Monday, February 29, 2016

Monday Malarkey

Monday Malarkey is a little late, today, because someone fell asleep during the news. Oops. 

Recent arrivals:

  • A Walk in the Sun by Harry Brown (purchased - and already read; review forthcoming) 
  • The Ones that Matter Most by Rachael Herron (from Penguin/NAL for review)

Books finished last week:

  • Normal Norman by Tara Lazar and S. Britt
  • A Walk in the Sun by Harry Brown

Currently reading:

  • Lone Star by Paullina Simons

Last week's posts:

In other news:

Hmm, can't think of anything. Tomorrow is the first of March (good grief, you can almost hear the whoosh noise as 2016 is flying past) so I can start my next classic: Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote. I didn't want to read it too soon because it's a discussion book, so I've been waiting till March. And, the cats are pretty much back to normal, now:

I'm almost positive that their fights (which occasionally still do occur, but rarely) are due to neighborhood cats roaming around the house, so I've been researching homemade cat repellents to splash around the house. We'll probably always have cats walking through our yard but it can't hurt to try to keep them as far away from the windows as possible. It's so nice to see the girls cuddling and sharing spaces well, again.

©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, February 26, 2016

Fiona Friday - Hanging out with Al

They're both pretty talkative.

©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.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

I bought Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson when it was recommended to me for the #Diversiverse reading challenge, which I completely failed. But, when I realized it's Black History Month, I thought, "Yes! Another excuse to read Brown Girl Dreaming!" Not that I needed an excuse but it's kind of fun to read thematically, isn't it?

Brown Girl Dreaming is a memoir written in verse and it tells the story of the author's life, from her birth in Ohio to her move to South Carolina and then to New York City (and onward).

What I loved about Brown Girl Dreaming:

  • It is written in a way that places you squarely in the author's shoes, so that you really get an understanding of what it's like to experience racial prejudice.
  • There are many people to absolutely fall in love with. I adored Jacqueline's South Carolina grandparents. She described them with genuine affection; you can't help but love them as much as she clearly did. I also loved her best friend in New York and her best friend's mother.
  • I loved reading about the differences in culture between the three places that the author lived in her youth and how they shaped her.
  • The story of her childhood writing and how she grew in her writing parallels my own writing experiences in many ways, except, of course, for the fact that she is a very successful author and I'm not. I have to say Brown Girl Dreaming stirred up that yearning to try harder in a way very little has, in recent years. 
  • The author is also much like me in having experienced a great deal of loss. She's so positive, though, never maudlin but simply grateful for the ways her loved ones have contributed to making her the person she is. 
  • She has such a friendly, upbeat voice that you can't help but come out of the book wishing you knew the author. 

What I disliked about Brown Girl Dreaming:

  • Nothing. It's a 5-star book.

A favorite excerpt:

Highly recommended - An absolutely perfect choice for expanding your reading by people of color, a wonderfully-written memoir that evokes time and place brilliantly, and a good read for anyone interested in writing, as well.

©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, February 24, 2016

Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian

I'm going to use the cover description because I think it's well-written without giving away too much:

When Orhan's brilliant and eccentric grandfather, Kemal Türkoglu, who built a dynasty out of making kilim rugs, is found dead, submerged in a vat of dye, Orhan inherits the decades-old business. But Kemal has left the family estate to a stranger thousands of miles away, an aging woman in a retirement home in Los Angeles. Intent on righting this injustice, Orhan unearths a story that, if told, has the power to undo the legacy upon which Orhan's family is built, a story that could unravel his own future.

Orhan's Inheritance has a dual historical/contemporary storyline and it's unfortunately another book that didn't grab me for almost the same reasons as the book I mentioned yesterday, What She Knew. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that the woman who has inherited Orhan's home is a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. The author makes that clear pretty early on; she's living in a home for elderly people of Armenian descent and when the narrative shifts to the historical viewpoint, it's immediately evident that the genocide is about to occur.

