Friday, June 29, 2012

Fiona Friday - Comfy

©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, June 28, 2012

Victricia Malicia, Book-Loving Buccaneer by Clickard & Myers - #4 for Children's Day

Victricia Malicia, Book-Loving Buccaneer by Carrie Clickard
Illustrated by Mark Myers
Copyright 2012
Flashlight Press - Children's (Ages 4-8)
32 pages

Last review for Children's Day, a wee bit late because the afternoon heat turned me into a big lump of blah and I got a bit sidetracked (bought groceries, fixed supper, watched a movie).

Victricia Malicia is about a girl born to a family of pirates. But, she really just wants to read and live on dry land:

Victricia Malicia Calamity Barrett
was born on the deck of the Potbellied Parrot.
Her mom was the captain. Her dad, the ship's cook.
Her grandma was proud of her peg leg and hook.
But despite a tradition since sixteen-o-three
for every last Barrett to set out to sea,
plund'ring and looting
and pirate pursuiting,
Victricia detested it vehemently.
Victricia Malicia was sick of the sea.

Those are the words on the opening page. You have to love this book right off the bat because the author chose to make Victricia's mother the captain and her father the ship's cook, don't you?

The text of Victricia Malicia is so terrific that I feel like just describing it is kind of pitiful, but I'll go ahead and tell you about it, then you can dash off to read the pdf of Victricia Malicia and see the whole thing for yourself. Basically, it goes on to say her distaste for the sea was not her family's fault, "They raised her up right. They gave her a name filled with menace and fright," and describes how she learned her first words from a parrot, learned to tie knots from Uncle Hank (whom she's tied to the mast), etc.

In spite of all her wonderful pirate education, Victricia taught herself to read -- and reading was simply her best skill. She's shown falling from the rigging because she's not great at tying knots. With wrinkled nose, she's shown trying to cook but her cooking, the book says, "caused rats to abandon the ship." Here is where the book begins to be a real booklover's joy. When Victricia is falling from the rigging, you see a book hanging on the ropes. I turned my copy of Victricia Malicia to read the title and laughed. It's Macrame for Beginners. When she's shown cooking, the book beside her is Betty Wanna Cracker Cookbook.

As the story continues describing Victricia's un-pirate-like preferences, both real book titles and funny fake ones are shown.

Eventually, Victricia causes an accident and everyone agrees she should be let off at an island. But, then the same thing that caused the accident saves everyone from a sea serpent. Still, Victricia would rather be set on dry land and she's taken to shore. She goes into town and opens a bookstore. Now dressed in landlubber clothing, Victricia even reads to the pirates when they're in port -- and turns the entire crew into such reading addicts that the ship becomes a floating library.

My thoughts:

What a fun book! Bright, cheerful illustrations in vivid colors, clever writing with some challenging vocabulary words (opportunities to teach!) and a great storyline make this comfortably rhythmic book a delight. All the book titles crammed into its pages make reading the book doubly fun. Highly recommended.

There's a trailer for Victricia Malicia at the Flashlight Press website. I usually don't care much for book trailers but I enjoyed this one.

I received my copy of Victricia Malicia unsolicited from Flashlight Press. My thanks to the people at Flashlight! Since you can't pick up the book and feel it, I'll just tell you their books are hardcover with jackets but you can toss your jacket aside if you're worried about it. The cover beneath is identical. Inside the book, the front endpapers have a cutaway view of a ship with objects and actions (like walking the plank) labeled. The back endpapers look like an unlabeled treasure map. Cool.

That's all for Children's Day! It's 11:38 PM. Whew! Cutting it close, eh?

©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.

I Need My Monster by Noll & McWilliam - #3 for Children's Day

I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll & Howard McWilliam
Copyright 2009
Flashlight Press - Children's (Ages 5 & up)
32 pages

Okay, I'm just going to come right out and say it. I Need My Monster is my absolute favorite, so far, in today's book pile. It's funny, clever and the illustrations are fabulous. Adults will want to just sit and stare, taking in the detail -- even the angles the illustrator used are fascinating.

I Need My Monster turns the typical "monster under the bed" story concept on its head. Instead of a child who is worried about monsters, the protagonist, Ethan, is used to his monster, Gabe. Gabe is the perfect amount of scary - enough to keep Ethan in bed but not enough to keep him from sleeping. When Gabe leaves a note saying he's gone fishing for a week, Ethan is horrified. How will he sleep without Gabe's ragged breathing and the scary claws that remind him it's best to stay tucked in for the night?

Ethan decides he needs another monster, so he knocks on the floor and another monster appears. Unfortunately, Ethan is not satisfied. Gabe has scary claws that scratch the floor. This monster, Herbert, does not. His name isn't quite right, either. Herbert leaves and another monster appears. The next one has polished claws and tidy fur. Not good enough. The third has scary claws and a slimy tail but Ethan is horrified to see a bow on the tale. He needs a boy monster, not a girl monster!

Ethan wonders if he'll ever find a decent replacement for Gabe.

Was I being too picky? NO!

I knew that my new monster needed to be
well-clawed and menacing.

The whole point of having a monster, after all,
was to keep me in bed, imagining all the
scary stuff that could happen if I got out.

The next monster that shows up has a long tongue. Ethan nearly falls out of the bed laughing.
But, finally, Gabe reappears. Fishing, he says, is not challenging enough.

"You, however, are challenging,
my friend. You're almost too old
to be afraid of monsters.
You keep me on my toes.
Ah, toes . . . a delicious snack."

Gabe scratches on the bedpost, snorts comfortingly and eats a pillow, among other things. Ethan is happy. His perfect monster has returned.

