Monday, December 31, 2012

Hello, 2013!

May your year be filled with blessings and love, great reads and happy moments.



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

Books Read in 2012




31. Don't Let the Turkeys Get You Down - Sandra Boynton
35. Living Buddha, Living Christ - Thich Naht Hanh



62. The Lola Quartet - Emily St. John Mandel


76. Courage in Times of Disappointment - George Samuel
77. Alone in Berlin - Hans Fallada (1 paragraph, no full review)
78. Silver Sparrow - Tayari Jones (1 paragraph, no full review)
80. Soft Target - Stephen Leather (1 paragraph, no full review)


86. This Year You Write Your Novel - Walter Mosley (1 paragraph, no full review)



107. The Paris Wife - Paula McLain
108. Hemingway's Wife - Erica Robuck
109. The Exceptions - David Cristofano
110. A Child's Christmas in Wales - Dylan Thomas
111. Puff the Magic Dragon - Yarrow, Lipton and Puybaret
112. Being Frank - Earnhardt & Castellani
113. The Lifeboat - Charlotte Rogan


114. Will You Be My Friend? - Gyo Fujikawa
115. A Christmas Memory - Truman Capote
116. Lola's Secret - Monica McInerney
117. Wait Till Helen Comes - Mary Downing Hahn
118. The Man Who Never Was - Ewen Montagu
119. Ned Kelly and the City of the Bees - Thomas Keneally
120. 11/22/63 - Stephen King
121. Miracle & Other Christmas Stories - Connie Willis
122. When it Happens to You - Molly Ringwald
123. The Four Seasons: Japanese Haiku
124. The Longest Way Home - Andrew McCarthy


125. The Faithful Gardener - Clarissa Pinkola Estes
126. Moranthology - Caitlin Moran
127. Flight Behavior - Barbara Kingsolver
128. Miss Buncle Married - D. E. Stevenson
129. The Dark Unwinding - Sharon Cameron
130. The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas - Julia Romp
131. Aesop's Fables - illustrated by Charles Santore
132. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Barbara Robinson
133. The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories 2 - HitRecord
134. Stable in Bethlehem - Hulme and Andreasen
135. Christmas Magic - Hall and Mendez
136. The Great Christmas Crisis - K. Norman and J. Ho
137. A Pirate's Twelve Days of Christmas - P. Yates and S. Serra
138. Outside In - Maria V. Snyder


139. The Walnut Tree - Charles Todd
140. A Walk in the Park - Jill Mansell
141. Comet's Tale - S. Wolf and L. Parma
142. Underground - Haruki Murakami
143. Bad Cat - Jim Edgar
144. The 13 Clocks - James Thurber
145. Spot the Animals - Illustrated by Steve Jenkins
146. 1-2-3 Dinosaurs Bite! - Illustrated by Steve Jenkins
147. House of Earth - Woody Guthrie
148. News from Heaven - Jennifer Haigh
149. Lucy - Ellen Feldman
150. Letter from New York - Helene Hanff
151. How to Live with a Neurotic Cat - Stephen Baker
152. The Folk Keeper - Franny Billingsley

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays!

 Wishing you a peaceful holiday season and all the best for a wondrous year in 2013.

I will return to blogging in mid-January.  Till then, I'll continue to update my sidebar with finished books but will otherwise avoid the computer.  Merry Christmas!



©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Minis - The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories 2 by HitRecord, Aesop's Fables (illus. by Santore) & Underground by Murakami

These three mini reviews are the last book reviews I'll be doing for the year.  I may post once or twice more and then I'm going on holiday for a few weeks.  I'm already a little late walking away for Christmas season, as I usually do.  

I was extremely excited when I heard the second Tiny Book of Tiny Stories had been released, since the first version was so fun I read it repeatedly and foisted my favorite pages on the spouse.  

And, then I read the book and felt a little let-down. But, that was only my first impression.  There was so much wit and humor in the first Tiny Book of Tiny Stories that I expected the same.  The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories 2 is not quite as witty and a lot of the combined stories and illustrations are a little on the "bummer, this makes me a little sad" side.

However, on the second reading I started to discover my favorites and . . . you've got it . . . foisted them on the spouse.  I only share things I really love with Huzzybuns -- stories or illustrations that make me laugh, smile, or ponder.  And, there were plenty of stories and illustrations that made me smile, although they seemed fewer and farther between.

