Friday, March 23, 2012

2011 Independent Literary Award Winners

Last year may not have been my best reading year, but it was a great year for literature. Earlier this winter the short-lists for the Independent Literary Awards were announced, the list of books nominated by you the readers. The voting panels for the awards read the short-listed books in their categories and discussed and voted on the final winners and runners-up. I was on the voting panel for the mystery category. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting my thoughts on the five short-listed nominees for the mystery category. In the meantime, here are the results for all 2011 award categories:

Winner: Little Princes by Conor Grennan
Runner-Up: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

Winner: Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender by Nick Krieger
Runner-Up: Huntress by Malinda Lo

Winner: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
Runner-Up: Dance Lessons by Aine Greaney

Winner: A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny
Runner-Up: Fun and Games by Duane Swierczynski

Winner: Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckhoff
Runner-Up: Berlin 1961 by Frederick Kempe

Winner: Catalina by Laurie Soriano
Runner-Up: What Looks Like an Elephant by Edward Nudelman

Speculative Fiction
Winner: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Runner-Up: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Thoughts on the final results? Have you read any of the winners or runners up?

© 2012, 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, March 21, 2012

The One in Which I Answer Melody's 11 Questions

My friend Melody from Melody's Reading Corner tagged me for the 11 Question Meme and, of course, I couldn't resist participating. It's been so much fun answering Lisa's & Susan's questions.

Being the rule breaker that I am, I am not tagging the required 11 people to answer questions of my own making. Instead, I am appealing to all of you wonderful people. I hope you will answer one or all of them. If you do, you can create your own post or leave your answers to one, two or however many in the comments. And because I was tagged three times for this meme, I divided the eleven questions between each post. That way, I only had to come up with eleven questions and not thirty-three. The first two sets of questions can be found here & here.

1. Who’s your idol? It can be anyone and doesn’t have to be a celebrity or a public figure.
When I was growing up the song The Greatest Love of All made famous by Whitney Houston took on special meaning to me. Like for so many others, the song became my anthem for many years. Cliche, I know, but true. What made this song stand out to me were the lyrics, particularly the lines about how everyone is "searching for a hero" and yet "I never found anyone who fulfilled my needs," and then "I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadow." I have never really had an idol. Not when I was growing up and not now. I have admired many people over the years and certainly they have had qualities I would like to emulate--but never as a whole person.

2. If you could be someone famous, who would you like to be?
As I was thinking of an answer to this question, I realized that I tend to associate famous with wealth--on top of being well known. The first name that popped into my head was James Patterson. He has good business sense and his name on many book covers. Sure, he's a bit controversial, but he's worked hard to turn his name into a trademark and he's helped a lot of new authors off the ground. So while I might not like to be him exactly, I appreciate what he's accomplished and don't think it'd be too bad a gig to have.

More seriously though, but along the same lines, Tom Hanks comes to mind. He's someone I greatly admire. I wouldn't mind walking in his shoes for a week, even. He seems like such an upstanding man, both professionally and personally. He is talented too. That's a great combination.

Ideally, I would be famous as myself. I am not sure how I would accomplish that. Maybe I would be a bestselling author. Or a rock star. Or perhaps a superhero. Yes, I think I like that idea best. Think of all the lives I could save . . .

3. What are your favourite TV shows or movies?
Hmm. I would have to say my favorite movies include Independence Day (yeah, I know), Sleepless in Seattle, Ever After, Lord of the Rings, and Empire of the Sun. I'm a sucker for a good romantic comedy (funny since I don't care for that type of book) and love action flicks. Drama movies have their place in my heart too.

My all time favorite television shows are Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, The Wire, and How I Met Your Mother.

4. Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? Why?
Such an unfair question! I don't know that I can choose. I loved all of the books. Character and world wise--I love them both equally. Lord of the Rings is such an amazing tale--and world. It has influenced so much of fantasy writing today. Harry Potter and his freinds are more personable--more like you and me--and that is what I love most about Rowling's books.

