Monday, November 25, 2013

Going blog silent

Happy Thanksgiving (a wee bit early) to the Americans!  We'll be busy with family, this week, and I've been having a bit of post-NaNoWriMo exhaustion reading block so there's not much malarkey to share, this week.  I may take a couple weeks off blogging while I recover.

This is German food from Alabama, by the way.  Couldn't find a decent turkey photo but I figured since this shot pretty much made me drool on the keyboard it would be a good one for illustration.

It makes me want to hop a plane to Germany or at least take a road trip to Alabama.  Hope all of you have a fabulous week or two.  Happy Reading 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.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fiona Friday - New favorite napping spot

©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, November 21, 2013

A Great and Complicated Adventure by Toon Tellegan, illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg

You're going to get tired of all the gushing but I've read so many wonderful books, lately, and A Great and Complicated Adventure by Toon Tellegen is one of my favorites.  A book of children's short stories, it has sweet, simple pen and watercolor illustrations of its animal characters. I took A Great and Complicated Adventure with me to Oxford when we went to visit Kiddo, about a month ago.  Within the 154 pages are 19 short stories.  I loved them so much that I stayed in the car to read while the guys traipsed into Walmart (to get a glass repair kit -- you might remember our windshield got smacked by either a bullet or BB) and finished the reading on my son's futon when we returned to his apartment.

I'm just going to tell you about one of the stories so you can get an idea what they're like.  The first story is about a squirrel and an ant, unlikely friends who continue to show up throughout the book.  And, it begins like this:

One morning, just for fun, the squirrel baked a small cake of beech nuts and honey.  On the cake, in letters of melted sugar, he wrote:  
"Dear Ant,  
How are you?  
The Squirrel" 
"It's the thought that counts," he said to himself.  He stopped for a moment and felt proud of his thought.  "It's a good thought," he thought, "and what's more, it's a surprise.  It isn't the ant's birthday, and there isn't anything else to celebrate.  It's an unexpected thought."

The story goes on with the ant responding in kind, creating a letter of his own for the squirrel, made from cream and stewed chestnuts with letters of oak honey.  The squirrel proceeds to eat his treat and think about how delicious it is, then he wipes away a bit of honey, "the question mark that was hanging from the end of his nose." 

The story doesn't feel entirely complete and yet it does.  It's simply story about friendship and most of the stories in A Great and Complicated Adventure are similar in that they're about friendship, curiosity, creativity, kindness. They are sweet stories.

This book doesn't lend itself well to being propped open for photography, so I held it open to a favorite spread to give you an peek at the illustrations:

Highly recommended - Sweet little stories about friendship and imagination with utterly delightful illustrations.  The stories don't always feel complete in the traditional sense, but the more I read, the fonder I became of the author's unique style and found myself smiling and even chuckling a bit.  When I closed the book, I longed for more.  Such a pleasurable reading experience.  I particularly loved the stories about the unlikely, sunny friendship between Ant and Squirrel.

©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, November 19, 2013

The Emperor's Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales by Jane Ray

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I accepted The Emperor's Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales for review.  Stories about birds seemed a narrow focus, but I love children's books so I figured it would be a fun read.  Admittedly, I'm a bit of a children's book addict but I was actually quite surprised by how much I loved The Emperor's Nightingale

Many of the stories in The Emperor's Nightingalewhich is also illustrated by author Jane Ray, are familiar classic stories or poems that have been gathered by her over the years, some rewritten, some not as commonly known. One is a poem by Emily Dickinson, one a tale by Oscar Wilde.  What I particularly love about the book is that the stories have the rhythm and style of the fairytales I fell in love with as a child.  I felt very much as if I was being transported back to my childhood as I read them and that's a great thing.  There is very little I treasure more from my memory than how much I loved being read to by my parents.  

You can click to enlarge the interior photos I took. There's an introduction to the book (unfortunately printed on red paper so that it's a bit difficult to read) and then each story/poem has its own little intro.  In the intro to "Jorinda and Joringel" you learn that it's a fairy tale by the Grimm brothers but one that is lesser known.  

I have some particular favorites amongst the illustrations.

