Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sunday Post: My Friend's a TV Star!/Multiple Narrators/New Things to Try

What I Am Reading: I am nearly finished reading Read To Death by Terrie Farley Moran. Wouldn't you love to browse the menu at Read ‘Em and Eat Bookstore Café? I know I would.

What I Am Listening To: I am very much enjoying Amy Poehler's Yes, Please.

What I Am Watching: Daryl and Carol reunited. What a great moment on The Walking Dead. What do you think of Alexandria's new allies?

This past week my office was abuzz with talk of one of our own's appearance on a television show called Restored. It's a new DIY Network show hosted by Brett Waterman. He restores old houses, and in this case, it was my coworker's 1922 Arts and Crafts home. It's actually been the talk of the office for months now, as we listened to her stories about the filming and renovation process.

What's Going On Off the Blog: We started last week off with a field trip to the California Pizza Kitchen restaurant. Our Girl Scout Troop was able to take a tour of the kitchen and learn a bit about the business--and make their own pizzas. It was a lot of fun. We have a few deliveries to make this next week, and the troop still has a few booth sales scheduled at local stores up to the middle of March, but Mouse and I are pretty much done with individual cookie sales. I think many of us will be celebrating once cookie season is officially over.

We've also been busy with soccer, homework, school and work. The usual busy-ness, really.

This Week In Reading Mews:

Tell me about what you have been up to! What are you reading, listening to and watching? How was your week? Do you have anything planned for this coming week?


Every Friday Coffee Addicted Writer from Coffee Addicted Writer poses a question which participants respond on their own blogs within the week (Friday through Thursday). They then share their links at the main site and visit other participants blogs.

How do you feel about books with multiple narrators?
This is a great opportunity to talk about a couple of my pet peeves. First, let me just say I love books with single or multiple narrators. The "voice" of a book is very important in how a book is received. It shapes the story and helps develop the characters. I can lose myself in either situation, and often do. I cannot tell you which I like better--it all depends on the book and the story being told. Using multiple narrators can be very effective.

However, since we are on the topic of books with multiple narrators, I do not especially like it when the "voices" of the narrators are too similar--or worse, are the same. An author using multiple narrators in a book must be able to give each of the characters their own voice--their own personality. Why else tell a story using multiple narrators? My other pet peeve is when a second narrator comes out of the blue near the end of the novel. This tends to happen sometimes in crime fiction novels when the author decides to introduce the perspective or voice of the killer in the last fourth or sixth of the book, a perspective and voice that hasn't come out at all earlier in the book. I just ask for consistency, please.

The question about how I feel about multiple narrators can also apply to audiobooks, which I have only a small amount of experience with. Most of the books I have listened to have only had single narrators (as in: the person reading the book). I have listened to a handful of audiobooks with multiple narrators, most of which have been amazing and wonderful (Eleanor and Park, for example) and one so far that didn't quite work as well for me (the book was written in third person, following multiple characters, and I was a little confused at times about the way the novel was broken up to be read by the two audio narrators). I do enjoy listening to books with multiple narrators, but I do think whether it would work well or not depends on the book, the narrators, and/or possibly the director.

When it comes down to it, I just love reading. And I like how much variety there is out there. Single narrator or multiple narrators, I am there!

What about you? Multiple narrators or not?


Every Sunday, Kendra Allen of Reads and Treats comes up with a theme for a Sunday list  of 5 things (because making lists are fun!) and asks participants to share.

Today's 5 Things on Sunday theme is  New Things to Try. As you can tell from my below list, I am not very adventurous. I kept it simple.

1. I was asked this past week if I could be the treasurer for our Girl Scout Troop. I am still thinking about it. My mom told me during her last visit I was always good at math. Do you think she got me mixed up with someone else? I can do this! (Do I want to?)

2. I want to try yoga. My body and mind would probably appreciate it very much.

3. Compliment a stranger. I came very close to doing so a few weeks ago, but did not. I really wish I had. I like to make people smile, and wouldn't it be nice to make someone's day? Or at least make them feel good for a moment?

4. Take a weekend break from technology. Could I do it? Could my entire family is the bigger question?

5. Pay it forward at a store or in the drive-thru line. I am always tempted to, but have yet to do it.

What new things would you like to try?

I hope you all have a great week! Happy Reading!

The Sunday Post is hosted by the wonderful Kimba, the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and gives us all a chance to recap our week, talk about what we are reading, share any new books that have come our way, and whatever else we want to talk about. 

