Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dr. Who: Players by Terrance Dicks

Players by Terrance Dicks
Copyright 2013 (reprint)
BBC Books - Sci-fi/Fan Fiction - Dr. Who
306 pp.

First Sentence:

Outside the palace wall, the sewer-hatch slowly began to rise.

What led you to pick up Players?

I was sent replacements for the two Dr. Who books I got for tours I participated in with TLC Tours and the bonus book, Who*ology, because they were damaged in transit.  When the replacements were sent, the publicist threw in a couple extra titles, including Players, because I confessed that my family is addicted to Dr. Who (I think I neglected to mention the fact that my eldest son had a TARDIS-shaped groom's cake when he married, although that seems pretty relevant).  My husband and I read and discussed Players - very fun!  We seldom read the same books.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending.  

When the 6th Doctor and his assistant Peri arrive in the middle of the Boer War, they discover an assassin is targeting Winston Churchill.  Imprisoned with Churchill, they come up with a plan to escape, knowing how important Winston Churchill is to Britain's future (or past, depending upon how you look at it . . . oh, these timey-wimey dilemmas).  But, even after Churchill's close call during the Boer War, he is not out of danger.  

From the cover:  "The Doctor suspects the hidden hand of the Players, mysterious beings who regard human history as little more than a game.  With time running out, can the Doctor find the right moves to defeat them?"

Capsule Description:  6th Doctor Colin Baker finds that Winston Churchill is being targeted by assassins from a race of time-traveling beings who like to play games with human history, removing important characters to see how time will change.

Some thoughts:

I barely remember the 6th Doctor because I didn't like him, likely because Tom Baker was and will always be My Doctor.  I had a great deal of difficulty liking any of the other Doctors until that long gap and the appearance of Christopher Eccleston (whose Northern accent reminded me of a friend from Derby, England -- I never could understand him, either).  

Now that time has passed, I can enjoy the old Dr. Who series in a way I couldn't, before, simply because everything post-Tom Baker struck me as depressingly lacking, at the time.  Unfortunately, I don't recall anything that stood out about Colin Baker, other than his hair.  That may have been good in a way; I didn't enter the read with any great expectations.  I can't comment on the characterization, for that reason.

My husband, on the other hand, remembers him well and thought the characterization was fine.  I personally liked the fact that the author went to the effort of changing this particular doctor out of his ridiculous clown suits.

Husband didn't care about that but how I was happy not to have to imagine the Doctor in that get-up. 

What did you like best about Players?

Both Huzzybuns and I liked the glimpse into history.  There are, as I recall, three distinct settings.  First, Peri and the Doctor land in South Africa just before Churchill is captured while removing a derailed train car from the tracks, so that the passengers can continue on to safer territory.  Then, there's an interlude in which another Doctor (the 2nd, as I recall) has a little adventure with the Doctor, and then off to the future, when Churchill and others are trying to convince the new king -- the one who would end up marrying twice-divorced Wallis Simpson -- to abdicate so that Great Britain will not end up with a Nazi-sympathizing king.  There are Nazis involved and both the Doctor and Churchill are now targeted. At one point Peri is kidnapped.  Pretty exciting.  

What did you dislike about Players?

I had a little trouble buying into the dialogue. It just felt wrong to me, for some reason, whenever Churchill spoke.  My husband disagreed.  That may fall into the Expectations category.  I also found it jarring when the Doctor began to reflect on his second meeting with Churchill (technically his first, but it falls second in the book) and the next chapter flashed back so that for a time you were not actually reading about Colin Baker but, I think, Patrick Troughton.  At any rate, you switch Doctors for at least a chapter.  That didn't bother my husband, either, although he said it did take a short time adjusting to the switch.

RecommendedThere is a lot of action in this book and the quick pacing makes it a very adventurous read. Both my husband and I enjoyed Players, particularly because we felt like the various scenes immersed us in bits of Churchill's life story, thus the reading was a learning experience.  I also went dashing off to read up on the Boer War a bit, although the Doctor explains the Boer War to Peri. Very helpful.  Kiddo has not yet read Players but I know he'll love it for the history, too.  

©2013 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, August 30, 2013

Fiona Friday - Flashback starring our Little Miss Sunshine

Flashing back, again, to a pic of our Sunshine.  We lost her five years ago and Kiddo still talks about how much he misses her and wants an orange tabby of his own, someday.  She was a "puppy cat," determined to make everyone her friend (and very successful at swaying everyone she met).

The parrot you see in this photo came in a little treasure chest that contained a children's book, the parrot and a few other silly objects that are long gone.  Once Shiny decided the Great Outdoors was not for her, she began hunting small stuffed animals.  The parrot was her favorite.  When she died, none of us could stand to look at it so it went straight into the trash can (it had pretty much been hunted and bunny-kicked to death, by that point).

Speaking of kitties, all three have taken turns getting closed into a room accidentally, this week.  Fiona and River ended up in a walk-in closet. Isabel was closed into the utility room.  Fiona was the most vocal about being trapped, which is interesting because she's normally the least vocal of the three.  