At some point, when I was searching for a cover image and coming up flat, I came across a wonderful review which I have not managed to find, again.  The blogger who wrote it talked about knowing Jane Ray as the "wrapping paper lady" because she has designed wrapping paper and about how the illustrations in The Emperor's Nightingale are made using a method I remember from elementary-school art (but which I can't name), in which solid paint is layered over a surface that may be colored or plain and then a design is scratched into the paint.  Some of the illustrations don't appear to have been made that way, but perhaps the slight difference in style simply serves to show the artist's range.

I tend to like more vivid, bright, colorful illustrations in a children's book and Jane Ray's illustrations are  fairly understated in The Emperor's Nightingale, but I still like them immensely.  They're a little uneven in presentation and, in a way, I found that was a good thing because I never knew what I'd see next, when I turned the page.  Plus, I really do like her touch.  However, it was the stories that won me over.  I absolutely adored the stories and poems in The Emperor's Nightingale, to the point that I decided to drag out the reading over three days.  As an adult, you could easily whiz through this book in an hour or less, but I think it's better to read each story slowly, enjoy the rhythm, and spread out the fun.

There are 171 pages of text.  I think The Emperor's Nightingale would make a wonderful bedtime book.  "Only one story per night!" will likely fail.  I can imagine that if this book existed when my children were young enough to demand bedtime stories, they would have insisted that I read, "Just one more!  Just one more!" several times.  But, they're also worth reading over and over and over, again.  Do read the text in the images above, if you can, and you'll see how lovely Jane Ray's storytelling is.

Highly recommended - Whether you're already seeking out Christmas gifts or simply want to read a book that will transport you back to your childhood, The Emperor's Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales is perfect.  It's enjoyable enough that I wouldn't worry about age range beyond making sure a child is past the page-tearing stage and able to sit still on a lap or old enough to happily read on his or her own.  Lovely, rhythmic writing, delightful illustrations and a nice mix of clean tales make The Emperor's Nightingale a pure joy to read.  My copy (sent by the publisher) had a slight binding issue in the inside cover, so if you buy it as a gift I'd recommend double-checking the solidity of the binding before wrapping it.  Whoever ends up with a copy is going to want The Emperor's Nightingale to last for many years, guaranteed. It's a wonderful book.

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Malarkey - Arrivals, blog posts, things I'm reading, things I read

I spent my weekend shopping for furniture, moving a table, cleaning the empty space where the table formerly sat, doing laundry, chopping tree limbs, reading, and watching Dr. Who episodes.  We're just now finishing up Season 4 of Dr. Who.  I flipped through cat photos but never got around to finding a photo I liked for Fiona Friday, so we'll call this malarkey shot a "Fiona Friday on the Way Wrong Day."  It happens.

Writing fell by the wayside over the weekend so today I'm writing furiously, trying to get far enough ahead that Thanksgiving still won't interfere with reaching the NaNoWriMo finish line.  Apparently, I'm very determined to finish, this year.  There have been years that I've been lackadaisical about the whole thing.  This year, I am in a goal-setting fever.  As of 7:24 PM, I'm happy to say I've surpassed 5,000 words and am catching up with my previous goal very nicely.

The books shown with Izzy, above, are about 2-3 weeks' worth of arrivals:
  • Going Home, Surviving Home and Escaping Home by A. American (apparently, the A stands for "angry"spelled "Angery"), 3 in a survivalist series.  I'm concerned that the author might be a little wacko, given his pen name and website claiming WWIII is coming, but I like to read about survival so I'm looking forward to the series, which I received for TLC tour.  I'm only required to review one but won't know which one I'll choose till I get into the reading.  It'll be interesting to see if they're appealing enough to read back-to-back.
  • Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson - from Paperback Swap was just added to my wish list a few weeks ago and a copy came available pretty quickly.  My last attempt at reading Matheson was a dud (and the reviewers agreed with me that it was not up to his usual standard) but I've enjoyed everything else I've read by Matheson. Somewhere in Time has the advantage of being known as a modern time travel classic.  And, yes, I've seen the movie.
  • Rules of Civility by Amor Towles - received via PBS
  • Free Bird by Greg Garrett - received via PBS after I read and reviewed The Prodigal and decided to dig into Garrett's backlist.
  • Jack Absolute and The Blooding of Jack Absolute by C. C. Humphreys came from Sourcebooks for review.
  • Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman was sent by the author for review and had a nice note attached to the cover. 

I'm probably missing some arrivals since Monday Malarkey has been a sometimes-maybe thing, lately.  