Well, heck, maybe I'm just having a hard time with hard times. When I started reading Orhan's Inheritance, I just didn't know if I wanted to go through the genocide portions of the book. It is such a horrifying period of history. However, it's also an important one because it's not as widely known (and not acknowledged by Turkey, to this day, from my understanding) that I took a break from the book and then returned to it when I felt like I could move forward.

Recommended but not a favorite - I didn't dislike Orhan's Inheritance; I just found it difficult to get through because I'm not tolerating sad books very well, lately. Again, I must repeat that I'm having a weird reading year and I need to work harder at setting books aside when they're not working for me. I've found in the past that timing is everything; I'm a very moody reader. And, Orhan's Inheritance is a good story that evokes the time and place well. I am having difficulty reading tragic books but I definitely recommend it, particularly to lovers of historical fiction.

Side note: I had never heard of the Armenian Genocide till I read The Sandcastle Girls, a few years ago. I reread that review and found that I was confused when I read The Sandcastle Girls (I mentioned needing maps and having to look up the genocide because of the fact that I knew nothing about it). This time, I had no trouble with the time and place because I was already familiar with it.

Good news: Tomorrow's review is about a book I absolutely loved. And, I am definitely working harder at sticking to my usual, "If it's not clicking, set it aside," commitment. Maybe it's not always bad to be reminded of what works for you.

©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, February 23, 2016

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan is December 2015 release from HarperCollins that tells the story of a child's disappearance, the way the mother becomes a public scapegoat when she does a poor job of appealing to the public for help finding her son, and how a detective develops insomnia and other issues after he thinks he's made a terrible mistake.

Rather than using a single narrative, author Gilly Macmillan tells the story of 8-year-old Ben's disappearance through mother Rachel Jenner's viewpoint, along with the transcripts of the detective's sessions with a psychiatrist and articles and comments on social media. She does a pretty terrific job of showing how easily a person can be tried by the jury of public opinion and how appearances are not always what they seem.

Having said that, What She Knew was just a so-so read for me and I think that is almost entirely down to timing. The story didn't grab me until I reached about page 150 (out of nearly 500 pages) so I should have probably put it aside. I also admit to being so worried that the child was going to turn up dead that I kept putting off the reading. It does not bother me at all to flip to the end of a book if I'm worried it's not going to turn out the way I'm hoping; I have no idea why I didn't bother just doing that (apart from the fact that I had a migraine most of the week), but eventually I got over myself and the pace picked up. I didn't love the ending but I won't tell you why because it's a spoiler.

Recommended but not a favorite, probably due to bad timing - In spite of the fact that I never did fall in love with What She Knew, I can tell you that there were moments that I really appreciated the depth of emotion portrayed by the author and I thought the use of social media and the way people make judgments without knowing all the facts is timely. I've talked to several friends who found the book a very fast-paced read so I want to reiterate the fact that I think it was just bad timing for me.

Total unrelated note:  I completely forgot to put links to last week's reads in my Monday Malarkey post, yesterday. The post has been updated and republished to fix that error.

©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, February 22, 2016

Monday Malarkey

Well, huh, I guess this is just going to be one of those off reading years. I hope not, but it certainly has gotten off to a terrible start. Last week, I only read one book . . . again.  I don't think it was the book's fault although it didn't do much for me. There were just a couple of days I didn't feel like reading at all. On the plus side, Fiona willingly posed with the arrivals. Upper.

Recent arrivals (not in the order shown above):

  • America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie,
  • World Gone By by Dennis Lehane, and 
  • The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse - all from HarperCollins for review
  • Euphoria by Lily King - purchased for April F2F discussion
  • The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway - purchased on a whim (thanks to Carrie)

Not pictured (because it arrived about 10 minutes ago):

  • Normal Norman by Tara Lazar and S. Britt - from Sterling Children's Books for review 

Books finished last week:

  • What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

Currently reading:

  • Absolutely nothing. I'm sure I'll start a new novel, today (since I just finished What She Knew, early this morning) but I haven't even thought about what to read next, yet. I will probably continue reading the Kate Hudson book on how she stays slim, tonight, even though what little I've read was meh.

