Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: A Day at the Pool

Hosted by Wordless Wednesday

© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Where Is Your Bookmark? (07/29/2014)

As seems to be my habit, I completely forgot to acknowledge the anniversary of my blog last week. I began blogging on July 23, 2006. That makes it 8 years.  I have seen book blogging change and grow, trends come and go as well as fellow book bloggers, and somehow I am still hanging on.  My blog has under gone a few transformations as my life outside of blogging has changed.  I am ever grateful to those of you who take the time to read my thoughts and especially to those of you who comment (I still feel a rush of excitement when I see a comment pop up).  Thank you for your support, whether you are a new friend or visitor or an old one!

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Thunder storms and flash flood warnings are the weather report of the day.  I wish it would rain where I live.  It seems to be falling all around us, but not in my town.  Not that the rain will help keep water restrictions at bay any longer.  The most recent "joke" (or it would be if it weren't actually happening) is how people are being fined by the city for having browning grass in their yards while at the same time being fined by the water company for watering lawns as usual.   Hopefully someone will get that ironed out soon.   

On another note, someone dropped a box of puppies off at a coworker's house this weekend, and she is frantically looking for homes for them. She brought them to work yesterday in hopes some of us would find it in our hearts to bring them home. She knows my situation, about how my dog passed away last year and how I go back and forth about wanting another one. She cruelly set one in my arms during her visit yesterday and then walked away, leaving me holding this adorable little puppy who promptly fell asleep against my chest. *Sigh*

As much as I wanted to, I did not bring her home. As much as I miss having a dog in the house and as cute as that puppy was, the timing is not right. One of my other coworkers argued that the timing is never right to take in a puppy--you just have to do it. And I would. If I wasn't working long hours, if I was home more, if I didn't have a husband who doesn't like dogs, if my daughter was a little older, and if I was not already having to spread my attention between two cats who I already feel get the short end of the attention stick. You get the idea. I am hoping all those adorable puppies find homes--and from the sounds of it, they will--because it will make me feel better about saying no.

Enough about the weather and dogs, and onto ghosts!  I began reading Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo recently and am quite taken with the novel.  The novel is set in colonial Malaya, with one foot in the afterlife, and I'm loving it so far.  I mean really loving it.  I hope it continues to be this good.

What are you reading at the moment?  Is it something you would recommend?

Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea hosts 
First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where  
participants share the first paragraph (or a few) of a 
book they are reading or thinking about reading soon.

The opening paragraphs from Ghost Bride by Yangszee Choo:
One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride.  Asked is perhaps not the right word. We were in his study. I was leafing through a newspaper, my father lying on his rattan daybed. It was very hot and still.  The oil lamp was lit and moths fluttered through the humid air in lazy swirls.
"What did you say?"  
 Would you continue reading?

Mouse with my copy of Further Out Than You Thought by Michaela Carter

© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

From the Archives: A Taste of Truth, Nonfiction

I began keeping a reading journal several years before I began blogging. I find it interesting to sift through my thoughts of books that I read back then. My reviews were often brief and contained little substance, but I thought it'd be fun to document them here on my blog as well as share them with you. Here are two from October of 2005: 

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
W.W. Norton & Company, 2003
Nonfiction; 303 pgs

I couldn’t resist picking up and reading Stiff. The author is someone I’ve come to know through Reader’s Digest, her little articles about daily life making me laugh out loud and nod my head in understanding. With all the suspense/thriller and mystery books I read, gory fictional death scenes and dead bodies don’t give me much pause anymore [Ha!  Not so true anymore, says my 2014 self]. So with a bit of morbid curiosity mixed in with wanting to read more by journalist Mary Roach and the high praise I had heard in regards to this book, I took a chance. It was well worth it. 

Mary Roach is a layperson who takes on a difficult and not often thought of subject. Her humor throughout is tasteful and respectful. I do wonder what the scientists and professionals thought and said after her visits though! I especially was interested in the historical bits she included in the book, often reading passages to my husband and coworkers much to their chagrin. I found myself shaking my head in wonderment at some of the experiments or ideas tested, laughing at the absurdity of some, and cringing at others. There were also moments when I had no doubt of the good accomplished by some of the trials cadavers are put through. Stiff has given me much to think about in regards to the life of my body after death. I never realized just how many uses there are for a cadaver.

The Mind at Night: The New Science of How and Why We Dream by Andrea Rock
 Basic Book, 2004 
Nonfiction; 224 pgs  

I first heard about this book in a newsletter and the subject matter intrigued me. I have always been interested in dreams, including the how and why. While some of the research covered in this book was a review from my undergraduate days, I found this book fascinating just the same. The Mind at Night focuses on the science of dreaming, much more so than analysis or interpretation of dreams, although there is some mention of that as well. The current theories regarding dreaming tend to evolve around the significance of dreams during memory and learning processes. The emotional significance demonstrated in dreams was discussed at length, including how they impact individuals during their waking hours. Also, the current advances and theories in the uncovering of consciousness were touched upon. I came away from this book with more admiration for the brain and it’s complexities than ever before. The brain is an amazing organ. I look forward to seeing what further research reveals in this area down the road.   The Mind at Night was well written and interesting over all.

© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: A Vampire's Promise & A Vampire's Soul by Carla Susan Smith

I was folding laundry and watching an old CSI rerun on TV when Laycee called. ~ Opening of A Vampire's Promise

A Vampire's Promise by Carla Susan Smith
Kensington, 2014
Romance (Paranormal); 306 pgs

From the Publisher:
Rowan Harper is nothing but a smart-mouthed bookstore clerk with a crappy love life on the night she walks into Rosie's Bar. Most of the drama in her life is borrowed from her best friend's adventures. But when she meets Gabriel--tall and movie star gorgeous--everything changes. Never mind that she turns down the drink he offers, or that he brims with secrets she can't begin to guess at. He ignites a desire in her she never suspected--and shows a fascination with her she can't explain.
He has no family, no job, no bank account;he knows where she lives and her favorite flower. An aura of mystery cloaks him, even as Rowan grasps for facts, even as she fears an answer that could destroy her happiness. Gabriel can guide her through a wonderland of new sensations. But only if Rowan trusts him enough to follow. . .

I took to the character of  Rowan right away even if I didn't agree with all her choices.  She is a bit awkward and doesn't have it all together the way her best friend, Laycee, does, but, in her own way, she's a strong woman.  She speaks her mind as she sees fit.  Rowan hasn't had the luck with men that her best friend has had either, and so she has some self-esteem issues when it comes to men.  She can't quite believe someone like Gabriel would be interested in her. 

I really liked the early interactions between Rowan and Gabriel.  He comes off as one of those perfect men--good looks, humble and yet strong, caring, and wanting to cater to Rowan.  He has his secrets though, and while I appreciated that Rowan didn't press him in the beginning, I found myself getting annoyed with her the more involved she and Gabriel became for not asking questions. It went to show just how desperate Rowan was to hold onto Gabriel.  I wanted to reach into the book and shake her.  So, maybe that wasn't the part where she was at her strongest.  Still, she did prove to be strong in other ways, and I have to give her credit for that.    

Of course, I knew what Gabriel was from the beginning even if Rowan did not.  And as perfect as he is, I still found myself enamored by him.  The attraction between Rowan and Gabriel was clear from the very first moment and, as the novel went on, it was clear the two were perfectly matched.  

As a book lover, I wouldn't have minded spending more time in the bookstore where Rowan worked, but, well, the book isn't about the bookstore.  Or books for that matter.  Although, I did have to wonder at times how someone so well read, including having read many vampire books, didn't instantly think "Vampire!" given some of Gabriel's behaviors and actions.  Then again, in a world where most people do not believe vampires are real, I suppose I shouldn't be so hard on her.  I mean, our brains automatically want to rationalize what we see and hear and put it in a context that fits our reality.  I thought the theory Rowan came up with was great, although I questioned her judgement in staying with someone she thought was up to no good.  

I had such fun reading this novel and trying to figure out just what a vampire's Promise is.  It's clear that Rowan is special to Gabriel for a reason, and I found myself floating many theories as I read.  Some came true, just maybe not for the reasons I expected.  The vampires in Carla Susan Smith's world are definitely more on the side of the angels--well, some of them, anyway--than they are like the ones you might run into Bram Stoker's Dracula.  But that's okay. It is a paranormal romance, after all.  

Warning: If you do decide to give A Vampire's Promise try, plan to read A Vampire's Soul as well.  The first book doesn't bring you much in the way of resolution.  The two books read as Part One and Part Two.
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There are some people who will tell you that if you fall in a dream it's a bad thing. ~ Opening of Vampire's Soul.

A Vampire's Soul by Carla Susan Smith
Kensington, 2014
Romance (Paranormal); 270 pgs

From the Publisher:
Rowan Harper’s world has been wrenched apart. The man she thought she loved—the man she does love—is a vampire, and not the kind that glitters. Running away isn’t an option. Gabriel isn’t just her lover. She’s bound to him in ways she can’t comprehend, ways that put both of them in desperate danger even as Rowan’s desire for him blazes anew.
The rules of her life before are gone. But she has a power of her own, a power she is remembering in fits and starts even as time races against her. With her life and Gabriel’s very soul on the line, Rowan has to choose who to believe—and who to trust…

I would not recommend anyone start with this book without first reading A Vampire's Promise. A Vampire's Soul picks up where the first book ends.  Rowan has just discovered that not only are vampires real, but that her boyfriend, Gabriel, is a vampire.  Rowan's reaction when she does discover this is how I imagine a real person might react--complete panic and utter fear.  It was an aspect of the book I really appreciated.   The author did a good job of bringing out Rowan's emotional turmoil.  I could feel her fear, frustration and confusion.  I could understand her anger and also her feelings of uncertainty.  