Last week's blog posts:

Currently reading:
  • The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook - A tale of post-WWII.  I'm not sure where this is headed but I am about 46 pages in and besotted with Brook's writing. 
  • A Good American by Alex George - A reread for my Face-to-Face book club, which meets this week.
  • If On a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino - I haven't touched this one in at least 5 days but I love it; the writing is sharp and funny and sometimes a little mind-blowing. 

Last week I finished:
  • The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse - because two friends just happened to mention Wodehouse within the same week and I needed a break from Calvino.  Faultlessly entertaining, that Wodehouse fellow.  Reading a little Jeeves & Wooster was the breath of fresh air I needed.
  • Transparent Things by Vladimir Nabokov - A slim book at 104 pages but it packs an oh-my-Lord punch of Nabokovian brilliance.  It is fascinating and creepy. It left me with questions that, after some thought, I decided had already been answered.  I'm still a little afraid of Lolita (which I have not yet read) and yet, at the same time, Transparent Things made me crave more Nabokov.
That's all, for now.  What's up in your world?

©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, November 15, 2013

The Tilted World by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly

I was pretty sure I was going to fall in love with The Tilted World because I figured the combination of Tom Franklin's writing with his poet-wife Beth Ann Fennelly's softening must be a very fine thing. Add to the beautiful writing a setting that has been under-utilized in fiction, some terrific characters and an uplifting love story and something wondrous was bound to happen.  

Sure enough, I was right.  In a nutshell, The Tilted World is about a bootlegger, a federal revenue agent, a baby and a flood.  The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 (link leads to image search to give you a look at flood photos), a killer flood that is well-known to Mississippians but not as widely known elsewhere, is the backdrop.  It should be better known, though, because the Flood of '27 is not only "the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States" but also the reason a series of levees were built along the Mississippi River, preventing similarly huge death tolls during major floods of recent years. 

Dixie Clay thought she was marrying a handsome fur trader who would give her a good life.  But, he turned out to be a con man, a bootlegger and an abuser.  After the loss of her only child, she has slowly lost hope that life will ever improve. 

Two federal revenue agents have gone missing and Dixie Clay suspects her husband may have done more than just pay them off.  When two new revenuers are sent to find out what happened and they come across a murder and an orphaned baby, one of the revenuers decides he must find the child a home.  But, with flood waters quickly rising, it's not quite as easy to offload a baby as it might ordinarily be. Solving a mystery, finding a home for a baby and trying to prevent the bombing of a levee would be hard enough, but with the water rising it's a race against time. 

There are many elements to The Tilted World. It would be hard to describe everything; and, doing so would wreck the reading, anyway. All you need to know is that the characters are remarkably realistic and the story is gripping. Some of the characters lean toward good or bad and some are dubious but everyone has flaws and the main characters bear the weight of their histories in believable ways. The characterization is outstanding, in other words. The story is even better.  There's bootlegging and murder, loss and redemption, terror and kidnapping, adventure and love. At its heart, the love story is tender and beautiful and, of course, so very unlikely that the mere hope the two characters will get together and form a little family takes your breath away. I found The Tilted World absolutely riveting.

Highly recommended - I wanted to reread The Tilted World the moment I finished it.  I may have to toddle up to Oxford to see if I can find an autographed copy. It's definitely one for the good shelves, a 5-star keeper, in my humble opinion. You will feel liked you're covered in mud and ready for a nice, long soak at some point in the reading; the description is that vivid. Although there are some grueling scenes of death and abuse, The Tilted World is definitely a gentler book than Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (link to my review). I hope Franklin and Fennelly will write together, again. 

©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, November 13, 2013

Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano (Book 1 of The Internment Chronicles)

Holy Toledo. I am so freaking far behind you'd think I'd have completely forgotten Perfect Ruin, over a month after I closed it.  But, no.  Lauren DeStefano's memorable latest release starts a new series on a unique world, a floating city called Internment.

Just from the name of the floating city, you can get an idea of what it's like to live there -- a bit like a prison. This island in the sky is ringed by a train track and surrounded by some sort of force field. It's against the law to go past the train tracks and if you try to jump off your little world, you're lucky if you survive at all.  Morgan's brother was a pharmacist before he became a jumper and barely survived, now he's blind and a little bit on the crazy side.

