Monday, March 31, 2008

Randomness on Monday

I feel like posting something but am not all that inspired to think too much on my own right now. At a moment like this, a meme comes in handy.


1. I always wanted to have a home library filled with books that I have read and want to read, a comfy spot to settle in and read, a desk where I can sit when I want to write a letter or visit my favorite litblogs on my computer, and a window overlooking a beautiful mountain lake.
2. I really hate it when I reach the last chapter of a book and I have to stop reading.
3. My best friend is also a reader.
4. In high school I was an editor for the school's creative writing magazine.
5. My greatest fear is being stuck waiting without anything to read.
6. My dream job is to be a well-known and respected author or maybe a professional book buyer. Although sometimes, I think opening a cozy used bookstore would be nice too. Since it's only a dream, maybe I could do all three and have my dream library.
7. Some people really should take the time to open a book and read. They might actually enjoy it.
8. My favorite author is a gifted storyteller with an eye for detail and the ability to create characters that come to life off the very pages in which they are written.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday Salon: Confessions of a Reader (Part Three)

This is the final installment of my own thoughts as I read Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman. I haven't touched upon every essay in the book, just the ones that made the biggest impression on me. If you are curious and have yet to do so, please check out Part One and Part Two.

Thoughts of this common reader (continued):

"Inset a Carrot" (The title of this essay is simplified here because I do not know how to add in the edit marks)- While dining out one night, the Fadiman family began perusing the menu, each of them pointing out errors in spelling and wording as they went along. The Fadiman's are natural proofreaders and have taken this habit a step farther. Anne's mother, for example, collects newspaper clippings filled with errors and plans to one day ship them all to the editor.

I spend a good part of my workday proofreading and making corrections. It is no wonder then that when I sit down to read a book, I have a difficult time ignoring the errors. Still, if I am caught up in a story, sometimes I am willing to overlook the minor mistakes. Unfortunately for my staff, their work is rarely that captivating.

Anne also mentions her annoying habit of looking over her husband's shoulder and making corrections to his writing. I am guilty of this as well, I admit. I am not quite as quick at finding my own errors, however, and sometimes miss them altogether. It can be quite embarrassing.

"Eternal Ink" - The perfect writing utensil can sometimes act as a muse. With the advent of computers, more and more people are using computers to write, which for some makes the process more impersonal, more hurried, and less romantic.

I have had favorite pens and pencils over the years, but none stand out in memory. I am one of those people who finds it easier to compile my thoughts and write on the computer than to pen something by hand. My thoughts come faster than my pen will write, sometimes faster than I can hit the keys, but the convenience of copying, pasting, moving text around until it fits perfectly together is hard to beat. When I do write, I prefer to write in pencil. Perhaps it is my insecurities coming through or just the fact that I like the gentler touch of a pencil. It is not as permanent, certainly, but my thoughts are not always permanent. I cross out just as much as I use the eraser. I don't mind smudges in my notebook from the eraser. I think it adds a bit of character.

My husband is much more specific about the type of pen he uses than I am. He prefers "the Uniball Roller Micro (5mm), made by Sanford, preferable in black," although he likes to have a variety handy for other purposes.

"The Literary Glutten" - Although I eat when I read, I rarely develop an appetite for a food I may be reading about at any given moment. It is different for Anne, however, for whom food in books creates an appetite.

I asked my husband where he stands on this subject: "Yeah, reading about food does nothing for me. Unless someone eats pizza. That's usually enough to start a craving."

"My Ancestral Castles" - Anne was raised in a home of readers. They were a family that read together as well as on their own. I imagine there was not a place in her house where there was not a book to be found. Bookshelves lined the walls. A person's bookshelves say a lot about them, sometimes revealing more about the person then he or she might realize.

When I enter a house, my eyes automatically search out the books. While not every booklover is a collector of books, there usually are some books out and about, even if they are library books. I especially love it when visitors to my home do the same, stopping in front of my shelves and start browsing the titles. I feel a sense of pride in my collection, as motley as it might be. I am not really sure what my books say about me, although I attempted to figure it out in last week's Sunday Salon. Maybe my library says I have too busy of a mind.

"Secondhand Prose" - It is no surprise that Anne is drawn to used bookstores. As a carnal booklover and one who values inscriptions as she does, she can fully appreciate the treasures that are tucked away in the cozy used bookshop, not to mention coming across an older out of print book that cannot be found elsewhere.

I admit that I prefer new books to old, but there certainly is something special about a used book, one that has crossed through many hands, is read and appreciated, has that irresistible old book smell, and will most likely be passed on again at some point. Isn't that the purpose of books? Books are the ultimate way to tell a story, a story to be shared with many others, passed along for generations to come.

A couple of days ago, a friend sent me the link to Rachel Donadio's article in The New York Times Sunday Book Review, "It's Not You, It's Your Books," an essay about how taste in literature can sometimes get in the way of love. It is an interesting article and at times worth a few chuckles.

My husband and I are fortunate enough to share a love for the written word. We have similar tastes, but sometimes we disagree. It seems only natural. I have reader friends whose significant others barely open a magazine to read at any given time, much less bother with books. Many are happy in their relationships. Since it was books and writing that initially brought my husband and I together, I cannot fathom the idea of not having that in common with my spouse. Reading and books are an important part of my life, and I personally would prefer to share it with someone who feels similarly. But that is just me. I do not believe there is any one recipe for a successful relationship.

