Friday, June 28, 2013

Fiona Friday - Uh, slight problem there

©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, June 27, 2013

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo and an F2F Report

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
Copyright 2013
Reagan Arthur Books (an imprint of Little, Brown and Co.) - Fiction
290 pp.

Source:  Advance Reader Copies were provided by Little, Brown and Co. for group discussion

What We Need New Names is about:

Darling is a 10-year-old child living in poverty in Zimbabwe.  She used to live in a nice home rather than a tin shack and had 2 parents rather than one struggling mother and an AWOL father. She used to go to school before things went horribly wrong in her country.  

Now, Darling and her friends spend their days roaming around, searching for food to steal and playing games.  Darling's aunt in America says she'll come for Darling, one day, and eventually she does.  But, when Darling arrives in America, she finds that life is different -- better in some ways, yes, but she misses her home and her friends.  And life in America is far from perfect.

In general:

We Need New Names is a very difficult read because of the horrors Darling and her friends observe and experience.  Through her eyes, you see rape, starvation, murder, political upheaval, an angry mob, the horror of AIDS and other injustices so common the children are inured to them to the point of turning the evils they witness into games.  There are humorous moments, but they're rare. The following quotation describes Darling's thoughts as she and her friends are getting ready to play "the country game":
If I'm lucky, like today, I get to be the U.S.A, which is a country-country; who doesn't know that the U.S.A. is the big baboon of the world?  I feel like it's my country now because my aunt Fostalina lives there, in Destroyedmichygen.  Once her things are in order she'll come and get me and I will go and live there also.
~ p. 49 of Advance Reader Copy, We Need New Names (some changes may have been made to the final published edition)

What I liked about We Need New Names:

I felt transported to a different world while I was reading from Darling's perspective.  It's hard for some of us to imagine what it's like to be so hungry that you'll gorge on stolen fruit with the knowledge that you'll pay for the theft with equally painful constipation, but during the months that guavas are growing the children in We Need New Names spend a lot of their time climbing trees in the nicer part of town, stealing the guavas and suffering the consequences. Otherwise they'll starve until the humanitarian aid trucks arrive (and what little food those trucks carry doesn't last long).  

While my Face to Face book group members and I agreed that We Need New Names had its flaws, it was certainly a learning experience reading about life in Zimbabwe.  And, it's always interesting to read about what it's like for a person entering the U.S. from elsewhere -- the culture shock and the disappointments of moving to a land that one has visualized as practically utopian.

What I disliked about We Need New Names:

This seemed to be a group consensus, although we didn't have a show of hands: Sometimes it seemed more like an adult was writing through a child's viewpoint than a true child's perspective because Darling knew too much.  Granted, a 10-year-old can be brilliant and very wise, but if you take the country game as an example, it shows a striking knowledge of geography and politics.  And, sometimes Darling seems a bit too wise for her age:
Gradually, the children gave up and ceased asking questions and just appeared empty, almost, like their childhood had fled and left only the bones of its shadow behind.
~ p. 76, ARC

The occasional simile or metaphor that sounded rather adult threw me out of the novel, but only briefly.  My biggest complaint would have to be the fact that I had difficulty getting into the book in the first place.  It did not grab me and suck me in until around page 75.  Because the description of the book reveals that Darling ends up going to America, I was also a little dismayed that her move didn't occur till the middle of the book.  I expected the story to be more about the culture shock and adjustment than her life in Zimbabwe.  

I wouldn't call Darling's delayed arrival in America a bad thing, though; it was just unexpected. I actually thought the 150 pages of life in Zimbabwe were the best.  Once Darling arrives in Michigan, she is surprised to find herself longing for her home and even having a bit of difficulty appreciating her comparative prosperity.

Here is where we dive into the group's thoughts:

Although We Need New Names generated such a noisy discussion that our group leader finally gave up and passed out a feather (only the person holding the feather is supposed to speak) to get things under control, it was a rather ragged and unfocused discussion, which is probably my fault.  I didn't think to seek out discussion questions and since I was the person who provided the books, I was expected to have done so.  My mistake. On the plus side, everyone had something to say and, in fact, there were a couple topics I thought about in advance but didn't get around to mentioning.

