Friday, May 31, 2013

Pictures of Book Stacks and Fiona Friday

Book and kitty photo time!

Brittanie asked me to post photos of the books I bought in London.  In addition to books bought, I'm going to show you some Dr. Who books I got for review, while there, as well as the books that arrived at home, while we were away.

First, arrivals at the flat.  Some of you may have heard about the TLC Tours Dr. Who book promotion that's coming up.  I signed up to review two of the Dr. Who titles but the box came ripped, the books severely water damaged (one beyond hope, the others readable but ugly after being fanned out and left in front of the dehumidifier for a day).  I talked to the publicist and told her I was coming to London.  She loved the idea of shipping within London -- so much cheaper than shipping to the US!  So, these books were shipped in care of the friend who loaned us his flat:

Dr. Who books, top to bottom:

Players by Terrance Dicks
Festival of Death by Jonathan Morris
The Last of the Gaderene by Mark Gatiss
Ten Little Aliens by Stephen Cole.
Who-ology by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright

Kiddo has already read Festival of Death and Husband and I are both reading Ten Little Aliens, the two tour books.  The publicist kindly threw in two extra books to review when I mentioned how much my family loves Dr. Who.   

Huz and I used to watch black and white reruns on Saturdays, when we were in the dorm.  We're talking decades of fandom, here.  The guys were giddy at the sight of a stack of books, for once.  

Books purchased, top to bottom:

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
To Be a Cat by Matt Haig
Boy in the Blitz by Colin Perry
Mr. Brown's War: A Diary from the Home Front, edited by Helen D. Millgate
Spuds, Spam and Eating for Victory: Rationing in the Second World War by Katherine Knight
The English: A Field Guide by Matt Rudd

I've read The English, The Great Gatsby (a replacement -- couldn't find my ancient copy and decided I really, really wanted to read it now) and The 5th Wave.  All were enjoyable reads for different reasons and I'll elaborate on those, soon.

I looked up Matt Haig's books when he tweeted about his new book, The Humans, and decided I'd really like to read his children's book, first.  It was the only book I found that was on the list I took with me, other than the Persephone books and Itch Rocks by Simon Mayo, which I did not buy because it's a hardback and I prefer paperbacks.  The WWII books . . . I could have bought a lot more but had to restrain myself because we were limited to the three suitcases (two of them small) and two carry-on bags we took, but I'm happy with what I bought.  I purchased The 5th Wave because it was on my wish list, at home, and available in paperback!  I love that about English publishing -- you don't always have to wait a year for a book to come out in paperback.

Persephone books!  Top to bottom:

Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple
Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd
Greenery Street by Denis Mackail

I took my Persephone Biannually along, marked up like crazy to show which books I already own (and which I've read -- just for fun), then narrowed down to the ones that interested me most and looked up ratings and reviews of those.  I highlighted the ones I was most interested in and wrote their ratings to the side, along with some additional notes (call me "Little Miss OCD"). At the store, you get a discount if you purchase three books, so I knew I'd buy three but left myself some leeway, in case they were low on any of the titles (which has been the case on one of our visits). At the store, they had plenty of books so I just had to make up my mind which titles I wanted the most.

I chose Greenbanks because Dorothy Whipple's books are among the most-loved Persephone titles and I figured I should grab a Whipple.  Greenery Street is a book P. G. Wodehouse adored and I'm crazy about Wodehouse, so I decided to trust his judgment.  And, Miss Ranskill Comes Home shines a light on the changes in England caused by WWII so it's my WWII choice of the three.

Persephone bookmarks:

The three at left match the inside covers of the books I purchased.  The other three are extra bookmarks I bought because I liked the designs.  

And, the review books that arrived at home while we were away, top to bottom (since for once I haven't already marched them off to the bedroom to sort by month):

Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano
Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann
The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell

Since I fell a bit behind, I've got 14 review books I need to read in June -- maybe 15.  Eeks.  Thanks to the backlog, I'm not accepting books for review for a while.  Gotta make sure I'm all caught up.

And, a Fiona Friday pic!

Last night, I realized I hadn't taken any photos of the cats at all, since we got home!  Weird!  I guess I was worn out or something. I took a few really bad photos of them, late last night, then looked at them and thought, "Okay.  Now, let's work on trying to get a decent photo."  So, there's the result.  Fi did not want to look at me, but I thought this photo was pretty interesting. She was sitting in the window.  

Happy Weekend to all!

©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, May 29, 2013

Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence by David Samuel Levinson

Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence by David Samuel Levinson
Copyright 2013
Algonquin Books - Contemporary Fiction
313 pp.