But for the record, my husband tells me, on good authority, that the Lord of the Rings video games are much better than the Harry Potter games.

5. Popcorn. Sweet or salty? Why?
Definitely salty. Some things just aren't meant to be sweetened.

6. Facebook or Twitter? Why?
I like them both for different reasons. My Facebook page is not book related nor is it any way tied to my blog and Twitter account. It's more for personal stuff--mainly pictures of the baby these days. While I do use Twitter for personal updates and such, I tend to think of it as a less personal venue for communicating. Though, the more I think about it, I like Facebook better for its interactiveness with others. More often than not, anything I post on Twitter goes into a void never to be seen or heard from again.

7. What are your pet peeves?
I once would have said tardiness, but I'm afraid since becoming a mother I am finding it hard to be on time myself. No matter how much I prepare the night before or get up early, I can't seem to make it out the door in a timely fashion. I keep trying though and one of these days I will be back on track!

One of my longstanding pet peeves is one-up-man-ship. It is one thing to commiserate and share experiences with one another. I am all for that. It is another to turn it into a competition of who has it best or worse. Please don't.

I also abhor arrogance in people and get annoyed (and bored) with people who think they are better than everyone else.

Another pet peeve of mine is listening to someone complain over and over about his or her situation with no intention or movement to do something about it. I do my share of whining and complaining about certain things--venting has its place--but there comes a point when enough is enough and a person needs to try to better or change his or her situation instead of just wishing it away.

Oh dear. I sure have a lot of pet peeves, don't I? Better stop here.

8. Where do you like to go on a vacation?
I so rarely get to go anywhere on vacation. Visiting family is always a priority, although I have to say my favorite vacations are the ones in which we go someplace new. My husband and I had such a wonderful time on our roadtrip of the Southwestern U.S. Visiting Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona was a real treat. Nothing compares to the fun we had in Hawaii though. Such a beautiful place!

9. Your most wonderful memories you had last year.
Oh my gosh! I have so many. This past year was crazy. My most wonderful memories: read here.

10. What’s your favourite holiday?
I love Christmas and everything about it. I love the music, the decorations, the atmosphere, the food, and the spark of generosity and kindness that people show at that time of year. And now I have the added joy of seeing Christmas through my daughter's eyes and sharing my favorite family traditions with her.

11. Finally, I couldn’t resist asking a bookish question: Would you read a book which has received lots of hype and positive reviews, even though the storyline isn’t what you like to read?
Hype and positive reviews will not stop me from reading a book I want to read, but it might not be enough to convince me to read a book with a storyline that I am not especially interested in. Those reviews would have to be very compelling!

My Questions to All of You:

9. What is your first ever memory?

10. How do you decide what book to read next (when you have no reading deadlines to meet and can read whatever you want)?

11. It's your birthday. I've sent you a package. What would you most like to find when you unwrap it?

© 2012, 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.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: Dark Time by Dakota Banks

Dark Time by Dakota Banks
Harper Voyager, 2009
Fantasy; 320 pgs

Dakota Banks' Dark Time has the flavor of an action thriller urban fantasy novel. There's quite a lot packed into the book as the author sets up the characters and their history and gets the story moving. Susannah is a healer during the 17th century. Accused of witchcraft, she is burned at the stake. An ancient Sumerian demon offers her a deal: immortality with conditions or death by fire. Susannah chooses life at the cost of being bound to the demon and required to do his evil biding. For three hundred years, Susannah kills for Rabishu. She is a master at her art with her supernatural strength and speed and well honed skills. Then, under the weight of the lives she's taken, Susannah rebels against her master, setting in motion a chain of events that could result in her freedom. She must balance the lives she has taken with lives she saves. The catch? She loses her immortality, aging with each life she saves. If she fails, she will forever be the demon's slave.

Susannah becomes Maliha Crayne as she sets out on her new journey. She is tasked with finding the one responsible for the death of two coders. Her investigation opens a can of worms that threatens to destroy more than just the lives already taken. Aided by her trusted friends, Maliha goes on the hunt.