The difference between Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 of The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories?  Well, there are a couple differences.  In the first release, there was a great deal of work by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, aka "Regular Joe", and he's an extremely clever guy with a terrific sense of humor.  This time, he edited with "wirrow" but didn't contribute, otherwise.  I think wirrow simply has a different way of looking at things, a little more pensive and even sorrowful.  But, The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories 2 is about twice as thick as The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories (the original).  So . . . there's plenty for everyone and I think it's another stocking-worthy book.  I love the mix of art and thought-provoking stories in both books and can't wait for the third and final release.  In fact, I hope they go beyond three publications. Highly recommended (although at first I was hesitant).

Aesop's Fables is illustrated by Charles Santore. Let's just stop right there because the words "illustrated by Charles Santore" are enough to make this gal put on the proverbial brakes.  Have you heard of Charles Santore or picked up a book he's illustrated?  If not, you are missing out on one heck of an eyeball feast.  Santore's illustrations are rendered with enviable skill and beauty, in this case with delightful expressions on the faces of various animals.

There are no humans in Santore's version of Aesop's Fables. Instead, Santore chose a selection of stories, rewrote them in his own words and illustrated with only animals as subjects.

I've always loved Aesop's Fables and have particular favorites.  My personal favorites are still the same, although one is not in Charles Santore's Aesop's Fables and Santore may have either introduced me to a few fables I missed or merely reminded me of their existence.  At any rate, there's not much you can do to screw up Aesop, apart from poorly rewriting the stories and I think he did a decent job, although a "moral" or two was worded differently from the way I learned them.

It's the illustrations that make Charles Santore's books shine and Aesop's Fables is no exception.  Highly recommended, especially for mothers or children who love to stare at the details of gorgeous illustrations.

Underground by Haruki Murakami is the one book I wouldn't advise you to rush out and buy for last-minute Christmas gifting, although Underground is a fascinating read.  It's just that reading about people gasping for breath and going blind is not particularly cheerful reading material.

Underground is Murakami's attempt to understand the Tokyo sarin attack that took place in 1995 by interviewing both people who were poisoned or close to a victim and some of the Aum cult members, none of whom were directly involved in the poisoning.  He also spends a little time evaluating what went wrong and how to avoid such disastrous results if they were to recur.

I knew very little about the sarin attack -- or, coordinated attacks, I should say.  The puncturing of bags full of sarin took place in a number of different trains.  Death and injury in the subway trains and various stations were due to a combination of ignorance (no knowledge of sarin's effects, in spite of a previous attack), very poor communication, the lack of preparation for large-scale disaster and the Japanese tendency to stick to routine in spite of some pretty dramatic signs of danger or illness.

Underground started out a little slowly for me.  I'm not sure what I expected, but in many cases the personal accounts were rather bland.  Relatively few of the victims were even willing to speak to Murakami because they didn't want to think about their experience, much less discuss it.  However, there are a few accounts that are incredibly moving, particular those of the brother of a woman who was still barely able to move or communicate when the book went to press (but remained stunningly cheerful), the young widow of a man who died and the young man's parents.  The section with interviews of people who belonged to Aum is fascinating for the look into the personalities and why people join such a group, as much as the machinations of cult life and the attack.

I thought it was particularly interesting to hear the thoughts of one woman who had lived in the U.S. for a year  She said if the same thing happened in America, people would have reacted with urgency and noise, speaking up about feeling ill and insisting on immediate action.  I can't argue with that.  I spent a lot of time imagining what the response would be like elsewhere before I got to her comment.

Highly recommended - An interesting view inside both the lives of people who were affected by the sarin attack and those who were involved in Aum (which I think the government of Japan eventually gave religious status and which apparently still exists under a new name and leader, although it has all the hallmarks of a cult).

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Two board books I love: Spot the Animals and 1-2-3 Dinosaurs Bite, both illus. by Steve Jenkins

The following books are both board books that would make excellent last-minute gifts or stocking stuffers, if you're in need of ideas for a baby, toddler or preschooler. 

Spot the Animals is a "lift-the-flap" book in which an animal is hidden behind a beautifully illustrated flap, cut to fit the shape of whatever the animal is hiding behind (leaves, coral, rocks).  I couldn't find any decent images online, so I snapped my own.  I think it's best just to show you a little from the inside.  You should be able to click on each image to enlarge.

There are six animals and colors in Spot the Animals.  In the final page spread, there are six stripes -- one of each of the colors of the animals that have hidden -- and each of the colors is labeled.  On the right-hand side, the 6 animals are shown and labeled by name.  The wonderful thing about Spot the Animals is that it's so simple and short that you could easily read the book to a small baby (I read to mine while they were still in the crib and later would prop them in a seated position and read to them while rocking) but Spot the Animals is also educational, so preschoolers and even early readers can get something out of it.  

