Saturday, May 30, 2015

Fiona Friday on the Wrong Day - Lap Kitty!

For a very long time I thought neither of my two kitty girls were going to be lap kitties but Fiona kindly has proven me wrong. She requires a blanket for kneading (or "making biscuits" as some people call it). I also require the blanket because those claws are sharp.

©2015 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Zombies*R*Us - The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey and This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

I like to tell myself I'm not a fan of zombie books because of the gruesome factor but since I've read 4 and own at least 2 more, I very well may be telling myself a fib. Having said that, I didn't know The Girl With All the Gifts was a zombie book, of sorts. All I knew was that it was in some way dystopian and a friend thought it was excellent. And, I happen to trust that friend's judgment. So, I simply dived into the story blind.

From the publisher:

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her "our little genius." Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh. 

My thoughts:

Melanie is what's known as a "Hungry" in this dystopian zombie book, but the difference between Melanie and the typical zombie is that she has a functioning brain; and, even more than that, she's actually well above average intelligence and has more empathy than most of the humans around her. It's her kindness and humanity that make her a compelling character. But, the fact that the book reads like an action movie makes the pages fly.

The Girl With All the Gifts begins on a military complex. There are Hungries outside the fence, as well as some human survivors who have banded together. I can't recall what the humans were called but they were every bit as terrifying as the Hungries, much like the Reavers in Firefly. When the military complex is overrun, Melanie and a handful of other survivors must band together on their quest for safety. It's been long enough since I read the book that I can't recall the name of the place they originally seek but I think it was called Beacon. The Girl With All the Gifts takes place in England and Beacon is, as I recall, beyond London. London is so huge that there's no way they can avoid going through it; and, where populations are larger, the danger increases. Will Melanie and the remaining humans survive long enough to make it to Beacon? Does Beacon even exist? Is there any hope at all for humanity? What will happen when Melanie begins to understand why everyone fears her?

Hmm, tough questions answered in a painful way. In fact, The Girl With All the Gifts has one of those endings that you'll either love or hate. I had to mull for a time and once I'd pondered it I decided it was rough in its way but not a bad ending so much as one that shakes you up a bit. So, in retrospect, I like it more now than I did when I closed the book. And, in fact, the sheer quantity of action in the book means it's the kind of book I'd enjoy reading a second time.

Recommended to those who like zombies or just favor a plot-driven novel that also contains distinctive characterization. There's plenty of violence and gore, so be forewarned that if you're easily overwhelmed by revolting descriptions, The Girl With All the Gifts can definitely be disturbing. It is, however, a unique story as zombie books go. The cause of the infection that turns humans into hungries is a fungus -- and that makes a surprising difference in how the disease manifests itself, allowing for continuing brain function in some humans who are, for all intents and purposes, no longer alive. I did love the science aspect of this particular novel, which struck me as more plausible than most.

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers is a book I read wholly on the enthusiastic recommendation of a friend. Again. What is it with friends and zombie books?

In this case, however, the enthusiasm had to do with the fact that it was less about zombies than about the characters and their attempt at survival. I tend to like a plot-driven book much more than one that's character-driven but I was curious after my friend Heather gushed about This Is Not a Test, so I added the book to my hold list and it arrived within about a week.

The zombie-inducing disease in This is Not a Test is a fast-moving virus -- so fast that it's hard to fully comprehend how this odd little group ended up banding together. Sloane has ended up with a group of teenagers who managed to find refuge in their high school. They're not all friends and two adults -- the parents of teenage twins among the survivors -- were lost on their quest for shelter. The twins blame one of the other survivors for their parents' death.

Sloane, the narrator, doesn't care. She was planning to commit suicide so she's not even certain why she's bothering to worry about the fact that nobody can sleep because the zombies are banging on the doors of the school. She still wants to die; it's just a matter of when and how. 6 months ago, her sister left home instead of waiting till Sloane's graduation to escape from their abusive father, leaving Sloane to deal with his violent outbursts on her own.