Source:  Unsolicited from Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill; a June release

Catherine has been a widow for about a year, her husband's mysterious death still haunting her.  She's working in a bookstore, not making enough to get by, grieving deeply, occasionally going out with friends but otherwise drinking a lot of wine, working, pondering.  When young Antonia Lively, an author whose novel is selling like hotcakes, moves to town, Catherine is intrigued.  She read Antonia's book with fascination.  Her own husband's book was supposed to have made their fortune but Henry Swallow, a respected book reviewer, trashed it and the book didn't sell.  

With Antonia Lively's appearance comes Henry Swallow.  Henry is back in Catherine's life and she is not happy, but she needs the money and renting her cottage to Henry, whose home has burned, seems reasonable at first . . . and then intolerable.  What possessed Henry to tear apart a book that many others said hinted of brilliance?  How were Catherine and Henry connected, in the past?  How did Catherine's husband die?  And, what secret is Antonia Lively keeping from her new love?

I found Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence both engrossing and bizarrely vague.  Quite a contrast, but I think the writing is beautiful and it definitely drew me in.  There was just something about the storyline . . . the peeling of the layers to reveal the core . . . that was too slow, too broadly painted.  I wanted the author to be more direct about what happened and what he was trying to say.  Still, it's a bookish novel about bookish people and that alone was entertaining.

A few quotes I marked, the first three because of vocabulary and the latter two because they're thought-provoking:

Had her show of friendliness simply been an act? Catherine wasn't sure, but she was sure about Antonia's irrefragable talent, which, she had to admit, was exciting to her.  Wyatt, she knew, would have hated the story, not because it was terrible but, on the contrary, because it wasn't.

--p. 33

irrefragable - Adjective 1. Impossible to refute 2. Indisputable

Lover and amanuensis, Catherine thought, but said, "I wasn't sure he was interested." 

--p. 62

amanuensis - Noun:  A literary or artistic assistant, in particular one who takes dictation or copies manuscripts.

" . . . their kisses flat and cool whereas they'd once been warm and tumid."

--p. 74

tumid - Adjective (esp. a part of the body): Swollen

"Everyone does have something to say," Jane said, frowning.  "Don't you think so, too, Antonia?"
Antonia paused thoughtfully before answering:  "I think there's something to that, yes.  I also think it's important to see that as writers we have an obligation to give our voices to those who can't speak.  We have to speak for the living who might not be able, and for the dead who can't."

--p. 94

"Good fiction lies to get at the truth," Wyatt used to say.  "Good journalism tells the truth to get at the lies.  It's only great literature that does both.  It presents a world in which the two aren't just intertwined, they're inseparable."  What differentiates a good writer from a great writer, then, Catherine thought, is the victory of his lies -- the scope and determination of his imagination.

--p. 113

The bottom line:

Recommended - I liked the bookish aspects, the talk about literature and the fact that most of the key characters were connected in some way to books or writing.  And, the surprise ending actually did surprise me. But, I thought the author could have been a bit more direct and less circumspect in his writing.  It took too long to peel the damn onion, in other words, and once he did . . . I wasn't entirely certain that I understood what had just been thrown at me.  I didn't feel intrigued enough to desire an immediate reread but I wouldn't count that out in the future.

Cover thoughts:  Don't you just love that cover?  I think it's beautiful.  And, what writer/booklover doesn't adore the sight of a typewriter?

©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, May 28, 2013

Back with a bit of Tuesday Twaddle

Hello!  I'm back!  Did you miss me?  We were on vacation in London, England, and it turned out I couldn't do what I expected to be able to do using husband's laptop, so I decided it would be best not to bother with an awkward computer situation and just enjoy the time away.  I will do my best to catch up on reviews, ASAP, but it might take me a few days to get back to normal.  We just returned yesterday.

I read 3 books while we were in London:

The English: A Field Guide by Matt Rudd - NF title about the English and their habits, which I purchased when I realized I didn't have any reading material for the train ride to Dover (where we saw the White Cliffs -- woot!).  

A Certain Summer by Patricia Beard - A review book from Simon & Schuster set a few years after WWII on an island off the coast of New York.  

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Another book that I purchased when I got stuck without reading material, this time in Uxbridge after visiting the Battle of Britain Bunker.  

