Friday, January 31, 2014

Fiona Friday - Fun with a bag and tissue paper

I'm working on my review of A Star for Mrs. Blake and was planning to combine it with a Fiona Friday photo but I've been a slacker -- haven't finished the review, yet.  Fiona Friday alone, it is.  This is the photo that reminded me of a shot from Fiona's kittenhood, when she sat serenely as I photographed her in front of a shredded roll of paper towels. This time, it was shredded tissue paper from a shopping bag.

Here's Fiona batting at Isabel, who was inside the bag (she slept in it quite a bit during the Christmas season):

And, here is Isabel inside the shopping bag: 

Happy Friday!

©2014 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, January 29, 2014

Mini Reviews: Nick & Tesla's High Voltage Danger Lab by Pflugfelder & Hockensmith and Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

I've fallen a little behind so I'm going to do mini reviews, today. Well, sort of mini.  My reviews have been growing longer, lately, so size is a relative term.

Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab by Pflugfelder and Hockensmith is the first book in the Nick and Tesla series published by Quirk Books. I won a copy in a Facebook contest and Eric at Quirk Books not only replaced the book when it disappeared in the mail but also sent the next two titles, which I'm very much looking forward to reading.

In Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab, siblings Nick and Tesla are sent to live with their Uncle Newt, a crazy inventor, while their parents are spending the summer working in Uzbekistan. To fill the time, they make a bottle rocket and launch it but Tesla's special necklace from her parents gets caught on the rocket and lands on fenced property with terrifying guard dogs. In order to distract the dogs so Tesla's pendant can be recovered, the two build a "Robocat Dog Distractor" fueled by Mentos mints and diet cola. Unfortunately, they're not able to retrieve the pendant but during the attempt they discover fishy things are happening on the grounds, make two new friends and, well, the plot thickens. Nick and Tesla eventually solve the mystery, recover the pendant and discover some new facts about their parents.

Highly recommended - Slightly wobbly writing is offset by an enjoyable mystery, an adventurous story and instructions for several science creations that you can make at home. What a great blend of ingredients for youngsters, teachers and anyone else who can stand a little nerdy fun! I told my husband about the robotic cat and he said, "Did they tell you not to use a glass bottle?" "No," I replied, but I told him the instructions specifically listed a 2-liter plastic bottle amongst the supplies. "When Howard did that, he got a couple chunks of glass in his hand," Husband told me. Howard was his childhood-to-college best friend (and the best man at our wedding). From the look in Husband's eyes, just mentioning the robotic cat brought back fond memories.  But, definitely don't use glass to build your robot.

On a side note, engineer husband found the Nick and Tesla books quite exciting and eagerly flipped through Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab to look at instructions for various gadgets you can build at home, once I introduced him to the subject matter. He was like a kid in a candy shop.  I love it when something lights up my husband's eyes that way.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell is a book of short stories that was sent to me by my sweet friend Sandie, whom you may know from her blog, Booksie's Blog.

I had no idea what I was getting into when I opened Vampires in the Lemon Grove, although it was all over the book-blog world, last year.  The first story is the title story, "Vampires in the Lemon Grove," which is about two elderly, lemon-eating vampires who have marital difficulties after one of them develops a fear of flying. The following stories become weirder and weirder, but the writing is so sharp that my copy is packed with Post-its and I don't know that I ever felt the urge to abandon it, although I definitely thought my head was on the verge of exploding into a shower of lemony chunks, at some points.

There are little bits of her writing that will make you stop to reread or nod your head in recognition at some observation of human behavior. Like this:

That summer Nal was fourteen and looking for excuses to have extreme feelings about himself.  

~p. 54, from "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979"

Although many of the stories were just a bit too weird for me, I really began to have fun when I reached "The Barn at the End of Our Term," a story that begins by describing a reincarnated U.S. President, Rutherford B. Hayes, now a horse living with a number of other reincarnated presidential horses, a few regular horses who aren't the least bit interested in politics and a smattering of other farm animals. Although I'm not entirely certain I understood what the author was trying to say, I got the impression that the farm was a form of purgatory and one need only jump the fence to move on to heavenly realms.

To Rutherford, this new life hums with the strangeness of the future.  The man has a cavalry of electric beasts that he rides over his acreage: ruby tractors and combines that would have caused Rutherford's constituents to fall off their buggies with shock.  

~p. 116, from "The Barn at the End of Our Term"

Rutherford humorously decides his wife has returned as a goat and follows her everywhere, while the horses debate whether the barn is heaven.

[James Buchanan's] nostrils flare with self-regard.  "I am being rewarded," Buchanan insists, "for annexing Oregon."

"But don't you think Heaven would smell better, Mr. Buchanan?"

~p. 117

I could quote this book all day. Another of my other favorite stories tells the tale of participants in the annual Food Chain Games, for which people gather in the Antarctic to cheer on the whale or the krill.  Team Krill has never had a winning year.

Perhaps it is odd to have rules for tailgating when the Food Chain Games themselves are a lawless bloodbath.  And that is what a lot of fans love about the games: no rules, no refs, no box seats, and no hot pretzels -- not below the Ross Ice Shelf! So take these rules of mine with a grain of salt. That said, I've seen too many senseless deaths over the years. Some people think they can just hop down to the South Pole with a six-pack of Natural Ice and a sweater from the Gap, and that is just not the way we do it for the Food Chain Games. The Team Krill vs. Team Whale match takes place every summer in the most dangerous and remote tailgating site in the world. With the -89° F temperatures and the solar radiation, not to mention the strong katabatic winds off the polar plateau, it can be easy to lose faith and fingers.

~p. 135 from "Dougbert Shackleton's Rules for Antarctic Tailgaiting"

Recommended for lovers of weird but wonderful writing.  Mind officially blown, ready for more from Karen Russell.