Last week's posts:

In other news:

It took a few years but this girl has totally become my lap buddy. I love it. All I have to do is put a blanket across my lap and up she comes.

©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, February 19, 2016

Fiona Friday - Decisions, decisions

I was in one room and Isabel was in another when she let out a howl. I went to ask her what was up and she gave me her, "I don't know what to do with myself" look. So, I peeked under the curio cabinet to see if she was upset because she'd lost a toy. It's one of those tricky places that eat toys -- the little furry arms aren't long enough to reach them. I could see there were quite a few toys near the back of the cabinet so I fetched a ruler and knocked out everything you see.

Then, of course, she gave me that perplexed look because there were way too many toys and how's a cat supposed to know which one to start batting around? Decisions, decisions.

©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.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Weirdo Simpatico by Katy Bourne

First things first: I love that cover. It's not only appealing, it's also perfect thematically.

Weirdo Simpatico by Katy Bourne is a book of flash fiction containing 50 stories (and a few more photos of those tiny books). The author asked friends to give her a single word to use as a story starter and then gathered the stories she came up with and self-published them in one slim volume.

One of my favorite stories is "Boom," the first in a series of stories about two typical little boys getting into all sorts of trouble. You should be able to click on the photograph to enlarge.

Cosmo and Dexter appear in several of the stories and, of course, as a mother of boys they remind me of what it was like having two young rapscallions to deal with. I'm hoping Katy will write an entire book starring Cosmo and Dexter. They're a hoot.

Another favorite is the story of a man who can't decide which container is the right one for his empty coffee cup and mutters, "This is all propaganda," before throwing his cup on the ground.

Highly recommended - Clever, funny, sharp stories about everyday people that feel like real-life anecdotes. While I can zone in on a few personal favorites, the truth is that I loved them all -- a very unusual occurrence. I haven't read as much as I normally do, this year, but Weirdo Simpatico is one of my favorite reads, so far in 2016, and I'll be reading it over and over and over, again. I adore flash fiction when it's done well.

Full disclosure: The author was in my high school graduating class and sent me a copy of Weirdo Simpatico but only after I'd read an excerpt and told her I was planning to buy a copy. Her writing is consistently first rate and my opinion would not have changed if I'd forked out the money.

©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, February 16, 2016

Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham

Hypocrisy is the most difficult and nerve-racking vice that any man can pursue; it needs an unceasing vigilance and a rare detachment of spirit. It cannot, like adultery or gluttony, be practised at spare moments; it is a whole-time job. 

~ p. 15

I stopped him. 'Edward,' I said. He looked startled. For a moment I could have sworn he did not know who I was. 'What avenging furies urge you with such hot haste through the rakish purlieus of Pimlico?' I asked.

~ p. 241

Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham is my third read by Maugham and my second classic read for 2016.

Told in first person, Cakes and Ale tells the story of how the narrator met now-famous and deceased author Ted Driffield when he was a boy and Driffield was married to a disreputable former barmaid, Rosie. Rosie was known for carrying on with just about anyone. The narrator, a writer himself, is asked by his friend Roy to share all he knows about Driffield to help fill some of the gaps in his knowledge about the author after the second Mrs. Driffield has asked Roy to write her husband's life story. But, neither Roy nor the second Mrs. Driffield want Roy to bother mentioning Rosie, the first Mrs. Driffield. So, the narrator recalls the truth of what he knows about Rosie.

Cakes and Ale jumps back and forth in time a bit, which can be a little confusing, and the ending is abrupt. But, I thought it was excellent. Rosie is a scandalous character but charming, as well. The narrator was entranced with her from his boyhood and, having spent a great deal of time with the Driffields over the years, understands her like no other living man. The book winks at the reality of how inaccurate a biography can be, based on the way an author chooses to portray his subject. By skipping past the years with Rosie, Roy has chosen to ignore the heart of how Driffield's characterization emerged. But, because the narrator of Cakes and Ale has secrets of his own, he doesn't go out of his way to correct Roy.