© 2017, 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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

From Book to Movie: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Mrs. Land worked as a computer out of Langley," my father said, taking a right turn out of the parking lot of First Baptist Church in Hampton, Virginia. ~ Opening of Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
William Morrow, 2016
Nonfiction (History); 368 pgs

I first came across the name Katherine Johnson in an episode of the time traveling show Timeless this past fall, and then suddenly her name was everywhere. When I saw a trailer for the movie, Hidden Figures (directed by Theodore Melfi), I just new I would have to make time to see it--and at the first opportunity, I did just that. It was an inspirational historical movie about three women, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson, at the forefront of NASA's space program, and yet I (and many more people) had never heard of them. All three women got their start as human computers, before technology had completely taken over, along with several other highly educated women. While all three women have prominent stories in the movie, it is Katherine Johnson's that is the main focus, particularly her role in putting the first astronaut in space (and getting him home).

It was a time of great change in the United States, with the Civil Rights movement underway, Jim Crow laws being challenged, and the beginning of a new era in space. The movie captures all of that both inside and outside of NASA. The actors do an outstanding job in their roles, especially the leading women (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe). The movie does a good job of giving attention to a part of history that has remained relatively forgotten until now.

If I have one regret about seeing the movie, it is that I watched it before reading the book. I generally prefer to read the book first, especially in instances like this, when real people and facts are behind them. When I first started reading the book, I found myself trying to fit the pieces of the movie into the book, which just doesn't work. As can be expected, the screenwriters and directors altered the details of the women's stories to fit into a feature length film, playing up some details and condensing events, including attributing some to other characters. It's not something I generally mind because it's long been the nature of translating books to films to leave stuff out and change things up for the sake of time and entertainment--plus, from what the author writes in her book, the movie idea came from an outline of the book as opposed to the entire book. The movie is amazing, and I highly recommend it. However, if you want accuracy and a no-less-dramatic but more realistic take on the women and the time period, I recommend you read the book also.

Margot Lee Shetterly grew up surrounded by people who had worked for or had some connection with Langley and NASA. She is the niece of one of her subjects, and the more stories she heard growing up about the role women played in the early days of the space race, the more curious she became. I cannot thank Shetterly enough for bringing to light some of these women's accomplishments and the impact they had not only on the work they did, but on the women who came after them.

How I would have loved to be in on the interviews the author conducted! To be able to talk with these amazing women or those who knew them . . . I imagine none of them did anything they felt was out of the ordinary. They lived their lives, worked hard, and were passionate about their jobs, families and communities.

Shetterly gives a clear sense of the time period in which her book is set, especially regarding the racial tensions and how much--and how little--has changed. It's an interesting juxtaposition, one not lost on the author, of the advancement of technology and science during a time when African Americans were fighting for equality. It was a tense time in U.S. history, a time of social change being met with resistance from those who wanted to hold onto the past--whether that be because of ignorance, prejudice or fear--or all three. Virginia legislators itself seemed to be having a difficult time adjusting, refusing to integrate schools for as long as they could. One school district closed all schools for months at a time in order to avoid integration.

While life at Langley was in some ways more progressive than in the state where it was located in terms of race relations, it was not completely immune to the turmoil and injustice facing so many. Shetterly describes some of the prejudice and inequality both male and female African Americans faced on the job, whether it be limited access to bathroom facilities, a designated table in the cafeteria, a separate work area or the attitude and treatment of them by their white coworkers. The women may not have born the brunt of the racial prejudice in the offices quite as much as their male counterparts, says Shetterly, but they certainly had the disadvantage of being both black and female. 

In order for the reader to fully understand the roles Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Jackson, Christine Darden, and Gloria Champine and the other mathematicians and scientists played both in history and in their work, Shetterly goes into a bit of detail about just what their work entailed. I imagine she didn't get as technical as she could have, but it was a bit over my head at times. Still, I found it fascinating. Flight itself fascinates me. That a big hunk of metal can stay in the air, carrying people at high speed from one destination to another--and then to translate that into something that can fly into space . . . For so long people dreamed of going to the moon, and these women and the other men and women they worked with made it happen.

The women were extremely resourceful and flexible, which proved necessary and advantageous throughout their careers. They are all intelligent women and highly educated as were many of the other human computers during that time. Their math abilities out-shined even the white male engineers they worked with.