©2014 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, January 28, 2014

Brain: The Man Who Wrote the Book that Changed the World by Dermot Davis

Brain: The Man Who Wrote the Book that Changed the World is a self-published book and I just about never say "yes" to self-pubs for review because [deep sigh] I read a few too many truly appalling self-published novels in my early blogging years and quit accepting them entirely, for a while. Occasionally, the intriguing synopsis of a self-published book keeps me from even noticing the fact that it's a self-pub, though, and I'm truly glad that happened when Dermot Davis asked me to read Brain.

At the beginning of Brain, you're introduced to its hero, Daniel Waterstone, as he accepts a literary award that a young woman nicknamed "Crazy Mary" believes she deserved.  Rather than just accepting the award politely and returning to his seat, Daniel gives a lengthy speech that clearly highlights his arrogance. 

A few years later, Daniel is living in Los Angeles, where he has been attempting to launch his fabulous literary career. After completing the sequel to his Great American Novel, Daniel prepares to meet with his agent. He has been published but his novels are too literary for the average American and aren't selling well.  Daniel is nearly out of money, his car is a beater that's likely to stop for good at any moment, he's late on all of his bills and he's hoping his agent, Suzanne, will spring for lunch. When Suzanne tells him she can't sell his Great American Novel, much less a sequel, he begs her to tell him what he should write. What will sell? Whatever it takes, he'll write it.

Daniel settles on writing a satire, feverishly researches satire writing and then begins to write obsessively. Starving because he can't afford groceries, he becomes crazed and delirious but he finishes his novel and sells it.  Unfortunately, it's marketed as a self-help book and the "advice" Daniel gave in the book -- never intended to be serious -- is taken as instruction.  Daniel finds himself stuck touring and doing seminars for a bestselling book whose principles were meant to take a stab at all the people who are making him wealthy.

"Mr. John Fox, Tutorsfield, Wisconsin," Daniel read from the envelope as he opened it.  "Walking backwards blindfolded while banging two sauce pan lids together and singing If I Were a Rich Man at the top of my lungs really helped me improve my concentration, as your book said it would. I fell over a couple of times and needed to be treated for a mild concussion and some minor cuts and bruises but the weeklong stay in the hospital was a small price to pay for the heightened awareness which I felt as a result of the exercise.  If you're ever in the Wisconsin area . . . " Daniel stopped reading and looked at Suzanne with a mystified expression. 

"Read some more," encouraged Suzanne, handing him his refill.

"How to be a forest fairy, as described in your book, was a hard exercise for me at first.  However, as I followed the exercise further and yelled out for all the other forest fairies to come gather round, sure enough, they did reveal themselves from their hiding places and I soon felt myself as one of them.  My view of life has changed dramatically as a result." Daniel stopped reading and picked up another letter.

[. . . ] "These people are nuts," said Daniel.  "We have names and addresses here . . . we should call the mental health services or something."

"Don't be ridiculous, Daniel," Suzanne said casually.  "These are your fans.  You've earned quite a following with just one book."

"Yeah, I'm king of the loonies."

"It's the follow-up book that always sells even better."

pp. 90-91

I won't give away anything else that happens because Brain is quite a wild read and I'd hate to ruin any of its surprises. The writing itself could stand some tightening but the story is so delightful that it's worth ignoring Brain's shortcomings for the sheer entertainment value. 

What I loved most about Brain -- besides the fact that the author kept surprising me -- was the hero's growth. Daniel's book is not just a bestseller but a book that changes how people think and, in the long run, changes the world. And, yet, the author knows what the book really is about and in his inability to simply accept his success and continue playing the role of the self-help guru, he shows his humanity. 

There is a romantic subplot and I confess to not quite understanding whether the female is (as I suspected) "Crazy Mary" reinvented and, in fact, much more stable than Daniel or if I misread that entirely but I liked the romance. Before I accepted the book, I read a few reviews and there were a lot of complaints about the ending so I was expecting a far-fetched end to the romantic subplot. But, I had no problem with the romance at all. There is also a lovely character, an elderly librarian, whom Daniel considers his only friend. I loved where the author took that relationship.  

Recommended - A delightful, humorous satire that pokes fun at the world of publishing via a flawed character who, in becoming a success for all the wrong reasons, emerges a better person. There are quite a few crazy, slapstick scenes in Brain; it is nothing if not wildly creative. Like most self-pubs, Brain could use a bit of editing for small mistakes like misspellings and larger ones like excessive description (particularly at the beginning of the book), but the pacing is excellent and, in the end, it's just rollicking good fun. 

©2014 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, January 27, 2014

Monday Malarkey - Graffiti, breakfast for lunch, an apology kitten and bookish things

We drove to Water Valley, MS to meet up with Kiddo so we could pass on a textbook that arrived late and have lunch at B.T.C. Grocery, yesterday. I said I had to go to the restroom in B.T.C. and husband very quietly told me, "Take your camera."  It took me quite a while to emerge. They have the best graffiti ever in their bathroom!

And, the food's amazing. I don't even like gravy or sausage but I had to take a bite of husband's "The Amos" platter.  And, then another.  

The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook is available for pre-order, just FYI.  I've already forked out Christmas gift-card money on it, so I'll let you know what we think, when it arrives. On to the usual malarkey . . . 

This week's arrivals:

  • Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen (link leads to Publisher's Weekly review) - from Sourcebooks via Shelf Awareness
  • The Captain's Daughter by Leah Fleming - from my book-gobbling librarian friend, Paula (Thanks, PJ!)
  • Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing by Lydia Peelle (short stories) - via Paperback Swap

Last week's posts:

The end of the week and the weekend were so busy that I didn't even manage to post a Fiona Friday photo.  Here's your apology photo, a shot of a kitten taken through the window of the art studio next to B.T.C. Grocery. Awwwww.

