked so hard for, all that we’ve paid for, all that you have to look forward to—for this? ”

Each of his questions hit home. I thought for a moment. “Well,” I said finally, “that’s sort of complicated. I believe I must. I don’t know for certain yet that I will do this, I still have a lot of people to talk with. But I believe that it is something I must do.”

I would be heading home for the summer in a couple of months at which time my parents said we could discuss this crazy idea a little more. We agreed to talk about it face-to-face. It would be a hard conversation.

I plunged into researching homelessness on the streets of America. I read firsthand accounts, sociological studies, autobiographies of people who had given their lives to work with the homeless and addicted.

Even at first glance, the scope of homelessness in America was much worse than I’d imagined. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, in the United States, more than 3.5 million people experience homelessness during any given year. That means that more than one percent of our population this year will be eating out of trash cans and sleeping under bridges.

Soon I was meeting every month with the director of the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. Then I began volunteering at the mission twice a week to learn more about the men and women who came through its doors.

Over the next year, I probably looked like any other college student—studying hard, playing hard, juggling classes and work. But all the while I kept pushing on my crazy idea. To my surprise, at every turn and with every conversation, the idea was only confirmed. Even people who should have been telling me no encouraged me to press on.

The Counsel of Friends

One day I sat in the office of the president of the Denver Rescue Mission, laying out my thoughts. I figured if anyone would know enough to tell me to turn back, he’d be the one. But after he thought for a while, he looked up at me, puzzled by what he was about to say.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this,” he said, “but I think your idea is a good one. And I have a feeling that it is very important for you to do this. It will be dangerous, of course, and there are no guarantees. But if you plan well, you can succeed. And you certainly won’t come back the same person.”

I walked out of his office convinced for the first time that what I wanted to happen actually would happen. And something else—an invitation to begin my journey by checking in to his facility just like any other transient off the street.

About this time I also became convinced that I needed some kind of advisory group that would give me guidance and hold me accountable. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” I wanted to be wise, and to succeed, and more than that, I wanted to bring glory to the Lord in everything this idea entailed. So I began praying that God would lead me to the right men.

It didn’t take long to develop a list of men who had been, and still were, having a significant impact on my life as a Christian: my campus pastor, my youth pastor, two rescue mission presidents, a close friend from Oregon, and a professor. Each man I talked to responded positively to my proposal and agreed to mentor and advise me.

With their help, I began putting a travel plan together. After considering a lot of alternatives, we settled on six cities: Denver; Washington, D.C.; Portland; San Francisco; Phoenix; and San Diego. These cities seemed representative of the American urban homeless scene as well as being places where I would have a backup personal contact of some kind in case of emergency.

My advisers also helped me fine-tune my overall purpose. We boiled it down to three objectives:

1. To better understand the life of the homeless in America, and to see firsthand how the church is responding to their needs.

2. To encourage others to “live out loud” for Christ in whatever ways God is asking them to.

3. To learn personally what it means to depend on Christ for my daily physical needs, and to experience contentment and confidence in Him.

Enter Sam

Then there was the issue of companionship. Jesus sent His disciples out two-by-two—a model that seemed right for my new undertaking as well. Besides, I wanted a traveling partner. I pictured long, lonely nights huddled in a stairwell. I worried about attacks. Another person would make everything easier.

But a traveling partner turned out to be hard to come by. Some friends I approached didn’t catch the vision. Others couldn’t take time off from school or work. Three months before I was to depart on the streets, it looked as though I would be going alone. And then I met Sam Purvis.

At six-foot-three or so, Sam was big—about the same size as me, which was an added bonus. Two big guys are much less likely to get messed with on the streets. He was easygoing and he needed a haircut. Right away, I saw possibilities.

Sam had gone to the University of Oklahoma for a semester but was taking a semester off. He happened to be on my campus, and heard through the grapevine about my proposed journey. The more we talked, the more interested he became in joining me. I was encouraged by Sam’s excitement about the trip and passion for serving the Lord. Although we only had a few conversations, I felt a real connection and unity in our hearts and vision.

We agreed to take two weeks to think and pray about it, and for Sam to meet with his mentor and pastor back in his Oregon hometown. Two Saturdays later, during a two-hour telephone conversation, Sam and I struck a deal.

