Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

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

Friday, March 29, 2013

Fiona Friday - Cats in Bathtubs are Very Entertaining (wordless)

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

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Week in Review

This was a busy blogging week because the cats and I were all on our own, so I'm going to be kind and do a recap post.  

-- On Sunday, I spent the day on our patio, writing.  Birds, bees (not the nice European kind that are dying off, but the giant inch-long variety) and a lizard kept me company.  Isabel was irritated.  Writing with Friends is mostly photos, a montage of the wildlife that kept me company and a photo of Izzy looking grumpy.

-- Monday's Catch-Up Post included short reviews of The Dalai Lama's Cat by David Michie, Coventry by Helen Humphreys, Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans, Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, and Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

-- Monday Malarkey on Tuesday contained the usual malarkey: recent arrivals, some springy photos and -- well, this is unusual --a pic of the dog we dog-sat over the weekend.

-- On Wednesday I posted my review of Swimming at Night by Lucy Clarke.  Naturally there's a cat photo.  The girls are fascinated by something in the photo, but I don't know what because I was too busy snapping their portrait.

-- I posted my review of The India Fan by Victoria Holt on Thursday with -- get this -- no other material! No babble, no photos.  That happens maybe once in a blue moon.

-- Then, I forgot it was Friday and posted a review of The Pope's Last Crusade by Peter Eisner, with a photo of a cardinal -- you know, the kind with feathers.

-- By the time I realized it was Friday, I was already working on my review of Poison by Bridget Zinn, so I tossed in a Fiona Friday photo (of Isabel) and posted a second time.

I've just begun streaming Island at War.  Some moments are so intense that I have turned off the volume.

And, now I'm going to take off a week or so from blogging.  I'm on about page 300 of Elizabeth Chadwick's Shadows and Strongholds.  Husband is due to arrive home from the UK some time today; but, his first plane got a late start and we're expecting more inclement weather so it's likely he'll be delayed (and I'll get to sneak in a little reading time).  Have a terrific weekend and week!  Happy Reading!

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

Friday, March 22, 2013

Poison by Bridget Zinn and a Fiona Friday photo

Poison by Bridget Zinn
Copyright 2013
Hyperion Books - YA/Fantasy
288 pp.

Poison is just a wee bit on the wobbly side.  It reads like a first effort and it probably was one.  But, the author is deceased, so that makes me feel like it's okay and I gave it a 4.5/5 rating.  Maybe she didn't have time to polish the work, but Poison is such a delight I just felt like giving it a high rating.

Kyra is a master potioner ("There's a better word for that, Mom," said Kiddo.  And, then neither of us could remember what it was).  She's on the run after trying to kill her best friend, the princess.  For over half the book, you have no idea why Kyra tried to kill Ariana.  Instead, you follow in Kyra's footsteps as she hides, acquires a scent-seeking piglet to help her locate the princess, who is herself in hiding (because Kyra missed for the first time ever when she threw a poisoned needle at Ariana) and getting to know a pleasingly awkward, adorable guy named Fred. The story of how Kyra ended up trying to kill her best friend and why is told slowly, through Kyra's memories and dialogue.

Poison is an adventurous, funny, creative fantasy.  It took me a while to get into the story because it's a fantasy (and not stellar writing).  I always have a little trouble with fantasy worlds that come off sounding like they're a mash-up of medieval, modern, paranormal, whatever.  Poison is set in a world with a magical kingdom but the princess once says something "sucks" and there are hints of the modern world mixed in with swords and potions.  If you're a regular fantasy reader, that won't bother you.  It's just something that throws me off.

By the time I got to about page 150, I couldn't bear to put the book down and I ended up with a reading hangover from staying up late to finish, but it was worth the pain.  The last 100 pages are by far the best, as the attempted murder is explained and the funniest scenes take place.  There were two little twists that completely threw me off-guard.  I love being surprised, so I got a kick out of both.  I was concerned that Poison might be the first in a trilogy and not wrapped up as I like, since there are so freaking many trilogies in the YA category, these days, and few books that stand on their own.

No worries.  Poison is thoroughly, satisfyingly wrapped up.

Highly Recommended to lovers of fantasy, YA fans and escapist readers who like a change of pace.  Don't expect perfection.  The writing is very good but I think the book could have tolerated a bit more nipping and tucking.  That mattered not one whit.  I loved Poison and think it is totally heartbreaking that the author died so young.

I am grateful to Sassymonkey for drawing my attention to Poison.  Thanks, Karen!

Kiddo's room got a girly new quilt:

I'll change it when he comes home for a visit, but doesn't Isabel look great on it?  She's such a princess, she should probably have some kind of a pink, flowery crown on her head but lying on a girly quilt suits her, also.

I'm not going to review . . .

Jericho (graphic novel) or Blitz by Vince Cross.  I've already mentioned Jericho very briefly in another post and Blitz was not a great book, although I did learn a bit about Anderson shelters (pre-fab, metal bomb shelters distributed in WWII England).  Blitz is a children's book, fiction, from a series of fictional diaries. It's rather bland but not a complete waste of time -- just probably better left to children.  I'm happy that I learned a little and I enjoyed the photos in the back of the book.