Books finished last week (not reviewed, yet):

  • A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith
  • Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen 

Currently reading:

  • Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
  • Viking Age: Everyday Life During the Extraordinary Era of the Norsemen by Kirsten Wolf
  • The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman . . . slowly, slowly

I am terribly behind on email and reviews so if you've written to me, please be patient.  First review of the week will be my review of Brain by Dermot Davis, tomorrow.  I can't believe I'm already behind and the first month of the year is nearing its end!  I'm having a great reading year, though.  Very happy about that!  Both A Star for Mrs. Blake and Lost Lake made fat tears stream down my face.

I loaned a book to my physical therapist on Friday and when I handed it to him he said, "Oh, ho, ho!  You've saved my weekend!"  That made me laugh. Then we were a tad late getting started because he had to read a few pages. Obviously, I think he's the coolest.  I loaned him my copy of N0S4A2 by Joe Hill because he loves horror.  

That's all the news!  Happy Monday!

©2014 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, January 22, 2014

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

The first time I was tempted to read a Julie Klassen book it was the Cornish setting that caught my eye.  This time, it was the author's name.  I loved that first book, The Tutor's Daughter, so much that I only gave the storyline of The Dancing Master passing notice, thinking I'd happily read anything by Julie Klassen.

The Dancing Master, though, is dramatically different in form from The Tutor's Daughter -- the former a slow-paced, somewhat predictable romance whose weight is on relationships moreso than action and the latter a plot-heavy, adventurous romance.  In The Dancing Master, Alec Valcourt has moved to a small village in Devonshire with his mother and sister.  Formerly a London dance and fencing master (I had no idea the two went together, although it certainly makes sense when you think about the fact that both involve precise movements), the London business has failed, his father is gone, and the family has been forced to live with a subdued uncle of average means.

Julia Midwinter has grown up privileged but her angry and distant father left her feeling unloved and desirous of escape.  Her widowed mother has secrets and worries that make her appear overbearing and cold.  Oddly, her mother has at some point forbidden dancing in the town. Nobody will tell Julia the reason, although she knows both her aunt and uncle died long ago. And, the villagers comply with the elder Mrs. Midwinter's wishes to avoid losing her business as it's her wealth that keeps most of the village employed.

There's a lot more to the story.  Julia has a best friend whose oldest brother expects to marry Julia, eventually. They're friends and Julia adores his close family but there's no romance between the two. There are a couple of village bullies who wreak havoc. Alec needs a job and is hired by Mrs. Midwinter specifically so she can keep an eye on him but instead she ends up throwing Alec and Julia into each other's paths.  Someone from the past has returned to the village and is trying to keep his presence from being known. Julia is naturally drawn to Alec because he's a Londoner, handsome, and charming. And, Alec has a troublesome horse.

What happened to cause Julia's mother to enforce a dancing ban on the village? Why was Julia's father so horrid? What deep dark secrets does Mrs. Midwinter harbor? Will Alec find a way to end the ban on dancing so he can earn his keep? What caused his family to flee London? Who is the mysterious stranger from the village's past and why does everyone hate him?  And, will Alec ever be able to ride that horse?

While it sounds like there's an awful lot going on in the book, The Dancing Master is so subtle and quiet that it came off as dull, at first.  I was expecting action, adventure, plot!  About 1/3 of the way into the book, I decided to go read some Goodreads reviews to see what people who finished it had to say because nothing seemed to be happening. Many of Klassen's fans said it was weak by comparison with her other titles. I read some spoilers, though, and they didn't persuade me that the book was worth giving up.

In fact, instead of driving me away from the reading, knowing that the plot points were as weak as I suspected helped me to relax my expectations and enjoy the book for its characterization and interaction. I did think there was a belief-stretching parallel between two characters and the reasoning for this or that secret turned out to be flimsy, etc., but none of that mattered. When I viewed The Dancing Master as a book about relationships and interaction, it became enjoyable and I ended up loving it.

Recommended - A gentle, clean Regency romance that made me smile a lot. The plot points are rather weak and I won't go into detail about that, but once I became aware of its weaknesses, I was better able to enjoy its strengths - well-drawn characters, entertaining dialogue, a sweet romance, and a lovely examination of friendship, family and the power of love to both hurt and heal.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

In 1935, Cameron Richards is falling in love in New York while young Billy Reynolds snaps photos of everyday life on the other side of the world, in Japan. Neither is aware of the horrors that will unfold in the coming years.  

During WWII, Cam goes off to war as a pilot, Billy's family must leave their beloved Japan and the daughter of a woman Billy photographed before the war will stay in war-torn Asia.  As the war progresses and then ends, the lives of the people in these three families intersect in surprising ways, offering a glimpse of the way love and war refuse to take sides.

I have such mixed feelings about The Gods of Heavenly Punishment that I'm not quite sure where to begin so I'm going to fall back upon the handy self-interview. A nice, refreshing cup of ice water will serve as interviewer, since one is handy.

Cup of Water (CW):  I hope you're not extremely thirsty because this may take a few minutes.

Bookfool (BF):  I'll try to refrain from drinking you out of existence, for now.

CW: What possessed you to read The Gods of Heavenly Punishment?

BF:  I have a serious weakness for books set during WWII, both fiction and non-fiction.

CW: What did you think when you began reading the book?

BF:  I was impatient, initially. At the beginning of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment there are hints that war is on the horizon but the early scenes take place in 1935 and there's quite a bit of set-up.  Also, for a solid 2/3 of the book, I honestly had no idea what the author was trying to say or where she was taking me.

CW: What happened to change that?

BF:  Time, I suppose. The understanding of why the book was set up the way it was didn't really dawn on me till the individual threads were firmly woven together near the end of the book. Then, I set it down and had to let it roll around and around in my head. It's such a visceral book that I came away from it feeling like I could smell a smoldering Tokyo (even though the final scenes take place many years and thousands of miles away) and was still grieving for some of the characters.