And a few books arrived at the house:

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell - from Knopf for review
Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann - from Simon & Schuster for review
Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano - from Harper for review
The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure - from Sourcebooks for review
The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan - from Touchstone for review

I bought plenty of books in England, as well, and since only one of the books I read was a review book and I'm currently reading yet another purchase I've thrown myself behind on the ARCs and will have to call a halt to accepting ARCs, again.  It never ceases to amaze me how the greed monster comes out when interesting books are on offer.  Time to get a grip on that little devil and just read, read, read what I've got. The bookstores in London seem awfully healthy, by the way, although I did see plenty of people reading e-books rather than physical books on this vacation.  

We flew on Memorial Day, which turned out to be unique in a couple of regards.  For one thing, we ended up flying back to Atlanta with Amy Grant and her band.  They'd played at a concert in Sussex.  Wish I'd aged as well as she has!  And, when we arrived in Atlanta, we ended up in the midst of a TSA drill.  They get irritable if you wiggle after they've told you to "freeze", haha.  I froze.  I am very well-behaved.  I think a couple people at the back of the line didn't hear the order to freeze, poor things.  

I've added a link to the NIV Devotional Bible sneak peek to my review post and hope to get that kitty book reviewed quickly.  But, quickly might be a little slower than it sounds.  I'm dragging, here.  Hope everyone had a fabulous week!

©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, May 24, 2013

Fiona Friday - Izzy says: "Have a laughter-filled weekend"

©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, May 22, 2013

If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin

If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin
Copyright 2013
Sourcebooks Fire - YA/Contemporary
330 pp.

I've already labeled this post with the comment that it has sexuality and alcohol use but please read on.  I think in many ways drunken parties and sex are handled well, but they're topics worth discussing . . . in a minute.

If He Had Been With Me tells the story of Finny and Autumn.  Finny has tragically died (the title gives you a hint of how Autumn feels things would have turned out if she'd been present) and If He Had Been With Me reflects on Finny and Autumn's lifelong relationship, from friends to cold and distant frenemies and back, up to and a little after Finny's death.  Their mothers are best friends forever.  Autumn has a mother who periodically goes through dangerous depression.  Her father is distant, both literally and emotionally as he is almost always away on business.  Finny's mother is a single parent.  They have been next-door neighbors for most of Finny and Autumn's life.  If He Had Been With Me is told from Autumn's point of view.

There are a lot of details I don't need to go into but I think the most interesting thing about If He Had Been With Me is the way Autumn changes over the years.  I was a little annoyed that she was beautiful and Finny is the typical blond, athletic, popular character that's so very overused but Autumn is only popular for a while.  Then, she decides she wants to be more of an individual and begins dressing in her own unique style, coloring her hair wildly and often, and hanging out with a different group of people while Finny remains with the popular crowd. Autumn develops a penchant for tiaras, which brings about some interesting scenes.

Finny and Autumn both enter into long-term relationships in high school, Finny with Sylvie and Autumn with another very handsome boy named Jamie.  This is, of course, where sex comes in.  Autumn resists Jamie and eventually sets a time when she'll be willing to sleep with him, which is also interesting in many ways -- and I don't recall any graphic sex scenes.  I thought the sex talk was realistically handled but we're talking as young as 14 or 15.  And, when one of the girls gets pregnant, there's not the panic or trouble that I would anticipate from real life.  

However, I really think Laura Nowlin has her pulse on the teen world.  The dialogue, the divisions between different groups, the parties and school days, the worries and plans, young love and break-ups -- most of those seemed totally on-target to me.  I liked the grown-up relationships, as well, and how they affected Finny and Autumn.  

If He Had Been With Me is a difficult read because all the way through the book you are both falling in love with Finny and well aware of the fact that he is dead, which sucks.  But, for such a rough storyline, I must admit I was stunned at how completely it sucked me in and would not let go. I was captivated by the relationships, adored Finny, loved Autumn's quirkiness and cared how her story would end.  I actually had two different ideas which way the ending would go and the author used both, which was bizarrely satisfying.

Highly recommended - I absolutely could not put If He Had Been With Me down.  Well-written prose and characters that you can believe in carry the reader through a difficult story of love and death. I was very impressed.  I think If He Had Been With Me would be especially great for discussion in a mother-daughter book group.

One of my favorite recent bird pics:

I love how very different the two indigo buntings look -- one so consistently colored and the other speckled with grey.  Kind of a cool action shot, too.  Birds are awfully fun to watch.

©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, May 20, 2013

The Cat That God Sent by Jim Kraus - review delay - and kitty pic that just feels like it belongs


Jake was fired from his last job as a pastor. When he lost his job, his fiancée called off the engagement.  No job, no marriage.  Now, he has a new job and home in tiny Coudersport, Pennsylvania.  Upon his arrival, a cat shows up.  Petey knows he was sent by God, destined to become Jake's cat and to help him in his new pastoral duties and life.  Jake, although a pastor, has been having a crisis of faith that doesn't show any signs of going away.