Traveling Papers

Sam and I decided we would be gone for five months. We would begin at the rescue mission in Denver, then travel to and live on the streets of Washington, D.C.; Portland; San Francisco; Phoenix; and San Diego.

From the start, Sam and I understood that we would not actually be homeless. We’d only be travelers through this underworld of need—privileged visitors, really, because any time we wished, we could leave the streets and come home. Most people on the streets have no such option.

Yet, as truly as we could, Sam and I wanted to experience homelessness. That meant, among other things, that we’d carry only the bare essentials, taking no cell phones, credit cards, or extra clothes. We would survive as most other men and women on the streets do—panhandling for money, eating at rescue missions or out of garbage cans, and sleeping outside or in shelters.

We would take only what we could carry. Our clothing for the five months would consist of a pair of boxers, a pair of shorts, a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, and a sweatshirt. Add books and journals, and a couple of battered guitars to support our panhandling, and that was it.

We would keep our background and purpose a secret because if a person or an organization knew we were choosing to be homeless, their response to us would be different. As much as possible, we wanted to experience the real thing.

We’d travel by Greyhound Bus, using our panhandling earnings to buy fare between cities. But because we wanted to spend our time homeless in the cities rather than stuck on a bus for two weeks crossing the country, we made two exceptions: we would fly between Denver and Washington, D.C., and between D.C. and Portland.

To stay in contact with our families, our advisers, and those who were praying for us, we’d use e-mail at local libraries plus an occasional phone call. In case one of us got stabbed or needed to make an immediate trip to the hospital, we took enough cash for a one-way cab ride, praying we wouldn’t ever use it (we didn’t).

That left two major purchases for our new life on the streets. A few days before we left, Sam I went down to a local thrift store and bought two sleeping bags (at three dollars apiece) and two backpacks (at four dollars).

Seven dollars each.

We were ready.

Invitation to the Journey

On May 27 we stepped out of our old lives. From then until November 2, Sam and I slept out in the open or in shelters or under bridges. We ate out of trash cans and feeding kitchens. We looked disgusting, smelled disgusting, were disgusting. We were shunned and forgotten and ignored by most people who walked past us—good, acceptable people who looked just like Sam and I used to look, and maybe just like you.

Although our journey took us to many destinations that were challenging, cold, and even brutal—like the night in Golden Gate Park—by God’s grace we did what we set out to do, and learned a lot along the way. For example: that faith is much more than just an “amen” at the end of the sermon on Sunday mornings; that the comfort and security we strive so hard to create for ourselves doesn’t even come close to the “life in the full” that Christ promises; and that God is faithful and good, even when we’re not.

Perhaps you, too, have felt a nudging toward a life on the edge—some place or task in your life where, as Frederick Buechner put it, “God’s great mercy and the world’s great hunger meet.” If you haven’t yet, is your heart open to that moment when it comes?

Either way, I invite you to take this journey with Sam and me through the everyday world of the hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children who make up America’s homeless population. We decided to go past the edge with God. One day soon, I pray you will, too. And when you do, I think you’ll find what we did . . .

A bigger world, and more reason to care for it.

More forgotten, ruined, beautiful people than we ever imagined existed, and more reason to hope in their redemption.

A greater God, and more reason to journey with Him anywhere.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kitty kisses

I've begun my review of The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes, but the draft will have to sit till tomorrow because I have my very first face-to-face book club meeting, tonight!! And, I haven't actually finished reading the book. I have 4 hours. Think I can do it? I'm off to read, but I thought I'd share some kitty kisses with you. This little interaction between Izzy and Fi degenerated into a wrestling match, although it started out cute.

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Merry Sparkling Christmas by Spurr and Madden

Merry Sparkling Christmas by Elizabeth Spurr
Illustrated by Colleen Madden
Copyright 2010
Sterling Kids - Board Book

Things that sparkle, things that shine.
I reach out to make them mine.
Icicles that hang from eaves.
Frozen droplets on the leaves.

A little boy explores his home, admiring the decorations, the city lights he sees through the windows and the gifts beneath his tree until he falls asleep with a smile on his face:

Time for sleep. My day is done
till first rays of the morning sun.
Things that sparkle, things that shine.
I reach out to make them mine.