1-2-3 Dinosaurs Bite is similar in that it's educational and has a special feature, in this case bites chopped out of each page.  You actually count the chunks missing from the book.  How cool is that?  By the time you arrive at 6-7-8-9-10, there's a page that is so bitten there's only about a third left.

The last page spread incorporates counting with other learning tools, for example: 2 horns, 3 sharp claws, 6 footprints, 8 letters in the word dinosaur.  The final words are "Guard all 10 of your fingers -- these DINOSAURS BITE!"

Both books are highly recommended.  Perfect illustrations that are colorful, balanced and interesting with a unique twist (bites cut from the pages; die-cut shapes the animals are hidden behind) and plenty of educational material crammed into a few short pages make can't-miss fun for children and will satisfy a parent's urge to teach.  I absolutely love these books.  Since they're board books, they're also quite sturdy, even with folding pages and chunks missing.

On a side note, because I had trouble finding any images of these books and had to take my own, I got to see a large number of other illustrations by Steve Jenkins.  It looks like he's the kind of artist I would seek out if I still had small children.  I don't, but I'm hoping there are grandchildren in my future.  I'm hanging onto these two board books, just in case.

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Break to slobber over new books

I'm officially on a strict budget, now that we've put Kiddo's spring tuition on the plastic rectangle of debt doom, but I've received a bunch of ARCs, in the past couple of weeks, and had a bit of a splurge at Off-Square Books in Oxford during last weekend's quickie vacation.

Top to bottom:

Freddy and the Popinjay by Walter R. Brooks - purchase
Sea Change by Aimee Freedman - swap
The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley - from Wm Morrow for review
Baker Towers and News from Heaven by Jennifer Haigh - from Harper for review
The Real Jane Austen by Paula Byrne - from Harper for review
House of Earth by Woody Guthrie - another Harper book, which I'm struggling to get through.  There's a 28-page sex scene, if I counted right . . . maybe longer.  Yeeurgh.
Why Grow That When You Can Grow This? by Andrew Keys - a Twitter prize win from Timber Press (very exciting as we're really looking forward to working on the garden areas at our new house in the spring)

Top to bottom:  

Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway - purchase
Maps & Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands by Michael Chabon - purchase
On Wings of Eagles by Ken Follett - purchase
Classic Garden Plans by David Stuart - purchase
Not pictured:  The 13 Clocks by James Thurber, which I already mini-reviewed (purchase) and Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (purchase), which my husband has already stolen (but at least I cooked something, first)

At the back:

A copy of the latest Oxford American: The Southern Music Issue (with CD - purchase)

The dish I cooked:

I think it's called "Macaroni and cauliflower cheese bake," but don't quote me on that.  One thing I learned, last night:   I'd forgotten I am a am not a strict recipe-follower (it's been a long, long time since I cooked from scratch).  I had a feeling the recipe was going to be a little too bland with mostly cheese and parsley in the sauce, so I added a little dry mustard and then threw on some paprika when I took my first bite and confirmed that it was still pretty bland.  Next time, I think I'll add some white onion.  Regardless, this is a nice recipe for kids because it's hard to distinguish the cauliflower from the macaroni, taste-wise, since they're boiled and baked in the sauce together.  Great way to sneak in the cruciferous veggie if you've got kids who aren't too good about eating their vegetables.

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Magic by Kirsten Hall and Simon Mendez

Christmas Magic by Kirsten Hall, illustrated by Simon Mendez, is subtitled "A Changing Picture Book."  I kept the image fairly large so you can sort of see (via the lines visible) that it's a book with sliding illustrations.  Pull a tab and the illustration changes -- and not always just a little.  Often books of this type will change just a tiny bit, say from a daylight view to a night-time view of the same scene, but in the case of Christmas Magic, sometimes they change dramatically, which I must admit I found awfully cool.  

I haven't got any interior photos of Christmas Magic because a bit of blogging block (seriously, there is such a thing; I know because I just made it up) set me way behind on my reviews and I didn't feel like I had time to spend on photographing interiors, today, but the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous.  My favorites are the image of a house at dusk, undecorated and then decorated, a chair with a cat that turns to an illustration of a chair with big old Santa sitting in it (the cat glaring down at him from the back of the chair) and the image you see on the cover, which is repeated inside after showing the town at night.  But, they're all beautiful.  