So you've got Morgan, young and betrothed to Basil, living at home with her parents on this tiny little island city in the sky.  Her blind brother and his wife live upstairs.  Her best friend isn't entirely besotted with her own future husband but it's not clear why. Pen is a fabulous character, though. Lauren DeStefano has mentioned that people have written to her, begging her not to kill off Pen. I love that.

The two couples -- Morgan and Basil, Pen and Thomas -- ride the train to school, on dates, shopping, etc., occasionally walking if they feel like skipping the train. Morgan's father is a policeman. Her mother is drugging herself to the gills and sleeping her life away. That's the background, the "normal" in Internment. Then, unsettling things begin to happen: a murder, a fire, the king reassuring everyone that the murderer will be caught.

It's not entirely unexpected that people who can barely see things on Earth below might get a little cranky and feel the urge to escape. After her safety begins to feel threatened, Morgan is totally creeped out. Here she is, stuck and well aware of how damaged you can become when you try to escape, but wanting to get out.  When she meets the young sister of the murder victim and the fellow who is being sought as the murderer, Morgan becomes curious and starts to stay out when she shouldn't, seeking answers. And, when she begins to put the pieces together and bad things start happening to her own family, suddenly escape seems to be the only option. But, is it even possible?

Well, you'll just have to read to find out. There were things I liked about Perfect Ruin and things I didn't but, in general, I loved Perfect Ruin.  It's a quick read that sucked me in.  I cared about the characters and I thought the ending held promise for its sequels.

Highly Recommended - particularly to fans of YA.  I love the idea of a floating island, the characters, the way Lauren DeStefano tugs the reader forward, urgently needing to understand what's happening and why, and I love her writing style. I was less enamored of the scenery as it was described. At the beginning of the novel, I had my own mental image of the architecture on a floating city -- futuristic, shiny and rather beautiful -- and I was quickly disabused of my fanciful architectural notions. I hated to say goodbye to my mental image but it is what it is, this Internment, and I liked the story.  I hope the series holds up.

©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, November 12, 2013

Totally off-the-wall rhino pic

I knew I probably wouldn't get around to posting anything elaborate, today, but I'll bet you never expected me to stick you with a photo of a rhino.  ;)  

Huzzybuns and I spent a nice afternoon at the local zoo, yesterday.  The Jackson Zoo is struggling but there's still plenty to see. The white rhino entertained us by flopping onto his side, where he let out two tremendous farts, shortly after I took this photo. Because there weren't many people at the zoo, I found that if I shuffled around in the leaves outside his fenced area, he'd turn to look at me. But, apparently, I wasn't all that interesting because he'd just stare for a moment and then turn away. Of course, I had to make that shuffle-shuffle noise several times, just to make sure the rhino was really looking my way because of crunching leaves as opposed to, you know, maybe just being an ADD rhino looking around because he couldn't keep his mind on anything. Yep, it was the shuffling.

Some people are just crying out for attention.

©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, November 11, 2013

Death Wish by Lindsey Menges

No Monday Malarkey, this week, but I'll try to throw some Tuesday Twaddle at you, tomorrow or maybe I'll just try to post another review.  I still have about a squillion reviews to catch up on although, honestly, I don't mind if NaNoWriMo gets in my way.  I'm having a great time.

Death Wish by Lindsey Menges is my niece's self-published first novel.  I didn't know what to expect (except that it was dystopian) because I like to skip reading the cover blurb so I'll be surprised, but naturally I was eager to read it and ordered a copy as soon as Lindsey announced that it was available via Amazon.

I was immediately swept into the story. Death Wish is the futuristic tale of a 24-year-old woman working as a "Fairy Godmother" fulfilling individual wishes for death in a world where imbedded chips have made humans immortal unless an individual's Life Chip is removed. When Eliza is told she must train new recruit Robin, she's disappointed that she must be separated from her partner in work and love, Harrison. Eliza is dedicated to the job, though, and does as she is told without question, feeling that it's a kindness to fulfill the last wishes of her clients.

****WARNING!  This paragraph may contain a spoilers (but doesn't give away everything - I'd never do that)! Skip to the final paragraph if you want the entire story to be a surprise!!!!*****

But, Robin is no ordinary recruit.  Because fulfilling death wishes is a permanent job, Robin knows she must do her job or face being forced to file her own death wish.  But, she's not handling the job as well as you'd expect of a person who has committed herself for life.  When Eliza finds out Robin has been planted in the organization to find out how the Life Chips work, she must decide whether to join the Revolutionaries who want to return citizens to living lives with natural death or turn Robin over to Security, sealing her fate.

