Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Exceptions by David Cristofano

I read David Cristofano's first book, The Girl She Used to Be, in 2009 and loved it so much I still have my copy (till we moved, I could even point it out on the correct shelf) and still remembered the real name of the heroine, Melody.  But, I only had hazy memories of the rest of the story when I began reading The Exceptions.

Rather than a continuation of The Girl She Used to Be, The Exceptions takes readers all the way back to the inciting event, when Melody Grace McCartney's family witnessed a murder that led to their becoming targets of the Bovaro family. The Girl She Used to Be tells the story from Melody's perspective at 26.

Now, we get to find out whether that shifty Bovaro dude was telling the truth about her being safer with him than in WITSEC.  There was much more mystery and suspense to reading Melody's side of the story, but The Exceptions beautifully fills in the blanks and explains everything that was missing -- all the background info you probably desired to know while reading The Girl She Used to Be is there, plus a lot more.  The reader gets to witness the scene of the crime, Jonathan's childhood, how Melody's parents died, "Johnny's" failures in the family as he's sent to kill Melody, repeatedly, but comes back with excuses and what Jonathan was doing when he failed to kill Melody.

I loved both books, but I will say that I actually liked The Girl She Used to Be just a tiny bit better than The Exceptions because the writing was more spare and not knowing Jonathan's character made The Girl She Used to Be truly gripping.  The Exceptions gives the story a great deal of depth, though, and I enjoyed that.  Since I liked the first story so much, I loved learning more about Johnny and getting an understanding of who he was, why he failed to kill Melody and how their story finally ended.  It goes beyond the ending of The Girl She Used to Be and while I found that first title satisfying, I must say the ending of The Exceptions is even more so.

Highly recommended to readers who enjoyed The Girl She Used to Be, and those who enjoy crime fiction with a touch of romance, a bit of scary mafia violence (never my favorite bits, although there's one kick-butt scene that is justified) and a satisfying ending.  If my copy didn't happen to be buried in a box in the room we currently refer to as "The Warehouse", I'd be tempted to at least pull the book out and skim it to compare the two.  Unfortunately, it's going to take a while before I locate that box.

An important aside:  Rape is treated as it should be in The Exceptions - described as something that tears a person apart and haunts them forever after.  Way to go, David Cristofano!  Very few authors give rape the emotional weight it deserves.

In other news:

I'm slowly learning how to work with this new Blogger interface.  I still do not love it.  It has some advantages but it also has its bugs (I have not yet succeeded in changing typeface to a different color, for example, and moving images to the correct place without altering the spacing is also troublesome).

And, bookish news:

It's been a long time since I mentioned arrivals . . . I think.  I'll have to go back and look, but I'm pretty sure it's been at least 6 weeks.  I've been trying to keep all new arrivals in the same place.  It's not unusual for them to walk away (in my hands), though.  I'm going to gather everything together and photograph/list them in my next post, just for grins.

Children's Day forthcoming:

Among the many books I've received since I started sharing my new address have been a handful of children's books, so I'll be doing a Children's Day, soon -- probably next week.  I think I have 6 children's books to review (!!), so it'll have to be a day when the mood strikes me.

Now reading:

I'm going to continue to leave the "Now Reading" image in my sidebar blank because it makes me feel a little freer to abandon a book (you didn't see it in my sidebar, so you have no expectations) but I will tell you I'm currently reading Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure -- yep, gave in to the urge -- and Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon.  Yesterday, Isabel chewed on the covers of both (I directed her to her mint-flavored chew toy, which she loves), then shortly after that, Fiona chewed on Isabel hard enough to make her cry out and got a time-out.  Wednesday was an interesting kitty day.

Have you recently read that daily wahooing is good for your mental health and general outlook on life?  Journaling about good things (even a brief list) daily is good for you!  Wahoo!  I should go back to wahooing regularly.  Our biggest wahoo, at the moment, is that any time of day we can go out on our porch and watch the hummingbirds, which is immensely relaxing.  Also, hummingbird photos should be coming up in future posts.  Happy Wednesday!  Do some wahooing!!!

