Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Fill In Fun

The sun came out from behind the clouds for a little while this afternoon, but it looks like she's back in hiding again. I think my oldest cat has the right idea--an afternoon nap! I have missed quite a bit these past couple of weeks, including all of you. I have been away from not only my blog (and yours) but my books as well, and my reading has suffered. I am looking forward to getting back into the swing of things.

This next month there is a lot to look forward to here at Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Book reviews, the next Page in the Life interview and a giveaway or two just for starters. Here's wishing you all a wonderful weekend. Happy Reading!

For this week's Mailbox Monday on Friday, I have one book to report:

Summer on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

1. I'm praying for my husband's family, and all they have had to go through this past month; I'm hoping life begins to look up for them soon; with all that is going on, I've been reminded that I need to count my blessings every day.

2. Why do I have five dollars in my wallet and not the ten I thought I had?

3. How does this new remote control work, anyway?

4. Every morning, I put my trousers on one leg at a time.

5. I consider myself lucky because I have a loving husband who puts up with me even when I'm at my worst.

6. One day we’ll see a cure for Alzheimer's Disease.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to settling in with my book and reading until I fall asleep; tomorrow my plans include doing a little blog hopping and catching up on recorded TV shows; and Sunday, I want to spend the afternoon lost in a book in between the loads of laundry that must get done!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Salon: A Reading Retrospective, February 2004

Flipping through the pages of my reading journal back to February 2004, I discover that I was on an adventure kick of sorts, whether I was fighting zombies, an evil prince, chasing down serial killers or revisiting the past. It is amazing the places you can go by just opening up a book.

The first time I saw the movie The Princess Bride, I wasn't impressed. My husband counted that among his favorites? Really? Then I saw it again and again and again . . . I have lost track of how many times I have seen the film, but I can say with a certainty that the movie grew on me over time, and I think of it quite fondly these days, and even recommend it to others who are looking for something quirky, funny, romantic and adventurous. (The soundtrack is pretty awesome too.)

It wasn't until February of 2004 that I settled in to read the book the movie was based on. Author William Goldman charmed me from the beginning of the introduction. I loved every word of his book. Reading about the characters was like visiting with long lost friends. How could I not fall in love with Buttercup, Westley, Fezzick and Inigo? I laughed and cried and even held my breath a few times. It is definitely one of my all-time favorite novels. I appreciate the movie all the more now for having read the book.

This year the movie Angels and Demons will be coming to theaters. The movie is based on the book with the same title by author Dan Brown, which I just happened to have read five years ago this month. Opinions of Dan Brown's novels are all over the map. Some readers love him while others cannot stand him. I was actually quite smitten with Angels and Demons. I almost feel embarrassed to admit it, with so many people out there who snub their noses at Dan Brown's books. But only almost. We can't all like the same books.

The Da Vinci Code was getting a lot of press about that time, and I was interested in seeing what all the fuss was about. Still, I couldn't start with the sequel, most definitely not! And so, Angels and Demons made it into my hands first. I actually liked Angels and Demons over The Da Vinci Code, which I read later that same year. The whole science versus religion controversy has always interested me, and it made for a great story line in the novel. Angels and Demons was fast paced and thrilling. I read it in only two sittings, all within the same day. I remember commenting to my husband as I read that I thought the book would make a great action movie. I hope the upcoming movie will do it justice.

I have yet to see the movie The Five People You Meet in Heaven based on Mitch Albom's book of the same title, but I did read the book in February of 2004. It was sappy, sure, but I liked the message of how interconnected we all are, and I liked the author's writing style. It led me to read another of his books a couple of years later.

Other books I read that month five years ago included Resurrection Row by Anne Perry, Jack & Jill by James Patterson, and the Laughing Corpse by Laurell K. Hamilton.

As you can tell, I have movies on the brain. It may have something to do with the upcoming Academy Awards show. I am in between books at the moment, trying to decide what to read next. So many choices . . .

Random Thoughts:
  • I joined Twitter. I am not sure why. I am sure it had something to do with my husband talking about it all the time lately.
  • There are about ten books sitting in my immediate TBR pile that I wish I could read all at once, right now.
  • I am having trouble thinking of what to write for my review of a book I recently finished. Every time I sit down to start on it, I draw a blank. I actually liked the book, so that's not the problem.
  • I do not like it when I am not feeling up to reading.
  • I hate being sick. I hate being in pain. Okay, I'm done whining about it. For now.
  • I discovered that Parker is a good pill taker. But only when my husband is giving him the pills.
  • My cats, Anya and Parker, both prefer hardback books.
  • My computer has kitty bite marks in one corner.
  • I am going to spend the day reading an actual book.

Newest Acquisitions:

Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America - and Found Unexpected Peace by William Lobdell ~ Harper Collins First Look Selection (talk about long subtitles!)

The Mechanics of Falling and Other Stories by Catherine Brady ~ TLC Book Tour

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford ~ Because you all talked me into it.

The Book of the Unknown: Tales of the Thirty-Six by Jonathon Keats ~ Another one that's all your fault. You know who you are.

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh ~ A random buy--my husband says I was drawn to it because it sounds like something I would have wanted to do.

(I will not be around much this week either, I am afraid. I'm still feeling pretty rotten. I nearly didn't get this post finished and posted. Thank you all who sent me well wishes. I truly appreciate your kindness.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Under the Weather

I will be back when I am feeling better.

Friday, February 13, 2009

TGIF: Friday Catch Up

This week's Musings Monday question:
What do you use to mark your place while reading? Do you have a definite preference? Do you use bookmarks, paper, or (gasp) turn down the pages? If you use bookmarks, do you have a favorite one?

There are some who might think that I have a bookmark for each book, but that would not be true. Not even close. I imagine it might look that way though when you do see how many bookmarks I have. I have all kinds. Metal bookmarks, paperclip like ones, paper bookmarks with tassels, homemade book marks, cloth ones, plastic bookmarks, ribbon bookmarks, book jewelry, and a bookworm. My favorite is one a friend of mine cross stitched for me--it is personalized to match my personality and interests. I don't actually that use one though; I keep it on my desk on display. Even with all those bookmarks you will still find me using a scrap of paper, a corner of a tissue, an envelope, a postcard, or a receipt to hold my place now and then. If I am desperate and the book is my own, I may resort to dog-earring, but that is very rare. Usually I am able to scrounge something up to put in my book.

Are you a bookmark user or do you prefer to mark your book some other way?

