Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday At the Movies: District 9 & A Bit of the Outdoors

Monday's Movie is hosted by Sheri at A Novel Menagerie.

Movie: District 9 (2009)
Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
MPAA Rating: R
Directed By: Neill Blomkamp
Writers: Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell

I got caught up in all the hype over District 9 and had to see it when it opened in theaters. My husband was surprised but, being used to my eccentricities, didn't question me. As we watched movie trailers leading up to the movie, I turned and whispered to my husband, "Is this a horror movie?" It sure seemed like it from all the trailers, most of which were for movies I have no interest in seeing. Except for Shutter Island (and I'm relieved the movie date was pushed to February--more time to read the book). I was beginning to worry that District 9 wasn't going to be what I was expecting.

Fortunately, District 9 was exactly what I expected--and then some. It was a cross between a social commentary film, science fiction movie, and an action flick.

Netflix Summary:
When aliens land on Earth, global business conglomerate Multi-National United forces them into rigid containment zones where they are compelled to labor, even as MNU commandeers their otherworldly technology for profit. As tensions build between human and non-human races, a rogue agent leads a resistance movement against MNU's ruthless consolidation of power. Neill Blomkamp directs this cinema verité-style sci-fi thriller.
This movie is not for those with weak stomachs. It is filmed in documentary fashion and is very violent. The story behind District 9 got its start as a short film called Alive in Joburg. Set in South Africa, some critics have said the movie is a political commentary on the country's history of Apartheid. It also brings to mind concentration and internment camps from World War II as well as refugee camps of today. However different, some of the earmarks are still the same.

The aliens, nicknamed the Prawns because of their appearance, were discovered in their spaceship starving to death. As a humanitarian effort, a camp was set up where the could stay. Conditions in the camp were far from ideal. It was oppressive and demeaning. Fear from the outside encouraged the relocation of the camp to a far away and more desolate location. Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) was charged with leading the move.

Wikus is not your usual action hero. He is a company man through and through--at least he is until he comes into contact with an alien substance that will turn his world upside down. The character of Christopher Johnson, a very intelligent alien with a plan of his own, won me over quickly. He was more human than many of the humans in the film. All he wants to do is to save his people, including his young son, and return home.

District 9 was very well done, from the computer graphics to the story itself. It's definitely a movie that will go in my permanent collection once it comes out on DVD.

What movie have you seen lately?

The Monday Movie Meme is brought to you by The Bumbles.

This week's movie topic is all about the Great Outdoors ...
The reason for this late posting is that here at the Bumbles' real life home we lost power this evening. Which means that access to our virtual home was difficult. Don't ask us why the power went out. It was a beautiful, clear, calm evening. As we carried our dinner outside and dragged out the camping lantern, we laughed about being back in the outdoors once again, just like our recent camping trip. So while we digested our supper we got to thinking about movies set in or featuring the outdoors. Here is a small selection of what we came up with since now that the power is back it is almost time for bed. Share on your blog movies all about living with nature and then link back at The Bumbles. And don't forget to visit your fellow participants!

The Lord of the Rings ~ The movies were as beautiful as the story itself. The Fellowship traveled a great distance through the course of the movies, even as they go their separate ways. The landscape was awe-inspiring even in at its most treacherous.

Brokeback Mountain ~ Oh, those mountains! Wyoming never looked more beautiful.

Into the Wild ~ A tragic story set in the wilds of Alaska. While Alaska itself was breathtaking in the film, Chris' entire journey was worth experiencing right alongside him.

Tarzan ~ Disney's animated film, Tarzan is man meets nature at its finest. This is one of my favorite of Disney's films not only because of the music and storyline, but the beautiful African setting.

What are some of your favorite movies set in the great outdoors?

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Salon: A Reading Retrospective (August 2004) & A Big Thank You

I feel out of practice with this whole blog routine. Has it really been three weeks since I last posted here at Musings of a Bookish Kitty? I cannot say thank you enough to the wonderful bloggers who kept you entertained while I was away. They volunteered their time and talent. Many thanks to

I would also like to extend my gratitude to those who stopped in and visited these outstanding bloggers while I was away. You could have taken a break from reading my blog since I was absent, but you didn't. Thank you.

Since thank yous seem to be the order of the day, I also want to thank those who nominated me for a Book Blogger Appreciation Week award. I was overwhelmed by the number of nominations I received. I often say that blogging is just a hobby for me, but it really is more than that. I spend a lot of time trying to make Musings of a Bookish Kitty a worthwhile place to visit--not just for me but for you as well. I especially value the community aspect of the blogging community: the friendships and connections I have made. I never imagined that anyone would want to read what I had to say about books. I appreciate every one of you.

Congratulations to all the BBAW nominees and also to those who weren't nominated. Just because you may not have received a nomination and most of us will likely not win an award, it does not mean you aren't worthy of an award. Blogging is time consuming, and while we all put different amounts of time and energy into it depending on our lifestyles, we each give a part of ourselves to the process. I think we all deserve a pat on the back for making the book blogging community what it is today. And that is truly what Book Blogger Appreciation Week is about. It is not about the awards or the prizes. It is about celebrating all of us.

Where's the book talk, you are wondering? Being that it is the end of August, it is time to step into my trusty time machine and take a peek at what I was reading five years ago this month. And here you were thinking you'd gotten off easy this month, didn't you?

August 2004 was both a good and bad month for me reading wise. I read my first J.D. Robb book and, well, I didn't like it. A futuristic mystery novel was bound to hold some appeal for me, I figured. After being told by so many fellow book lovers how great the series was, I thought for sure I would see the appeal. I wanted to like the book; heck, I wanted to like the series, but it was not meant to be. On the opposite side of the coin, I read my first Jodi Picoult book, My Sister's Keeper, which is a novel about a girl who seeks medical emancipation from her parents. The first word in my reading journal describing this book was "Wow." Even though it would not be my highest rated Picoult book, it is still my favorite.

I fell head over heels for Harlan Coben after reading No Second Chance, a stand alone thriller about a man whose daughter is kidnapped and wife is murdered, that same month. The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thomason was much less thrilling. Billed as "the next Da Vinci Code," it was anything but. Once I got over that expectation, I was better able to enjoy the book, but it still fell a little flat for me. The Body in the Cornflakes by K.K. Beck proved to be much more to my liking, although the main character got on my nerves at times. His girlfriend more than made up for it though, and I enjoyed the book quite a bit.