This was quite an interesting novel. I liked it in many ways. The historical aspects and ties to Sumerian legends particularly intrigued me. And I really liked the way the author developed Susannah/Maliha's character. She had the typical earmarks of an urban fantasy heroine--tough and independent--but there is something else to her. As young looking, agile and into high tech as she may be, Maliha comes across as a much older soul. It's easy to believe she is 300+ years old. And I really liked that about her. I appreciated the author taking Maliha there. More importantly, I liked that she was a hot chocolate drinker.

The author spends a lot of time setting up Maliha's background and overall goal to regain her freedom. Very little time is spent exploring the part of Maliha's life in which she establishes her new identity as a crime writer before jumping into her current investigation. The transition is very quick from past to present. I didn't mind so much since I found the background information the most interesting, including the flashbacks to Maliha's past, but it did leave me scratching my head initially. I will be curious to see what direction the author takes in future books of the series.

Overall, I enjoyed Dark Time. The ending is a bit of a cliff hanger, and it was hard not to rush out and buy the next book in the series just so I could find out how . . . well, find out what happens next. I do plan to read more in the series, but I really need to get back to my book club selection for the time being.

You can learn more about Dakota Banks and her books on the author's website.

Source: I purchased an e-copy of this book for my Kindle.

This book counts towards The Eclectic Reading Challenge.

© 2012, 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, March 18, 2012

Sunday Salon: Random Thoughts

I think I finally may be shaking this nasty cold that has made me miserable for the past two weeks. It has been making the rounds at my office, and so I can't blame Mouse's daycare this time. Being sick made hosting a birthday party and entertaining a houseful of out of town guests last weekend a bit of a challenge, but Mouse had a great first birthday, and I think everyone else had a good time too.

Mouse received quite a few books for her birthday, including three cloth books my mother sewed together for her. I am sure those cloth books will be a real treasure to her someday. One thing I noticed about many of the books she received was the lack of inscriptions written inside the front cover by the giver. A few of my own childhood books which I recently unpacked have my name, the date given and the person who gave me the book written inside. It's sure taken me down memory lane! It made me wonder why no one bothers anymore, especially when giving a child a book she's too young to enjoy on her own just yet. I don't mean board books or just any book for that matter--but favorites of the giver that he or she want to share with the special child in his or her life. I know not everyone likes having their books inscribed. Maybe I'm being overly sentimental since this was her first birthday. My mom suggested I write the date received in each book along with the gift giver--and that's exactly what I did. She won't likely remember her first birthday, but at least she can look back on some of the books she received and know how long they've been with her and who thought to give them to her.

When giving a book to a child, have you ever written a brief note inside the cover to commemorate the occasion?

My book group is reading Catherine the Great: A Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie this month. I didn't know much about Catherine before beginning the book, and I have to say I am fascinated by her and her life. I would love to have known her back then. I confess I'm finding the second half of the book more slow going than the first. I imagine it has a lot to do with the politics and maneuvering being done now that Catherine is Empress of Russia.

Massie's book seems to have become my office reading material while at home, before falling asleep, I have been mixing it up with urban fantasy. I recently read The Forever Girl by Rebecca Hamilton and Dark Time by Dakota Banks (review to come), both authors I discovered via Twitter. I am now reading Shapeshifter: The Demo Tapes - Year 1 by Susan Helene Gottfried, a book I first heard about through Florinda. It makes for good bed-time reading, being made up of short vignettes. I hope to give Gottfried's Trevor's Song a try next.

What are you reading these days? Have you read anything in particular you think I should read?