©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, September 25, 2012

Binge Reading - A Moveable Feast, The Paris Wife and Hemingway's Girl

Binge reading.  You all know what I'm referring to, right?  Not just reading any pile of books but getting so caught up in a subject, grabbed by an author or sucked into a series that you can't bear to read anything else till you've gotten your fill.

This is how I felt while reading about Hemingway.  First came A Moveable Feast by the master, himself.  I'd never read A Moveable Feast and probably would have continued to put off the reading for quite a while.  But, my Face to Face book group selected A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway and The Paris Wife by Paula McLain for our September discussion.

I enjoyed both, but found that there were times Hemingway's spare writing was just a bit too minimalist for me.  I wanted more information.  In fact, I spent a lot of time looking up the various artists with whom Hemingway and his wife, Hadley, spent time.  Even Scott Fitzgerald -- whom everyone seems to know a good deal about -- I looked up to compare images of him to Hemingway's physical description (and then kept reading about Scott and Zelda, who are so tragically fascinating that I will probably always be happy to read more).

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain was the perfect follow-up to A Moveable Feast, as it describes not only the Paris years, but the entire dating-to-divorce spectrum of Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway's relationship from Hadley's point of view and in much greater detail.

I found Hadley a likable woman, intelligent enough to challenge Hemingway, committed enough to continue trying to win her husband back and not abruptly leave him when she found out about his affair with Pauline Pfeiffer, surprisingly well suited to her husband.  Reading from Hadley's POV really rounded out that image of the Paris years, the so-called "Lost Generation" and the personalities of the various artists they spent time with in Paris cafes.

I found a few very interesting links when I was looking up images of The Paris Wife:

In an unusual switch from my normal reading method, I purchased The Paris Wife in e-book form because I don't yet have a library card for my new local library.  It didn't kill me, although I still prefer the sensation of holding a book in my hands, the ability to use paper Post-its and flip to them with ease, the ability to pass a book on to a friend after I finish, and not having to recharge, ever.

The F2F meeting about the two books was a total riot.  One of our members wore a beret and brought a bottle of absinthe, complete with a strainer and sugar cubes.  The group is often lively, particularly when they have strong feelings about a book or character, but they were even more enthusiastic than usual.  Maybe it was the absinthe.  I didn't drink any (I had a 30-mile drive home, so no alcohol for me) but regardless, the discussion was a blast.

Because I knew A Moveable Feast and The Paris Wife were on the agenda, I was very excited when I was offered a review copy of Hemingway's Girl by Erica Robuck.  

Hemingway's Girl adds fictional characters to the "Hemingway, wife and friends" reality. This time, the setting is their well-known house in Key West, Florida, during the time that Hemingway was married to second wife Pauline and they had two rambunctious young boys. The year is 1935.

In Hemingway's Girl, Mariella's father has died and her mother Eva is suffering from a paralyzing depression. Mariella's younger sister Lulu often suffers from mysterious high fevers and her other sister Estelle has not spoken since their father's death.  They're much younger than Mariella and only she can feed the family and pay their bills. But, it's becoming more difficult. Jobs are scarce and even the fish aren't selling well.

When a friend of the family helps Mariella get a job working as a maid in the Hemingway home, she is thrilled.  But, Hemingway is a mercurial man, hot-tempered and driven but always flirtatious.  Mariella finds herself drawn to "Papa's" oversized personality and energy. But, she also knows he's married and she's a good girl. When a veteran named Gavin enters her world, Mariella still finds Hemingway magnetic.  But, her feelings for Gavin are different.

Will Mariella fall for a married man or end up with a veteran who still carries emotional scars from war?    When Pauline suspects a building "relationship" between the beautiful "help" and her husband, will Mariella be able to keep her job?

Mariella is a great character.  I loved her strength, morals and work ethic.  She goes to the bar and to boxing matches, gambles to try to win more money and has big dreams.  She's tough but flawed.

Pauline is portrayed as jealous and spiteful.  Pauline was known to have been pretty well-read, so I thought her character could have been a bit more intellectual and less whiny but I don't know when their marriage began to falter.  Hemingway is egotistical and always trying to prove his manhood but has a big heart.

