Sunday, January 31, 2016

My Story That I Like Best, ed. by Ray Long

The cover of this book is pretty boring, so I took a photo of the title page:

My Story That I Like Best was published in 1925 (my copy is a 1927 reprint) and edited by Ray Long, who was the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine during the years that it was a literary magazine. Edna Ferber is the only author I'd heard of when I picked the book up and flipped through it at Off-Square Books in Oxford, MS, but just a random sampling (what I like to call the "flip test", where I flip through and read a few passages) was enough to tell me the quality of writing was excellent, so I bought it.

Before each story, there is a section with a photo of the author and a little about the story, the writing process, and why a particular story was chosen. The authors must have been asked to respond to a particular set of questions because all of the introductory writings contain the same attributes, but of course the responses are varied. Here's Edna Ferber's comment about how she came up with her story ideas:

And, here's what Meredith Nicholson had to say:

The stories:

"The Gay Old Dog" by Edna Ferber - A man reluctantly makes a death-bed promise to watch over his sisters, altering the rest of his life.

"The Escape of Mr. Trimm" by Irvin S. Cobb - A banker on his way to serve 12 years of hard labor for breaking, "one way or another, about all the laws that are presumed to govern national banks" finds himself unexpectedly freed by the derailment of the train he's on. Declared dead, he thinks he's got it made but there's one small problem: he can't remove the handcuffs from his wrists.

"Point" by Peter B. Kyne - When unhappy former dog trainer turned farmer comes across an unexpectedly talented point dog, he enters the dog in a competition and finds that he still has a knack for his true love.

"Kazan" by James Oliver Curwood - A quarter-strain wolf dog named Kazan, who has been taken from his home and his wild mate, Gray Wolf, by an evil man, yearns to return to his home territory and his blind mate.

"The Third Man" by Meredith Nicholson - A bank president invites ten of his "cronies" to dine with him at his club, intending to secure their help in identifying a murderer by luring him into doodling on a notepad.

"Money to Burns" by H. C. Witwer - Bellhop Jimmy Burns sneers at the wealthy hotel patrons who live the high life but give him a pittance for tips, talking of the big things he'd do if he were to have a share of their money. But, when a switchboard operator's rich boyfriend agrees to loan Jimmy $25,000 as an experiment to see how he'll handle it, things don't turn out quite the way Jimmy imagined.

Highly recommended - When I closed My Story That I Like Best, I thought, "I don't want to read anything modern, ever again." The quality of writing is stellar and I will undoubtedly return to this book. Although I had only heard of the one author, all 6 were quite famous in their time and one of them, James Oliver Curwood, was actually the highest-paid author in the world at the time of his death. You can still visit the castle he built. I think my favorites were "The Gay Old Dog" and "Kazan" by Curwood. Curwood's writing has been compared to that of Jack London and movies have been made from his work, even in recent decades. "Kazan" is absolutely the most moving, beautiful story of the lot and I'm going to look for the novel from which it's drawn.

My Story That I Like Best must have gone through several printings. It's readily available online and reasonably priced (for less than I paid, actually, even with added postage).

©2016 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Fiona Friday - Sleepy little girl

Both kitties have been at the vet for a check-up (and both are refusing to "go" so the vet can check their urine, ugh) so I am currently without felines in the house. I hate it. I like having my buddies around. This photo was taken about a week ago. I haven't taken many kitty pics, lately.

Update: Kitties are home and all is well! So happy to have them back. :)

©2016 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Front Lines by Michael Grant

My copy of Front Lines by Michael Grant was a very lucky find. I had already put it on my wish list when I happened across an ARC on a cart at my old library.

Front Lines is an Young Adult alternate history of WWII in which women are not only able to join the service, they're also eligible for the draft. The book follows 4 girls who enlist: Rio and her best friend Jenou, Frangie, and Rainy. Each has a different reason for joining up and the first half of Front Lines (Part 1: Volunteers and Draftees) is devoted to their decision to enlist and their training. The second half of the book (Part 2: War) follows the main characters as they are sent to the African front.

I thought Front Lines got off to a slow start and -- maybe this is a bit weird -- I was almost relieved because I had planned to send the book to my friend Tammy, thinking it would be a good choice to entertain her during medical treatment. We shared a mutual love of novels (and nonfiction) set during WWII. I don't know if she ever read alternate history; I've resisted alternate history, myself, but this particular historical tweak appealed to me. Fortunately, the pace improved and I got over my desire for it to be a book worth abandoning. By the end of Part 1, the characters had already grown a great deal and I was looking forward to seeing what would happen when they were shipped out.

The characters' stories eventually converge near the end of the book; and, there is some occasional narration from after the war. I don't recall whether the narrator's identity was ever made clear but I'm pretty sure it wasn't. That is, in fact, the only way in which the story could possibly be considered incomplete. Front Lines is the first in a series but it stands alone fine. I'm picky about series books; if they end on a cliffhanger, I don't read on. Front Lines has a satisfying ending and I'm looking forward to the next in the series.