©2013 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, August 29, 2013

The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon

The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon

Copyright 2013
Touchstone Books - Fantasy
262 pp. (includes a reading group guide and conversation with the author)

First Sentence:

I was the girl with the long long hair, trapped in the tower.

What led you to pick up The Fairest of Them All?

I was offered The Fairest of Them All for review and accepted it because I enjoyed one of Carolyn Turgeon's previous books, Godmother.  Even though I remember very well how much I disliked the ending of Godmother, I also remember the way the story captured my imagination so I was excited to see that the author had a new fantasy release.  In fact, I watched my porch like a hawk, I was so excited.  

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending.  

There may be some spoilers in this description. I'm not certain but skip this part and read the publisher's blurb from The Fairest of Them All, here, if you're concerned.

Rapunzel lives in the forest with her adopted mother, Mathena, a witch who calls herself a healer. Mathena used to work in the palace but she had to leave when tragedy and a change in beliefs from mystical ways to religion caused her to fall out of favor.  

When the prince hears Rapunzel singing, he climbs her hair into the tower and they spend a night of passion together.  Then, he marries a princess from a neighboring kingdom and they have a daughter, Snow White.  While Rapunzel waits and hopes for the return of her prince, she learns to heal and weave spells of her own and tends to the garden with Mathena.  Then the queen dies mysteriously and Rapunzel is given the chance to take her place.  But, can she learn to be the queen her kingdom needs?  What will happen when Rapunzel's magic mirror tells her she's no longer the fairest in the land?


Capsule description:  

A modern mash-up of "Rapunzel" and "Snow White" in which Rapunzel learns her adopted mother's witchy ways and becomes envious of beautiful Snow White.

What did you like best about The Fairest of Them All?

I loved the way the author blended two fairy tales to create a unique new story and I loved the descriptions of life in the forest, when Mathena and Rapunzel worked side-by-side in the gardens and healed the women who came to them for help.  Sometimes the writing was absolutely magical.

The trees stretched blackly into the sky, which we could barely see for the snow that kept falling, covering everything, hiding every sin except for those I was forced to remember.  

And, I did like the fact that Rapunzel redeemed herself in the end and learned her true story.  Hints are dropped along the way but it takes Rapunzel a very long time to figure out she has been misled and find the right path. When she does, the result is a sigh-of-relief type of ending.

What did you dislike about The Fairest of Them All?

My first thought was, "This is so very, very dark," but after reading up on the original tale of Rapunzel, I was reminded that fairy tales are typically violent and tragic. The Brothers Grimm wrote some vicious tales.  I do like a heroine I can get behind and would have personally preferred a softening of Rapunzel, so I had to keep telling myself, "patience, patience" as I read, with hope, waiting for things to take a positive turn. It's very difficult to find anything redeeming at all about Rapunzel till the end and, even then, she has already gone too far in many ways but that's probably part of the point.  It's really a fascinating mash-up.

Recommended - A surprising blend of old fairy tales with modern storytelling that is imaginative, dark, creepy and oddly compelling.  The Fairest of Them All would actually make a very nice choice for the RIP VIII challenge.  It was a little too dark for me, in some ways, but I still enjoyed the story and -- since I am a person who craves sweetness and light -- my preference is certainly not a criticism of the storytelling.

I received a copy of The Fairest of Them All from Touchstone in return for an unbiased review

©2013 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.

Mini review - The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen

The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen
Copyright 2013 
William Morrow - Fiction
298 pp. - includes Q & A with author and Reading Group Discussion Questions

The Butterfly Sister is about Ruby Rousseau, a woman who left college without graduating after the painful end of an affair.

When a suitcase is delivered to Ruby's home by mistake and it turns out the owner, Beth (from whom she borrowed the suitcase briefly, the label changed to Ruby's address and never switched back) has gone missing, Ruby returns to her former college in search of answers, finding mystery, danger, and a much deeper story of broken lives than she ever could have imagined.

I found The Butterfly Sister gripping, once I got into it, but there are a few scenes that I found uncomfortable because they were poorly written (with stilted dialogue), a few misused words and occasional mixed-tense problems.  The farther you get into the book, the better it becomes, though.  So, while I had to shut off my internal editor for a time and I didn't love the heroine, in the end I enjoyed the read and found the ending satisfying.

Recommended to readers who like a touch of mystery and a New Orleans setting (which is only occasionally used, but authentic).  The Butterfly Sister has been promoted as a great "beach read" and I would agree with that.  It's fairly light reading, if a bit dark - great for travel.

I received a copy of The Butterfly Sister from William Morrow in return for an unbiased review.

©2013 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, August 27, 2013

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, Part 2 - The F2F Group Meeting

I've already written my review of Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, so this particular post will be limited to a description of our face-to-face group meeting. 

Recap of what Burial Rites is about:

Burial Rites is about Agnes Magnúsdóttir, a woman convicted of murder and awaiting execution.  Because there are no facilities for holding convicts in Iceland, Agnes is sent to a family farm where she helps with the housekeeping and chores but is still a prisoner, the frigid temperatures and geography enough to keep her from any escape attempt. 