Everyday socializing and parities, Hemingway's fishing trips and boxing, a trip to Bimini, a romance and a hurricane -- a lot happens in Hemingway's Girl.  If you like plot-heavy, romantic, historical fiction, Hemingway's Girl is a perfect escapist read.

My only real complaint, besides Pauline's characterization, was the fact that a large portion of the characters used the same expression. "God" or "Oh, God" was used frequently, but I seldom thought it added any impact or urgency to what the characters had to say; and, the fact that it was used so commonly was, I though, possibly suspect for the time period.  Not that long ago, "You must never take the name of the Lord in vain" was a pretty common refrain.  Otherwise, I thought the book was very well-written and plotted.  I liked the range of characters and thought it was an enjoyable read.


All Heartily Recommended!  I enjoyed all three of these books for different reasons.  Hemingway's memories were fascinating, but I wanted a bit more than I got from A Moveable Feast. A Paris Wife nicely filled in the details from those years and expanded on them a bit.  Hemingway's Girl then moved forward to another decade and took an entirely different tack with a fictionalized set of characters who enter a year of his life with second wife Pauline, described in a new location and during a different phase of his writing (including less worry and more arrogance).

I've got a copy of Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure that I'd like to add to my reading schedule; and, I'm quite anxious to read The Sun Also Rises, as it was written during the Paris years.  But, for now, I really need to try to catch up with the backlog of review books I carried from house to house.

Do you ever binge read?  Any particular binge that comes to mind?  I'm curious.  Janet Evanovich's early Stephanie Plum novels were binge reading for me, years back.  I remember reading the first 4, back-to-back.

©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, September 24, 2012

Circling the Waggins by C. A. Wulff

An up-front warning:  Blogger has just forced their new "streamlined" settings on me.  I didn't like them when I tried them a few months ago and switched back to the older Blogger settings that used words rather than symbols (I cannot, for the life of me, understand why labeling buttons has gone out of style -- I like knowing a button's purpose at a glance).  It may take me a while before I'm back in the swing of regular posting.  


Circling the Waggins by C. A. Wulff is a book I was sent by the author after I saw Bob Tarte (author of Kitty Cornered and Enslaved by Ducks) mention it on Facebook and decided I must add it to my wishlist.  Subtitled, "How 5 Misfit Dogs Saved Me from Bewilderness," Circling the Waggins describes Wulff's large brood of animals (dogs, cats and, after a bit of begging from a friend, mice) but especially focuses on the dogs and their personalities.

Circling the Waggins is partly about how the author's beloved pets helped her survive depression but it's also about the changing fur faces in her home.  At the beginning of the book, she describes the loss of her partner's favorite dog, Troll, the decline of her dog Dillon, and the arrival of a new puppy she was certain she was not prepared to handle: Waldo.

Throughout the book, there are flashbacks that reveal the characteristics of beloved, now-departed dogs and the gradual arrival of new pets as more of the pet-loving duo's elderly brood of pets died off.  The reader gets to see Waldo progress from a goofy puppy to a huge but lovable and smart dog.

Circling the Waggins is a memoir, and the important characteristics of a memoir are always (in my humble opinion) the author's voice, along with the writing.  There were some problems I had with the writing.  It could have used a bit of editing and the fact that she jumped around in time -- going from Dillon's death to life with Dillon, for example -- often threw me.  But, I didn't find any of that enough to stop the reading; the writing issues were minor.

Voice-wise, I found the author occasionally came off as harsh -- in an emotional way.  However, she and her partner obviously have huge hearts.  They try to rescue as many animals as they can, finding homes for many and occasionally taking in a new pet.  When one becomes ill, she researches the symptoms and potential causes and goes out of her way to relieve, if not cure, an illness.  It's no wonder her animals live so long.  I was extremely impressed with her dedication and that also over-ruled the negative aspects of her individual storytelling voice.

Memoirs will usually reflect an author's opinions, as well, and I particularly agreed with Wulff about the senselessness of not getting pets spayed or neutered.  She's a little preachy about that.  Good for her.  Four million cats and dogs are euthanized every year because there aren't enough homes in which to place them all.  It boggles my mind that there are people who think it's no big deal to allow a pet to give birth to a litter . . . or two, or three.