I had mixed feelings about This is Not a Test. There's really never any point at which the characters really get along. They manage to stick together in a loose way, carefully doling out the food and drinks in the school kitchen, and there are couplings and spats that fit the typical interactions within their age range. But, when an injured man calls for help outside the school and someone shows up inside, in spite of the fact that they're certain they have all the entrances blocked, things go completely haywire. When a faint radio signal informs them that there is, in fact, a place they can find other survivors, will they decide to take their chances outside the school? Is it even possible for anyone to survive out there?

Recommended but not a favorite - If you like zombie books and/or character-driven stories, this might be the book for you. But, I have to admit there was never a time I fully felt invested in This is Not a Test. I could understand Sloane's disinterest in survival but the emotional ups and downs, the waffling about whether or not to trust each other . . . I guess it just wasn't my thing. I liked the book enough to keep going and I think it was well-written. It was just more of an emotional book than an action book and I prefer fast-paced books when it comes to dystopian reading.

Oddly, I gave both of these books (both checked out from the library) 4 stars. In hindsight, I'd bump up The Girl With All the Gifts to 5 stars and knock This is Not a Test down a peg, if only for the fact that the former has stuck with me and I don't actually recall how This is Not a Test ended. I hate it when I forget an ending.

In other news: I haven't taken a single photo of the cats, this week, but I'll try to dig up an older one for Fiona Friday on the Wrong Day, tomorrow. I just don't think they'd go all that well with zombies, anyway.

©2015 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen

The Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen
Copyright 2015 
Algonquin Books - Memoir
288 pp.

Quick synopsis:

A memoir detailing the year the author, dealing with life-threatening illness and her daughter's upcoming surgery, reflected on her childhood and was visited by her deceased mother.

My thoughts, in brief:

I didn't realize this book was (at least partially) a book about a person dealing with cancer until I was thoroughly immersed. Those of you who have read this blog for any length of time know I avoid books in which main characters battle cancer because it's something I can no longer bear to think about. I used to read "courageous stories of people fighting the deadly illness" all the time but have found them unbearable since my mother's death from cancer. Alice Cohen's writing, though, is charming enough that I opted to keep reading in spite of my own discomfort. And, it's not just about her illness; it's also about her childhood and how her mother dealt with the same illness, as well as the  challenge her daughter was going through as she had leg-lengthening surgery.

The one thing that perplexed me about The Year My Mother Came Back was the visitation. Was Cohen visited by her mother's ghost, experiencing delusions or did she deliberately conjur her mother up and imagine conversations with her because she needed someone to help her walk through the challenges of this emotional year? I don't know; and, at one point the author admits she isn't sure, herself -- which struck me as a bit weird. I really wanted to know what the deal was. And, yet, the book was one that swept me away. I especially enjoyed reading about her childhood, her angst over the damage she was certain she inflicted on her daughter, and the overall focus on family.

Recommended - Really a lovely little book about dealing with health challenges that focuses on the author's memories of family, for better or worse. I found the book uncomfortable at times, but there was so much to like about The Year My Mother Came Back that the moment I considered setting the book aside because the author talked about her cancer was brief. My desire to find out how things turned out won the day.

©2015 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Monday Malarkey - Book photos, lists, some chick's bare feet

Well, huh. I didn't realize it's been 3 weeks since my last malarkey post. Time flies. Because I took a long weekend trip in the middle of this past few weeks and also have been battling a cold, I'm not entirely sure I managed to gather every arrival but it's been a light mailbox month. So, I probably came close.