One thing about We Need New Names that really frustrated the members of my group was the fact that Darling was never really happy in America.  Once she arrived, she discovered America has its own problems with racism. She wasn't poor but she wasn't wealthy, either, and sometimes she could hear gunfire in the streets. The reality of America didn't match up with the America of her imagination, in other words.  But, was she merely disappointed with a less-than-perfect new home and frustrated with being an outcast or did she manage to blend in just enough to become a sulky teenager who was more American than she realized? In the latter part of the book it became apparent that, at least for Darling, immigration meant a life between two worlds, neither of which were comfortable.

Other things we discussed:
  • Two particularly harrowing scenes involving one of Darling's friends, who was pregnant at the age of 10. 
  • How the children reacted after seeing a young man murdered in the street.
  • Whether or not children in general have a lesser sense of right and wrong than adults, based on a particular scene in which some wealthy white people become victims of a mob home invasion while the children observe (and what takes place after the destruction has ended).
  • What probably happened to Darling's father when he went to South Africa to work in the diamond mines.
  • The differing roles of men and women in a war-torn country. 
  • Why Darling was unable to return to Zimbabwe from the United States and how envy and her unwillingness to tell her friends back home the real reason she couldn't return caused them to slowly stop communicating.
  • The names in the book.  We agreed that we all enjoyed the unusual character names like Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mborro (the local minister), Godknows (a friend of Darling's), Mother of Bones (her grandmother). 
  • The absence of Darling's mother during most of the book.
  • The difficulties of immigration . . . which led to mention of A Good American by Alex George.  We'll be reading and discussing A Good American in September.  
A few topics that didn't come up but which are worth discussing:

  • Darling's comments about how much easier it is to believe in God when you live in a place where it's possible for prayers to be answered vs. how easily she dismissed faith while living in extreme poverty and with very little hope.
  • AIDS was mentioned but only briefly as it related to a particular character. We didn't really talk much about the prevalence of AIDS in Africa.
  • I suspected Darling's mother may have fallen to sleeping with men for pay but neglected to bring that up to see if anyone else thought the author dropped hints to that effect. We did talk about how difficult it must have been for the adults to survive and keep their heads up when they couldn't even feed their own children.
The bottom line:

Recommended - An excellent group read but very gritty with harsh language, violence and frightening situations. Nobody at all said, "I didn't like this book" or "I just didn't get the point," and the group discussion was enthusiastic to the point that it degenerated and became kind of a chaotic noisy mess.  Even the feather didn't entirely do the trick when it came to calming the group down.  I think we all agreed that it was clear the author is a fairly new writer and the book could have been a bit more polished but everyone got something out of it and when our group becomes that noisy, it means there is more than enough to talk about.

I liked the author's use of similes:

Dumi's deep voice is a little rugged, like it walked all the way to America and is now worn out from the effort.  [. . . ]

She smiles, and I stare at her because of the way she smiles.  Like she is hearing music and she is dancing to it on the inside.

~both: p. 179, ARC

On a personal note:

The day I finished reading We Need New Names, I was in our former town running errands so I met my husband for lunch in a nice restaurant.  As we were sitting there with our bread and fancy butter in a puddle of sugary goo that neither of us ate much of because we were in the mood for a light meal, I found myself wishing there was some way to gather all that excess fresh food that we waste. I imagined a giant air tube sucking food from our Land of Plenty to wherever it's needed.  We Need New Names is definitely the kind of book that makes you look around and reassess the quantity of possessions you have and the food you don't eat -- things that could be useful to someone else.  

©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, June 26, 2013

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
Copyright 2013
Sourcebooks Landmark - Fiction/Historical-Contemporary blend w/a touch of paranormal
543 pp.

Source:  From Sourcebooks for review

What The Firebird is about:

Nicola Marter has a special talent.  When she touches an object, she sees scenes from its history.  Her father has the same ability but revealing his gift caused such anguish he will not speak of it; he has coached Nicola to keep her gift buried deeply.  

When a woman arrives at the art gallery at which Nicola works, hoping to sell a Russian carving, Nicola knows she's telling the truth about its origin.  But the vision of Empress Catherine handing it to the woman's ancestor is not enough to authenticate its history so the woman goes home disappointed.  Then, Nicola finds the woman's scarf and learns something more.  Determined to help, she sets off for Scotland to find the one person she knows to be even more gifted than herself.  

Together, Nicola and her handsome friend Rob will travel in pursuit of evidence from the past.  When the two psychics are thrown together with a common goal, will the romance of their past start anew?  Or will Nicola keep running from her ability and the love she gave away?