Recommended - A slow beginning nicely sets the stage before the pace picks up. Excellent character development and some pretty exciting action make Front Lines a winner. I thought the author also did a very good job of imagining what kind of challenges women might have faced if they'd been in the military during WWII.

My only issues with Front Lines involved the heavy repetition of two words: "wry" and "fug" or "fugging". There were way too many wry smiles. "Fug" in its forms was used as a replacement for the more offensive f-word and occasionally it just felt wrong. For example, there's a time that someone shouts, "Ren, get the fug out." During that time period, "Get the hell out," would have been considered much stronger language than it is, now, and it just sounds better. There's a pretty extensive bibliography, so I was surprised and irritated by the author's decision to use a watered-down version of one curse word and overlook the fact that there were other swear words that were equally offensive in the 1940s but now are considered so mild that their use in YA would be considered comparatively clean, today.

Yeah, picky, picky. Sometimes little things get under your skin and those two word choices and their overuse really did get on my nerves. But, the book is a good one; a few annoying words were not enough to put me off. I especially appreciated the fact that one of the characters was a black girl from Tulsa, so there are references to Tulsa's race riot, a historical event that has not gotten the attention it should.

©2016 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Well, there's one more classic knocked off the miles-long To Read list. When I finished Lolita, I wrote about it on Facebook and was surprised to find that it's a book everyone wants to talk about. Cool, double the reason for sticking it out.

I confess, Lolita was both a fabulous read and a miserable one. I've always been impressed with Nabokov's precision. He was such a careful craftsman, very deliberate about choosing the perfect word and with such an outstanding vocabulary. He kept me hopping -- looking up vocabulary definitions and translations for all the French phrases. I can read a tiny bit of French but clearly not enough. I enjoyed the fact that I had a used copy of Lolita that someone had already written in. Normally, I don't write in books or dog-ear. It horrifies me if I accidentally bend a cover or dampen a page. So, it was delightfully freeing to realize that since someone had already written in my secondhand copy I could write definitions and translations inside the book, guilt-free.

I presume everyone knows what Lolita is about, but I'll write a brief synopsis. Humbert Humbert is a man who is sexually drawn to pre-pubescent girls, whom he calls "nymphets". He blames his attraction to young, underdeveloped girls on his tragic first love. But, at the same time, it's clear that Humbert's aware that he's not normal and when he attempts to suppress his desires or find a substitute he only succeeds in forcing himself into either violence or psychological breakdown. Humbert marries his landlord hoping to find a way to drug and fondle her daughter but when he's widowed, he is able to take young Dolores (or "Lo" or "Lolita") on a lengthy road trip, during which he justifies using her sexually on the fact that she already lost her virginity at camp. While Lolita clearly shows signs of being very unhappy, Humbert is so clouded by desire that he doesn't realize he is destroying her.

The most difficult thing about the reading of Lolita, I thought, was reading through the eyes of such a warped human being. No matter how low he sinks, he has some sort of explanation or defense. I think in the hands of anyone else, Lolita would have been awful but, oh, Nabokov. What a brilliant writer. I have to tell you it was such a relief to read the Afterword by the author, in which he talked about how the story came to him and then haunted him, the changes he made after writing a complete first draft and destroying it, the reaction of various publishers (one of whom said, "If I publish this, we'll both go to prison,") and the understanding of how deplorable his main character was. It was nice to know the author found his protagonist as creepy as readers do.

When I rated Lolita at Goodreads, I was torn between taking off points for the icky factor or rating it on its merits alone. In the end, I couldn't bear to give Lolita less than 5 stars because you have to admit that the reason Humbert is so appalling is that he's so believable. At one point, I wanted to take an interior picture of the book and realized that every single page had some nasty thought or quote by the protagonist. No wonder I had to take a break from it about halfway. Lolita is anything but easily palatable.

Highly recommended with a cringe - Challenging to read because of both its warped protagonist and the author's stellar vocabulary, but worth reading as a lesson in crafstmanship and certainly a book worth talking about.

©2016 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Malarkey - Close to normality

Back to malarkey with a little pile of ARCs I got off a library cart when I got my hair cut in our former town and dropped by the library:

Top to Bottom:

  • The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal
  • Front Lines by Michael Grant
  • What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin
  • A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin

Other books that walked in:

  • A Latin primer I ordered (not handy)
  • Ghettoside by Jill Leovy (purchased)
  • A duplicate of an ARC I already had, which I'll either drop off at my local Tiny Library or pass on to a friend.

Currently reading:

  • Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant - My F2F group's January selection. I missed the meeting because I couldn't sleep the night before (it's a 30-mile drive and it was raining; I don't take chances if I don't feel up to driving) but I hear the discussion was good. I confess I've considered ditching it because it's kind of a downer reading about the kind of things that irritate me about the general area in which I live but there are some interesting anecdotes, as well. I'm 1/3 of the way in and I'll probably go ahead and finish. We shall see.
  • Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian - Just started reading this one last night. 