I've finished The Cat That God Sent and I loved it but I'm in an awkward computer situation and will have to write a decent review, later.  I pre-posted the image above and the photo, below.  I'll give this review a second go, in about a week.  I've also pre-posted a Fiona Friday photo but that should be my only other post, except for a pre-written review of If He Had Been With Me (on the 22nd) until the computer problem has been resolved.  

©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, May 17, 2013

The NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women and a Fiona Friday pic

The NIV Real Life Devotional Bible for Women is a Zondervan publication.  I got a hardback copy for review and you can view a Sneak Peek into the Real Life Devotional Bible for Women, here.

I am always extremely excited when a Bible becomes available for review because I love Bibles.  They've all got the same substance, of course, but the language changes from one Bible to another and the notes, maps and study aids vary.  I'm a big fan of the New International Version because I find it very readable, and it's apparently the most popular translation.

The Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women is standard in its layout, with 366 daily devotions/essays. It's not a consecutive Bible (the kind that's been rearranged so that the books are in order of when they were written), nor is it divided into daily readings with dates.  Instead, each devotion is numbered and spaced every 2-5 pages.  A highlighted verse upon which the day's devotion is based appears  just to the side of the devotion and there are a few extra verses to explore at the bottom of the devotional page.  The devotions are not divided by date so you'll never need to feel like you're falling behind, even if a year's readings taken you longer than a year -- no biggie.

There aren't a lot of extra materials besides the devotions in this particular Bible and the devotions are very casually written, directed at women and their particular concerns.  There's an author index, for those who find that a particular author's writings resonate, and a topic index for studying specific subjects, along with a weights and measurements chart.  Otherwise, the Bible is rather plain -- which can be a very good thing.  I occasionally revert back to using a Bible with no notes at all, simply because all those notes can get in the way.  

The devotions in The Real-Live Devotional Bible for Women each fill a page so they won't interrupt the reading flow.  The way the readings are divided is a little awkward because there's no clear-cut daily reading, but the spacing between devotions is nice -- a devotion around every 2-5 pages of Biblical text. It should be simple to read the Bible from beginning to end in a year with only a short devotion to ponder, each day.  I'm enjoying my copy, so far.

Recommended - To women looking for a very basic Bible, readable translation and light, women-focused devotions, this Bible is perfect for you.  There are no maps, no lengthy concordance (although the topic index is similar to a concordance) and explanatory notes at the bottom of each page are minimal.  

A Fiona Friday post finally stars its namesake:

We call this the "tabby sprawl" because both of our tabbies have been the type to sprawl on their back. Obviously, Fiona was not in the mood to have her picture taken.  

©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, May 15, 2013

The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy - First thoughts (not a full review)

I will write more about The Illusion of Separateness after a second reading (note that I'm not even going to write a synopsis, although it's a combination of WWII and contemporary) because there are always reasons I feel like I need to reread a book by Simon Van Booy before I can write a thoughtful review about it.

My first thought, as I was going into the reading was that I had absolutely no idea where Simon was taking me but I was thrilled to be back in his world.  His writing is transcendent.  Even though I didn't know where the story was headed, I absolutely did not care.  I was just happy to be there.

There are numerous strands in The Illusion of Separateness and it takes quite some time before you begin to see them intertwine and become not just knotted together but meshed.  I loved that.  On this first reading, I felt that the ending was a little abrupt, but when I looked back I realized Simon had finished tying all those bits together and I was just enjoying myself so much I didn't want the book to end.

It's possible I have become a little biased by my friendship with Simon, but I gave The Illusion of Separateness 5 stars at Goodreads because it was an experience.  I was completely swept away, immersed in Simon's heavily-metaphorical, lyrical world.  I will always love Simon's writing and a part of that has to do with the fact that he is such a terrific guy, but there's no escaping the fact that he is a careful craftsman.  I could practically see the sweat on the pages.

The Illusion of Separateness is scheduled for release in early June.  I ordered a finished copy as soon as it became available for pre-order but when it came up for review I couldn't pass up the opportunity to go ahead and read it early.  I highly recommend it and believe it would make a good group read. There were things I wanted to discuss, when I closed the book.  Hopefully, I'll eventually be able to talk my F2F group into reading The Illusion of Separateness (although they insist on waiting for the paperback, so I'll have quite a wait).