CW: That sounds like pretty high praise.

BF:  From the standpoint of vividness and characterization, absolutely.

CW: What did you dislike about the book?

BF: A part of me feels like the author tried to carve too many facets into the storyline. That left me feeling a little disconnected most of the way through the book.  There were also scenes I still don't feel were entirely necessary and an occasionally a jump in time or place that skipped right over some chunk of resolution I was specifically expecting to read as a follow-up scene. Yet, the big picture worked. On the picky-picky side, there were a few minor editing errors and two little phrases that I thought sounded modern.

CW:  What did you like best about The Gods of Heavenly Punishment?

BF:   The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is a deeply emotional read and a learning experience. To both engage and inform the reader are two very important aspects to a successful novel, in my humble opinion. Also, the characterization is excellent and the fact that when I set the book down I had that "engine is off but the wheels are still rolling" sensation speaks highly of the book.

CW: What did you think of the ending?

BF:  I loved it.  I thought the separate threads of the story were pulled together in a satisfying way and I was relieved that the all-important "ray of hope" was present. Because everything revolves around war, there are tragedies on both sides. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is deeply affecting -- very, very sad in many ways. The book needed an uplifting note to provide balance and I was relieved when it appeared.

CW: Your labels include a sex and violence warning. Any particular reason you felt obligated to add that?

BF: I don't like graphic sex or violence but sometimes I don't feel like they're disquieting or graphic enough to merit a warning. In this case, there were some words I find particularly offensive in the sex scenes and the violence is intense and disturbing. To be honest, I think the violent parts need to be upsetting in order to get across the point that war is equally painful to both the victor and the vanquished.

CW:  What did you learn from the reading of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment?

BF:  I knew about the Doolittle raid on Tokyo because I've read 30 Seconds Over Tokyo and, of course, knew about the atomic bombs that were dropped in Japan but I was not aware of the fact that 100,000 people were killed in the final raid on Tokyo. Nor did I know that the incendiary bombs that were dropped on Tokyo in 1945 contained an early version of napalm, a horrifying but very important fact. I doubt I'll ever forget the on-the-ground scenes that take place during and immediately after the 1945 firebombing.

CW:  Recommended?

BF:  Yes, but be aware that The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is not for the faint of heart. There are some very disturbing scenes.  It is not a light and fluffy book.  But, it's also not a story that lacks hope.

CW:  Anything else you can think of that's worth mentioning?

BF:  The settings are exceptionally well-drawn. I dived in knowing the novel was a WWII book and nothing else since I avoid reading cover blurbs, reviews and author bios immediately before I open a book (in case of spoilers). So I was unaware that the author had lived in Japan. But I thought it was clear early on that Jennifer Epstein had not just studied Japan but experienced it.

On another note, I though the book could have used a tiny glossary because there is such a large quantity of Japanese words (although plenty of them are clear from context or explained in dialogue).

Third and final note: There are some wonderful black-and-white period photographs interspersed throughout the book.

CW: I have to go now because--

BF:  Glug, glug. Down the hatch.  Goodbye, Cup of Water, and thanks for interviewing me.  Thanks, also, to TLC Tours and W. W. Norton for the opportunity to read The Gods of Heavenly Punishment.

©2014 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, January 21, 2014

The Children's Paul: A Life of St. Paul for Young People by J. G. Stevenson

I came across The Children's Paul by J. G. Stevenson in a box of books and decided to read it just for fun. I haven't been able to figure out exactly when it was published. There's no copyright date inside and the only places I've been able to locate the book differed in their opinion of its publication date but it's apparently 90-100 years old.  

The Children's Paul is the life story of the Biblical Paul and it is stunningly politically incorrect, from today's perspective. The book begins by telling the reader to imagine himself going to Tarsus, "south-east of the city we now call Constantinople." Ha! I had to look to see when the name changed from Constantinople to Istanbul and that alone was interesting as I found that long after the name was changed, writers continued to refer to the city as Constantinople ("into modern times"). So, no help there on pinning down the printing date. At any rate, the reader goes to meet young Paul, whose Jewish name was Saul. Dad was a Roman citizen, though, so he was able to alternate between the two names, depending upon the circumstances, according to Stevenson.

The thing that got me was the description of young Saul, or Paul, as a "little Jew boy."  Holy moly, that shocked me. There were some other descriptions that I suppose were accepted at the time but which will make the average American shake their head in disbelief, today. At any rate, I both enjoyed and hated the book because, while it's nice to read something simplistic for the sake of getting a quick overview (and I just happen to have been recently thinking I wanted to read about Paul), the writing style is condescending, opinionated and very much "of the times" in other uncomfortable ways.  

This is an excerpt that made me laugh:

Their journey will have been difficult, for the two places were four hundred miles apart, and of course there were no trains in those days, so they had to travel as best they could, and are sure to have often become very tired indeed.  But they did not mind much, for they felt that Jesus was going with them every step of the way, and was pleased with what they were doing for Him.

The people of Paphos are not very nice to hear about.  They believed in a false goddess called Venus, who was said to have been born out of sea foam, and to have very much surprised the people who found her on the shore.  This is all right and really rather pretty as a fairy tale, though it cannot be good hearing for children who cry when they are washed.

~p. 84

The Children's Paul is illustrated with plates on glossier paper than the rest of the book (without any text printed on the back).  Unfortunately, the bulk of the book was printed on acid paper, which becomes brittle with age and some of the pages have torn a bit, although no pieces are missing, and some are threatening to fall out entirely. To turn a page is to do so at your peril. They can crack if you're not extremely gentle.

Bottom line:  The Children's Paul was an interesting but odd read which I'll probably toss in the box of donation books; I would not reread it.  Here's another sentence that made my eyebrows go up a bit:

Paul felt everywhere that the Christians would be better off if it was decided who were leaders among them, and if they got into more regular ways everyhow.