Recent arrivals, top to bottom:

  • How Penguin Says "Please" and How Tiger Says "Thank You" by Samoun and Watts - from Sterling Children's Books for review
  • Titanic by Colonel Archibald Gracie - via Paperback Swap
  • The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Warren Adams - from a friend
  • Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal - Purchased on friend's recommendation 
  • Ally-saurus and the First Day of School by Richard Torrey
  • The Lakotas and the Black Hills: The Struggle for Sacred Ground by Jeffrey Ostler - Purchased at secondhand bookstore

Posts since last malarkey:

Books finished since last malarkey:

  • There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do by Michael Ondaatje
  • Nine Horses by Billy Collins
  • This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
  • Black Run by Antonio Manzini
  • Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
  • The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
  • How Tiger Says "Thank You" by Samoun and Watts
  • How Penguin Says "Please" by Samoun and Watts
  • Ally-saurus and the First Day of School by Richard Torrey

Currently reading:

Top to bottom:

  • Pamela by Samuel Richardson - The first modern novel, apparently the Twilight of its era as it was so popular there was Pamela merchandise. I've reached the halfway point, at which Pamela decides to marry the man who has molested her and held her captive, just as she's finally gotten free of him. So, we're entering "WTF?" territory and I'm pondering whether or not to go on. Pamela was another book I purchased at the secondhand store but I opted not to put it in two separate photos.
  • Extreme Food by Bear Grylls - It starts out tame, with suggestions for camping food to carry with you, how to set up and make a fire, and various survival tools to keep on hand (a sponge and a ziploc bag for collecting rain water, for example). I've yet to get to the disgusting parts. Oddly, since I love reading about survival, I'm looking forward to reading even the yucky stuff. 
  • The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert - Recommended by a former blogger. I thought Kolbert's Field Notes from a Catastrophe was excellent (and terrifying), so I was very happy to hear she's written another. 

In other news:

We're still working on the deck painting. The first coat has been rolled or brushed onto most of the upper deck; it's just a matter of going back, now, to do detail painting, fill in flawed places in the wood and do a last coat. It's a long-term job but we're both enjoying the look. And, I promise those are clean feet. No need to cringe.

©2015 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fiona Friday - I wouldn't mind having two Isabels

©2015 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sleepy Puppy and Sleepy Kitty by Sterling Children's Books

Sleepy Puppy is a board book without any credited author. Instead, what the publisher apparently did was purchase images of puppies from various sources to fit the text. Interesting. The result is a book that shows a variety of different puppies rather than a single puppy character. The text is about a puppy who needs to go to bed. But, first, he wants to play, get a drink and a tissue, check for monsters under the bed -- in other words, all the things little kids do to put off going to bed. It's adorable. A peek inside, with apologies for the image quality (I realized I needed to photograph the interior as I was packing and took them rather hurriedly):

Eventually puppy gets comfortable and falls asleep and the final image in Sleepy Puppy shows a little boy sleeping next to a puppy.

We spent last weekend visiting family in New Jersey and I took Sleepy Puppy along with me for our granddaughter. I read it to her and helped her turn the pages when she played with it on her own. She absolutely loved it. Her family has a dog, so I thought she'd prefer Sleepy Puppy to Sleepy Kitty, the companion board book (which I'm saving for my younger son's possible future children, since he's a cat lover). Sure enough, she was drawn to the photos of puppies. She looked them over, patted them, and smiled.

Sleepy Kitty is much the same as Sleepy Puppy but with slightly different wording and, of course, kitties featured instead of puppies.

As in Sleepy Puppy, the kitties (mostly kittens, but not all) resist going to bed, ask for milk and a softer pillow, then eventually give in and go to sleep. The final image is, again, a photo of a human sleeping with a kitty.

Both highly recommended - While the books are similar enough that you could easily choose just one book based on your animal preference, there are slight differences in the wording. Both Sleepy Puppy and Sleepy Kitty are exceptionally cute books in which the text and photos illustrate the typical resistance to bedtime most children go through. They're utterly charming and Sleepy Puppy definitely passed the Small-Child Approval test. I'm sure Sleepy Kitty would have, as well, if I'd brought it along. Granddaughter actually favored Sleepy Puppy over the ABC book I brought along (also a board book). She liked both but spent more time pondering the puppy faces than any particular page of the ABC book.

©2015 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
Copyright 2010
Square Fish - YA/Fantasy-SciFi
358 pp.

I have mixed feelings about The Marbury Lens, a book in which a pair of glasses with purple lenses transport characters to another world, a dark place known as Marbury that has been ravaged by a disease that turns people into monsters.