©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, May 14, 2013

Totally Random

I think I might need to frame this cover and hang it on the "library" wall.

On a related note, I've always found it fascinating that the illustration of a woman's hair will often reflect the time period of cover publication (the same is often true in movies) rather than the actual time period in which the book is set.  Interesting, no?

©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, May 13, 2013

Monday Malarkey - Probably should be "Monday Mailbox"

I don't have all that much to talk about, today, since I've been a little overwhelmed with errands and chores (our renter moved out of the old house -- the next couple of months will be spent preparing it to sell) and haven't read much.  I've been hacking away at Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence all week.  I'm finding it fascinating, love the writing, but my reading time has been so limited that it may take me another week to finish it.  We shall see.

UPDATE:  Just finished Antonia Lively because I woke up way too early.  More about that, another time.

This week's arrivals:

A Certain Summer by Patricia Beard - from Gallery Books for review.  The following summary is an altered version of the cover blurb:

Set in a small island colony off the coast of Long Island after WWII,  A Certain Summer tells the story of Helen Wadsworth, whose husband was declared MIA during an OSS operation in France.  Her teenage son wants to know what happened to his father, so Helen turns to her husband's best friend and partner on the mission, Frank, who is more interested in filling the void left by her husband. As her affection for Frank grows, so does her guilt when desire is stirred for Peter, a man who was tortured by the Japanese.

With her heart pulled in multiple directions, Helen doesn't know whom to trust -- especially when a shocking discovery forever alters her perception of both love and war.  Part mystery, part love story, and part insider's view of a very private world, A Certain Summer resonates in the heart long after the last page is turned.

The Weight of a Human Heart by Ryan O'Neill - from St. Martin's Press via Shelf Awareness for review.  I usually just delete SA newsletters, these days, to avoid temptation.  But, I do love short stories and this book caught my eye before I managed to hit the delete button.  

Ranging from Australia and Africa to Europe and Asia and back again, The Weight of a Human Heart heralds a fresh and important new voice in fiction.  Ryan O'Neill takes us on a journey that is sometimes comic, sometimes tragic and wholly original.

A young Tutsi girl flees her village on the brink of the Rwandan genocide.  A literary stoush--and an affair--play out in the book review section of a national newspaper. A young girl learns her mother's disturbing secrets through the broken key on a typewriter.

With imagination, wit and a keen eye, Ryan O'Neill draws the essence of the human experience with a cast of characters who stick with you long after you turn the last page of this brilliant short story collection.

The Measure of Katie Calloway by Serena Miller - received via Paperback Swap.  I think this acquisition may be Holly's fault.

The Civil War has ended, but in Katie Calloway's Georgia home, conflict still rages.  To protect herself and her younger brother from her violent and unstable husband, she flees north, finding anonymity and sanctuary as the cook in a north woods lumber camp.  The camp owner, Robert Foster, wonders if the lovely woman he's hired has the grit so survive the never-ending work and harsh conditions of a remote pine forest in winter.  Katie wonders if she can keep her past a secret from a man she is slowly growing to love.

With grace and skill, Serena Miller brings to life a bygone era.  From the ethereal, snowy forest and the rowdy shanty boys to the warm cookstove and mouth-watering apple pie, every detail is perfectly rendered, transporting you to a time of danger and romance.

I also purchased that copy of Henri, Le Chat Noir that I talked about on Friday . . . on a whim.  It was a good sort of whim.  

©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, May 11, 2013

Fiona Friday Oopsydoodle Saturday

©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, May 09, 2013

Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh

Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh
Copyright 2005
HarperPerennial - Fiction/Historical
334 pp.

Source:  HarperCollins - sent with Haigh's most recent release, News from Heaven  (link leads to my review).

I was flipping through my new Persephone Biannually, last night, making circles and arrows and little notes after reading descriptions of the new books (and highlighting -- yes, really marking the heck out of that thing).  And, as I was reading about one of the new titles, I was reminded of Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh, which I just finished last week.  It's a family saga to which one could apply a certain descriptor in the Persephone article about of one of their new releases: " . . . as in so many Persephone books, everything happens and nothing happens . . ."

Truly an apt description of Baker Towers, a family saga that follows three generations of the Novak family in Bakerton, Pennsylvania.  Baker Towers is about the decline of a family occurring in parallel with the small town's degenerating livelihood over the course of two decades.  We're not talking doom and gloom, here, although there are plenty of sad things that happen in Baker Towers.  Within this saga about a family and a town, good and bad things happen. But, Baker Towers is very realistic in its portrayal of life's highs and lows.  It's about life and death, war and peace, love and disillusion, sacrifices and consequences, moments of strength and total meltdowns.