As Agnus gets to know the family and is counseled by a priest named Tóti, whom she personally requested because of a long-ago encounter, her story is slowly revealed. Is she, or is she not a brutal murderer? Burial Rites takes place in Iceland in the 1820s and is based on a true story. 

I'm unfortunately terrible at coming up with group discussion questions, so we got off to a rocky start.  I'd hoped to be the quiet one, since my day was spent fighting a vicious migraine (and I was not entirely processing, thanks to aftereffects of the medication I took) but our Fearless Leader came rushing to the door with the words, "We're so glad you're here! None of us knows what to say about this one." Eeks.

I confessed I didn't know where to start, either.  Little Brown is apparently in the process of coming up with discussion questions but they were not ready in time for our meeting (I did ask).  Part of the problem when we attempted to discuss the book was that everyone liked it.  Even the people who couldn't make it to the meeting but emailed or told our group leader their thoughts all thought the book was excellent.

I've often said the worst-case scenario at a book group is, "Everyone loves it; nobody has much to say," and I hate it that I was proven right during the discussion of Burial Rites.  Still, we did manage to discuss a few things:

  • How difficult it was to read the opening, in which Agnes was imprisoned in a dark, cold place, chained and filthy (a couple of us wished we could reach in and hose her down).  
  • The oddness of the assistant priest chosen to save Agnes' soul and how she chose him because he was one of the few people who ever did anything kind for Agnes.
  • The extreme difficulty of Agnes' life.  One of our members reminded us that the book took place in 1828, when there were "house children and yard children".  
  • The fact that Agnes was abandoned by her mother, lived a life of servitude and thought that moving in with Natan (the murdered man, who misled Agnes into believing she was going to be the housekeeper, rather than one of the regular servants) would improve her lot in life.  
  • The second dress Agnes acquired, thanks to moving in with Natan. We were all a little mind-boggled at the concept of owning only a single dress (How do you ever wash your one dress?) and talked about how people used to wash seldom and smell awful.
  • Natan's cruelty to Agnes. 
  • The living conditions on a farm and the typical layout of an Icelandic croft house, the way they were covered in turf to keep out the elements and the design of the shared bedroom/living areas.
  • Sex in a shared room and whether Agnes chose to ignore the fact that Natan was sleeping with the other female servant or really didn't know.
  • The real circumstances of Natan's murder and whether Agnes' part in it could be considered "murder".
  • The fact that Agnes was not allowed to tell her side of the story at trial.
  • The setting of the book and how impossible it would have been for Agnes to escape.
  • The strange fact that because Agnes' death served as an example, an axe had to be purchased for her execution.
  • The kindness of the farmer's wife, everyone's favorite character.
  • How Agnes managed to sway her biggest skeptic in the farmhouse.
  • What Natan really did for a living and why the single male involved in the murder (three were accused, two convicted) had reason to be angry with Natan.
  • Those crazy Icelandic place names and how nice it would have been to have a map. There was no map in the ARC but there will be one in the finished copy.

Sounds like we discussed more topics than I realized, now that I've written it down, but we did go off on a lot of little tangents.  I think just having a list of things to discuss would have been helpful. I'll work harder at listing such things when I'm the one who suggested the title or provided copies of the book, in the future. 

The bottom line is that everyone loved the book.  We agreed that it was well-written and even surprising for such a young, first-time author and that we admired the beauty of her writing.  

I'd like to add that I'm very impressed with my group for managing to share the limited number of copies so nicely.  We only received 10 copies of Burial Rites - not enough for our rather large group -- but only one of the people who showed up for the meeting had not managed to read the book, yet.  When the lone person who hadn't read confessed that she hadn't managed to acquire a copy, one of our other members said, "Here, you can read mine," and shoved it down the table.  I love my reading group.  

Burial Rites is scheduled for release on Sept. 10, 2013.  

Copies of Burial Rites were provided to my F2F group by Little, Brown.  

©2013 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, August 26, 2013

Monday Malarkey - Kitty flashback, reading, reviews and slow progress on the old house

Kitty Flashback:

The photo above is a shot of our dearly-departed Miss Spooky, taken in 2006.  Since I still don't have a new hard drive, I figured I might as well go way back in time to see what I've got in the files.  Wasn't she a beauty?

New Arrivals (link to description via each title):

  • Help for the Haunted by John Searles - from William Morrow for  review
  • Arlo's Artrageous Adventures by David La Rochelle and
  • The Buccaneering Book of Pirates by Saviour Pirotta and Mark Robertson - both unsolicited from Sterling Children's Books for review
  • The Intercept by Dick Wolf (autographed finished copy) and The Tilted World by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly (ARC) - in a prize pack from HarperCollins won in their summer giveaway.  I already had an ARC of The Tilted World so I gave the extra to my F2F group's fearless leader.  We're technically a Southern fiction group, although the group has been around a long time and discussions are no longer limited to Southern authors/titles.  I figured she'd appreciate it (and maybe consider it for future discussion).  She was thrilled.
  • Paperboy by Tony McCauley - from Harper for review


I had another terrific week, even though I took a lot of time and flipped through who-knows-how-many books, between reads.  Maybe it's an August thing, this distractibility.  I read:

  • The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon
  • Players by Terrance Dicks (a Dr. Who book)
  • The Book of Someday by Dianne Dixon

I enjoyed them all, but The Book of Someday was my favorite of that lot.  In the midst of this, I read 53 pages of Paris Was the Place by Susan Conley and DNF'd it.  I disliked the author's style from page 1, which surprised me.  I've read quite a few tweets by people who thought it was a great read and the book gets high ratings at Goodreads.  Oh, well.  To each his own.