A couple years ago, I gave a harsh review to an author who locked her cat into a restroom with an unfamiliar cat of the opposite sex so the female in heat could be relieved by getting impregnated.  It didn't work; the result was a painful cat fight, but the author and her family did allow several of her pets to give birth to litters, just for the fun of temporarily having tiny fur babies in the house (again, not something I condone). I thought locking a cat in a bathroom with another feline unknown to her was cruel.  I still feel that way and appreciated Wulff's no-nonsense feelings about the importance of keeping down the unwanted-pet population.

I particularly loved reading about the animals' individual personalities.  It should be noted that the focus is on dogs but the other animals do get exposure, especially when they become ill.  By the end of the book, all 3 cats  have perished due to natural causes.  The author is not a cat lover and was fairly disinterested in the cats, although she put every bit as much effort into trying to keep them healthy as she did any other animal.

Talking point:

The author's nephew told her he didn't want to visit her home because of a particular dog.  When pressed, he said it wasn't really that dog but the complete chaos of her home.  On a few occasions, the author mentioned considering dog training but rejecting it.  Here is where she and I disagree.  I think being jumped on and licked by a dog is horrifying.  Dogs are great pets but my personal opinion is that they should be trained to behave, especially around strangers.  Some of us have had some pretty terrifying experiences with dogs.

Since she and her partner take their dogs with them on outings, it seems reasonable that they ought to be willing to get them trained.  A well-trained dog can be a joy, even to someone who has had a bad experience in the past.  I agree with Wulff, however, in her conclusion that nobody has to visit her home if they don't appreciate her pets as they are.

The bottom line:

Recommended, particularly to dog-loving readers.  Jumps in time were occasionally a little confusing, but once you get to know the animals, you will love reading about their habits and quirks.  I'm looking forward to reading the author's first book, Born Without a Tail.

Final note:  So far, I'm unable to load photos to Blogger.  The image of the book, above, was loaded before Blogger forced the new settings on me.  Hopefully, I'll figure this out, soon.  As you know if you're a regular visitor, I post a *lot* of photos and being able to do so with ease is crucial.  If I'm not able to figure out the problem, I may consider leaving Blogger.  I've been very happy with this particular blog-hosting site and the ease of posting, till now.  After 6 1/2 years, it might be time for a change.  We shall see.  

©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, September 21, 2012

The NIV Rock Solid Faith Study Bible for Teens

I love trying out new Bibles so I jumped at the opportunity to review the NIV Rock Solid Faith Study Bible for Teens. And, it just happens that I have recently begun a new Bible Study, so I've had plenty of opportunity to actually use the Bible and see how it works for me.

The New International Version is my personal favorite because I find it very easy to comprehend, although I think I'll always miss the poetic rhythm of the King James Bible I used in my youth. In the Rock Solid Faith Study Bible (which I'll refer to simply as the "Rock Solid", from here on), there are things that I like and a few that I feel area a little weak. I'll just list the characteristics.


One of my favorite things about the Rock Solid is the typeset. The font is clear and the type size is reasonable for older eyes. While this particular version is directed at teens, who typically have good eyes, I am currently using this Bible as my primary Bible because it's so clear and easy to read.

The study notes

There are summary notes and teen-directed verbal illustrations which explain portions of whatever story you're reading (we're currently studying tiny Jonah). The study notes are labeled "Rock Solid principles" or "Rock Solid truths", etc., and they explain what they mean pretty clearly: how to apply the truths, principles or other concepts in those verses. I will say I didn't necessarily agree with at least one of the "truths" that I read, so you should bear in mind that the opinion of whoever wrote those study notes shows up. There are also "Unshakeable People" notes, which describe Biblical characters who refused to waiver in their faith.

The teen-directed portions are stories in modern terms that illustrate the principles one can learn from the portion of the Bible they're reading.

Both of these - notes and modern stories - are minimal, which I personally like. Some study Bibles are simply overwhelming, with so many notes (I always feel obligated to read them all) that it seems to double your study time.