In other not so good (for you) news, I will no longer be posting photos of Mouse here at Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Yesterday's Saturday Snapshot photos will be the last. I may still post the occasional side or back of the head shot--just not those easy-to-identify pictures of her. When I first became pregnant, I swore I would not post pictures of my baby on my blog for professional and personal reasons. I couldn't resist though--your enthusiasm to share her life was contagious. I came to the decision then that I would only post photos from the first year of her life on my blog. That time has come. I will continue to post photos of Mouse on my Facebook page (you are welcome to join me there--just keep in mind it's not connected to my blog and has little to do with books). And for those who keep in touch via e-mail (or want to--my e-mail is literaryfelineATgmailDOTcom), I will be happy to send along a picture now and then as well. Just let me know. I have enjoyed sharing this first year of her life with you, and I will continue to share my experiences of motherhood and update you as to what she's up to. So, all is not lost!

Have a great week and happy reading!

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday Snapshot: Smash Cake

© 2012, 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, March 14, 2012

The One in Which I Answer Susan's 11 Questions

I was lucky enough to be tagged with the 11 Questions Meme by my friend Susan from You Can Never Have Enough Books, I love answering questions like these.

As before, instead of following the rules and tagging eleven of you, I am asking questions of my own. I hope you will answer one or all of them. If you do, you can create your own post or leave your answers to one, two or however many in the comments. And because I was tagged three times for this meme (I will be answering the questions of the final blogger's questions later this month), I am going to divide the eleven questions between each post. That way, I only have to come up with eleven questions and not thirty-three. The first set of questions can be found here.

1. What is your favourite place in the world?
Being at home with my family.

2. Have you ever visited an author's home, and did the experience live up to your expectation?
I haven't. Someday I would like to visit a few authors' homes, but I have yet to do so.

3. Do you read biographies of authors you like, or do you prefer to let their words speak for them?
I confess biographies are among my least favorite types of books to read. As a result, I tend to prefer to let an author's words speak for them. Still, I find some authors' lives fascinating and enjoy hearing about them. The internet is a great resource for that sort of thing, I've found.

4. Do you have a comfort food?
Yes! Sweets like cookies and brownies. And ice cream. Definitely ice cream. Sometimes though there's nothing more comforting than a big plate of homemade macaroni and cheese.

5. Do you have a favourite classical author?
I adore Jane Austen. It always takes me a moment to step inside her world when I begin her books, but once I do, there is no going back.

6. Do you prefer to watch the movie first, or read the book first?
I almost always want to read the book first. I hate having books spoiled for me, and I love having the back story that only a book can offer before seeing a movie. There are times, however, when I think seeing the movie first has its place. Especially when it comes to Shakespeare.

I nearly always want to see the movie if I've read the book. Only sometimes do movies inspire me to go back and read the books they were based on.

7. Do you have enough bookshelves? (I know this question is a cheat, because really do any of us have enough bookshelves?)
I do! For the moment. It helps that I haven't been collecting books at break neck speed like I used to. And that I gave away about 500 books over the course of last year. My husband was gracious enough to allow me to turn our living room of the new house into a library. I still have bookcases in just about every room in the house.

8. Is there an author that you are planning to read this year for the first time?
Oh my gosh, there is! I can't tell you who though. I don't know what I will be reading in the upcoming days, weeks and months just yet.

9. Do you have a favourite historical period, and why is it your favourite?
Hmm. I am especially drawn to the World War II era for some reason. I think my dad had a lot to do with that as he enjoyed reading about that time period too. I also really enjoy reading about Victorian England. There is just something about the costumes, society and general atmosphere that I find interesting.

10. Name a book that you are anticipating reading that is being published this year.
I am so out of the loop when it comes to new releases these days. I haven't really paid close attention to what is coming out. I only know what you all tell me and even then I only remember if I write it down.

11. Name two of your favourite novels that you have reread more than once.
This is actually a very easy question for me to answer as I so rarely reread books. The Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

My Questions to All of You:
5. What historical figure would you most want to meet in a dark alley on a Wednesday night in March? Any particular reason why?

6. It's a lovely spring day. You have no obligations--just a free day to do whatever you want. How would you spend the day?