This past week I seemed to hit the jackpot in ARE's. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway arrived as did The Book of Dahlia by Elisa Albert. I found one sitting on my front porch and the other behind the back gate. Both delivered on the same day. Obviously signs that the books came via different routes. It almost felt like an Easter egg hunt! I also received an ARE of After Hours at the Almost Home by Tara Yellen as well as a copy of The Arthurian Omen by G.G. Vandagriff, a Library Thing Early Reviewer selection. It wasn't my birthday, was it?

After reading Bibliolatrist's review of Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates, I could not wait to add it to my TBR collection and so picked up a copy while at the store yesterday. Since I was already there, I stopped by the discount table and picked up copies of Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman and Clockers by Richard Price as well.

Buy a Friend a Book Week officially begins Tuesday with several contests already underway in the blogosphere. Will you be surprising someone with a book this week?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday Thoughts About Book Giveaways

Just as predicted, the clouds are hanging low in the sky today. It will not deter me from running my errands this morning, however. On our must-do-today list is a visit to the AAA office and where I want to look into cost estimate for the trip we are planning during late summer. I really just want the free travel book they offer, listing all the hotels and restaurants. Maybe I can talk Anjin into swinging by Borders while we are in the neighborhood . . .

With Buy a Friend a Book Week right around the corner, I decided to go through my stacks of books I am looking to pass on. Several jumped out at me as possible books to give away here at Musings of a Bookish Kitty. One of the books has two little cat teeth holes throughout several pages in the center. The marks are tiny but noticeable. I wonder if anyone would want that book, knowing it has my cat's blessing? I am still trying to decide when to hold the drawings. Draw it out over months, have one a week over the next month, or try and fit them as many as possible in next week since it is officially Buy a Friend a Book Week? Decisions, decisions.

Time to get dressed and face the day. I hope you all are having a good weekend so far.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Fill Ins and Some Meme Fun

1. Some relationships are meant to inspire songs.
2. Josh Gracin at the House of Blues in Anaheim is the last concert I saw; it was uncomfortably crowded and the wait was way too long, but Anjin and I had a great time just the same.
3. Spring should be getting better any minute now.
4. Oh no! I forgot where I put the garage remote! Again.
5. I've recently started feeling very old.
6. Witnessing a random act of kindness never fails to make me smile.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to settling in with my book and forgetting the world outside; tomorrow my plans include taking in a movie, lunch out on the town, and a trip to the hospital for more blood tests; and Sunday, I want to sleep in if the animals will let me, read to my heart's content, fit in the laundry, and catch up on Lost!

It's about time I get around to trying my hand at the six-word memoir. This was hard! Florinda and Amy both were thoughtful enough to tag me.

1. Write your own six word memoir
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
4 .Tag five more blogs with links
5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

Bleeding heart tree hugger with chainsaw.

Or maybe

Just one more chapter before bed.

Or this one

Passions: Animals, Education, Human Rights, Reading.

I can't decide!

Please consider yourself tagged if you haven't give this a try yet. I dare you.

My friend Candid Karina who does an amazing job reviewing American Idol each week (even if I don't always agree with her take) on her Cafe Karina blog, tagged me for the 123 meme. Remember this one? It's always fun to do!

The rules...
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

From After Hours at the Almost Home by Tara Yellen:
"Drinks," Fran said, holding up her shot in one hand, her mixed drink in the other, "the elixir of forgetting."

"Forgetting?" Lena scoffed. "Forgetting what?"
Go on, even if you have done this one before, give it another go.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Cover-Up

This week’s question comes from Julie, who asks:

While acknowledging that we can’t judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Trade paperback vs. mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?

It is a given that people do judge books by their covers, at least initially. While the final decision to read or not to read a book may not rest on the artwork on the cover, it still can and does make a difference in certain cases. How many times have you come across a book that caught your attention because of the cover, whether it be the artwork or the title, one that you hadn't considered reading before or was not on your list? In these instances I often pause and take time to look a little closer, find out what the book is about, and if it is something I am interested in I might add it to my wish list or even my TBR collection. Likewise, I might not bother to check out those random books that have a cover or title that fails to capture my interest or draw me in at all. Of course, when the book is by a favorite author or of a subject matter that interests me, the cover matters very little.

The cover of The Historian and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell are examples of books whose covers first caught my fancy and had me eager to look inside. The trade paperback version I have of Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated would have been a big turn off for me had I not looked beyond the cover, however, it is a book I ended up enjoying quite a bit. I am not too keen on the covers of the Stephanie Plum novels either, but I have found that the books guarantee that I will be laughing aloud. Bright covers with big letters usually do not garner my interest, I'm afraid.

I much prefer the cliche that it is what is inside that counts because that is what is most important to me. While the cover of a book may draw me to it in the first place, no matter how attractive the cover may be, it will not impact my enjoyment of a book nor will an unattractive cover detract from my reading experience in any way.

Fortunately my eyesight is not so bad to deter me from books printed in a smaller font. Yet. I am not at all picky about the style of the font, and, to be honest, do not even notice it most of the time. I admire nice illustrations inside books, but they are not necessary nor do they play a part in why I choose to read a book. As for size of the book and format, I discussed that at length back in February here.

