Thursday, December 18, 2014

Break time!

My family is home for the Christmas break and I haven't found the time to sit at the computer long enough to write a review, so I'm going to go ahead and take my annual break to enjoy their presence. I wish the happiest of holiday seasons to you!

©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, December 15, 2014

Monday Malarkey - A pretty good reading and blogging week

I'll keep this brief, today. Believe it or not, we're just now getting around to decorating our Christmas tree!

Posts since last Monday Malarkey:

Books finished since last week:

  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  • The Night Before Christmas by C. C. Moore and T. Browning
  • The Great Reindeer Rebellion by L. Trumbauer and J. Ho
  • A Pirate's Night Before Christmas by P. Yates and S. Serra
  • When, When, When Will It Be Christmas? by Cathy MacLennan
  • What Makes a Tornado Twist? by M. K. Carson
  • The Christmas Bus by Melody Carlson

New arrivals (pictured at top):

  • Entertaining Judgment by Greg Garrett (purchase)
  • Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler by Trudi Kanter (via Paperback Swap)

Currently reading:

  • The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt - Wasn't in a mood for nonfiction, this week, so it sat on the nightstand.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith


This was a big movie and TV weekend because Kiddo is home for Christmas break (he likes to enforce "Family Movie Nights") and I like watching movies while doing things that involve sitting, like gift-wrapping. Kiddo intended to rent The Hobbit but accidentally rented the second Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug. I don't think it hurt all that much to watch them out of order. I did think it was a little bit of a problem that I read The Hobbit so recently. It was fresh enough in my memory to make the book-to-movie changes obvious. A little distance from the reading might have helped. But, I enjoyed it, even though I thought it was a bit melodramatic and didn't always like the changes they  made. The Desolation of Smaug was our family movie but I ended up watching most of it by myself. One guy fell asleep and the other drifted off because it was getting late.

We also watched a couple episodes of The Librarians, we think. We don't have the channel that airs the series on Sundays. But, it appeared to be the beginning of the series (as opposed to either of the older movies with Noah Wyle). Loved the blend of adventure, humor, and paranormal elements.. A magical library! Such fun. Unfortunately, I have no idea if the channel we viewed it on will ever show episodes again or if it was a one-time deal.

The Librarians was something Husband and I watched alone; the final two movies were to entertain me while I worked on the tree and wrapping. We have an artificial tree that has to be "fluffed up" to make it look realistic after being crammed into a box all year, so I plugged in Stardust to keep me company while I did the fluffing and began wrapping gifts. And then, later last night, we watched Hot Fuzz while I finished the wrapping. Husband absolutely abhors violence so he wasn't too fond of the bloody bits but fortunately it was funny enough that he sat through the entire movie. I haven't seen Stardust in quite some time. It's a wonderful story. Hot Fuzz is great fun but there were moments I would have happily skipped. I'll watch a movie I know contains violence, unlike Huzzybuns, but I tend to look away during the yucky parts if I know what's coming.

Overall, I had a pretty terrific reading and blogging week. It'll be interesting to see if I can keep up that kind of pace, this week. I'd really like to finish up the year completely caught up on reviews but, of course, Christmas is coming and there's much to be done.

To those who will be starting their celebrations tomorrow, Happy Hanukkah!

©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, December 13, 2014

A Pirate's Night Before Christmas by Philip Yates, Illustrated by Sebastia Serra

A Pirate's Night Before Christmas by Philip Yates, illustrated by Sebastia Serra, is my absolute favorite of the four Christmas books Sterling sent me for review. It begins with identical meter to the classic poem but instead of Santa, the fellow bringing the bounty on Christmas Eve is named Sir Peggedy:

'Twas the night before Christmas aboard the Black Sark.
Not a creature was stirrin', not even a shark!
The stockin's were stuck to the bowsprit with tar,
In hopes that Sir Peggedy soon would be thar.

The pirates were snorin' like pigs in thar beds,
 While visions of treasure chests danced in thar heads. 
An' I with me spyglass and scruffy old dog,
Stood watch in the crow's nest for ships in the fog.

You can see from the cover that the illustrations are eye-popping colorful and there's a great deal for a small child to look at whilst an adult reads to him, or for the child to look at on his or her own. The text is a delight. I smiled all the way through the reading of A Pirate's Night Before Christmas and I can't imagine a child not loving it. Even better, there's a two-page "Pirate Glossary" in which pirate and sailing terminology is defined. The final verse:

I laughed an' I danced an' I shouted with glee, 
As up went his sleigh an' then down to the sea. 
But I heard him exclaim 'ere he splashed 'neath a star:
Merry Christmas, me buckos, an' a Happy New Yaargghhhhhhh!

What a hoot! The paperback is a mere $6.95. I reviewed A Pirate's 12 Days of Christmas by the same author and illustrator in 2012 and loved it. Unfortunately, my husband took it to work and gave it away to a friend with small children, without bothering to ask if it was one I wanted to give away. Arrrrgh, matey. Reading A Pirate's Night Before Christmas makes me want to rush right out to buy its companion. I highly recommend both.

©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 Night Before Christmas by Moore, illustrated by Tom Browning

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore has been published so many times that the only direct way you can find this specific edition, illustrated by Tom Browning, is to look it up by its ISBN number: 978-1-4549-1355-9.  Originally entitled "A Visit from St. Nicholas," it's easy enough to find a copy of the classic poem in book form. Of course, not every version is equal in beauty. My childhood copy is the most detailed and beautiful version I've ever seen; but, Tom Browning has apparently made a living painting Santa Claus and if all of the illustrations were full-page like the one on the cover, this version would be comparable to my all-time favorite. Some of the illustrations look like medallions. You can see an example from the back cover of The Night Before Christmas at Amazon. I'm not an Amazon Associate so clicking on that link won't benefit me.