NACA, which would later become NASA, underwent a lot of changes itself during that time, the focus having been on the war and then shifting to space in hopes of catching up and beating out the Russians. Even the space race came to an end over the course of time, NASA having to re-focus its attention and energies again. When Langley first opened its doors to African Americans, it was with the expectation that the jobs would be temporary. Many, however, were able to have lifetime careers with the agency. The switch over from human computers to that of the electronic computers saw some changes in personnel as can be expected. Many people had to learn new skills and take on different tasks.

The reader also is able to get a look into the personal lives of the women focused on in the novel, although some more than others. I can say that the movie version of Hidden Figures focuses much more on Katherine Goble Johnson's past than the book did--and the movie fails to dive into the lives of the other women featured in the book as much as the book does. I loved reading about Mary Jackson and the work she did with her Girl Scouts Troop, including her activism in integrating the organization in her region. I also especially liked reading about Jackson's involvement in helping her son with his derby car--her skills as an engineer coming in handy for something outside of work. Not only was she a woman engineer, something rare in that day and age,but also an African American one.

Hidden Figures is full of women who have gone unnoticed for too long. These truly are great women who have earned a place in history. Margot Lee Shetterly brings many of their accomplishments to light, and I am so grateful she has done so.

To learn more about author Margot Lee Shetterly and her work, please visit the author's website.

© 2017, 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, February 21, 2017

Where Is Your Bookmark? (02/21/2017)

This morning I was able to start reading Terrie Farley Moran's Read to Death, a cozy mystery about a Florida book group, where one of the members could be a murderer.

Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea 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. It is also where I share my first impressions about the book I am sharing.

In the parking lot of Read 'Em and Eat Café and Book Corner, I stood by the side of the sky blue van with oversized white letters advertising the "Gulf Coast Cab and Van" etched on the center door panel. I mentally counted the members of the Cool Reads/Warm Climate Book Club as they settled in. All six were present. My BFF and business partner, Bridgy Mayfield, was busily stowing thermoses of sweet tea and pastry boxes in the carrier right behind the driver.

Every Tuesday, Ambrosia from The Purple Booker hosts Teaser Teaser at which participants grab their current read, open to a random page, and share two or more sentences from that page while avoiding any spoilers.

Teaser from 10% of Read to Death:
Ophie gave a wide good-bye arm circle to the group, but when she opened the door, she stopped dead still. She stuck her head out the door, looked back at me and barked, "Sassy, get over here." 

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

Right from the start I am eager to go on a field trip with the Cool Reads/Warm Climate Book Club. I think it would be fun! My participation in an in-person book group was very short-lived, I am afraid. Some day, when my time is more my own, I might give it a try again.

The teaser instantly has me wondering what Ophie has seen--or found. I am looking forward to reading more!

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

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely ladies at Broke and Bookish.

This week's  Top Ten Tuesday Ten Books I Loved Less/More Than I Thought I Would in the last three years. I ended up doing five of each: Five books I thought I would like more than I did and five I liked (and even loved in some cases!) more than I expected.

Books I thought I Would Like More Than I Did

1. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl ~ I love stories about witches and magic, and was so excited to dive into this one. While I enjoyed parts of it, I was left feeling disappointed. I haven't read more in the series; not sure I want to.

2. Ripper by Isabel Allende ~ For years, I have heard wonderful things about Isabel Allende's writing, and when given the opportunity to read Ripper, I jumped at the chance. It was a change of pace for the author--maybe I should have stuck with her older work which had come recommended. I do plan to give her another try.

3. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin ~ I so wanted to love this book. There were some beautiful parts to it. In the end though, I came away feeling I'd missed something important. 

4. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving ~ A book I read after hearing how beloved it was--and ultimately being let down. It had its moments, but overall, I did not care for A Prayer for Owen Meany all that much. 

5. Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley ~ I adored Lena Coakley's Witchlanders and was excited to read this one by her. Not to mention it featured the Brontë siblings. I barely made it through this one, to be honest. 

Books I Liked More Than I Expected

1. The Good House by Ann Leary ~ I admit to being a bit weary of books that feature alcohol abuse by a main character. I absolutely loved The Good House, however. It was both intense and insightful.