For this week's Mailbox Monday on Friday, I have two books to report:

Bedlam South by Mark Grisham & David Donaldson ~ This is a book I first heard about from Nancy of Bookfoolery and Babble, and I had made a note of the title for future consideration. I was quite thrilled then when a publicist contacted me for possible review of the novel.

The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life by Ben Herwood ~ Many thanks to Lisa from Books Ahoy! for a copy of this one.

What did you find in your mailbox this week?

For this week's Tuesday Thingers, Wendi asks
Do you use a rating system on your blog? How do you feel about using the rating system provided on sites like Library Thing and Amazon? When looking up information on a book you are interested in, do you use the ratings provided by these sites (or similar sites) to help you make the decision on purchasing the book?
I have gone back and forth about whether or not to use a rating system when reviewing the books I read. It is a very subjective process based solely on my impressions of the book I read. There are technical aspects I look for in any book, but my overall thoughts and feelings about a book do play a large part in how I end up rating the book. I do not know if anyone else finds my ratings useful, but they do help me in capturing my general opinion of a book. The rating can say so much, and yet, at the same time, it says so little. Because I tend to like most of what I read, my rating scale is top heavy. My rating scale looks something like this:
  • 1 (Poor) - Occasionally my cat climbs on my chest and makes me pet him instead of reading. This time, I should have listened to the cat more carefully.
  • 2 (Fair) - This book kept me guessing until the very end. The problem was I was guessing whether I really liked it or not.
  • 3 (Good) - By the end of this book, I was happy to have read it. Not so much that I don't have some very pointed comments to make, Mr. or Mrs. Author, but I liked it.
  • 4 (Very Good) - Now that was a book. It really is too bad more books aren't as good as that. Really, what's wrong with you authors? I want to like your books. Here's an example of what I'm looking for. Hop to it!
  • 5 (Outstanding) - This book is the reason I read. The book made me say "WOW!" when it was all over. Six months to a year later I'm still talking about it almost nonstop and wondering why everyone hasn't read it. It might annoy my husband but I don't care. The book is that good.
I do pay attention to book ratings made by other bloggers and on sites like Amazon and LibraryThing to a certain degree. I always keep in mind that ratings are subjective and not everyone interprets each level of a rating like I might. A low rating will not necessarily stop me from reading a book I really want to read, nor will a negative review. If I am on the fence about a book, I may look at the overall ratings, but it rarely is the deciding factor. I prefer to read a review to go along with the rating. I have found that I get a better sense of the reviewer's opinion of a book this way, rather than just going by the rating.

What about you? Do you rate the books you read? Do you find ratings useful?

Suggested by Barbara H.: Do you read any author’s blogs? If so, are you looking for information on their next project? On the author personally? Something else?
I follow a number of authors' blogs. Many are joint efforts, where a group of authors have come together and take turns blogging. The subjects the authors address vary from their current projects or writing process to current events and more personal matters. I enjoy getting a peek into the authors' lives. It also is another way for readers and authors to stay connected and for writers to support one another. My favorite author posts tend to be the ones that make me laugh out loud.

Author blogs I follow regularly:
  • The Bastion (Author:John Marco)
  • Buzz, Balls & Hype (Author: MJ Rose)
  • Cats & Crime & Rock & Roll (Author: Clea Simon)
  • First Offenders (Authors: Jeff Shelby, Alison Gaylin, Anthony Neil Smith, Karen E. Olson, & Lori G. Armstrong)
  • For All the World to See (Author: Colleen Gleason)
  • Jungle Red (Authors: Rosemary Harris, Hallie Ephron, Hank Phillipp Ryan, Rhys Bowen, Jan Brogan, & Roberta Isleib)
  • The Lipstick Chronicles (Authors: Harley Jane Kozak, Nancy Martin, Sarah Strohmeyer, Elaine Viets, & Michele Martinez)
  • Murderati (Authors: Pari Noskin Taichert, Louise Ure, Tess Gerritsen, Robert Gregory Browne, J.D. Rhoades, Brett Battles, Zoe Sharp, JT Ellison, Alexandra Sokoloff, Cornelia Read, Toni McGee Causey, & Allison Brennan)
  • Naked Authors (Authors: Ridley Pearson, Jacqueline Winspear, Paul Levine, Paticia Smiley, James O. Born, & Cornelia Read)
  • Scobberlotch (Author: Karen Harrington)
Do you visit authors' blogs? Do you have a favorite? If you are an author and have a blog, I'd love to know about it!

1. It seems like just yesterday I was last straightening out my TBR room, and yet it's been at least a couple of months now.

2. Return the book when you're done, please?

3. If I knew she was going to give my book away, I'd never have loaned it to her in the first place!

4. What a great person you are to turn to for book recommendations is what I think of most when I think of you.

5. To me, Valentine's Day means long lines at the candy and stationary stores and crowded restaurants.

6. Exercising everyday gives me strength.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to my husband getting home from work; tomorrow my plans include catching up on my blog hopping; and Sunday, I want to lose myself in a book or two!

Be sure and stop by my husband's blog to check out his thoughts on his latest books read!

Review of Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds (Graphic Novel)
Review of Fifty-to-One by Charles Ardai (Crime Fiction)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Page in the Life of Iliana From Bookgirl's Nightstand

Welcome to the second installment of A Page in the Life. When I first came across my next guest's blog, I was in awe--and a little intimidated. Any intimidation did not last long, however. Iliana is one of the friendliest and thoughtful bloggers out there and that comes out in her comments as well as on her blog, Bookgirl's Nightstand.

Iliana is a talented craftswoman as can be seen by taking a look at the various journals she has made (and I've personally tested one); she is also a gifted writer. The only negative I can think of about Iliana and her blog is that I always come away after reading her posts with a longer wish list, especially in the mystery department. Iliana has introduced me to many new authors and books. I hope you will stop by her blog and take a look. Be sure and say hello while you are there!

Please welcome Iliana to Musings of a Bookish Kitty!

Literary Feline:
Welcome, Iliana. I am so excited to have you here! Thank you for dropping in and answering a few questions.

Curious minds want to know: how do you like to start off your morning?

Iliana: As I’m unemployed right now, I’m taking full advantage of having the luxury to slowly step into the morning. I’m not a morning person. So I have a cup of coffee, read and finally get ready to go to the gym. After that I try to catch up on blog reading, emails, bookbinding, whatever else I have going on that’s calling my name.

Literary Feline: Besides reading and books, what are some of your other interests, hobbies or passions?