Regardless of the fact that not all of the illustrations are full-page and I'm pretty certain that the text is not entirely accurate to the original poem (although the changes are very minor), the Tom Browning version is beautiful and at $6.95 it's an excellent value. I gave it 4 stars and will be sending my copy to my granddaughter. Recommended.

I received a copy of The Night Before Christmas from Sterling Children's Books for review. 

©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, December 12, 2014

Fiona Friday - More snuggles

This is what happens when Huzzybuns leaves town. I put a soft, folded blanket on the bed and invite the kitties. Naturally, they're quite happy to hang out with me.

©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, December 11, 2014

The Hollow Man by Oliver Harris (Nick Belsey #1)

I'm sure I've already told the story of how I came to acquire my copy of The Hollow Man. I've noticed I repeat myself a lot on this blog (not deliberately). The Hollow Man is the first book in the Nick Belsey series by Oliver Harris.

In The Hollow Man Nick, a London detective, has stolen a car from another police station (not the one in which he works) and crashed it, so he's in deep trouble and about to lose his job when he is sent to investigate an apparent suicide. The dead man, Alexei Devereaux, was incredibly wealthy and Nick decides he must figure out how to steal Devereaux's money so he can escape the country. But, something doesn't feel quite right about the suicide and the further he digs into Devereaux's life, the more tangled the web Nick finds.

I think one of the things I adore about the Nick Belsey series is that the stories are delightfully complex. I doubt I'll ever manage to guess what really happened before Nick has unravelled the mystery in one of these books. I also am quite fond of Nick. He's not just a little flawed; he's a mess -- clever and fascinating and horrid. Fortunately, he tends to get caught when he does something illegal, which doubles the fun. "How is Nick going to get out of this pickle?" is a question that keeps popping up. I particularly loved the ending of The Hollow Man.

If you like a London setting, the Nick Belsey series is loads of fun for the way Nick dashes around all over the city. I think when I reread them and read the third book (which the author told me he was close to finishing, a few weeks ago), I'll keep a London map or the A-Z handy.

Highly recommended, especially to people who enjoy a complex mystery, an unusual and complicated character and/or a London setting.

Related review:

Deep Shelter (Nick Belsey #2) by Oliver Harris

©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, December 10, 2014

One-paragraph reviews of The Making of a Marchioness, Logopolis, Fidelity, Fact or Fib 1 & 2, and Outrageous Fortune

I've just been paging through my list of books read in 2014 and was a little shocked to find I've forgotten to review quite a few books during the latter part of the year. And, now that I'm looking back, I'd like to have some sort of record of those I skipped for other reasons, as well. So, I'm going to do some 1-paragraph reviews for record-keeping. Most of these were from my personal collection. I've noted the exceptions.

The Making of a Marchioness (or Emily Fox Seton), parts 1 and 2 by Frances Hodgson Burnett - I wrote a bit about reading The Making of a Marchioness and watching the TV movie, The Making of a Lady (page down) but never wrote a review. Perhaps because I watched the TV movie first, I was disappointed at the lack of tension in The Making of a Marchioness but I did enjoy the protagonist. Emily Fox-Seton is a hard-working woman who escapes her hand-to-mouth life when the Marquis of Walderhurst asks her to marry him; but, his family objects and when he leaves for India, Emily is placed in terrible danger.

Logopolis by Christopher H. Bidmead - Logopolis is one of the older Dr. Who books from my husband's collection and near as I can tell the dialogue is almost if not completely word-for-word the same as the script of the 4-part series. This particular set of episodes is among my old favorites from the Tom Baker years so the book caught my eye when I was in the midst of what turned out to be my first slump of the year. I loved it. Reading the book transported me to an earlier time when my husband and I watched Dr. Who in his dorm room every Saturday night.

Fidelity (poems) by Grace Paley - I've written about Fidelity before, as it was a reread so I guess I figured I shouldn't bother, this time. However, I think it's worth mentioning that I felt as if I had an entirely different experience, the second time. That's one of the wonderful things you take away from the reading of poetry. I'm sure I'll reread Fidelity many times.

Fact or Fib and Fact or Fib 2 by Kathy Furgang - Oh, eck, this is a big oops. I read Fact or Fib and Fact or Fib 2 the moment they arrived. They're quiz books in which three bits of information appear on a 2-page spread and then you must determine which are facts and which one is fiction. The answers are on the next spread. They'd make for fun game time on road trips. My only complaint was that there was some cross-over between the two books. These two books were sent to me by Sterling Children's Books.

Outrageous Fortune: Growing Up at Leeds Castle by Anthony Russell - The memoir of a British fellow who grew up filthy rich, spending much of his childhood with the grandmother who owned Leeds Castle, I found Outrageous Fortune very readable but ultimately unsatisfying. While the subtitle indicates that it's about his childhood, the author was vague about many aspects of his life that were mentioned. The reader knows, for example, that he ended up in the United States but there's not even a paragraph or page explaining how or why that occurred. A little bit of material about how his childhood impacted the author's life in later years would have gone a long way toward making the book feel more complete.

Hmm, not bad for the first 6 months of the year. The latter half of the year has been much worse, when it comes to reviews skipped for personal reasons or put off and then forgotten. I'll have to reread quite a few of the children's books I neglected.