Recently finished:

I can't recall what I've mentioned and what I haven't (and I'm in a hurry, so I'm not going to go back to look at previous posts) but I don't think I'd finished any of these, the last time I did a malarkey post. However, there may be some duplication.

  • Don't Even Think About It by George Marshall
  • My Story That I Like Best, ed. by Ray Long
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Front Lines by Michael Grant

I started posts on a couple of these before my friend's death sent me into a brief tailspin, so hopefully this will be a decent reviewing week. 

You'll have to forgive me if I mention Tammy, now and then, for a while. It was such a sudden loss that I feel like it's going to take me a while to fully process it. She had been feeling bad for a while but just finally went to the doctor about 3 weeks before her death. That was followed by a large number of tests and, finally, the diagnosis literally a week before she slipped away. It makes me want to call up everyone I know to say, "Hey, you know those routine preventive tests we all tend to put off? Don't put them off.  Just don't. Go in, now." And, I'm guilty, as well, so I suppose there will be upcoming doctor visits for things I regularly avoid. 

This was the best day ever:

The cat fights are over! Our breakthrough came on a day that it was cold outside and both cats were eager to get close to the fire. They moved nearer and nearer each other until they were maybe a foot apart. At the time, they'd both been free (nobody locked into the bedroom or gazebo) for about 7 hours together without fighting but they did end up having a tiff a couple hours after we put out the fire.

A couple days later, we were able to leave the bedroom doors open all day and night and nobody had to go into the gazebo. I went to sleep with one cat on the bed, the other on a nearby piece of furniture that has a folded blanket on it. In the morning, I woke up to find that both cats were sleeping on the bed. The kitties have only had to be separated twice, since then. I can't tell you how happy I am that the cats have returned to living together harmoniously. Once they realized, "Hey, she's okay," they almost immediately went back to happily chasing each other and they're even back to occasionally following each other or walking side-by-side, although they haven't cuddled yet. Hopefully, that will come soon. It's so exciting to be so close to normality.

How has your week been?

©2016 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Yesterday's Sky - A tribute to my friend, Tammy

Yesterday, as I sat in the parking lot of Kroger while my husband ran in for a couple ingredients, I looked up at the sky and saw that it was perfectly cloudless and such a beautiful color. I snapped a photo of it with the new fancy phone I still can't figure out and when I viewed it on screen it I noticed a tiny speck of white, the moon, and that made me smile.  I didn't know it, then, but my friend Tammy was spending her last day on Earth. This morning, she passed away. I think she would have loved that photo but I'm not certain why I think that. I might just be projecting. She was always the first to rush to my private blog to see photos of my granddaughter, though.

Tammy and I circled around each other in various online book groups for many years, in the 90s, before settling into a group where we became better acquainted. We met in Nashville when my son and daughter-in-law were living there. Tammy took a blurry selfie of us and I don't know what's become of it. The thought that it would be nice to find that photo has slanted in and out of my mind in between moments of tears and quiet reflection, today. Other friends who met her in person have posted photos of their get-togethers. Funny how you cling to or crave that one token when you lose someone.

Tammy was a book blogger, a teacher, a mother, a wife. She loved music. When she was young, she memorized all of the kings and queens of England and she had continued to embrace her love of history. Her favorite time periods were the Medieval age and WWII. She collected dolls and Coca-Cola memorabilia. She married her high school sweetheart, stayed happily married the rest of her life, and was so very, very proud of her daughters. She called the three black cats who followed her around the house, "My entourage." She had dreams so vivid that when she woke up she felt like she'd taken a trip to the theater. I wish I knew more about her.

When we met at Parnassus Books, we walked around looking at books for a bit, but then we sat down and focused on each other. We talked mostly about our families and life. She was kind and big-hearted with a wonderful stubborn streak. I don't know anyone who ever upset Tammy but I wouldn't have wanted to cross her.

I never spoke to Tammy on the phone but she always wrote me privately when I was going through some sort of hardship and I hope I was half the friend to her that she was to me. Hearing about her death has made me teary and numb and shocked and reflective. Last year, when my attempt to write fiction daily went sour and I considered giving up, Tammy cheered me on. It was a mutual obsession; she was an excellent writer and hoped to write a book of her own. I've written several but didn't think any of them were good enough to polish for publication. I wish, now, that I'd sent her some excerpts to ask her opinion.

This afternoon, after a lot of tears, I took a walk around my neighborhood. My husband was still home when I got the news, this morning. Before he left, he said, "Don't stay indoors. Go get a taco." So, I'd gone out for fast food. When I decided to take that walk, I couldn't find my new sunglasses. After I looked around a bit, I gave up and put on my old ones. I walked around the block twice with my new sunglasses on my face and my old sunglasses perched on top of my head. Grief makes you stupid. I'm going to take a few days off from the blog to try to unstupid myself, but in the meantime, I just want to send my thanks out to the universe. I'm so grateful that I got to know such a kind, gracious, generous, lovely person.