I noticed that the copyright page indicates that Cakes and Ale was originally entitled Skeletons in the Closet, a much more apt title because that's exactly what it's about -- the hidden events of both the author's and narrator's lives that are kept from view but which inform their lives.

In fact, I never could figure out quite where the title Cakes and Ale might have come from. Rosie is a former barmaid and Driffield liked to hang out at an unfashionable public house in his younger years, so I suppose that could be the origin of the "ale" in the title. But, the only time I recall reading anything about cakes was in the odd scene involving tea and cakes. There is one particular scene in which the narrator is persuaded to go to tea at the home of a woman whose influence can make or break an author. That scene took place after a crucial moment in the book (I don't want to give away the plot point) and the narrator had been working all day. He was extremely hungry but because he arrived late for tea, his hostess assumed aloud that he probably didn't want anything and the poor narrator sat there, hungry and thirsty, while she nibbled on the leftovers. That was a particularly irritating but telling scene, showing that many of the narrator's crowd thought it was perfectly fine using his friendship with Driffield for selfish purposes, so he was equally justified in sharing just enough to satisfy them.

Highly recommended - While I wouldn't call Cakes and Ale my favorite Maugham, it is nonetheless an excellent read that starts out slowly and gradually becomes more compelling. Rosie, in spite of her flaws, is a delightful character.

©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, February 15, 2016

Monday Malarkey - Out of the slump she rises

Well, it took a few days but my week off did finally help me pull out of the reading slump that's been plaguing me in 2016. Whew! So relieved.

Recent arrivals:

  • Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones - from William Morrow for review
  • Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote - purchased for F2F discussion
  • Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst - purchased
  • One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis - From William Morrow for review
  • The Miracle Girl by Andrew Roe - Unsolicited from Algonquin
  • The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford - From William Morrow for review
  • Pretty Happy by Kate Hudson - from Dey Street for review

Hmm, #ReadMyOwnDamnBooksFail? Pretty sure you're not supposed to add heavily to the quantity of books you own before reading them off your own damn shelves.

I'm also mostly certain (fingers crossed) that's the end of the book orders I've placed, for now. The two purchases were from Book Depository, so it took a while for them to arrive. Since Other Voices, Other Rooms is a modern classic and my F2F book group's March selection, they've very kindly chosen my classic read for March. It's going to be difficult waiting to break into it, I confess.

Books finished last week:

  • Cakes and Ale by Somerset Maugham - Loved it; review is in draft form.
  • Weirdo Simpatico by Katy Bourne - Flash fiction! And, very well done, I might add.
  • Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian - Had trouble getting through this one but it turned out better than expected. 

Currently reading:

  • Pretty Happy by Kate Hudson - Interesting, but so far not thrilled with this one. I was hoping for more recipes. Near as I can tell, there are exactly 3. 
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson - for Black History month.

In other news:

I meant to post for Book Blogger Appreciation Week, today, but I'm writing during a break between storms. The first hours of the day were spent sheltering in the utility room after my weather radio told me in no uncertain terms that I was to find myself a place to hide, post haste. Bossy old thing.

©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, February 08, 2016

Monday Malarkey - A book pile, a cat photo, a week off

I knew this was going to be a big week for arrivals because Huzzybuns went to the UK and I sent him with a list of Persephone Books to purchase if he had time. I was not expecting quite this many arrivals, though!

Recent Arrivals (top to bottom):

  • Weirdo Simpatico: Little Stories for Short Attention Spans by Katy Bourne - sent by author
  • The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski,
  • Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski,
  • Maman, What Are We Called Now? by Jacqueline Mesnil-Amar, and
  • The Hopkins Manuscript by R. C. Sherriff -  all purchased from Persephone Books (thanks, Huz)
  • Alfa Romeo 1300 and Other Miracles by Fabio Bartolomei - Purchased
  • The Secret of Raven Point by Jennifer Vanderbes - Purchased 
  • All Stories Are Love Stories by Elizabeth Percer,
  • Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear, and
  • Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo by Boris Fishman - all from HarperCollins for review

I don't normally accept books directly from authors but I noticed my high school classmate, Katy, had written a book of flash fiction when a member of our graduating class was killed by a drunk driver and I visited a few pages of other classmates on Facebook, a couple weeks ago. I read an excerpt of Weirdo Simpatico and loved it so I planned to buy a copy but Katy offered to send a copy to me. So far, I am finding it a tiny, brilliant gem. I like to let short stories rumble around in my head rather than whip through them quickly, so I'll take my time reading and then I'll probably read it a second and third time because, frankly, I'm already in love with her writing.