~p. 101

Seriously, "everyhow".  Hmm.

©2014 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, January 20, 2014

Monday Malarkey - The usual malarkey, the typical cat photo

Isabel has been hilarious, as usual, this week. Here, she's hanging out through the little diamond-shaped window of the cubby in her kitty tree.  That was a brief, adorable pause in the midst of an episode of the cat crazies.  If you have cats, you know what I mean.  

This week's arrivals:

  • Nick and Tesla's High Voltage Danger Lab,
  • Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage, and
  • Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle, all by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith - from Quirk Books (one a Facebook win, the others tossed in because Eric at Quirk is awesome)
  • Velva Jean Learns to Fly by Jennifer Niven - via Paperback Swap
  • The Sister Season by Jennifer Scott - from NAL/Penguin for review - This one must have taken a slight detour. I was expecting it in December!
  • In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen - from Riverhead via Shelf Awareness
  • Replay by Ken Grimwood - Very kindly sent by my lovely friend Les (Lesley's review of Replay) - Thanks, Les!!!

Last week's posts:

Not a big posting week, obviously.  I've had to return to twice-weekly physical therapy for my old neck injury and that's a bit time-consuming but hopefully I'll be back down to once-a-week appointments, soon.

Books finished last week (none have yet been reviewed):

  • Nick and Tesla's High Voltage Danger Lab by Pflugfelder and Hockensmith
  • Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
  • The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

This was a very diverse and quite interesting reading week.  I've got two book tours, this week, but I hope to get caught up on reviews by next weekend.  Crossing fingers and toes and such.

Currently reading:

  • A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith 
  • The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman (I will probably be reading this one for months, since the discussion group is reading it in sections so I may not mention it in my current reads every week)

Set aside:

I decided to set aside A Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning for now, but I left the bookmark in place so I may return to it at any time I feel the urge to finish it.  When I stall and don't return to a book for several weeks, it's usually best to move on.  It's a reread so I don't feel bad not finishing.

Coming up:

I'm planning to begin reading Viking Age from Sterling's Everyday Life series, this week.  I didn't want to have two non-fiction titles going at once but I've been anxious to start this one -- so anxious I've taken off the slipcover and set it in a safe place.  The book is just waiting for me to crack the cover.

©2014 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, January 18, 2014

Fiona Friday - Izzy Flashback

While looking specifically for a photo of Fi from her kittenhood which mirrored one I took very recently (I never did manage to locate the kitten photo), I happened across this photo taken within days of Isabel's arrival at our house, when she still fit in the palm of my hand:

©2014 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, January 16, 2014

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard - The F2F Report

I've already reviewed Labor Day by Joyce Maynard (my review, here) so this post is a report on my book group's discussion. We were provided 10 copies of Labor Day by HarperCollins and I didn't receive them (thanks to the first box going astray) till last Thursday.  Fortunately, it's a quick read so most of the 16 people (3 male, the rest female) who showed up for our meeting had managed to read it.  

The consensus was overwhelmingly positive. Labor Day is very different from our typical fare - a quick read, neither challenging nor brilliantly written but, we all agreed, great storytelling. Before I had even arrived (I was a tiny bit late to arrive in Vicksburg), everyone had apparently already taken a vote and given Labor Day an overwhelming thumbs-up.  

Quick synopsis - Convict Frank escapes from a hospital after an appendectomy and spends a long holiday weekend being sheltered by Adele and Henry, leaving a lasting imprint on their lives.

WARNING: Portions of this post may contain spoilers. Please skip this post if you haven't read the book and/or are concerned that spoilers may ruin the reading for you.

We used the Reading Group Guide in our books as a starting point, although the discussion was such an enthusiastic one that we didn't just stick to the questions in the guide. We discussed whether Adele was mentally ill or just needed to pull her boots up and get on with life, whether she was a good or bad mother and how her inability to function due to agoraphobia, grief and severe depression (my wording -- I think she was in serious need of treatment for mental illness) had a negative impact on Henry.

We talked about Frank, the escaped convict -- his innocence or guilt, why he would bother escaping if he was not guilty, whether he was a decent man who was the victim of terrible circumstances or really just a very good con man. We discussed the changes in how we felt about him as the book progressed and which scenes showed his innate kindness.

Lust versus love came up, although nobody mentioned that Adele may have been more vulnerable to Frank's attention because of her loneliness and depression. We did, however, talk about the fact that we were not surprised that she took Frank home because it was clear that she wasn't stable and therefore was not able to make logical decisions.

The group discussed normality: how a "normal" family life can be defined (with mention of a particular scene witnessed by Henry through a window) and why Henry was protective of his mother. We talked about why he wasn't really thrilled about the idea of living with his father, stepmother and their children, what happened after Frank left and Henry had to go live with his father, and the long-term impact of Frank's stay on Adele and Henry.

We talked about Eleanor and I couldn't remember Eleanor so I've just flipped through the book to remind myself who she is.  Oh, yeah.  Now I remember.  Funny that she's so important -- really, the catalyst to the Labor Day weekend's ending -- and yet I'd completely forgotten about her.

We're going to set up a time to go to the movie together, when it's released, and we talked about our expectations for the movie.  I didn't watch the Golden Globe Awards but someone mentioned the fact that Kate Winslet won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Adele, which obviously bodes well, and another member mentioned seeing an interview with Kate Winslet in which she talked about having to lose weight for the role and her difficulty with weight, in general.