My thoughts:

Well, you already know I love this book and obviously highly recommend it. I can't say enough wonderful things about the illustrations, but naturally you don't have to take my word for it. You can see inside the book because it's from Flashlight Press! Here's the pdf of I Need My Monster. I love the story as much as the illustrations. I'd give this one a perfect 5/5 rating, if I felt like using numbers.

In which I address the complaints at Amazon:

I went to Amazon to find out the number of pages in I Need My Monster because I've found dashing over to Amazon the quickest way to get info. While there, I noticed there was a 3-star review and a few 4-stars. I Need My Monster has mostly 5-star reviews and it has won a boat-load of awards, so I was curious. I like knowing what people don't like about a book.

And, the big complaints?

1. Some people considered the fact that Ethan doesn't want a girl monster a "gender issue" that must be addressed by parents.

I must admit I think that's totally silly. If I had a little girl, I'd just remind her that Ethan is not satisfied with any of the substitute monsters. He's obviously rejecting every monster because what he really wants is what he's already accustomed to. He just wants Gabe back.

2. There was a slight concern that the book might cause nightmares, depending on the child.

That's a distinct possibility and worth considering. On the other hand, I Need My Monster could very well help children who are frightened of the dark to laugh about what they fear. I'd definitely keep the sensitivity of my child in mind.

The bottom line:

Love it, highly recommend it, would buy it for any child I read to. One of my children was terrified of the book Jumanji. If you're worried that it might be too frightening, you can always read the book to your child online and see how it goes. I'm hanging onto this one for future grandchildren.

I confess that I begged to review I Need My Monster because I loved the artwork in When a Dragon Moves In, which is also illustrated by Howard McWilliam.

One more review for Children's Day coming soon!

©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.

Poopendous by Artie Bennett & Mike Moran - #2 for Children's Day

Poopendous by Bennett & Moran
Copyright 2012
Blue Apple Books - Children's (Amazon says "Ages 4 and up")
36 pages

My first thought when Artie Bennett asked me to review Poopendous was, "Um. Yuck!" But, I wasn't actually all that sure about The Butt Book when I saw the title (same author, different artist) and it turned out to be an absolute riot. And, I do have a passion for children's picture books. Can you tell?

Poopendous begins by talking about how poop is kind of a disgusting subject, there are different names for it, and all creatures poop.

Poop is yucky, poop is foul.
Step in poop and you will howl.
To read this book, you must be strong.
Just hold your nose and come along.

There's a delightful illustration of a woman looking horrified about the poop on her shoe, a skunk holding his nose, a dog howling, a boy looking queasy and your guide, "Professor Pip Poopdeck" appearing perfectly calm. So cute.

After talking about names for poop, the fact that monkeys will fling it at you and your dog may make it very clear when he needs to go, the next thing described is the "styles" of poop - from tiny fly specks to giant hippo piles, round rabbit pellets to cube-shaped wombat poop.

Next up are the uses of poop. I had no idea termite mounds were made of termite poop! But, I did know poop is a way that seeds are carried. Whew! Didn't want to flunk, "Are you smarter than a preschooler?" Marking scent and trails, warning other creatures away and enriching soil, burning for cooking, used to seal and build homes (Mongol yurts sealed with yack dung; Masai huts that are made of cow dung) are mentioned, followed by such silly things as moose poop souvenirs (which we've laughed about in Alaska) and cowpie-flinging at county fairs.

The book ends on the following note:

Why should such wondrous stuff offend us?
Poop is TRULY quite . . .


My thoughts:

I love it! Educational, silly, rhythmically rhyming text and fun, colorful, goofy illustrations make Poopendous a rocking fine addition to a child's shelf. Recommended.

This is #2 for Children's Day. Two more reviews are forthcoming!

©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.

I Always, Always Get My Way by Thad Krasnesky & David Parkins - #1 for Children's Day

I Always, Always Get My Way by Krasnesky & Parkins
Copyright 2009
Flashlight Press - Children's (Ages 5 and up)
32 pages

Emmy is three years old and she's a typical, active girl. She spills orange juice on her father's work pants and upsets him, as the book opens, but Mom says:

"Now, sweetheart, you should let it be.
After all . . . she's only three."

Those are Emmy's favorite words. She gets off the hook for all sorts of trouble-making until she asks her dad if she can "hide a treasure like a pirate queen". Dad agrees but tells her, "Just stay clean."

Little Emmy draws a treasure map, dresses like a pirate and digs a hole, into which she throws her sister's rings, her brother's boot . . . and then she goes in the house to grab the silverware, leaving muddy tracks on the floor and chair. This is where the story turns.

Emmy's dad makes her put back all her "pirate loot", vacuum the rug and refill the hole she dug in the yard. She thinks she shouldn't have to clean.

"I know Mom would agree with me.
After all . . . I'm only three."

But, then Emmy creates another disaster when she gets up early, raids the refrigerator and gets food all over the place. This time Mom makes her clean up.

The last straw comes when Emmy decides to play with her brother's lizard. She dresses "Steve", fills the bathtub and plunks all of her sister's shoes in the water, looking for one that will float so Steve can have a boat. Then, the lizard runs off and Emmy leaves the water going, flooding the bathroom, hall and bedroom. Big brother is angry that Emmy has taken his lizard. Mom is angry because the lizard frightened her. Dad's peeved about the flooding and big sis is upset because all of her shoes are ruined.

Emmy gets sent to bed and I Always, Always Get My Way ends on this note:

"I sadly closed my bedroom door.
I may be here until I'm four."