Jack is not a very happy young man. 16 years old, reserved and uncomfortable in his home life with grandparents Wynn and Stella, born to an unwed mother and teased at school, the only thing that keeps Jack going is his friendship with Conner, who cares for him unconditionally. Conner and Jack are preparing to travel to England to visit a school at which they're considering finishing their high school educations. But, first, they have plans to party.

At the party, Jack gets drunk and is pressured to do things (besides drinking to extremes) that he doesn't want to do. He tries to stumble home but gets kidnapped. Helped by a mysterious force, Jack manages to escape but the worst isn't over. By the time he arrives in England, Jack has been severely traumatized. When a mysterious man gives him a pair of glasses with purple lenses, things get really weird. In Marbury, Jack and his friends Ben and Griffin must fight to survive. Jack is pulled back and forth between the two worlds and isn't certain what's happening. Is Marbury real or was his brain damaged by the drugs given to him by his kidnapper? Is it worth even trying to survive in such a horrific place? Is there anything he can do to save his friend when he discovers Conner has been claimed by the monstrous disease that turns people into "devils"? How is a ghost able to help Jack in both Marbury and the real world? Or, is the real world even real at all? Why does Jack feel compelled to keep returning to Marbury?

As I was reading The Marbury Lens, the most overwhelming thought to which I kept returning was, "This is coming from a very dark place." I wondered what happened to the author to prompt him to write something so dark. And, when I say dark I'm referring to violence and gore, fear for one's life, the terror of torture and attempted rape . . . seriously unfathomable dark, not the kind of things this mind could even begin to approach from a written perspective. An interview with the author included in the book confirmed that the author did, indeed, have some very bad experiences as a teen. I'm going to share the part of the interview I feel is most relevant:

" . . . The Marbury Lens is ultimately about how one tragic event can have rippling consequences over the timeline of an innocent's life. The Marbury Lens is about how Jack tries, arguably with varying degrees of success, to deal with that issue despite his obvious flaws and predilection toward blaming himself." The next book in the series (so far, there are two books but the author mentioned on Twitter that he hopes to someday write a third) explores how Jack's trauma effects those around him. As dark as it is, there was a point at which I felt the same unbearable pull to return to the book that Jack feels about returning to Marbury and I do want to read on.

What I disliked about The Marbury Lens:

While it's probably realistic in many regards, I found the heavy drinking to help the two main characters forget their problems distressing. And, it was pretty shocking to me that at a mere 16 years of age Jack was so heavily pressured to prove his heterosexuality. He was relentlessly teased and not without effect. All the way through the book, Jack keeps thinking, "F*** you, Jack," to himself, not only because he's traumatized but probably because the constant abuse and the feeling of being rejected (starting with rejection by his own mother) has damaged him to the point that you wonder if he can keep from taking his own life. Although he doesn't ever mention suicide as a possibility, Jack's self-loathing is worrying. However, when he's in Marbury, Jack's survival instinct is his dominant feature. So, you know he has the capacity to dig deep and find a way to emerge from trauma.

I've recently taken to reading negative reviews in order to find out what people hate about a book, either to compare my own feelings with that of others or just out of curiosity. And, yes, the heavy drinking, sex, the constant use of vulgarity, the graphic violence and gore were all mentioned in the 1-star reviews of The Marbury Lens (the book still gets high ratings, in spite of its detractors). There have been times I have flatly rejected finishing books for less, so I can understand the readers' sentiments. But . . .

What I liked about The Marbury Lens:

There are some fascinating aspects to The Marbury Lens and they kept me turning the pages. For example, although the book is incredibly gory, I wanted to know what Marbury was -- whether real or imagined. Jack isn't the only person who can travel to Marbury but is it possible that he's imagining everything -- both the real world and the gory parallel world to which he repeatedly travels? I also just happen to love survival, so I did my best to overlook the horrifying parts and focus on the survival aspect. I really enjoyed finding out how Jack and his friends dealt with challenges.