*****END WARNING!!!******

I had a terrible time putting this book down.  On Friday night, when my eyes grew heavy I put the book aside with regret; and, after I finished my own writing for the day on Saturday, I was excited to pick it back up to finish.  It's the first in a series.  Argh!  I want the second book now!

Highly recommended - Wonderful, action-packed storytelling with a nice blend of characters, excellent pacing and a killer ending. I took off half a point due to the need for a bit of work on the editing but there was nothing that made the read uncomfortable enough to irritate me.

You can buy a paperback copy of Death Wish, here (where you can read the full cover blurb).  Or, it's also available for Kindle (link on the same page) or Nook.

In other news:

I'm still enjoying If On a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino.  That Calvino dude had a sly sense of humor. IOaWNaT is a fascinating book and, oh, his writing.  It's just stunning.  I've got at least two other Calvino titles I haven't read (probably bought at during some massively cheap book sale).  I knew of Calvino because the e-zine I used to write for was named after one of his books, t zero.

We went to the zoo, today!  This would have worked better if I knew how to adjust the aperture on my little point-and-shoot, but the idea was good, I think . . . a giraffe trying to tell you to stop and smell the roses, haha:

©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, November 09, 2013

The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett

I couldn't find an image that really showed the beautiful cover of The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story, so I snapped my own.  Isn't the cover pretty?  

The Prodigal is a modern retelling of the Biblical story "The Prodigal Son".  Jack Chisolm is a television evangelist based in Seattle.  Known as "the people's preacher," Jack has grown a following based on the theme "We have got to do better." 

When Jack makes a very public mistake and his fall from grace is publicized nationally, the church asks him to apologize.  Instead, Jack refuses to say he's sorry or even acknowledge that he has done wrong. In response, Jack is sent packing.  His wife is paid a large sum to keep quiet and disappears with their only child while Jack returns to Mexico, where his error in judgment occurred, to drink himself into oblivion, locking himself into his hotel room. Jack has hit bottom and doesn't know where to turn when his father arrives to take him home to Texas.

Jack has not been home in ten years and has refused to take his father or sister's calls after a public embarrassment, so he's surprised to find his father willing to take him back in, scandal and all.  As Jack begins to recover from his darkest hour and ponders where he's gone wrong, he works in his father's hardware store and tries to quietly help out local people in need.  But, his notoriety follows him and there are many hurts that need to be addressed before he can move on with his life.

The central issue in The Prodigal is the same as that of the parable, a lesson that God's grace is there for us, no matter how badly we've failed, something that applies to anyone and everyone and which was apparently the common denominator in Brennan Manning's books (I've read only The Ragamuffin Gospel and it's been quite a while).

Recommended, particularly to Christian readers of all stripes. The combination of solid storytelling, a great theme and Greg Garrett's breezy writing style make The Prodigal a nice, light read with a purpose.  Jack's stubborn refusal to admit he's done anything wrong is patterned after that of Lance Armstrong but Jack is quite different.  The fictional Jack Chisolm is a man of faith and it doesn't take him a long time to realize he's made mistakes that have hurt a lot of people.  The big struggle for Jack is in accepting that he can still be forgiven and turn a hard lesson into something meaningful. He's helped along by Father Frank, a man who has himself lived through a dark time and learned from his mistakes.  I loved the fact that Jack doesn't get off the hook completely. Not everyone is willing to forgive and forget.  But, like the Biblical lesson, his father is willing to let go of past hurts and accept him as he is.  Lovely.

You can read all about the collaboration between the two authors in the interview, here:

"The Prodigal" and Brennan Manning: An Interview with Greg Garrett

Other books I've reviewed:

Crossing Myself by Greg Garrett
No Idea by Greg Garrett

©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, November 08, 2013

Fiona Friday - Kitty snuggles and a bit of chatter

This is what happens when you fold all the clean quilts and blankets you've washed but don't bother putting them in the linen closet.  So ridiculously cute.