Christmas Magic is another rhyming-verse book.  In this case, I can't say the story makes a whole lot of sense to me.  It just seems like a hodge-podge of Christmas things happening, which ends in a visit from Santa.  Meh.  But, it's so beautiful, I still love Christmas Magic.  I'm just not fond of the text.  I do, however, absolutely love the illustrations and I get a kick out of pulling the tabs.  It's apparent to me that I'm never going to get past the thrill of playing like a kid.

If you've owned books like this, you know that in humid climates the separate parts will eventually stick and sometimes tear.  That's worth bearing in mind, but I bought a few when I had little ones and they lasted quite a while.  It was just after being stored that they had problems, in most cases.

Recommended:  Stunning illustrations trump a storyline that's all over the place.  Too much fun and too beautiful not to recommend, but I'm just not in love with the rhyming text.  This is the last of my Christmas posts!  I've got one more set of board books to review and then I'll move on to the last few books in my sidebar!

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

The Great Christmas Crisis by Kim Norman and Jannie Ho

The Great Christmas Crisis by Kim Normal, illustrated by Jannie Ho is a big book with pages that are a double-thickness.  At first, that actually confused me, as I looked at those pages and wondered if they were supposed to open or there was some kind of mechanical or pop-up business I was missing.  Nope, they're just thick pages.  In case you're wondering, I do think nice, thick pages are a good thing.

The storyline in The Great Christmas Crisis obviously has to do with things going wrong at the North Pole.  The elves are complaining, toys are whacked up, candy is coming out wrong.  Actually, this is the best part of the book -- looking at the details of the illustrations showing things that are wrong, like a doll with the neck of her dress at her knees and the hem at her neck.  You can view some of the illustrations from The Great Christmas Crisis at Jannie Ho's website.

Santa alters his chimney-expanding machine to shrink himself and go undercover in order to figure out the problem.  But, he messes things up just as badly as the elves, melting a race-car track and turning candy canes purple with white spots.  He decides that the elves are overworked and insists that they all relax for a while, tell ho-ho jokes (like knock-knock jokes, only they begin, "Ho ho!  Who's there?"), play games, sit in front of the fire, meditate, etc.

But, there isn't much time till Christmas, so they really need to find a solution.  Finally, Mrs. Claus comes to the rescue, advising Santa to use his altered shrinking machine to make the days longer.  Kind of a silly solution, but The Great Christmas Crisis a book for small children and I have a feeling mine would have absolutely loved this book -- both of them.  Remember my comment about the fact that one of my children didn't like books in which the illustrations are too "busy" (too much going on)?  In this case, there's a lot going on, but the illustrations are so crisp that I think even the child who disliked busy illustrations would have pored over these and enjoyed the details.  They're not overwhelming but they are interesting enough to keep your eyes moving for a while.

Recommended - Delightful illustrations are what really made The Great Christmas Crisis a winner, in my humble opinion.  The story is a nice simple dilemma with a magical solution, great for holiday reading.  The story is told in verse and it has a comfortable rhythm for reading aloud.

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

A Pirate's Twelve Days of Christmas by Philip Yates, illustrated by Sebastia Serra

A Pirate's Twelve Days of Christmas by Philip Yates, illustrated by Sebastia Serra is a book I expected not to like, once I held it in my hands.  And, then I opened it up.  This happens to me a lot, the judging a book by its cover thing.  Oddly, the thing that turned me off was nothing major -- just the weird nose on the young pirate.  I don't know why, but I really dislike the dark noses throughout the book.

Otherwise, the text is cute and I found myself mentally singing A Pirate's Twelve Days of Christmas to the tune of the real "Twelve Days of Christmas" tune.  The rhythm fits.  There's a bit of introductory text before the author dives into the portion that fits the tune.  

Apart from strange noses, I absolutely love the illustrations in this book.  They're bright, cheery and bold.  You can see the colors absolutely leap out at you.  

A random bit of the text to show you a bit of the introductory rhyme along with an example of how well the rhyme fits the original tune:

But when I woke I saw a sight:  "What's this upon our ship?
Avast!" I cried, an' danced a jig.  A song burst from me lips.

On the first day of Christmas,
a gift was sent to me:
a parrot in a palm tree!
On the second day of Christmas,
a gift was sent to me:
2 cutlasses
an'a parrot in a palm tree.