One of my favorite parts involved a train full of mummified bodies in the middle of a desert. How did the train get there? How did its passengers die? Those questions aren't answered (although the author hints at an explanation in Passenger, the second book) but the train, in spite of its horrors, contains an unexpected treasure trove that will help the boys in their fight for survival. And, occasionally there is a glimpse of that train, or its parallel, in the real-world portions of The Marbury Lens. In other words, I was intrigued enough to keep turning the pages.

Recommended with a family warning - Although The Marbury Lens is a Young Adult book, it's one I'd advise reading along with your kids if they are at all interested in it as young adults. There's plenty to discuss. Many of the scenes in the book serve as warnings of the dangers of heavy drinking, trusting strangers, not being honest with the adults in your world (although, fortunately for Jack, he trusts Conner enough to reveal most everything and it's only when he's not fully open that their friendship falters).

As a parent, those are some of the things I would talk about with a teenager, along with how to find the confidence to say "no" to things that make you feel uncomfortable. The teen years are rough and I'm all for opening dialogue to let your kids know you've got their backs. But, The Marbury Lens is definitely a dark read, maybe too dark for some. If you have a particularly sensitive, nightmare-prone child, I'd advise steering him or her away from The Marbury Lens. The book did feed into my dream life, although oddly not in a bad way. Had it produced too many nightmares, I probably wouldn't be interested in reading Passenger. But, it definitely has the potential to trigger nightmares. There are also oversized bugs that eat the dead. Eww.

Side note:  There's a ghost named Seth in The Marbury Lens and while I had trouble understanding how a ghost could do the things this one did (luring the monstrous "devils", helping people heal), I really liked that particular character. He has a backstory all his own, which is slowly revealed, and his presence adds an interesting dimension to the overall story. And, in the end, you have to realize that there's a fantasy aspect to The Marbury Lens that cannot be reasoned out. Best just to let go and see where the author takes you.

©2015 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Fiona Friday - Best use of packing materials, ever

©2015 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Copyright 2015 - Release Date: May 28
Knopf - Fiction
179 pp.

Addie Moore and Louis Waters have a few things in common. They're elderly, their spouses have died, and they're both lonely. But, Addie has an idea. Would Louis be willing to come to her house to sleep with her? She's not interested in sex, just companionship. Nights are the hardest time to be alone.

Louis is taken aback at Addie's proposal but he's open to the concept. On the first night, he shows up at Addie's back door with his pajamas and toothbrush in a paper sack. Addie fearlessly tells him she's too old to worry about what anyone thinks of his presence.

So begins Our Souls at Night. It's an interesting concept -- two elderly people who spend their nights together to stave off loneliness. What will happen? Will the neighbors be shocked or understanding? Will Addie and Louis get along and become friends or find each other annoying? What will their children think? How will they handle the arrival of Addie's grandson?

Our Souls at Night is a quiet, surprising novel. I've never read Kent Haruf's writing but I've been curious about it for quite some time. I like the Colorado/Nebraska plains in which his books are set and I've heard his stories are gentle and thought-provoking, yet I went into the reading totally blind. I had no idea where he was going to take me and the book surprised me all the way through. As Addie and Louis get to know each other they encounter some very believable obstacles, share their fond memories, regrets, fears and the simple joys of everyday life.

Highly recommended - A tender, surprising, plain-spoken story about unexpected friendship, family, loneliness and small-town life that is lovely and bittersweet. I'll definitely read more of Kent Haruf's writing. The only things I really didn't like about the book were the fact that it was a little too painfully close to reality at some points and the lack of punctuation in dialogue, a style I dislike because it often makes it difficult to tell who's talking.

©2015 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Black Run by Antonio Manzini

Black Run by Antonio Manzini
Released in the U.S. in April, 2015 (formerly published in Italy)
Published by Harper
Mystery/Crime Novel

Black Run is the first in a series of mysteries by an Italian author, featuring the crime-fighting skills of Deputy Police Chief Rocco Schiavone, a detective who has been banished from Rome and now works on a small police force in the Italian Alps.