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

The Pope's Last Crusade by Peter Eisner

The Pope's Last Crusade:  How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI's Campaign to Stop Hitler by Peter Eisner
Copyright 2013
William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins) - History/WWII
292 pp., incl. notes, encyclical text, bibliography, photos and index

[Pope Pius XI] sought a verbal offensive with a major statement that would attack the underpinnings of the Nazi machine.  Pius appeared to have found the vehicle; he had received a copy of a book, Interracial Justice, written by an American Jesuit named John LaFarge.  The book portrayed the lives of American blacks who lived in the poorest strata of society.  It said the church had to establish itself as a moral force in combatting racism in the United States.  The pope did not know LaFarge was in Europe and en route to Rome.  [...]

This was the moment to strike.  In March 1937, the pope had last issued an encyclical--the highest statement the head of the Vatican can make--condemning Nazism.  But he felt compelled to do so again, this time with the words of an American Jesuit who understood the insanity of race.  This time his encyclical would be broadcast throughout the globe, and it would answer the maniacal quest for conquest with basic truths.

--p. 51, The Pope's Last Crusade

LaFarge was to write an encyclical that would use the same reasoning he employed when discussing racism in the United States.  He needed to convey that Hitler's increasing assault on the Jews was based on a myth.  The myth and the barbarity and inhumanity being unleashed in Europe must be challenged.

--p. 60

The "myth" is that of the belief in a superior race.

"Religion, by teaching man his relationship to God, gives the individual a sense of his own dignity and teaches him to respect himself by respecting his neighbors."

--from Franklin Roosevelt's State of the Union Message on January 4, 1939, as quoted on pp. 163-64 of The Pope's Last Crusade.

This review may contain spoilers.  You have been warned!!

Casual review, again.  The basic structure:  Rich American boy becomes priest, is posted in a part of the U.S. with poor blacks, becomes an activist against racism, writes a book and is sent to Europe.  One of the worst racist slaughters in the history of the world is about to occur, so the pope writes an "encyclical" (a papal statement).  Things get worse, the Nazis begin closing shops and shuttling Jews to ghettos and camps, the pope decides to write more, Hitler invades Austria.  The pope is old and very ill, having already recovered from near-death cardiac trouble.  He reads Rich-American-turned-Jesuit-priest's anti-racist book and hears its author is nearby, requests an audience, asks him to write the encyclical and bring it back in person. Priest LaFarge gathers helpers, retreats to write and Hitler is handed Sudetenland on a platter, then . . . well, that would be telling.

The Pope's Last Crusade is fascinating but pretty depressing because the fact of the matter is that it took decades for the unpublished encyclical to surface (not fully intact) and it is now believed that had it been published, the wholesale slaughter we know as the Holocaust might have been a lesser thing -- dramatically so -- because of the sheer quantity of Catholics Hitler would have been up against.

The book also talks quite a bit about President Roosevelt's part in trying to avert war, the viewpoints of the American ambassador to Italy and his wife (mostly the wife, Caroline Drayton Phillips, who was an avid diarist), and Roosevelt's inside connection to Pope Pius XI.

But, you have to read the book to understand what happened, why the encyclical was never published, and why John LaFarge didn't even speak of his part in the writing of this important work for decades.

The Bottom Line:

Recommended - Reads like an unfolding mystery. The story itself is a bit of a let-down but by that I mean the denouement of the actual events, not the writer's portrayal of them.  I enjoyed reading The Pope's Last Crusade and found it fascinating.  It's just so, so sad.  Pope Pius XI was really an admirable, forthright, fearless man who was willing to speak up in the face of potential danger to himself and even at risk of others in the Catholic church, for the sake of righting a wrong.  It's a coulda-shoulda-woulda book.  But, it's also a fascinating story and an interesting peek into the life of a pope, as well as a pretty clear portrayal of the Catholic church's sweeping power and the pope's ability to sway events.

It was really quite fun reading The Pope's Last Crusade as a new pope was being chosen. The book expanded my understanding of why the right choice of head of the Catholic church is so crucial (I'm not Catholic) and also gave me a pretty good view of why the choice of a pope from Argentina is such a shocker -- in a good way, I hope.

Side note: There are a few too many editing errors in The Pope's Last Crusade, like a sentence containing the place name "Place de Concorde" rather than the correct "Place de la Concorde" -- small errors but more than I consider acceptable.  I hope if there's a second printing those errors will be edited out.

Your daily reminder to stop and smell the roses whatever flower is available:

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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The India Fan by Victoria Holt

The India Fan by Victoria Holt
Copyright 2013 (orig. published in 1988)
Sourcebooks Casablanca - Historical Fiction
394 pp.

Drusilla Delany has never thought too highly of the wealthy Framling family.  A rector's daughter, Drusilla lives in the rambling rectory with an absent-minded but kind father who is happy with the simple things in life and completely besotted with the Greek classics.  He pays little attention to Drusilla, who is closer to her nurse, Polly, than her father.  

When Drusilla is invited to the Framling estate to play with Lavinia Framling, she is curious about the house more than the child.  Lavinia is a beautiful, spoiled brat who treats Drusilla with contempt.  She is the closest little girl in proximity to the estate, though, and Lady Harriet finds the studious, intelligent Drusilla a suitable companion for her daughter.  Since the rector is in Lady Harriet's employ, Drusilla can't really refuse.  Thus begins a strange, long-time friendship in which Drusilla is compelled to accompany Lavinia from one school to another and eventually becomes Lavinia's hired help. 