My thoughts:

I loved That Cat Can't Stay by Krasnesky and Parkins and figured I'd enjoy pretty much anything they did together. When I started reading, though, I thought I wasn't going to like this story. Emmy's such a typical three-year-old and mine were so difficult at that age! It did seem like she was going to get away with an awful lot because she was "only three." Then, of course, she began to have to pay the consequences and I sighed with relief. When reading to young children, I do believe it's good to have a strong theme and "action leads to consequences" is a good one.


Definitely recommended. Wonderful, goofy-expressive illustrations,comfortable read-aloud rhyming and a solid theme make I Always, Always Get My Way a winner. The only thing I thought might be a little off was the fact that Emmy is so precocious. But, then . . . mine were at that age and I recall having a tiny broom and dustpan for them to use when they made messes (long gone, now). The story is a good reminder that responsibility for one's actions should be taught early.

One of the wonderful things about Flashlight Press Books is that you can actually read the books in their entirety at their website by clicking on the words "Look Inside!" just above the cover image. Here's the pdf site for I Always, Always Get My Way. What a great way for parents, grandparents, aunts, etc. to find out whether or not the book is the right choice!

This is Book #1 for Children's Day. More reviews forthcoming!

©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, June 27, 2012

Wahoo! Wednesday - Furry Edition

We had a bit of a scare, yesterday, when Isabel stopped talking (she's a very chatty girl), hid in a window and didn't play all day. Here is poor, sick Izzy. The bloody spot on her back is where she got a shot. It bled all over her pretty white fur. She did not like being sprayed and cleaned by the vet. There was hissing and clawing. Vets move fast!

Izzy had a swollen elbow, infected after an injury. I'm assuming it had to do with a big human foot connecting hard with the elbow, although our wonderful vet said even "play fighting" can cause such injuries. We'll have to watch out more carefully for our delicate fur beauty, regardless.

Wahoo #1 - Izzy is looking terrific!

Today, I knew Izzy was going to be okay when she jumped onto my bed for her morning head rub (smiling -- seriously) and then knocked her rubber ducky into the sink water 3 times. She just played with a jingle ball and didn't last long but she was so sick that I'm sure she needs some recovery time. She had a temperature of 104. Yikes! You know that glazed look small children get when they have a high fever? That's what she looked like. Today, she is bright-eyed.

Wahoo #2 - Fiona was worried! She sniffed at her sister a bit but when Izzy made it clear that she wanted space, Fi politely backed off.

It's so nice to have cats that get along. Well . . . most of the time. Isabel got smacked when the two girls were sitting in the window, a bit ago, but she just flinched and didn't swipe back. Harmony resumed.

Wahoo #3 - Wahoo for harmony! It's so nice to have two kitties who actually get along and often even enjoy each other's company.

This is my favorite photo of sick Isabel. I love the reflection on my beautiful-hardwood-maple-floor-that-I'm-going-to-miss. Yes, sometimes I'm still hit with brief moments of, "Oh, man. I hate to leave that behind!" But, Wahoo! - not often. :)

Reminder: Tomorrow is Children's Day at Bookfoolery. There will be 4 short reviews. At least, I hope they'll be short. I'm a busy girl.

What wonderful, wahooey things are happening in your world?

Bookfool, very grateful for veterinarians

©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, June 25, 2012

Monday Malarkey - a little late in the day but who's counting?

Wow, are we busy bees, around here. I have finally begun seriously packing with around two weeks till closing on our new house. We've been having fun wandering the hardware store aisles and furniture stores, looking at lighting and tile, paint colors and furniture swatches (because we don't actually own a sofa and Kiddo will be taking the futon in the fall) and ladders (because the ceilings are higher and the roof is steeper than that of our current home).

The de-pinking of our possible-maybe future library will be high on the agenda:

Even the interior of the closet is pink.

I finished one book, this weekend. I'm thrilled! And, speaking of thrills . . . it just happens to be a British thriller that has been sitting on a shelf for several years:

Soft Target by Stephen Leather is one of many books in a series about undercover cop Dan Shepherd, but it stands alone just fine. While posing as a hitman to prevent not one but two attempted murders, Shepherd must also deal with trying to find an au pair to care for his son. Add to that a second undercover job trying to catch two dirty cops who have stolen from drug dealers, two possible terrorist threats and one store robbery and there is a lot of action packed into Soft Target's 520 pages. While some of the strands of this novel were predictable, I didn't think it mattered. I was having too much fun.

Which leads to the shocking revelation that I found a few future releases so irresistible that I went on a minor requesting binge. I'll pay penance by trying to fill up my donation bags faster. Fortunately, they're all September releases.

Everything that walked in, this past week:
  • Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace by Michael Perry - from Harper for review
  • The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin - from Harper for review
  • The Mirrored World by Debra Dean - from Harper for review
  • Plague: A Gone Novel by Michael Grant - from Paperback Swap
  • A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick - from Sourcebooks for review
  • Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson - from Sourcebooks for review
  • A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean - gift from Book Club Care. Thanks, Carrie!
My sidebar is getting embarrassing. I'm still reading Johnson's Life of London by Boris Johnson (whose hair I will happily cut in tidy layers, if he wants me to pop over to London . . . any time, Mr. Mayor), but I'm still craving fiction and it really needs to be fairly fast-paced to keep my attention. I haven't touched Learned Optimism in at least 3 weeks. I still plan to finish it; I just can't get excited about it, right now. I'm feeling awfully optimistic with a new house and loads of DIY projects in my future, after all.

After finishing Soft Target, I discovered I have 3 fiction ARCs remaining and I chose to begin reading Marsha Altman's latest Darcy book, The Knights of Derbyshire. So far, so good.