7. What is your favorite mode of transportation?

8. If you were to write a novel, what would the title be?

© 2012, 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.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: The Forever Girl by Rebecca Hamilton

The Forever Girl: Sophia's Journey by Rebecca Hamilton
Immortal Ink, 2012
Fantasy; 350 pgs

After finishing a book that dragged on a bit, I was anxious to read something that would be a little quicker paced--and something different from the thrillers and mysteries I'd also read recently. And so I opened my Kindle, looked through my bookshelf, and settled on The Forever Girl by Rebecca Hamilton.

I discovered the author through Twitter and was curious about her book, so seeing that it was only $2.99, figured it was worth giving a try. I began reading the book one Friday morning while Mouse was sleeping in. Of course, she had to wake up at the worst possible moment, in a spot I really didn't want to have to stop reading. Isn't that always the way? It would happen several other times as I snuck in reading moments here and there--either the baby or my husband would interrupt me. Still, I stole those reading moments when I could--even in the car on the way to breakfast the Sunday morning I finished the book. Yes, I was that hooked.

The Forever Girl: Sophia's Journey is the first in a series about a young woman with paranormal abilities. She suffers from an incessant hissing in her mind that she can't seem to shake. Those hisses eventually turn to voices. In an effort to silence the voices by breaking the curse she is sure was brought on by an ancestor accused of witchcraft, Sophia dives into her research. Through a friend, she is introduced to a world she never knew existed, one of magic and the supernatural. Her life is suddenly thrown into turmoil, where life and death become an issue and she is faced with difficult decisions, including whether to pursue forbidden love.

The Forever Girl was entertaining on many levels. I especially like the world Hamilton has created. While many of the supernatural characters are familiar (vampires, shape shifters, witches), Hamilton adds new and old layers to them, making them all the more interesting. She uses the five Wiccan elements to shape the mythology in her books.

The main protagonist, Sophia, is your typical urban fantasy/paranormal romance heroine. She is tough and has a few emotional scars from earlier hurts. She isn't quick to trust and is skeptical of people's motivations. I liked her right away. The other characters in the novel were quite intriguing, some I hope make more of an appearance in future novels so I can get to know more about them. I especially liked the character of Ivory, including her back story. I suspected something was up with her character early on but her actual story was much more complicated and fascinating than I anticipated.

There were certain aspects of the novel that I wish had been explored more fully, including the resolution to secondary storylines, like that of Mrs. Franklin. It seemed to end all too quickly and succinctly. And yet, in regards to the romance aspect of the novel, I felt as if it lingered on a bit too long in the middle. But that isn't to say I didn't like the romantic pairing or the conflict between the two. I found it quite interesting, actually.

Overall, I enjoyed The Forever Girl and am not too happy I have to wait to read the next book in the series. I like the world Rebecca Hamilton has created and am anxious to visit again.

You can learn more about Rebecca Hamilton and her book on the author's website.

Source: I purchased an e-copy of this book for my Kindle.

© 2012, 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.

Friday, March 09, 2012

One Year Ago Today

Your father and I were enjoying lunch at the Cheesecake Factory one weekend in 2009 when I brought up the subject of having a baby. Your dad was used to my occasional maternal sparks, but I assured him this time was different. I had gone over my mental list of reasons not to have a child and none of it mattered. I knew in my heart I wanted you. We agreed though to revisit the subject a month or two down the road. Maybe the feeling would pass like it had before. Only, this time it didn't. And this time, your father was ready too.

You grew inside my womb for nine amazing months. I watched and felt my body change. As painful and difficult as it was at times, I knew it was for a purpose and that made it more bearable. I still remember those early days when I was always famished, often nauseous, and would go from a state of euphoria to being exhausted and oh so tired. As the months went on, I sang and talked to you endlessly while you were inside me, hoping you could hear me. I learned--and felt--what a round ligament was (Ouch!). I loved seeing you during the ultrasound, watching you transform into who you are today.

The doctor assigned your due date as March 8. I felt sure you'd come earlier somehow and yet a part of me hoped you would hold out until March 9th. It was your Great-Grandfather John's birthday and my half birthday. Truthfully, any day would have been fine. We were anxious to meet you.