2. Naked in Death (In Death #1) by J.D. Robb, Narrated by Susan Eriksen ~ I didn't like this book the first time I read it. I am not sure why I gave it another chance; maybe because people continued to recommend the series, because I got a copy as a gift, or because I am in a different place now than when I first read it, I decided to listen to the audio version and give it a another try. Although I cannot say I especially loved the book, I did like it the second time around and have since listened to the second book in the series and plan to continue with the series.

3. Paradise Drive by Rebecca Foust ~ I enjoy reading poetry from time to time (even though I often feel intimidated by it), and ended up reading this collection twice, back to back. Something I never do. I just loved this collection of inter-connected poems.

4. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell,  Narrated by Rebecca Lowman, Sunil Malhotra ~ Contemporary YA is not my go to genre; in fact, I tend to shy away from it. I kept hearing about Rainbow Rowell though, and decided to give this one a try. I ended up loving it--loving Eleanor and Park.

5. A Man Called Ove  by Fredrik Backman ~ Love, love, love! I went into this one a bit reluctantly. Even put off reading it. Came way feeling nothing but love.

What about you? What books did you like less than you thought would would? What books did you like more than you expected?

© 2017, 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.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sunday Post: New Books, Winter Dislikes, and Reading and Watching TV

New to My Shelves: My Allen Haskin's The Life We Bury arrived in the mail this past week thanks to my Postal Mail Book Club, in which six of us readers have each selected a book, journal about it, and send it around so everyone in the group gets a chance to read it throughout the year. I'm really excited to read this one--probably early next month. Have any of you read it?

I also recently purchased a copy of The Journey by Francesca Sanna, which I hope to review soon on my blog.

What I Am Reading: I barely read 50 pages this past week. Between lunch time meetings and a potluck and no time in the evenings, unless you count children's books. I have been reading with my daughter every night. I hope to find time sometime soon to dedicate to reading a good chunk of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, and I plan to start my TBR list winner for the month early in the week, Read to Death by Terrie Farley Moran.

What I Am Listening To: I still haven't started a new audio book. This week, I promise.

What I Am Watching: I have not been watching too much really. I am all caught up with The Walking Dead. It was a refreshing mid-season premiere in some ways. Good to see most of the gang back together again. I couldn't help but laugh right along with Rick at the end of the episode. 

What's Going On Off the Blog: I am really tired. I moved around a lot of furniture on Friday. I should have waited for my husband. My back isn't thanking me. But I was in the mood to do it and knew it wouldn't get done any time soon if I waited. So it got done, and I feel better, but I still feel like I didn't get as much done as I wanted. And another thing, do any of you other parents find that the toys and art supplies and other little kid-related items never seem to be in the right place? And they double and triple and quadruple when you aren't looking?  Saturday we were out and about all day with soccer and errands. Sunday will be similar.

Around the Blogosphere:

This Week In Reading Mews:

Tell me about what you have been up to! What are you reading, listening to and watching? How was your week? Do you have anything planned for this coming week?


Every Friday Coffee Addicted Writer from Coffee Addicted Writer poses a question which participants respond on their own blogs within the week (Friday through Thursday). They then share their links at the main site and visit other participants blogs.

Can you read and watch TV or listen to the radio at the same time?
The other day I sat and read a chapter in my book at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, amidst screaming children and the constant sounds of games going on around me. I sometimes get so engrossed in a book I do not realize someone is talking to me. I can have the television or radio on in the background while I read with no problem. Unless the book I am reading is not holding my attention, then I am easily distracted.  My preference would be to read in complete silence--when I have the house to myself or I find an empty office at work to read during my lunch break. Reality has other ideas. More often than not, I read with some sort of noise in the background--whether it be a television or chatter or what have you. I can read just about anywhere, really. Noise or no noise.

When it comes to actually watching television or listening to the radio while I read, not really. On the rare occasion I am watching a television show with commercials (because I use a DVR or Netflix more often than not for my viewing pleasure), I may read during the commercials (but then I have to be careful not to get too involved in the book that I forget to stop and watch the show when it comes back on). But if I am actively watching a show, I can't read at the same time or vice versa. I really only listen to the radio when I'm driving, and so reading at the same time would not be wise. In fact, it would probably lead to certain death or, at the very least, injury. I can listen to audio books while driving though, which has proven to be very effective as of late when there is nothing on the radio I want to hear.

What about you? Can you watch television or listen to the radio while reading?

Every Sunday, Kendra Allen of Reads and Treats comes up with a theme for a Sunday list  of 5 things (because making lists are fun!) and asks participants to share.