The image at right doesn't do justice to the colorful, glittery sparkle of Merry Sparkling Christmas. Even on the cover, if you hold the book at the right angle, it appears as if all the ornaments and icicles, lettering and lights are coated in glitter. Fortunately, they're not. You can feel the smoothness of the cover and know your baby or toddler won't end up spitting out bits of glitter or rubbing them into his eyes. Instead, the sparkle just adds beauty to the book.

The rhythm is well done, although not perfect. I love a rhythmic, easy-to-read book for little ones and the combination of that and the sparkly pictures make Merry Sparkling Christmas a fun little book that I'm sure babies will even love "reading" on their own. The illustrations are definitely eye-popping.

The bottom line: Nice rhythmic verse with appealing, glittery and colorful illustrations make Merry Sparkling Christmas a cute little book to buy and read throughout the Christmas season (and probably year-round, if I know little ones well). My only complaint would be that the poor kid is drowning in toys and gifts.

Definitely recommended for the baby or toddler in your life. Some adults may find the sparkle a little annoying, after a few pages. I love shiny, sparkly things, so I had fun reading and admiring the sparkle, although I thought it was a little heavy-handed. My thanks to Katie at Sterling Kids for the review copy!

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Forecasts and Faith by Barbie Bassett

Forecasts and Faith: Five Keys to Weathering the Storms of Life
Copyright 2010
Dogwood Press - Memoir/Christian Faith
176 pages

Barbie Bassett is a Jackson, Mississippi weather forecaster and Dogwood, the publisher of Forecasts and Faith is a local small press (which also publishes my friend John Floyd's wonderful short stories). Barbie's story is, then, the tale of a Mississippian and local celebrity but it's also a nicely written account of one woman's struggle to do what she wanted and be with the man she loved -- and to keep her faith during the times her plan didn't go as intended.

A blend of memoir and advice on faith, the book tells about Barbie's youth in Mississippi as a farm girl who was fascinated with weather but not swayed by the fact that she was overweight and had crooked teeth. She was absolutely certain it was her calling to be a weather forecaster. She obviously got those teeth fixed and blossomed into quite a beauty; and a combination of faith and determination eventually landed Barbie the right job. But it wasn't all peaches and cream. Barbie Bassett had to endure plenty to acquire the job she wanted. That included buying her way out of a 2-year contract at a news station in Tennessee to take a lesser job in Mississippi so that she could marry and settle in with the man of her dreams.

Each chapter of Forecasts and Faith contains a "key to weathering the storms of life" and describes her own need to focus on those particular keys and how each applied to a particular time or trial in her own life.

I particularly loved reading about Hurricane Katrina from her viewpoint. Anderson Cooper's memoir is the only other place I've seen a fair, accurate accounting of the impact Katrina had on Mississippi. This excerpt from Forecasts and Faith explains why the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast (which, as I recall, is a mere 22 miles long) was flattened:

By ten o'clock, Pearlington, Mississippi was getting pounded. That landfall put the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the right front quadrant--the worst possible place to be in a hurricane because it was the area that would receive the highest storm surge, wind damage, and water damage.

Imagine being a newscaster who knew what was coming and had this little problem to think about, as well:

That's exactly where my husband was.

Eeks. Fortunately, her husband, an EMS manager, was safe and sound. But, I'll bet that was one frightening day for Barbie Bassett, who had no choice but to soldier on in one of the most important jobs anyone can have during a hurricane: keeping those in its path informed.

The bottom line:

A quick, enjoyable read about one woman's determination and faith. I'd particularly recommend this to Mississippians because I think it's probably a lot more enjoyable reading about Barbie if you know who she is, but I'm speaking from the perspective of someone who has watched her weather forecasts for years. I can't say how those who aren't familiar with her would feel about the book but I certainly wouldn't advise anyone to avoid it merely because she's unknown to you.

I finished two books, this weekend: Forecasts and Faith was a library check-out and Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski is a review book that I'll post about on the 19th. Isabel kindly posed with both books. Doesn't she look grumpy?