What I loved about The Firebird:

That was probably a crap description, sorry.  I just hate using the publisher's description unless I'm at a total loss for words.  I am at a loss about how to describe what I loved about the book because The Firebird is another one of those books that so thoroughly swept me away that I'm tempted to say I loved absolutely everything about it.  I adored the characters (especially the hero), the slowly-building romance, the historical context and the story itself.  But, there was one thing I didn't love.  Just one.  Well, no, two.

What I disliked about The Firebird:

It was a little hard to wrap my mind around the concept of two people being so connected that they can actually hear each other's thoughts.  In The Firebird, the two characters occasionally speak telepathically. Sometimes they don't even realize they're doing so.  Kind of a stretch, I thought.  I love the way Susanna Kearsley blends a bit of time travel with a contemporary story, though, and I was not going to let a concept that I found a little unbelievable keep me from enjoying an excellent read.  The only other problem I had with The Firebird was the occasional tedious passage.  I loved the book but sometimes it was just a tiny bit too detailed and I found myself close to slipping into zone-out mode.  That never lasted very long, though.

The bottom line:

Highly recommended - Excellent storytelling, wonderful characterization and stunning historical research make for a terrific, escapist read.  The Firebird continues the story of historical characters first introduced in The Winter Sea, a book I absolutely loved.  In fact, now I wish I hadn't passed on my copy of The Winter Sea because I'd really like to go back and read it, again.  Oh, well.  Read them together, if you can, but The Firebird stands alone fine and both are excellent books, perfect for vacation 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.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday Twaddle - A long weekend and a nice little pile of arrivals

We had a long and tiring weekend in which we drove to Nashville to help our eldest son move (meaning, we took on his junky old furniture, some of which he was supposed to return if he no longer wanted it . . . but we won't go there).  The first night was spent at our "vacation home" - Kiddo's apartment in Oxford, MS.  Of course we went to Square Books and Off-Square Books.  That's the Square Books staircase, above.  I took a picture of a pretty stack of Simon's new title on the new arrivals table:

That was Friday night.  On Saturday, all three of us bundled back into the car to drive on to Nashville.  On Sunday, we rented a small moving truck and the guys loaded up the furniture Eldest & DIL no longer wanted.  We drove back to Oxford and spent a second night in our vacation place then drove the rest of the way home, leaving Kiddo behind for the second summer semester at Ole Miss and dumping more than half the furniture on him. He's happy to have finally acquired the "family dresser" - an old 70's Early American-style dresser that's nicely built but pretty ugly.  Still, it's solid wood and you don't see that, anymore.

We stopped at a Farmer's Market in Bolivar, TN, on the way to Nashville. Husband asked me to take a photo of one of the peaches we bought because it was the sooo juicy and delicious.  I took a bite and it dripped on my camera.  Oops.

The rest of the peaches have been turned into a delicious peach cobbler.  They sat in the heat a bit too long and were ripening quickly so we decided we'd better use them before it was too late.

Recent arrivals:

I got 3 books, last week, and two more arrived, yesterday.  Normally, the latter two would go on next week's list of arrivals because it's not Monday, but they're sitting here so you might as well see them before I haul them off to sort, right? 

  • Too Much Glue by J. Lefebvre & Z. Retz - Unsolicited from Flashlight Press
  • Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum and
  • Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt - both came from Algonquin Books.  They were originally sent unsolicited (I've been told) but never arrived. When I got an email about Good Kings Bad Kings, I said I really do want to read the books that didn't make it, so they were sent using a different shipping method.  Our government postal service sure does have a knack for making things disappear.  
  • Godiva by Nicole Galland - from HarperCollins for review
  • Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad - from Gallery Books for review

I finished reading Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann, over the weekend, and am about halfway through She Rises by Kate Worsley.  I hope to start catching up on my little backlog of reviews, tomorrow.  

The cats were cared for by Kiddo's girlfriend, again, so we came home to happy little furballs.  They love C.  She was going to go to her mother's house for the weekend but had no problem altering her plans to care for the kitties.  

In other news:

It's still hot.  Really, that's not news, but I can't think of much else to say.  :)  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.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fiona Friday - iPad cases make excellent pillows

©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, June 20, 2013

The Registry by Shannon Stoker

The Registry by Shannon Stoker
Copyright 2013
William Morrow - New Adult/Dystopian
321 pp.