Set in the 1940's and 50's, Baker Towers begins with the sudden death of Stanley Novak, a Polish-American coal miner whose family lives on the Polish Hill portion of Bakerton.  Stanley was only in his 50s and each of the family members -- the eldest of whom is serving in the Pacific -- reacts in different ways, but the consequences of his loss are enduring.

Because the book is told in the omniscient voice, Baker Towers often feels a bit like a set of interconnected short stories. Years may pass between two chapters. You begin viewing the Novaks' lives through Stanley's Italian wife Rose's eyes.  From Rose's story, the reader moves on, following the shy Dorothy to a job, peeking over George's shoulder as he returns from war and marries, wondering what studious Joyce will do when she graduates from high school, worrying about the untethered youngest son, Sandy, and beautiful baby Lucy, too young to remember her father.

When the book ends, a lot has happened but all very everyday.  I'm not sure I even understand how a story about a family can be so utterly engrossing, but you can't close Baker Towers without feeling like you know the Novaks and are certain they will continue on living beyond the end of the book.  It's very gratifying to feel that way about characters you've spent time with.

Recommended - Jennifer Haigh's writing is graceful and powerful, but ultimately it is the truth within the pages that stands out.  Life is like that, you think to yourself.  We just keep pressing on.

In other news:

We had a really big spider in our bathtub, this week.  There is a part of me that wants to be a Buddhist-Native American type, the kind of person who will not kill a spider or anything else living because we're all connected.  But, that was one BIG spider.  I foolishly sprayed him with the first thing I could find (which is pretty useless, even as a hair product) and then, given the fact that he was hiding like a dog, with half his body sticking out from under the bath plug, decided that was rather pointless and now I'd have to clean the tub because the cats drink from it, daily.  So, I turned on the hot water to rinse down the spray and went off to find a cup to catch the spider, thinking maybe I could at least flush him or put him outside if he rose to the surface.  He was swimming happily -- except when the hot water came near him and then he'd pedal fiercely to the cold side.

I came back with 2 cups: a clear glass to catch him in and a larger plastic cup to keep him from jumping  out (it would go over the top of the clear glass).  Too late.  Apparently, hot water kills spiders.  I had no idea.  

Random quotation:

"No man can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true." -- Nathaniel Hawthorne (inside my Peach Oo-La-Long Honest Tea cap)

I read this, today:

I love Henri, aka "Henry".  Some of the photos are kind of crappy, but the vast majority are great.  I giggled a lot over  Henri's philosophical meanderings.  I have a feeling he's a very happy and well-loved cat. I hope so.  The book is loads of fun and extends the joy of the Henri videos.  I had a long lens on my camera and had to stand on the chair to get a shot.  Hopefully, the neighbors weren't looking.

Speaking of which . . . (the cat book, that is)

Yesterday, I was sitting in bed alone (husband was traveling) and I kept hearing what sounded like muffled voices -- you know, like the sound of a TV in another room or neighbors talking on the deck 15 feet from your window, etc.?  I thought it must be all in my mind, but finally it bothered me so much that I got up and walked around the house.  Immediately, the voices disappeared.  But, I peeked outside to make sure there was nobody on the patio.  Boy, was I surprised to find an Henri-like cat (black and white with that same glare pictured on the cover of Henri, le Chat Noir) happily curled up on one of our green chair cushions.  I apologized to him and turned out the light.  It is likely he forgave me.  We've had conversations, before, and he's a friendly beast.

Late at night.  Off to bed.  Happy Friday!

©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, May 06, 2013

Reboot by Amy Tintera

Reboot by Amy Tintera
Copyright 2013
Harper Teen - Dystopian
Ages 13 and up
369 pp.

Source:  Harper Collins

Brief summary without spoilers:

In the future, war and a deadly virus have taken a large portion of the population.  When people die of the virus, some of them "reboot" as slightly stronger but less emotional creatures who can only be killed with a bullet to the brain or a serious head injury.  The longer you're dead before you reboot, the less emotional you are.  Wren is a 178 -- dead 178 minutes, very unusual.  She is a slave to the corporation, HARC, and must go on missions to the slums to bring in people with the virus, those who have rebooted but haven't been turned in by their parents and other lawbreakers.