Alfa Romeo 1300 and The Secret of Raven Point were both on my Paperback Swap wish list. I've decided to go ahead and try to buy as many of those that I've most eagerly awaited (secondhand, if possible) as I can. I discovered that a few are not only not in print but also priced so high it's no wonder they didn't become available after 8 years of sitting on my wish list. The two I've bought so far were affordable and arrived in like new condition.

Last week's posts:

Books finished last week:

  • What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin - Just one book, ugh. Insomnia is killing my reading.

Currently reading:

  • Cakes and Ale by Somerset Maugham and
  • Weirdo Simpatico by Katy Bourne

I have some other books with bookmarks in them but I haven't touched them for at least a week.

In other news:

It's been too cold to paint a second coat on the kitty castle and according to the weather forecast it won't be warm enough till Thursday. So, the castle project is on hold till then. The cats don't seem to care.

Since I've already reviewed my most recent read, I'm going to take a week off from blogging to focus on reading and writing (fiction, not blog posts) and painting and cleaning, blah, blah. Here's an early Fiona Friday pic of Isabel peeking at me through the windows of the castle. I'll be back next Monday. Hope everyone has a fabulous week!

©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, February 06, 2016

What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin

Quick! Someone interview me! 

Smelly Candle: I volunteer.

Bookfool: Thanks. I didn't know where to start.

SC: That's what I'm here for. That and wafting pleasant odors throughout your library. What is What Remains of Me about?

BF:  It's the story of convicted murderer Kelly Michelle Lund. Five years after her release from prison, where she spent 25 years serving time for the murder of a movie director, John McFadden, her father-in-law is killed and the evidence leads to Kelly. But, did Kelly shoot her father-in-law? Was she even guilty of John McFadden's death?

SC: So, why were you having trouble starting to write about What Remains of Me?

BF: It's got a lot of twists and turns. Kelly's story is told via two timelines as the book jumps back and forth between 1980, the year she killed McFadden (or, did she?) and 2010, when Sterling Marshall is found dead. There's enough complexity to the story to make it hard to describe.

SC: What happened in 1980 to lead to the murder?

BF: There's too much to go into in a review and I don't want to spoil anything but in 1980 Kelly is a vulnerable high school girl whose fraternal twin sister tragically died, two years before. Kelly still mourns her. Their mother is bitter and over-protective. Her father, a stuntman, was badly burned in a movie and he's still working but heavily addicted to painkillers. As the book opens, Kelly meets actor Sterling Marshall's daughter, Bellamy, and they become friends. Unfortunately, Bellamy is a rebel who gets Kelly into trouble as they experiment with drugs. Bellamy introduces Kelly to Vee (short for Vincent), son of John McFadden, and through these friendships Kelly begins to unravel what happened to her sister, Catherine, before her death.

SC: And, what happens in 2010?

BF: In 2010, Kelly is married to Bellamy's little brother, Shane, and living in the desert about two hours' drive from Hollywood. On the night of the murder, she goes for a long drive and returns home covered in blood. It seems fairly straightforward; there's plenty of evidence placing her at the scene. But, why would Kelly murder her father-in-law when she has spent five years living quietly, well away from the Hollywood scene? After all these years, will Kelly find out there's more to her sister's story than she imagined?

SC:  Sounds interesting. What did you think of the writing and characterization?