Iliana: I love bookbinding and other paper crafts like making cards, rubber stamping, etc. I also enjoy journaling and learning new craft techniques. Recently, we bought a silkscreen press so I’m very excited to learn a new medium. When I’m not working on crafty stuff, I like to go to the movies, coffee houses, museums, and of course plan our next vacation.

Literary Feline: How did you get started blogging about books?

Iliana: Oddly enough it wasn’t reading other book blogs but artists’ blogs. I used to visit a lot of artist’s blogs. I loved the illustrations or photography and enjoyed reading about how these artists were living a creative life. I thought it was great how they shared their love to the world and the impact art had on their lives and I thought, well books are my life so why not. And, that’s what got me started in blogging about books.

Literary Feline: Has blogging impacted your reading? If so, how?

Iliana: It’s definitely got me reading outside of my comfort zone. Thanks to so many of the reading challenges out there I’ve discovered new genres and have even become a fan of them. Now I don’t just read Fiction or Mysteries but I venture over to the YA section or the Graphic Novels section. It’s wonderful aside from the fact that my TBR lists are out of control.

Literary Feline: What types of books do you like to read? And do you blog about every book that you do read?

Iliana: I love a good fiction book. Stories set in foreign lands. Historical novels, especially the Victorian era. Stories with strong characters. I’m a big fan of mysteries too so I usually have one going on along with a bunch of other books. I try to mention every book I’m reading but I don’t always do a full review. Sometimes I just fall behind and never get to it.

Literary Feline: Do you have any reading routines, rituals or habits?

Iliana: I always like to read the author bio and details of the book before starting it. I’ll even read the Colophon to find out what type is used in the book. However, I’m careful about reading introductions as sometimes they have spoilers. As far as rituals go, I must read before going to sleep. I don’t care how tired I am but I have to pick up a book even if it’s just to read a paragraph.

Literary Feline: How do you pull yourself out of a reading or blogging slump or what steps do you take to avoid that from happening?

Iliana: I’m lucky I haven’t had a reading slump in a while. When I do have one though I tend to focus on reading more magazines. A blogging slump? Well, I don’t blog every day because I like to have a break and I do take “vacations” throughout the year. I think that helps keep me excited about blogging and also reminds me that this is for fun.

Literary Feline: Do you have any advice or tips for your fellow bloggers?

Iliana: Enjoy it. I think it’s easy to get caught up with the reading challenges and other events and before you know it you are feeling overwhelmed. That’s the last thing I want, so while I enjoy all of that, I only do as much as I can. I don’t stress out if I don’t get to participate or if I forgot a meme. Basically, I think you have to blog about the things that interest you and you’ll find your audience.

Literary Feline: What are you reading right now? Do you have any book or author recommendations?

Iliana: Right now I’ve just finished Sexing the Cherry by Jeannette Winterson, which is one of the strangest books I’ve read in a while. I’m also finishing up the graphic novel Life Sucks by Jessica Abel. Next up is Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende, the Spanish edition. And, a very good book I’ve finished recently that’s just about to come out is Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese.

Thank you so much for inviting me to A Page in the Life!

Literary Feline: It was my pleasure! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Be sure to stop by and visit Iliana over at Bookgirl's Nightstand!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Review: Broad Street by Christine Weiser

“I don’t think growing up has to be boring, “I said. “It’s just figuring out how to balance it all.”

[pg. 229]

Broad Street
by Christine Weiser

PS Books, 2008
Fiction; 231 pgs

I was nearly half way through this book when I turned to my husband who was reading in bed next to me and began to tell him all the reasons why the protagonist was frustrating me. She is repeatedly making dumb choices and not because she was stupid, but because she didn't have the confidence to stand up for herself. As I settled in to sleep, I let my mind wander, sifting through my thoughts about the book and the character, trying to decide if I wanted to continue on or give up. Hadn't I read a memoir recently called Loose Girl, whose author I was able to identify with even if our lifestyles and choices were so very different? Something happened while I slept. Some sort of shift, and so when I picked up Broad Street again the next morning I was less critical of Kit, and I realized I did want to know what happened next.

It was not that I did not like Kit. Kit is actually a very likable character. She is friendly, smart and very talented. She works in a job she tolerates because she has bills to pay, is now living on her own after having broken up with a cheating boyfriend, and is feeling even more like she's a disappointment to her family, especially compared to her successful sister who seems to do no wrong. Kit underestimates her own skills and talents. She lacks self-confidence. How many of us understand what that is like? I know I do.

When Kit meets Margo at a party one night, the two get to talking and form an instant bond. They both are quite familiar with the garage music scene in Philadelphia, their boyfriends being in bands. Margo comes across as confident and sure, and yet she is quite insecure on the inside. Her relationship is on rocky ground; much like Kit, she works a ho hum day job, and she feels a bit stuck where she is. She broaches the subject of starting a band with Kit when she discovers that Kit can play the bass guitar, and Kit agrees.

The two women are not experienced players by any means, but they have a willingness to learn and the talent to make it work for them. Finding a suitable drummer proves to be a difficult task. While they have willing candidates, finding the perfect fit is not so easy. Still, the women are able to get their band off the ground, booking shows and performing alongside other respected rock bands. Broad Street is on its way.

Even so, their path is not so easy. The rock scene in Philadelphia during the 1990's was male-dominated and the women often had to struggle harder to get where they wanted to go. They were seen as easy targets by those wanting to take advantage and not always taken so seriously. The competition was fierce, especially among other female bands like their own. Backstabbing and undermining each other’s success was not out of the question. At the same time, their being an all-girl rock band seemed to give them an edge that the men didn't have--they stood out because as a girl's band, they were not all too common.

Drugs, sex and rock-n-roll: Broad Street has it all. The author Christine Weiser has insider knowledge of the local rock band scene, having been in a band herself. She takes readers right into the heart of the garage band culture and does not miss a beat, offering a hard look at how competitive and difficult it can be for any band trying to make a name for itself. And yet, the experience can be very empowering as both Kit and Margo discover. It teaches them more about themselves and the world around them, giving them a confidence they both desperately need.

The second half of the book did get better for me. The focus of the book, while always on Kit, shifted toward the band and her other relationships more specifically and less on Kit and her sexual escapades and drug experimentation. For me, at least, this was when the book really took off. One big turning point in the novel for me was as Kit's relationship with her sister evolved. Kit has always felt that her sister was the favorite child, the one who could do no wrong. The more Kit comes into her own, the more she begins to realize that even her perfect sister is not quite so perfect after all.