In A Vampire's Soul, Rowan is soon to learn exactly what a vampire's Promise is and how it impacts her. Despite her new found knowledge that her boyfriend is a vampire, Rowan realizes she loves Gabriel with all her heart.  He will do anything to protect her, but is she willing to risk everything for him, even if it means she might lose her life?  It's a question she has to ask herself the more she learns about Gabriel's past and a promise made long ago. 

In the midst of trying to remember a moment in her past she has locked deep away as well as figure out a way for her and Gabriel to have a life together, Rowan must also contend with a jealous vampire hell bent on getting her revenge.  It places those closest to Rowan in jeopardy as well.  This is where Rowan really shows her strength as a person, I think.  She's the kind of person who would not think twice about giving someone the shirt off her back if he or she needed it.

The reader gets a better understanding of Gabriel and his past in this novel.  I had my doubts at first, but the the author pulls it off well, I think.  It does make me want to know more about him.  

I was completely pulled into Gabriel and Rowan's story, both in this and the first book, A Vampire's Promise.  The revelations in A Vampire's Soul brought some satisfaction, but also more questions.  I am guessing the author will continue to write more books set in the world she's created with A Vampire's Promise and A Vampire's Soul.  Or at least I hope so.

Rating of Books: * (Good +)

You can learn more about Carla Susan Smith and her books on the author's website.

Source: I received e-copies of both books for review from the publisher via NetGalley.

© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Where Is Your Bookmark? (07/22/2014)

Yesterday, when I went to pick Mouse up from school, my daughter greeted me with a huge grin and hug, asking me if it was a swim day, cheering when I said yes.  As much as she loves her time in the water, getting her in her swimsuit and in the car on our way to the public pool is never a straightforward task.  There is always something to do and friends to play with.  To say three year olds are easily distracted is an understatement.

 The swim lessons are going well.  She went from being the first to volunteer to jump off the diving board her first day three weeks ago, to being afraid to get close to it the next.  Fortunately for all of us, last week, the little ones weren't asked to try.  When her class of five beginning swimmers were marched to the diving board yesterday, my daughter, along with another boy, stayed back, clearly afraid. One of the instructors coaxed Mouse over and helped her jump off the diving board and into the arms of the instructor in the water below.  Mouse was grinning ear to ear when she got out of the pool. She said she wants to do it again tomorrow (now today).  She may feel differently this afternoon.

I am still working extra hours at work, and it is wearing on me.  I miss my family time most of all, but it is also leaving me exhausted, both physically and mentally.  I am looking forward to my normal three day weekend coming up.  I am finally at a place where I can slow down with the overtime and can settle back into a more normal routine.  Mostly.  All of this in preparation for my upcoming surgery, which will hopefully be in the late fall.

In the beginning of June, I began working out every morning (five days a week) in an effort to be more fit, lose weight and to see if it would help ease some of the chronic pain I suffer from.  I always balked at the idea of having to get up any earlier than I already do to get to work on time, but I finally reached a point where I decided it was worth a try.  Trying to fit exercising into the evening after work is impossible, as much as I wanted it to work.  Except for a the two days I skipped when I was sick and the one day because I hadn't slept the night before and decided sleep was more important, I have kept to my schedule. I am very proud of myself. It has not been easy, especially when my bed looks so inviting.  I feel so much better though.  There might not be any obvious changes on the outside, but I feel better on the inside and my pain has lessened considerably.  I still have bad days, but I also have good ones--and that makes it worth it.  Now to stay motivated . . .

One of the many things I like about reading is how it forces me to slow down a little.  And, especially right now, I need that release.  Every minute I get to read is a treasure.  Fortunately, the books I have been reading have been worth treasuring too.  I finished reading Countdown City, the second book in the Last Policeman Trilogy, by Ben H. Winters last week.  I started The Book of Life, the final book in the All Souls Trilogy, by Deborah Harkness over the weekend, and finished it last night--it felt so good to immerse myself in Harkness's world.  How I loved visiting with Matthew and Diana and all their family and friends again!

Now I am back in that difficult but fun position of deciding what to read next.  I am anxious to see if the world survives in Ben H. Winters' trilogy of which I have the final book, World of Trouble, but I am also curious about Yangsze Choo's The Ghost Bride, described by the publisher as "a startlingly original historical fantasy infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and unexpected supernatural twists."  Doesn't that sound good?  At least I have narrowed my choices down to two this time . . .

What are you reading at the moment?  Is it something you would recommend?

Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea hosts 
First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where  
participants share the first paragraph (or a few) of a 
book they are reading or thinking about reading soon.

I love the All Souls Trilogy and was so excited (and a little sad because it is the last one) when I saw that The Book of Life had come out in stores.  It didn't take long for me to purchase my own copy.  Here is the opening of Deborah Harkness's The Book of Life:
Ghosts didn't have much substance.  All they were composed of was memories and heart. Atop one of Sept-Tour's round towers, [Name removed to avoid spoiler] pressed a diaphanous hand against the spot in the center of her chest that even now was heavy with dread.
Does it ever get easier?  Her voice, like the rest of her, was almost imperceptible. The watching? The waiting? The knowing?
 Would you continue reading?

© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.