Various expectations of the Labor Day movie:

  • Since the book is a coming-of-age novel narrated by an older Henry reflecting back on a pivotal turning point in his life, one of our members brought up the fact that it should be narrated by Henry. Some agreed, some didn't, but I think everyone pretty much was in consensus that with or without Henry narrating as a man reflecting on his youth (which one member thought would be awful because narration can easily be overdone), it still should be a movie shown from Henry's viewpoint.  
  • We're all curious how the book will be translated to the screen -- which scenes will be removed, what may be added. My F2F group is a widely varied bunch but we love comparing books to movies.  
  • We are all hoping it won't be too graphic.  Some mentioned that because Labor Day told from the perspective of a 13-year-old boy, it's only natural that there's a great deal of focus on sex.  But, said one member, it's not provocative; it's sexy.  Nods all around and mention of hopes that the sex scenes will mostly involve a bit of knocking on the wall without actually showing Adele and Frank together. 
  • I mentioned that I'm most looking forward to the peach pie scene from the book and that comment got an enthusiastic response.  The peach pie scene was, to many of us, one of the most meaningful scenes because it had so much impact on Henry.  It could easily become a scene that is not just touching because it shows Henry's kindness and how teaching Adele and Henry something important to him bonds Frank to both of them but also one that helps portray the developing crush between Adele and Frank with a few meaningful looks. 
  • I'm also hoping that a few brief scenes in which Frank works with Henry on improving his baseball skills will be done well.  I visualize only a little talking and some images of the two of them continuing to work together without dialogue - just a musical interlude to show how Frank patiently works through Henry's frustrations to help him improve.

A few final words:

I definitely recommend Labor Day as a book club read.  I was pleasantly surprised at how many different aspects of the characterization, story, plot, etc. we found to talk about. We've read some beautifully written but intense books, this year, and the entire group enjoyed reading a book that was interesting and discussion-worthy without being either time-consuming or overwhelming. One member said she was glad not to have to look up any words in the dictionary, which made me laugh.  I like learning new words but I agree, sometimes it's nice to just read something that's easy on the brain. Another member said she was happy to be able to skim the sex scenes without feeling like she was missing anything (unlike, several mentioned, The Goldfinch, which is terribly long but still felt like a book that required that one read every single word).

Labor Day is scheduled for release on January 31.  Do you like comparing a movie to the book it's based upon?

©2014 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, January 14, 2014

BOLD: A Cookbook of Big Flavors by Susanna Hoffman and Victoria Wise

BOLD: A Cookbook of Big Flavors by Susanna Hoffman and Victoria Wise is not a book I've sat down to read from cover to cover, although it has some very interesting historical articles interspersed (I've read "Maple Syrup: America's Own Sugar"and "Cuban Americans: Hail to the Cubans", among others ) as well as a paragraph of introductory material at the top of each recipe. However, my husband has been reading the book at night and is enjoying it immensely, I've read bits and we have taken turns flipping through to find recipes.  Since he's the cook and I'm an OCD freak, preparing meals from BOLD has become our couple time.  I sit at the bar and read the recipes to my husband while he prepares (primarily to keep him from drowning yet another cookbook or getting it filthy).  We've tried 5 recipes, so far, and all were fabulous:

Salmon with Watercress Cream, Smoked Salmon and Almonds (pp. 220-21) - We were unable to locate watercress so the cook substituted dill (he's an experienced cook and knew it would work). We'll use watercress when it becomes available. We're watching for it.

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Tangerine (p. 274) - We used clementines rather than tangerines because we already had a bowl full of them.  We ate the salmon above with the brussels sprouts.  I honestly thought it was one of the best meals I've ever eaten and the leftovers were just as terrific, even cold.  Since then, we've had both those recipes a second time.  Sorry, husband just flung them on the plate and I made the mistake of tasting the fish so this was shot in a hurry.  I was hungry.

Wine-braised Pork Tenderloin in Any-jam-you-can-grab Sauce (p. 130): We used raspberry jam and didn't have any white wine so cider served as the substitute.  I don't love pork so I had to eat my words after I scowled and said, "Ugh, that sounds awful." Again, tremendous flavor. This is a pretty complex, lengthy recipe so I would recommend saving it for the weekend.  The pork is at upper left, below.  It doesn't look like much but, oh baby . . . the taste.

Duck Legs Braised with Red Wine and Belgian Endives (p. 203): Another fairly time-consuming recipe. No substitutions were necessary. Duck is another meat that I'm not fond of; it's kind of greasy and gross, if you ask me.  You would not have known it.  I stripped that sucker to the bone.

Cuban Whitefish Chowder with Black Beans and Sweet Potato (p. 67): Chunky, gorgeous, wonderful soup.  It looks less like a chowder (which I think of as milk-based) than a soup (broth-based) but who cares.  It's delicious and gorgeous, definitely a soup worth serving at a dinner party. The one thing we thought this soup needed was more black beans, which are easy enough to add.  Husband soaked dry beans and cooked them rather than warming up canned.

We're going to keep on trying new recipes from BOLD.  While I think the recipes tend to require a medium amount of experience (judging from observation - after discussion, husband agreed it's not a book for beginners) and some are quite time-consuming, they're not lying when they use the words "big flavors". We have been extremely impressed with the results -- 5 recipes, so far, and we loved every single one.  How often does that happen?  And they tend to be really healthy recipes made from fresh ingredients, another plus.

The biggest section appears to be the meat section and the only vegetable recipe we've tried so far was the brussels sprouts recipe, which contains an Italian meat.  If you're a vegetarian/vegan, this might not be the book for you. But, I'm a veggie lover so we'll be trying a lot of the vegetable recipes and if anyone wants me to report back later, just let me know.  I'll be glad to write more, further down the line.

Highly Recommended - A rare cookbook in which every single recipe we've tried has been not just good but fabulous,  BOLD is definitely a new favorite in our house.  The only downfall -- BOLD is a paperback book with no photographs.  If we were flipping through BOLD at a store, the lack of photos might have actually stopped us from buying (my copy came from Workman via Shelf Awareness) but don't let the lack of photos stop you!  Just don't!  I cannot rave about this cookbook enough.  It's fun to read, the recipes are amazingly flavorful and they don't tend to contain long lists of difficult-to-acquire ingredients.