While initially I may judge a book by its cover, it is a temporary impression that can easily be changed once I find out what is inside a book. What the author has to tell me is what really matters. The words written on the pages, the story told, the characters and setting that are brought to life . . . All of this is what matters most to me.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday Salon: Confessions of a Common Reader (Part Two)

Last Sunday I let you glimpse some of my thoughts as I began reading Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. Part One of my own impressions found us discussing the joining of libraries, the love of words and poetry.

This week, let's take a walk through my library as I continue sharing my thoughts as I read this little book about reading and books.

Thoughts of this common reader (continued) -

"My Odd Shelf" - Anne refers to her odd shelf as books "unrelated to the rest of the library, yet which, upon closer inspection, reveals a good deal about its owner." [pg 21] The only odd shelf I have in the house is what I refer to as the reference bookcase which houses all of the reference books, home repair how-to books, the Bibles, animal care books, and cookbooks. I do not think that is exactly what Anne was referring to. And if it is, my odd shelf could be very misleading if you expected to actually learn something about me from the books I keep on that bookcase.

Literate Kitten posted about a similar topic, although more general as it relates to a person's entire library, Thoughts for Thursday - What Your Books Say About You. Over half of the books I own are unread books, books I have collected in recent years with every intention of reading. I still plan to read all of these books too; it's just that I am not quite as fast a reader as I am a book collector. Like in life, there is so much I want to take in and enjoy and, unfortunately, there never seems to be enough time to do and see it all.

Among my read and unread books, there is a wide variety of subject matter. I am a very curious person and have a passion for learning. I especially enjoy learning about other cultures and lifestyles, whether they be somewhere close to home, in another country, or in another world altogether. Although the mysteries probably outnumber the fantasy novels, I have a great passion for both--and it shows on my shelves.

The condition of the books a person's shelves also says something about us, don't they? Mine are a combination of pristine and tattered and torn, depending. There are new and used books on as well. Not one is there for display alone--that's not the sort of person I am.

The books are organized simply. The hardbacks and trade paperbacks are separated out from the mass market paperbacks. It's more of a shelving issue than for aesthetic purposes. Mass market paperbacks take up less room and are easier to double shelve. Regardless, they are all in alphabetical order by author's surname. Series books are kept in order of publication. At the moment I have quite a few books stacked at odd angles on top of the shelved books. Lack of space and my tardiness in filing them away being the two main reasons for this. Oh, and my to be read books are kept separate from the read books, rooms apart, but the shelving system is the same for all of them. While my bookshelves convey a sense of organization there is still a hint of underlying chaos, another echo of who I am.

What do your books say about you?

"Never Do That To A Book" - This was among my favorite chapters of the book. This is a topic dear to many of us booklovers hearts regardless of which side you stand. Anne describes two camps on this issue: the courtly lover who is always careful and treats books like a fragile glass figurine; and the carnal lover who ravishes books, loves them hard, and is not afraid to let it show. One is gentle and would not dare mark in a book. The other is fearless and uses the margins as if the space is meant for notes and recording a reader's history. Anne is a carnal lover as is most of her family. Her examples had me chuckling and nodding along in agreement, from both sides of the fence.

This topic has come up a few times before. You can find my more detailed thoughts on the subject here and here. I fall somewhere in between a courtly and carnal booklover when all is said and done.

"Words On A Fly Leaf" - This is perhaps my favorite of the author's essays. It was not too long ago that I shared my thoughts about inscriptions in books. Anne shared her own story about how the first book she received from her husband-then-beau was inscribed in a rather impersonal, friendly way, and then years later, he had penned the most romantic dedication she could have hoped for. Inscriptions can hold all sorts of meanings, be serious, romantic, funny, or short and to the point. For the recipient, it can mean the world. Or not:
"How melancholy, by contrast, are the legions of inscribed copies one finds in any used book-rack, each memorial to a betrayed friendship. Do the traitors believe that their faithlessness will remain secret? If so, they are sadly deluded. Hundreds of people will witness it, including on one occasion, the inscriber. Shaw once came across one of his books in a secondhand shop, inscribed To---- with esteem, George Bernard Shaw. He bought the book and returned it to ------, adding the line, With renewed esteem, George Bernard Shaw." [pg 60]
Of course, there are many reasons an inscribed book might land in a secondhand bookshop, not just because the reader no longer wants the book.

"You Are There" - Would the ultimate reading experience involve reading the book in the setting that is being described? Anne Fadiman thinks so. I do like to visit the places I read about or read about the places I visit. On my husband's and my journey through the Southwestern U.S., I was especially drawn to books set in the spots we visited. Anytime we would come across a bookstore, I headed straight for the local area section in hopes of finding just the right book. I have also found that it can be even more stirring to read a book set in the same season that is underway when I read a book, even if the location may not be one I am familiar with.

I had every intention of answering this week's Booking Through Thursday question along with participating in the Friday Fill Ins. A surprise visit from my parents and a few other unexpected issues of the unwelcome variety have kept me away from the computer and my reading this week. I have been unable to stop in and visit all my favorite blogs recently as a result. Hopefully I will be able to get back into the groove of things soon.

New Book Acquisitions:
  • The Murder Notebook by Jonathan Santlofer (ARE, Library Thing Early Review book)
  • The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry (ARE, review book from publisher)
  • The Konkans by Tony D'Souza
  • The Undead Kama Sutra by Mario Acevedo
  • On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  • Lost Prince by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (Front Street Reviews selection)

I hope that you all have a good week. Happy reading.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fangland by John Marks

Fangland by John Marks
Penguin Books, 2007
Horror; 385 pgs

Started: 02/20/2008
Completed: 03/02/2008
Rating: * (Good +)

First Sentence:
To Whom It May Concern:
First, as happy prelude to an otherwise grim prospect, thanks are in order.