I've been hammering away at my NaNoWriMo book (still ahead on word count, but not by much) and running errands.  I was working on two reviews at once, a few days back, and just happened to finish my review of The Radleys before my review of The Prodigal.  Well, I've been so completely focused on tasks and writing that when I took a break a little bit ago, I got onto Twitter and realized . . . oh, yeah, I have a blog.  Seriously, the idea that I needed to do some writing elsewhere had completely exited my brain. So, here I am.  I'll finish up my review of The Prodigal, tonight, so it should show up in the morning.  

I also managed to switch tenses in the middle of today's NaNo writing but this is not the time for editing so I'm just going to carry on and worry about fixing the tense problem, later.  I actually like the new tense better.  That caught me off-guard.  It's been so long since I wrote fiction on a regular basis that I'm well aware of the flaws as I'm in the midst of writing, but that's not surprising as I'm well and truly out of practice.  I'd forgotten how much fun it is to create your own little world and escape into it. Hopefully, this NaNo experience will help me become accustomed to writing daily (fiction, that is), the way I used to.  

In other news, autumn has finally arrived!  I need to go out and take some pictures!  The trees are absolutely beautiful, right now.  I have read mostly children's books, this week, some just for the sake of finding books for a family member and some for review - not all of them will be reviewed, apart from a line or two in my monthly wrap-up . . . which reminds me that I haven't written my wrap-up for October, yet.  Le sigh. 

I'm reading slowly, apart from the children's books, because the time change seems to have completely wrecked me.  I've been waking up between 3:00 and 4:30 AM since we moved clocks backwards.  Hopefully, I'll get over that, soon.  I'm enjoying absolutely everything I'm reading and will try to update my sidebar to reflect what I've finished (at least, the newer books) soon.  

How is everyone?  

©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, November 06, 2013

The Radleys by Matt Haig

I read To Be a Cat, a children's book by Matt Haig purchased in England, earlier this year, and wanted to give one of his grown-up books a try.  So, when I was perusing the shelves of my local library, I went in search of books by Haig and found The Radleys.

The Radleys appear outwardly common.  A family of four -- two parents and two teenagers -- they live in an average house with an unnoticeable car on quiet village street.  They're a family of abstaining vampires who are boring and normal and, unfortunately for the kids, just a little bit weird. But, problems develop when the daughter of the family decides to go with her conscience and become a vegan. She becomes quite ill until she is threatened and bites someone to protect herself.  When her new-found "blood lust" gets out of hand, Mr. Radley calls his brother out of desperation. And, brother Will Radley is extremely bad news -- irresponsible, careless, driven by his own unquenchable thirst for blood.  When Will begins to influence his niece and remind Mrs. Radley of a time she'd rather forget, what will happen?

"Well, actually, before you go all Gandhi on me, I should tell you there's no such thing as a true vegan.  I mean, do you know how many living things exist on a single potato? Millions. A vegetable is like a microbe metropolis, so you're wiping a whole city out every time you boil a potato.  Think about it.  Each bowl of soup is like a man-made apocalypse."

~p. 21

As a vampire book, The Radleys is unusual, a pleasant departure from the angst-driven teen vampire novel and, in fact, not merely a vampire story but also an allegory about a family trying to conform outwardly while inwardly suppressing their unsavory urges.  The so-called "blood lust" that Will has given in to and the rest of the family tries to avoid probably serves as a parallel to alcoholism (drug addiction, any other addiction would also probably fit).  Like an alcoholic who doesn't even try to control his overwhelming urge to drink, Will is so casual about murdering innocents and so unwilling to think of killing as bad that he leaves a trail of victims, wherever he goes.  Will is staunchly opposed to self-control and bored by normality.

As he drives into the place, Will absorbs the sights the main street has to offer.  A purple-painted children's shoe shop called Tinkerbell's. A tired-looking pub and a polite little deli.  A sex shop?  No. A fancy-dress place for self-hating unbloods who think a night in an afro wig and glittered flares will alleviate the pain of their existence. And a drugstore, as a plan B. Even with a token hoodie walking his cowering psychodog, everything has a suffocating coziness about it, an air of life lived at the lowest possible volume.  

~p. 106

Matt Haig's writing is intelligent, clever, sometimes quite funny.  Toward the end of the book, I'd grown a bit weary of the story and was just ready for it to end, but I enjoyed The Radleys and still want to read everything Matt Haig has written.  That may take me a while.