Last week's reviews:

The only other post:

The old house:

Still taking forever.  We can only work on one room for a time, then paint, glue or spackling has to dry and we move on to removing wallpaper or patching walls, changing out outlets or ceiling fans or whatever else needs work.  Some flooring has had to be replaced and lots of trim and doors painted to match (one of the things we never got around to -- doors, ugh). We've got to remove grunge our renter left behind on floors and carpets (some is Really Bad), sweep, mop, clean toilets, etc.  It's funny; the entire time we lived in that house we were updating, yet every room still has a list of at least 12 upgrades or cleaning items that need to be accomplished.  

And, we haven't even begun to work on the outside of the house! Hopefully, we'll have an early fall so that we can tolerate the outdoors when it comes to tackling the outdoor jobs (yard, window cleaning, replacing the porch columns, touch-up painting -- we hope it'll just require touch-up -- and sprucing up the gardens).  It'll be exciting when we're finally finished and able to put the house on the market.


Still here.  Bought a Furminator (brush meant to help remove the cat's undercoat) to reduce shedding, since she has such long fur.  I haven't heard from the shelter since I told them we were not planning to keep her, almost a month ago.  I sent updated photos but she still has not appeared at their website as an adoptable pet.  Hmm.

Reading group:

My F2F group met last week and discussed Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.  I'll write about the meeting, soon.

Other news:

Not much other news, here.  Kiddo has returned to school.  I'm enjoying the quiet, although I always love having him around.  What's up in your world?

©2013 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, August 25, 2013

Novel Ideas by K. B. Dixon

Novel Ideas by K. B. Dixon
Copyright 2013 
Inkwater Press - Fiction
122 pp.

I am never going to get used to this new washing machine.  One of the cycles is "Berserk".  It lulls you in the beginning with a sort of gentle, sloshing, metronomic rock-a-bye -- then suddenly somewhere around minute eighteen, it goes crazy -- it starts shaking and jumping up and down hysterically.  I wouldn't be surprised to hear of it registering on nearby seismographs.  It's a mind mangler.


Walker's mother is one thing; his aunt is another.  It is a mystery to me -- men and women who marry in desperation when it is so easy to simply adopt a dog.

~p. 17

Novel Ideas is a quirky little piece of fiction with an introduction explaining that it is a selection of bits from [fictional author] Steven Styles' letters and emails to his close friend, Alan Dodd. This gathering of fictional excerpts is the work of a group of fictional students doing a fictional project, introduced fictionally.  The result is a bunch of wacky observations by a witty author who doesn't exist.  Because quite a number of characters are carried through the book in anecdotal form, it takes a bit of mental sorting to keep them all straight but you get to know most of them fairly quickly.

One of the characters is a man who is attempting to write his memoirs but not doing a very good job of whittling down to merely the most significant events in his life, so that the finished product is likely to end up as thick as a dictionary. Another, "my figurer of figures" has started a project to determine just how much time he is likely to waste on various activities (including sleeping) over the remaining estimated 40 years of his life so that he can determine how to reduce the time wastes and spend more time living. The author, himself, is attempting to write a different kind of book than what he normally writes, researching a murder.

One of the bits about how much time fictional Ethan spends (this one on reading) made me think, "Oh, yeah, that's something I need to work on":

Time spent reading stories in the newspaper or online that Ethan does not have a need to read -- stories that are neither entertaining nor edifying: 30 minutes a day. That adds up to about 7 days a year or 280 for the full run. Stories like "Robber with knife scared off by woman with hedge shears," "Boy on class field trip jumps off Golden Gate Bridge," "Angry girlfriend sets vehicles on fire at car dealership." 

The two excerpts at the top of this review are on the same page of Novel Ideas, which shows how the book is set up -- a series of anecdotal bits, most of which have continuing storylines (although not all do; some are simply random observations).

My thoughts:

It took me a while to get into Novel Ideas because you have to become accustomed to the style, the idea and the characters -- and then some of those little interconnected bits are much more interesting than others, some more smile-worthy, some incredibly random.  I particularly liked the bits about Ethan, the man who is trying to figure out how much time he's wasting with Styles' help, and whose figures eventually become so ridiculous that the author gives up -- and anything that made me smile, like the comment about the washing machine.

Recommended - Not my absolute favorite by Dixon (that would be The Sum of His Syndromes, which landed a spot on the "good shelves"), but definitely an enjoyable afternoon's diversion.  All of Dixon's books are written in little snippets with sharp use of wording and a keen eye for the ridiculous. I really love his writing.

I received a copy of Novel Ideas from the author in return for an unbiased review. 