During one of her early visits, Lavinia's brother Fabian insists that they pretend to be his slaves and sends them to fetch forbidden objects.  Drusilla returns with a peacock fan from India.  But, she is quickly chastised and told of the fan's curse.   From England to France to India and back, danger follows Drusilla.  Will the curse follow her throughout her lifetime?  Or, is the peacock fan's curse just the silly whim of a sad, old woman?

What I loved about The India Fan:

Technically, I suppose The India Fan is historical romance, but there are three men Drusilla may or may not end up with and they are all woven in and out of the story. In truth, you always know who Drusilla is going to end up with and the romance ends up feeling secondary to the story of Drusilla's friendship with and employment by Lavinia, as well as her deep friendship with Polly -- who is pretty much a surrogate mother.  I liked the fact that it wasn't all gushy romance, instead focusing on friendship and setting.

The changing settings are one of the best things about the book.  Because Drusilla accompanies Lavinia, she travels pretty extensively.  It took me a while to figure out the time period and I found that a tiny bit annoying, at first, but eventually looked at figuring out the time period as a bit of a challenge and searching for clues to figure out when the story was taking place became rather fun.

What I disliked about The India Fan:

I'm afraid the book did ramble on a bit and Drusilla can be a bit severe.  But, even though Drusilla is just a wee bit stuffy, she has a big heart.  So, I cared about Drusilla and wanted to know what would happen.  I especially wanted to see her through to eventually finding love and her place in the world.  She's a typically stubborn historical-fiction heroine who will not simply settle down and marry merely because everyone else thinks she should.

Lavinia is a nasty character and her unchanging personality does grate a bit.  And, the mystery is not really all that mysterious.

The bottom line:

Recommended - I didn't love The India Fan because it's a bit overlong, but Victoria Holt's writing is captivating enough that I was never tempted to set the book aside.  An engrossing, escapist read with exceptional characterization, an solid storyline, and rather unique and fascinating historical settings (which led to further reading online). Victoria Holt is a pro, of course. I can't complain about her writing style.  Apart from being a bit detail-heavy -- which some people love, but I do not -- it's pretty close to flawless.

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Swimming at Night by Lucy Clarke

Swimming at Night by Lucy Clarke
Copyright 2013
Touchstone Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) - fiction/general
372 pp.

I'm going to go uber-casual on this one and say up-front that it's a book about sisters . . . which I usually hate.  I've never had a great relationship with my sister (her choice).  We get along fine but the word "close" is just not happening.  However, my dud sister relationship really didn't bother me much in this case because I was totally sucked into the story pretty quickly.

Swimming at Night is told from alternating viewpoints.  As the book opens, Katie is receiving news that her sister Mia has committed suicide in Bali.  Mia's been touring the world with her good friend Finn for several months, but Bali wasn't on her agenda and Finn was no longer with Mia when she died. What happened on Mia's trip? Why was she in Bali and what led to her death?

Katie is convinced that Mia could not possibly have killed herself.  When she's given Mia's backpack, which contains her journal, Katie quits her job and follow's Mia's path, reading the entries as she follows in Mia's footsteps.  She never reads ahead, which was the one thing I couldn't buy into about Swimming at Night.  Your sister dies of a suspected suicide, you've got her journal and -- seriously? -- you don't sit right down and read it cover to cover to try to figure out what on earth happened?  I can't fathom not reading the journal immediately; that's the first thing I'd do.

Beyond that oddity, though, Swimming at Night is a story of betrayal and lies, love and friendship, facing fears and grief and learning what's important in life.  There's quite a bit of s*x but not the graphic variety. Although there were moments that I was pulled from the book due to a relationship that I couldn't relate to and the odd choice not to read ahead in the journal, I found Swimming at Night quite gripping and the ending perfect. The chapters alternate between Katie's viewpoint and Mia's, as events unfolded on Mia's journey.  I thought that the alternating chapters worked very well and the story was handled skillfully.

Highly recommended - Yeah, the ploy of having the main character choose not to immediately read her sister's journal to keep events mysterious is a bit of a stretch, but Swimming at Night is a good story that will make you want to grab a backpack and go explore the world.  The writing style is above average -- not brilliant and quote-worthy, but there's just something about the way the book unfolds that makes the pages fly.  I gave Swimming at Night a 4.5/5 at Goodreads because it grabbed me, held on and had a satisfying ending.  Love, love, love the changing settings.

My thanks to Jessica at Simon & Schuster for the review copy!

In other news -- and this is very important:

I got a new pair of flip-flops, today (Tuesday - yeah, I'm pre-posting, again).  They're white.  Kind of boring, actually, but they were cheap and had the kind of fabric thingy-that-goes-between-the-toes, which is crucial because everything else causes blisters.  Anyway, that's a relief, since we've already crept into the 80s and I discovered our new pebble-dash sidewalk and driveway are Really Freaking Painful to walk across barefoot.  And, I keep stepping on sweetgum balls on the deck.  Actually, I finally picked those up, but seriously . . . you don't want to step on those suckers.

Currently reading:

Poison by Bridget Zinn - Scratch that.  I stayed up late finishing this one.
Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick

Loving both, so far.