©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, December 09, 2014

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is a book I bought after reading Bybee's review.  I love this quirky little book about how to do a massive decluttering job and keep your home tidy. The author is Japanese so there are influences from her culture but it still applies well to my American home. The key concept is that you must get rid of everything that doesn't give you a "spark of joy" when you pick it up in your hands. If you keep only the things you love, you'll be happier. She advises going through items by type, rather than going from room to room or keeping only things you've used in the last two years -- two of the most common organizing methods.

I have some minor problems with her method. She says when you go through your clothing (clothing is first on the list of things to tackle) you should pull out absolutely every piece of clothing you own and touch each item to see if it gives you that spark of joy. If not, toss it or donate it. The problem is that even though we recently moved to a larger house, space is still at a premium and the sheer quantity of possessions we've amassed is just too much. I can do chunks but I can't do everything at once -- especially when it comes to books.

Fortunately, the concept is already helping. Although I may not be able to go through absolutely everything as a category at once because I've been that bad, the "spark of joy" is a concept that works for me. I doubt you'll ever hear me tell a piece of clothing thank you for the joy it gave me, but those eccentric touches to her style made the book doubly entertaining.

©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, December 08, 2014

Monday Malarkey

I don't have a photo of this week's book arrivals, so you get a cat. I knew you'd approve.

Posts since last week's Tuesday Twaddle ('cause I blanked and missed Monday):

Once again, not a big blogging week. I just haven't been feeling it, lately. Husband said -- during a moment in which I wondered aloud if I should even bother at all -- "Why stop? If you just write when you feel like it, you've got a reading journal." Husbands can be surprisingly helpful.

Books finished since last week:

  • Dancing with Mistletoe by Leslie Wells (novella)
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Arrivals since last week:

  • John Halifax, Gentleman by Dina Maria Mulock - from HarperPerennial Legacy for review
  • Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh - purchased
  • Ghost Town by Richard W. Jennings - via Paperback Swap

Currently reading:

  • The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt - Update on this one: I've been reading it off and on for at least a couple weeks. It's wonderful. Although a lot of the names were probably familiar to people when she wrote it and are not familiar to me (the wealthy, politically positioned and famous), I don't bother worrying about who's who. I just enjoy the anecdotes and the view from inside politics in a different time period. It's a fascinating read but it will take me some time to finish.
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty - Recommended by Michele of A Reader's Respite and purchased in e-book form (shock!!!) when it went on sale at a price I thought I could swallow (I still don't feel right spending more than a few dollars for an electronic book). Loving this one, so far. Michele gives excellent recommendations.


None. And, not much in the way of TV, either. We drove up to Memphis to look for a new pan at the Williams-Sonoma outlet store (all our old non-stick pans are losing their surfaces) and then stopped for a couple hours at Kiddo's to take him out for an early birthday dinner and give him some gifts on Saturday. On Sunday we spent the day cleaning/purging. That book I finished on tidying (mentioned above)? Seriously helpful. I wrote about it on Goodreads the moment I finished and will repeat that review, here, tomorrow.

©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, December 05, 2014

Fiona Friday - Book love. I get that.

©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, December 03, 2014

More Minis - Big Fish by Daniel Wallace, Doreen by Barbara Noble, The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

 All three of these are from my personal library.

I did Daniel Wallace backwards. First, I read The Kings and Queens of Roam and fall madly in love with Wallace's writing. Then, a little over a year later, I dipped into Big Fish. I still have not seen the movie and you probably all know what the book is about, but just in case . . . here's the Wikipedia entry about Big Fish.

What I loved about Big Fish was the fantasy elements. In The Kings and Queens of Roam, it was magical realism while Big Fish implies that William is telling a big fish story, exaggerating the accomplishments and character of his father. The protagonist, William Bloom, wants to believe his father is a hero, bigger than life, close to perfect in character and beyond human in kindness and ability. But, since his father is dying and in awareness that your end is near, truth often comes to light, there are also some hard truths to face.

I was less than thrilled with the fact that there was a character dying of cancer; books with cancer patients have been difficult for me to read since my mother's death. But, the over-the-top aspect of the book made it tolerable. Definitely a book I'd recommend but with a warning to those who have trouble reading books with a dying character. It's not focused on the dying, but it's still uncomfortable, at times.

Doreen by Barbara Noble is a Persephone book that I bought a couple years ago specifically because it was set during WWII in England.

Doreen is about a little girl named Doreen who is evacuated to the country after her mother, Mrs. Rawlings, decides it's too dangerous keeping Doreen in London with the nightly raids. Early in the war, Mrs. Rawlings kept Doreen home because she couldn't bear to part with her child but after sleeping in a shelter night after night, Mrs. R. mentions her concern to a woman who works in the office she cleans, Helen.

Helen has a brother in the country. Geoffrey and his wife Francie are childless, although not for want of trying. They're happy to take Doreen in and Doreen finds that she loves the country, Geoffrey makes her laugh, and since Francie is very involved in the community, Doreen gets to know all the local children and quite a few of the adult villagers. Geoffrey and Francie are quite well off. Things happen and eventually Mrs. Rawlings must decide whether or not being in the country and the damage it could do to Doreen (getting used to a posh life, having trouble adjusting upon her return) outweighs the threat of the bombs at her at home in London.

I loved Doreen and highly recommend it. You get a good sense for the fear they must have felt during the Blitz, but it's also a fascinating look at social status and how awkward it must have been on both sides to send young ones to the country. Highly recommended, especially to those who love reading about WWII.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien is the book I chose to take with me on vacation. I've never -- repeat, never -- managed to keep myself from taking several paper books along on a journey, regardless of how far I've gone. I know, crazy. I own a reader but I'm just not a big fan. However, I was having a terribly slumpy reading month so it seemed like a good time to try just taking a single book along with my reader on the assumption that I could undoubtedly find something to read if I finished The Hobbit (I do have a couple hundred e-books, after all) and if I failed, I always buy books in England. So, no problem.