Tammy touched a lot of lives. Those of us who were in book groups together have been banding together, giving each other long-distance hugs, wishing we could be in the same city (or, even the same state -- therein lies the trouble with distant friendship) to raise a glass together or light a candle.

Goodbye, my friend. You will be missed.

©2016 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Everything She Forgot by Lisa Ballantyne and a Fiona Friday pic

Margaret Holloway is headed home from work on a snowy night when she's caught in the worst automobile pile-up in London history. Saved from a fiery death by a mysterious man who has clearly been burned in the past, Margaret is uninjured but shaken. In the days after her accident, she becomes even more uncomfortable as buried memories begin to surface. What happened to Margaret that was so traumatic she suppressed it?

Margaret's storyline takes place in 2013 and there's a second storyline in 1985 (plus a third involving a journalist, also in 1985). George was madly in love and asked his girlfriend to marry him but her family prevented their marriage, even after the birth of their child. In 1985, still longing for his beloved and wishing to see his child, George steals some money and goes to find Kathleen. Maybe now she will reconsider. He can whisk her away with young Moll, far away from his family and the dangers. But, things go very, very wrong.

Recommended - Everything She Forgot is suspenseful, if a bit predictable. In spite of its minor flaws, I gave it 5 stars, probably partly because of the fact that the book is set in the United Kingdom but also definitely because I was craving a fast-paced read and it was simply the right book for the moment. I particularly recommend Everything She Forgot to those who like a bit of suspense but don't mind if some of the plot points are a bit transparent. I didn't mind that at all.

On to Fiona Friday:

After three days of gradually re-introducing the cats, they've gone from a mere five minutes of harmony to nearly three hours. Progress! I cannot wait until they can be around each other all the time, again. I'm so exhausted from the banging and howling (by whoever is stuck outside the master bedroom at night) that it's getting hard to function like a normal human. Fingers crossed they'll be interacting normally within a week or so. Not sure how much longer I can stand the sleep deprivation.

©2016 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Past by Tessa Hadley

I haven't done this in a while but I'm having trouble getting started on this review so I'm going to do a self-interview and hope that does the trick. Today, I'll be interviewed by a talking Einstein bobblehead, who tells me "The important thing is not to stop questioning."

Talking Einstein Bobblehead: Tell us about The Past by Tessa Hadley in 50 words or less.

Bookfool: The Past is a character-driven story about 4 siblings who gather at their grandparents' home in an English village for 3 weeks, probably for the last time, and the tensions that develop between them as they share the house and its memories.

TEB: You mention that the book is "character-driven". Is this important?

BF: It's only important because I tend to prefer plot-driven books unless the characterization, writing, and/or storyline is in some way unique or exceptional enough to really draw me in and keep the pages turning.

TEB: And, was The Past special in any of those ways?

BF: Yes, indeed. The characterization is truly impressive, the book grabbed me immediately, and I thought the writing was outstanding.

TEB: What surprised you about the book?

BF: I was surprised by the fact that a book in which so little actually happened and the characters were not particularly likable was such a page-turner, at least for me.

TEB: Was there anything that you disliked about it?

BF:  There's a particular storyline involving Ivy, the child of one of the siblings, that is repellent, as in ewww, yucky description. I kept hoping Ivy would stop obsessing about this disgusting thing so I could forget what she saw but it haunted her, so the image was revisited several times in her thoughts and in further scenes. Blecch. And, yet, I have to admit that the reason these particular scenes are so repellent is because of the author's skill. The writing is immersive -- really brilliant, visceral writing.

TEB: Anything else you disliked?

BF: Just the lack of quotation marks. It irritates me when dashes are used instead. Although I grew accustomed to the style, I found it awkward and clunky having to figure out where the dialogue ended and narrative began in a paragraph (or vice versa).

TEB: What else happens that stands out in your mind?

BF: There's an interesting device that the author used, starting with the present day and then going to the past, then back to the present, hence the title. The Past is all about how the characters are rooted in their pasts and whether or not they'll be willing to move forward, past their differences, past their attachments, beyond feelings previously suppressed. The second portion takes the reader back to 1968 to meet their mother, Jill, which I admit was a bit of a jolt but added an important dimension to the story.

TEB: Can you share an excerpt?

BF: Sure. I'll choose a passage at random.

Gulls wheeled against the sun, wailing and slicing the air with wings like blades -- or they rose and fell inconsequentially on the water surface like toy birds, wings folded, glassy gaze averted. Harriet let herself drop down, once, underneath the water: she opened her eyes to see, so that she could remember it later: through the brown-green murk of sand and spinning motes suspended, Pilar's amphibiously kicking legs, bent beams of sunlight. This seemed a place she hadn't visited since she was a child, she had forgotten it; when she burst again into the clamorous day she half-expected to come up into another life. 

That's from p. 158 of the ARC, so there could be changes to the final print copy. And, actually, it's from the middle of a paragraph. I didn't realize till now that the paragraphs are so long.