When she's not on a mission, Wren is busy training new reboots.  Usually, Wren chooses the highest-number reboots because they're easiest to train, less emotional, less likely to die or be eliminated for not measuring up.  But, then along comes a 22 named Callum.  Wren decides it might be interesting to see if she's up to the challenge of training such an emotional and slow reboot.  But, when he defies orders and is about to be eliminated at the same time she is asked to rescue a 39 from certain death, Wren realizes escape is their only option.  But, is escape even possible?

What I loved about Reboot:

Reboot is essentially a new twist on the zombie concept and I loved the uniqueness.  The Reboots have died and lost some degree of emotion and humanity but they've gained different abilities like a stronger sense of smell, strength and speed. They're not brain-eating beings but slightly altered humans.  It took a while to wrap my head around the concept of the Reboot but the farther you get into the book, the more it makes sense.

Wren is a kick-ass female archetype; Callum is funny and charming.  And, while Reboot is Wren's story, it's because of Callum that you see the humanity even Wren doesn't realize is left inside of her.  Besides the excellent characterization, Reboot is tremendously fun, with an exceptional balance between action and interaction.  The ending is satisfying and perfectly wrapped up.  The author could easily carry the story forward (I don't know if Reboot will have a sequel) but there's no annoying cliffhanger ending.

What I disliked about Reboot:

The only criticism I can come up with is that the language in Reboot is a bit too simplistic.  I found myself wanting to upgrade words like "mean" or "dumb" to those with more specific meanings and if I'd been her editor or beta reader, would have nudged the author to ramp up the vocabulary a bit.  The reading level, though, does make Reboot an excellent choice for when you need a bit of a mental break, definitely the kind of book I like to read when traveling -- I have a terrible concentration level on vacation.


Highly recommended, action-packed reading with a solid dilemma, satisfyingly complex plot and a truly lovely romance that builds slowly and believably.  Light, funny, exciting adventure, a strong heroine and a charming hero.  I absolutely adored Callum.  Also, I don't recall any bad language or graphic sex, although there is talk of Reboot sex being a rather mindless hormone-related thing.  I liked how the author treated sexuality and definitely wouldn't have any problem leaving it out where an adolescent could get hold of the Reboot.

In other news:

Our weather has been so unusually pleasant that we've been going to our local baseball games.  It helps that we've moved 30 miles closer to the ballpark, of course.

A baseball bookmark, just for you:

Sports are 1,000 times more fun when you take a camera.  Humble opinion.

©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.

Down at the Dino Wash Deluxe by Tim Myers & Macky Pamintuan and a little Malarkey

Down at the Dino Wash Deluxe by Tim Myers
Illustrated by Macky Pamintuan
Copyright 2013
Sterling Children's - Picture Book (Ages 4-7)
40 pp.

Down at the Dino Wash Deluxe is a cute take on the dinosaur storybook in which children run a dinosaur wash . . . like a specialty car wash, only bigger.  

How's a dinosaur supposed to stay clean in the city?
We soap 'em, scrub 'em, then send 'em down the line for rinsing and drying.  
But this job's no picnic -- you gotta know the customers!  No two dinos are alike, and they all need scrub-a-dubbing.

The children wash the knobs and spikes on an Ankylosaurus and scrub the frills and horns on Styracosaurus.  One of the dinosaurs warns the narrator, the little boy shown in a yellow jumpsuit, that Tyrannosaurus Rex is in town.  The children are nervous, but they haven't got the time to sit around worrying.  They scrub a variety of other dinosaurs.  And, then one day the T. Rex shows up.  As it turns out, Tyrannosaurus Rex plays at being intimidating but he really is a little nervous about getting cleaned because he's afraid soap will get in his eyes.

The unnamed boy assures T. Rex that they're very careful. T. Rex gets a nice scrubbing, then behaves himself when he becomes a return customer.  Down at the Dino Wash Deluxe closes with the little boy saying maybe if he plays his cards right, he'll get a ride from a winged dinosaur someday. And, then the author tosses in the usual educational section.

I liked Down at the Dino Wash but didn't love it, possibly because I've seen a few too many dinosaur books, over the years, and would like to see authors branch out to broader topics on geology and the changes in earth over time with equal entertainment value.  Dinosaurs have been so completely done to death that it's a rare book about dinosaurs that will sway me, these days. 1-2-3 Dinosaurs Bite is a personal favorite.

The best thing about Down at the Dino Wash is the vibrant illustrations with very likable expressions on the dinosaurs' faces.  The storyline is unique but I prefer real words, fully written out and grammatically correct ("you've got to", not "you gotta"), unless there's some overwhelming reason that text should be linguistically altered, as in the case of a pirate book with appropriate slang.  I'll admit the language put me off.