For those of you who are as far behind in life as I am, The Hobbit is about a little humanoid creature named Bilbo Baggins who lives a happy life in his Hobbit hole, enjoys entertaining and loves his garden. He's not one to go on adventures, although he has some adventurous ancestry in his blood. When a wizard and a dozen dwarves show up for tea and insist that he accompany them on an adventure because he has needed skills, Bilbo Baggins resists. But, then his adventurous blood takes over and he goes on a grand adventure that involves over a year of travel by various means, fighting off diverse enemies such as gnomes, trolls and giant wolves, and helping his friends when they go to war.

There was one small but plot-critical thing I disliked about The Hobbit. However, in general, I loved the story and can't wait to move on to the Lord of the Rings series. No, I really haven't read those, yet. Nor have I seen any of the movies. Recommended, particularly to fantasy lovers and those who enjoy classic literature. I appreciated the older writing style.

©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, December 02, 2014

Tuesday Twaddle - In lieu of malarkey

Sorry, I have been pre-occupied and forgot I had a blog. Here's an apology cat photo:

Posts since last week's Monday Malarkey:

Books read since last Malarkey:

  • The Cat in the Window and Other Stories of Cats We Love, ed. by Callie Smith Grant
  • hitRECord TV books to accompany Season 1 of HitRecord TV by J. Gordon Levitt, et al.
  • Reservoir Cats by Penel Ashworth
  • Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan

Recent arrivals:

  • hitRECord Season 1 - download and books

Currently reading:

The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo


We watched Howl's Moving Castle, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, and The Edge of Tomorrow. Well, I say "we" but husband managed to sneak out at the beginning of The Edge of Tomorrow (also apparently known as "Live, Die, Repeat") so it was just me and Kiddo. Husband absolutely hates violence. That was all over the long holiday weekend. It was just the three of us at home for Thanksgiving, a very quiet, low-key holiday.

In other news:

Apart from the two gripping Nick Belsey books by Oliver Harris, The Hobbit, the sweet romance The Evergreen Bride by Pam Hillman, and Heart in the Right Place, I pretty much consider November a wash. During much of November I didn't even feel like reading so I just grabbed whatever was nearby or extremely light. It's not that I didn't enjoy the other books so much as that they felt like pleasant fillers.

"Whatever was near" translated to 4 e-books. Shocking! I've found, though, that I finally am figuring out what works best for me in e-book form and that is whatever I don't feel obligated to mark. Romances, light reading like cat stories, a memoir. There were a few things I highlighted in Heart in the Right Place (a memoir), but I never go back to highlighted passages in e-books because it's too much of a pain. So, that's the main reason I usually avoid them. I like to liberally plaster my books with flags or Post-its and flip back to reread quotes, find references to other books worth looking up, etc. It's nice to know there are times I don't feel like I have to do that.

But, I fear I'll never be a regular e-reader. I must have my books. I need to mark up, flip back, reread. It's the lack of ability to easily do that which experts are latching onto as problematic for youngsters; they don't get as much out of the reading because they can't flip back easily to reread bits that they may have not understood at first or which make more sense after the reading of a later passage. Makes sense to me.

Anyway, not much of a reading month. I'm happy to move on to December, although I'd like to know where the hell this year has gone so fast.

©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, November 25, 2014

3 minis - The Evergreen Bride by Pam Hillman, The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide, A Cornish Affair by Liz Fenwick

I'm going to do a few mini reviews to catch up with myself. Almost everything I've read recently has been from my personal shelves or recently purchased.

The Evergreen Bride by Pam Hillman is not my normal fare but the author is a friend and I appreciate nothing more than sweetness and light in a Christmas read. I also was in the mood for something light after a darker read, this weekend (I'll get to the darker read in a sec).

In The Evergreen Bride, Annabelle Denson is preparing to travel from her home in Sipsey, Mississippi to visit her cousin in Illinois. Annabelle is hoping to experience a white Christmas. Carpenter Samuel Frazier looks forward to Annabelle's daily visits to the mill, where he works with her brother, Jack; and, he worries that Annabelle will not return from her journey, presuming she'll meet plenty of young men in Illinois. But, he keeps his affection for her to himself. Will Annabelle begin to think of Sam as a potential beau before it's too late?

The Evergreen Bride is a novella so it's short and it's predictable, which was just what I wanted -- a quick, touching read that I knew would end well. There's no real obstacle to love, apart from Annabelle's planned journey and the fact that she is unaware that Sam is perfect for her. I adored the characters. A delightful upper of a story, recommended to anyone looking for a light, happy Christmas read, particularly fans of romance.

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide is the book I referred to above as a "darker" read. It's not dark, really, but if the author's remarks are accurate, it's the novelization of a series of articles about a real cat and I found it deeply painful because it has the ring of truth.

When a young man and his wife rent the guest house on the property of a large estate, they unexpectedly find their house the second home to a neighborhood cat, a playful white and black kitty who eats, sleeps and plays in their home and follows the young man around when he cares for the garden of the larger home. In the morning, the cat returns to her owners to see their young son off to school. The neighbors are unaware that their cat is spending time in another house; and, when the owners of the larger home must prepare to sell, the young couple is so attached to the cat they call "Chibi" that they anxiously look for a new home close enough that they'll be able to continue their relationship with her.