BF:  The writing is good but nothing that stands out. I would call it typical for the type of book -- written in a way that places you in the scene without noticing the writing. There's a certain skill in the ability of a writer to not stand out. The characters felt very real and three-dimensional to me. They each have their own secrets and problems, things that shape them but which they don't necessarily share with anyone. I liked the unreliability of just about everyone. There is a lot of implication, a lot of unknown that the author gradually shades in.

SC: What did you like the least about What Remains of Me?

BF: There were moments that I was pulled out of a scene because of an inaccuracy or something I thought was questionable. For example, in one scene that takes place in 1980, Bellamy (who is driving) "rolled the windows down" in a Volkswagen Rabbit. As I recall, windows were not electronic in 1980 (we actually owned a Volkswagen in 1980). So, unless Bellamy leaned over Kelly to crank the passenger-side window down, that moment could not have happened as described. However, I should add that I read an ARC that I got from the library and the book is a February 2016 release -- I have not seen the final print version. Some of the errors I found may have been edited out.

SC:  What did you like the most about What Remains of Me?

BF:  It kept me guessing all the way to the end. I love that. There were many times that the answers to the many questions posed in What Remains of Me seemed transparent. They were not.

SC: Recommended or not?

BF: Definitely recommended. What Remains of Me should satisfy psychological thriller readers and those who enjoy mysteries. The reader can't fully understand what Kelly is thinking because she keeps certain bits of her past locked in metaphorical drawers, which makes untangling her thoughts and motivations interesting. And the murder is not necessarily what it seems, so there's definitely a mystery aspect. Harlan Coben's cover blurb says, "Label me a big fan," and, hmm, yes, I do believe fans of Coben would like Gaylin's writing.

SC: Thank you for allowing me to interview you. I don't know if you've noticed this, but I'm a candle and you've never lit me. Not once. I have a purpose, you know, a purpose that has been unfulfilled.

BF: Yes, sorry. You smell perfectly lovely without being lit, though, you see. Thanks for jumping in to interview me when I was desperate.

SC: ----Goes back to corner of desk to sulk----

What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin is a February, 2016 release from William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. It is 374 pages long if you include the author acknowledgments (I always read them . . . do you?) and my copy came from a cart of ARCs being given away in my former library.

©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, February 05, 2016

Fiona Friday - Building the castle

This is definitely not going to be attractive enough to end up on Pinterest but my wing-it cat castle creation is going well. I've put on the first coat of paint.

Unfortunately, I didn't realize it was below 60° when I was painting. See the bubbles on the upper left? That's what happens when you paint at below the recommended temperature. The paint didn't adhere in some spots. I haven't decided whether or not I'll bother pulling the bubbled bits of paint off before the second coat (which will probably then lead to a third coating -- and there's enough surface area that one coat = one can). The cats don't seem to care about the fact that it's ugly.

I may, in fact, make it uglier by putting duct tape around the crenellations. The upper level is currently blocked off, but there is a hole they'll be able to climb through and both kitties enjoy chewing on cardboard. I don't want them to get a mouthful of pebble paint.

©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.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Change of pace - making corner bookmarks

I'm not sure who to thank for posting on Facebook but this morning I was flipping through my timeline and found an article entitled "Forget dog-earring and bookmarks that fall, make your own easy bookmark instead!" I clicked on it and read the instructions. It looked easy and fun and I just happen to have quite a bit of origami paper I haven't broken into, at least partly because it's so attractive. Look at how the Japanese pack origami paper!

And, that's not even the fanciest. I love the way they tuck a bookmark into some of the origami packages. The squares of paper shown above are pretty small, maybe 4" x 4", at most. I decided to go with that size because I didn't want to break into the larger and more elaborate package. Here's my first attempt at folding a corner bookmark:

I love it! Rob of Rob Around Books told me he cuts the corners off envelopes to make his own "cheap and plentiful" corner bookmarks. And, Marie of The Boston Bibliophile suggested reinforcing the long end of the bookmark (before folding) with a 1/4" strip of light cardboard or scrapbook paper. I love it that I have such clever friends!