Really, she was just wondering what on earth her human was doing. I have a face that looks grumpy if I'm not grinning, too. Pity. And, here's Fiona with last week's acquisitions, all from Harper:

Top to bottom:

The Mental Floss History of the United States by Eric Sass

Voice of America by E. C. Osondu

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern (a Feb. 2011 release)

That's it for today. I have to bury myself in a couple of books that I desperately need to hurry up and finish, including my first read for the local book club I'm planning to attend, this week. I can't wait! I've never been to a face-to-face book club, before. Surviving Monday, everyone?

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fiona Friday - The Yin Yang Look

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

The Human Bobby by Gabe Rotter

The Human Bobby
by Gabe Rotter
Copyright 2010
Simon & Schuster

General Fiction
289 pages

Bobby Flopkowski has everything a man can want: a lovely wife, a dream house in Beverly Hills and a new baby. He's a successful physician who shares a practice with a good friend. Then Bobby's first love shows up and as one small but meaningful mistake leads to a complicated set of events, disaster and heartbreak, Bobby's life is altered, forever.

At the beginning of this novel, Dr. Flopkowski is a homeless addict living on a beach. He's been sharing a tent with a friend and is completely cut off from his old life. Now, without a wife, a child or a home, he reflects on how his life unraveled and eventually has a revelation about the crime that led to his downfall. Convinced he can get back the life he used to love, Bobby sets out to gather evidence. Will anyone believe Bobby has discovered the truth? Or is Bobby simply too far gone on drugs to know what's going on?

I had a terrible time trying to decide what to write about this book because of its ending. I don't want to give away the ending, but let's just say you're expecting one thing and then the author completely turns the entire concept on its head. Like? Dislike? Rough question. Initially, I was stunned and dismayed by the ending because I felt like Gabe Rotter had been yanking my chain, and yet I flew through the book and felt prone to forgive the ending and mentally rework it on my own. The Human Bobby is well-written with believable, often annoying, characters. As Bobby makes mistake after mistake, you get the urge to talk to him. "Noooo, Bobby! Don't do that! Your wife will never forgive you! That person might be dangerous!" I felt very invested in the life of the protagonist.

So, apart from that ending, I loved the book. I'm still waffling about the ending. If you don't mind having everything thrown totally out the window and a new concept dumped in your lap at the end, The Human Bobby is a good book, a bit of a quick drag behind a fast car and surprisingly hard to put down. But, there seem to be an awful lot of doctor-gone-bad books, so I wouldn't say it's wholly original. The characters are unique, the ending has a "used" feeling and was a bit of a let-down.

The bottom line:

Good writing, interesting characters, and a bit of a page-turner as the reader anxiously speeds to the conclusion. But, that ending . . . I just didn't care for it. The more I think about it, the more I wish he'd taken the reader to the expected ending. However, The Human Bobby would be a decent book club read, simply because I think the reaction to that ending would be mixed and make for interesting conversation. What if it hadn't ended the way it did? One could discuss Bobby's downfall, as well. Did everyone see it coming? What choices should he have made? I think there's a lot of fodder for discussion.

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Detectives Don't Wear Seatbelts by Cici McNair

Detectives Don't Wear Seatbelts
by Cici McNair
Copyright 2009
Center Street - Nonfiction/Memoir
354 pages

Cici McNair grew up a tomboy in Mississippi with a verbally abusive father who told her, when she was a mere 5 years old, that he was going to kill her someday. Determined to escape, she saved money in an envelope tucked into her copy of Kon Tiki and eventually moved away. College in New York, followed by a series of jobs around the world, a short-lived marriage and a string of romances kept her from settling down until a broken engagement in Rome sent her fleeing to New York.

Broke and looking for another adventure, Cici decided to become a private detective. She quickly discovered the world of private investigation is both a man's world and a tight-knit community. It took a lot of determination to get her first job but she found that her journalistic skills and knowledge of the world served her well.

Detectives Don't Wear Seatbelts tells Cici's story, told in 4 parts. The book begins with McNair's first job in New York, followed by several months living with her mother in the Jackson area in Mississippi, working through her feelings about her early life and getting to know her mother as a friend, and then back to New York, where she worked for a different agency and eventually moved on to owning her own business.

What I loved about Detectives Don't Wear Seatbelts:

What a fascinating life Cici McNair has had!! Half the time, you'll wonder if she's even telling the truth, her adventures have been so numerous and dramatic. Obviously, some of the details of her cases and a few names of acquaintances (like, say, that arms dealer who wanted her to travel with him to Eastern Europe the day after she met him) must have been changed. The gist, though, is that she's had a truly amazing life and it's worth reading about.