Judging from the piece of paper the cook has tucked between pages 224-25, it looks like we'll be trying Grilled Salmon with Spinach, Pan Broth and Crisp Ginger Topping, next.  I drool upon my keyboard at the thought.

©2014 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, January 13, 2014

Monday Malarkey - Arrivals, posts, finished books, current reads and the number 2,000

I have just officially passed 2,000 posts (this is #2001).  I don't pay much attention to such things so I admit seeing the number "2,000" beside the word "posts" rather astounded me. 

This week's arrivals:

  • The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert - from Sourcebooks for review
  • The Black Count by Tom Reiss - via Paperback Swap
  • Spy Smuggler: The Story of Paul LeLaud, France 1942-1944 by Jim Eldridge - sent by my delightful friend Tammy. Here is Tammy's review of Spy Smuggler.
  • 10 copies of Labor Day by Joyce Maynard - from HarperCollins for book group - apparently the first box that was mailed went astray. Book group meets Wednesday night and the books just arrived last Thursday so it'll be interesting to see how many people manage to read it in time for the meeting. I've already reviewed Labor Day, here, so I didn't need a copy and went on an outing to our former town to deliver the books when they arrived. I had a good time.  I don't go back to Vicksburg very often, anymore.  

Last week's posts:

Finished (last week) but not yet reviewed:

  • Brain: The Man Who Wrote the Book that Changed the World by Dermot Davis
  • The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen - This one's for tour so the review will be scheduled for later in the month.

Currently reading:

  • The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman - Oy, she's a chunkster. Bigger than The Goldfinch! It's going to take me quite a while to read this one but I'm reading it along with friends in a private Facebook discussion group created specifically for the purpose. Hopefully, they'll help keep me motivated.
  • The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning - Stalled on this one about halfway through (and it's a reread - nothing urgent) so I need to make a decision whether to shove myself through the second half or set it aside.
  • Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell - Just read the first story, this morning, and I thought it was an interesting take on the vampire story but I disliked the ending. It'll be fun to see what else this book has to offer.  Vampires in the Lemon Grove got a lot of buzz in 2013.

One of our trees has budded, already.  In mid-January.  What?  Winter's over?  I'm not even sure we got our full 2 weeks of cold weather.  It's completely gray, gloomy, wet and miserable today, though, so it feels close enough to winter.  I'll take it.

Happy Monday!

©2014 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, January 11, 2014

Fiona Friday - Sisters investigating

These are among my earliest Christmas photos, before the tree was fully decorated and I put out the tree skirt. I love it when my two kitties hang out together. There was a chunk of glittery something that probably fell off one of the few ornaments on the tree. That's what the cats were checking out.  After snapping the photos, I pulled it away from them. Both cats have been known to eat miscellaneous things off the floor when I neglect the sweeping.

©2014 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, January 10, 2014

Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

I rated Someone Else's Love Story 4 stars at Goodreads, then cleared my rating and gave it 5 because I couldn't think of a single thing I disliked, although all the way through the book I kept visualizing Hemingway and Jackson in a fist-fight over the use of adverbs.  Jackson loves them as much as Hemingway hated them. It took me a while to get used to her style but by the end of the book I adored it.

Someone Else's Love Story is about a young lady with a 3-year-old son and a poetry-spouting male best friend. Shandi is telling herself a big, fat lie.  Her best friend, Walcott, has been there for her through thick and thin and he knows the truth but he'll let her come to it in her own time.  When Shandi and her son are held hostage during a gas-station robbery, she falls for the tough but temporarily suicidal geneticist who saves the day. But, what Shandi doesn't realize is that she's telling herself stories about the hero, William, as well.

I'm not going to spoil the story by going into any detail but there are really 3 different love stories interwoven throughout Someone Else's Love Story. It's serious and funny and sweet.  I've seen the words "darkly comic" used to describe Someone Else's Love Story.  Excellent word choice; wish I'd thought of it, myself.  In spite of the fact that some very, very bad things have happened to some of the main characters, there is humor throughout and I adored the relationships between Shandi and her son Natty, Natty and Walcott, Natty and William (the guy who saves the day in the convenience store) . . . actually, I could go on.  Joshilyn Jackson doesn't just make you fall in love with her characters as individuals; she makes you love the relationships.  I laughed, I cried.  I hugged the book to my chest when I finished it.  Marvelous story.

Highly recommended - Although I'd call Someone Else's Love Story a character-driven story and I tend to shy away from them, there's plenty of action and the characters and relationships are so wonderful that I think even the plot lovers like myself will find it enjoyable.  Well, I did, anyway. Someone Else's Love Story is actually the first Joshilyn Jackson book I've read.  I want to read them all, now.

©2014 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, January 08, 2014

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson is the story of Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford, aka "Lily" and it is historical fiction but the main storyline is a romance (fair warning for those who dislike romantic themes). I don't mind a bit of romance in a storyline, provided the story is well written. Fortunately, Somewhere in France is very good.  Set just before and during WWI, Lily's story begins at a dance where her mother is trying to steer her toward marriage with an acceptable man from her class. The only man who has ever really sparked her interest, though, is a Scottish doctor with a downscale background, Robert Fraser or "Robbie". Robbie works at a London hospital and he's friends with Lily's brother.

When WWI begins, Robbie immediately signs up to work on the front lines. Lily writes to him but she wants to be a part of the war effort and not by merely rolling bandages while remaining in luxury. She wants to become a nurse.  Her parents, however, are staunchly against her involvement in something so disgusting as nursing.  At this point, I was naturally thinking of Downton Abbey's Sybil. But, the way the author chose to portray Lily's struggle is, in fact, far more realistic than Downton's.  She is not able to get into nursing school and has to take one surprising job followed by another in order to get by.  