There was one scene in particular that struck a chord with me, one I can't go into details about because it would be too much of a spoiler. What I can say, however, is that Kit runs into her boss in an unlikely place, and it comes to light that her boss is 35 years old. It hit me at that moment how much younger Kit and Margo were than I am, and why I might not so easily be able to relate to them. Even so, we are not all that different. I think many of us can relate to feeling stuck, wanting purpose and new direction in life, and to be more sure of ourselves.

I am not sure Broad Street is really my type of book, when all is said and done. I got something out of it in the end, but it took me a while to get there. I do think that Christine Weiser has a promising career ahead of her as an author, and from what I have heard of the book she currently is working on (a mystery), it sounds like it will be a good one. I think this was more a case of the book not matching the reader. The author is well worth checking out if you are drawn to these types of stories.

For another take on the book, stop by Peeking Between the Pages.

Challenge Commitment Fulfilled: ARC Challenge, New Authors Challenge, TBR Challenge

Miscellaneous: I often will read the discussion questions at the end of a book and while some I may ponder, more often I don’t bother to spend much time thinking up answers. Call me lazy if you want, but the truth is the questions don’t always seem relevant to my own reading of the book. In the case of Broad Street, however, I actually found the discussion questions quite useful and enlightening--enlightening in the sense that they brought up relevant points which helped me process what I had read and how I felt about the book and the characters. In a way, I think the discussion questions helped me appreciate the book more.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

And the BookWorm Winner Is . . . .

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the BookWorm Giveaway! And a big thank you to Rachel from Bookwormz for offering one of her unique bookmarks for this giveaway.

There were 47 entrants in the giveaway. Each of your names was assigned a number and with the cast of the dice (by my beloved husband), a winner was revealed.

Congratulations to Beth F. from Beth Fish Reads!

If you haven't already, please be sure and drop by Rachel's Etsy shop and have a look around.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire (Book & Movie Review)

“Do you notice when you breathe? No. You simply know that you are breathing. I did not go to school. I did not read books. But I tell you, I knew those answers.” [pg 18]

Slumdog Millionaire (aka Q&A) by Vikas Swarup
Scribner, 2005
Fiction; 318 pgs

Challenge Commitment Fulfilled: New Authors Challenge & Buy One Book and Read It Challenge

It was a spur of the moment decision to read Vikas Swarup’s novel when I did. I tend to prefer to read the book before seeing the movie it is based on, but I hadn’t known until recently that the movie was actually based on a book. In cases like this, when I really want to see the movie in the theater, I often times will just go ahead and see the movie anyway. The book will have to wait. Fortunately, I was able to get my hands on a copy of Slumdog Millionaire, so titled after the movie no less. The original title of the book is Q&A. Perhaps not quite as salable but still more accurate when it comes right down to it.

I loved the book. I loved the movie. Slumdog Millionaire is both a love story and a coming of age story. The book and movie are very different from one another, while at the same time sharing a similar structure and commonalities that will be easily recognizable to those who have watched and read the two formats. And yet, the two are different enough from each other to be completely different stories all together, at least content wise. For those who are nitpicky about book to movie translations, you might want to put some distance between reading the book and watching the movie. The two are worth taking in though. Both the movie and book tell stories that will pull at your heart strings, make you laugh and cry, and make you fall in love. At least, that’s how it was for me.

In Vikas Swarup’s novel, set in India, Ram Mohammad Thomas was abandoned by his mother when he was an infant. He was left on the church doorstep, taken in by the church, adopted by a family, and then abandoned again. During his early childhood he was raised by a priest but then, due to unfortunate circumstances, he was ripped away from all he knew and his life took an entirely different direction.

The book opens with Thomas being arrested and then tortured by the police, accused of cheating on the game show, Who Will Win a Billion? He won by answering twelve questions, questions an uneducated street boy couldn’t possibly have had the answers for all on his own. Or could he?

Sticklers for novels told in chronological order may struggle with this one at first. The unfolding of the story comes in a roundabout way, the chapters structured around each of the questions asked on the quiz show. With every question, Thomas tells his life story, the story of how he knew the answers that would end up winning him a billion rupees. The chapters, therefore, jump back and forth through time, not always following a chronological path. I had no trouble following the story, however, and actually found the format of the story quite effective. It was the perfect set up for what was to come.

Thomas is an amazing boy. His life has been extremely difficult. He has seen things that no child should have to see. He is street wise and yet has a good heart. He is a loyal friend. After leaving the church, Thomas is sent to an orphanage where he befriends Salim, a Muslim orphan boy whose family was brutally murdered right in front of him. Thomas takes Salim under his wing and the two are, for a time, inseparable.

Thomas meets many people as he is growing up. He travels across India doing his best to survive. He lives off of the streets, serves the wealthy, is taken in by those with kind hearts and treated ill by those up to no good. Even in the worst of times, Thomas seems to come out of every situation okay, although perhaps a little more weary of the world.

I came away from the novel with tears in my eyes, touched by not only Thomas’ story, but by those whose lives he touched. It truly was an inspirational story. Slumdog Millionaire (aka Q&A) is well worth reading.
What does it take to find a lost love?
A. Money

B. Luck

C. Smarts

D. Destiny
[from the movie]
The movie told a slightly different story. The love story was more prominent and there were fewer characters, but the overall feel of the two were similar. Jamal Malik is on the verge of winning the game show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, when he is accused of cheating and taken in for questioning by police. He has just one question to go.

Jamal and his older brother Salim lived with their mother in the slums of Mumbai up until their mother was murdered by Hindu rioters out to rid the area of Muslims. The boys and a neighborhood girl named Latika were able to get away. They take to a life on the streets, struggling to survive as best they can. The brothers are eventually separated from Latika, but Jamal never forgets her and is determined to find her, whatever it takes.

The movie unfolds in a similar vein as the book, only in more of a chronological order. With each question, the movie flashbacks to Jamal’s childhood. The movie was even darker in some respects than the book. Not only in images but in storyline as well. Life is not pretty in either the book or movie—it is harsh and often cruel. The adventures and encounters in the movie as compared to the book diverge completely in some areas, while still maintaining some minor similarities all the while. There is a definite combining of characters and the occasional life story. Even the motive for the protagonist going onto the game show in the first place is not the same.

In the movie, Jamal’s relationship with his brother grows more complex as the story unfolds. Here are two boys that were inseparable, experiencing many of the same situations, and yet their lives take very different paths. Jamal is honest and well meaning while his brother is more callous, hardened by the streets. Regardless, the two still are brothers, a tie that links them together irrevocably.