Source:  HarperCollins for review

What's it about:

In a futuristic United States, girls are sold to the highest bidder with the prettiest selling for the highest amount, basically to become breeding machines and decorative slaves.  If they don't sell, they become government property and end up prisoners of a wide-spread government workforce.  Boys, on the other hand, are unwanted and usually given away by their parents because they have no monetary value.  Anyone who keeps a son is considered a bit bonkers.  While females are kept by their parents and sold at a certain age, males are typically brought up by the government to a point, then left to fend for themselves until it's time for them to sign in for their military service.  This futuristic, dystopian United States is at odds with much of the world and constantly at war.

Mia is beautiful and will sell for a high price when her 18th birthday arrives.  Her three sisters have been sold and married.  They were all very pretty and fetched good prices.  But, Mia is special, unusually beautiful even within her family.  When one of Mia's sisters briefly escapes from her brutal husband and points Mia to a foreign magazine article that explains what marriage is really like, Mia is skeptical.  She's looked forward to becoming a bride all her life.  Then, her sister dies and Mia is certain she was killed by her husband for disobedience.  Mia decides to run.  How will she survive in a country where it's illegal to seek your freedom?

What I liked about The Registry:

I liked the idea and I thought the book was going to be interesting, going into it.  The stage was nicely set with Mia planning for her wedding, finding out the truth, trying to convince her best friend to go with her and engaging help from a young man who is just leaving to sign up for his military service.  There are some interesting action moments and twists.  But . . . 

What I disliked about The Registry:

Unfortunately, the book is poorly written and executed.  What began as a great idea (with recognizable shades of several other dystopian novels, yet still unique) quickly became plodding and repetitive.  At one point, I read a sentence aloud to my husband to explain why I felt like I was going to have a hard time finding anything kind to say about the book.  He said, "Oh, wow.  Maybe you shouldn't review that one at all." It was that bad.  

Having said that:

Not everyone is as picky as I am and I have a feeling there are plenty of people who will enjoy The Registry.  In my case, it was one of those books that I finished because I kept hoping it would improve. I didn't know it was the first in a trilogy till I reached the end.  I will not continue reading this series.

A note on New Adult:

The New Adult concept is supposed to be a category that bridges the ages between young adult and adult.  Of course, we all know kids who were reading adult books in elementary school.  I did and so did my children. I love the Young Adult concept because YA books took a lot of children who would have likely been in the non-reader category and gave them exciting new worlds to explore.  The idea of creating a new category to ease those readers into adult reads makes sense to me because I know at least one reader who is stuck in a Young Adult reading world.  She grew up reading fantasy and hasn't managed to stretch beyond that, even into adult fantasy.  New Adult books are supposed to be edgier, sexier, more adult but not quite literature, from my understanding.  I thought The Registry failed to live up to the concept -- not just the story idea itself but the whole category concept.  It read like poorly-written Young Adult lit, to me.  

The bottom line:

Not recommended - Great idea, poorly executed.  I'm sure there are people who will enjoy The Registry and the rest of the series but I was disappointed and would not feel comfortable recommending it to my readers.  

Boy was I surprised to find out the author got a 6-figure advance.  I don't know what they were thinking. HarperCollins publishes a lot of excellent reading material but this one . . . it was just a dud, in my humble opinion.

In other news:

Last night was my F2F meeting and it was kind of chaotic so it's probably going to be difficult writing about We Need New Names and the reaction of my group, but I'll do my best . . . probably next week. 

Don't forget I have a Dr. Who drawing going!  You can sign up till the 30th.  Then, the little fairies are going to jump into the internet and pull the plug on the sign-up.  They do that, sometimes.  

©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, June 18, 2013

Dr. Who: Festival of Death by Jonathan Morris with a giveaway (Entries now *CLOSED*)

Festival of Death by Jonathan Morris 
Copyright 2013 (reprint)
BBC Books - SciFi/Fan Fiction - Dr. Who
306 pp.

Source:  From the publisher for TLC Tours

What's it about?

The Fourth Doctor (played in the series by Tom Baker) and his companion Romana arrive by chance in the midst of a place called the G-Lock, a gridlock in a wormhole where a large number of spaceships were trapped 200 years in the past and all the passengers from the cruise ship at the head of the pile-up mysteriously disappeared. Now the G-Lock has been turned into a tourist destination.

As the Doctor and Romana arrive, a disaster has occurred during a thrill-ride called The Beautiful Death, a "tour of the afterlife" in which participants die and are brought back to life.  When the Doctor and Romana are recognized and the Doctor is thanked for saving lives, they have no choice but to go back in time to figure out what they've already done and how the Doctor became a hero.