I won't tell you any more about the storyline for fear of spoilers but I will tell you that I was surprised by Somewhere in France in many ways. First of all, Lily's experience has the ring of truth. When she's cut off by her family, nobody else comes along to sweep her back into comfort.  She has to work hard to get by.  Second, it takes her years to reach her goal and when she does the reality is dirty and stinky, dangerous and horrifying. But, like the real women of WWI who bucked up and got on with it, Lily refuses to back down. She's made a decision to do something very specific and she is not going to be dissuaded from it, regardless of the consequences.

Highly recommended - I was not surprised to find that the author has spent some time in France, when I got to the end of Somewhere in France as the settings were so very, very believable.  A gritty, realistic story with romance at its core, a heroine worth rooting for and exceptionally described settings. I found Somewhere in France highly compelling once I got into it. Near the beginning, I was hesitant because the main storyline was clearly a romantic one and the occasional years-long leap startled me but the book was so much more real than many I've read that it eventually yanked me in and held me hard.

Since I've been asked . . . another Christmas photo, this time Izzy in a cocktail dress (she was completely paralyzed by the horror - she just has a sweet face),:

©2014 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, January 07, 2014

Ancient Egypt: Everyday Life in the Land of the Nile by B. Brier and H. Hobbs

Ancient Egypt: Everyday Life in the Land of the Nile was my first finished book of the year. I really enjoyed it and think finishing it up made a good first bookend to the reading year. Although I read most of Ancient Egypt in 2013, it's not the book's fault I didn't get swept up in it till after the Christmas mania had ended.  

As the subtitle indicates, Ancient Egypt is about everyday life in Egypt during its 3,000-plus years as a powerful, ancient nation in what we used to call the years "B.C." (Before Christ - I'm not even certain when it became B.C.E.; I think I was looking the other direction when that happened). 

The book is divided into chapters on history, religion, government and society, work and play, food, clothes and other adornments, architecture, arts and crafts, technology and construction, warfare, and medicine and mathematics. They appear to have been written separately; occasionally, some process that was exclusive to Ancient Egypt is described in one chapter and then all over again in another, but those repetitive bits are brief and few.

It took me quite a while to read Ancient Egypt. Although that's mostly because I'm slow to read non-fiction and Christmas ate my lunch (usually, I'm not so disorganized!!) there were, I confess, times that I found the reading a bit dry and too text-like. Sometimes I thought an illustration or photo was sorely needed, as well.  I never found the book a slog, though; the dry bits were only occasional.  Perhaps it has to do with the different aspects of Egyptian life and what intrigued me the most, which obviously will vary from one person to another, but there are tons of Post-its in the book and it was not unusual for me to spit out factoids to the husband.  I didn't realize, for example, that the Ancient Egyptians made plywood and used veneers on some of their furnishings, things I assumed to be fairly modern practices.  

Loved this bit about the fact that Egyptians ate pork:

[. . . ] numerous scenes in tombs, going back to the Old Kingdom, show processions of people carrying food. Pigs figure prominently. Indeed, the Roman author Athenaeus, who lived for a time in Egypt, recorded one way the Egyptians ate pork that may be the earliest reference to a sandwich.
[E]ach diner is served with a loaf of pure wheat bread molded flat, upon which lies another loaf which they call oven-bread; also a piece of swine's flesh.
~p. 130 of Ancient Egypt

Recommended: A comprehensive look at life in Ancient Egypt, updated from its 2009 copyright date with new information. Entertaining but occasionally a bit dry, the book is nicely illustrated and contains a glossary, bibliography, index and picture credits.  There were times I thought the text cried out for additional illustrations or diagrams but the photos and illustrations are beautiful.
I was intrigued enough to want to learn a bit more and just happened to find a book that suited my craving while I was emptying old boxes of books, a few days ago. See Inside an Egyptian Town, ed. by R. J. Unstead is an older title purchased when I was working in a bookstore in the 90s. Because Ancient Egypt contains up-to-date material, I was able to spot a couple errors in the See Inside book, which was updated in 1986.  I was also surprised that the city chosen for illustration was Akhetaten, a city that was the capital of Egypt only during the reign of a single pharoah. Perhaps it's the best-preserved of the ancient ruins and therefore its ruins are the most revealing.  At any rate, I enjoyed the cut-away and 2-page spread illustrations. They satisfied that little-kid urge to get in close and imagine myself within the scene (apparently, I'm never going to outgrow that).

If I could have hopped a plane to London to see the British Museum's Egyptian exhibits, I would have done so the moment I closed Ancient Egypt. I loved the learning experience.  I got my copy of Ancient Egypt for review from Sterling and have several other titles from the Everyday Life series. I'll be reading about Vikings, next.  Excitement!  I'm sure as soon as I finish it I'm going to want to go to Scandinavia.

©2014 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, January 06, 2014

The Return of Monday Malarkey - mostly in cat photos

Hello, blogging world!  Hello, new year!  Goodbye, hilarious Christmas kitty-photo opportunities!

I'm going to dive right into reviews, tomorrow. I've already read 4 books in 2014 and Huzzybuns has cooked 3 recipes from Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors by Hoffman and Wise (received via Shelf Awareness) so I have much to tell you!  Hope everyone's having a fabulous year, so far.  I haven't kept up with my sidebar but I'll try to get that updated by tomorrow, as well.  Eventually, I hope to get a 2013 Reading in Review post written but I haven't even begun to write that.  I'm fussy about waiting till the year has actually ended before I start writing about favorites, just in case I happen to finish a new favorite on December 31.  You just never know.

It's sunny, windy and in the 20s, here - apparently quite balmy by comparison with much of the nation. No pollen, no sweat and sunshine?  I'm happy.  Hope the rest of you stay warm and safe and get in some extra reading time during the cold snap!

©2014 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.