Reason for Reading: I was quite enamored with Bram Stoker's Dracula when I read it, and after reading the description of this book, I just had to give it a try. This is a Curled Up With A Good Book selection.

Comments: Newly engaged and with wedding plans dancing in her head, the last thing Evangeline Harker wants to do is travel on assignment to Romania where she will be meeting with a man believed to be a major player in Eastern Europe's organized crime organization. After checking into her hotel in Bucharest, Evangeline makes the acquaintance of a fellow American, Clementine Spence, who describes herself as more of a change agent than a missionary. The two strike up a tentative friendship and become travel companions for the trip to Brasov, where Evangeline will be meeting her contact.

The road is not an easy one as the pair drives through Romania and into Transylvania. Weary and tired, they arrive at the hotel where they are met by an odd and rather unattractive looking man. Evangeline is sure this must be the contact who will introduce her to the infamous Ion Torgu. Clemmie senses something is wrong, but her warning falls on deaf ears. Evangeline should have listened to Clemmie, however, she instead goes off with the man, sealing her fate.

Ion Torgu is ugly and despicable, and yet there is something alluring about him just the same. Evangeline and the reader cannot help but be taken in. He plays the role of weak well, wanting to be liked and in need of constant reassurance. Underneath that, however, lies dark power and strength unmatched by anyone. He wants something from Evangeline, and he is determined to take it if she will not give it to him willingly.

Meanwhile, back in New York things are not going as smoothly as usual. Evangeline's disappearance and lack of contact with anyone, including her family, have put everyone on edge. Tapes arrive in the mail from Romania only nothing of import appears to be on them, only an empty wooden chair. Whispers float in the air of the news offices on the 20th floor. A strange illness seems to have infected the news staff; death and evil hang in the air.

Long time correspondent Austen Trotta is at first oblivious to what is going on around him in the newsroom, although he is greatly concerned about the safety of his associate producer, Evangeline. It is not until much later that he realizes he should have listened to the warnings of editor, Julia Barnes, a competent and clear-headed woman who picks up on the wrongness in the office early on. And then there is Stimson Beevers, the young production associate who takes Evangeline's disappearance the hardest outside of her own family.

Evangeline, believed to be dead, is discovered in a Transylvanian monastery where she had been living for the past several months. Evangeline is no longer the naive and sweet natured woman she once was. A darkness hangs over her now. Hope is ignited on the 20th floor at the news of her return, and yet the nightmare is not yet over.

Author John Marks uses his knowledge of working in a newsroom to set the stage for his terrifying tale, describing the inner workings of what it takes to put a successful news program together and the direction, for better or worse, similar news shows have taken today. Each character and their role within the production of the news show play integral parts in the story as it is told. The cast of characters is well drawn; many of who are more than what they first appear. They each have their own histories, their own stories, some of which plays into the events that will come as the novel progresses.

The author draws from Bram Stoker's famous Dracula novel, piecing his story together in a similar fashion. The story is told through a compilation of journal entries and e-mail correspondence of varying characters, offering a more full picture of events as they unfold. Some of the milestones in Fangland are echoes of its predecessor, Dracula. Likewise, the roles of some of the characters may seem familiar to those who have read both; and yet the story is very different. John Marks has written a different sort of vampire tale.

Fangland is an entertaining and well-crafted horror novel. John Marks is a gifted writer who takes a classic story, turns in on its ear and makes it all his own. The author lays the groundwork, slowly building in intensity, but never lacking in suspense. Fangland is both seductive and horrifying with a climax that must not be missed. Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Wendy Runyon, 2008.

Be sure and visit the the author's website for information about his other books.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Proust Questionnaire: The James Lipton Version

I noticed this little meme floating around not too long ago. My husband and I were fans of Inside the Actors Studio for several years, and our favorite part was when the host, James Lipton, would pose the following questions to his guests. He borrowed the idea from Bernard Pivot, a French journalist and interviewer.

I enjoy it when fellow blogger Florinda sometimes shares with us her husband's responses to questions and memes she takes part in. I decided to follow her lead with this one. Anjin's
responses are in italics.

What is your favorite word?

Me: Sorrow (I know it is a sad word, but I like it more for the softness in the way it sounds than the meaning itself.)

Anjin: Precise

What is your least favorite word?

Me: Cruelty

Anjin: Intolerance

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Me: Nature, kindness, gentleness mixed with strength, thoughtfulness, good deeds, and humor/laughter.

Anjin: Seeing what other people have created.

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Me: Crowds, filth, loudness, willful ignorance, arrogance, prejudice, rudeness, closemindedness, disrespect, thoughtlessness, and cruelty.

Anjin: Pretentiousness

What sound or noise do you love?

Me: A F-16 doing a fly by, birds chirping in the morning, my dog's chain clinking as he wanders around the yard or house, my cat's meow, my husband's laughter, and rain falling (Not necessarily in that order.)

Anjin: 1) My wife's breathing in her sleep, 2) the level up sound effect in World of Warcraft

What sound or noise do you hate?

Me: Yelling and the blaring horn at the railroad crossing (I like the sound of the actual train whistle and horn--just not that contraption they put up outside the railroad crossing that is horrendously loud and obnoxious.)