Extra study helps at the end of the Bible:
  • Table of Weights and Measures with approximate American and Metric equivalents (a "cubit", for example, is approximately 18" or 45 centimeters).
  • What Do I Read Today? Suggested reading and a place to mark off the chapters read in every book of the Bible.
  • Rock Solid Truths Index - An index by topic, such as Accountability, numerous topics about Jesus and God, Judging, Uncertainty, etc.
  • Rock Solid Promises Index - In Biblical order, the beginnings of selected verses in which God makes promises to us.
  • Rock Solid Principles Index - Also topical, but using only one or two words: Cliques, Falling Away, Divorce, Friends, and Grief are a few.
  • Rock Solid Plans Index - Verses about a little of everything, actually, in relation to looking ahead and planning as a Christian.
  • Unshaken People Index - "Peter obeyed God rather than people" with the page number on which the event occurred is one example.
  • Unshaken God Index - Characteristics of God and where you can read about them.
  • Concordance and Maps - As in other Bibles, but again . . . clear typeset, including that on the maps, makes these very easy on the eyes.

The Bottom Line:

Recommended, with one aside. I'm going to continue using this Bible! I absolutely love the clear type. The aside: I think the notes can be a little iffy, at times, and if I were handing it to a teenager or a child of my own, I'd tell them I don't necessarily always agree with the opinion of the writer of those notes and offer to talk about them. My youngest son actually dislikes study Bibles but he might find this one tolerable because of the minimal amount of interruptions in the text.

Click here to get a sneak peek into the NIV Rock Solid Faith Study Bible for Teens.

©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, September 18, 2012

The Lost Button by Irene Rozdobudko

Book Description:

When young screenwriter Denys has a chance encounter with the gorgeous but older Liza at a vacation resort in the Carpathian mountains in the Seventies, he is immediately captured to the point of obsession. Moved to do everything in his power to be with her, he pays his way into a tour group during which Liza and Denys become "lost" together. But, their time alone is limited. Liza has a daughter and a life of her own. She has no real interest in Denys and is angered when he later shows up in her classroom.

Liza goes on with her life after they part. But, Denys is unable to let go of their single night together in the woods, even after decades have passed; and, his entire life revolves around his obsession. When he makes an impulsive decision that could change everything for the better, Denys is blinded to what is good and real in his life . . . until it's gone. Suddenly aware of what he had, Denys goes in search of the true love of his life. But, is it too late?

The Lost Button by Irene Rozdobudko is yet another book that I read around 2 weeks ago but have no problem remembering. Translated from the Ukranian, there are some turns of phrase that I found a little odd and I thought the book began rather slowly. In fact, I wasn't sure I'd complete it at all because Denys's obsession made for pretty dull and annoying reading (my opinion). And, then suddenly it became unbearable to put down. What happened?

The turning point in The Lost Button takes place when the reader becomes aware that Denys has lost the best thing in his life and after two years of searching has come up empty-handed. There are some complications that I think are best left as a surprise, although I will tell you that the missing person is his wife and her name is Lika.

After we learn about his search, the book switches from Denys's point of view to Lika's. We learn about how Lika reacted to betrayal, psychologically, where she went and what became of her. In the end, everything is thoroughly wrapped up in a very satisfying way.

Highly Recommended - The Lost Button is quite a fascinating book because it goes from a tale of obsession to a story about a man who simply can't see the good in his life, then it becomes a mystery about a missing person and finally ends with a psychological analysis of how a woman reacted to betrayal and went missing. It is utterly fascinating and I loved it, even if the obsession part nearly made me pull my hair out. I guess obsession by its very nature tends to be repetitive. That part was hard to get through but I would read The Lost Button again, now that I know how it ends. I absolutely loved Lika and found her story the most engrossing part of the book.

The Lost Button is the first of three translations I've gotten from Glagoslav Publications. I'm really excited to see how the other two turn out.

Speaking of which . . .

I've only managed to finish a whopping 4 books, so far, this month. This may possibly be the worst reading month I've had in 6 1/2 years of blogging! But, I'm actually just trying to roll with it. If I'm too tired to read (unpacking is dreary and exhausting), I sometimes nap, go to bed early or find something other than reading that occupies my mind. I've been having a lot of fun with Fat Mum Slim's September photo-a-day challenge. While I haven't managed to grab the camera every day, I love the fact that it's making me think about photography subjects that wouldn't occur to me, otherwise.