Then, Isabel decided to bring me a purple mouse in the middle of the night and when she jumped onto the bed for a head rub of praise, she managed to pull me out of a tremendously cool dream in which our new house was a former bookstore with built-in shelves on all the walls and an unfinished loft. I couldn't get back to sleep, so I started reading Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson. Perfect for my mood! Plus, there is a nice robot/human fight-scene chapter that takes place at a fictional store in Tulsa's Utica Square Mall, a place I know well and enjoyed visiting fictionally, even if it was a bit of a violent experience.

Tomorrow, we will be knocked off the internet. AT&T was sending us threatening missives. Call us about your upgrade to U-Verse or we will kill your internet and phone service! Fine, fine. Geez, some corporations are so severe. They need to take a major chill pill. We're getting upgraded, tomorrow. And, then when we've finished our pre-move painting and shifted to the new house, we shall ditch them. Mwah-ha. Take that, AT&T.

Since I've begun packing and this move is going to take for-freaking-ever, I'm likely going to limit my book reviews to weekly Monday Malarkey updates and the odd mini review, for a while. They're probably more palatable, anyway. I tend to go overboard when I get serious about "reviewing". I'll try to keep doing Wahoo! Wednesday posts and Fiona Fridays, if possible. And, I have decided this Thursday will be my Children's Day - 4 reviews, all picture books for preschoolers. Please pardon my limited ability to visit other blogs, for a while.

I'm getting over it:

You know how I've been slightly mourning the idea of leaving behind the things that I love about this house, like the gorgeous bathroom tile and the totally-me kitchen updates? I'm getting over the clingy stage, already. I'm having so much fun planning changes in the new house (after painting, the #1 project will involve brightening up a tiny water closet -- just a toilet in a claustrophobia-inducing, closet-sized space -- with tile and mirrors and whatnot) that what I'm leaving behind isn't even entering my mind, anymore. Wahoo for that.

Okay, off to bed. Those middle-of-the-night cat wake-up calls are killers. Happy new week!

Still-very-cheerful Bookfool

©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.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fiona Friday - Sepia kitties

©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, June 21, 2012

Into the Free by Julie Cantrell and F2F Report

Into the Free by Julie Cantrell
Copyright 2012
David C. Cook - Historical fiction with Christian elements
368 pp.

I've mentioned the fact that I considered giving up on Into the Free because I didn't think it had a very believable or solid sense of time and place. It's set in Mississippi during the Depression and WWII. Last night was my F2F group's meeting and it's always fascinating to find out just how wrong I am.

Everyone in the group loved Into the Free because it reminded them of their younger days in Mississippi and/or because they found the story gripping. While I felt completely at a loss as to where the book was set, two of the women in my group said they were certain it took place in Meridian (which is on the opposite side of the state from us, due east -- and according to Julie Cantrell's website, they're correct). Nods all around. Only two of us present were not native Mississippians, unless you count the one fellow who spent his first 14 years in Texas.

What's Into the Free about?

Into the Free is a coming-of-age story about a young girl in Mississippi. I looked up the word "bildungsroman" to see if it fits because I wasn't entirely certain and here's the bildungsroman definition I found at Wikipedia:

In literary criticism bildungsroman or coming-of-age story is a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood (coming of age) and in which character change is thus extremely important.

Yes, that certainly seems to fit. Told from the point of view of Millie, who lives in former slave quarters on a wealthy man's plantation, Into the Free is the story of how young Millie survives living in a home with an abusive father (seldom home from touring with the rodeo, but terrifying when he's present) and a mother who kills her pain and depression via morphine addiction. It's about young Millie's confusion, her struggle with belief in God, and her desire to escape. It's also about deciding between two young men who are both interested in her and willing to take her away but who are so very different that Millie struggles to decide whether to let her heart or her head lead her.

Millie has a rotten life, that's for certain. The book starts out with her mother fixing a meal and her father, Jack, coming home to find a ranch hand dropping off a supply of morphine for her mother, Marie. Jack beats Marie to a bloody pulp and throughout the book his anger is explained away as a response to her drug addiction, although she's apparently become addicted to painkillers because of the beatings. It's a bizarre Catch-22 and it didn't work for me, or rather I just couldn't get my mind wrapped around it. Millie's grandparents have rejected Marie and won't have anything to do with Millie, either, because Marie married a Native American instead of a banker.

This next bit contains some spoilers, so skip it if you want to be surprised.

At the beginning, Millie's best friend is the black man who lives in another of the slave cabins, their next-door neighbor. I didn't understand the symbolism but his ghost keeps returning to save her at odd moments. There's a tragic accident, a suicide, two young men who appeal to Millie for different reasons (one of them a gypsy) and yet another rape that I thought was blown off too easily. The women in my group disagreed. They said Millie had been through so much already that by the time she was raped, it was just one more bad thing that happened to her that she had to survive.

I think I'm done with spoilers. It's safe, now.

What I liked about Into the Free:

Into the Free is a quick read and once you get into it it's hard to put down. While everyone agreed it started out slowly and the beginning was a little cringe-worthy, you do eventually become sucked in by the story and the desire to know what will happen to Millie.

I particularly liked three male characters who allowed Millie to escape her horrible world, at least briefly. One was her neighbor, an elderly black widower who took young Millie fishing, put her to work feeding his chickens and was just generally a stable influence. The second person who came into her life and allowed her brief respite was a gypsy boy around her age, River. I can't tell you what happens with River without spoiling the story, apart from the fact that he has to leave and it's the fact that he will return in the spring that keeps her hanging on through tragedy. The third fellow is Kenneth, nicknamed "Bump", a veterinarian in training at the local rodeo, where Millie eventually gets a job. Bump is almost too perfect -- kind, gentle, generous, strong and patient. Millie has a crush on River but feels safe with Bump and therein lies a part of her dilemma.