Anjin: Squealing tires

What is your favorite curse word?

Me: Fuck

Anjin: Motherfucker

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Me: A helicopter pilot

Anjin: Novelist

What profession would you not like to do?

Me: President of the United States

Anjin: Glass eater

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Me: "Oh good! We have an opening for you in the choir!"

Anjin: "Aren't you glad you were wrong?"

As an aside,
Anjin posted a list of his top five books today, so while I may not be talking about books, at least he is. Take a look!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday Salon: Confessions of a Common Reader (Part One)

Anne Fadiman's book of essays, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, was a delightful and, at times, heartwarming book to read. Over the course of many years, the author jotted down her thoughts about reading and books, which have always been a significant part of her life. Like the pencil marks on the wall denoting the growth of a child, so too do the books booklovers read throughout their lives tell their own story.

Anne's essays are full of humor and sentimentality. While I could not relate to every topic she raised in her book, I did enjoy reading about her experiences as a common reader.

I keep a trusty notebook handy when I read, and the following are my notes as I read each essay. Because of the length of my thoughts, my comments will be split into multiple parts. I hope that you will share some of your own experiences and thoughts as well!

Thoughts of this common reader -

"Marrying Libraries" - Anne and her husband waited five years into their marriage before finally taking the plunge to merge their individual libraries. It proved to be a difficult task because they each had their own organizational preferences, which did not always coincide.

I asked my husband if he remembered the moment in our lives when we decided to marry our libraries (and our CD collections--which I think was somehow harder, although I'm not sure why). My own recollection is a bit fuzzy because, frankly, we did not really have any disagreements about which books should go where. Neither of us was nearly as particular as Anne and George had been. The hard part for me was taking that step at all. There was a finality in the process that was both exciting and a tad bit frightening.

Anjin's own recollection is similar: I don't remember any conflict. It felt like a natural extension of our moving in together. Although I still think of certain books as mine, it's just a vestige of old favorites being added to our communal shelves. The only weirdness was dealing with multiple copies of the same book, but we figured out how to deal with that pretty quick. We see eye-to-eye more often than not, so conflict over books seems a little silly to me.

Anjin brings up an interesting point regarding books that we still consider our own. I confess to feeling that way too about some of the books on our shelves--and about all of the books in the TBR room, even though technically, they are just as much his books as they are mine.

"The Joy of Sesquipedalians" - A sesquipedalian, by definition, is a long word. In this particular essay, Anne reminisces about her love affair with words. Her parents encouraged both her brother and her in their reading and love of words. She and her brother used to search them out, making it a sort of competition. Throughout all her essays, the author's love of words comes through in her writing.

My own love for words is not quite as passionate as Anne's. I do find beauty in words, the way words come together and are manipulated to form images and stories. There is a definite power in words and in how we use them. Sometimes I will come across a word that will thrill me, but it is less common then it was when I was younger.

I asked Anjin his thoughts on the subject and this is what he has to say: I never have had much love for individual words. I'm not the kind that likes the sound of a word or discovering how it's derived. As a writer, I'm more interested in the utility of certain words and how they flesh out the structure of my writing. I like words that evoke more precise meanings or that make a complex statement more concise. The right word in the right place works wonders. But it's the flow of the structure that I care about, not the individual pieces.

In reading this essay one of the questions that popped in my head was whether or not you look up words you do not know when you read? And if you do, do you make a list to go back to later or rush to the dictionary or computer to look them up right away? I admit that a lot depends on where I am and how easily I can access a reference tool to look up definitions. Sometimes I can figure out the meaning of a word based on the context it is used, but other times I prefer to know the exact meaning.

"Scorn Not the Sonnet" - The author writes about her own attempts at writing poetry and the point in which she realized that good, meaningful poetry, as well as the sonnet, involves more than just the mechanics of it. The voice in which the poet speaks can reach deep into the soul if done right. Anne shared how difficult it was when her father, an avid reader himself, lost his sight. He felt his life was over if he could not read. Milton's sonnet, "On His Blindness" helped him through that difficult time. He was able to find other ways to take in the written word, fortunately, and so all was not lost.

My 10th grade English teacher had a poet take over for a couple of weeks to teach our class how to write poetry. I remember how difficult it was for me to write even one poem. I had been writing stories for many years before that, but the poem eluded me. Like Anne, I was stuck on the mechanics of it and that hampered the free flow of thoughts and feelings that I needed to get down on paper. I did discover that year that the most positive comments made in regards to my attempts at poetry came when I wrote the poems in my geometry class. The instructor told me at the end of his stay with us was that I should keep writing poetry. And I did. For a short while, anyway.

Perhaps you have noticed that my challenge participation has been next to nonexistent so far this year. I am considering dropping out of them altogether. That does not mean giving up on reading any of the books on my lists, of course. The very reason they are there is because I want to read them. I have not quite decided yet what I want to do and will put off making any drastic decisions just yet.

My most recent book acquisition is a copy of Dave Eggers What Is the What, a book that has come highly recommended from a variety of people. When I first mentioned the title to my husband, I thought we were going to go into the Abbott and Costello routine, Who's on First?