©2013 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, August 23, 2013

Fiona Friday - Lounging River

21 days since my hard drive declared itself too full to load photos (I can still load the odd image of a book cover  but I shoot in RAW and I guess the photo files are too large).  I'm running low on cat photos and have a backlog of newer material on both cameras.  Cross your fingers I'll get that new hard drive, soon.  Here, River is lounging in my office chair.

©2013 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, August 22, 2013

Rufus Goes to School by Kim T. Griswell and Valeri Gorbachev

Rufus Goes to School by Kim Griswell, illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev
Copyright 2013
Sterling Children's Books - Picture Book 
32 pp.

Rufus Goes to School is about a piglet named Rufus Leroy Williams III.  Rufus has a favorite book  but he doesn't know how to read, so he makes up his own stories.  But, Rufus really wants to know how to read so he decides he will go to school.  He acquires a backpack and trudges off to school but the principal says pigs are not allowed.  Why not?

Because pigs track mud in the halls," said Principal Lipid.
"They turn their drawings into airplanes.
They play leapfrog in class,
and they start food fights in the cafeteria."

Rufus is "shown the door" but he acquires a lunchbox and tries, again.  The principal says no, again:

"Because pigs knock over the block towers," said Principal Lipid,
"and they hide under the teacher's desk.
Pigs draw stick figures on the chalkboard."  He waggled his finger at Rufus.
"And they chase their classmates during recess."

Rufus is not willing to give up.  He brings a blanket, along with his backpack and lunchbox and promises:

"I will never blow bubbles in my milk.
Or finger-paint my classmates.
I will not stand on my head during naptime.
Or leave nose prints on the windows.
And I will come to school every day!"

But, Rufus has to prove his determination by showing the principal he has a favorite book.  "That makes a difference!" the principal tells Rufus.  He's introduced to his classmates and finds that he loves learning, lunchtime and naptime.  

But Rufus loved storytime most of all . . . 
because it gave him room to dream.

I still don't have a hard drive, so I'm unable to snap and load interior photos but there's a nice little trailer that gives you a peek inside at Amazon:

Trailer for Rufus Goes to School (page down to find the video window).  

The first time I read Rufus Goes to School, I admit I was expecting something a little different, like an ending saying that most of all Rufus loved learning to read because it opened up new worlds.  The second time I thought, "No, that ending works."  Expectations are funny things. 

Recommended - A cute story about the fun of going off to school. I absolutely love the illustrations in Rufus Goes to School.  There's just something adorable about piglets, anyway, and the illustrations are cute, colorful and action-packed.  I like the use of motion. My niece's toddler is getting excited about books so I'm going to pass this one on to him.  I think he'll love it. Rufus Goes to School is a great book for encouraging children who are looking ahead to school but it's also a little silly and a terrific story of determination.  

I received a copy of Rufus Goes to School from Sterling Children's Books in return for an unbiased review.

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan

The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan
Copyright 2013
William Morrow - Fiction/Hmm - Science Fiction?
426 pp.


On the overnight we did the proper, correct, appropriate thing: we got smashed.

"Don't worry, lovely, I'm not going to attempt some tawdry seduction on you," [Billings] said, wobbling in the aisle against the sway of the train.  "Altogether too much the scientist, don't you know." He flopped into the seat beside me.  "Socially spastic, few deep allegiances, suspected of borderline Asperger's.  You know the lot. My brother aside, you're the closest thing I have to a friend."

~p. 58, Advance Reader Copy of The Curiosity (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

I'm going to have to go with the Q/A routine for this title.

What led you to pick up The Curiosity?

The description grabbed me - a science thriller in which a human is found in an iceberg and brought back to life?  Freaky.  I liked the idea.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending:

Erastus Carthage is an award-hungry, egotistical scientific genius who has been experimenting with the concept of "reanimating" frozen creatures -- primarily tiny life forms such as plankton and krill.  He has hired a team of scientists to search for more and bigger creatures to bring back to life.  At the beginning of the novel, the team is on a ship and they've found an extremely large iceberg.  Inside that iceberg is a man who died in 1906.  Can he be brought back to life?  If so, what does this say about the concept of death and an afterlife?  Given the known (and by "known", I mean in this work of fiction) stages of reanimated life, how long can a man brought back to life remain alive?

Capsule description:

Dead man is brought to life and held captive by scientists. Religious fundamentalists go crazy, lonely female scientist falls for the man and tries to spring him from his aquarium-like room, risking her career and possibly putting the man's life at even greater risk.

What did you like best about The Curiosity?

I loved the man who is brought back to life, Jeremiah Rice. The author makes it clear that Jeremiah is a gentleman from a graceful past, thrust into a new world.  Part of the point is obviously to highlight the differences between Jeremiah's literate and highly moral life and the modern world with its casual use of vulgar language, acceptance of violence and lack of genuine interaction between people enclosed in their own little electronic bubbles.  I'm not actually sure what the theme to The Curiosity was, though.  More about that in a moment.

What did you dislike about The Curiosity?

Erastus Carthage is a rich, egotistical, scientific genius jerk.
Daniel Dixon is a sleazy hack reporter.
Kate Philo is a scientist with a heart.
Jeremiah Rice is a former judge, brought back to life after a painful drowning death.