Recommended - You don't have to be a fan of vampires to appreciate The Radleys.  Solid storytelling, witty writing, great characterization, believable emotion and surprisingly depth make The Radleys a very good book, overall.  It probably could have stood just a touch more editing down to size.  I did become weary of Will and just wanted the Radley family to find their new normal and get that rotten character out of their lives, toward the end, but while not a perfect book The Radleys is a very good one.

©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, November 05, 2013

Snow on the Tulips by Liz Tolsma

In the winter of 1945, 10 men are lined up and shot by Nazis for their part in the Dutch Resistance.  One of them survives and makes his way to a house nearby, where his wound is dressed and he is turned away.  Still bleeding, Gerrit stumbles to the home of widowed Cornelia and her brother, Johan.  Corrie doesn't know the first thing about how to treat a bullet wound, nor is she certain she can trust the local doctor, so she fetches her sister, Anki, a nurse (which leads to a secondary storyline I won't dive into).  

The Nazis have left their victims to die, but when they return to fetch the bodies and discover that one man is missing, Cornelia realizes she has put all of her family in danger.  And, when Gerrit asks her to send a message to his friends in the Resistance, her refusal will mean even more danger for Johan. But, Corrie can't bring herself to send Gerrit away; and, when she starts to feel attached to him, she fears the war will end up taking everyone she loves.

Snow on the Tulips is, at its heart, a Christian romance based on a true event.  There was a real-life Gerrit, a man who was lined up with other Dutch Resistance workers and shot, and a real-life Corrie who nursed him back to health.  But, the true story and WWII are backdrop.  Snow on the Tulips is a story about finding the courage to help others at risk of one's own life, a tale of romance, a story of faith.  

Snow on the Tulips was a "liked the idea more than the execution" read, particularly because I found the WWII scenes were often unconvincing.  There were some little oddities that didn't sit well with me.  For example, Johan is a 20-year-old guy who has managed to hide from the Nazis as they've slowly gathered all the men who are fit enough to put to work.  He's spent most of his adult life at war and he is often forced to hide beneath the house.  And, yet, he's silly and impulsive. He often acts more life a 5-year-old having a temper tantrum than a 20-year-old who has spent 25% of his life at war.  When Nazis are regularly raiding houses in his area, he is implausibly halfhearted about staying out of sight and sometimes even noisy and boisterous.  I had a little trouble both tolerating and believing in Johan. I also thought there were a few too many convenient escapes and near misses.

There were, however, a lot of realistically tense scenes and Snow on the Tulips is nicely paced, with clear writing and an excellent flow.  Writing-wise, it's good.  In spite of a little difficulty with suspension of disbelief, the pages flew.  As a WWII book, I  thought the story was weak but it was solid enough that I gave Snow on the Tulips a 3.5/5 rating at Goodreads. I would recommend Snow on the Tulips particularly to fans of romance.  

I got my copy of Snow on the Tulips via Litfuse Publicity and they're having a super giveaway. Click on the link in my sidebar to enter to win a copy of the book and a $50 Amazon gift card! 

©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, November 04, 2013

Monday Malarkey - Arrivals, reading, time change and a tree

Tree in Metuchen, New Jersey.  We have color, now, but not quite to this extreme.  

Happy Monday!

Today was the day I had to report for jury duty and it was over with quickly!  I spent an hour sitting on a courtroom bench and got in a little bit of reading, a little chatting with the woman next to me, before we were told to pass in our information cards and go home, no jury was needed, this week!  Wahoo!  That's particularly great because . . . 

I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month. I pushed myself to race ahead as far as possible (I'm not the speedy writer I used to be) so I could make up for lost days in advance.  So, I'm already 20% 25% finished with my word count at just over 10,000 12,500 words.  Hopefully, I'll keep up the momentum!  I'm having fun. 

I've gotten three books in the mail in the past two weeks:

  • The Prodigal by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett, sent to me by Zondervan at the latter author's request.  I'm already over halfway through The Prodigal, a modern retelling of the Biblical story, "The Prodigal Son" and enjoying it very much.  
  • The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson (a purchase).  I haven't gotten very far into The Plot Whisperer but it has already helped me to step back a bit as I write and think about what I'm doing and what's missing from my normal thought process.  Hopefully, it will keep this particular NaNo book from being a hot mess, as my previous books have been.
  • The Surrendered by Chang Rae Lee from my friend, Paula.