If you recall, I was on a Laurell K. Hamilton reading binge in July 0f 2004. That would come to an end when I finished reading Narcissus in Chains, the 10th book in the Anita Blake, vampire hunter, series in August of that same year. It was with this book that I could really tell what earlier fans of the series had been saying about the series. There was a definite shift from the more mystery driven story lines to that of romance--or sensual, some might say. My stop in the series at this point was only temporary. I would have continued on, I am sure, had the next book been out in paperback (fortunately, I didn't have to wait long).

One of the big highlights of my reading five years ago this month was Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith. It was the beginning of what would be my growing interest in the Mormon faith and its offshoots, the fundamentalist sects. Krakauer set out to write a book about Mormonism and its past; however, as the author began to research and write, he found the book turning in a different direction. Instead he focused on the fundamentalist side of the religion and a horrible crime committed by those who said it was God's will. The story shared by Krakauer was revealing and informative. Mormonism is not the only faith with outlying extremist groups who will use religion as an excuse to commit unspeakable crimes. Even though Krakauer's focus was on one small group, many of the points he brings up can b e found in many other faiths as well.

August of 2004 was full of intrigue in every corner, whether it was grounded in fiction or truth. While some books proved to be disappointing, others more than made up for it. All in all, the month had been a good one book wise.

I have quite a few reviews prepared that I will be sharing with you this coming month. It is a good feeling to be prepared ahead of time, let me tell you! Be sure and stop by on Tuesday for my review of The Promised World by Lisa Tucker. Now to decide what movie to review for Monday's movie day . . .

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

i-Phone the Next Kindle? - Guest Post by Wisteria from Bookworm's Dinner

So, I was thinking, maybe I would get a Kindle just to have for those times when I went away on vacation or to carry in my purse, just in case I got stuck in a line of traffic. Maybe, I’d forget my book I always carry and there I’d be twiddling my thumbs, feeling stupid because I could be reading a book. Looking around me, the options are not always enticing. Don’t you just hate the airline magazines, or getting caught in a doctor’s office where their idea of waiting room magazines are Field and Stream, Golf Digest, Medical Journal or Highlights? I have nothing against fishing, golf, knowing about the next heart procedure or children’s magazines, however I do take issue (no pun intended) with doctors who have tunnel vision and who have limited focus and select reading entertainment for their patients that serves small segments of society.

Anyway, I am digressing. The other day I was surfing the Internet and was pleased to discover that my i-Phone can be converted into a Kindle reader. Yes, you can download and application for your i-Phone making it a smaller version of the Kindle. Amazon has already the Kindle version of a book, adapted to the i-Phone through Amazon. How cool is that? I have been downloading e-books from Barnes and Noble for a while. Their classics are only .99 cents. I have Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

Now I don’t have to spend all that money on a Kindle. I already spent enough on my i-Phone and truly I marvel at the applications I can download. Every day there is something new. I haven’t decided if there is an advantage yet to having the Kindle on my i-Phone versus a Kindle, however, I normally buy books online. Now I have the option when shopping to purchase a digital version; remember there is no shipping when it is digital. The time to download is seconds. I find the small size perfect because it fits in the palm of your hand. Also, you always have your phone with you. I read so much of Pride and Prejudice just from standing in lines and waiting in doctors offices. It was astonishing.

Now to be fair I don’t own a Kindle, so my point of reference is only as an i-Phone user. However, from doing research on the two, some of the differences are as follows:
  1. The i-Phone is in color.
  2. The i-Phone is similar to the Kindle as you can change the font size and bookmark pages.
  3. The i-Phone will keep your place when the phone is shut off, as the Kindle will.
  4. The i-Phone at this time will only download books; periodicals are not available as they are on the Kindle.
  5. The i-Phone is always with you for other purposes, where the Kindle is not.
  6. The i-Phone is smaller and more accessible on the fly.
If you would like more information about the application for i-Phone you can go to: Comparing Kindle 2 with Kindle's iPhone app

I hope anyone with an i-Phone will think twice about getting a Kindle. You already have one. I love having the option although honestly I can’t curl up with my i-Phone and a cup of tea. It just isn’t the same. But we live in the 21st century and its all about technology, change and hopefully convenience.

So, filling in for Ms. Literary Feline, this has been a real enjoyable treat. I hope you found this post up to her high standards.

As a way of saying thanks for stopping by, I am including this post in my three book giveaway contests this month for comments made today. I also have one contest at Bookworm's Dinner that I have extended the end date. I have three copies of I Can See You, by Karen Rose.

I also have The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser and The Blue Star by Tony Early. If you leave a comment on Musings on a Bookish Kitty for today's post, I will enter you in my raffles.

Please leave your email address so that I may contact you. The Hachette Group will mail the winner their book directly. The contest is open to US residents. No PO Boxes please.

Now, here is the exciting part. If you also leave a comment on Bookworm's Dinner's blog for today’s post, I will give you two extra chances. If you blog about the contests and link back to my post one more chance. You will be entered into all three drawings regardless.

Good luck to everyone!

Thanks for stopping by Literary Feline’s blog today. I have enjoyed guest hosting and I hope you did too.

Many thanks to Wisteria for visiting Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Be sure and drop visit Wisteria at Bookworm's Dinner.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Going Home



Hosted by Wordless Wednesday

© Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty 2006-2009
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Child Marriages in India - Guest Post by Gautami from Everything Distils Into Reading

I thought of talking about this issue, which isn't widely known outside of India. In some parts of India, child marriages are still very common. Children as young as few months are married off by their parents on a few auspicious days of the year. It is more popular in states like Rajasthan and West Bengal, where child marriages are the norm.

In India, the legal age for marriage for girls is 18 and boys, it is 21. But in the rural areas, that is seldom followed. Getting married girls around 13-16 years old is pretty common to boys a few years older. Why is it done? Certain religious beliefs say that a girl ought to be married before she attains the age of puberty. And also it helps in keeping the virginity of the girl intact. Boys too wouldn't stray.

Then there are certain beliefs, which say girls ought not be educated. They are better off married and having babies. Girls are brought up with that mindset and therefore are allured by bright clothes and jewellery. Young girls don't understand the pitfalls of early marriages, and of course motherhood until it is too late. How is a child mother equipped to take care of her child?

It is so rampant that even some political leaders have got married their daughters before the legal age with much pomp and show. The law turns a blind eye and it goes on. Even in the rural areas of Delhi, in our schoools too, I have seen girls being married off at the age of 16-17. And when we try to protest, no one is prepared to listen to us.