What I disliked about Into the Free:

I guess the fact that I didn't grow up in Mississippi has a lot to do with my feeling that the book lacked a sense of time and place. It certainly seemed odd to me that Millie said the region wasn't impacted by the Depression. But, then, we really haven't felt the current recession the way many states have because Mississippi is pretty much a poor state all the time. Still, it threw me. I couldn't get a grip on where things were happening. I've never encountered gypsies and I didn't catch on to the symbolism because it's not something I've ever studied (I am always missing the symbolism, unfortunately). And, I thought the ending was rushed, one major incident totally blown off, and the return of River a let-down.

So, why did the people in my group love it?

They adored Millie (I did like her strength but I guess I was blinded by the fact that the story just felt off to me in so many ways) and the time and place were things that most of them could relate to, in some way. Even though none of the people in my group lived through the Depression or WWII, there were apparently still some major similarities between that time and their youths in rural and small-town Mississippi. The gypsies are very important to the book because Millie wants to escape with them; she desires to go "into the free" -- away from her life, out into the world -- with them and falls in love with one of them. They're kind to her and accepting. Most of the people in my group remembered the gypsies.

The really fun part about this F2F meeting:

It is ridiculously fun when the people in my F2F group start reminiscing about their early days in Mississippi. In this case, they got off on a tangent about the gypsies. They said the gypsies were treated like any other outsiders, with suspicion. One of the ladies said she recalled the news about the gypsies' arrival traveling by word of mouth and how everyone reminded each other to bring in the dogs because the gypsies were thieves. "Sure enough, some dogs would go missing every time the gypsies came through," she said. "And, they said the gypsies would come in and steal your babies if you didn't watch out."

Another woman chimed in and said her grandmother knew someone who had a baby stolen by the gypsies, or so they assumed. The child was never seen, again.

The woman next to me, whom we'll refer to as "A.", is originally from Wisconsin and actually lived in my hometown in Oklahoma for a time. She added her thoughts about what it's like to move into small-town Mississippi life from outside. There was a lot of laughter as we talked about things like greeting someone with "Hey," instead of "Hello," which we were both taught was extremely rude and which both of us now use as a greeting. My F2F group can get really enthusiastic about books but they are very open and accepting of each other's opinions, whether or not they agree. They're much the same about listening to our stories about what it's like to be a foreigner in Mississippi. They're just a super bunch of people and the discussion of Into the Free was rollicking fun.

Off the book and into the food:

One of the ladies brought some "Vidalia onion dip". Our group usually just sips wine or water and there are always a couple bowls of nuts, but we're not a group that usually brings food to meetings, so that was unusual. At some point, I asked what exactly was in that dish. It had gotten shoved to the far end of the table and I was curious.

A. pulled it over to me, told me what was in the dip and said, "You must try it. It's addictive." I scooped some onto a cracker and pushed the dish away and A. said, "Oh, no, you don't want to push it away. You'll want more, after you take that first bite."

She was correct. I weaseled a sort-of recipe out of the lady who brought it -- two Vidalia onions chopped in a food processor, two cups of shredded Swiss cheese and "a teaspoon or two of mayonnaise - just a squirt to bind it all," baked till the onion has carmelized, which I'm told is the tricky part. I rolled up a couple bites' worth in a napkin and brought it home for Huzzybuns to try because I figured if he tasted it, he'd figure out a way to make it. I got chewed out for not saving a bite for Kiddo. Oops.

And, then Kiddo kept me up chatting till 2:00 or 2:30 because he was in a chipper mood, which I always love. I am tired but very happy, today -- so glad I didn't abandon the book because last night's meeting was by far one of the most entertaining meetings I've attended.

Julie Cantrell lives in Oxford, MS. Lucky chick.

©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, June 20, 2012

Guest Post by Emily St. John Mandel: The Importance of Place

Today I'm departing from the norm for Bookfoolery with a guest post by Emily St. John Mandel, author of The Lola Quartet. My thanks to Emily for writing this post about the use of place in writing.

The Importance of Place in Writing
by Emily St. John Mandel

I read an interesting speech by Zadie Smith a while back, where she laid out her theory of micro versus macro writers. I find the division between the two types imperfect—there are elements of both in the way I write—but I think it’s an interesting division nonetheless.

Her theory is that writers can be divided into Micro Managers and Macro Planners. She considers herself a Micro Manager, figuring out the story as she goes along, unable to move on to the next line until the previous one is perfect, obsessing over every detail, essentially setting the book in stone as she goes. Whereas Macro Planners, she writes, have their books completely outlined in advance, which is to say they know how the last chapter’s going to end before they start writing the first sentence. Paradoxically, she wrote, that structure gave them the freedom to make enormous changes while they were writing the book, things Smith says she wouldn’t dream of—“moving the setting of a book from London to Berlin, for example.”

When I read Smith’s work, this makes perfect sense. Her magnificent debut novel White Teeth is set in London, and it’s impossible to imagine it set anywhere else. The story is inseparable from the place. There are cases where the book is entirely dependent on place and wouldn’t exist without it, as in Karl Marlantes’ novel of the Vietnam War, Matterhorn. Or books where place is a declaration: I haven’t yet read Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March, but I’ve opened it a few times and I think very often of the magnificent rhythm of its opening line. I am an American, Chicago born.

But then, on the far opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll find the books that could have been set almost anywhere. I’ve noticed that a great many books set in suburbia fall under this category, which says more about our suburbs than it does about our books.