Today's 5 Things on Sunday theme is Winter Dislikes. This is a bit of a tough one given I live in Southern California and winter is, well, it's not much different than the end of fall and the beginning of spring. The weather is pretty decent, I love rain, and Christmas is my favorite time of year.

1. Cold. I am not a fan of the cold. My nose turns bright red and won't stop running, and I can't get warm no matter what I do. Having to get out of bed when it's cold is the worst, especially since I leave for work before dawn this time of year. No, I am not a cold weather person. Forget about snow. I have never lived anywhere where it snowed in the winter and for good reason.

2. This is a stretch, but I do not like it that it is darker longer than it is daylight. Of course, that changes day by day as spring gets closer, which is something to look forward to but  still. I leave for work in the dark and I get home from work when it's dark. Where is the fun in that?

3. I don't like that I have to wear shoes that aren't sandals when I go out because it's either too cold or wet outside.

4. I don't like February much. Or January even. They both seem to drag on forever and feel like the longest months of the entire year. Seriously. Even when February has only 28 days. I am not sure why that is. It just is. July and August follow at a close third and fourth.

5. I do not like how quickly my car windows fog up in the winter. It is so annoying. I have to remember how to turn on my defroster and pray the window clears before I have to pull over because I suddenly cannot see.

Is there anything about winter you do not like? I would like to know!

I hope you all have a great week! Happy Reading!

The Sunday Post is hosted by the wonderful Kimba, the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and gives us all a chance to recap our week, talk about what we are reading, share any new books that have come our way, and whatever else we want to talk about. 

© 2017, 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.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam

Most children have two whole legs and two whole arms but this little six-year-old that Dinesh was carrying had already lost one leg, the right one from the lower thigh down, and was now about to lose his right arm. A Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam

The Story of a Brief Marriage by Aunk Arudpragasam
Flatiron Books, 2016
Fiction; 208 pgs

The Story of a Brief Marriage first came to my attention when it arrived in My Lit Box subscription the end of last year. I was able to fit it in as my last book read of 2016, and what a read it was! In the novel, Sri Lanka has been in civil war for decades and the army has pushed the Tamil minority up against the coast. Dinesh, one refugee among many, has been on the run for so long that he barely remember his life before--and yet, what he does remember is worlds away from where he is now. It was as if he had been a different person. So much has changed. Now, he is numb and surviving the best he can. He is going through the motions.

Something inside Dinesh awakens when he is approached with a marriage proposal. When was the last time he had family of his own? He longs to be needed and the desire to protect and care for another human being grows in him the more he considers the proposal. Ganga is reluctant to marry Dinesh. She had just lost her mother and brother two weeks before. Dinesh wonders at the father's motives for wanting to marry off his daughter, but in a way, he understands.

We really do not get to know Ganga's full story, which I wish we could have seen more into. This is all Dinesh's story, however. At the start of the novel, he is helping an injured boy--we see over the course of the novel that Dinesh is a caring and thoughtful human being. There is a scene with a crow that offers the reader a deeper glimpse at Dinesh's mindset over the course of the novel. Ganga's reaction is how I might have reacted, but Dinesh offers a different perspective, about life and holding onto it as long as we can, no matter how painful.

I can't even imagine being in a situation like Dinesh and Ganga. In a scene near the end, there is a boy standing and staring, not reacting in the middle of a missile attack, and I thought of the photo of the little boy in Aleppo, numb and not crying, that was all over the media last year. Like him, so many in this situation are numb to what goes on around them, having to always live in fear. It comes down to just trying to survive: to eat and sleep and even relieving oneself.

Anuk Arudpragasam's The Story of a Brief Marriage is beautifully written. It takes place over a 24 hour time period and is just over 200 pages, but is not a quick read. It is detailed and contemplative. The novel is an experience more than it is a story. I felt the numbness and desperation of the characters. I felt raw inside. Everything we do and have--what we often take for granted--how easy to forget how many advantages we have. How little we really need. How unimportant it all is, especially when in situation like Dinesh and Ganga, where survival is all they can focus on. The Story of a Brief Marriage is a reminder of how fragile we all are, and yet how resilient we can be. It is also the story of how war can rip us bear and leave us raw. We keep going, surviving in the worst of circumstances because we have to.

To learn more about author Anuk Arudpragasam and his work, please visit the author's website.

© 2017, 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.