TEB: Any other thoughts?

BF: I always love an English setting, so I think that was one of the facets of the book that made me enjoy it so much. There are houses nearby but a lot of what happens takes place in the countryside. Harriet, Kasim (the son of sibling Alice's partner), and the children of another sibling, Fran, spend a lot of time taking long walks. Roland is the final sibling, who brings his new wife and only daughter. Apart from Harriet, each of the four siblings has brought one or two people along. So, there are plenty of personalities to clash.

That actually reminds me of something I disliked: there was very little harmony and acceptance. Everyone was wrapped up in his or her own wants or needs and the book was not exactly what you could call upbeat in any way. There aren't any characters without baggage, apart from two of the youngsters; most everyone really is unlikable. Again, that speaks to the writer's ability. It takes some marvelous storytelling to overcome the irritation a reader can derive from so much negativity.

TEB: Will you read more by this author?

BF: Absolutely.

TEB: Recommended?

BF: Yes, highly recommended, especially to those who love a character-driven novel. But, I must warn readers who have a weak stomach, the revolting description is that of a dead, decaying dog. I will not reread the book (I am an occasional rereader) because I don't want to experience that description more than once.

TEB: Well, then. Highly recommended and yet . . .

BF: Yeah, that does sound contradictory, but the bottom line is that the writing is fabulous and it just worked for me.

TEB: Any parting words?

BF: I also love the cover. Do you have any more advice to share?

TEB: "If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts!"

BF: Thank you for that. And, thanks for helping me with this review, Einsten Bobblehead.

The Past by Tessa Hadley is a January release from Harper. My thanks to HarperCollins for the opportunity to review.

©2016 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson, plus a little Monday Malarkey

Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson is a very light historical romance set during the 1920s. Lady Helena comes close to death from an infection after a terrible bout with scarlet fever. While recovering, she realizes she has spent too much time not living after agreeing to end her engagement five years ago. A pariah since her engagement ended and her fiance married someone else, it's unlikely that she'll ever marry, now that she's in her late 20s. Nearly dying has made her determined to live; but, Helena feels she must leave England to do so.

Helena's Aunt Agnes lives in France. She's happy to accomodate Helena for a year and even suggests that she sign up at a local art school to work on developing her artistic talent. There, Helena makes new friends and is challenged. But, when an American journalist comes into her life and she finds herself slowly falling for him, it seems that she is destined for another heartbreak.

I'll be painfully honest about Moonlight Over Paris: I didn't find it a good read either from the standpoint of historical fiction or romance. It's merely average. Helena is from the upper class and her Aunt Agnes is even wealthier than Helena's family. Most of the book is about interaction with her painter friends, the meals they eat, the dresses she wears. Because of her wealth and because she's an artist, she's occasionally thrown into the path of various people of the time period's wealthy ex-pat artistic crowd.

Like the only other book I've read by Robson, Somewhere in France, the focus is not on the romance so much as the heroine's life. But, I found her daily life rather humdrum. I liked the interaction between Helena and her artist friends. However, there was a lot of telling instead of showing. For example, Helena would go to dinner with a group of people and then talk or think about what a sparkling conversation she'd had with so-and-so. But, the reader wasn't privy to the conversation, itself.

I did like the hero and love interest. But, again, something was missing. They occasionally had dates, maybe kissed a bit, but he kept his distance and I was unable to fully understand or buy into his storyline. Until the end, he really didn't share his concerns with Helena, explain why he was really in Paris, or tell her why he was unwilling to commit. It does, however, have the ending of a typical romance, so romance lovers may be willing to overlook its flaws for the joy of the happy ending.

Recommended to a specific audience - If you're a fan of historical romance and like a decent sense of place, very light writing, and a happy ending, chances are good you'll enjoy Moonlight Over Paris. I wouldn't tell anyone to avoid the book but I also wouldn't heartily recommend it to someone who is looking for more depth. I finished the book because I needed a mental break from Lolita and I don't regret reading it. However, I thought Moonlight Over Paris was weak by comparison with Robson's first release, Somewhere in France.

On to Malarkey:

I didn't receive a single book in the mail, last week, and Moonlight Over Paris was the only book I finished. I'm still reading Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and Don't Even Think About It by George Marshall and will probably add another fiction read, soon, to continue breaking up the reading of Lolita, which frankly makes my skin crawl.

Last week's posts:


The cats are still separated most of the time and occasionally they've come close to harmony through the slats of their gazebo, when one or the other is inside. We don't think they're quite ready to spend time together, though. It's going to be a slow process. Now and then, we have a setback in which one or the other will growl or hiss. Night is really the worst time because they both want to be in the bedroom with me. Whoever is stuck outside the door will end up scratching at the door, howling and trying to open it. I'm not getting a lot of sleep. Fingers are crossed that they'll be able to hang out together, soon.