©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, February 02, 2016

January Reads in Review (2016) and How Those Goals are Shaping Up

Last year, I didn't manage to keep up with monthly roundups, so one of my goals for the year is to review each month's reading in brief, as I used to do, and update on how other goals are shaping up.

January reads:

1. Tales of Accidental Genius by Simon Van Booy - I am always impressed with Simon's writing. It's melodic and confident, startling, humorous, gentle, and so deeply human. I'm also usually so blown away that I don't know what to say. So, I'll be rereading this collection of short stories (and one novella), soon. I have to read all of his books twice before I feel like I can say something coherent. If you've missed out on his writing, please don't waste another moment.

2. Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson - The story of a young woman who has survived a deadly illness, living as a pariah in 1920s English society, and the knowledge that she will probably remain single, forever. With fresh determination to live her life fully after her close call, she heads to France to stay with her aunt and take painting lessons. I had trouble buying into the romance so this was not a favorite but it's competently written.

3. Don't Even Think About It by George Marshall - One of those books that I admire so much I'm having trouble knowing where to begin. It's about a topic most people don't want to discuss (climate change) and goes into the reasoning behind denial and dismissal. Absolutely fascinating analysis gleaned from the author's many years of activism and discussions with both scientists and vocal deniers of climate change.

4. My Story That I Like Best, ed. by Ray Long - A marvelous anthology of short stories gathered by the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine during its literary years, in 1925. Tied with Tales of Accidental Genius for favorite of the month.

5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - This month's classic selection, Nabokov's disturbing and discussion-worthy tale, the story of a pedophile who is able to get his mitts on the step-daughter from his short-lived marriage and exploit her to his heart's content. Exhausting, brilliant, uncomfortable, and absolutely fascinating.

6. Front Lines by Michael Grant - Alternate WWII young adult history in which women go to war. With focus on four girls who join up, their training, and their first action on the front lines in Africa. First in a series, stands alone fine. After a slow start, I thought the author did an admirable job of picking up the pace and showing character growth.

7. Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant - Part memoir, part social commentary about life in Mississippi's Delta region. Contains some very interesting anecdotes but having lived in Mississippi for quite some time, I really did not enjoy reading about its problems and I thought the author's heavy drinking was tiresome. Loved the story about golfing with Morgan Freeman and the tale of his Delta wedding.

8. From the Land of the Moon by Milena Agus (translation) - The story of a Sicilian woman who believes love runs away from her until she goes to a facility for treatment of kidney stones, where she meets a veteran of WWII and falls madly in love. The ending is a puzzler. I will likely reread this one to try to figure out just what the heck the author did to me.

Update on goals:

1. Teaching myself Latin - I started with Wheelock's Latin but when I reached the first exercise and could neither translate any of the sentences nor find a solution key, I bought a different book that is made specifically for homeschooling or self-study. So far, it's going well. I'm enjoying myself and feel like I'm making decent progress.

2. Returning to painting - Way back in the years between children, I used to paint with oils. I stopped when I became pregnant with my second child because I was concerned about using chemicals while expecting and, as it turned out, he was such a hellion that the paints stayed in the closet for 20 years. I haven't pulled out the oil paint because I don't remember a thing about it and I know I'd have to replace many items (plus, I only have a table-top easel and can easily visualize the cats sticking a paw on a canvas then licking toxic paints). Instead, I bought an inexpensive set of acrylics and have set up a painting spot in the breakfast nook. The texture is so different from oils! It's going to take some getting used to and I am terrible -- my first painting looked like something a 5-year-old would come up with but without the visible joy and inhibition of a child. It's a very meditative, relaxing hobby, though, and I'm going to keep it up.

3.  Writing - Started well, went splat. This happens to me a lot since the years when I suddenly found that my muse had been mercilessly stabbed and gone into a coma; it's not unexpected. However, I still cannot bear not writing and need this mode of expression. So, February 1 it was back to Square 1, challenging myself to write daily. Fingers crossed this month will be an improvement. I will always have the longing to write fiction; I just have to kick up the motivation to practice.