I hope that you all have a terrific week. Happy reading.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Fill Ins: My Cat Talks In His Sleep

1. Contact may cause my cat to start purring.
2. The parties hereto do mutually agree to eat a scoop of ice cream every night unless otherwise determined and agreed upon by all involved.
3. Disney parks sure have gotten crowded.
4. A good night's sleep sounds really good right about now!
5. I positively adore my animals.
6. My husband's happy dance always makes me smile.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to falling fast asleep, tomorrow my plans include counting my blessings and Sunday, I want to stretch out as long as possible before the start of the new work week!

Booking Through Thursday fell by the wayside with other things going on in my life right now. I hope to participate next week. I just cannot seem to catch a break health wise. Sadder still, however, is that a friend and coworker of mine who has been battling cancer for the past couple of years is nearing the end of her fight. While her body may be failing her, her spirit is strong. She had been looking forward to coming back to work and her wedding this spring. Melyssa is one of those people who brings sunshine, a pretty smile, a ready joke, a kind word to share, and a generous heart wherever she goes. Please keep her as well as her family in your thoughts and prayers.

Edited at 9:18 a.m., 03/15/2008: The doctor upped the dosage of Melyssa's pain medication so that she would be more comfortable and be able to sleep. She passed away in her sleep late last night. The earth has lost a great person, but God has gained an angel. My prayers are with her family.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Say Goodbye by E J Rand

Say Goodbye (A Reluctant Sleuth Mystery) by E J Rand
Deadly Ink Press, 2008 (ARE)
Crime Fiction (S/T); 216 pgs

Started: 03/07/2008
Completed: 03/08/2008
Rating: * (Good +)

First Sentence: If Norman Lyons had known he was going to die that morning, he would have worn different clothes.

Reason for Reading: I was offered this title to read and review for Front Street Reviews and decided to give it a try.

Comments: Author E J Rand does not mince words, his novel taking off at high speed from the very first page. Norman Lyons knew too much, and, as a result, ended up dead. Or so his wife suspects despite police conviction that his death was merely a tragic car accident. The grieving widow turns to her long time trusted neighbor, Gary Kemmerman, for help. Although reluctant, Gary decides to find out what he can for her. This may be just what Gary needs to help him out of his funk. Since the death of his own wife, he has going through the motions of living, just barely.

He wastes no time delving into the matter, using his connections in the police department to talk to the investigating officer and sharing a light dinner with the only eyewitness to the car crash. At the insistence of a friend, he meets with a former employee of the brokerage firm Norm Lyons worked for before his death. Merle Kingsley is a difficult man to get to, but he makes time for Gary, expecting that Gary, with his experience as a former crisis consultant, may be able to help him just as much as he can help Gary. After the meeting, Gary realizes the stakes are much higher than he could ever have anticipated.

Working closely with the authorities, his contacts and his friends, Gary quickly begins to unravel the plot that led to his friend’s death. Despite the danger he and his friends are facing, he begins to lose his heart to a woman whose own wounds are still healing from a bad relationship. More than just his life is on the line the more he uncovers, and he may end up risking everything the closer he gets to the truth.

Gary Kemmerman has had a difficult year, and amidst the trouble he encounters over the course of the book, he still maintains a cool head. He is both tenderhearted and thoughtful where it counts, and not afraid to step into the fray and put his life on the line. While some might say he is too perfect, it works well in this case. He was a refreshing character. Gary is surrounded by supportive friends who not only are willing to help in a pinch but look out for him as well. Becca especially stands out as a strong woman whose defenses make it difficult to trust just anyone. She has had a difficult life and overcome so much.

E J Rand has created a novel that is not only a hard-hitting thriller but one with a softer side as well. Murder and greed fill the pages of Say Goodbye, but so do friendship and love. His characters are well drawn and the story itself well worth reading. Although short in length, it packs a wallop, filled with exciting twists and turns that will leave the reader breathless by the end. Fortunately, this is the first in a series that definitely has my attention and will keep me coming back for more. Originally published at Front Street Reviews. © Wendy Runyon, 2008.

Be sure and visit the author's website for more information about his upcoming books and to learn a little more about him.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Fisher Boy by Stephen Anable

The Fisher Boy by Stephen Anable
Poisoned Pen Press, 2008 (ARE)
Crime Fiction (Mystery); 337 pgs

Started: 03/03/2008
Completed: 03/07/2008
Rating: * (Good +)

First Sentence: In Provincetown, I felt enveloped in the shivery skin of a paranoid, all goose-bumps and heartbeat.

Reason for Reading: I came across this title through Bookbrowse's First Impressions Program and thought it sounded interesting enough to give it a try.

Comments: Mark Winslow, son of a jazz singer turned painter, gave up his day job to try his hand at acting. He takes his act to Cape Cod, settling into Provincetown where he has friends, hoping to land a gig for his comedy troupe. A promising summer stretches out before them, and Mark is confident that they will make a splash on the scene. Unfortunately, that is not what is meant to be.

A dog murdered and left on the doorsteps of a prominent gay resident in the area only proves to be a foreshadowing of what is to come. When a well-known gay resident is brutally murdered, tempers and fears in the community rage and concerns of discrimination and hate crimes bubble to the surface. Attention shifts to the Christian Soldiers, who have recently moved to town to spread their own interpretation of the Gospel. The town also has seen an increase in what appear to be runaways, dirty young people, with sticky fingers, preferring shoplifting over paying.