©2016 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.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sherlock: Chronicles by Steve Tribe

I've just checked my local public broadcasting schedule to confirm that the encore showing of "The Abominable Bride" -- the latest Sherlock episode -- is scheduled to air tonight, which gave me the nudge I needed to finally photograph Sherlock: Chronicles.

Sherlock:: Chronicles by Steve Tribe describes the creation of the Sherlock TV series from a germ of an idea tossed around randomly to development, editing and final production. A chapter is devoted to each of the episodes in the first three seasons along with a foreword by Mark Gatiss (who plays Mycroft and is co-creator of the series with Steven Moffat) and a great deal of background material about older versions of Sherlock Holmes that influenced the modern series, creative decisions like the choice to use a contemporary setting, the casting of the show, wardrobe and sets . . . even the styling of Benedict Cumberbatch's hair.

I've been flipping through the book and I can't find the hair bit but I recall Cumberbatch referring to the chosen hairstyle as "this mop" or something similar, which made me laugh. To be honest, the hair is the only thing I dislike about Sherlock's characterization. I'm rather fond of the star's shorter, natural auburn hair. Apparently, I'm in the minority in that regard.

Sherlock: Chronicles is crammed with gorgeous photographs of the actors (behind-the-scenes and official release photos), the sets, side-by-side comparisons of original A. Conan Doyle stories and the scripts that drew from those stories, lists of selected roles key actors have played, deleted scenes, images of art, special effects  (including the creation of the terrifying hound in the updated version of "The Hounds of Baskerville", on-screen texts, and the mattress that meets Sherlock halfway when he's drugged) and storyboards. There are some collages of photos but none of the photos were so painfully small that I had to pull out a magnifying glass. The layout is very nicely done.

Some of the things I enjoyed learning:

  • There is an actual blog to accompany the series: The Personal Blog of Dr. John H. Watson. What fun! I'll go back and read the entries as I watch the series, the next time around. I've only taken the time to read the blog about the wedding episode (the last update; perhaps they felt a post about the final episode would give too much away?). The comments below that entry were a hoot. 
  • Why and how certain changes were made from the original stories, like the decision to make the series more of an adventure than a mystery series.
  • The actors' thoughts about their roles.
  • Details like the way names of characters were changed to reflect the naming in the original stories but update them. For example, Sir Henry Baskerville of the original "Hound of the Baskervilles" became Henry Knight -- "Knight" being a reference to Henry's knighthood. 
  • The details behind the stunt work in "The Reichenbach Fall". You can see this in the extra material on the DVDs but it was still fun reading the details about how the actual London building was chosen and I love the still shots.
  • Background about settings: which were actual London settings and when and where other locations were used.

I spent a good two months working my way through Sherlock: Chronicles and then viewing each episode as I read about it, which was tremendously fun. Just before I began reading the book, we spent 9 days in London, in a flat on Baker Street, and discovered that we had sat in the park where John Watson's friend told him about an acquaintance looking for a flatmate and stood watching skateboarders in a South Bank setting covered with graffiti that Sherlock and John walked past in another episode.

Highly recommended - If you're a fan of Sherlock, Sherlock: Chronicles is an exceptionally fun read and an excellent reference. At 8" x 10", the book is large enough that photos are nicely sized (some of the text in side-by-side comparisons of story vs. script, emails, and lists of other roles played by key actors are quite small, though). It would look nice on a coffee table and would make a great gift for the Sherlock lover in your life. I especially enjoyed the fact that the reading opened up a few delightful discussions with the spouse. He enjoyed learning those little background tidbits as much as I did.

My thanks to Dey Street Books for the opportunity to review Sherlock: Chronicles.

©2016 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Fiona Friday - Lazy day

Yesterday was a lazy day for us. I decided to spend a day reading and skip life, in general, otherwise. I'm still playing musical cats and this was taken during one of Izzy's turns hanging out with me. Good news, though! Last night the cats sniffed each other through the gazebo without anyone hissing or growling. We're making progress!

©2016 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Tuesday Twaddle - Books and goals and cats having hissy fits

Hope everyone is having a lovely start to the new year! I am just now writing my Christmas cards. Clearly, I need to work on planning ahead in 2016.

Recent Arrivals:

  • Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson - from HarperCollins for review
  • Empire of Deception by Dean Jobb - Unsolicited from Algonquin (and it definitely looks intriguing)
  • The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin - via Paperback Swap (I have exactly one point left and am still trying to decide whether to continue swapping after I run out of points)
  • Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian - Unsolicited from Algonquin; I also have a hardback copy, which I recently moved to the "read soon" stacks. I'll pass that one on to a friend.
  • Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge - Purchased, thanks to Susan at Blue-Hearted Bookworm. I noticed she was reading it and made the mistake of reading the description. Oops.

Currently Reading:

  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall (recommended by Eldest Son)

On goals and such:

I've decided to stop calling my goals for the new year "resolutions", this year, because I find it easier to think of goal setting as a continuous mission, whereas resolutions tend to feel like things that generally end up falling by the wayside (possibly because I tend to fail miserably at following through). Having said that, I really haven't made any specific goals regarding the blog, apart from trying to do better at visiting other blogs. I did consider quite a few possibilities over the holiday, but in the end I decided that for now I'm going to continue with the status quo because I have a number of personal and reading goals that I'd rather focus on.