Because of child marriages, we also have the social evil of child widows, who are shunned from society and lead a life devoid of colour. (that is another issue, I will take on soon). We also must not forget abandoned child brides. In rural India, once a girl is married off, getting her married for the second time is very difficult.

As long as there is no awareness, and girls are considered commodities, it isn't going to stop anyday soon.

Yet, there are people working towards it and girls are coming out against it. That's a good thing.

Many thanks to Gautami for visiting Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Be sure and drop visit Gautami at Everthing Distils Into Reading. If you don't already follow her blog regularly, you should!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Testimony by Anita Shreve - Guest Review by Sandy Nawrot

Testimony by Anita Shreve (audio)
Reviewed by Sandy Nawrot from You've GOTTA read this!

I have just finished the audio tape version of this book, and I am sitting here with a sick, empty and frightened feeling in the pit of my stomach. At the same time, I am also filled with a sense of awe for this author that has managed to take a fairly oft-publicized (the use of the word "common" feels wrong) tragedy and rip it wide open for all to see.

This novel documents, in a very unique way, the events that led up to, occurred during, and followed in the aftermath of a very dark Saturday evening at an exclusive private boarding school in the northeast. We have heard these types of stories on the news, so this is not new territory. Several very drunk boys (all 18 and over), a very drunk, young promiscuous girl, and someone holding a camera. Why did this happen? How could this happen? Two of the three boys are good students with promises of Ivy League colleges and scholarships, coming from good families, one with a serious girlfriend. Well, I'm not sure we get a real good answer, because in reality, they just aren't there. But we hear from everyone involved...from the parents, from the "participants", the friends, the girlfriend, the headmaster of the school, even the school cafeteria lady. It is all presented to us as a combination of diary-type musings, statements of fact, or as if these individuals are being interviewed. It is uncanny. You get raw emotions, gut-reactions, all with individual, unique voices. You slip inside the minds of different mothers that feel she has contributed somehow to the downfall of her son. You hear the thoughts of fathers that are in total denial or cannot be in the same room with his son. You hear from the "victim" who attempts to reinvent herself in a different part of the country and blithely justifies her actions on the night in question. Yet, you hear a different perspective of this girl's actions from her roommate.

The effects of the incident in question are catastrophic. Lives are blown apart, some destroyed forever. One thing that I found most interesting as I was listening...with the exception of the girl, who I found to be very self-absorbed and annoying, there are no villains or heroes. When you hear of these stories on the news, it is easy to take a side and say "the boys took advantage of a young girl", or adversely, "the girl asked for it". In this story, when you are allowed to reside in the mind of each character in the story, it just isn't that black and white. Your heart breaks for each and every one of them. Personally, being the parent of a pre-pubescent son and a pubescent daughter, I am terrified at the thought of how bad judgment can implode everything you hold dear.

I'd also like to make a special note about experiencing this novel on audio tape. I've listened to many audio tapes. Up to this point, all of them but one have been a single reader that assumes different accents and tones to portray different characters. In "Testimony" there are a cast of readers, each with their own character. The effect is amazing. If you enjoy a book in this medium now and again, or have never tried it but think you might, this would be the one to pick up.

Sandy from You've GOTTA read this! kindly volunteered to loan me this review, which was originally posted on her blog in December of last year. I couldn't be more grateful to you, Sandy, for filling in for me like this!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fiction Characters That I Hate - Guest Post by Carrie from Books & Movies)

I recently saw a post at The Written World called Fictional Characters That I Hate, and it got me to thinking. There are several characters who caused a gut reaction of pure hate as I read:

Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray - I stated in my review that I thought Becky Sharp was pure evil, and that provoked some interesting comments stating that she was a product of her background and that she was misunderstood. I didn't see it that way - there were many points where Becky could have chosen to do the right thing, but she always acted in her own self-interest, no matter who she hurt. In spite of Becky, however, I did like the book.

Cathy and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - I have no idea why this book is considered such a great romance - Cathy and Heathcliff are completely narcissistic and unloveable. Nothing romantic about this couple.

Edna Pontellier from The Awakening by Kate Chopin - This novel is supposed to be a pre-feminist manifesto, but I simply see it as a tragic story of what happens when someone chooses themself continually - over their spouse, their children, all others. I see Edna's choice at the end as an act of depiscable cowardice, not a feminist statement.

Jack Randall and Laoghaire from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon - Black Jack Randall is the ultimate villain: his handsome and sensual exterior hide cruelty and sadism. His presence haunts this series, long after his body is dead. Laoghaire may not be pure evil on the same scale as Jack Randall, but she's pretty despicable. From trying to have Claire killed to making Jamie miserable in their marriage, and then extorting money from him long after she needs it - her list of misdeeds is extensive.

Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - Her simpering, overt attempts to marry her daughter off result in embarrassment for Lizzie and Jane. I continually wanted to shake her or slap her while reading P&P.

Dr. Cable from the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld - As head of Special Circumstances, Cable is the ultimate example of the ends justifies the means. Her complete willingness to deny people their ability to think and their free will is chilling.

Joyce Barnhardt from the Stephanie Plum mysteries by Janet Evanovich - Any woman who would boff a newly married man - Stephanie's husband, Dickie Orr - on his dining room table is pretty low. You'd think she'd be ashamed enough to avoid Stephanie after that, but, no, she continues to do everything she can to make Stephanie's life miserable. She's a witch with a capital B.

August from Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen - August is truly crazy - and, even scarier, completely unpredictable. The fact that he could fly off at any moment and do physical damage to anyone and everyone in his path made him a horrible character - and his treatment of the elephant, Rosie, made me sick to my stomach. The way he met his end was justice at its best.

Those are the characters that inspire an instant feeling of hatred when I think of them. What fictional characters do you hate?

Many thanks to Carrie for visiting Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Be sure and drop visit Carrie at Books and Movies and Mommy Brain. If you don't already follow her blogs regularly, you should!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Into That Darkness by Gitta Sereny - Guest Review by Sandy Nawrot

Into That Darkness by Gitta Sereny
Reviewed by Sandy Nawrot from You've GOTTA read this!

This book was a recommendation by my husband’s company's chairman, Dick Shura, who told me this book would change my life. And he was right.