Then the Doctor discovers that he saved the day by sacrificing his own life.  

What I liked about Festival of Death:

Festival of Death is an absolute delight to read.  In this particular Dr. Who novel, the Fourth Doctor is the protagonist.  Tom Baker is by far my favorite of the Doctor Who actors and the author did an exceptional job of portraying him.  It was incredibly easy to visualize the Doctor's every gesture, his tone of voice and his expressions.  And, the story is just complex enough to make the reading ridiculously fun.  There are, in fact, so many different time streams that I lost track of how many Doctors could be running around at any moment.  

As Kiddo says, "It's all wibbly-wobbly and timey-wimey."  Well, yes, but in a bigger way than average, I replied.  It really is quite a twisty-turny story.  We both loved that.  

There is also an excellent balance of humor (not just the Doctor's cheerful blustering but some terrific secondary characters), scary and gross bits (not too much, but enough to nicely creep you out), adventure and mystery.  Kiddo and I both loved this wacky, time-twisty adventure.

What I disliked about Festival of Death:

There's not much I disliked about Festival of Death.  The gross bits are certainly icky but not so horrifying that I would advise anyone to resist reading the book and there was so much I liked about it that I was practically propelled through it by the desire to see how things would turn out.  Whoosh went the pages!  The only complaints I can come up with are spectacularly mild.  Romana occasionally didn't sound entirely "in character" to me.  But, I haven't seen an old episode with Romana in it for ages, so you can take that possible criticism with a grain of salt.  There is also a computer called ERIC who is annoyingly suicidal.  But, there's a reason for his human-like distress and as you get farther into the book and ERIC's past becomes clear, the annoyance becomes an eyebrow-raiser, instead.  Oh! Poor Eric! How awful! you will think.  Odd siding with a computer but he really was put-upon.

So, what does that leave?  Oh, I suppose no criticism at all.  I don't like gross bits but as I said, there was a very decent balance that kept the icky from becoming overwhelming.  And, K-9 is in this one!  Squeee!  I was heartbroken when K-9 left the series.

Kiddo's review:

Festival of Death is a tale of the Doctor constantly crossing time streams with himself, making for more than one outrageous incident.  Great story.  I would read it again.

[Kiddo is succinct in a way I can only dream of someday becoming.]

The Bottom Line:

Highly Recommended - Excellent characterization, a nice twisty plot, plenty of humor, with some scary and yucky bits (but not too much).  A vastly entertaining adventure with a perfectly-described Fourth Doctor.  Festival of Death is definitely worth buying for multiple rereads if you're a Dr. Who fan.  Even knowing the ending won't ruin it for future readings because it's such fun.  Kiddo and I both loved it and Huzzybuns is glad we're done reading it so he can have a turn.  

Giveaway - now CLOSED

I gave up doing giveaways, quite some time ago, but I'm going to come out of the anti-giveaway woodwork because I loved this book enough that I think it's worth spreading the joy around.  

To enter:

  • Tell me what you think the Doctor's real name is.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, where have you been?  Kidding, kidding.  Just make something up.
  • Don't forget to leave your email so I can contact you if you win!  If you don't leave an email address, you'll be automatically disqualified because I don't like having to try to track people down through their profiles. 
  • This will be a fairly quick drawing. Entries will close at 5:00 PM U.S. Central time on June 30 (or whenever I get to it).  
This is an international giveaway, so no problem if you live in Timbuktu or Constantinople or on Easter Island.  Oklahoma's OK, too.  [inside joke]  Good luck!

©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, June 17, 2013

Monday Malarkey - Arrivals and not much else

I'm having a whale of a time trying to get images to go where I want them to, so I'll just stop messing with them and tell you about my reading week.  I finished two books, last week: The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley and Festival of Death by Jonathan Morris.  Both were terrific reads for entirely different reasons.  I believe tomorrow is the tour date for Festival of Death (one of the books in the new Dr. Who Classics series), so you won't have long to wait for that review.

Three books arrived:

Simon's book!  Simon's book!  Hardback!  Buy it!

I've already read the ARC and written some thoughts about Simon Van Booy's latest book, The Illusion of Separateness but not a review that discusses plot and all that jazz.  