Although the character of Jamal was my favorite in the movie, I also took an instant liking to Latika. She was confident and a true survivor. I did not feel I got to know her quite as well as I might have liked but it was obvious she and Jamal belonged together even as she stood in the pouring rain as a young girl, waiting to be invited into the shelter by the brothers who had led her to safety.

The actors, both young and old, did an amazing job. The older Jamal, played by Dev Patal, had such an innocent and honest look about him that serves the role well. The two boys who played the brothers, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail (Salim) and Ayush Mahesh Khedekar (Jamal) stole my heart the instant I first saw them playing cricket on the runway. I especially loved the ending, as the credits began to scroll across the screen. The cast of the movie sang and danced in true Bollywood fashion. It seemed quite fitting. And of course, my husband and I raced to the store after the movie to buy a copy of the great soundtrack. I haven't felt the urge to do that in a long time.

In this case, I really cannot decide which I like best: the book or movie. I think they both were equally good. I will definitely be buying Slumdog Millionaire when it comes out on DVD.

Movie: Slumdog Millionaire
Genre: ‎Crime, Drama, Romance
MPAA Rating: R
Directed By: Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan
Writers: Simon Beaufoy (screenplay) & Vikas Swarup (novel)

Monday's Movie hosted by Sher at A Novel Menagerie

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sunday Salon: What Would You Recommend to a New Reader?

I love a good rain storm. It makes perfect reading weather. I am about to settle in for a little reading this morning, the hour or two before my husband wakes up and we begin our day officially. I did not pick up The Woman in White at all this past week, instead finishing off Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup. I am now eager to see the movie. It is not really a good idea to see the movie so close to having read the book, I have found, but I cannot seem to help myself sometimes. I had planned to see it this weekend, but the best laid plans do not always come together. There's always next weekend. [ Change in plans! My husband and I have decided to break our stay-at-home Sunday routine and go see the movie today. We have to get dog food and kitty litter anyway, and since we'll already be out . . . ]

Among my coworkers are two men who have very different perspectives on reading. One disdains the reading of books, dismisses it as a waste of time, while the other has never been able to really get into reading despite a desire to do so. He sees his daughter reading at home and me with a book at work and he wishes he could get swept up in the pages of a book as completely as we do.

One day this past month, he mentioned to me in passing that he would like to read two books this year. He has not read even one book in the last several years, and so two is quite a challenge for him. He is looking for recommendations, and while I have a few books in mind, I was curious to know what you would recommend.

A little about him that might help you along: My coworker is a baseball fan and plays golf on occasion. He is a war veteran. He has a great sense of humor and is a really laid back sort of guy. He is married and the father of teenagers, a boy and a girl. He recently adopted a rescue dog.

I would love to hear your recommendations for my coworker, and I am sure he would too. Have you ever inspired someone to try his or her hand at reading? Recommended a book that got someone hooked? Did someone inspire you? If you came to enjoy reading late in life, what book was it that first drew you in?

Week in Review:
Monday at the Movies: Inkheart and Phantom of the Opera
Off Topic Chatter: Responding to Comments and a BookWorm Giveaway (deadine to enter is tomorrow at 11:59 p.m., so hurry if you want a chance to win!)
Review of Walking Through Walls by Philip Smith
Bookish Chatter (Monday Musings: Choosing What to Buy & Mailbox Monday)
More Bookish Chatter (Booking Through Thursday: Too Much Information & Friday Fill Ins)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Saturday Catch Up: Booking Through Thursday, Friday Fill-Ins, & 10 Confessions

Suggested by Simon Thomas:
Have you ever been put off an author’s books after reading a biography of them? Or the reverse - a biography has made you love an author more?

Definition of Biography: An account of a person's life written, composed, or produced by another. [from Free Dictionary]
The short answer is that I haven't encountered this issue since I have yet to read a biography about an author.

However, if the term biography is not merely meant to imply a book written about a particular author but includes the blurbs found inside of books about the author, their descriptions on their own or other websites, or even comments they may make on a blog, in an interview, or what have you, then my answer will require a more lengthy response.

How many readers bother to read the little bio blurb about the author that often is printed in a book? *Raising hand.* I do. I think it is interesting to find out a little bit about the author's background, be it past professions or published work ( I especially love the humorous bios), interests other than writing, or whether they have pets and children, for example. I like to link authors' websites along with my book reviews when I can find them. During my visit to an author's website to collect the URL address, I often will peruse the site, usually making the "About the Author" page one of my first stops. An authors bio may not influence my enjoyment of a book, but sometimes it can lend credibility to the topic at hand or shed light on certain aspects of the book. The acknowledgments and dedications can also be quite revealing.

Whether I like the author's work or not is going to be my main motivating factor in whether I pick up another of that author's books. And that's even throwing in personal beliefs and opinions. I am able to separate the writer from the book. After all, even my husband and I do not see eye to eye on everything and I still love him, not to mention all the friends, family, and even bloggers, out there that I get along with just fine despite our differing views. I cannot think of an instance when I have decided against reading a book because the author and I do not share the same views or ideologies. Sometimes, though, the differences might be a more compelling reason for me to read something by a particular author if there's a bit of a controversy tied into it. I'm the kind of person who likes to see what all the fuss is about.

Like many of you, I would rather not be lectured or preached to in books. I do not mind reading about differing viewpoints, but I do care about the presentation. If I feel like something is being forced down my throat, I am more likely to balk than be open to hearing another side of an issue. There are certain issues I feel very strongly about, and, as a result, I may choose not to read a book that focuses on themes opposed to my beliefs, but there are exceptions. It just depends on the book.

That really is what it comes down to for me. The book. Is it a book I am interested in reading? If it is, then nothing else really matters. At least, nothing I have run into yet.

Questions courtesy of YellowRose this week; thanks, friend! we go!

1. Please don't tell me you didn't bring the tickets.

2. Can you let me sleep in the morning? (Said pleadingly to the animals last night.)

3. The colorful rainbow outside makes me want to grab my camera and snap a picture.

4. I have a craving for something salty.

5. If my life had a pause button, I'd pause it in that moment that you smile just so I can memorize every detail.

6. Eyes are the window of the soul.

Trisha from Tripping over My Tongue recently awarded me with the Honest Scrap Award. Thank you, Trisha!

List 10 honest things about yourself - and make it interesting, even if you have to dig deep!