I did a reading a couple nights back, and during the Q&A someone asked me how place had affected my most recent novel, The Lola Quartet. I think of The Lola Quartet as contemporary noir; it’s a mystery, I suppose, but as always the mystery part happened by accident, a side of effect of trying to write literary fiction with a strong plot. A disgraced man reinvents himself as an amateur private detective in order to discover the fate of a high school girlfriend who he thinks might have been pregnant when she disappeared. The book follows this man, Gavin, and the other members of his former high school jazz quartet. The action plays out mostly in South Florida. But as it happens, the book’s concerned in a tangential kind of way with something about place that’s been bothering me a little for quite a while, which is that places are beginning to look too much alike.

It’s mostly a matter of suburban sprawl, which has created a hinterland of interchangeable suburbs—the outskirts of Toronto look an awful lot like the outskirts of Boca Raton—but globalization and the spread of exotic species between continents have exacerbated the trend. In a 2009 article in The New Yorker, Burkhard Bilger wrote that invasive species “can change the way we see a place. A parrot in Miami is like a McDonald’s in Kathmandu: a sign that you are everywhere and nowhere at once.”

Everywhere and nowhere at once! That’s it exactly. I have occasional moments during book tours, in the long spaces between cities, where I gaze through the window of the bus or the train and think, “I could be anywhere.” No matter where I am I see the same handful of chain restaurants, the same stores, the same hotels shining their logos out into the dark.

“The Lola Quartet could have been set anywhere,” I said at the reading the other night, in response to the question about place. It’s true, I think, although it’s of course impossible to know how the book would have turned out if I’d decided to set it in Oklahoma or Saskatchewan. I set it in Florida in part because I wanted to write about the economic collapse and the accompanying foreclosure crisis, and Florida is a place that was particularly hard-hit by the latter. I was also interested in writing about the spread of exotic species, which is to say, that unsettling phenomenon of Burmese pythons and Nile monitors infiltrating the canals of certain Florida suburbs.

But I was going through old versions of the manuscript just now in search of the above Burkhard Bilger quote, and found an early document—two pages long—in which I’d been sketching out a version wherein the story was set in and around Vancouver. How different would the book have been? It still would have been contemporary noir. The characters would have been the same. Once I’d committed to Florida I tried to make the setting reasonably Floridian, but when I wrote about the crushing quality of the Florida summer heat I was drawing off my experiences during hot summers very far away from there, memories of staggering through heat waves in Toronto, Montreal, and New York. (I know, “heatwave in Montreal” sounds like a punch line. But I remember a day when the temperature reached 104 Fahrenheit.)

“But the protagonist’s New York apartment,” someone else at the reading said, “that was very New York.”

“It was based on an apartment I had in Toronto,” I said.

EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL was born on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. Her new novel is The Lola Quartet.Her two previous novels are Last Night in Montreal (an Indie Next pick and finalist for Foreword Magazine’s 2009 Book of the Year) and The Singer’s Gun (winner of the Indie Bookseller’s Choice Award and #1 Indie Next Pick for May 2010.) She is a staff writer for The Millions, and her short fiction will appear in the forthcoming anthology Venice Noir. She is married and lives in Brooklyn.

Photo credit: Miriam Berkley

©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, June 18, 2012

Monday Malarkey - With emphasis nothing in particular

Happy Monday! I think I need to do this:

It's awfully hot out. Not dog days of summer, just yet, but yucky enough to make a girl want to escape to someplace people are wearing jackets or take a generous siesta. Where are people wearing jackets in June? I need to know. Better yet, tell me where they'll be wearing jackets in August -- other than Alaska. I've experienced a cold, rainy Alaskan August. I loved it, just FYI.

Weekend report:

I actually finished two books, this weekend! Woot! In brief:

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada - Originally entitled "Everyone Dies Alone" (I used an online translator to determine the original German title), the German name is much more accurate. Pretty much everyone dies, eventually, and they all die alone without friends or loved ones present, but the book isn't as much of a downer as you may think. It's about retaining one's principles, even while knowing that doing so likely will bring about death. A pretty amazing WWII book based on a true story.

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones - A fictional look at bigamy from two sides - that of the daughter who feels like she's the least favored because her mother isn't the one legally married to her father; and, the viewpoint of the legitimate daughter, Chaurisse, who is not as pretty as her half-sister, Dana. Chaurisse describes Dana as one of the "silver girls" to whom people are drawn. When they meet and become friends, what will happen? Surprisingly, I found this one a bit of a page turner.

I'm not yet packing books but I'm still trying to thin them and I started reading a Regency romance to see if it was worth keeping. I'm not finding the book as exciting as most of the Regency romances I've read, so I think it'll go in a donation bag. Into the Free isn't thrilling me, either, I'm afraid. It seems to lack a definitive sense of time and place. I may ditch it and just see what everyone else at my F2F group has to say about it. We'll see. According to my reader (fortunately, my copy was an ebook freebie), I've read roughly 21%. The meeting is Wednesday, so I still have time to finish Into the Free if I manage to get into it.

The other two books in my sidebar are non-fiction and I feel like I always have to have a fiction title going. I think I have one or two fiction ARCs left, so I'll choose from whatever remains in the ARC pile (which is shrinking, for once).

Recently walked in:

Two books arrived in the mail, last week, and one just walked in the door. So I am not totally deprived of those lovely manila envelopes with little bubbles inside.