In the small town of Aosta, a man has been run over by a snow cat preparing the ski trails for the next day. The body is so badly damaged that it's a challenge to even locate all the pieces but the coroner and Schiavone quickly find enough evidence to prove that the victim was murdered. With very little to go on and a pushy magistrate and police chief who want answers quickly, Schiavone puts his skills to work.

There are some interesting details to the mystery and I absolutely loved the setting but I found the writing a little stiff and Schiavone unredeemably nasty. In some ways, he reminded me of British author Oliver Harris' shady detective hero, Nick Belsey, but I thought Belsey (in Deep Shelter, particularly) showed glimmers of hope for redemption and some semblance of morality, whereas Schiavone is just vile. His reason for having been banished from Rome is revealed but there's no real explanation of his uncomfortable marriage, at least near as I could tell. There are hints that his wife knows everything he's done and has some compelling reason to stay with him but without any real pretense at a relationship remaining. But, her appearances are minor enough to reveal little.

The mystery itself was fairly satisfying, although I sometimes had trouble understanding how the deputy police chief came to his conclusions and I absolutely did not like the way the author dragged out the dramatic arrest toward the end of the novel.

Neither recommended or not recommended - It's notable that I'm certain I got Black Run by mistake. I'm not a big fan of mysteries and choose them carefully; it's rare for a mystery description to really grab me. I got two in the same envelope, neither of which I recalled requesting. So, I think my requests must have been mixed up with someone else's.

However, I do read the occasional mystery-slash-crime novel and I was in the mood for a change of pace. I liked Black Run for the fact that it was so very different. The setting was unique, vivid, evocative. I liked reading about the cold when I'd been outside painting in the heat. It was refreshing. Also, during the time I was reading Black Run, I had vivid dreams of mountains and bickering Italians, which was surprisingly fun in spite of the fact that they were nightmares. I disliked the detective enough that I doubt I'd read another book in the series but I don't regret the time spent reading Black Run so I gave it an average rating. I would particularly recommend the book to mystery readers who don't mind a particularly dark and slimy protagonist.

©2015 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Asleep, a Fiona Friday + Mourning Forever and an Unexpected Break

Before I tell you about why I'm going to have to take a computer break, I must explain this photo because it's kind of a cute story. Isabel likes to sleep either at my shoulder or feet when I'm on the couch. One evening when I was reading, she climbed onto the couch. The green and white blanket was thrown over the back cushions and Isabel used her claws to pull it down onto the seat in a heap and then curled up on top of the blanket and my feet (which I really appreciated because it was a cold night). She nicely warmed my cold toes and eventually I wiggled out from under her to snap a few photos. In the midst of taking the photos, her head popped up and she gave me the cutest, sleepy, spaced-out look. She's such a sweet companion.

As to that bit in the subject line about being in mourning . . . my favorite show was just cancelled, last night: Forever, a part-mystery, part-supernatural show with a wonderful cast. You may have heard about Ioan Gruffudd's lovely message to fans. I'm not much of a television viewer and haven't been for much of the past 15 years but last year I found a single show I loved on the Fox Network. It was cancelled so I didn't even bother looking at Fox's fall line-up in 2014. Forever was an ABC production that was never heavily promoted, unfortunately. I just happened to see an advertisement for Forever just before it began, so I was in on it from the beginning.

I've been a fan of Ioan Gruffudd (pronounced "YO-ahn Griff-ITH) since Hornblower and was skeptical that Forever would work, at first. It seemed to have too many of the same elements as other shows. But, it was one of those rare programs in which the cast was fabulous, the writing actually improved as the season progressed, the storyline expanded, the characterization deepened, elements of intrigue were added -- it simply grabbed me and held on. I didn't miss a single episode. The "season finale" (which turned out to be the series finale) was emotional, funny, gripping, edge-of-your-seat wonderful. I am absolutely heartbroken that the series won't be continuing. I will miss the laughs, in particular. I loved the interaction between the characters.

I'm still holding out hope that another network will pick up the series but I like to cling. I just finally gave up on the thought that Firefly will someday return, this year. Yeah, go ahead and laugh. I guess it's back to the old reliable retro TV for me. And DVDs.