No idea, but it must have been interesting:

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Monday Malarkey on Tuesday

I already shared my weekend with you, since I had such a quiet Sunday, so there's not much to talk about but recent arrivals and weather and blooming things.  It's Monday as I type.  I'm pre-posting because I keep getting ahead of myself with nobody around to thwart my blogging efforts. It stormed, today (and, actually, another round is going through, as I'm writing).  We got marble-sized hail -- totally lucked out.  Just a mile or two away, my son's girlfriend lost her windshield to baseball-sized hail.  

Recent arrivals:

Top to bottom:

  • Before Your Very Eyes by Alex George - And, you thought the author of A Good American was a newcomer.  Not so.  When Alex visited my local indie, he told me he had 4 or 5 published titles in the UK. I looked while we were in London, last year, without any success.  But I found a used copy of one of his titles online!  I'm excited to have another Alex George book to read.  Alex ducks and blushes when he speaks about his earlier titles, which just makes me twice as eager to get to this one.  Curiosity and all that.
  • The Clover House by Henriette Lazardis Power - from Ballantine Books for TLC tour
  • We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo - I got 12 copies of this to distribute to my F2F book group for review and discussion in May from Reagan Arthur Books.  My book group friends are just as giddy as they were the first time I got a pile of books for the group to share (Life After Life by Kate Atkinson).  
  • Fever by Mary Beth Keane - An ARC sent by my sweet friend, Melissa.  Thanks, Melissa!
Not pictured:
  • Poison by Bridget Zinn - just arrived (purchase).  And, UPS left it outside . . . in the rain . . . without ringing the doorbell.  *sigh*  It's fine, though, because I'm quick to dash to the door if I'm in hearing range. The UPS truck makes a pretty distinctive braking noise.
This is happening in our yard:

We're slowly figuring out what plants we've got in our new yard.  That's one of two Bradford pear trees in the front yard.  From the looks of it, we have about 4 more in the back, some camellias and azaleas and maybe oleander.  The backyard is a bit of a jungle.  On the plus side, that means most of the year we don't have to look at the neighbor's trash cans, which are in full view from our deck when the leaves are off the trees.

I spotted my first woodpecker!  Woot!

We don't have any older trees in our yard; this is a good distance away, so it took a 300mm lens and a good deal of cropping to capture this fellow.  I love seeing redheaded woodpeckers.  They are so gorgeous!

We dog-sat, this weekend.  Teddy is a big, sweet, lovable old guy.  He likes ear rubs.  

That's all for now.  Happy Tuesday!

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

Monday, March 18, 2013

Catch-up post - The Dalai Lama's Cat, Coventry, Level 2, Purple Hibiscus & Scarlet

It's about time I did some serious catching up. All of the following are books from my personal collection and all 5 are books that I enjoyed and recommend.

The Dalai Lama's Cat by David Michie is a fictional tale told from the point of view of a cat.  Jenclair's review of The Dalai Lama's Cat was so positive that I ordered a copy of the book and, fortunately, I did love it.

The cat tells how she was rescued from certain death to become a part of the Dalai Lama's household.

In a way, The Dalai Lama's Cat is almost a primer in Buddhism.  As she roams around her home and explores a local cafe, the cat known alternately as Rinpoche, Snow Lion and Bodhicattva charms everyone in her path but also absorbs and shares lessons learned through observation of the monks, the Dalai Lama, the man who owns the cafe and other creatures.

The Dalai Lama's Cat is a lovely, reflective, uplifting tale.  Kiddo also enjoyed it.

Coventry by Helen Humphreys is also fictional, but with a very genuine and terrifying historical setting -- the bombing of Coventry, England by the Luftwaffe on November 14, 1940.

Harriet Marsh begins the evening standing on top of Coventry Cathedral.  It is peaceful but the moon is full, a "bomber's moon". Harriet and a young fire watcher named Jeremy meet on the cathedral and spend the evening helping people, fighting fires, running for their lives.

A little bit love story with an odd sort of connection that leads back to a time when Harriet was young and newly married and briefly befriended Jeremy's mother, Coventry is emotional, graphic and incredibly, horrifyingly vivid.

Highly recommended to those who love reading WWII stories.  Sad and slightly strange writing but it grew on me and the book is utterly gripping.

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans is one that I can't believe I didn't sit down and write about immediately -- our Lenore wrote it, after all!  I pre-ordered Level 2 and read it almost immediately.  

Felicia Ward is stuck in a strange afterlife in which the dead spend much of their time in pods, reliving their memories or viewing the memories of others.  Most of the time, Felicia focuses on memories of Neal, the boy she loved.  But when one of her friends disappears from a neighboring chamber and a boy named Julian offers to help her, she goes from reliving the past to moving forward.  

It took me a while to become accustomed to the world of Level 2 and wrap my head around what was going on (fallen angels called Morati fighting to keep the dead from moving to the next level) but once the book became more action-oriented, I really got sucked into it and ended up loving the book.  Way to go, Lenore!

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer is another pre-order.  I don't actually pre-order books very often, but I absolutely loved Cinder, the first of the Lunar Chronicles, and couldn't bear to wait for a swap copy.

Cinder is a futuristic tale of a cyborg based on "Cinderella" and Scarlet is obviously based on "Little Red Riding Hood".  In Scarlet, Cinder has been imprisoned and is scheduled for execution.  Meanwhile, Scarlet's grandmother has gone missing and when Scarlet encounters a street fighter named Wolf, she is captivated by him.  