  • The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O'Neal - Very kindly sent to me by Fizzy Jill when I mentioned that I must give this author a try because I can always use an upper. Thanks so much, Jill!
  • A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash - A drawing win from BermudaOnion's Weblog. Very exciting. Wiley Cash is the author I missed seeing in Oxford by mere hours. I've been anxious to read his book.
  • Poopendous by Artie Bennett and Mike Moran - Sent by the author. I'm planning to have a "Children's Day" (several reviews of children's books), soon, and I loved The Butt Book by the same author, so I said "yes" to reviewing Poopendous. It's about just what it sounds like -- the many fine uses of poop, like carrying seeds and such.
Is it weird that I'm pretty sure I'm going to miss our giant oak trees when we move, even though every time we have a tornado warning I visualize one of them falling on the house? They're so nice and shady. The view from my desk is about the bottom 25 feet of the oak trees (and a whole lot of poison ivy). There are no limbs for that first 25 feet or so; that kind of gives you an idea how humongous the trees are. I get to see squirrels, chipmunks and lizards playing outside my window, all the time. I do believe I'll miss that. However, I won't miss the poison ivy or picking up the limbs that fall after every puff of wind.

Enough for now. I hope your week has started well!

Hot but cheerful Bookfool

©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.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fiona Friday - When packing, precious items should be double-boxed

Be sure not to leave any of your prized possessions behind. Some may need to be double-boxed together.

©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, June 14, 2012

Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Copyright 2012
St. Martin's Griffin - Young Adult/Sci-fi
2nd in the Sky Chasers series - 1st book is Glow
309 pp.

To be released in July, 2012. ARC sent by my friend, Tammy. Thanks, Tammy!

Warning: This review contain spoilers from the first in the series, Glow. Please skip this review if you don't want to know how Glow ends.

In Glow, the first in the Sky Chasers series, Waverly and Kieran were in love and considering marriage when the Empyrean was attacked by its sister ship, the New Horizon. Most of the adults were killed and the young females were all kidnapped, including Waverly. On the New Horizon, Waverly fought to find the remaining parents and release them, unsuccessfully. She did, however, manage to save most of the females from captivity and escape to the Empyrean.

Spark picks up where Glow left off. Waverly and the other girls have returned to the Empyrean without any of the missing parents. Upon her return, Waverly finds Kieran in command of the ship and former leader Seth imprisoned in the brig. Kieran has become a strict captain but there's a hint of megalomaniac in the way he runs the ship; and, his "services" hint at the religious leadership of the New Horizon's Anne Mather. Waverly has become a pariah because most of the girls are angry with her for not succeeding at rescuing their parents.

When the ship is rocked by an explosion and Seth finds the door of his cell unlocked, everyone assumes Seth caused the explosion. But, Seth knows better and is determined to figure out who is sabotaging the Empyrean. Waverly is the only person who understands Seth enough to help him instead of blaming him, not realizing that a dangerous stowaway will threaten their lives.

Meanwhile, Kieran must make a crucial decision. Parents from the Empyrean are still being held captive on the New Horizon. Should he make a deal with the dangerous Anne Mather or attack the New Horizon and attempt a rescue? Can Anne be trusted to return the captives or is the saboteur working under her orders? Will anyone survive the next round of deadly explosions?

What I loved about Spark:

I was very, very impressed with this sophomore entry in the Sky Chasers trilogy. In my review of Glow, I declared the writing a little awkward but mentioned that it didn't matter because the story was so well-plotted that the writer's flaws faded into the background. It really kind of shocked me to find the writing in Spark dramatically more mature than that of Glow. Way to go, Amy Ryan!

As to the storyline, it was every bit as adventurous and dramatic as that of Glow. The characters changed, grew, and hardened a bit. The plot thickened. There was really no romance at all, which is very refreshing. Spark is simply a marvelous, escapist read and one of the best "second in a series" books I've read, far from the typical plotless place-holder that is often found in the middle of a trilogy.

What I disliked about Spark:

Occasionally, I had to wonder why Waverly didn't have more admirers (some of the girls supported her, but not many). She did rescue the young females from the New Horizon, after all, even if she did not manage to bring their parents back to the Empyrean. But, that was the only thing that pulled me out of the book even slightly.


Highly recommended to fans of YA and sci-fi. Excellent characterization, fantastic plotting and even better writing than the first book in the series make Spark a winner. Spark is not a stand-alone novel. Readers will definitely need to read Glow before Spark. I was completely swept away by both and the wait for the third book is going to be completely miserable. I've heard it will not be released until 2013.

Cover thoughts:

The cover is eye-catching but I'm a little offended by the perfect model with bee-stung lips whose face shows in the letter "k". Glow's cover made Waverly look more like a teenager and she is only 15, so that's a good thing. Is the model supposed to be Waverly? I'm guessing the answer is "yes" but she certainly does not fit my image of Waverly at all. In Spark, Waverly is working as a combine repairman. She is usually dirty and casually dressed; she certainly would never look perfectly made-up and I find the model looks more like a 20-something than a 15-year-old. My copy is an ARC, so I can't say the cover will necessarily stay the same, although the cover image at Amazon does currently match the ARC image shown above.

Best recent conversation:

While purchasing something at a local drugstore, I somehow ended up chatting with the clerk about e-books versus paper copies. She told me she's been given a Nook and said, "But, ask me where it is." She said she can't bear to do without the feel of a book in hand and that e-books are killing bookstores, so she won't buy them. What an unexpected and fun little chat that was!

Just a few of the thousands of books I'm going to have to pack up and move 35 miles:

If I'd known we were going to make an offer on a house, I would definitely not have moved those shelves from one room to the other, two weeks ago. But, they look really tidy, don't they?

©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, June 13, 2012

Wahoo! Wednesday

Many thanks to Fizzy Jill for thinking of me and sending the image above. That alone is a wahoo!

So . . . it's Wahoo! Wednesday! Many wahooey (and somewhat fatiguing) things are happening in my little world. Not many of them involve books, unfortunately, although I did happen across some books I don't need when I was dropping off donations at my library.