What I received this week was a finished hardback copy that I pre-ordered as soon as it was possible to pre-order.  It's beautiful and I can't wait to read the book a second time.  I'll take notes.  This always happens to me: The first time I read one of Simon's books, I become so immersed that I can't bear to stop long enough to pick up a post-it.  So, I always have to read them at least twice before I can review.  The Illusion of Separateness is no exception.  

Simon's Tour Dates - Simon's on tour, at the moment.  Go see him if he's near you and tell him Bookfool sent you, please!!!  I will not be able to see him on tour, this time, damn it.  So disappointed.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman came from HarperCollins for review.  I was in the mood for a quick and spooky read, yesterday, so this week's first finished read is already done and dusted.  

I was thoroughly creeped out.

I loved it.

The Bohemian Love Diaries by Slash Coleman came from the publisher after I was contacted by the author.  We had a pleasant conversation and have made an unofficial date for coffee if/when he comes through my area.  

I read the first chapter of The Bohemian Love Diaries and would have happily continued reading but last week was not the best reading week because my entire family was here -- Eldest down from Nashville, Kiddo still home from school (but he'll be leaving for the second summer session, soon), Kiddo's girlfriend already living with us (boy, did it surprise Eldest to find that C. was here, the morning after she moved in; apparently, we forgot to tell him she's staying for the summer). 

That's all beside the point.  The first chapter of The Bohemian Love Diaries is really something.  Looks like Slash Coleman has led a unique, quirky life that will make for delightful reading.  I'm anxious to return to this one.

In other news:

I just checked out one of the local library branches in itty-bitty (but lovely) Raymond, MS.  It was as expected.  The fiction section consisted of mostly Westerns, romance, Christian fiction, a smattering of popular fiction (usually the kind I dislike) and mysteries, exactly like my last library.  Fortunately, there are quite a few branches I've yet to check out, so hopefully I'll be able to find a bit more variety elsewhere.  

It's hot and occasionally stormy.  Progress on the old house is continuing.  The cats are happy.  That's about all the news.  Happy Monday!

©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, June 14, 2013

Fiona Friday - Lucky catch

This was a split-second glance.  You know how Fiona hates the camera.  Lucky I can hit that shutter release quickly.

©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, June 12, 2013

The Kings and Queens of Roam by Daniel Wallace

The Kings and Queens of Roam by Daniel Wallace
Copyright 2013
Touchstone Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) - Fiction that's really hard to classify: a little historical, a little paranormal, a lot brilliant
277 pp.

Source:  Touchstone Books 

Warning:  Gushy love forthcoming

What The Kings and Queens of Roam is about (in my words):  

Helen and Rachel McAllister live in a dying town established by their ancestor, a devious man who built his home and his fortune by kidnapping a Chinese man and stealing his secret.  After the death of their parents, Helen is charged with taking care of her younger sister, Rachel.  Helen is the ugly sister and her temperament matches her looks.  Rachel is blind, innocent and a stunning beauty.  But, Helen tells Rachel stories that make her fearful and just a bit sad.  Rachel, Helen is convinced, could never live on her own.  But, she's bitter at what she perceives as the loss of her own independence. Even as Helen convinces Rachel that the world is dangerous and she could never survive alone, she makes it nearly impossible for Rachel to develop the strength to forge her own path.

Then, one day Helen leaves for a short time and everything changes.  When Rachel decides to take her chances, what will happen to the two sisters and their fading world?  

The Kings and Queens of Roam moves between the past and maybe-not-quite-present, describing the heartless ancestor who cursed his line by choosing greed rather than kindness and the two young women upon whom his legacy has fallen.

Why a blurb can't possibly describe the magic:

There is much more to Daniel Wallace's writing than a boilerplate description of The Kings and Queens of Roam will allow.  It is absolutely magical.  While the book is partly about a sisterly relationship, partly about their greedy ancestor, it's also about a string of tragedies and how we choose darkness or light.  It's the most bizarrely wonderful story of tragedy and hope.  There are ghosts walking around and a magical river that may or may not cure people or mice of various ills.  When Helen and Rachel's parents' death is described, it's so strange it's almost humorous. "Tall tales and folklore" is a part of the cover flap description.  Yes, I'll buy that. It reads very much like folklore with a dash of fairy tale.  There are no dates (so I found myself placing the more modern portion of the story in the 50s or 60s, 'though I can't say if I'm anywhere close) and no concrete geographical links.  You know you're in a world apart.