Highly Recommended.  Gorgeous, bright illustrations (with noses I disliked, but that's kind of a, "Gosh, big woo" thing), fun text -- the 12 days portion of which fits the original song -- and a storyline that will keep you smiling all make for a truly entertaining book.  Santa is "jolly ol' Sir Peggedy", incidentally.  There is a terrific "Pirate Glossary" at the back of the book, as well.  So you can look up words like, "avast" and "landlubber".  Especially recommended to people who want to teach their kids how to talk like a pirate early, for ages 3 and up.

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Stable in Bethlehem: A Countdown to Christmas by Hulme & Andreasen, a new arrival, and The 13 Clocks by James Thurber

Stable in Bethlehem: A Countdown to Christmas, written by Joy N. Hulme and illustrated by Dan Andreasen is a board book in with a countdown from the number 12 down.  Obviously, I'm getting to my last little stockpile of Christmas books a bit late but if you have a little one who is in need of a Christmas book and still at the tearing stage, Stable in Bethlehem is a good one.

Over a stable in Bethlehem, 12 drowsy doves are cooing,
Snuggling in the fragrant hay, 11 cows are mooing.
Weary and resting in their stalls, 10 donkeys nod their heads.
Scurrying over the stable floor, 9 mice run from their beds.

That's three page spreads' worth that I just quoted, the donkeys and mice sharing one layout.  The next page made me laugh:

8 shepherds wrapped in woolen robes watch over their flocks by night.

The illustration is a tiny bit funny because there are 8 shepherds watching a mere 7 sheep.  But, Stable in Bethlehem is a counting book, not a logic book.  On the next page, you count the 7 sheep.  As the mother of a little one, I probably would have already counted the sheep along with my child.

When I received this book from Sterling Children's, I didn't think it looked all that attractive, cover-wise, but I really liked it a lot when I opened the book and read.  The illustrations inside are much prettier than I expected, brightly colored but they have a nice, "soft" look that's lovely.  And, the book fit my most important requirement for a children's book:  a comfortably rhythmic text that's pleasant to read aloud.  Beginning readers will need a lot of help with words like "frankincense" if you keep the book around long enough, but I like the fact that the author didn't avoid adding a difficult word that's relevant.

Highly recommended, particularly if you'd like to share the Christmas story with a very young child in a way that's educational and factual without being in any way religiously dubious or emphatic.

More Christmas reviews will be forthcoming.  I spent a good portion of yesterday in the car, so that makes 5 days during which I spent a major portion of my day driving.  I am very happy to be at home and going nowhere, just cleaning and writing, today!

Arrived in the mail, yesterday:  

Jamie's Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver!

This was one of those cases of "Buy a book for someone, buy one for yourself."  At least I bought a used copy instead of spending the big bucks.  I'm on page 76 or so and absolutely loving the reading.  I need inspiration desperately.  Now that we've finally got a decent kitchen, I want to get back to cooking!  But, it's been so long that I've been hoping to find something basic.  Well, Jamie's Food Revolution is fairly basic.  There are a few things I'll have to ask the spouse to explain, but not many.  I gushed so much I actually inspired Huzzybuns, last night.  We had a terrific supper.

The only problem I've found with this cookbook, so far (and most others by well-known chefs) is that cookbooks by popular chefs tend to ignore the fact that not everyone lives in a big city and has access to unusual ingredients.  And, in fact, some ingredients that don't seem unusual may even be hard to locate.  I noticed Jamie Oliver uses a lot of red chiles.  We were unable to find any at all -- fresh or dried -- last night.  Still.  I'm inspired. I've already got a recipe picked out for experimentation, tonight.

I finished The 13 Clocks by James Thurber, last night.  A children's book written in 1950, it's a quick read that would make an excellent RIP challenge book.  It has a seriously creepy villain (a duke who is so cold he claims to have frozen the 13 clocks in his home and who regularly feeds suitors of his niece to the geese), a prince who decides to take on the challenge and a hilarious sidekick with an "indescribable" hat who admits that he may not ever remember anything accurately -- but he's cheerful and anxious to help.

The 13 Clocks is typical Thurber -- funny, extremely witty, full of brilliant wordplay.  If you have a youngster you read to, it's well worth hunting down a copy.  Or, if you just like a clever story, read it for yourself as I did.  I got my copy (used) for $1 at Off-Square Books in Oxford, MS, this weekend.  It's obviously been around the block and back, a few times . . . 'tis pretty beat-up.  The illustrations are every bit as terrific and funny/creepy as the story, so it's another highly recommended book.  Definitely add this to your list if you're a regular Readers Imbibing Peril challenge participant.