And, another side benefit of the challenge is that I have found a wonderful online photo editor that has effects very similar to those of Instagram. Since I don't have a smart phone, I've been a little envious of those Instagram effects, but the Pixlr-o-matic is easy as pie and has loads of great effects. Here's one of my favorite non-challenge photos, gussied up with Pixlr effects:

I've been asked to share my challenge photos at the end of the month. Some of them are pretty dull, but I'll share. I love looking at everyone else's photos; that's what got me started.

Tomorrow is F2F meeting day. Wahoo! I can't wait! We read two books, this month: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway and The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. I've continued to feed my new Hemingway obsession by indulging in Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck. I hope to finish it by 2013 [<----comment on my pathetic current reading speed]. I may be reading slowly, but I'm having fun when I do pick up a book.

Have you read anything fabulous, lately?

©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, September 14, 2012

Fiona Friday - Wordless

©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, September 12, 2012

Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson

Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson is one of those lovely older titles -- first published in 1936 -- that are being given a second life by publishers. My copy is from Sourcebooks, but I've been told Persephone also has published Miss Buncle's Book. Wahoo for both!

It's been a couple weeks since I finished Miss Buncle's Book, but it's unforgettable. Barbara Buncle is a single woman living in Depression-era Great Britain. Her income has trickled to nearly nothing, so with the idea of making money in mind, she has written a thinly-veiled account of life in her English village with a dash of fantasy in the form of a "golden boy" thrown in.

She meets with a cheery publisher and within a short time her book is selling well under the pseudonym "John Smith". But, there are complications. It doesn't take long for the villagers to discover the book, begin passing it around and wondering who has written about their lives. Most are angry about the way they've been portrayed, although a few think the book is simply entertaining.

While the villagers discuss the book and plot revenge, some of the book's fictional plotting begins to mysteriously come true. Is life imitating art? Or is Miss Buncle just unusually prescient? Will the villagers uncover the real name behind John Smith? And, isn't that cheery publisher charming?

Miss Buncle's Book started out as slow reading for me, although that may have something to do with the fact that I was in the thick of moving, at the time. Once the villagers became riled up and set out to find "John Smith" and teach him a lesson, I had difficulty putting the book down. What would become of Barbara Buncle, once the villagers found her out?

I don't think it's a spoiler to note that everyone in the village thought Miss Buncle couldn't possibly be the author of Disturber of the Peace. At least one person even claimed she was not clever enough to have written a book -- all of which made for some of the most interesting plot points toward the end of the book.

I loved Miss Buncle's Book. Barbara Buncle is a delightful character, her publisher is charming, there are plenty of villagers to love and at least two who are villainous enough to make you cheer when they get their just desserts. My only problem with the book was the fact that there are so many characters it's hard to keep them all straight. I finally reached the point at which I stopped trying to puzzle everyone out and just enjoyed the story. When I did that, the characters kindly stayed consistent and did a knock-out job of clarifying their individual stories so that eventually the cast was not so overwhelming.

Highly recommended to those looking for a good, breezy, old-fashioned tale. Miss Buncle's Book is a breath of fresh air. Light-hearted reading with a surprising plot, a lovable but slightly insecure heroine, a realistically large cast and a satisfying denouement. I will definitely be hunting down more books by D. E. Stevenson!

Miss Fiona says I've been posting too many photos of Isabel. Fi's turn!

©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, September 11, 2012

The Stars Shine Bright by Sibella Giorello

The Stars Shine Bright by Sibella Giorello is a book I was supposed to review for a blog tour roughly two weeks ago. Boy, did I drop the ball on that one.

I requested The Stars Shine Bright because I am absolutely in love with the Raleigh Harmon mysteries -- very odd for me, since I burned out on mysteries around a decade ago. They are all beautifully written and the latest installment is no exception.