I was determined to work right up until I went into labor. My coworkers had even come up with multiple plans to get me to the hospital should that happen. I remember one day, late in my pregnancy, when one of my staff requested to speak to me privately. We found a private office to meet in. As I was walking back to my desk after the meeting, someone approached me to say everyone was worried and looking all over for me. Evidently my cubicle mate thought I had gone into labor and was on my way to the hospital all on my own. To be fair, I had told her I might do that--but I had only been joking. The whole office was in a frenzy and were glad to see I was okay.

It was getting harder, however, even to work. I often joked with my coworkers that I should set up an office in the bathroom as often as I was running to use the toilet. I used to take lots of walks up and down the halls as sitting for long became uncomfortable. But then, so did being on my feet for long. I was constantly trying to find a good balance.

And so, I decided to take my doctor's advice and go out on maternity leave before you were born. The reason I was so hesitant, admittedly, was because I didn't want to waste any of my maternity leave. I had so few days as it was and I wanted to spend them with you after you were here. So, on March 8th of 2011, I began my maternity leave. And, on that same day, you decided it was time to start your descent into the outside world.

At 6:32 that morning, I felt my first contraction. It was mild, and I didn't think much of it. I must have known it was significant, however, since I remember so clearly the time. I went about my business. I had planned to run errands, sneak in a trip to Dairy Queen for a Peanut Buster Parfait (those things never seemed to affect my blood sugar level, thank goodness, so I cheated on my gestational diabetes diet every now and then), and maybe make a trip to the bookstore. First there was the visit from the man from a moving company though, who was there to make an estimate on the cost to move us. I showed the man around the house, the contractions getting stronger and becoming more frequent, coming about every 10 to 15 minutes or so. I wonder now what he would have thought had he known I was in labor at that time. As far as I was concerned, it was most likely false labor.

The contractions intensified and continued to get closer. I decided to stay home and forget about errands. I showered, hoping that would help. I guzzled down a bottle of water and walked around. I tried lying down for awhile. Nothing seemed to help. At some point, I decided to keep track of the contractions and so grabbed a piece of blank paper. Your dad, whom I was texting through it all, kept asking me if I wanted him to come home from work. I insisted he didn't need to.

Whoever says real labor means contractions come evenly spaced lies. For two hours, I documented my contractions, some coming 8 minutes apart and others 3 minutes apart. Fortunately, your dad was able to get off work early and we went to the hospital. It was 4:30 in the afternoon on March 8th.

In the pre-admitting room, the nurses hooked me up to an IV and monitors, one for you and one for me. The hope was the fluids provided by the IV would hydrate me enough to get my body to progress further than it already had. Sure enough, after a few hours, it was decided I was ready to go, and so at around 9:30 p.m. that night I was admitted to the hospital.

My midwife predicted you would come around 5 or 6 the next morning. I mentally prepared for the long labor. She set me up with pain medication and shortly after I was given an epidural. I am so glad I decided to go that route. It made a world of difference. Evidently you had turned somewhere between my last ultrasound and my going into labor and were facing the wrong direction, hence the excruciating back pain. The midwife was able to turn you, however. I don't remember too much after that as things seemed to happen so fast. The midwife broke my water and the next thing I knew I was told to push. You came into this world at 1:21 a.m. on March 9, 2011. I reached for you almost immediately and was told to wait while they wiped you down. Then you were placed in my arms. It was love at first sight.

This first year of your life has been an adventure like no other. Those early weeks were quite a challenge as we got to know each other, and your father and I adjusted to being parents. We took turns staying up with you at night because you refused to sleep unless being held. You and I spent hours on the couch, cuddling, nursing, and you sleeping. We played in the spare bedroom of the old house, the sunshine streaming in from the windows. You loved that room more than any other. I think it was the brightness of the room. You loved the sunshine even then.

We moved into the new house, and you adjusted well. I wish I could say the same for the cats.