Among my reading goals are reading a chapter a day of an introductory Latin course (which may be altered to reading a chapter every 2-3 days and spending the time in-between on rereading and practice), reading at least one classic per month (hence Lolita), and trying to read as many books off my shelves as possible (without a specific number goal).

As to personal goals, I've returned to the regular gym exercise that lapsed over the holidays and hope to find a place to take Red Cross Disaster Training. The rest of my goals for the year are similarly self-improvement oriented and I'm hoping to go back to school in the fall but have not even begun that process.

Kitty happenings:

Both kitties got cystitis over the holidays, probably because Huz and I were sick for a few days and fell down on the litter-box cleaning job. They starting fighting about 10 days ago -- vicious, growling, hissing, claws-out fighting, not the usual wrestle-chase fun and games -- so we took both kitties to the vet and they came home with antibiotics the next day. Fiona is easier to pill than Isabel and has reverted to her normal, mellow self but Isabel is a hissing machine. So, we've been playing Musical Cats. One will be closed into the master bedroom/bathroom area while the other roams free or we'll put one in this little gazebo (meant for outdoor use) while the other has the run of the house:

So that's the current state of our breakfast nook. It works but it's just a wee bit bizarre, isn't it? Hopefully, Izzy will start feeling better soon. It took a full five days before we figured out a way to pill her. She is quite the little tiger when she's not happy.

©2016 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, January 04, 2016

First book of the year: Tales of Accidental Genius by Simon Van Booy

This is a new experience for me, choosing the book I wanted to read to start off the year. I usually have several books going, at any given time, and generally what I end up finishing first in the new year is a book I started in December. But, this time, I actually pondered how I'd begin my reading year in advance, both because I knew I was going to finish almost everything I had in progress (except for a book of letters written during the Great Depression, which may take me another year because I can only cope with it a little at a time) and because of posts by Sheila at Book Journey and Carrie at Care's Online Book Club. When it became obvious that I was going to finish Sherlock Chronicles in 2015 (I literally finished it 10 minutes before midnight), I knew I could finally choose a book to begin my year. So, my first book of the year was carefully selected: Tales of Accidental Genius by Simon Van Booy.

I chose Tales of Accidental Genius for two reasons:

1. It has been sitting by my bedside since it arrived, awaiting the right moment, and
2. Simon Van Booy is one of my favorite authors. His books are always uplifting in some way, and what better way to start a new year than with a book that you know will warm your heart and lift your spirits?

Sure enough, I loved Tales of Accidental Genius. No surprise there. When I closed the book, Saturday night, I had a smile on my face.

The stories are classic Simon: quirky, original, truthful, full of beauty and life. I'm always in awe of his writing.

I always, always read Simon's books at least twice. The first time through, I just read for joy without marking anything at all. The second time, I let myself flag passages and take notes. So, I have no quotes to share and this isn't really a review post so much as a note that I started off the reading year well. Now that it's occurred to me that starting off a year reading a book by Simon Van Booy is a great idea, maybe I'll know what I'm reading before the beginning of the year arrives, next time around, so I can join in on Sheila's First Book event.

©2016 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Books Read in 2015

Books Read in 2015 (links will be updated as I write the remaining reviews)


1. Soviet Ghosts - Rebecca Litchfield (page down for brief thoughts)
2. 1963: The Year of the Revolution - Ariel Leve and Robin Morgan
3. I Love You Near and Far - Marjorie B. Parker and J. Henry
4. Entertaining Judgment - Greg Garrett
5. Little Heathens - Mildred Armstrong Kalish
6. The Strange Library - Haruki Murakami (link leads to comment-based discussion only)
7. North of Boston - Elisabeth Elo
8. 1914: Poetry Remembers - Ed. by Carol Ann Duffy (page down for brief description)
9. Wonderstruck - Brian Selznick
10. A Dozen Cousins - L. Houran and S. Usher


11. Anneville: A Memoir of the Great Depression - Thomas G. Robinson
12. The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
13. In the Loyal Mountains - Rick Bass
14. The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking - Olivia Laing
15. The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living - Joseph M. Marshall III
16. The Third Twin - C. J. Omololu
17. Even If the Sky Falls Down - Susan Jackson Bybee


18. The Glass Menagerie - Tennessee Williams
19. Mademoiselle Chanel - C. W. Gortner
20. Still Alice - Lisa Genova
21. Evangeline - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
22. First Frost - Sarah Addison Allen
23. The Roosevelts: An Intimate History - Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns
24. Homemakers: A Domestic Handbook - Brit Morin
25. Pure Drivel - Steve Martin
26. ABC Universe - The American Museum of Natural History
27. Brutal Youth - Anthony Breznican
28. Reasons to Stay Alive - Matt Haig