These are the four voices through which the story is told in alternating chapters.  Because Erastus and Daniel are truly appalling people and so archetypal that they're practically caricatures, half the time the book feels like a joke and the rest of the time it's almost, but not quite, a reflective and romantic tale of science and life. But, they're not the only archetypes. I chose the quote at the top of this post because I think it gives you a good idea of the author's unfortunate choice to portray just about every character as a narrowly-defined archetype. That honestly drove me bananas.

On to the storyline.  If you can get past a scientific idea that is so much of a stretch that it should be placed in the future (but which might have worked better if the scientists hadn't made a jump from animating tiny creatures to something as big as a human) and the two disgusting characters through whom you must see half the story portrayed, then what you're left with is a lonely female questioning herself and a gentleman from the past observing our present. Is The Curiosity a romance?  Well, not really.  Is it a scientific thriller?  Not quite. Apart from some really exciting scenes at the end of the book The Curiosity doesn't really fall into "thriller" territory and the science is wildly improbable because of the missing steps between the animation of little shrimp and big human.  Is it about corruption (political and scientific) combined with lack of morality?  Hmm, the elements are there but there are moral people, as well.  They just get shoved off to the side.  Secrets and lies and surprises? Religious zealotry? Yeah, yeah.  Some of that. Honestly, it's all over the place.

Share a favorite scene from the book:

There's not particular scene that jumps out at me, but there were some great moments in The Curiosity.  I liked pretty much every scene involving the hippie genius goofball scientist.  I loved the moment when Jeremiah was discovered in the ice, although it was cut short, probably to ramp up suspense.  I liked the scenes in which Jeremiah talked about literature and life.  When Jeremiah quoted a line from "Andrea del Sarto" by Robert Browning, I marked it and then promptly forgot where I'd read that wonderful line, then rustled around for a few days and figured it out:

"A man's reach should exceed his grasp--or what's a heaven for?"

I want to frame that line.  I'm glad I read about Jeremiah for the bits of wisdom and the look at our world through the eyes of a man who lived over a century ago.  I thought Kate was a likable character, as well, although I was not thrilled with the denouement in regard to the changes in her life.

In general:

I was entertained and annoyed by this book.  I absolutely detested the chapters that were told through the eyes of Erastus Carthage and Daniel Dixon, to the point that I considered abandoning the book, although I was curious enough that I decided to hang in there.  Had the book been told entirely from Kate's perspective or in 3rd person, I think it might have worked better.  The ending was a terrible let-down.  I can't share what I disliked about the ending without giving away too much but I will say I that because the story was Hollywood-like in its characterization I thought a big, overblown and exciting ending would have been fitting and definitely satisfying.  Might as well close it with the big-bang, someone-saves-the-day, after all that build-up.

I was also very disappointed that one particular thread was brought up and pretty much dropped: What became of Jeremiah's descendants?  I thought that was lazy on the author's part.  He could have easily made that portion of the story complete and fulfilling with the addition of a scene or two.

Recommended or not?

Uh, maybe?  I liked The Curiosity but it was not a favorite. You seriously have to be able to suspend disbelief.  The jump from reanimating tiny creatures to reanimating humans was far too much of a stretch.  But, was The Curiosity fun reading?  At times. I definitely wanted to know what was going to happen, in spite of some extremely heavy-handed foreshadowing. I liked the questions the story brought up, even if I thought the book was almost cartoonish in its excesses. Maybe it would make a better graphic novel than a book.  The author can write but he just went too far in some ways and fell flat in others, plot-wise.  I actually think it would be a fun book to discuss. The fact that the story is a little too big for its britches means it touched on a lot of topics that are worthy of discussion.  Good, bad, love, hate.  I don't regret reading The Curiosity but it's not a book I'll tell all my friends to read.

I love Ryan's review of The Curiosity at Wordsmithonia.

I received an Advance Reader Copy of The Curiosity from HarperCollins in return for an unbiased review.

©2013 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, August 21, 2013

We Go Together by Todd Dunn & Miki Sakamoto

We Go Together by Todd Dunn
Illustrated by Miki Sakamoto
Copyright 2013
Sterling Children's Books - Board Book
20 pp.

We Go Together is a cute board book with bright, vibrant illustrations and rhythmic verse, nicely sized at about 6" x 6".  I still am unable to load photos, so I asked the Sterling rep who sent me a copy to send some interior photos.  You should be able to click on each image to enlarge, but in case the text is difficult to read, this spread says:

We go together like socks and shoes,
We go together like cow and moo.

The items that go together are highlighted in bold print.

The entire book is written in this same lovely, rhyme and the illustrations are absolutely adorable.

We go together like ice cream and cone,
We go together like dog and bone.

As I was reading the book, the first time, it occurred to me that We Go Together is not necessarily limited to a young, page-tearing audience.  We Go Together would be great for teachers to use as a starting point for a lesson on things that go together.  

The only thing I dislike about the book is the ending:

We go together, that's what we do,
because you love me and . . . 
I love you!