You continued to grow and come into your own. I will never forget the first time you lifted your head, rolled over, spoke your first consonant, ate your first solid, crawled, and then walked. There is nothing more beautiful than your smile, my dear Mouse. Nothing I love to hear more than your laughter.

I have watched you become more independent: from sleeping only on your dad and me to sleeping in your bassinet and then in your crib. Where once we had to feed you, you now insist on holding your own spoon and feeding yourself. You own your own at daycare--those bigger kids know not to get in your way. You aren't afraid to run off on your own or take a risk.

Your risk taking is never without thought, however. You observe the world around you in such a thoughtful manner. You seem to be taking its measure, determining where to go next and who to trust. You aren't afraid to let us know when you are ready to go forward or want to change directions. You have a quiet determination about you that makes me so proud.

I love holding you close, whether nursing or cuddling with you, your warm body against mine. I love how in the middle of the night you can go from sleepiness to being wide awake, greeting me with a grin.

Meal times are an adventure all their own. You've always made it clear what you want and don't want, even it's taken your dad and me a bit longer to figure it out. Your father and I learned quickly to hold onto any plate or bowl we give you or else it will end up on the floor. I have lost count of the number of times you have thrown your food off your tray and onto the floor. You love bananas and your dad's white rice with teriyaki chicken. And, of course, Thin Mints. I can't help but think back to before you were born, how strict I felt about what you would and would not be able to eat. And I think how things are now--it's a good lesson in how reality and intentions don't always line up exactly as planned.

One of my most favorite times of day with you is bath time. You hated baths initially and upon the suggestion of a friend, I joined you in the bathtub. Now it is our nightly ritual. I read to you and sing to you as you play in the water. You especially like it when the animals come to visit.

I love how you have taken to the animals. You adore those cats and the dog. Even when our dog, Riley, has been less than tolerant of you, you haven't let it dampen your enthusiasm and love for him. I think your perseverance is beginning to pay off--all those times you throw his bone to him and offer him a bit of your food. Just this past weekend I watched as you leaned in and gave Riley a hug.

I've seen how our cat, Parker, seeks you out and purrs when you cuddle up next to him. Oh, and remember that time you were upset and crying and he came into the room to check on you? He stood on his hind legs, stretching as far as he could, just to make sure you were okay. He might wish you didn't grab at his ears and tail so much, but he knows you are still learning to be gentle. And Anya . . . I will never forget how she would curl up next to us on the couch, especially when you were upset, during those early days.

We have faced many illnesses together, some worse than others. You were always such a trooper when you were sick, rarely letting it keep you down for long. The nights were the hardest, some of which I kept you close to me. You made it clear you didn't want to sleep in your own bed as awful as you felt. I didn't mind too much, even it meant I got little sleep. Making you feel safe and secure and comforted was my top priority.

There have been tears. Lots of tears. On both our parts. I haven't always been at my best with you despite my best intentions. I have lost my temper, cried along side you, and become frustrated when I can't figure out what you want. And yet you always run to me, offer me hugs and kisses, are ready with a smile when the tears have been wiped away.

You have blossomed from a beautiful sweet tempered baby into a beautiful and determined toddler. You are smart and funny, kind and thoughtful. You are oh so active! You inherited a double dose of stubbornness thanks to your dad and me. Do you know what I love most about you, my little Mouse? Everything.

Today you are one year old. I couldn't be more proud. I couldn't be happier to call you my daughter. I love you, Mouse.

Happy Birthday.

© 2012, 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, March 07, 2012

The One in Which I Answer Lisa's 11 Questions

My friend Lisa from Books. Lists. Life. tagged me for an 11 question meme that is going around. It's taken me awhile to sit down and answer her great questions. I love surveys like this and had a lot of fun coming up with my answers.