Wolf isn't what he seems, Cinder escapes, and eventually you find that the stories of Cinder and Scarlet are interconnected.  I absolutely loved this second entry in the YA series.  I'll probably end up pre-ordering the next book.  If you loved Cinder, you'll enjoy Scarlet.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a coming-of-age story, the kind of book I usually abhor.  But, in this case I had trouble putting the book down long enough to sleep.

Everyone assumes Kambili and her family have a wonderful life because her father is wealthy and revered.  They own several huge homes in Nigeria and her father is known for his generosity, faith and political activity.

But, behind the compound walls lives a family in terror.  Kambili's father is a religious zealot who cannot be pleased.  The slightest infraction (even visiting their grandfather, whom he considers a sinner, for too long) leads to horrific abuse.  The backdrop of this family tale is a military coups; it's as if you're reading about two different wars, although the main storyline is told from Kambili's point of view.  After Kambili and her brother go to visit their aunt, they discover laughter and love -- and knowing those things exist will change their lives forever.

I have never been so angry at a character as I was at Kambili's father, an evil, deceitful man who masqueraded as a kind and loving man of faith.  Purple Hibiscus is truly an amazing work of writing.  

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

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Writing with Friends

Today, I decided to go back to basics with my writing.  I took a new pad and pen outside with a large mug of coffee and my camera.  I can't go out on the patio without my camera.  I managed to write 5 pages of a new story that's been brewing in my head for weeks.  These are the friends who kept me company while I wrote (you can click on the image to enbiggen):

And, this little gal was very irritated that I didn't bring her outside to explore.  I did at least open the windows so the kitties could enjoy the air.  Our weather was pretty much perfect.  Have to enjoy it while it lasts.

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

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Legacy of Rescue by Marta Fuchs

Legacy of Rescue: A Daughter's Tribute by Marta Fuchs
Copyright 2011
Csaladnak Press/ - Nonfiction/Memoir told in several voices
191 pp.

Legacy of Rescue begins with the story of Morton (Miksa) Fuchs, a Hungarian Jew who survived forced labor during WWII, thanks to a gentile named Zoltan Kubinyi.  In Legacy of Rescue, the elder Fuchs' story is told in his own words as he related it to his daughter, who translated with only a few alterations for clarity.

I was expecting a detailed story of one man's escape from death, but the WWII portion of the story is actually only a fraction of the book.  Legacy of Rescue goes well beyond the story of Miksa Fuchs, the individual.  It wasn't just Fuchs, himself, who was saved but over 100 men.  After cleverly dodging instructions by superiors to keep his charges alive after they were no longer considered useful, Zoltan Kubinyi was himself arrested.  He died of illness in a Siberian labor camp in 1946 but he was not forgotten.  Legacy of Rescue also tells the story of how the Fuchs family tracked down Kubinyi's family and documented the rescue so that Zoltan Kubinyi could be memorialized as a Righteous Gentile.

There's an awful lot to this slender memoir.  It's one man about being aware of what a gift he'd been given and, although not stated in those words, Miksa Fuchs' story is very much about paying it forward -- being kind and positive and loving.  

Legacy of Rescue is a tremendously moving book.  As you'd expect of a Jewish family in WWII, very few of his relatives survived.  After the war, Miksa Fuchs returned to his home, opened a grocery store, married, and started a family.  But, Hungary was occupied by Communists and torn by further war.  Eventually, the Fuchs family crept across the Austrian border (into Austria) in a night-time escape reminiscent of the Von Trapp family's flight from Austria in The Sound of Music.  WWII had long since ended but the horror had not.  

Eventually, the Fuchs family settled in the United States.  Miksa changed his name to Morton and the family thrived.  The Fuchs children (and grandchildren) grew up hearing about Zoltan Kubinyi.

What makes Legacy of Rescue special is the way Mr. Fuchs reacted to his experience.  When you read about the elder Mr. Fuchs -- the terror, hardship and hunger he survived, the loss of much of his extended family, the years of Soviet occupation -- you can easily imagine how he could have become a broken, sad, bitter man.  Instead, he remained well aware of what a rare gift he'd been given and determined to honor the hero who made it possible for his children and grandchildren to exist.  He taught his family to spread kindness and love.  He was a man of optimism and joy.  Clearly, his family has carried on that legacy of joy and kindness.

Highly Recommended - Legacy of Rescue is a beautiful, heartwarming, inspiring book that will make you want to be a better person.  I originally gave it a 4/5 at Goodreads because there were times I felt it was a bit disorganized and I lost track of who was speaking, but that's really a minor complaint and after a couple weeks of reflection I returned to Goodreads and changed my rating to 5/5.

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

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fiona Friday - Lap Kitty!!!!!

Oh, the excitement!  Fiona is becoming my lap kitty!  She will only lie on my lap if I have a blanket spread across my legs, but I'm okay with that.  

Her ears were back because she was irritated about the camera.  

Isabel and Kiddo are currently playing a game of "Chase the Nerf dart."  Kiddo shoots, Izzy bolts after the dart.  So cute.

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tuesday Twaddle on Wednesday - PB release, new arrivals, la di dah

Today is Yesterday was Paperback Release Day for All Woman and Springtime by Brandon W. Jones!  It's a fabulous book.  I was really quite stunned that the book was this author's first.  You should definitely get a copy.  I'm twitter friends with the author and happy to report that he's hard at work on his second novel.  I absolutely can't wait to see what he comes up with, next.