4. Reading classics (one per month) - So far, so good. I have quite an extensive collection of classics so this also feeds into the decision to work harder at reading the books I already own (in loose association with Andi's #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge, which is otherwise going well). I loved and hated Lolita and am thrilled to have finally read it after many years of walking past the book, sighing and thinking, "Someday."

How was your reading month?

©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, February 01, 2016

Monday Malarkey - Arrivals and posts and plans and such

Happy Monday! I had a good blogging week and a so-so reading week. How was yours?

Recent Arrivals:

  • Pied Piper by Nevil Shute (purchased)
  • From the Land of the Moon by Milena Agus (received via Paperback Swap)
  • Come Away With Me by Karma Brown (purchased - not pictured)

I was reading a little about Nevil Shute when I went to look up some of his books on a whim and, I confess, I bought a new copy of Pied Piper solely because I love the cover. It's an old enough title that I would have gone for a used copy, otherwise. I bought Come Away With Me because of some gushy comments I read (and because it sounded good). And, From the Land of the Moon is probably the last book I'll ever receive from Paperback Swap. When they abruptly began charging a subscription fee, last year, I still had over a dozen credits I wasn't willing to give up so I paid to keep going. It took almost the entire year to use up my remaining credits. I think a lot of people must have abandoned PBS due to the fee because the books were offered much slower in 2015 than the year before. At any rate, I'm totally out of credits, now.

Finished this week:

Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant - This was my F2F group's choice for January and I think I've mentioned I missed the meeting. I decided to go ahead and finish, even though I found the reading uncomfortable. There are some interesting anecdotes about the challenges of living in a plantation home and I particularly loved reading about the author's Delta wedding, toward the end of the book, but much of the focus is social commentary on racial interaction, poor schools, crime, drugs, corruption -- all the seedy yucky things about life in Mississippi. To be honest, I found it pretty depressing and I don't feel much like writing about the book. So, this paragraph will serve as the entirety of my review.

I also finished From the Land of the Moon by Milena Agus, last night. It's a slim volume and since last week's reading dragged, I wanted a quick read to make me feel a little better about finishing up the month.

Last week's posts:

Currently reading: 

  • Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian - A contemporary/historical blend, the historical portion takes place before and during the Armenian Genocide and I've found myself so nervous about getting to the genocide portion that I set the book aside for a couple days. I will probably add another title to the mix, tonight, and return to Orhan's Inheritance later in the week.
  • How to Be Funny & Other Writings by Will Rogers - A series of writings both published and unpublished prior to this volume's printing in 1983 and annotated. I'm a long-time fan of Will Rogers but his comedy was based on current events and personalities, much like TV shows like The Daily Show, so the annotations are crucial to understanding what he's talking about. Unfortunately, the annotations are all at the back of the book so you have to keep a finger in the back and flip constantly. I'm getting used to it. 

Planning ahead:

In keeping with my goal to read at least one classic per month in 2016, my February choice is Cakes and Ale by Somerset Maugham. I'm kind of a Maugham fangirl, so I'm really looking forward to this one.

In other news:

I've learned a few things about cat stress, this week, thanks to the fact that the cats are still occasionally growling and hissing at each other. Most of the time they're fine and dandy and they got a clean bill of health, but something is eating Fiona. The vet told me a study was done that showed cats can be stressed by other felines in close proximity, even if they don't interact with them. They determined this by removing 20 stressed-out cats who were in the same apartment building but not living together to separate homes in the country (still indoors), where they became more relaxed and were cured of bladder infections without having to take antibiotics. Fascinating.

I also discovered that puzzle feeders can be a stress reducer. I don't have any puzzle toys but I may try to make one. I did know that giving cats the ability to climb helps. Mine, of course, have quite a nice cat tree but they haven't perched in it, lately; they've just climbed up and down and used the scratching bits. I've got a couple of boxes lying about so I'm going to also try to build them a little castle. If I don't cut a finger off and it looks decent I'll share a pic when I'm done. Pray for the safety of my digits, please.

©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.