Sereny is a reporter who spent over 70 hours of interview time with Franz Stangl, the Kommandant of Treblinka, the largest death camp in WWII. At the time of the interviews, Stangl was in his 60s and awaiting an appeal to his death sentence in prison. Sereny's agenda was not what you would think. She was not after horror stories. She posed to Stangl a question that has haunted every human being since the does a smart, upstanding citizen, a husband, a father, justify what he has done? How did he rationalize his actions so that he could sleep at night? She digs deep, asking very tough, perceptive questions. But she doesn't take his answers at face value. She follows up and cross-checks nearly every statement Stangl makes (it started to wear me out thinking about the exhaustive research this woman did!). She spoke with Stangl's wife, his friends, survivors of the camp, other officers of the Third Reich. If stories didn't match up, she went after it like a dog with a bone.

There is a point in the book when it all starts to become clear. Even now, my heart is starting to race thinking about it. How the extermination of millions all started so small, with euthanizing invalids, and the rationalization by even priests that is was the humane thing to do. The list expanded to the mentally ill, and with the loose definition of what constituted "mentally ill", the list expanded further to include homosexuals, people with various diseases, and anyone else that just happened to piss off those in charge. Through the justification of each tiny step, and ultimately through the fear of ending up on the list, so many people like you and me stepped aside and let it all happen.

Ultimately, this book is about an examination of conscience...for Stangl, for everyone involved, and even ourselves. Would you and I have reacted any differently, had we witnessed these events? What is the value of a life? Are some worth more than others? These are not pleasant ponderings, and this book is not for the faint of heart. It is not an easy book to read, but I think every person on this earth should be required to read it.

Sandy from You've GOTTA read this! kindly volunteered to loan me this review, which was originally posted on her blog in November of last year. I couldn't be more grateful to you, Sandy, for filling in for me like this (again)! This is definitely one that I plan to read.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Riding the Highway (Part 11)


© Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty 2006-2009
If you're reading this on a site other than
Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Introducing Buddy from Peeking Between the Pages

Hello everyone, I'm so excited!!! My name is Buddy and some of you might know my mom -Dar from Peeking Between the Pages. When Wendy said I could come and guest post on her blog while she was away I was ecstatic! My mommy doesn't let me talk on her blog often - just on Sundays. I just love to be the center of attention and it was very nice of Riley to let me on his mom's blog too. I'm pretty jealous myself when it comes to my mom's attentions so I would understand if he said no.

So I thought it might be nice to show myself off a bit and show some pics of me enjoying my very pampered puppy life. Yes I know I'm pampered and spoiled rotten but ssssshhhhhhh!!!, don't let mom find out! I don't want all this good life of rubs and treats and being catered after to end you know.

Ok, first I want to talk about the fact that I hate baths. It's not fun getting put in that big huge tub. Yes mom comes in with me so I'm not as scared but I'm still going to milk it and get pity treats. A puppy's got to work the sad puppy eye angle all the time. When she does throw me in the tub though I get out after she's done and run into her room soaking wet and rub myself dry all over her bed. Yup, you bet - she hates it and gives me the what for but I pay no attention.

Mostly I cause trouble at home. I love doing the couch olympics and running around and barking but every so often I like to just relax and curl up in the blankies. This is mommy's favorite time because she says she can finally relax and read her book without me being bad and distracting her. I know she loves it though cause I get lots of kisses and hugs; to be honest sometimes too many. I mean really how much kissing can a dog take before you just leave him alone! I'm not sure this qualifies as curling up in the blankies and resting though cause mommy was trying to fold this laundry but I was having fun.

Now before I say good-bye, let's talk about the fact that I don't enjoy reading half as much as mommy does nor am I very fond of her doing too much of it. Why she insists on me reading a few pages is beyond me but if I pose nice I get a treat. Now I'm a smart dog. I know this, so I pose. She laughs, says good dog, and we head to my cupboard for that all important treat. Uggggh, she made me have a hair cut and a BATH for this picture too - not happy about that at all! I was however happy with all the treats I got!

Thanks Wendy for letting me visit here on Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Geez, this was so much fun! Bye for now. Luv and puppy hugs from Buddy...

Photos courtesy of Dar from Peeking Between the Pages.

Many thanks to Dar and Buddy for visiting Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Anya, Parker and Riley are wondering when they'll get their turn now. Be sure and drop visit Dar Peeking Between the Pages. If you don't already follow her blog regularly, you should!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold - Guest Review by Nicole Dettmar

I would like to thank Wendy for offering the opportunity to write. Although I am a medical librarian, one of the things I have yet to do for my job is read and review books because my focus is distance education for other librarians. I’ll also let you in on a little secret: I knew Wendy as we were growing up together in our suburban neighborhood. She is even kinder than she expresses here at Musings of a Bookish Kitty and always has been!

Girl in a Blue Dress: A Novel Inspired by the Life & Marriage of Charles Dickens by Gaynor Arnold

Crown, 2009
Fiction – Historical; 414 pages

At the end of her life, Catherine, the cast-off wife of Charles Dickens, gave the letters she had received from her husband to their daughter Kate, asking her to donate them to the British Museum, “so the world may know that he loved me once.” The incredible vulnerability and heartache evident beneath the surface of this remark inspired Gaynor Arnold to write Girl in a Blue Dress, a dazzling debut novel inspired by the life of this tragic yet devoted woman. Arnold brings the spirit of Catherine Dickens to life in the form of Dorothea “Dodo” Gibson–a woman who is doomed to live in the shadow of her husband, Alfred, the most celebrated author in the Victorian world.
-Publisher’s blurb

While I am a Victoriana fan in the closet when it comes to tea parties & architecture and acknowledge Charles Dickens’ influence on both literature & society, I’ve never been really into his stories. Before reading Girl in a Blue Dress I was completely unaware of his domestic life being at such odds with the public image of a prominent author who spoke out against the grave societal injustices of the Industrial era. The personal lives of historical great figures are not often mentioned in school compared to today’s world where every new aspect is immediately published in a blog somewhere!

Arnold’s novel did indeed show Charles Dickens as a powerfully driven and vibrant man in Alfred Gibson, for whom “Love was such a radiant feeling that he never stopped to divide it into what was suitable for a wife, or for a sister, or for a friend.”

From the day they met and danced at Dodo’s childhood home through a whirlwind courtship of secret love letters transported by her younger sister who later died in Alfred’s arms (a true story, Dickens deeply mourned her loss the rest of his life), their early relationship was so full of passion that they had eight children in quick succession. Alfred curiously absolved himself of his role for their being, and seemed to blame Dodo for their family’s size. He often ranted and raved that they would all be sent into poverty despite his increasing fame and income which was his lifelong fear based on his own childhood (also drawn from Dickens’ real life).