I loved the author's descriptions of Chibi -- her mannerisms, habits and how she played, as well as the subtle ways she showed her affection and became a valued companion to the young couple.  You can imagine why I consider it a bit dark without any need to elaborate, as she was an outdoor cat and there are many dangers to cats in the outdoor world. I was hoping for a light, happy read. The Guest Cat is lovely in many ways but I was disappointed to find that it wasn't exactly what I was looking for. It is, however, certainly an interesting peek into Japanese culture if you can bear the sad bits.  Recommended, although not a favorite, for the beauty of writing and the themes of love and unexpected friendship.

A Cornish Affair by Liz Fenwick is about a runaway bride. On the day of her wedding to the handsome, successful man her mother has pushed her to marry, Jude comes to the realization that she's given in to her mother's desires all her life, thanks to the fact that Jude has tried to take the place of her beloved sister Rose, who died of kidney disease. Marriage to John, she realizes, would be a mistake. So, Jude runs.

Her plans to move to London with John now scuttled, Jude finds the atmosphere in her parents' New England home unbearable. But, she's taken a 2-year leave of absence from her job. Tired of their criticism, Jude arranges to visit her aunt Barbara in England and, while there, Barbara arranges a job for Jude on the Cornish Coast, organizing the files of an author Jude has long admired.

The author is chaotically disorganized and bent on finding his family's missing treasure to save his estate. Jude is making progress on his files when tragedy strikes. Can Jude help save the estate and convince John that he's not the man for her?

Again, this was a predictable read, but not one I enjoyed quite as much as The Evergreen Bride. I'm not sure if it was bad timing or Liz Fenwick is just not the author for me, but I considered abandoning A Cornish Affair. The only reason I stuck it out was the usual one . . . I was halfway through and decided to finish. I didn't think it was a terrible read and I did think it improved in the second half but it still dragged. And the way A Cornish Affair ended was predictable in a way that I found disappointing. Of course, I knew what was going to happen; I just didn't like Jude enough to want that ending for her, I suppose. Thumbs up to the setting. Not a favorite but I'd recommend A Cornish Affair to romance lovers.

©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, November 24, 2014

A Return to Malarkey and the Land of the Living

I may have had a little too much fun shopping at bookstores on vacation. But, we'll get to that in a minute. I intended to have a normal posting week, last week, but after I wrote about book covers my cold turned into a sinus infection and I went all Victorian, taking to my bed. I kept trying to get up to unpack, do laundry, etc., but I'd last about 20 minutes and then have to take a 4-hour nap to recover. Boy, am I glad to finally feel like a human, today.

Posts since last Monday Malarkey:

Books read since last Malarkey:

  • Deep Shelter by Oliver Harris
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Hollow Man by Oliver Harris
  • The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide
  • A Cornish Affair by Liz Fenwick
  • The Evergreen Bride (e-book/novella) by Pam Hillman

Recent arrivals:

I know, clearly I've had way too much fun, lately. Only one of the books I've gotten recently has not been a purchase:

  • 1963: The Year of Revolution by Robin Morgan and Ariel Leve - from HarperCollins' new imprint, Dey St. Books, for review

The rest are purchases:

  • Mississippi: The Closed Society by James W. Silver
  • The Hollow Man by Oliver Harris
  • The Guest Cat by Takashi Haraide
  • South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami
  • Ubik by Philip K. Dick
  • A Cornish Affair by Liz Fenwick
  • A War of Shadows by W. Stanley Moss
  • 1914 Poetry Remembers, ed. by Carol Ann Duffy
  • London, 1945 by Maureen Waller
  • Battle of Britain by Patrick Bishop
  • Wilfred and Eileen by Jonathan Smith
  • The Hopkins Manuscript by R. C. Sherriff
  • Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield

Most of those books have some kind of a story that goes along with their purchase -- why I chose them, where they came from. The Hollow Man is probably my favorite. I had already shopped in 6 London bookstores before I decided I needed to get a grip on the wild goose chase that had become my search for The Hollow Man, which I desperately wanted to read after finishing Deep Shelter. So, I tweeted author Oliver Harris and asked him if he knew a book shop that stocked the book. He recommended West End Lane Books in Hampstead (pictured in my post about book covers) and the store promptly tweeted to let me know it was in their "staff faves". This vacation was a relaxed, wing-it sort of trip with few plans so we managed to fit in a dash over to Hampstead and had a great time both in West End Lane Books and perusing the nearby charity shops, where I also bought A Cornish Affair for a pound.

Currently Reading:

Hmm, haven't settled on anything but I'll probably return to Eleanor Roosevelt's Autobiography, which I opted not to carry with me. In fact, for the first time ever, I carried only one paper book on vacation: The Hobbit. I chose it because it was small and I was craving a classic read. I started reading Child Witch Kinshasa by Mike Ormsby, last night, but I was just drifting off and don't remember a thing. I'll see if it clicks, today.


We watched Sleepless in Seattle, this weekend. I haven't seen that movie in ages! I think what impressed me about it the most was Meg Ryan's wardrobe and hair -- so classy, especially for the time period. I still find it every bit as funny and sweet as I did in the 90s.

The only thing I disliked about Sleepless in Seattle (and this has always been true) was the sappiness of the ending, the way Annie (Meg Ryan) and Sam (Tom Hanks) keep looking at each other as they walk to the elevator, hand in hand. "And, the rest of it isn't sappy?" was my husband's response. Haha, good point. My favorite scene has not changed. I still love that moment when Sam pulls down the rolling map in his boat house and says, "Where's Seattle?" to his son, Jonah, then "And, where's Baltimore?" and snaps the map back into place after starting to count the number of states between the two.