I'm focusing on finishing up The Pope's Last Crusade:  How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI's Campaign to Stop Hitler by Peter Eisner.  Very timely, since the selection process for a new pope has been underway, this week.  A pope from Argentina!  Who'd have thought?  If I don't finish tonight, I should be locked up in a library for good.  I've only got a handful of pages remaining.

Recent arrivals:

The Registry by Shannon Stoker - A New Adult title from HarperCollins for review
Black Box by Julie Schumacher - A "young readers" book (looks like middle reader to me) that has been on my wish list at Paperback Swap for several years.  I know I originally found out about this by reading a blog review somewhere, but it's been too long to remember which blog.
Jericho Season 3: Civil War - A graphic novel that continues the TV series Jericho.  It backtracks a bit to fill readers in on the story.  I've already read this and enjoyed it (purchased).
Swimming at Night by Lucy Clarke - from Touchstone Books (Simon and Schuster) for review
Lincoln's Dreams by Connie Willis - from Paperback Swap.  Now that I own a copy, I see that a lot of people really hate this one.  Hmm.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante - Purchased; a Europa book I've been interested since its release.
Little Wolf Goes to School and Little Bear's Baby Brother by Mary Packard, illus. by Lisa McCue - from Sterling Children's for review with two others in the series

And, now:

Tuesday is on the brink of ending but I hope to get this posted just under the wire.  Kiddo is currently home on Spring Break and Huzzybuns took off the day to get some important things accomplished before they both abandon me -- Kiddo back to school at the weekend and Huz off to Merry Olde England.  I pretty much love having them around so it's going to suck when they both take off.

I suppose their absence should give me a bit more time to catch up on that nasty pile-up of reviews in the sidebar.  Either that or it'll be a good time to host a party.  Shhh!  Don't tell!  We'll read piles of books together and drink something . . . uh, posh?  Like fizzy grape juice!  Yes!!!!

I have to go, now.  I'm getting too excited.

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

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James
Copyright 2012
Berkley (an imprint of Penguin) - historical/contemporary fiction
422 pp. including Reader's Guide

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen is the story of Samantha McDonough, who discovers a letter written by Jane Austen tucked into a book.  This letter hints at the existence of a previously-unknown Austen manuscript.  The letter and a little investigation lead Samantha to a shabby estate called Greenbriar in Devonshire, where she meets the very handsome Anthony Whitaker, owner of the crumbling estate. Anthony is preparing to sell Greenbriar.  It's a wreck; he's really never lived there long enough to become attached to the place, his father was an icky old man who didn't have anything to do with him and Anthony just wants to dispose of it quickly.

Clearly, Samantha needs to convince him to hang on long enough for her to dig in the house to find the manuscript that she believes was left or stolen at Greenbriar.  Not exactly a challenging conflict.  Man who wants to get rid of house immediately shoos away Austen scholar with a burning desire to dig around in his shabby mansion.  They have to find that manuscript or the book is rather pointless, right?

Anthony is, of course, quickly convinced that he should allow Samantha to hunt for the manuscript after letting her in long enough to locate a guest registry that lists the Austens as visitors.  He is motivated by money; she only cares about the joy of adding to the Austen canon.  It doesn't take long for the two to find the missing manuscript.  And, when located, they begin to read the manuscript. At this point, the tone of the book changes as it becomes a "book within a book".  I didn't find the Austen manuscript particularly convincing (nor the letter, for that matter).  But, the Regency-era manuscript slowly grew on me as its plot began to sound typically Austenish.  

At that point, I shut off my annoying editor brain and simply enjoyed the story.  The "missing manuscript" might have contained some modern expressions and Americanisms but, in the end, the Regency portion of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen was tremendously entertaining.  Eventually, I found the modern portion of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen so dull that it was irritating when the modern story interrupted

The Regency story is about a rector's daughter, Rebecca Stanhope, who finds that friends are not always what they seem.  There is the usual hero with a secret agenda and the surprising true love, etc. - definitely a story built with a bit of Austen formula. 

The modern portion of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, unfortunately, was too predictable, too pat, far too easy for the heroine.  Discovering a letter and locating a manuscript within 2 days?  And . . . well, I won't spoil the ending but it also lacks decent obstacles.  The only conflict was so obviously manufactured that I would not have managed to finish the book if the modern portion had not taken a backseat to the historical.  

Fortunately, the modern story becomes the lesser portion of the book as Samantha and Anthony read the discovered manuscript and, in the end, I really enjoyed The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen.  The modern ending was predictable and trite, but I pretty  much didn't care, by that point.  I'd already had too much fun and would have happily closed the book without a wrap-up of the crappy modern portion.  I gave The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen 4 out of 5 stars at Goodreads.  The modern portion would get no more than a 2/5 if I were to rate it on its own and if I'd taken off points for style I would have given it a lower overall score, but entertain me and I'm happy.  

Recommended particularly to fans of Jane Austen who enjoy reading spin-off novels and readers who love Regency novels, in general.  A delightful Regency tale is what makes the book entertaining. The ridiculously predictable modern story's ending is okay, if only because it doesn't deviate from the expected.