What I loved about The Kings and Queens of Roam:

I loved the experience of escaping into Daniel Wallace's strange and magical story as much as the story itself.  The reason I took a photo of the book lying face-down on my bed has to do with the fact that I was so in love, so immersed in the story that I wanted to take the book's portrait.  And, the only way I could set it down was in a manner that left it remaining open.  I couldn't even bear to put a bookmark in The Kings and Queens of Roam.  When I photographed it, I had to do something necessary -- I don't know, maybe move a load of laundry or make a meal?  Something you can't get out of doing.

What I disliked about The Kings and Queens of Roam:

Nothing.  I never knew exactly where the author was taking me and that's a good thing.  I like to be surprised.  I don't mind being able to figure out an ending in advance if the entire book is not so transparent as to end up being dull, but to keep drawing in a reader and surprising him, over and over, is a rare and wondrous thing.  "Rare and wondrous" are actually excellent descriptors for The Kings and Queens of Roam.

See, I told you gushy love was coming.

It happens.

This is my first Daniel Wallace book.  I actually have a copy of Big Fish, but I've never read it.  I plan to do some digging, in the coming weeks.  You know we moved in September of 2012?  Still haven't unloaded all the books.  Nowhere near.

The bottom line:

Highly, enthusiastically recommended - Exceptional writing and storytelling: a tale of darkness and light, tragedy and hope and how far we will go for those we deeply love.  A rare and wondrous gem, magical and immersive, brilliant and beautiful.

A friend asked me if The Kings and Queens of Roam is a children's book because of its cover (which also should get a large dollop of adoration because it's lovely, whimsical and relevant to the story) and the answer is "no".  The Kings and Queens of Roam is very much an grown-up fable, but it's certainly not one that I would advise anyone to hide from the kids.

I also took this while I was in the midst of reading TKaQoR:

Both kitties were my reading buddies, that day.  Fiona was sprawled on the floor, Isabel curled up on her favorite blanket beside me, much of the afternoon.  Not much else but reading was accomplished, once I opened up the book.  It's definitely a new favorite.

©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, June 10, 2013

Monday Malarkey - Of kitties and bloggiversaries and bacon jam

This is what Fiona looks like through a kids' kaleidoscope.  Some days you get goofy with your camera, haha. 

I didn't think I was going to have time to post any malarkey, today, with Eldest visiting, Kiddo in the house and Kiddo's girlfriend moving in with us for summer term.  Plus, I figured there wouldn't be much to say, since no books arrived last week.  But, then 3 books came in the mail, the guys went to work on emptying the attic at our old house and I'm just sitting here waiting for laundry to finish and our temporary resident (we'll just call her "C") to arrive so . . . there you go.  Time to write, after all, and things to say.  

Just walked in:
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - via Paperback Swap
  • The Tudor Secret by C. W. Gortner - via Paperback Swap
  • True Spies by Shana Galen - from Sourcebooks for review
What else is new?

Poor Fiona had a reaction to her yearly shots.  She scratched the injection spot raw and it stayed bloody all weekend, but Fi remained oddly perky and managed to charm our eldest.  I just took this photo of her looking as serene as usual, just a bit ago.  Fortunately, her wound has apparently stopped itching. It's a relief to see her back to normal.

Our weekend:

We painted the master bedroom ceiling in our old house, dropped off hazardous waste, donated several bags of clothing and miscellaneous to the rescue mission, attended a housewarming party, made some new friends, cleaned the new house to prepare for our eldest son's visit and C's move into Kiddo's bedroom, and set up our new phones -- which we hope will lower the cost of our mobile service a bit.  Not much reading was accomplished, but I'm more than halfway into The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley and enjoying it immensely.  

I completely forgot:  

June 6 was my 7th bloggiversary!  I guess it's not as big a deal, after 7 years, but I did mean to say something.  Since we're trying to get our house ready to sell and there's a lot of work to be done, I feel like I owe everyone an apology.  I will post when I can but I'm probably not going to have much, if any, time to read other blogs and comment.  I'm already having trouble just fitting in reading time. Cross your fingers or pray that we can finish up the fixing-upping and get that house on the market, soon.  

We brought this home from vacation:

I tried it on an egg salad sandwich.  Seriously.  It was a little weird, but not as bad as it sounds.  On the back they say it's a relish.  That makes it sound a little less frightening than the word "jam", doesn't it?

Happy Monday! 

©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, June 07, 2013

Fiona Friday - Sneak Attack

Because the jingle ball can't see you if you hide behind a door . . . 