That's about all the malarkey I've got, this week. How was your week?

©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, November 19, 2014

Thinking Aloud: Comparing book covers and the stories they tell

During the past year, I'd convinced myself that American book covers were finally on the upswing. There have definitely been some new releases whose covers I loved so much I was influenced to either buy a copy or accept a book for review. A few I love:

Why do covers grab us? In the case of those above, they may all be eye-catching but I think it's the fact that they inform the reader of the contents in some way that makes a cover outstanding. The Martian, for example, is simple, bold and eye-catching but it also tells us that it's about an astronaut who is alone in a dangerous place. All the Birds Singing combines the idyllic beauty of farmland and sheep with a frightening wolf image, which lets you know that the setting may be beautiful but there's something sinister happening. Delicious! combines foodie appeal (a gorgeous shop window) with either a touch of history or some sort of local interest (the bicycle) -- in fact, it turned out to be both. World of Trouble clearly shows a dying world about to be annihilated by something from space, yet the hero is strolling foreword, fearlessly facing his end. Lock In highlights the fact that a percentage of humanity is set apart from the rest. Goodnight June clearly references the children's book Goodnight Moon.

So, when I say I think American covers pale in comparison to their British counterparts, I am not saying they're all bad. I do think there has been some improvement. But, this past week I was in London and there it was, again, that reminder that sometimes the cover doesn't reflect the contents. Oliver Harris's Deep Shelter is a perfect example. Look at the difference!

The American cover of Deep Shelter, at left, has the typical bold look of a thriller. But, what's happening? Are those steps at the top? A lonely man walking through a corridor? They both fit and yet . . . they really don't say anything at all. The British cover at right, though, shows that the book takes place in London with the building known as "the Gherkin" at its center. And, it tells you that something is happening below ground as you're looking up from stairs in an old metal structure to the surface. It's not perfect; the British cover isn't entirely reflective of the contents as there's no wide gap showing the London skyline in the shelters involved, from what I gathered. And, yet, the point is that the cover on the right is not only eye-catching and intriguing; it tells a story before you've even opened the first page.

The same is true of Harris's first book, The Hollow Man:

At left, the generic American thriller cover; at right, the British cover. The British cover again reflects its London setting. We see a man with a gun, running down an alley. He's alone. What's going on? The fact that the British cover says, "A twisting spiral of lies and corruption and a beguiling bastard of a hero," adds to the storytelling of the cover on the right. You have an idea what you're looking at when you see the British cover and read the blurb. The American cover says nothing at all.

The Oliver Harris books jumped out at me because I was in search of The Hollow Man, last week. As on every other occasion when I've visited London, I found that it's a lot more difficult to control my impulse to buy books in London than it is back home. The fact that there are so many wonderful little bookshops in London probably doesn't help matters. This, for example, is the charming little store where I bought The Hollow Man: West End Lane Books in Hampstead:

Just after we walked out of the store, my husband (who doesn't read much because of his dyslexia and  tends to find bookstores annoying because we own so many books) said, "Why don't we have wonderful little stores like this?"

Fortunately, those small independent bookstores do seem to be making a comeback in the U.S.

Another comparison:

What on earth is an artist's rendering of a nose supposed to mean? I have no idea. The cover of Matt Haig's The Humans at left is the American version. It's an interesting image but it tells me nothing, whereas the British cover actually says, "It's hardest to belong when you're closest to home." Clearly, it's about being a human. But, it also has that outer-space element, the shooting star (indicative of an alien arriving on earth), the dog -- a universal symbol of friendship and acceptance. And, there is a dog in the book, so bonus points for that. The colors are also fabulous. I would walk right past the American version but the British version is one I'd frame and hang on my wall.

What do you think about book covers? Does it matter to you whether or not they give you a decent hint what's inside? Do you prefer bright color to simple, graphic design?

Just curious.

©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, November 14, 2014

Fiona Friday - It's official . . .

Cuddle season has opened.

©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, November 12, 2014

Belches, Burps and Farts - Oh, My! by Artie Bennett

On these pages, we'll explore
Some body sounds we can't ignore!
No, not the sneeze, the wheeze, the sigh.
BUT . . . Belches
And . . . 
Oh My!

~ from Belches, Burps, and Farts - Oh, My!

I've read two other books by Artie Bennett and just happened to be wondering what he was up to (because I came across one of them while shelving books) when he wrote to ask me to review Belches, Burps, and Farts -- Oh, My! What a fun coincidence! Bennett has a way of making embarrassing topics educational and entertaining and he's done it, again.

Belches, Burps, and Farts - Oh, My! turns smelly body functions into a rollicking, rhyming lesson about why humans and most animals (not all!) produce and expel gas. Did you know jellyfish and anemones don't produce gas? Some foods are worse for causing gas than others? Did you know that if  gas from cows could be harnessed, their farts could produce a significant amount of energy? Do you know the origin of the word "fart"? All that and more is explained in Belches, Burps, and Farts -- Oh, My!

I particularly love Belches, Burps, and Farts -- Oh, My! for its educational side. The illustrations are vibrant but a little busy for me. However, they do keep your eyes moving. I can imagine even very small children flopped on the floor, enjoying the illustrations. Hopefully, you can click on these images to enlarge them:

In addition to the rhyming text, there is a nice list of facts for teachers or parents to share with youngsters, at the back of the book.

Recommended - Artie Bennett never fails to entertain and educate, often on unique topics (some that we don't give a lot of thought) and he's done it, again. While I'm not a huge fan of the illustrations, I love the text and learned a few things, myself.