Making them interesting is going to be the hard part! Let's see . . .

1. I wish I had taken that trip to Jamaica with my high school choir instead of taking the word processor my parents offered my senior year. I was given a choice, and, ever the practical Wendy, I went for the more useful tool. Boy, was I dumb. (I didn't get an actual computer of my own until the month before I graduated with my master's degree.)

2. When I eat M&M's, I separate the candy out by color. Sometimes I eat all of one color before moving onto the next, always saving the green for last; or, more often, I eat one from each color and work my way through them as evenly as possible, making sure I always eat a green one last. If there's an uneven number of colors, which is almost always the case, I will even out the colors first, but eating the "extras" to start with.

3. Why do I always save green for last? Because it is my husband's favorite color.

4. Although I am not a sports follower, I do enjoy watching some sports on occasion, particularly in person. I especially like going to professional baseball and soccer games.

5. I have an irrational dislike of American football.

6. I once saw the 49er's play at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The tailgate party was the best part.

7. I've got sports on the brain right now because my husband and I just splurged on tickets to see the L.A. Galaxy play this spring (3 games).

8. I played soccer for 4 years.

9. I wasn't very good at it.

10. I'm going to go read my book now.

I am not going to tag anyone for this one, but if you would like to play along, please do! Be sure and let me know so I can stop in and see your list of 10 confessions.

View from my husband's office window, February 6, 2009.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Monday Musings on Friday & a Look At What the Postman Dragged In

This week's Musings Monday question:
How do you choose what do buy from your local bookstore? Do you have a list, or just browse? What is the selection in your book store like? Do you find what you're looking for? Do you feel pressured to buy the kind of books the store makes prominent? (question courtesy of MizB)
My favorite time to visit a bookstore is within the first hour that it opens. Usually on a week day, if possible. The store is quiet and the lunch time rush is still a couple of hours away. Coming in at a close second are evening visits with my husband. Maybe we have just gotten finished enjoying dinner at a nearby restaurant or are on our way home from the movies. It could be a Friday night or the weekend. The bookstore is usually crowded at those times; the atmosphere is much more charged than my morning visits when everything seems so calm and peaceful.

I prefer to walk into the store with a list of books I am specifically looking for. A mental list works alright, but often times I do better when I write my list down ahead of time. With a TBR collection as big as mine, I sometimes forget which books I actually may have, and so a list is safer. I am more likely to have a list with me on those morning trips than I am when I go with my husband. More often than not, the evening and weekend bookstore visits are spur of the moment. If I am lucky, I may remember an author or title I was curious about, but it's more likely I won't.

Regardless of whether I am armed with a list, I almost always take the time to browse through the bookstore. I take in the new releases, the new paperbacks, and the bargain tables and shelves. I may then wander over to the mystery/thriller section, take a stroll through the fantasy/science fiction aisles and end up in the fiction/literature rows after taking a peek at the nonfiction shelves. Sometimes I mix it up and start somewhere else.

A book may draw my eye for a variety of reasons: an attractive cover, a curious title, or the name of an author I'd been thinking of trying. But what really matters to me is what the book is about. That will be the determining factor in whether I decide to read the book or not. The only time I don't bother taking the time to see what a book is about before deciding to buy it is if it is by a favorite author, all of whose books I will read, or a part of a series I follow. Mostly likely, I already know what to expect in those instances.

There are times I may immediately decide on a book I find, taking it off the shelf as I make my way through the store. Other times I like to have a look around the entire store first, and then go back once I've had time to consider whether or not I want to take the plunge. I do not always find what I am looking for. And sometimes I may find a book I want, only to decide once I am at the bookstore holding it in my hands, that I do not actually want it quite yet.

When I walk out of a bookstore, I rarely come out empty handed. I have a bag of books in one hand and a list of books I want to learn more about in the other.

This week's Mailbox Monday goody:

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County
by Tiffany Baker

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Review: Walking Through Walls by Philip Smith

Out of necessity I developed a dual personality. During school hours I needed to appear as normal as possible, in order to avoid being beaten up or laughed out of class. However, as soon as I came home and opened the front door, it was like walking onto the set of I Dream of Jeannie or Bewitched. For me these TV shows were like documentaries rather than fantasy sitcoms. At last there were other people who, like me, lived in a parallel, paranormal universe. [pg 45]

Walking Through Walls by Philip Smith
Atria, 2008
Nonfiction (Memoir), 332 pgs

Philip Smith's childhood was anything but ordinary. During his early childhood, his father's career as an interior decorator took the family all over the world. Lew Smith's clientele were among the famous and elite, the rich and the powerful. The author's mother seemed to be his perfect companion, both in life and in work. According to the author, things for the Smith family began to unravel, however, when Philip's father, Lew Smith, became more and more interested in the metaphysical.

The author's story pushed the boundaries of believability--at least in terms of my own beliefs. Lew Smith could heal people by manipulating their energy. The stronger he grew in his abilities, he was more and more able to heal, even people in other countries without talking directly to them. He was constantly learning and perfecting the art of healing. He was guided by the spirits. Lew Smith believed that everyone was capable of doing what he could do if they took the time to learn. People came to him in droves to be healed and to learn how to heal.

While Lew Smith's influence and abilities as a healer and psychic often take center stage in the book, it is really only a part of the whole story. Walking Through Walls is also the story of a father and a son. Their relationship with each other was typical in many ways, but not so in others. The two of them were very close, even when at their most distant from each other--physically and emotionally. During his teen years, Philip resented his father and the lifestyle his father had chosen. Philip longed to fit in with the crowd, but his father's eccentricies made that difficult. He was embarrassed by his father.

As time wore on, Philip struggled for his independence. His father was ever present in his life. With Lew, there really were no secrets and Philip often wished he could have some privacy, that he could cut himself off from his father's spirit guides who reported to Lew regularly. Like any teenager, Philip was trying to come into his own. His father, to some degree, was willing to let Philip find his own way, although there was always that tie between them.

Although there were moments when I felt the father's (and the mother's) behavior crossed the line into neglect, it was clear that Lew and Philip Smith loved each other. During Philip's early teen years, I once or twice found myself wondering why Philip's mother didn't step in, and it's never really clear why she didn't. She seemed to take a backseat in Philip's life when her marriage began falling apart, too busy nursing her own wounds.