The final spread is an illustration of a mother hugging what appears to be a daughter on the left-hand page (although it's actually not clear whether the youngster is a girl or boy, the hair is very similar to the mother's and my first thought was "mother and daughter").  The background is lavender and there are hearts on the right-hand page, along with the text.  As a mother of two boys, I found that illustration somewhat off-putting.  There are plenty of humans in the book, as you can see from the illustrations above.  But, I think it would have somehow been more fitting to show a couple of animals hugging (parent and child) to keep the gender generic.  That is, of course, a minor complaint.  

In general, I loved this little book and wouldn't avoid buying it for a little one merely because of the final illustration. If I still had small children, I would use the book as a jumping-off point for looking around the house and garden for things that go together.  I love a book that encourages exploration.

Recommended - Especially for those who want to read about or create a lesson regarding things that go together (whether teachers or parents).  Although the mother-daughter ending threw me a bit, the fact that the book works as such a terrific starting point for observation of things that "go together" combined with the book's eye-catching illustrations both add up to make We Go Together a winner.  The addition of that last rhyme about love would make the book fitting for seasonal use, as a Valentine's Day read, although the story is not so focused on the concept of love that it's self-limiting.  

I received a copy of We Go Together from Sterling Children's Books in return for an unbiased review.  
©2013 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, August 19, 2013

Monday Malarkey - The Usual Jazz

I can't find myself coming or going, this week, so I'll keep this as short as possible.  


The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon - from Simon & Schuster for review
The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen - from HarperCollins for review
Faith by Jennifer Haigh - from Paperback Swap


I read Novel Ideas by K. B. Dixon, The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon, The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen, and The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey, this past week. I haven't decided what to read, next.  In between books, I keep feeling like, "Blah.  I don't want to read at all."  So, I've had to just go with whatever grabs me and holds on hard and, surprisingly, the end result was a normal reading week.  I did pick up The Girls of the Atomic City, one last time, and decided to relegate it to the DNF pile.

Reviews since last Monday's Malarkey:

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey
The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum
Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

Cat antics:

Wow, what a rough week our little foster kitty had.  River fell in a full bathtub, last week, and today she got her tail tangled up in the kitchen window blind cords and then jumped off the windowsill and ended up hanging by her tail, flailing wildly and screaming bloody murder.  Fortunately, the bath experience just gave her a shinier coat and I was nearby when she jumped off the windowsill, so I was able to quickly grab her, lift her to remove the pressure from her tail, and give her some cuddling with a little soft talk for comfort.  Kiddo came out of his room to see what was going on and unwrapped the cord from her tail.  She's fine but she did retreat for about 20 or 30 minutes to recover, after she'd calmed enough that I felt comfortable putting her down on the floor.

River still has to be put in her own room at night; Isabel occasionally still goes after her with a vengeance and River holds her own but we don't want them fighting all night.  The cats all seem happier that way. River happily trots along to her room at night.  She is comfortable with the routine, although she's really a people-loving cat and would no doubt prefer to hang out with us.


Streaming Dr. Who from the beginning of the newer series (2005 - Christopher Eccleston).  I've watched 5 episodes.  I haven't heard a Northern British accent in such a long time that I really need captions to understand Eccleston but I'm slowly becoming accustomed to the accent.

I took the photo, above, in London.  Still no new hard drive, due to the tight budget.  Hopefully, soon.  I have some cute photos of the kitties that I'm unable to load.

Wishing all who drop by a happy week and thanks to those of you who have taken the time to comment or drop by.  I appreciate you!

©2013 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, August 16, 2013

Fiona Friday - Izzy's favorite toy

Isabel carries her favorite toy (a milk carton tab).  We don't drink enough milk to keep up with her demand for these little things, which have a tendency to get irretrievably knocked under the heaviest home furnishings.

©2013 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.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Copyright 2010
Harper Teen - Young Adult/Paranormal (1st of 3 in series)
335 pp.

First sentence paragraph:

Wait--did you--You just yawned!" The vampire's arms, raised over his head in the classic Dracula pose, dropped to his sides.  He pulled his exaggerated white fangs back behind his lips.  "What, imminent death isn't exciting enough for you?"

From the cover:

"Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie's always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape-shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still.  Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies.  She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths.  Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures."

Raquel sighed.  She was a professional sigher--the woman conveyed more emotions with a single exhalation than most people do with their entire faces.  

My thoughts:

I waited several years to get a copy of Paranormalcy from Paperback Swap and it was definitely worth the wait.  Of course, now I want to get my mitts on the remaining books in the trilogy.  I liked Evie and loved the quirkiness and humor of the story, although I did get a little bit tired of teen slang.  

Recommended - A light-hearted, campy read that is clever, fast-paced, adventurous and entertaining. 

Paranormalcy came from my personal library.  

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey

The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey
Copyright 2013
William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins) - Contemporary-historical fiction with a touch of mystery
358 pp.

First Sentence: 

Hannah Krause drew the back of her hand over her eyes and, careful of the squeaking bedsprings, slowly rolled onto her side.