29. A Reunion of Ghosts - Judith Claire Mitchell
30. Falls Like Lightning - Shawn Grady
31. The Here and Now - Ann Brashares
32. Phenomenal Women - Maya Angelou
33. The Boy on the Wooden Box - Leon Leyson
34. The Rescue - Nicholas Sparks
35. Find the Good - Heather Lende
36. Where Robot Mice and Robot Men Run Round in Robot Towns - Ray Bradbury
37. House of Light - Mary Oliver
38. The Girl With All the Gifts - M. R. Carey
39. The Great Depression and WWII: 1929 - 1949 - George E. Stanley
40. On the Bus with Rosa Parks - Rita Dove
41. Children of the Great Depression - Russell Freedman
42. For the Term of His Natural Life - Marcus Clarke
43. Sleepy Puppy - Sterling Kids
44. Sleepy Kitty - Sterling Kids
45. Ten Days in a Mad-House - Nellie Bly


46. Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare
47. The Year My Mother Came Back - Alice Eve Cohen
48. There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do - Michael Ondaatje
49. Nine Horses - Billy Collins
50. This is Not a Test - Courtney Summers
51. Black Run - Antonio Manzini
52. Our Souls at Night - Kent Haruf
53. The Marbury Lens - Andrew Smith
54. How Penguin Says "Please" - A. Samoun and S. Watts
55. How Tiger Says "Thank You" - A. Samoun and S. Watts
56. Ally-saurus and the First Day of School - Richard Torrey
57. The Sixth Extinction - Elizabeth Kolbert


58. Too Loud a Solitude - Bohumil Hrabal
59. Temptation - Vaclav Havel
60. When the Moon is Low - Nadia Hashimi
61. Keep Your Friends Close - Paula Daly
62. Crooked Heart - Lissa Evans
63. Life in a Box is a Pretty Life - Dawn Lundy Martin
64. Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell
65. Extreme Food - Bear Grylls
66. Black Box - Julie Schumacher
67. The Pearl - John Steinbeck


68. When the Emperor was Divine - Julie Otsuka
69. Julia's Cats - P. Barey and T. Burson
70. Brutal Youth - Anthony Breznican (reread)
71. All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
72. On Bullshit - Harry G. Frankfurt
73. The Flying Circus - Susan Crandall
74. This Old Van - Kim Norman and Carolyn Conahan
75. Pamela - Samuel Richardson
76. Goodnight Songs: A Celebration of Seasons - Margaret Wise Brown


77. The Night Sister - Jennifer McMahon
78. Horrible Histories: Savage Stone Age - Terry Deary and Martin Brown
79. The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray - Robert Schnakenberg
80. Tenth of December - George Saunders
81. Salvage the Bones - Jesmyn Ward
82. Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders - Julianna Baggott
83. Your Alien - Tammi Sauer and Goro Fujita
84. Sloth Slept On - Frann Preston-Gannon
85. Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth - Jeff Anderson
86. Elwood Bigfoot: Wanted: Birdie Friends - Jill Esbaum and Nate Wragg
87. Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie - Lauren Redniss


88. The World According to Bob - James Bowen
89. Frozen Wild - Jim Arnosky
90. Ross Poldark - Winston Graham
91. Monster Trouble! - Lane Frederickson and Michael Robertson
92. Dining with Monsters - Agnese Baruzzi
93. The Color Monster: A Pop-Up Book of Feelings - Anna Llenas
94. Mind Your Monsters - Catherine Bailey and Oriol Vidal
95. Let Me Tell You - Shirley Jackson
96. Mud, Sweat, and Tears - Bear Grylls
97. Trigger Warning - Neil Gaiman
98. I Crawl Through It - A. S. King


99. Another Woman's Daughter - Fiona Sussman
100. Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
101. Three Days in the Country - Patrick Marber
102. The Fortnight in September - R. C. Sherriff
103. Illuminae - Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman
104. Five Children on the Western Front - Kate Saunders
105. Humans of New York: Stories - Brandon Stanton
106. The Tree - John Fowles
107. Sweet November - Aiken Morewood
108. Notorious RBG - I. Carmon and S. Knizhnick


109. Well Wished - Franny Billingsley (reread)
110. The Dust that Falls from Dreams - Louis de Bernieres
111. Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline (reread)
112. A Boy Called Christmas - Matt Haig
113. Tristan and Iseult (retelling) - Joseph B├Ędier


114. I Love It When You Talk Retro - Ralph Keyes
115. Blue Christmas - Mary Kay Andrews
116. Love Letters from Mount Rushmore - Richard Cerasani
117. Hello? - Liza Wiemer
118. A Child's Christmas in Wales - Dylan Thomas
119. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Saenz
120. The Past - Tessa Hadley
121. Everything She Forgot - Lisa Ballantyne
122. Sherlock Chronicles - Steve Tribe

©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, January 01, 2016

Happy New Year!

Wishing you all the best in 2016.

©2016 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.