Philip grew up during the 1950's and 60's in Florida, an interesting time and place in American history. The author was able to capture the tone of the times in his writing, never letting the reader forget the setting. The Smiths faced discrimination on multiple levels. They were Jewish in a time when Jewish people were refused service by a variety of businesses and looked down upon by many in society and within their own Florida community. When Lew Smith became enlightened and began healing, he faced even more hostility and reproach. It was an uphill battle for most of his life. And yet, he stayed true to his beliefs and continued in the direction he felt his life was meant to go.

In spite of my skepticism, I found Walking Through Walls interesting and compelling. Philip is easy to like. I found his writing humorous as well as thoughtful. And while I had mixed feelings about his father in the beginning, by the end I felt I had a better understanding of the type of man he was. And I could see why so many people were drawn to him.

Rating: * (Good)

Challenge Commitment Fulfilled: ARC Challenge and New Authors Challenge

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Poll Results: Responding to Comments & A Giveaway

Thank you to everyone who participated in my very first poll. I had actually planned to ask a very different question on another topic, but because of recent discussions I had encountered around the blogosphere, I thought a poll might be a good way of gauging the opinions of my visitors on comment responses.

While comments are nice for statistical purposes, that is not why I like them so much. They give me an opportunity to get to know who is reading my blog, connect with other book lovers, and form friendships. For me, blogging is mostly about the community, sharing my passion for reading and books with others.

That's why, whenever you stop by for a visit and take time to leave a comment, I couldn't be more appreciative. I subscribe to more blogs than is probably healthy, and so I know the effort it takes to visit my blog and offer your thoughts on any given topic. Whether you have only commented once or you comment with every post, I am grateful. I personally feel, as a result, that the least I can do is offer a response in return, even if it is simply a "thank you." I try hard to give a brief response to every comment left, but that is not always possible. Still, I make a point of doing so when I am able (even if sometimes I am days behind).

And so, I was curious to know your preferences for responses, or even if they mattered at all. I posed the following question:
I like to respond to the comments you leave me. How do you prefer to receive my responses?
I am overwhelmed at the number of you who responded. Ninety-four of you! I didn't even know there were that many of you out there reading my blog! Of course, many votes could have been from people stopping in for the first and only time, but let me pretend for now that there's really that many of you that visit more frequently.

The results were as follows
By e-mail. There's nothing more exciting than finding a new message in my inbox. 9 (9%)

One of the great things about blogs is the open format, and the ability to be a part of a discussion. I like it when you respond to my comments directly in the comment section. 37 (39%)

It's best if you respond to my comments on my own blog. I don't mind that it may be off topic. 6 (6%)

Whatever is easiest for you is fine with me! 36 (38%)

Don't bother responding at all. I don't have time to check back and my e-mail inbox is full enough already. 3 (3%)

Huh? I didn't know you responded to the comments I left. 3 (3%)
I tried not to let my own bias show with the choices given, but I am not sure if I succeeded. Some of you had already heard my thoughts on the subject from the other discussions around the blogosphere; not to mention the fact that perhaps my current format is a dead giveaway.

A few of you e-mail your responses to those who leave comments on your blogs and I love that personal touch. It's also a chance for you to say so much more than you might be able or willing to say in the public forum of a blog.

My personal preference, however, is leaving responses to comments directly on my blog. In my mind, it goes along with the community atmosphere and can help build on discussion points. I haven't quite mastered that effect the way several other blogs out there have, but there's always the possibility that I might someday get there.

There are practical reasons also, mostly dealing with the best management of my own time and also the lack of access to e-mail addresses (and no, I'm not giving up Blogger anytime soon--I am quite happy where I am). Suffice it to say, responding to comments on my own blog is most convenient for me, both in regards to time and effort. So, yes, I admit it. I'm a little selfish that way.

So, going by popular vote, the status quo will continue as is. Fortunately for you, there is a "Subscribe to Comment" button that offers you a chance to receive comments to my blog directly in your e-mail inbox if you so desire. I know it can be a pain if you only care about the response and not about everyone else's comments. That is where unsubscribe comes in handy. I personally enjoy reading other people's comments, and so I don't mind that so much.

My preference for responding to comments on my own blog only applies to me here on my blog. However you choose to respond to my comments on your blog, if at all, is perfectly fine with me. I do check back for responses on blogs I comment on either through the automatic notification option or through the wonderful site that helps me keep track of those blogs that don't have a subscribe-to-comment feature. So, whether you send me a direct e-mail, leave a response for me on your own blog or here on mine, I am just grateful you took the time to do so at all.

Thank you again to everyone who took time to participate in my poll. And thank you too to all those who have taken the time time to leave a comment either in the past or today.

*For the sake of disclosure, there are comments I will not respond to and will even send to the trash bin. I do not mind if a commenter disagrees with me, but I will delete any comment that I deem to be hurtful or malicious. I do delete duplicate comments--those accidents that sometimes happen. And, of course, I will delete blatant advertisements that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

As a little thank you, I thought a giveaway was in order! I recently purchased a wonderful little device called a BookWorm. You may or may not know that I like to collect bookmarks, especially unusual ones. One day, not too long ago, I discovered that Rachel from Bookwormz makes her own bookmarks, which she calls BookWorms. They are quite handy and not as easy to lose or misplace as those loose bookmarks I sometimes stick in my books. My cat won't be able to run off with it (at least, not if it's attached to my book), and I won't lose it when I fall asleep while reading in bed.

Rachel has agreed to offer one of her BookWorms as a prize in a giveaway. I do hope you will stop by her etsy shop and check out her wonderful creations. Maybe you'll find one that is too good to pass up like I did!

To enter the drawing for a BookWorm:
1. Leave a comment below.
2. If your e-mail address is not on your profile page or easy to locate on your blog, please include your e-mail address in your comment.
3. Giveaway is open to anyone around the world.
4. Deadline to enter is at 11:59 p.m. (PST) on Monday, February 9th.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Monday At the Theater: Inkheart & Phantom of the Opera

Movie: Inkheart
Genre: ‎Action/Adventure/Family/Scifi/Fantasy
MPAA Rating: PG
Directed By: Iain Softley
Writers: David Lindsay-Abaire (screenplay) & Cornelia Funke (novel)
A young girl discovers her father has an amazing talent to bring characters out of their books and must try to stop a freed villain from destroying them all, with the help of her father, her aunt, and a storybook's hero. [from IMDB]
I am one of a handful of people who was not blown away when I first read Cornelia Funke's Inkheart. I loved the premise of the book, but I wasn't as enamored as so many other book lovers were. Could it have been because the book is YA fiction, a genre that is hit and miss with me? Or was it something else? I really don't remember exactly. It has been quite a while since I read the book, but I knew I wanted to see the movie when I first heard it was being released. Maybe this would be a case of my loving the movie more than the book. At least that's what I hoped. Not so much. I did enjoy the movie. It was entertaining and fun, but I came away with that same feeling I had after reading the book. I liked it fine, but it did not blow me away.