Book Description:

In The Stars Shine Bright, FBI agent Raleigh is sent to uncover a possible race-fixing scheme at a horse track called Emerald Meadows. But, not long after Raleigh arrives, horses begin dying and Raleigh's life is threatened. Are horses being killed to fix races, or is there more to what's going on at the race track than a mere attempt at improving betting advantages?

While Raleigh rushes to find the answers before her undercover assignment time runs out, she must also deal with the growing awareness that she might just be engaged to a good man for all the wrong reasons. At the same time, Raleigh must learn to live with the hard facts of her mother's mental illness.

I never seem to manage to mark quotes in Sibella Giorello's books because I get sucked into them like the U.S.S. Enterprise gets sucked into wormholes, but you can trust me when I say Giorello's writing is absolutely stunning. Her mysteries are complex enough to satisfy without being so twisty that you find yourself feeling like you must be missing significant brain matter and her conclusions are satisfying. The main character is always getting herself into trouble and she's always in an emotional tangle, which also makes you want to continue following her to see whether she'll get herself out of the latest bind. I just love Raleigh.

One caveat: Raleigh Harmon is a Christian and Thomas Nelson is a Christian publisher. If you don't like being in the head of a Christian and can't respect her opinions, you might feel like the books are a tad preachy. I'm a Christian, myself, and I did feel like there were times The Stars Shine Bright might briefly have turned off the average mystery reader. But, I also like to look at Christian books the way I do anything else. I get just as weary of atheist characters telling me why they don't believe in a higher power, at times; but, if it's just a part of their characterization and it makes sense, no big deal. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, whatever. I'll read anything if the story is good. And, the Raleigh Harmon series rocks.

Highly recommended to mystery lovers, Christian or otherwise. The Stars Shine Bright is the 4th book in the Raleigh Harmon series. I have the first in e-book form but have not yet read it. I began with the 2nd in the series and didn't feel like I was missing anything but I do recommend reading the books in order, if possible.

Other books I've reviewed in this series:
In other news:

I am going to try to knock out at least one review per day till I'm caught up. I have a couple children's books I haven't added to my sidebar, as well.

Cat pic of the day (pardon the moving mess):

Izzy says, "If the human doesn't bother to place all the toys in convenient locations, one must fend for herself."

©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, September 10, 2012

Rumor has it this is Book Blogger Appreciation Week

So, I saw a tweet about Book Blogger Appreciation Week and went dashing out to see if I could find some info . . . and absolutely none of the blogs I tried to visit were functioning, at the time. I was told via Twitter, though, that it's a love-fest kind of day, all about bloggers we appreciate.

I could easily default to my old buddies, but I think this year I need to try to mention some new people. I do have to say that I love Andi's gumption, SuziQ's determination to stay true to herself, Carrie's perky and relaxed writing, Nat's sweetness and brilliant photography, Bellezza's gentle soul. Friends Les, Tammy, Kelly and Melissa for always being there when I need you and Jill for making me come closer to repeatedly spitting out my coffee than anyone else I can think of. Oh, and Trish and Kris are keeping me entertained with photos of two of the cutest babies on the planet. You can only see Kris's baby in her profile photo, sorry. Trust me, she's a doll.

And, here are the new shout-outs:

1. Jenny of Alternate Readality is fairly new to the blogger world (thanks to Suey, whom I also love) and such a riot. We seem to have pretty sharply differing opinions on books we've both read but I love reading her rants about titles I loved/she hated. I like knowing what people don't like every bit as much as what they do.

2. Maria of Fly High has never gotten a shout-out from me but should have. I love the historical focus of her blog, her travel updates and her obsession with Richard Armitage.

3. Amy of Life by Candlelight has been one of my favorite "quiet" bloggers for a long time. I don't recall ever mentioning her in a list of favorites, though; and, if so, that is definitely a tremendous oversight on my part.

A few others I admire for . . . well, this may sound stupid but . . . bravery: Eva for having such a positive attitude, Chris for being himself, Amy for turning a nightmare into a selfless crusade.

Honestly, I could go on all day and I hate to leave anyone from my sidebar out of this post, but I'd better stop. Thanks to anyone and everyone who visits, too!


I'm way behind on reviewing so I probably won't participate in the rest of the BBAW events, due to the need to catch up.

Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week!