Raising so many children is challenging enough, to do so in a house where all family members are merely satellites to a brilliant One and Only star at the center is exhausting. After Dodo suffers a nervous collapse she recovers at an institution, and then returns to her family to find she has been completely shut out while another young woman has captured Alfred’s attention. Divorce was unthinkable in Victorian society; she is sent to live away from the home, and then devastated by his statement in the newspaper about their separation stating that she was an unfit wife and mother.

What I sought and could not find was a realistic persona for Dodo in the story. Vacillating from assuring her daughter, full of rage at her father, that “If I have had heartache in my life… your father was not to blame for it. He gave me everything I have valued.” to suddenly inquiring of Queen Victoria “Does it not strike you as unfair, Ma’am, that a simple question of one’s sex should condemn one forever to a particular sphere?” over tea after ten years in banished seclusion struck me as out of synch and jarringly modern.

To be fair, there is very little documentation of Catherine Dickens to draw on compared to Charles, but I regret not being able to ‘get’ Dodo the way I did Alfred. I struggled to keep reading through the latter part of the book and was a bit baffled by a surreal (and supernatural) ending. I had previously read several positive reviews and agree there are well-written moments, such as Dodo’s confrontation with Alfred’s paramour that compels you to challenge assumptions about what an affair is, but I was not sucked into a page-turner of a time.

Instead I find myself reflecting on what the roles of a husband, wife and society are in marriage & family and how they have changed over the centuries. For this the book is a captivating peek at Victorian society from a woman’s perspective, a rare thing indeed.

Many thanks to Nicole from Eagle Dawg Blog for writing this terrific review. When I requested volunteers to guest post on my blog, I did not expect to hear from my childhood friend, Nikki. It was a wonderful surprise, to say the least, and I am thrilled to introduce you to her today.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Book By A Different Cover? - Guest Post by Sheri from A Novel Menagerie)

I’m so honored that Wendy enabled me the opportunity to guest blog in her absence. Being that she is one of my most favorite blogs, I look forward to everything that she posts. As I tossed and turned, considering my options about my guest post, I kept thinking about writing about something that would honor her blog and do it justice. You know… something that was important and held merit with book bloggers. I came up… BLANK! But, what I did know is that I wanted to ask questions of her readers that I wouldn’t necessarily get in my blog. So….. that means no blogs about my disappointment on Paula Abdul leaving American Idol, no ranting and raving about the dancing on So You Think You Can Dance, and also no posts about the new reality TV Show “More To Love.” (And, believe me, you, I’ve got plenty to say about that show!)

Trying to focus myself back to a book-oriented post, I kept coming back to something that I’ve been challenging myself with… do I tend to choose the next “review book” based on its cover?

Now, within the confines of my mind, I tend to think that I’m so impartial, fair, and non-judgmental. My obvious answer is, “Of course, I do not judge a book by its cover.” But, after reading several books in this past week, I think I’m only fooling myself. I absolutely place a certain amount of weight on my next reading choice based on its cover. Let’s examine why…

Now, if I have been reading about a book that is just receiving rave reviews, I’m the first one to order it from or the library. The countless number of books on my wish list reflects my belief in the opinion of my fellow book review bloggers. But, what about the bookstore? And, for that matter, what about those great ARC’s/Galleys that appear on my doorstep? As they form their piles by date of release, am I really that faithful to read them all in chronological order? Honestly, I’m not. I cheat.

That’s it. It’s been said. I CHEAT. Every now and then, I’ll pull a book out of the stack just because I love the look of its cover. There’s just a personal pull to that particular book that says, “READ ME!” And, I do.

So, has my cheating paid off? Do the covers reflect the insides?

Yes. And, No. There have been some books that have surprised me… I didn’t care for the cover, but loved the book. And, far and away the same can be said about the opposite.

I shift radically to the liberal interpretation of the coined phrase, “judging a book by its cover.” Do people make immediate impressions of me based on “my cover?” Well, I live in Southern California, so that obvious answer is, “Yes.” Do I hate it? YES! As I ponder the many reality television shows that I watch and review, I never really address the topic of my forming opinions of these seemingly perfect people based on their exterior appearance (i.e. their “cover.”) The very thing that I hate, I do. Initially, we’re all based on our cover.

So, in books and in life… how do you find your perfect match? Do I randomly pick a mom at a soccer match and strike up a conversation to see if a friendship could be fostered? No. Not really. I pick people who seem “like me.” Do I read books with covers that absolutely turn me in the other direction? No. Absolutely not. In fact, any time I see the words or indication of vampires, zombies, or anything remotely scary, I move onto the next blog article to read. I hate vampires and blood and scary stuff. I don’t want to read that! And, the cover with the blood drops… eeewww! NO!

But, what if it is really good? What if I might surprise myself? What if there is a fantastic read in that book Pride & Prejudice & Zombies? I totally loved Pride & Prejudice. Would I like the book with that and the zombies? What is the worst thing that can happen? I start dreaming of Mr. Darcy jumping out of his grave? There are definitely worse nightmares than that.

So, how do you challenge yourself to look beyond the cover… in life and in books? How do you form an open mind that overturns the decisions of the initial reaction?

Do tell!

Many thanks to Sheri for visiting Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Be sure and drop visit Sheri at A Novel Menagerie. If you don't already follow her blog regularly, you should!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Page in the Life of Melody from Melody's Reading Corner

Please join me in welcoming Melody from Melody's Reading Corner to Musings of a Bookish Kitty! I still remember the moment when Melody first asked to know my real name. We became fast friends after that despite the physical distance between us. Melody's blog is a regular stop on my blog travels. She doesn't know it, but we have a little competition going to see who can add to whose TBR pile the most. Melody always has a kind word to offer and great taste in books.

Literary Feline: Welcome, Melody! I am so glad you could join us today. I am always curious to know: how do you like to start off your morning?

Melody: During weekdays, I wake up at 5 a.m. to get ready for work. After preparing breakfast for myself and my husband, I will then bring my 9-month-old daughter to my inlaws’ place before leaving for work (while my husband will bring our eldest daughter to the childcare center). It takes me about an hour for the commute to reach my office so I always enjoy this time because that means I can catch up on my reading! As I am always early to the office, I will make use of the time to check my emails and read the blogs I’m following before starting my work.

Literary Feline: Besides reading and books, what are some of your other interests, hobbies or passions? How did you get started blogging about books?