In the case of the movie, the story moved along so fast and with such a full cast of characters, it was difficult to really get to know any of them well. I did think Paul Bettany in the role of Dustfinger, one of the characters who had been read out of a book, did an impressive job, and I just adored Helen Mirren's character, Great Aunt Elinor. I could not tell you how closely the movie mirrors the book since it has been so long since I read it. I loved the sets and costumes. Oh, how I wouldn't have minded traveling along those windy roads in the hills and mountains!

I have not read the other books in the series and admit I have not been too enthusiastic to do so. A friend recently told me the later books are better than the first and I should give them a try. What do you think? Those of you who have read the books, do you think I should continue with the series?

My husband and I saw Inkheart on a Friday afternoon, while most people were at work and children were at school, all that is except a few scattering who had come to see the movie just like us. I admit that I am a bit of an eavesdropper when in restaurants and at the movie theater. If I hear something that catches my interest, I immediately try to hone in. I'm nosy. I admit it.

I didn't hear anything of interest while at the Inkheart showing, but the weekend before, while waiting for Defiance to start, I overhead an interesting discussion that piqued my interest. Two women, who were sitting in the same aisle as my husband and I, were discussing one of the woman's love of books. She was telling her friend how much she loved to read as a child. She told the story of how she used to pull a chair over to the refrigerator and climb up on top of it to reach the adult magazines her mother kept on top, out of reach. I haven't a clue what the storyteller meant by adult magazines, but I admired her initiative.

She went on to say that when she was a child she used to hide a copy of Peyton Place (by Grace Metalious) under her mattress that she read over and over again. She knew her mother would be quite upset if she found out her daughter was reading such a "risque book."

I imagine many book lovers have similar stories of sneaking or hiding books they thought they might get in trouble for reading when they were young. How about you? Do you have a similar story you would like to share?

My husband and I went to see The Phantom of the Opera this past Saturday at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. I have been wanting to see it since my high school days when I first heard Michael Crawford sing Music of the Night. For the longest time, that song would make me melt inside just about every time I heard it.

My brother and I had long ago seen a musical called Phantom, which I had expected to be the Andrew Lloyd Webber version, only to discover, much to my disappointment, that it wasn't (although, Phantom was good in its own right and I enjoyed it very much). So, this was a huge deal for me.

For those who are not familiar with the story, The Phantom of the Opera is based on the novel by Gaston Leroux which was published in the early 1900's. The story is set in a 19th century Parisian opera house that is believed to be haunted by a ghost. The ghost takes a special interest in a young woman from the chorus and mentors her, bringing her into her own. She has the makings to be a great opera star and the opera ghost, known as the Phantom, is determined to see her dream come true. His love for her turns to obsession and what follows is a tragic and terrifying story.

My husband and I didn't get off to a good start the evening of the musical, unfortunately, and it cast a shadow on the rest of the night. We were late getting to the theater (thanks to a stalled van right smack dab in the middle of the freeway, and then we missed our exit.) For the record, I hate being late to anything. I try and always be early. So, you can imagine my dismay that we ended up being so late. I almost told my husband to just turn around and forget it.

We ended up missing the first scene and had to step over several people to get to our seats. I think I stepped on one man's toes--I felt so bad! It turned out that a couple in the row decided our seats were better than their own (which they were) and had taken over our seats. As a result, we ended up practically crossing over the entire row of people to get to the two empty seats in the row. In the dark, we had no way of knowing this until later--and since we were late, we couldn't really complain at that point. We did finally settle in, but it took a while.

I thought the show was marvelous otherwise. John Cudia who played the Phantom was wonderful, and whenever Trista Moldovan, who played the role of Christine, opened her mouth, I got chills. The character of Raoul, performed by Kyle Barisich, won me over instantly, and now I am wondering why I never noticed what a great song All I Ask of You is.

You should probably feel sorry for my coworkers this week as I serenade them with songs from The Phantom of the Opera.

We will be seeing Grease in March. It's one of my favorite musicals. Can you feel my excitement?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Sunday Salon: My Monthly Travel Report

January came and with it my high expectations. The year before had not been the easiest, after all. I was eager to get January off on the right footing. I filled my head with positive thoughts and jumped in with both feet. I may not have gotten in as much reading as I hoped, but I was lucky enough to start the year off with a bang book wise.

A few people expressed an interest in seeing the return of my end of the month travel report, and so I decided now was as good a time as any. Nan from Letters from a Hill Farm even posted a colorful map to go along with her travel report, which I think is a wonderful idea.

My travels this past month took me all over the world, from the United States, the Middle East, Germany, parts of Eastern Europe, Great Britain, and India. I began the year in the tiny state of Rhode Island, tracing a possible sex ring operation involving underage girls, hoping to get a good news story while at the same time trying to save a life. I stepped into the shoes of a broken family, who desperately needed one another and yet kept pushing each other farther apart. I traveled back in time to pre-war Germany, when Hitler was just beginning to spread his influence and the world waited for his next move. I followed the story of a boy whose life was defined by his father and his father's spirit friends as the boy searched for his own answers and his own life. I rocked hard with a Philly all-girl band, suffered in love, and grew stronger as I came into my own.

As January comes to an end, you can still find me wandering the halls and grounds of Limmeridge House, trying to make sense of events, both past and present. And I mustn't forget the quick stopover in India where I currently am waiting in a jail cell; my only crime being that I had all the right answers.

February has already gotten off to a good start. It is the shortest month of the year, but it never fails to be a busy one. My desk is quite cluttered at the moment, books piled high. I will spend some time today going through them, planning out my reading for this next month all the while knowing mood and whim can take over at any moment. And that's perfectly okay. I am flexible. I look forward to seeing where February will take me.

What about you? Where did your books take you this past month? What kind of trouble did you get into?

Completed in January:
Teaser by Jan Brogan
Who By Fire by Diana Spechler
Zoo station by David Downing
Walking Through Walls by Philip Smith - review pending
Broad Street by Christine Weiser - review pending

Currently Reading:
The Lady in White by Wilkie Collins
Slumdog Millionaire (aka Q&A) by Vikas Swarup