©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, September 07, 2012

Fiona Friday returns - I am here for a head rub. Go ahead, rub my head while I check the outdoor happenings.

This is my way of starting out slowly. I had no idea how completely exhausted I'd be when I finished moving house. And there is still, of course, a massive amount of unpacking and organizing to be done. So . . . we begin with Fiona Friday. Hopefully I'll feel like writing a review or two or three, very 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.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

A few minis - Shadow Show, ed. by Weller and Castle; Enchanting Lily by Anjali Banerjee and The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

Surprise! A post!!! I've been waking up at 3:30 to 4:30, every morning. Usually, I read until I fall back asleep but today I wasn't sleepy and decided, "What the heck. Might as well take advantage of the time to whip out a few mini reviews." So, here you go . . .

Shadow Show is a collection of stories "in celebration of Ray Bradbury". In other words, each author used a similar style to Bradbury's or dropped hints about one or more stories that Bradbury wrote. As I was reading Shadow Show, the word that kept coming to mind was "stellar". The stories are unusual in that they are written by a truly fabulous group of writers. Some I knew, some names were unfamiliar. Each wrote a little about his or her story and there is a bio of each author in the back of the book.

I found myself eager to chase down a few of the authors I've missed. Some favorites:

"The Companions" by David Morrell
"The Tattoo" by Bonnie Jo Campbell
"Earth (A Gift Shop)" by Charles Yu

Highly recommended. Chris wrote a beautiful review of Shadow Show that's much more detailed than mine. I agree that this collection would make an excellent addition to any spooky/atmospheric reads pile, particularly if you're joining in on this year's RIP VII Challenge.

Enchanting Lily by Anjali Banerjee is a stand-alone tale that follows up Haunting Jasmine (<-- link to my review). Both take place on the same island off the Washington coast.

Lily is a widow who has moved to Shelter Island to start a new life. When she opens a vintage clothing store, she's certain that she'll easily draw people away from the hackneyed modern store across from her shop with her service and knowledge. But, she's mysteriously unable to draw in many customers. A beautiful white cat who shows up in her store and makes herself at home becomes the catalyst to change. Is the cat enchanted? Will Lily succeed at business and find new love?

Enchanting Lily is a light, romantic read that would make excellent beach/vacation fare -- not much brain power required and it's definitely an upper. I had a little more trouble buying into the romance in this book than that of Haunting Jasmine and I was disappointed that the cat's role was more limited than I'd hoped, but I recommend Enchanting Lily and I hope Anjali Banerjee will continue to write more sweet, breezy romances set on Shelter Island.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison really stunned me. I attempted to get into Evison's first book, West of Here, twice before decided it simply wasn't for me. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, on the other hand, grabbed me from page one.

Ben Benjamin has lost everything: His wife, his home, his children and possibly even a reason to carry on. He finds a job caring for 19-year-old Trevor, a wheelchair-bound young man who is trapped by his deteriorating body, overprotected by his mother and a little lost without the father who abandoned him. Trev is not particularly interested in doing much of anything apart from watching the Weather Channel, so Ben comes up with a virtual road trip of sorts, marking sites of interest on a map tacked to the wall.

When Trevor's father shows up, turning out to be nothing at all like Ben expected, and Trevor's mother must go on an important business jaunt, Ben and Trevor end up going on a crazy road trip that helps lead to healing for Ben and an important turning point for Trevor.

Oh, how I loved this book. It's tender, sometimes gut-wrenching, clever, packed with lovable characters, endlessly surprising and full of hope. Ben appears to be a bit of a bum, at first, but as his story unfolds, it is truly a gut-punch. He blames himself for the tragedy that caused him to lose everything, but is he really to blame? You must read the story to find out. Highly, highly recommended. I laughed, I cried, I was deeply moved by The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. At times, the story can be a bit plodding but it's necessary foundation-building. You have to understand Ben and Trevor before the road trip can possibly have any meaning. I never felt tempted to put the book down; in fact, it was nearly impossible. I had to know what happened to Ben.

All's well that ends well:

Actually, this maneuver didn't end well. The suitcase Isabel was trying to jump onto has wheels.

©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.