In other news:

No malarkey, today.  I'm just recovering from a 4-day migraine.  If I have time and energy, I'll write a Tuesday Twaddle post, tomorrow.  If not, I'll just dive right into more reviews when I can.  

Here's a cardinal to appease you. Obviously, I mucked around with this one a bit, using the "posterize" feature from Picasa and altering the color a bit at  Photo editors are like the grown-up version of play-doh -- so much fun to mess with.  

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

Friday, March 08, 2013

Fiona Friday - Better than a box of shoes

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

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson - Review and F2F Report: A Self-Interview of Sorts

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Copyright 2013 
Reagan Arthur Books (a Little Brown imprint) - fiction/historical
527 pp.  
Release date: April 2, 2013

You know how sometimes you love a book so much that when it comes to reviewing you're paralyzed with fear that you're not going to do the book justice?  That's Life After Life, for me.  I've thought about it enough that I've begun to think of my review drafts for Life After Life as The Review that Ate My Brains.  So, to save myself from becoming a zombie, I've decided to salvage my reputation and life with Ye Olde Self-Interview.  I apologize in advance for any inadvertent repetition. I worked on this off and on for weeks and I'm afraid I'm tired of editing, so it is what it is.

Of course, it works best if I'm actually interviewed by someone imaginary.  Today, I'm going to be interviewed by a Renegade Zombie Killer.

Renegade Zombie Killer:  Hi, and thank you for letting me interview you on the roof of a tall building so that I can spot potential danger before it's too late.

Bookfool:  Hello.  Could you maybe put down the guns and knives and . . . all those bullet holders?  

RZK:  Sure, but the protective armor stays.  Let's get down to business.  What's Life After Life about and do you have a Personal Escape and Attack Plan (PEAP) in case of zombie invasion?

BF:  Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is the story of Ursula Todd.  Born on a snowy night in 1910, she promptly dies.  And, then she's born again and lives.  As Ursula continues to live and die, events change -- sometimes marginally, sometimes dramatically.  Ursula is often able to remember enough from past lives to alter her future, preventing previous tragedies to herself and others from recurring.  With her uncanny foresight, will it be possible for Ursula to change the fate of the world when she's able to get close enough to kill Hitler?

That was written in my own words but I have to throw in a link because I adore the description of Life After Life at's "Top 10 Reads of March".

And, my PEAP for zombie invasion is to run like hell.

RZK:  What did you enjoy most about Life After Life?

BF:  Just about everything.  The characterization is amazing, the literary references and occasional sentences in various foreign languages (not translated) challenge readers, the story is unique, the author did a good job of setting apart the various lives lived by Ursula with minor changes of perspective or timing to avoid too much repetition.  I loved the fact that a large portion of the book was set during WWII -- a favorite time period -- and the way it made me think.  You can't just disengage your brain and zip through Life After Life; it's a thinking book, yet Life After Life was one of the most thoroughly entertaining books I've read in a long time.  I also love Kate Atkinson's sense of humor.

RZK:  Have you read any other books by Kate Atkinson?

BF:  No, Life After Life was my first.  She was new to quite a few of my book club's members and many of them commented that Life After Life will not be their last (myself included).

RZK:  What did you personally dislike?

BF: Nothing major.  There was a point at which I briefly thought there were just a few too many Ursula Lives, but I do tend to fade at some point when reading longer novels.  And one of Ursula's incarnations was filled with horror upon horror. I couldn't wait for that life to end. Life After Life has an open ending and I didn't mind that at all.  I liked the way my mind keep ticking over like a warm engine, when the book ended.

RZK:  Can you give me an example of her sense of humor with a little set-up?

BF:  Of course. There's a certain major historical event (one I'm sure everyone's familiar with) that leads to the deaths of a number of people in the book -- not just Ursula, but people Ursula loves -- and in several lifetimes in a row she fails to stop Bridget, the young lady who brings about the events that cause the local deaths.  Also, each time Ursula dies, there's some reference to darkness falling or something like a bat raising its wings -- something definitive to let you know that death has occurred.  This is a passage in which Ursula dies after failing to stop Bridget from setting the deadly events in motion for the third time:
"Oh, the silly girl just tripped," Mrs. Glover said.  "You know how clumsy she is.  Well, anyway," she said with some satisfaction, "that's put paid to your London high jinks." 
"Not so," Bridget said stoutly.  "I'm not missing this day for anything.  Come on, Clarence.  Give me your arm.  I can hobble
Darkness, and so on. 
~p. 111
I actually laughed out loud when I read that passage, not only because it was surprising that Bridget still went to London but it was so funny the way Atkinson threw out that last line to say, "Yes, yes, dead again."

RZK:  What did one of the women in your Face to Face book club say she thought the book should have been called and why?

BF:  She thought the book should have been entitled Life After Life After Life After Life because the title tends to make people think it's about an afterlife rather than the same life relived (there were nods all around, to that statement).  I had a fleeting thought that Life Upon Life might have been a better title, although I didn't say that aloud.  Regardless, going into the reading knowing that Ursula's life is a life relived repeatedly helps a bit, as the book can be confusing in the manner of The Time Traveler's Wife.  You find yourself flipping back a lot to reorient yourself.

RZK:  So, this leads to the negatives about the book.