©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, June 06, 2013

A few minis: The English by Matt Rudd, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is quite a hodge-podge of titles but all were purchases and I don't feel like dedicating an entire page to any of them, even though I enjoyed them all.  

I purchased The English: A Field Guide by Matt Rudd when I got to Victoria Station in London and realized I didn't have any reading material for the train trip to Dover.  Unacceptable!  Must have reading material!  So, I grabbed The English and, since it was one of the "Buy 1, Get 1 Half Price" books and so was The 5th Wave, I threw in the Yancey book for good measure.

The English is sarcastic fun, a book that observes and pokes fun at English habits and attitudes in the kitchen and garden, on the sofa, in the office, on the commuter train.  It talks about pubs and clubs and shops, sporting events, the motorway, the beach and even the bedroom. 

I love the cover blurb:  

"An opportunity for the English to laugh at themselves and to show everyone else how mad and brilliant we are."
--Jeremy Clarkson

Spot on, Jeremy.  Except the problem with the rest of us is that some of that lingo doesn't translate.  I could have used a British English dictionary.  Y'all do love your slang in the UK.  But, I made sense of most of The English and it made the train trip out to Dover go quickly.  

On the way back, I didn't get to read because I was distracted by the adventurers across the aisle. One fellow kept showing the others photos of the time he had to dig himself out of a snow cave and talked about how difficult it was to pull himself up out of a crevasse.  But, at least his team had practiced for possible falls into crevasses by building a climbing area in the local garage.  You so wish you could have eavesdropped with me, don't you?

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey was on my wish list because my friend Tammy gushed about it and it's getting very positive reviews.  

An alien invasion has wiped out most of the Earth's population in 4 separate waves.  Cassie has been alone for a while, living in the woods with occasional runs into town for food and water, knowing that even if there are any remaining humans it will be almost impossible for her to know who is human and who is not.  She must stay alone and trust no one.  But, how long can that last?

Private Zombie is being trained with a team of children. Nugget, the smallest, is so little he can't become an officer for another two years after training.  Zombie likes little Nugget and feels protective of him.  When the team is sent out on its first mission, they discover something sinister and realize the 5th Wave they've been waiting for has already begun.  Zombie realizes he must go back for Nugget.

I love dystopian and apocalyptic books (aliens or otherwise), so it's only natural that I expected to enjoy The 5th Wave.  And, I did.  I liked the fact that the author tried to turn the whole alien-invasion concept on its head with references to movies and books in which, says the narrator, everyone got it wrong because there's no scattered group of humans that will band up to save the day.  I guess we'll find out if that's the truth in the next book.  The 5th Wave stands alone and is comfortably wrapped up, but it will still have you bouncing in your seat like popcorn, wishing you could get your mitts on the next book.  Assuming you like that kind of thing.  It's not great literature, but The 5th Wave is very well-written, stunningly plotted, action-packed, scary fun.  I loved it.  

Speaking of great literature, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is right up there.  I've actually attempted to read it twice and couldn't get into it.  There was something about the intro that threw me.  But, the third time I had no problem.  I haven't been able to find my elderly copy of Gatsby, so I wandered into a bookstore in Uxbridge (again, in the Greater London area) after we hiked out to the Battle of Britain Bunker.  My feet needed a break, so I let the guys wander off to Sainsbury's without me and sat happily reading and swinging my feet on a nearby park bench.

All of that goes to say, this time around The Great Gatsby really grabbed me and, even though it's tragic and I adore sweetness and light, I loved it.  I'm pretty sure everyone on the planet knows what it's about so I won't bother going into that.  What I will say is that when I closed the book, I wanted to talk about it.  I didn't love it as much as my first Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, but I was still astounded by Fitzgerald's mastery of the language and the way the narrator, Nick Carraway, made me see a tragic affair and overblown desperation as a story with more heart at its core than I'd have expected.  

At any rate, I'm glad I bought a second copy if only because the print is much larger than my older one.  I like the cover, too, because glancing at the costumes helped me visualize the opulence. The Great Gatsby display in the Harrods' windows might have helped, too, but Husband kept dragging me down Sloane Street to get home, at night, instead of past Harrods. So it wasn't till our last evening that I finally managed to photograph those cool costumes.

This one rotated:

Bottom line:  Thumbs up to The Great Gatsby, loved living through the alien invasion in The 5th Wave, and the English, as described in The English, are indeed mad and brilliant.  I really enjoyed my vacation reading and highly recommend all three!

©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.