In 1890, Jacob Krause is murdered in his bed.  His eldest son, Joseph, cheats Jacob's second wife, Hannah, and her son Willie out of their portion of the farm after Hannah is blamed for Jacob's death. But, Hannah is innocent and 130 years later the mystery remains unsolved.

In 2012, Kate marries Joseph's descendant, Joe, and moves to the same farm where the family has been living under a curse for over 130 years.  There, she finds that Joe is not the gentle man who wooed her but a violent man who is barely hanging onto the family farm.  And, there's another surprise waiting.  Joe's mother, Trudy, a bitter woman who belittles Kate and treats her like a household slave.

Kate tries to be what her husband and mother-in-law want her to be, eventually realizing she must place her own needs first.  But, even as she's trying to work things out with Joe and get back on an even keel, history suddenly repeats itself.  As Kate tries to dig into the past to find out what exactly happened to Hannah and her son Willie and prove herself innocent of murder, she finds that to ask about Hannah is to enter forbidden territory.

My thoughts:

Yet another story with a historical woman's tale told in parallel with a contemporary tale, The Widows of Braxton County is about murder, greed and how violence is passed down through generations. I gave The Widows of Braxton County a high rating because I was in the midst of a slump and the story sucked me in, right away.  I loved the hint of mystery (just enough to keep the plot moving but not enough to toss it into the mystery genre) and the way Kate summoned the strength to do what she needed to do after trying her best to please people who were far too headstrong to respond positively.  The Widows of Braxton County is as much about the differences between life for women 130 years ago vs. today as it is a mystery with a touch of the paranormal.

Recommended - While not brilliant and extremely quotable, I thought Jess McConkey's writing was solid, the plot gripping and the two female characters upon whom the book is focused great characters.  I rooted for both of them, hoping they would go on to have happy lives.  Occasionally, I found that I had trouble remembering which side of the family (Joseph's or Willie's) the characters referred to in dialogue, so a family tree diagram would have been helpful but a little confusion was never enough to slow the reading down significantly.

I received a copy of The Widows of Braxton County by mistake from HarperCollins and chose to review it.  What a terrific mistake that turned out to be!  I really enjoyed the story and am grateful that it was around when nothing else was appealing to me.

©2013 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, August 14, 2013

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
Copyright 2012 
Quirk Books - Fiction/Mystery/Pre-apocalyptic
316 pp.

First sentence:

I'm staring at the insurance man and he's staring at me, two cold gray eyes behind old-fashioned tortoiseshell frames, and I'm having this awful and inspiring feeling, like holy moly this is real, and I don't know if I'm ready, I really don't.

In The Last Policeman, Hank Palace is a young detective who thinks a death by hanging is actually a murder.  He is, however, the only officer who gives a flip about solving the case (if it really is a murder) because the world is going to be hit by an asteroid in approximately 6 months and everyone's going to die, anyway. 

The Last Policeman is pre-apocalyptic in the manner of On the Beach by Nevil Shute (although, the apocalyptic event has already occurred in On the Beach) in that everyone's going to die and they know it. So, The Last Policeman not only explores a possible murder but the reaction of the characters to their impending doom.  But, what makes The Last Policeman really special is the fact that the author has a terrific sense of humor.

I can picture him, the thug resplendent: loops of chain drooping from black jeans, skull-and-crossbones pinky ring, scrawny wrists and forearms crawling with several species of tattoo snakes.  The rat-eyed face twisted with melodramatic outrage, having to answer the phone, take orders from a stuck-up egghead policeman like myself.  But look, I mean, that's what you get for being a drug dealer, and moreover for getting caught, at this juncture in American history. Victor may not know by heart the full text of the Impact Preparation Security and Stabilization Act, but he's got the gist.

~p. 50

No one is really sure--even those of us who have read the eight-hundred-page law from beginning to end, scored it and underlined it, done our best to keep current with the various amendments and codicils--not a hundred percent sure what the "Preparation" parts of IPSS are supposed to be, exactly.  McGully likes to say that sometime around late September they'll start handing out umbrellas.

~p. 53

"You know what I'm doing right now?" I say, watching the muddy liquid rush toward the edge of the table. "I'm thinking: Oh no! The coffee's going to spill onto the floor! I'm so worried! Let's keep talking about it!"

And then the coffee waterfalls over the side of the desk, splashing on Andreas's shoes and pooling on the ground beneath the desk.

"Oh, look at that," I say. "It happened anyway."

~p. 174

Highly recommended - This is such great writing: sharp, hilarious, an instant favorite, the kind of rare book that is so quotable I found myself reading excerpts to my husband (with whom I will only share a passage if I think he'll laugh or a quote will generate a decent discussion -- he laughed, every time).  I particularly love the fact that Hank Palace's attitude to the question, "What do you do when you're going to die in 6 months?" is, "Might as well just keep on working." Whenever someone says something particularly positive about just getting on with life, he always says something to the effect of, "I like that person. Him, I like." Cool.  It's been a few weeks since I read The Last Policeman and I still have that "bounce, bounce, bounce, can't-wait -for-the-next-in-the-series" feeling.

The Last Policeman is a book that was added to my personal collection recently, thanks to the generosity of my friend Sandie. Thanks, Sandie!

©2013 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.