More later!  Gotta check the dryer and finish emptying the dishwasher.  Fun times.

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Malarkey - In which Tennessee welcomes us

Sorry for my absence.  I meant to pre-post a Fiona Friday photo but forgot to do so before we left for Northern Mississippi and Tennessee to stay in our "vacation home" (aka "Kiddo's apartment), visit with Eldest, DIL and grand-dog Peyton, attend a Straight No Chaser concert, shop a bit, spend another night in our vacation home and drive home in really yucky weather.  We had a blast, really.  Nashville has grown on me in recent years.

Straight No Chaser allowed photographs!  That was a nice surprise.  I just happen to have tucked a D-SLR in my purse, just in case, although I really expected a stern, "No photography!" announcement.  I didn't mess with settings because I tried to keep the amount of camera viewscreen light to a minimum for the sake of those around me, but the changing lights might have made settings difficult, anyway.  So . . . here are the singers grooving, overexposed, and slightly blocked by the head of hair I couldn't quite get my lens around:

Our grand-dog is currently undergoing heart worm treatment and not a happy camper.  But, she looked regal, as always, except when decapitating and removing the limbs of a stuffed monkey.  Poor monkey had been removed, by this point, although some of his stuffing remained next to her paws.

We got to briefly walk through the Nashville Public Library, on our way to the concert.  Oh, wow.  I definitely want to go back and wander around there, sometime.

We did a good bit of shopping, almost entirely for groceries (with a few last-minute Christmas gift items).  Both of us get a little carried away in terrific grocery stores, so we came back with quite a few boxes, jars and plenty of fresh produce from Trader Joe's, an Italian market called Coco's and a little from Whole Foods.  Isabel was most impressed with the fresh pears . . . to the point that I had to remove them from her grasp.

And, about Bookfoolery . . . the blog and the concept . . . I've been thinking about dropping the words "and Babble" for quite a while and removed them from my header, last night.  What do you think? I also considered changing, "and Babble" to "and Catfoolery".  Eh.  Not sure.  The babble was just starting to bug me.  As to the foolery, not a whole lot of reading occurred, this week, thanks to all the driving.  But, I have some books in progress and hope to finish something soon.  Not sure what I'll end up finishing, since I keep leaping from one book to another.  We shall see.  I got a couple books in the mail and bought some in Oxford at Off-Square Books.  I'll photograph them and share the titles, later in the week.  Tomorrow, I have some children's Christmas books to review.

Speaking of children, I had no idea that yet another school massacre had occurred on Friday until 11:30, that night.  Since there have been murmurs of poor, inaccurate and offensive media coverage, I am happy to have missed seeing anything on TV.  Not seeing the visuals doesn't change the facts, though, and when I found out, my first thought (after the initial stunned disbelief) was relief that I didn't post the normal Fiona Friday pic. It just wouldn't have seemed right to post something light-hearted on day that involved so much horror and grief.  My heart goes out to the parents, friends, loved ones and victims of the Newtown murders.  I'm not a political person but I think we've gone far beyond the time to take serious preventive action in the U.S., as stated in this New York Times op-ed.  Please don't be put off by the beginning of the article.  It's very logically stated.

More later.  It's almost 3am.  I have no idea why I'm so hyper, but I need to try to get some sleep.  Happy Monday to all!

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Minis: The Walnut Tree by C. Todd, A Walk in the Park by J. .Mansell, Comet's Tale by S. Wolf & L. Padwa

The Walnut Tree by Charles Todd is subtitled "A Holiday Tale" and I'm not quite sure why.  It may end at Christmas, but otherwise it is most definitely not a Christmas tale.  In fact, it's more of a war tale with a rather lame romantic love triangle and a heroine, Lady Elspeth Douglas, who feels compelled to deceive her best friend, everyone in the service in which she's trained as a nurse and both of the men in her little love triangle.

Get the feeling I didn't like The Walnut Tree?  Well, I did finish the book.  That's saying something. But I think The Walnut Tree is flawed, a bit juvenile and extremely cliche.  Lady Elspeth (again, in a manner that simply does not make sense) ends up on the front line of an important WWI battle and after seeing the casualties, decides to imitate Sybil of Downton Abbey and become a nurse.  By this point, she's helped a friend deal with childbirth and has become engaged.  But, she then encounters an old friend and falls even more in love with the second guy.