Wahoo! for books that have walked in:

Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon (ARC)
The Taken by Vicki Pettersson (ARC)

Both were library sale finds. Yes, yes, I know you're not supposed to pay for ARCs but the fifty cents I paid goes to the Friends of the Library so let's just say I donated a whopping two quarters to them, shall we?

It is a tiny bit sad to sit at my desk and watch the UPS truck zip past. I kind of miss those little brown parcels.

Looking on the bright side wahoos:

Wahoo for consistency in the flooring at our future new house. This is a "look on the bright side" wahoo because it's actually really hideous, if you ask me. The sellers have just replaced the flooring in almost the entire house . . . and they went with a cheap laminate instead of real wood. However, they did at least put the same flooring down everywhere except the entryway and kitchen (which has nice "brick pavers" flooring). We can always cover bits of it with area rugs. And, it should last a few years. So, that's two bright-side wahoos. Here, want to see? This is the entryway:

You can see the brick in the entry and the icky fake-wood stuff in the dining room, here. Wish they'd leave that nice piece of furniture behind. Note that the resident dog left his toy lying about. So cute. The house has high ceilings, so I'll just try to look up instead of down.

Reading update:

My reading is understandably pathetic, at the moment. I'd forgotten how much busy work is involved in buying a house. I'm lucky to manage about 50-100 pages per day. So, I'm really only focusing on one of the books in my sidebar: Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada. It's an excellent WWII book that was published in 1947. I've read a few chapters of my face-to-face book group's June selection, Into the Free by Julie Cantrell. I'm hoping to get back to Johnson's Life of London and Learned Optimism, soon. I would not advise holding your breath if you're waiting on reviews of any of those.

Crazy cat photo of the week is a shot of Isabel jumping onto my desk. I think it's very wahooey:

Other wahooish things that are making me happy, today:

Something to look forward to: City of Women by David R. Gillham. It sounds like my kind of book. Love WWII novels.

Have you got any wahoos to share? Please do!

©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, June 11, 2012

Forbidden by Syrie and Ryan M. James

Forbidden by Syrie James & Ryan M. James
Copyright 2012
HarperTeen - Young Adult/Paranormal
412 pp.

I wish I was on HarperTeen's mailing list. I managed to win my copy of Forbidden from Alyce of At Home With Books and it was such a pleasant diversion.

16-year-old Claire Brennan has never lived anywhere for long. It has always seemed as if her mother is running from something. But, she's been attending exclusive Emerson Academy for two years and she loves her school. When Claire begins having psychic visions, she's afraid to tell her mother. What is her mother running from? Why are strange things suddenly happening to Claire?

Alec MacKenzie is a Watcher, an angelic being whose job is to eliminate the Fallen when they become too dangerous. But, after over 100 years of doing his job, he's weary and just wants to give human life a try. He's had many years to learn a lot of information, so a school with a reputation for excellence seems like a nice place to hide and play at being normal. But, trouble follows. When Alec's godfather says there's a dangerous Halfblood roaming around Emerson, Alec agrees to help locate the Halfblood only if his godfather will guarantee not to turn Alec in.

Claire has a terrible crush on Alec and the feeling is mutual. But, Alec knows their love is forbidden. Is there a way for Alec to do his job and continue to spend time with Claire? Or must they be separated for eternity? Even worse, could their romance end in death?

What I loved about Forbidden:

I've been in a YA mood, lately, and Forbidden was just what I needed. It's got danger, forbidden romance, a dubious character or two (or four), and enough suspense to make the pages fly. The writing is also light enough for someone who is in the middle of working on preparing to buy a house and move. Haha. Had to throw that in. I do have a little trouble focusing on more intense reading material when I've got a lot going on, so young adult novels are particularly wonderful for such times.

I liked the characters and was swept away by the dilemma, the romance, and the paranormal elements. The lightness of the writing was very pleasant, since I've got a lot on my mind.

What I disliked about Forbidden:

Apart from answering with the word "Aye" instead of "Yes", Alec's dialogue does not make him sound like a Scot, but he is from Scotland. He pretty much sounds like everyone else in California and is most distinguished by the fact that he's lived a monk-like existence and has only eaten extremely healthy food. So, pizza and other foods are a shocking joy to him and, actually, his new food experiences and special abilities set him apart more than any attempt at a believable accent. I don't think that's a terrible thing, though, as a lot of authors overdo their attempt to make someone sound authentic, which ends up distracting the reader from the storyline. So, Alec's lack of Scottishness is a minor complaint.


Loved it! Recommended to paranormal fans who like a clean, light read with plenty of romantic tension, solid writing and a nice plot. This is only the second book I've read with angels in it so I can't say how it compares to others but I enjoyed Forbidden. It can be a tiny bit sappy, at times, and there is a smidgen of love triangle -- which, of course, has become a bit of a tired, old thing in YA -- but I liked both of the male characters and very rarely thought, "Oh, come on!" That may be because I haven't read much YA, this year. Forbidden swept me away and entertained me. That's all I care.

And, the latest news:

Things seem to be progressing rather quickly with the house purchase. Those who know me well will understand when I say I'm most excited about the fact that the neighborhood we're planning to move into has sidewalks and the city has leash laws. The absence of both has been really frustrating because we both grew up walking and riding bikes in neighborhoods where dogs were fenced and not a threat to active people (and dogs were not threatened by cars, which I believe is equally important). I cannot wait to ride a bike in my own neighborhood!

The cats are going to probably be peeved, though. I just have a feeling. Cats aren't really thrilled with the concept of change. We shall see.

Happy Monday!

Bookfool, who is trying to stop admiring all the improvements she's made to the house she's planning to sell.

©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.