Other books by Artie Bennett:

The Butt Book

©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, November 10, 2014

Deep Shelter by Oliver Harris (Nick Belsey #2)

Belsize Park had continental pretensions and only a few weeks of sunshine a year to exercise them.

~ p. 14 of Advance Reader Copy, Deep Shelter (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

Belsey descended five steps, then ten, then committed to reaching the bottom. He followed the torch beam, timing his descent. The blood-like smell of rusting iron and damp stone grew thicker. He felt he was being swallowed -- that it was no longer curiosity driving him but some form of peristalsis. The shelter nourished itself on over-curious detectives.

~ p. 16 of ARC

I can have this moment, Belsey thought. He felt he'd overcome several insurmountable laws, of time as well as morality. He inhaled the peace, dragging it deep into his lungs. This was what corrupted: peace and quiet. It was what secrets fed off, growing inside you.

~ p. 130 of ARC

I'm going to skip Monday Malarkey for the next couple of weeks in the interest of keeping up-to-date as I read (which doesn't guarantee that I will; nevertheless, I will endeavor to do so). I haven't gotten any books in the mail, anyway, and my reading is still leaning slumpish.

Deep Shelter by Oliver Harris salvaged my last reading week by keeping me engrossed and busy googling various bits of information for days. The second in the Nick Belsey mystery series, Deep Shelter follows detective Belsey into underground London. Nick is just about done with his shift when a BMW shoots past him at high speed. He takes chase but loses the suspect at a dead end where an oddly-shaped building piques his curiosity. When he finds out it's the entrance to a bomb shelter from WWII and discovers contraband hidden far beneath the surface, Nick brings a date to the shelter to impress her. But she wanders off and disappears, kidnapped in a labyrinth of underground tunnels.

Because he has a background as a troublemaker and there is a clear trail that leads to Belsey as the prime suspect in her disappearance, he knows he must find Jemma on his own or face certain arrest.

From the cover:

Determined to discover who else is down in those forgotten tunnels, and how far this secret network of underground passages extends, [Belsey] plunges headfirst into the investigation -- and into a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a ruthless enemy who would rather let an innocent woman die than reveal old Cold War secrets hidden deep beneath the city's streets. 

My thoughts:

Holy Toledo, what an entertaining and complex read. I adore London (it's my favorite big city) so I absolutely loved the sensation of being dragged around the city by Nick Belsey, both on and below ground. The WWII and Cold War historical connections in the book and various buildings mentioned by Belsey kept me busy googling. In fact, there was so much about Deep Shelter that I felt obligated to investigate further that it probably took me twice as long to read as a typical mystery.

If you're a regular Bookfoolery reader, you already know I burned out on mysteries long ago and seldom read them. There has to be something special about them to lure me into continuing on. In this case, there is only one other Nick Belsey book and you can consider me hooked. I will be looking for a copy, soon, and anxiously awaiting future releases by Oliver Harris.

A few very minor criticisms:

I did think Deep Shelter was a bit long; but, to play devil's advocate with myself, I can't think of a single scene that I'd have removed. I also thought it would have been nice to have a cast of characters and a glossary of terms at the end of the book. There's a fairly large cast and, at least from an American perspective, a few abbreviations that it would have been nice to have defined for convenience, although it helps if you're aware that "Ministry of" often can be substituted for "Department of" in British English. The U.K. audience will have likely had no trouble with terminology. Again, I made liberal use of Google. So my few criticisms are mild ones.

Highly recommended - Wonderful setting and atmosphere, unique historical background, and a character with unusual flaws combined with solid writing make Deep Shelter an excellent read. Nick Belsey's not a bad man; he's just quick to bend to temptation when it presents itself. So, he's a slightly dirty cop but in a palatable way. I'm quite fond of him and looking forward to reading the first book in the Nick Belsey series, The Hollow Man, as soon as possible.

My copy of Deep Shelter was provided by Bourbon Street Books in return for an unbiased review. Deep Shelter was released in the U.S. in September of 2014 and in Great Britain earlier this year. Many thanks to Oliver Harris for a refreshing, slump-breaking read.

©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, November 07, 2014

Fiona Friday - Taking comfort seriously

This is how Isabel "watched" Ghostbusters.  Fiona was on the other side of the couch. I sat on the floor. It's very possible that I have extremely spoiled kitty cats.

©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, November 04, 2014

Bringing Out the Dead by Joe Connelly - book and movie

"Frank, she's got chest pain."
"She's got everything," I said. "Ma'am, what does the pain feel like?"
"I don't know."
"Is it like a pressure?" Larry said. "Is it like an elephant sitting on your chest?"
"Yes," she groaned.
"Is it a fluttering pain," I said, "like a bird flying in your chest?"
"Or a burning pain, like eating lit matches?"
"Yessss," she cried.
"She's got the yeses," I said. "Not much you can do for that."

~p. 59

At night the walls went up and the gates came down and the fear chased everyone inside, except for those who spread it, those it caught, and those, like me, brought in to witness.

~p. 134

Bringing Out the Dead by Joe Connelly is a backlist book, published by Vintage in 1998. I've had it on my shelf for so long I don't remember where or when I acquired it; but, my recent paramedic reading binge had me thinking I should give it a go. And, wow, am I glad I did. As in any book that describes emergency medicine, there are a few graphic scenes that may turn a stomach or two, but Bringing Out the Dead is just . . . it's deep, man.