In the end, I was able to completely predict the outcome of absolutely every plot point.  It's ridiculously obvious what has to happen at every turn and the tiny hint of a mystery that's tossed in like an afterthought is patently annoying.  Why did I keep reading?  I suppose the war scenes are rather interesting. And, even though the book was terribly predictable, I still wanted to get to the goal and read about the heroine ending up with her guy.  But, honestly, I do wish I hadn't spent money on The Walnut Tree.

Since I've read a number of reviews in which regular readers of Charles Todd have said The Walnut Tree doesn't live up to the mother-son team's normal standards, I'm planning to give one of their mysteries a try, soon, because I'm now doubly curious.  We'll see how that goes.  Not recommended unless you don't mind transparent plotting . . . say you're just a fan of historical fiction and/or romance but you're not picky.  Maybe then.  

I must warn you that the words "have" and "had" are so overused that they even appear in dialogue:
"You must know how much your presence had brightened the lives not only of your cousin but of the other three officers who are working with Sister Macleod."  -- p. 153 
Drop the "had" (or change it to "has") and that bit of dialogue is acceptable, if a bit awkward.  If this particular grammatical atrocity continues in the mystery I intend to read, I will never touch another Charles Todd book.  It truly is unbearable.  But, The Walnut Tree may simply be one of those books that was rushed to press with minimal editing and I figure almost everyone deserves a second chance.  

In A Walk in the Park by Jill Mansell, heroine Lara Carson returns to her childhood home in Bath, England, for the funeral of her father.  At 16, she was kicked out of the house by the father who never loved her and the stepmother from hell -- and they didn't even know she was pregnant.  Now, Lara's daughter Gigi is 18.  Lara's best friend will be marrying soon and it turns out Lara is in her father's will.  So, as much as she'd like to avoid the boyfriend she left behind, Lara will have to stick around Bath a bit more than she intended.

Flynn always wondered what happened to Lara.  One day she was suddenly just gone and he never heard a word from her.  Now that she's back with his biological child in tow, he wants answers.  

Evie is thrilled to finally walk down the aisle but on the day of her wedding, things are going horribly wrong.  After she cancels the wedding, her ex-fiancee won't let go.  Determined to prove he's changed, he pursues her with a vengeance.  But, there's another man wooing Evie.  Will Evie make the right decision, or is there even a decision to be made?  Is Evie destined to make bad choices and remain alone?  

There's always so much going on in a Jill Mansell novel that it's a bit mind-boggling.  I love her books.  They're cheery and plotty and terribly fun. I must admit, I felt dangled a bit more than I like, didn't buy into one of the major plot points and thought A Walk in the Park ended too abruptly.  And, yet, A Walk in the Park is classic Mansell and I enjoyed it.  Recommended, but not her best.

Comet's Tale by Steven D. Wolf, with Lynette Padwa, is a pet story in which -- get this -- the dog doesn't die in the end!!!  Awesome. You have to appreciate that, since most pet memoirs do end with a death.  

Comet is a rescued greyhound.  I had no idea greyhounds came in a variety of colors; you can see from the cover image that she has an interesting calico-like coat of brindle and black and shades between.  When she was rescued, Comet had been left in a cage with a muzzle on.  The author, who goes by the name "Wolf", had two golden retrievers in Nebraska.  But, because his spine was severely degenerating, he was living away from his family and their pets in Sedona, Arizona most of the year.  Colder weather caused even more trouble with his constant pain.

Lonely and depressed after being kicked out of his own law firm, Wolf eventually decided to consider adopting a greyhound and visited the home of some people who fostered quite a few of them.  Comet was off in a corner and appeared to be depressed, herself.  But, just as Wolf was about to make a decision to adopt one of the other dogs, she appeared at his side.  The choice had been made for him.  

Comet's Tale tells about how Comet became not only a devoted pet but also eventually was trained by the author as a service dog when his condition further deteriorated and he needed help with simple tasks like opening doors and picking up dropped items.  Comet's Tale is a deeply touching story.  The only thing I disliked about it was the fact that the author went a little nutso when he had surgery that helped significantly reduce his pain.  However, he eventually "redeemed" himself, just like a fictional character, thank goodness.  An amazing story of love and devotion between pet and human, highly recommended.  

As I was reading Comet's Tale, I found myself desiring to adopt a greyhound -- which is pretty odd because I really don't have the right personality to be a dog owner, although I tend to fall in love with friends' dogs.  The way greyhounds are used and abandoned or killed is truly appalling.  

Here's our little Isabel hanging out on my legs on a day that I stayed in bed feeling yucky, recently.  Rescued pets are the best. 