Melody: Nowadays, I have no time for other hobbies except reading! Occasionally, I will catch a movie with my husband and do some shopping, and that is about all. I took up part-time Graphic Design seven years ago because I have great interest in arts and designing, but honestly I have no intention to pursue that career after my graduation. Most of my friends think I was insane to pursue a course that I have no intention of following the career, but that is my interest and I have no regrets.

As for blogging about books, I started my blog in July 2006. At that time, I started it merely out of curiosity and since I don’t have the intention of blogging about my personal life (I don’t think anyone would be interested in reading them anyway), I figure blogging about books would be the safest way of sharing my views with other people around the world and so that is how it started. But the best of all is, I found out about this book blogging community and I love exchanging views about books with fellow book bloggers.

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

Melody: Blogging has definitely impacted my reading! There are so many great recommendations from other bookbloggers and most of all, I love the interactions! I used to read certain genres but ever since I started blogging, it has broadened my reading horizons and allows me to explore other genres which I would never think of reading in the beginning.

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

I have no specific rules when it comes to reading and I will read anything as long as the premise sparks my interest. I like books that make me think in any aspect, but generally I simply like the joy of reading a good book and I definitely enjoy being surprised by them.

I always try to blog every book I read for my own record purposes. Usually, I will blog about the book as soon as I have finished reading it so I have a clear view of the book.

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

Melody: I suppose I do since I always read during the commute and during lunch breaks. Back at home, I read whenever I can but it can be challenging when you have two children who are always vying for your attention.

As for habits, I always make sure to have a bookmark to mark my book, or simply any scrap of paper would do for I hate dog-earring my books.

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?

Melody: I don’t think I have reading slump often (which I’m glad!). I always pick up another book the moment I have finished reading one; it is the matter of choosing what book to read next that really bother me because I want to read so many books! Personally, I think choosing a book by my favourite author would pull me out of a reading slump.

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

Melody: If you have doubts, ask away! And please don’t feel shy about leaving comments. Friendship starts with a simple hello.

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

Melody: I am currently reading Daughter of Blood by Anne Bishop and I love the premise! Anne has created a set of wonderful characters and I am particularly intrigued by the protagonist. She is a seven-year-old girl and yet she possessed great potential to be Queen, a witch who is believed to wield more power than even the High Lord of Hell himself! Three sworn enemies knew about this and they would fight anything to get control of this girl as whoever controls the Queen controls the Darkness. Can you tell this book is exciting?

Gosh, I wish I could list all my favourite books here! Here are some of my favourite reads which I would never get tired of reading them again and again: Tokyo (aka The Devil of Nanking) by Mo Hayder (thriller), No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay (thriller), Stolen by Lucy Christopher (YA), Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (YA), Nightfall by Anne Stuart (Romance Suspense), Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg (fiction), The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister (fiction)… just to name a few.

If you wish, do check out my reading history on my blog to find out some of my favourite reads of the year.

Thank you, Wendy, for allowing me to be a guest for this post!

Literary Feline: Thank you, Melody, for taking part in my A Page in the Life feature! It's been a pleasure having you here.

Be sure to stop by and visit Melody over at Melody's Reading Corner!

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Riding the Highway (Part 10)


Hosted by Wordless Wednesday

© Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty 2006-2009
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

2 R’s and T: Reading, ‘Riting, and Time (and not enough of any of them!) - Guest Post by Florinda from 3 R's

I was on a pretty good streak for a while. By the middle of July, I had posted 29 book reviews this year. Compared to some other book bloggers, I'm an utter slacker - but compared to myself in 2008, when I only reviewed 35 books for the entire year, I was feeling pretty good. And then I went for close to three weeks without even finishing a book. Can't review them if you don't get them read, can you? (Wait, that's not completely true; I did finish Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which I re-read after seeing the movie, but since it was a repeat, it's the rare book that won't be reviewed on the blog.)

There were some other things going on at that time, though, to be fair. I went to a conference, and when I came back, there was a lot to process - and to write about - which didn't have much to do with books. I hadn't brought books with me on my trip, but I did bring my new Kindle - it travels much more easily! But I didn't finish the book I started on the Kindle before I got home, and when I came home, there were already two books in progress waiting for me, and a third that I needed to start (and finish!) for an upcoming blog-tour post. All of this has just reinforced for me why I really do better when I read just one book at a time. I feel less pressure when I only have one book unfinished, as opposed to three.

I can't blame everything on the travel, though, because there's still the same Catch-22 I've experienced ever since I got into this almost two and a half years ago - writing about reading books takes time away from actually reading books, but if you're not reading the books, you can't write about them! And I write about other things besides books, too - someone recently described me as a "hybrid" blogger. (Does that make my blog a Prius?)

I hadn't thought in those terms before, but it fits. Book-related content is a big component of what's on my blog, but there are also posts about travel, popular culture, current events and issues, stuff my family does, and even stuff that other bloggers do. That reminds me that another reason that I have less time for books is that I read a lot of blogs - maybe not all of every post, every day, but the number I subscribe to is so large I'm embarrassed to tell you. For me, reading other blogs - book blogs, personal blogs, entertainment blogs, news blogs, just-for-fun blogs - is as big a part of being a blogger as writing my own posts is. They amuse, provoke, and inspire me. And sometimes, they keep me from hitting the books.

I do my best reading, and my most productive writing, when I have big chunks of time for it. Since I work full-time in a job that has nothing to do with either books or blogging and, for some reason, my family actually does want to have me around (and paying attention to them!) every now and then, I don't get those time chunks as often as I'd like. I suspect many of us could say that, though, so we all learn to seize our moments when we can. I read every morning at breakfast and every night in bed, and I always have a book (and/or my newly-acquired Kindle) with me so I can sneak in some pages whenever the opportunity comes along.

My husband likes to talk about what he'd do if he won the lottery; I already know what would be at the top of my list. Money would free me up from other responsibilities, and buy me time; time for the many books to be started - and finished - and written about! But assuming that doesn't happen, I've just got to get myself back on that reading-and-reviewing streak some other way. I liked it there.

Many thanks to Florinda for visiting Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Be sure and drop visit Florinda at The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness. If you don't already follow her blog regularly, you should! You can also find Florinda at the Los Angeles Moms Blog.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver - Guest Review by Sandy Nawrot

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
Reviewed by Sandy Nawrot from You've GOTTA read this!

I actually read this book a year and a half ago, but is one that needs to be acknowledged here. It is one that has stuck with me, and has been scribbled down and e-mailed countless times to my friends. Have you ever allowed yourself to wonder "what if"...if you'd made this decision over that one, married this person instead of that would your life had changed? This book allows a delightful opportunity to peer into a parallel life of Irina, our protagonist, and actually see the "what if".