I'm participating in the read-along of Italo Calvino's crazy If On a Winter's Night a Traveler (a book I already had on my shelf).  I'm not very far into it but so far, I'm fascinated and enjoying the experience.  It's definitely a book you experience.

In other news:

I personally think the time change sucks.  Yes, I enjoyed that extra hour, even though I blame it for the past two days' early awakenings --  4:30 AM and 3:00 AM.  To be honest, jury duty was probably to blame for the latter.  I don't know downtown well so I printed out maps and drew solid and dotted lines to tell me where to drive down the confusing mess of one-way streets, where to park and which direction to walk to get to the courthouse ( I still managed to get turned around when I walked back to the parking lot.  I'm not so hot with directions.) And, then I set my alarm clock early but managed to continue panicking about whether or not I'd wake in time.

That's all for now.  Am I talking to myself, here?  Not many comments are happening, lately.  

©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, November 02, 2013

Fiona Friday - Snack happy

Finally back to posting Fiona Friday pics.  When we returned from New Jersey, I brought in a runner of grass for the cats to snack on.  They both loved it but Isabel was especially enthusiastic.  

©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, November 01, 2013

A few minis - The Compound by S.A.Bodeen, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri & Woman in the Dark by Dashiell Hammett

The Compound by S. A. Bodeen is a post-apocalyptic story that was probably recommended to me by my friend Melissa.  I can't say for sure, but I got a copy from Paperback Swap, a while ago, and when I heard Bodeen has written a sequel and my friend Paula was about to read it, I told her I'd read along if I could locate my copy (mercifully, it was already shelved with the rest of my unpacked YA books).

The Compound is a post-apocalyptic story of a family living in a huge underground compound after Rich Dad rushes the family to safety when the country is about to be hit by nuclear bombs.  The protagonist has a twin who was left outside and whom he assumes dead, along with his grandmother. But, there are strange things happening in the compound. Food is going bad, animals have died and Rich Dad, who hides away in his office, seems to be slowly going off the rails. What's going on?  Was America really hit by nuclear bombs or is Rich Dad playing a dangerous game?

I liked The Compound but it didn't go quite deep enough to make the story really exceptional and there were plot points that didn't work for me.  I couldn't understand why particular family members didn't question certain things Rich Dad insisted upon, for example.  I'm not sure I'll bother with the second book.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri is a drawing win and my first Lahiri book.  I didn't plan to review it but I'd like to at least make a few comments.  I found that I was definitely impressed by Lahiri's writing style.  The Lowland was one of those rare books that are written with such flair that you find yourself reading the same sentence repeatedly, not because it doesn't make sense but because it's pure poetry. The beauty of her writing really startled me.

I did, however, feel like The Lowland was written in what I'd call the Bummery Things Happen mode of literature.  I don't recall what other book I read that gave me that sense, but I read two BTH books a bit too close together and "Bad thing, bad thing, tragedy, depressing stuff, bad thing, everything works out for those remaining," is not exactly my favorite type of book to read repeatedly so, while I liked the upbeat ending and enjoyed the book overall I can't say I totally adored it. I'm looking forward to reading more of her work, though.

I first heard about Woman in the Dark when I read Bellezza's review in 2007.  It jumped out at me (and I remembered it, some 6 years later) because I hadn't heard of the book in spite of trying my level best to read everything by Dashiell Hammett in existence.  I was very excited to find a copy of Woman in the Dark at the local book sale for $1, after it sat on my wish list for so many years.  

As it turned out, I didn't actually like the story at all.  Hammett called it a "novel of dangerous romance".  I didn't find the story romantic or even all that mysterious.  The writing is familiar Hammett minimalist style but lacking the wit of The Thin Man and the cleverness of The Maltese Falcon.  I've already mostly forgotten the story -- which is really saying something, since storylines do tend to stick with me unless they're truly forgetable. There is, however, an interesting plot twist.  It just wasn't enough to make the story a good one.  

In other news:

I decided to go ahead and give NaNoWriMo a go, this year, although I'm feeling half-hearted, at best. Today was Adventure with Mary Alice Day (pizza, window shopping in an art gallery, browsing a local antique store) so there was a big gap in my writing time but I got an early start and ended up being satisfied with the day's word count.  

I've just finished reading Snow on the Tulips by Liz Tolsma and am about to begin reading two new books.  I'll update my sidebar with the titles, as soon as I have a free moment but I'm off to bed, now.  G'night!

©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.