And, about that computer problem: I'm having hard disk issues, again. Not surprising, since I take a lot of photos in RAW, when I use the good camera -- you know, the one I dropped, last week (get the feeling I'm just having a bad week, in general?) I have a 4TB backup because my photos use up so much hard disk space but I'm at the point that it takes up to 45 minutes just to boot up the computer, so I'm going to have to go offline until I can get the issue taken care of. I don't know how long that will take so I've decided to take off a full two weeks since we're continuing to try to squeeze in all the outdoor work. The cool weather has passed, though, and I still need a goat. Someone send me a goat. The poison ivy is driving me nuts.

Bookwise, I finished two more poetry books, this week:

There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do by Michael Ondaatje
Nine Horses by Billy Collins

I also read a book recommended by my friend Heather:

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

I'm not sure I was entirely in the right mood for a "survival during zombie invasion" read; it took some time to get into the book, but when I finally did, I enjoyed it. I've just restarted A Midsummer Night's Dream after receiving the annotated Yale University Press release. I started out reading a different annotated version and found that it wasn't as clear (possibly because it was directed at a more scholarly audience) so I had to wait for the alternate version to arrive.

I've also purchased a copy of The Tempest from that series. The only other book that's arrived, this week, is All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (via Paperback Swap). I'm expecting a couple children's books and a little concerned by the fact that I saw our postmistress stick a parcel into my mailbox then pull it right back out. It was book-sized and we've had theft problems that appeared to be related to the local postal workers, in the past, so I'm more than a little concerned that we may have dived right back into trouble after getting a new carrier, last week. Fingers are crossed that she just realized she had put a parcel in the wrong mailbox.

I'll leave you with something upbeat, "Dawn Revisited" from On the Bus with Rosa Parks by Rita Dove (you should be able to click to enlarge, as always):

See you in a couple weeks!

©2015 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

I Love You Near and Far by Marjorie Blain Parker and Jed Henry

I got a review copy of I Love You Near and Far by Marjorie Parker and Jed Henry in January and I feel sort of icky for having put off reviewing it for so long but here's the deal . . . I had expectations that I needed to overcome. It didn't actually take 4 months but once set aside, the task fell off my radar for a time. The reason I accepted the book was, of course, the fact that I now have a granddaughter and she lives quite far away. In her nearly 7 months of life, we've seen her exactly once. But, when I heard the title I pretty much composed the story I wanted to tell her in my head. So, when it arrived and that story was not quite the wording I would have used, I was disappointed.

Fast-forward to March or April and I no longer felt that way. It was simply a matter of letting the story stand for itself, rather than butting up against expectations.

I Love You Near and Far begins:

I know that we live far away, 
far apart.
But I can still love you
with all of my heart.

Good start, but then it goes on:

I love all your letters 
and air-mailed treasure.
I love you long distance,
like no map can measure.

Of course, we haven't mailed each other anything. She's just started crawling, for crying out loud, and baby was still an infant when I got the book. Silly me, thinking the book would fit that moment. It didn't and it didn't need to. Things will change as she grows and the book still will work, whether or not it's perfect. The idea was to review the book, inscribe it to her and send it to let her know that we're always thinking of her, which I still plan to do.

Here's a peek inside I Love You Near and Far:

Wherever you live--
if it's near or it's far . . . 
I'll love you wherever,
wherever you are.

You'd think I would have fallen in love with I Love You Near and Far merely on the basis of the fact that the illustrations show a family of cats rather than humans, wouldn't you? Well, illustration-wise, I like the book but I tend to like bolder color and a bit more detail in a children's book so that was another one thing I had to get used to. But, yes, I do love the cat factor. And, now that I've let the book sit long enough to get past the fact that it isn't the book I composed in my head while awaiting its arrival, I really like it. I hope my granddaughter will, as well.

Recommended - A great story to send a loved one whom you wish lived closer, just to let the little one know you're always thinking of him or her. A sweet, rhythmic message with slightly muted but colorful illustrations.