Irina has lived in London with Lawrence, an intellectual think-tank manager, for a decade. Their relationship is comfortable and maybe a little boring. Every year they get together with their friend, Ramsey, a devil-may-care snooker champion, to celebrate his birthday. One year, Lawrence is out of town and Irina decides to continue with the tradition by herself. Irina and Ramsey proceed to get hammered (or in London, "pissed") and approach the fork in the road. You see this coming, right? At this point in the book, there are two "Chapter 2's", "two Chapter 3's", etc. In the first of the two chapters, Irina falls for the dashing Ramsey, ultimately leaves Lawrence, and lives the unpredictable and non-stop life of a snooker wife (or more appropriately a snooker widow). In the second of the two chapters, Irina resists temptation and stays with Lawrence, steadfastly loyal but bored out of her skull. Each outcome is so completely different, and unexpected, and I won't ruin it for you.

Shriver is a very talented writer and is a joy and a hoot to read. This book is FULL of ironies, some absolutely hilarious. The two story lines intertwine fabulously. For example, in one parallel life, Irina and Ramsey visit Irina's family for Christmas, Ramsey gets toasted and trashes the place, and Irina is left apologizing. In the other life, it is Irina that drinks too much and makes a mess, and Lawrence has to pick up the pieces. These clever little slights of hand had me laughing out loud. It was rated in the top 5 must reads of 2007 by Entertainment Weekly, and I know that I will read it again.

Sandy from You've GOTTA read this! kindly volunteered to loan me this review, which was originally posted on her blog in October of last year. I couldn't be more grateful to you, Sandy, for filling in for me like this! And for adding yet another book to my ever growing wish list.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sunday Salon: Why Read Crime Fiction? & Other Random Thoughts

  • I was listening to National Public Radio (NPR) on my drive home from a workshop this past week and author Walter Mosley was on, along with someone whose name I cannot remember from Law & Order. They were talking about what draws people to crime fiction. My very first thought was, “Oh good! I have a long drive ahead of me!” One of those rare times in recent history anyone’s prayed for lots of traffic so the drive will last longer.

  • It's obvious people are drawn to crime fiction for very different reasons. A small few of the reasons I heard given on the radio show:
  • - To live the life of the bad guy vicariously through the TV or book
    - To see good win out over evil
    - To better understand the criminal mind
    - To enhance problem solving skills
    - For the love of the characters, including that flawed good guy who might not be so different than the rest us
    - For the thrill
    - An escape from real life
    - Predictability
    - Unpredictability
    - Relevant social issues
  • The list could go on forever.

  • Most of the callers to the show were fans of Law & Order. I wish more people had called in specifically for author Walter Mosley. That's why I probably remember his name and not the other guest's. (I have nothing against Law & Order--I'm actually a big fan of the original Law & Order and Law and Order: SVU.)

  • Anya's taken to chewing on the corner of my books more often. She likes hardbacks in particular.

  • Anjin is reading Casino Moon by Peter Blauner.

  • Please check out my friend's new blog, The Book Nurse. It's brand new, and so Denise has not had a chance to post any of her reviews just yet (they'll be worth checking out, I assure you!). Take her up on her offer to prescribe you a book. ~ You can also find her at Celtic Librarian, where she and her high school students blog about the books they read.

  • Riley thinks a book is a holder for his toy bone.

  • One of my coworkers was being especially nosy the other day, going around to everyone's desk and looking closely at what each of us had sitting on the surface. I asked her if she was looking for something in particular. Her reply: "Yes, I'm looking for something to read." Evidently she often borrows books off of people's desks and returns them before anyone notices they are missing. Don't worry, she's always gentle with the books. Still, I'm glad I always take my book with me.

  • Parker takes every opportunity to make a stray book his latest napping spot.

  • * * *

    When I put my request out there for guest bloggers, I figured one person would volunteer if I was really lucky. I was quite surprised then when many more of you than that offered to lend a hand during my time away from the computer. I hope you will join me in welcoming all of my upcoming guests:

    Buddy - Peeking Between the Pages
    Carrie - Books and Movies & Mommy Brain
    Florinda - The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness
    Gautami - Everthing Distils Into Reading
    Melody - Melody's Reading Corner
    Nicole - Eagle Dawg Blog
    Sandy Nawrot - You've GOTTA read this!
    Sheri - A Novel Menagerie
    Wisteria - Bookworm's Dinner

    I cannot thank the volunteers enough. Nor can I adequately express how excited I am that each of them will be making an appearance here at Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Each of my guests are quality bloggers who I am honored to host on my blog. I hope you will drop in and read what my guests have to say, and if you have the time, be sure and leave a comment. I am sure they would love to hear from you!

    I hope you all have a great next few weeks and I will see you again at the end of the month. Happy Reading!

    In Reading Mews:

    Reviews Posted:
    The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
    Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey & a Giveaway

    Currently Reading:

    In the Woods by Tana French

    New Additions to my TBR collection:
    Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same by Mattox Roesch (Many thanks to Unbridled Books for sending me this one. It was an unexpected but much welcome surprise!)

    Other Posts of Interest This Week:
    Monday at the Movies: A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That
    Wordless Wednesday: Riding the Highway (Part 9)

    © 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
    If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

    Thursday, August 06, 2009

    Review: Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey (& a Giveaway)

    "So cold," he murmured. "Once she was warm and breathing."

    It was what he could never quite get his mind around--not just how complex life was, but why it was so easy for life to leave a person once so complex. [excerpt from Wife of the Gods]

    Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey
    Random House, 2009 (ARE)
    Crime Fiction; 319 pgs

    When I first saw mention of Kwei Quartey’s Wife of the Gods, I knew I had to read it. I can’t resist a crime fiction novel, especially one set in a country other than my own. I get to learn about another country and culture while at the same time settling in with the comfort of the familiar format of a mystery.

    Kwei Quartey’s protagonist, Darko Dawson is the kind of detective I would want investigating my murder. He has a dogged determination and a strong sense of right and wrong—at least where others are concerned. Righteous is the word that comes to mind, but not in an arrogant or overbearing way. Darko is anything but perfect though. He has a weakness for marijuana and a bit of a temper which lands him in plenty of trouble.