What I disliked about the book:

Sometimes the talk about her fancy dates and high life did get a little annoying, but maybe that's just because I've had such a bland life by comparison. There were also occasional references to places or terms that were unfamiliar -- and some that I recognized but realized a lot of people wouldn't "get", like her mother's comment, "Let's take the Trace." I knew she was referring to the Natchez Trace, a parkway that follows the historical path from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee (there are places you can hike along the original Trace) but I don't think it's all that widely known. I could be wrong.

The bottom line:

I like this book but I didn't love it, partly because she made me turn a really unattractive shade of Envy Green and partly because there were times I had to reread sentences or paragraphs because I wasn't quite sure what she was saying. But, in general, the book is well-written and utterly fascinating. There's some bad language from her co-workers, which I think you'd have to expect in her line of work.

I recommend Detectives Don't Wear Seatbelts to memoir lovers and those who enjoy reading about the real world of private investigation. Cici McNair has also written some novels, although I'm not certain whether she wrote them under the same name. I'm going to ask her, though -- I liked her writing enough to check out her fiction.

1 down, 9 to go:

I have 8 reviews and 1 DNF post to write, at this point. And, I need to wrap up the Everything Austen II Challenge, which I've completed. Do you think I'll ever catch up? Sometimes I wonder. I'd better go read. I'm perpetually behind on that, too. And, let's don't even get started on blog-hopping. I just noticed one of my favorite bloggers hasn't posted since November 1. Where the heck have I been that it took me 10 days to notice? Somebody kick me. Okay, don't. But, you can chew me out if you'd like to, just for fun.

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Bubbles!! Or, what happens to people (me) when they (I) try to read all day.

Yesterday's personal reading marathon day went quite well. I finished two books, both of which I'd read only a tiny bit of before mysteriously setting them aside:

Why We Need Love, edited by Simon Van Booy

I previously made it to page 7, probably because the excerpt that begins on page 6 is from Silas Marner, a book I've overheard so many teenagers grousing about at the pool that I had it in my head I would never read the story.

Actually, it was really quite touching how the weaver, Silas, claimed the small child who toddled into his home. After I really got going on Silas Marner, the rest of the story was a breeze and then I enjoyed the usual thought-provoking mix of readings that comprised the rest of the book. I've read the entire series of Simon's philosophy books, now, and will review both Why We Need Love and Why Our Decisions Don't Matter, soon.

After I finished reading Why We Need Love, I moved on to

Detectives Don't Wear Seatbelts by Cici McNair.

Cici McNair spent years saving her pennies in preparation for her escape

from Mississippi (her childhood home) and then traveled the world, working a stunning variety of jobs before she found her calling as a private detective.

Detectives Don't Wear Seatbelts tells about how she became a private detective, why she left home and what drew her from one place and job to another before she finally settled down and began her own business.

Like Simon's book, there is really no explanation as to why Detectives, etc. sat in my sidebar and on the floor by my bed for so long. Mood, I guess. It did require a little focus, though, so I think reading it cover to cover in a single day was a good choice. Again . . . review forthcoming.

And, of course there were the bubbles:

This is what happens to a very, very easily distracted chick on a full day of reading. Glance off to the side at your water glass and . . . "Bubbles!! Oooh, those are so pretty. And, look at the window through the glass! Doesn't that look cool, kitties? Must find camera!!!"

"Ooooh, the bubbles look like little jewels!"

I'm sure they'd look even more interesting if I hadn't managed to break my ancient macro lens, a year or two ago. I snapped the photos above with my little point-and-shoot. I'm shopping for a macro lens, now.

But, hey! I had fun!! Two books finished and a bit of fun taking bubble pics! I'm calling Wednesday a success.

Just walked in:

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens - from Knopf Books via Shelf Awareness

Books that have walked out, so far this week:

21 donations
4 swaps
1 book sent to a friend

The Emerald Atlas is the only book that has walked into my home, this week, unless you count this little gem I found in the library sale, which huzzybuns agrees we should frame:

How cool is that? The copyright date is 1953 and the binding is in tatters, but the illustrations are (pun intended) out of this world!

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.