©2015 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Monday Malarkey - The Usual Jazz and High on Poetry

It must be Monday if I'm posing books on the deck railing.

This week's arrivals, from top:

  • Tales of the Greek Heroes by Roger Lancelyn Green - purchased. This author was mentioned in The Girl With All The Gifts and I know pretty much nothing about Greek and Roman anything, so I figured it would be fun to give the author a try.
  • No Surrender by Hiroo Onoda - via Paperback Swap
  • This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers - library check-out, recommended by a friend
  • Jubilee by Margaret Walker - library check-out for F2F discussion

Not pictured:

  • Parched by Georgia Clark - via Paperback Swap

Last week's posts:

Last week's reads:

  • Sleepy Kitty and Sleepy Puppy by Sterling Kids (board books)
  • Ten Days in a Mad-House by Nellie Bly
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  • The Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen 

Currently reading:

  • There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do by Michael Ondaatje (poetry)
  • Nine Horses by Billy Collins (poetry)

In other news:

I dropped my good camera -- only a few inches and it was in a padded bag but it made a smacking noise when it hit the floor and when I turned it on it was clearly broken. So, I'm without a nice camera, at the moment, although I still have the Small Emergency Back-Up Camera, which is a good one as smaller cameras go. 

Still painting the deck and you can see that it's red in the photos above. It's taking forever because our deck is large (actually, we technically have two decks but some of the boards on the lower deck have rotted and will have to be replaced). Hopefully, a paint job will last a bit longer than the annual staining. We'd never had a deck till we bought our current house and we're discovering just how much work they are to keep up with but we absolutely love our outdoor space.

Last night, after doing a bit of painting I came inside hot, covered with paint splotches and worn out. I took a soaking bath and staggered around a bit, then climbed into bed with the Ondaatje. At some point, I sat up and the room began spinning and I thought it could be the heat or the paint fumes but I like to think I was high on poetry. Ondaatje is interesting. Sometimes I don't get his poems at all, but sometimes he makes me laugh and at other times I'm so startled that I find myself rereading a poem several times, which is always a good thing. I think I'll be hunting for more of his poetry. I know I have a large volume of Ondaatje's work, somewhere, so I'll have to check to see if there's any poetry in it. National Poetry Month may be over but I'm not quite willing to give up the fun, yet. 

©2015 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Fiona Friday and Things I Forgot to Remember

First things first: It's Friday, so you get a cat photo.

This week, I received a flattish parcel that was easily converted into a fabulous cat-house. The girls love it. They've used it both as a resting spot and a tunnel. Fun!

Second: I completely forgot to share a link to a friend's recent release.

Riding With No Hands by Harrison Wilde is the memoir of a single year of his harrowing childhood. The author and I have been friends for many years and he asked me to read it and make suggestions, a few years ago. At the time, I just listed it as a nameless book since it wasn't yet available and he didn't want me to mention it by title (although the title has not changed). He's just recently self-published it for Kindle:

Riding With No Hands by Harrison Wilde

I haven't read the updated version but I can tell you that Harrison Wilde's writing is solid. The story is a difficult read, focusing on abuse and sexual awakening during his 13th year - difficult meaning "gut-wrenching".  I think I found it especially difficult because the author is a friend and I hate it that he went through such horrible experiences; it's hard reading about the horror someone you care for had to deal with. But, he survived and has thrived, so at least I was able to close it knowing, "He's okay."

In other news: It's that nice in-between season when it's not too cold, not too hot. Because we've had a wet spring, we have a limited amount of time to get the deck painted before the real heat descends (too late to beat the mosquitoes, unfortunately), and there's a lot of busy work to do while we can still throw the windows open. So, I'm not finding a lot of time to sit down and write and if Monday Malarkey and Fiona Friday are all I can get to, so be it.

National Poetry Month is over. Darn. I love National Poetry Month. I didn't manage to finish up any more poetry books beyond the three I wrote about, but I still have some checked out from the library. I've got some other books that have priority on my mental reading list, though, so it remains to be seen whether I'll get to them or not.

©2015 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.