    The novel is set in the beautiful country of Ghana. Quartey paints a portrait of a complex society, one that straddles the old traditions and the new. In a community where witchcraft is feared and superstitions are commonplace, science is still trying to find a foothold. Detective Inspector Darko Dawson is a modern man. He trusts in science and facts to solve his cases. When he is assigned to Ketanu, a small out of the way community, to aid in the murder investigation of a volunteer AIDS worker, he comes face to face with the very superstitions he disdains.

    The Chief Inspector of Ketanu has his eyes set on a particular young man as his suspect, but Darko isn’t convinced. He sets out on his own investigation, determined to solve the murder.

    Darko’s mother disappeared after a visit to Ketanu over twenty years before while visiting her sister who lived in the town. Perhaps he can look into her disappearance while there as well. It’s a long shot after so many years, but he at least wants to give it a try.

    I have seen this book compared to Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and I have to disagree. Smith’s series is not much of a crime fiction series at all—and if you go into those books expecting a mystery, you may well be disappointed. With Quartey’s book, on the other hand, a mystery is exactly what you get. It’s also a bit darker in some respects, than Smith’s series.

    There was so much I liked about this series, including the various interesting characters, the flashbacks into Darko’s past and the unfolding of the mystery of his mother’s disappearance as well as the murder of that young volunteer. There was a moment early on in the book when I thought one story thread might get lost in other, but fortunately that did not happen.

    Another aspect that especially caught my attention was the health department and volunteers like the murdered woman who struggle to reach a population of people who are very entrenched in the old ways. The misinformation and superstitions surrounding AIDS is frightening. Add to that the issue of fetish priests and the practice of families marrying off their teenage daughters to them in hopes of turning around bad luck or getting rid of a curse. Quartey offers both sides of these issues to some extent, but it is clear which side Darko falls on.

    Wife of the Gods is a promising start for a new series. There are many characters, including Armah, Darko’s inspiration and mentor, that I hope I can visit again. And I do hope I haven’t seen the last of Elizabeth Mensah. She’s an admirable and strong woman. Kwei Quartey is definitely an author to watch.

    Challenge Commitment Fulfilled: ARC Challenge, What's in a Name Challenge, New Authors Challenge & 2009 Pub Challenge

    To learn more about the author, Kwei Quartey, and his book, visit his website. Visit TLC Book Tours for a list of Kwei Quartey's tour stops!

    Interested in winning a copy of Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey? Here's how you can enter the drawing for a chance to win:
    • Leave a comment along with an e-mail address where I can contact you if it is not easily accessible on your blog or profile page.
    • To be entered, you MUST answer the following question: Who is one of your favorite fictional detectives?
    • Open to anyone with a valid mailing address.
    • Deadline to enter is August 22nd at 11:59 p.m. The winner will be notified by e-mail.

    Many thanks to author Kwei Quartey and TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Review copy provided by LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program (via the publisher) and giveaway copy provided by the publisher.

    © 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.

    Wednesday, August 05, 2009

    Wordless Wednesday: Riding the Highway (Part 9)

    New Mexico

    Hosted by Wordless Wednesday

    © Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty 2006-2009
    If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

    Tuesday, August 04, 2009

    Review: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

    We have been lost to each other for so long.
    My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust. [except from prologue]

    The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
    Picador, 1997
    Fiction (Historical); 321 pgs

    Synopsis from the Publisher:
    Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah's voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood—the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers—Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah—the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah's story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women's society.

    Occasionally I come across a book I know I will read again. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is one such book.

    I admit I was really hung up on the whole "biblical" side of the story before beginning my reading, and that was a bit off putting. As much as I love to explore religions of all kinds and their histories, reading a book about biblical figures isn’t exactly my cup of tea. Even with the reassurances of friends and fellow bloggers that I had nothing to worry about, I still hesitated. I dragged my feet and even considered not reading it just yet. But I voted for the book in a group read and it would not look very good if I did not at least give it a try. And, of course, just like everyone said, I had nothing to worry about.

    I loved the prologue. It is one of those that grabbed my attention from the very first moment. I was sure I would love the book. As I continued on, however, I became disillusioned. The story itself was interesting, including the history of Dinah’s family, in particular that of her mothers and how they came to be with her father, Jacob. It was written in the style of a story being told to the next generation—the exact atmosphere the author was most likely hoping to achieve. And yet, I found my attention wandering. I wanted to be a part of the story, rather than just having it told to me (I blame that more on my mood than on the book itself). Not to mention I wanted to get to know Dinah. Her family history was interesting and all, but I wanted to know more about Dinah.

    I can pinpoint the exact moment when the book completely won be over—when I knew I might end up loving it after all. It was about page 161 when Dinah was left behind by her family to serve her grandmother, Rebecca, in Mamre.

    Despite my reservations about the biblical aspects of the novel, I couldn't help but think of the Bible stories I was raised on as I read; and I wish I'd remembered them a little more clearly. Throughout the early part of the novel, I repeatedly flipped back to the family tree at the beginning of the book, making sure I remembered who belonged to who and how they were all connected.

    What drew me most to the story was the strength of the women and the joy and care they took in their traditions and beliefs. Even though they lived in a patriarchal society, their rituals and traditions were empowering. It was a time when a girl becoming a woman was celebrated; whereas the day would eventually come when it was something to hide and be seen as a curse. There was one moment in the novel in which Jacob learns of the women’s rituals surrounding a girl’s first menses. He becomes angry and violent. I couldn’t help but feel very sad at that point. It was a foreshadowing of what would come—not in the book so much, but in reality—such traditions eventually died out in many cultures and were no longer reveled in. Just as how the stories, once passed down from mother to daughter, seemingly became the realm of men. Or at least, their stories became the ones heard and repeated most often.

    Dinah had a relatively happy childhood, but her adulthood was a difficult one, no thanks to two of her brothers. I most enjoyed the time we spent in Egypt together, although it was not always the happiest of times. It was during the second half of the book that I really felt I got to know Dinah, and became a part of her world. I cried with her and took joy in the happy moments. She truly is an admirable character and I am glad I got the chance to know her in The Red Tent.

    The Red Tent reminded me a bit of one of my favorite novels: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. The two are very different books, of course, but they both feature strong female characters and touch on similar issues that women faced in our history as well as on a spiritual level.

    By the time I finished the last chapter of the book, I felt satisfied. There is so much more I could say about this book. It is full of nuances I have not even begun to touch here. Even with those moments when I doubted the book would live up to my expectations, I can truly say this is a book well worth reading.

    Rating: * (Very Good)

    Challenge Commitment Fulfilled: 2nds Challenge

    To learn more about the author, Anita Diamant, and her books, visit her website.

    © 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.