Mark is at the center of it all when he discovers the body of his childhood friend. Knowing that he will be the first suspect the police turn to because of an argument he had with the deceased not long before, he decides against reporting the discovery. Instead, he starts asking questions of his own, hoping to get to the bottom of the murder. The more questions Mark asks, the more attention he gets, and danger inevitably follows.

The novel takes awhile to get off the ground as the author sets the stage for the events to come. Mark Winslow is the naïve and curious protagonist, who at times I found a little exasperating but still likeable. He is trying to find his way in the world, both career wise and on a personal level. He grew up never knowing who his father was and, as a result, felt something has been missing from his life all along. Mark seems to make friends easily and knows how to use his acting skills to get what he wants in tight situations; still, he takes more risks than he should, not always thinking things out first.

Provincetown is an established community, full of diversity and a mixture of year round residents and summer vacationers. For the most part, it is a peaceful community where everyone gets along. Stephen Anable’s introduction of a right wing religious group into a liberal town was sure to spark controversy, and so it does. In addition, there is a profound dichotomy between the wealthy and those who have much less. The novel at times seems just as much a glimpse into the psyche of a community and the character of Mark as it is into the mystery itself.

Author Stephen Anable has crafted a unique and intriguing mystery with a myriad of characters, each with their own foibles and quirks. He packs quite a few different plot threads throughout the novel that will keep the reader guessing right up until all is revealed at the end. Suspenseful with a teaspoon of romance, The Fisher Boy is an entertaining novel.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Blood Poison by D.H. Dublin

Blood Poison by D.H. Dublin
Berkley; 2007
Crime Fiction, 295 pgs

Started: 02/13/2008
Completed: 02/18/2008
Rating: * (Good)

First Sentence: The bulging trash bag snagged on a rock and tore, spilling eggshells, orange peels, and coffee grounds as Dottie dragged it across the dirt.

Reason for Reading: After reading The Translator by Daoud Hari, I was ready for something light and entertaining. I decided Blood Poison might just do the trick. I was fortunate enough to get a copy of this book through Amateur le Livre for review.

Comments: Blood Poison by D.H. Dublin is the second book in the C.S.U. Investigation series set in Philadelphia. Crime Scene Investigator Madison Cross has been on the job for three months and she already has a reputation stirring up trouble.

Madison is stranded at the home of the deceased, Derek Grant, his body splayed out on the kitchen floor, as she waits for the medical examiner’s office to retrieve the body. The cause of death appears to be natural, perhaps a heart attack. Before their arrival, however, the dead man’s father arrives home, after having checked himself out of an assisted living home after only a week’s stay, and Madison must break the news to him. Madison cannot help but feel for the grieving father, who seems to have no one else in the world. When the routine toxicology panel comes back with questionable results, Madison’s job becomes even harder. Did Derek Grant commit suicide or could it be something more sinister?

Meanwhile, Madison is pulled into what appears to be a more complicated investigation when, another body has the entire Philadelphia Crime Scene Unit stumped. They have little to work on besides bones, hair and nail tips. A forensic anthropologist is called in to help with the identification. The woman was obviously murdered, but exactly who she was and why someone would kill her remains unknown.

Things are not always what they appear to be and if anyone is bound to uncover the truth, Madison knows just where to look. The closer she gets to uncovering the truth, the more dangerous the situation becomes for her.

Madison is easy to like. She is smart and caring, although a little naive. She gave up a promising medical career to work with the Crime Scene Unit along side her uncle, Lieutenant David Cross, and is trying to settle into her new life. She is surrounded by a colorful cast of characters who are talented and supportive.

Author D.H. Dublin has written a suspense filled novel. He takes the reader into the center of a crime scene unit and lets the reader walk through the paces of what it might take to solve a crime, weaving the investigation naturally into this entertaining crime fiction novel. I will definitely be keeping a look out for further books by D.H. Dublin. Originally published on
Amateur le Livre. © Wendy Runyon, 2008.

Be sure and check out the author's website.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sunday Salon: My Reading Break In Review

Sunday, March 2, 2008 - Off Limits

I do not usually pay attention to my horoscope, putting little faith in its veracity. If I do read it, as I have been lately for some silly reason, it is at the end of the day to see if what was predicted actually came true. Horoscopes are extremely generalized and easily manipulated into extrapolating out of it whatever meaning you may want. On this day, I read my horoscope earlier than usual, and it warned that I needed to give up a commitment, not just put it off until later. As much as I would like to retire and settle into a peaceful life, I am not in a position to give up my career just yet nor would I want to (although sometimes I very much wish I could). Taking my horoscope to heart for once in my life, I decided that blogging must be the commitment I let go. For a week. I wouldn't really be putting it off so much as giving it up for a week. I have also decided to commit myself to read more during the week.

The day was devoted to reading. I curled up in bed and read until well after noon. I was not quite so devote the reader during the afternoon hours, but I did return to my book as evening approached, stretching out on the couch as the last rays of sun filtered in through the blinds. Perhaps not the the most conducive setting for finishing up a horror novel, but John Marks held me captive until I reached the end. There was only one minuscule moment while I was reading that I almost burst out laughing--the image of this large man coming down the hall with a bucket and knife: clunk, clunk, clunk. I'm not sure why it struck me as funny--but then, maybe I should not be surprised. Sometimes horror strikes me that way. Stephen King's Cell, for example. I found it more amusing than scary. Fortunately, Fangland did have the spooky factor going for it (except for that one tiny moment).