BF:  Yes, therein the most common complaints lie.  All that shifting around between times did cause my fellow club members to use words such as "confusing", "chaotic" or "frustrating".  I have to agree it could be confusing at times.

RZK:  But, you loved it?

BF:  I did.

RZK:  What was the general consensus in your book club?

BF:  We had a show of hands and the majority loved it.  I should add that we had a fantastic turnout.  This particular meeting was amazing because there was is so much to talk about in Life After Life that it was one of those noisy people-hollering-over-each-other meetings.  I love that kind.  The enthusiasm over Life After Life made for a really lively, fun, hilarious and, at times, thoughtful meeting.  I can't recall but I think we had 12 members show up.  Advance Reader Copies were provided by Little Brown and almost everyone who managed to collect a book in time came to the meeting.  3 people didn't love the book.  Those who weren't enthusiastic about it just didn't seem to see the purpose.

RZK:  What was the purpose or theme?

BF:  It's a "What if?" In this case, I think, (my wording) "What if everyone lived the same life over and over but just some people had distinctive enough memories from previous lifetimes to make changes?"  In other words, what if those deja vu sensations or premonitions some people feel more strongly than others (and some don't sense at all) are due to the fact that we keep living the same life over again?  

RZK:  Does absolutely everyone have deja vu or premonitions like Ursula in Life After Life?  

BF:  That part's actually quite interesting and maybe a bit of a spoiler. It actually took me a few days to figure it out, after I finished the book and we'd discussed it.  

********POTENTIAL SPOILER WARNING*********  Highlight the following white text to see what I think.

I think the idea was that the book was designed to theorize about why most of us have deja vu at some time but some people have a stronger sense of past lives (and therefore a built-in warning system) than others.  Reincarnation was brought up in our meeting, naturally. The idea is that everyone experiences it but in this case some are more aware of previous events than others. There are hints that other people are also able to make minor changes that impact Ursula's life; they just don't have such strong feelings that they appear freaky, as Ursula does.  The last birth scene, I thought, was very telling.  

RZK:  Deja vu and premonitions are interesting topics that evolve naturally from discussion about Life After Life.  How did that go at your book club?

BF:  That part of the discussion was awesome.  Almost everyone has a deja vu story to tell or can recall a vivid premonition and all the stories are absolutely fascinating.  

RZK:  Did anyone think the book had spiritual connotations?

BF:  Just one person used the word "spiritual".  I think the rest of us shook our heads but you could look at it that way, I suppose.  Reincarnation came up and some people do believe premonitions are a spiritual thing.

I should also mention that my F2F club's members come from nicely varied religious backgrounds and birthplaces (at least one member was raised in another country). I'm so impressed with my group.  They are sharp, open-minded people who will happily shout out their opinions, agree to disagree and leave smiling.

RZK:  Cool.  I'm glad they're not zombies. What are some aspects of the novel that even those who disliked Life After Life agreed that they loved?

BF:  Even the people who didn't love it or felt baffled by its purpose didn't feel like it was a total waste of time because they loved the characters or thought the writing was thought-provoking/intelligent, and the WWII scenes were almost universally beloved.  The author is obviously very learned but she doesn't treat the reader with condescension.

RZK:  Any additional complaints that were mentioned?

BF:  One person thought Ursula's lives were too repetitive.  She also didn't like the fact that the book was open-ended and commented on her frustration over the fact that Life After Life doesn't have a distinctive beginning, middle and end.  I think there were a couple nods to that.  Of the 3 out of 12 who didn't love the book, there was a sense of not getting the point of it . . . that it just kept going, but why?  What was the theme?  What was the meaning of that open ending?

RZK:  Tell us what your group advises about the reading of the book.

BF:  Advice from my group:  Orient yourself early on.  1910 is important to remember because if you know Ursula's birthdate (which never changes) you can figure out her age by subtracting.  That's surprisingly crucial because her lives are often so different that you really need to be able to think back.  What happened at this time or in this place that Ursula will try to prevent or feel compelled to change?

The "What if?" never goes away.  Even in the end, when Ursula has declared that life is ****possible spoiler, hidden by white text, again ****  not circular but a palimpsest, there is a scene that indicates that she'll keep scratching more layers onto that manuscript, possibly forever.  Her mother's final scene, the changeable maybe-off, maybe-on end of an affair, and other little things offer hints that Ursula is not alone in this; she is simply more in tune with her past incarnations. That spoilery bit is about the open ending.

RZK:  I'm out of questions, so I must advise you to build your Zombie-Proof Emergency Shelter and come up with a Personal Escape and Attack Plan, right away.  

BF:  Thank you, but I am amazingly lacking in paranoia, although I suspect we have more than a few zombies in Congress.  

RZK:  Did you hear that sound?  Gotta run.

BF:  *skitters out of the way and shouts "Thank you for interviewing me!"*  

Summary comments on Life After Life:  

Best. Discussion. Ever.  I highly recommend Life After Life for group discussion.  You will want to talk to someone about it, I promise.  Most of our group loved it, although not everyone did. However, everyone had something to say. The worst-case book club scenario is always, "Everyone loves or hates the book and nobody has anything to say about it."  We found that we didn't need pre-written discussion questions to generate conversation; discussion came about easily and organically.  

I gave Life After Life a 5/5 at Goodreads.

Gushy thanks to Jin Yu at Little Brown for providing copies for my group to read and discuss.  

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