Recommended particularly for dinosaur-crazed children with a grammatically-tolerant parent or guardian.  I wouldn't hunt down a copy of Down at the Dino Wash for the educational material, which is limited and typical, but for the gorgeous illustrations and silly storyline.  When my children were small, I occasionally marked out and replaced poor grammar in their books.  Fortunately, this was not a problem I came across often but I would have personally been hesitant to purchase this particular book when my children were small, knowing I'd feel obligated to alter it.

And a bit of malarkey:

Last week was a very slow reading week but over the weekend (if the weekend includes early Monday morning), I managed to finish reading two books - If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin and Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh.  I enjoyed both for entirely different reasons.


Only one book arrived the entire week and then today the postman suddenly decided to gift me so I ended up with a nice little windfall of 4 books:

  • Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence by David Samuel Levinson - unsolicited from Algonquin Books and seriously tempting me.  I haven't started a new book, yet, but I stuck Antonia Lively in my purse to use as my Emergency Book when I ran errands, earlier today.  
  • The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas - from HarperCollins for review
  • A Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb - from HarperCollins for review
  • The NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women - from Zondervan for tour/review 

I also got a copy of Sunshine by Alex Garland from Paperback Swap, recently, but was a little surprised and disappointed to find that it's not a novel but a screenplay.  Near as I can tell, there is no novel. I do read screenplays; I was just hoping to read another novel by Alex Garland (I read the super-weird Coma, a few years back).  Looks like I'll have to go a bit farther back in publishing time and locate a copy of The Beach or The Tesseract.

I've been expecting an ARC of Caroline Leavitt's new book, Is This Tomorrow, but at this point I'm pretty much convinced it's become lost in the mail.  [huge, heaving sigh]  I'm saving my book-purchase pennies to use on vacation so I can't rush out and buy a copy, at the moment, but I would if I could.

Do you keep an Emergency Book in your car, desk or bag?

©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, May 03, 2013

Fiona Friday - Cat Crazies on the Kitty Tree (best cat investment *ever*)

©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, May 02, 2013

What a Mother Knows by Leslie Lehr

What a Mother Knows by Leslie Lehr
Copyright 2013
Sourcebooks Landmark - Contemporary Fiction/Suspense
336 pp., incl. Reading Guide

What a Mother Knows by Leslie Lehr is about a woman who has been in a terrible car accident.  Over a year after her accident, nearly half of which was spent in a medically-induced coma due to swelling in her brain, Michelle returns home.  But much has changed.  Her husband has moved from California to New York and, after bringing her home, only stays long enough to get her settled in.  Their son Tyler has moved to a boarding school on the East Coast.  And, their daughter Lexi is missing.

Because she experienced traumatic brain injury, Michelle doesn't remember the accident or events leading up to it.  Gradually, her memory will return in flashes, bits and pieces that she must fit together like a puzzle as she tries to remember what happened and why there was a young man in the vehicle with her.  Where was she going and how did the accident occur?  Where is her daughter?  During her time recovering, Michelle received messages from her daughter, but what did they mean?  Is Nikki missing or in hiding or even dead, now?  As Michelle deals with a new life, a lawsuit, rumors and the confusing question of why her husband insists that he can't return to California to work, Michelle searches for her daughter.  

My thoughts:

I found What a Mother Knows rather gripping, and yet . . . it just didn't work for me, primarily for two reasons.  Even though I wanted to know what Michelle would find out about her daughter, I found the answers to the questions that What a Mother Knows poses surprisingly transparent. In the end, I predicted every major plot point.  But, what I  most I disliked about What a Mother Knows was the main character.  Michelle is not likable. Before her accident, she was a hard-nosed Hollywood producer and when she seeks answers, she is forceful and often rude.  

I might have found Michelle's behavior more tolerable if her head injury had something to do with her outbursts.  Traumatic Brain Injuries can cause a dramatic change in personality or loss of self-control.  But, apparently Michelle was just a little on the nasty side to begin with.  As a reader, I found her annoying enough that it was only curiosity and the fairly fast pace to the book that kept me going.

The bottom line:

Recommended but not a favorite - Gripping, suspenseful, satisfying in the end, yet unsurprising.  An unlikeable main character and predictable ending made What a Mother Knows just an average read for me, but there is much to like about the book.  Even though in the end I found that I'd made the correct assumptions about every major plot point, I found the questions compelling enough to keep the pages rapidly turning.

In other news, things are blooming, here:

It's rather difficult to convince oneself to spend time on the computer, this time of year.

©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.