Frank Pierce's first three years as a paramedic were oddly magical, but now he's burned out. He's been a paramedic working in New York's Hell's Kitchen for a private ambulance service long enough that the ghosts of those he couldn't save follow him everywhere. A young asthmatic teenager named Rose is particularly tormenting Frank, who was unable to intubate her before it was too late. He calls her, "The girl I helped kill". And, a man who should have died but whose heart Frank restarted because he had no choice but to keep doing CPR until the doctor gave approval to stop haunts him. Burke's body is shutting down; he will never return to consciousness and Frank knows it, the doctors know it. But, the family doesn't understand, so every time the man's heart stops the doctors and nurses must resuscitate a man who is never really coming back.

Frank's wife has left him, his boss keeps promising to fire him but won't because the service is short-handed, and Frank is oddly mesmerized by Burke's daughter, Mary, although he knows the good news she desires will never come. What will happen to Frank?

I read a few reviews when I finished reading Bringing Out the Dead and I have to agree with the people who said it's less a book with a definitive plot than a "slice of life". The reader accompanies Frank, feels his pain, watches him treat his patients and sees his ghosts, observes as he drinks himself into oblivion and then, when Frank takes a risk for a patient whom most might think undeserving of life, observes the moment when Frank thinks he is going to die on the job and . . . well, has an epiphany, I guess you could say.

I love the fact that as the book progresses you realize that Frank's not just losing his mind and addicted to alcohol for the sake of killing the pain, he's also addicted to his job.

What I loved most about Bringing Out the Dead:

The dark humor, the theme about learning to live with your ghosts, the peek into the emotional aspect of a job that is stressful, worked mostly by people who are both adrenaline seekers and deeply caring individuals. That second quote, above, is so profound. Sometimes all they really can do is bear witness.

Highly recommended - This book absolutely would not let go of me. I finished it and went straight into a whopper of a slump. Beautifully written, deeply affecting, sometimes graphic and more than a little scary, Bringing Out the Dead is about burnout, addiction and learning to live with the things that haunt you (equally applicable to paramedics and the rest of us, thematically). You will come out of the reading feeling a little nervous about whether or not the people charged with keeping you alive are okay because pretty much all of the characters in Bringing Out the Dead are a little crazy. But, it will also make you think about life and death and where the medical establishment should draw the line when it comes to resuscitation.

Of course, I had to see the movie version of Bringing Out the Dead. I like Nicolas Cage; he's one of those actors who does crazy and depressed, hysterical and suicidal equally well. He was, in fact, excellent as Frank Pierce and I liked the movie. Since I'd read the book not long before I watched the movie, I recognized lines that were taken directly from the pages of Connelly's book and knew when things were altered.

I was disappointed with the ending of the movie. In the book, the final scene is metaphorical. It explains -- through something that can't possibly really happen -- that Frank has decided that in order to go on he must live with his ghosts rather than fight them. It's a stunning scene and it's not in the movie. The ending of the movie is okay; it's just not as meaningful. Still, I liked the movie and I'm glad I watched it. But, it's the book I'll return to. Even as I was reading Bringing Out the Dead, I was thinking about how much I'd like to reread it in the future.

Interesting side note: Joe Connelly had only one other book published. Bringing Out the Dead was a bestseller; Connelly's second book was a flop. In fact, I can't find any information about Connelly at all, beyond a Wikipedia entry that tells absolutely nothing about what's become of the author since the publication of his second book. I hope he's alive and happy and writing poetry on a beach, somewhere.

©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, November 03, 2014

Monday Malarkey

I must confess I'm still in Internet Avoidance Mode and will probably take more time off, next week, but I have a couple things I want to post before I go back under. Might as well do the weekly malarkey, right?

Last week's posts:

Reads since my last Monday Malarkey (not all are shown in sidebar):

  • Big Fish by Daniel Wallace
  • Doreen by Barbara Noble
  • Friend of My Youth by Alice Munro
  • The Yeti Files #1: Meet the Bigfeet by Kevin Sherry
  • Indian Boyhood by Charles A. Eastman

Recent arrivals (not all pictured but many of them are in the collage, above):

From HarperCollins:

  • The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Wildalone by Krassi Kourikova
  • Mademoiselle Chanel by C. W. Gortner


  • Looking Backward: 2000 - 1887 by Edward Bellamy
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  • Indian Country by Peter Matthiessen
  • The Brute and Other Farces by Anton Chekov
  • Frank on the Lower Mississippi by Harry Castlemon (mostly for the cute cover)
  • Indian Boyhood by Charles A. Eastman

Currently Reading:

Deep Shelter by Oliver Harris - A British police officer chases a suspect but loses him near an unusual, circular structure. He finds out it's a WWII shelter and someone is using it to hide contraband. For kicks, he takes his date down into the shelter but she disappears; and, since he's known as a troublemaker (he's kind of a dirty cop), he knows he'll be implicated in her disappearance if he doesn't find her. This is not my typical reading material but it's the second in a series and I'm enjoying it so much that I've already got plans to seek out the first book.


We've only seen 2 movies, recently, and I'm going to skip loading the covers to save a bit of time. First was X-Men: Days of Future Past. I'm not a big fan of the X-Men movies and neither is Huzzybuns, but we both enjoyed Days of Future Past.  The other was a blast from the past: Ghostbusters.  Hard to believe it's 30 years old and Harold Ramis is no longer among the living.

I can't type, anymore. I keep looking at Deep Shelter and thinking, "I want to get back to reading that right now." So, I'm going to. Happy Reading!

©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, October 31, 2014

Fiona Friday: Happy Halloween from Fiona Shark!

Isabel also sends greetings and would like to know what on Earth the human was doing to her kitty sister.

©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.