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Mini reviews - The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, Are You My Friend Today? by Gyo Fujikawa and Outside In by Maria V. Snyder

We're getting perilously close to Christmas, now, so it's time to knock out a few minis and then, hopefully, finish up the rest of the book reviewing I need to do before going on my annual holiday blog vacation.  

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron is a very unique Young Adult book that takes place in Victorian England.  Katharine Tulman has been sent by her aunt to her uncle's massive estate, where she is given the job of committing him to an asylum so that the estate will not be frittered away before her fat cousin comes of age.  Katharine feels she has no choice but to handle this unsavory job.  Although her aunt has generously taken her in, Katharine is treated like a servant and assumes she'll be cast out into the streets of London if she doesn't follow through.

What she discovers is beyond her imagining.  Her uncle is a childlike inventor and the maintenance of his estate supports over 900 people who were plucked from poverty. Katharine opts to take her time getting around to her task, but strange things are happening.  Is Katharine in danger? What will happen to her uncle when tragedy strikes?

Recommended for adventure, a truly unusual story and constant twists and turns.  If you love a plot-heavy book with a touch of romance, The Dark Unwinding is an excellent choice.  The author's first novel is, however, not without problems. If you're a die-hard Anglophile, you'll know right off the bat that the author is not British without even reading her bio.  Still, the language and some minor things I disliked about the setting were not enough to convince me to set the book down.  I love an action-heavy book and enjoyed The Dark Unwinding for the constant surprises, even if there were little things I didn't love about it.  Also, I'm crazy about that cover.  I think it's beautiful.

Are You My Friend Today? by Gyo Fujikawa is a book I've put off reviewing because I don't love it.  I'm so accustomed to falling completely in love with children's books that I guess it surprised me a bit.

Are You My Friend Today? is a book about children playing, fighting, laughing, eating, dreaming.  It's a beautifully illustrated book.  But, some of the pages are very "busy" -- the kind in which it's necessary to point at a particular bit while reading the text, so a small child knows exactly which part of the layout you're describing.  Not all of the layouts are busy in that way; and, at times, I felt like I was totally swept into the beauty of this picture book, so although I didn't adore the book, I did like it.

Because of those particular page spreads that have a lot going on, I recommend picking up the book and flipping through it before purchasing.  I had one child who loved a busy book; he could quietly entertain himself in a corner, just flipping through a book that was heavily illustrated, for a stunning amount of time.  My other child couldn't bear clutter.  So, Are You My Friend Today? is a book that will likely suit some adult readers and the children they love more than others.  It really does have gorgeous illustrations, but is recommended with advice to peruse the book before making your decision.

Outside In by Maria V. Snyder is the sequel to Inside Out (see my review of Inside Out, here), a dystopian Young Adult novel.  In Outside In, Trella has become frustrated with her part on the committee set up after the lowly "scrubs" have won their rebellion over the "uppers" with whom they share a cubicle living space.  

Please be advised that the following bit may contain some spoilers and should be avoided if you haven't read Inside Out.  

In the first book, Trella discovered the secret to her world and that it was far larger than the inhabitants realized.  In Outside In, construction to expand into the empty space she discovered has begun.  But, the former uppers and scrubs still think within the old terms; those who were accustomed to being crammed into the lower levels think of the uppers as privileged snobs.  The uppers, meanwhile, think of the former scrubs as lesser humans.  This results in a lot of infighting as well as difficulty to get the two groups to cooperate on the building process.  

When they encounter a serious threat from outside their world, Trella has no idea who can be trusted.  But, she has to trust someone because she simply cannot deal with the danger on her own. And, boy, that danger is really hairy, toward the end.  There comes a point that you simply cannot turn the pages fast enough.

Outside In is every bit as action-packed and exciting as Inside Out -- the kind of book I love so much I know I'll want to reread it.  I highly recommend both Inside Out and Outside In to lovers of YA novels -- dystopian with a strong heroine, a bit of romance, a lot of questions and crazy-tense action.  Love, love, loved this book, an unusually satisfying follow-up book.  There are only two books in this "series", unfortunately.  

I bought my copy of Outside In in London and absolutely love the U.K. cover, although I can't tell you why.  It's probably a combination of the colors, the look of action (very fitting) and the "sci-fi" feel of the design. 

I have to stop to order a Christmas present and do some wrapping but hope to write up a few more reviews, this afternoon.  You know how that goes.  Sometimes it happens; sometimes it doesn't.

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.