Monday, March 3, 2008 through Thursday, March 6, 2008 - The Work Week

Work days are the worst for me when it comes to making time to read. I usually am able to squeeze in some reading during my half hour lunch break, but my plans to read in the evening usually fall by the wayside, at least until I am ready to go to bed. If it has been an especially exhausting day, I tend to fall asleep before I get much read. Unfortunately, that was often the case this week.

I did manage to squeeze in the last half of Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, which I am sure has quite the draw for booklovers like myself. I took copious notes and thought it would make a great Sunday Salon post. Only, it's five pages long, typed in a 10pt font with a 0.5 inch margin on each side. Yeah. So, you will be stuck for the next few Sundays with my impressions of the book as I read it. I know that kind of defeats the purpose of the Sunday Salon, which is supposed to be about reading in the here and now, and not so much the past. Some rules are meant to be broken on occasion though and I would really like to share my thoughts with you--and most especially hear yours. Look for that next week.

In other reading, I began Stephen Anable's The Fisher Boy during my lunch break on Monday. The Fisher Boy is a murder mystery set in Cape Cod in Provincetown. The protagonist is Mark Winslow, a young aspiring actor, who is in town for the summer while trying to make a splash on the stage. It got off to a good start, stalled a little, and then picked up again. I have not completely warmed up to the main character, but he is likable enough, if not a little annoying at times.

Friday, March 7, 2008 - Thank Goodness for Three Day Weekends

I am fortunate enough to work a schedule that allows me every other Friday off, and this just happens to be one of those weeks. And thank goodness! It was an extremely long week at work (even if only four days).

I was up past midnight finishing The Fisher Boy before finally settling in for the night, hoping I could sleep in the next morning, however, it was not meant to be. My darling dog made sure of that. I have already selected my next book to read, E J Rand's Say Goodbye, a mystery thriller set in New Jersey. I tucked the book into my purse on my way out the door for the day's outing.

Anjin and I spent the afternoon taking in a movie and enjoying lunch out. A woman sat in the row ahead of us, reading a book in the dim light of the theater before the show began. My husband I sometimes do that as well to pass the time. I could not tell what she was reading, I am afraid to say, but I did learn that she is rough on her books, pulling the little paperback flat as can be (it was probably easier for her to see the words closer to the margin that way, but that's just a guess on my part). When it was time for the movie to start, we both impolitely stared as she dog eared a corner to mark her place. Anjin, who is very careful with his books, visibly cringed at the sight of it. Both he and I shared a knowing look between us before turning our attention to the big screen. Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day was a funny and entertaining movie, I must say. Please do see it if you like lighthearted romantic comedies.

No trip to the theater is complete without a stop in the bookstore, which is just around the corner. Upon Clea's recommendation, I picked up a copy of Blaize Clement's Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter. And in show support for a local author, I bought a copy of Highwire Moon by Susan Straight, a story about a mother and daughter who search for each other after being separated twelve years before when the mother was deported home to Mexico while her daughter remained in California. I felt less guilty when I saw that my husband had also found a couple of books that caught his fancy.

In the late evening, I settled in with Say Goodbye. The book has gotten off to a great start. The author does not use a lot of words to get across his meaning, which always seems to increase the pacing of the novel, I find. I can tell I am in for a good time. Unfortunately, my body has other ideas and I think I'm losing the battle of staying awake.

Saturday, March 8, 2008 - A Day For Reading

It had been my plan to give you little updates as I read today, a peek into the mind of this reader, but that was not meant to be. I did spend a good part of the day stretched out on the couch lost in my book. It seemed the perfect day for it with the windows open, the sunlight pouring in . . . A cozy and comfortable day.

As is often the case, just as I am heading into that final stretch, a page or two away from the end, I am interrupted by my darling dog. It wasn't the kind of interruption I could ignore (I tried at first). Anyhow, I did manage to finish Say Goodbye. I will post my review soon, along with my reviews for Fangland and The Fisher Boy.

Anjin and I settled in front of the television tonight and watched The Good Shepherd starring Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie, which is about the shaky start of the Central Intelligence Agency. It was rather slow pace wise, but it fit with the tone of the film quite well.

I decided to put off choosing the next book I will read until tomorrow. I remembered to set the clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time and am now off to bed.

Sunday, March 9, 2008 - My Half Birthday

Half birthdays mean something to many young children, and mine was even more special to me because it was also my maternal grandfather's birthday. I think it started out as a way to keep the little ones happy during the adult party, but it has turned into a sort of memorial for my grandfather who died when I was in high school. My mother sends me a card every year without fail, and I admit to feeling the same sort of attachment to the day that I did all those years ago.

I have mentioned my grandfather before, his love for reading and writing. I think he would be quite pleased to know that his granddaughter continues to be an avid reader and dabbles in writing as he once did. He had such a great influence on me, and I look back on our time together fondly. Yesterday as I finished reading Say Goodbye, I couldn't help but imagine my grandfather in the shoes of the protagonist, albeit a little younger than when I knew him. That was the type of man he was: thoughtful and generous in spirit, always ready to help a friend.

I have no special plans for today. I do not actually celebrate my half birthday, other than perhaps in spirit. There will be no birthday cake or presents. Most people I know think I am silly for even thinking about the day as my half birthday. And that is okay. Both my mother and I know what this day means to us, and that is all that truly matters.

Now to decide what book will keep me company on this tree bending, windy day . . .

Happy Reading!

Sunday, March 02, 2008