The rules specify that I answer the questions and then create eleven new questions to ask people I've tagged. Since many of you have already participated, I am not going to tag anyone in particular. I will ask questions of my own, however, and I hope you will answer one or all of them. If you do, you can create your own post or leave your answers to one, two or however many in the comments. And because I was tagged three times for this meme (I will be answering the questions of the other two bloggers later this month), I am only going to divide the eleven questions between each post. That way, I only have to come up with eleven questions and not thirty-three.

1. Could you eat the same thing for lunch every day? What would it be?
Maybe if it was a for a limited time. I go through phases where I would be quite content eating the same lunch every day. However, after awhile it grows old. Right now I'm going through a peanut butter and jelly sandwich phase. It's quick, easy and inexpensive. Perfect for eating at my desk at the office. Admittedly, on the weekends, I'm quite ready for something different.

2. How many library books do you have checked out right now?
None. Zip. Zero. I am ashamed to say, I haven't set foot in a library in several years. I am not even sure my library card is good anymore.

3. Do you feel strongly about specific music? or more of a music in general type person?
I love music! I am more of a music in general type person rather than being gung ho about a specific type of music. A lot depends on my mood and what is available at any given moment. If you were to hop in my car and go for a ride right now, you'd be serenaded with children's songs most likely. Any music with a good beat and upbeat tempo is big in my house right now though--Mouse loves to bop to the music. And if she's happy, so am I. I do love a good ballad though--I never tire of those.

4. What is your favorite brick and mortar retail store?
At the moment that would be Barnes and Noble--by default. My favorite, The Mystery Bookstore, closed last year, sad to say. I liked my local Borders quite a bit for convenience sake, but that's gone now too.

5. What is your favorite online store?
It's a toss between Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I have both a Kindle and a Nook, both of which I use. I tried to be the better person and avoid Amazon, but it is so convenient--and the company offers such great deals. This past year with the baby, I learned that a smart phone and amazon make a very dangerous combination. And I'm not talking about just books.

6. What is your favorite moment of heartstopping romantic tension? (Book, movie, music, tv, real life, art, anywhere.)
The moment before the first kiss. In my personal life, I'd have to say the moment before my husband said, "I do" at our wedding.

7. What is the first book you remember reading?
I am afraid I couldn't tell you even if my life depended on it. My memories of reading during my childhood run together. I wish I was one of those people who could pinpoint the moment I began reading on my own or name the first library book I checked out. All I can tell you is I loved to read from an early age.

8. Are you creative in any way? How so?
My creativity comes in the form of writing. I am unable to draw, paint, sew, craft, sculpt, cook, dance or do much of anything. I'm even terrible at playing an instrument, although I took guitar lessons for awhile. I sing--but not very well. I do love to write, however, and think I do a decent job of it.

9. Not counting your family, pets, and vital personal documents/pictures, what one thing would you save in a fire?
My computer. Or does that count in the vital personal/documents/picture category? If not that, I'd grab the bag of my favorite books I'd conveniently stashed near the door for just such circumstances.

10. What is your favorite type of vacation (museums, beach, cabin, mountains, theme parks)?
My favorite type of vacation would be a long one where I could take my time, set my own schedule, do some shopping, visit a museum or two, take in a baseball game at the local stadium, sight see, walk along the pier at sunset, and sit outside on the porch, surrounded by trees and the pleasant sound of birds chirping their hellos. Maybe it would mean visiting multiple locales. And that would be okay!

11. What is the most surprising or unexpected thing you've done in the last 12 months?
My first thought in response to this question was having a baby, but I suppose that wasn't really unexpected or a surprise, was it? The experience of being a mother though has held so many surprises, some good and others not so good, that's for sure.

My Questions to All of You:
1. Who was/is the most influential woman in your life? Tell me a little about her.

2. How many pairs of shoes do you have? Do you actually wear them all?

3. If a genie asked you to make three frivolous wishes (no world peace, family health, end to world hunger, etc--remember, frivolous means not serious), what would you wish for?

4. What is your favorite type of sandwich?

© 2012, 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.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: Under the Skin by Michel Faber

Isserley always drove straight past a hitch-hiker when she first saw him, to give herself time to size him up. She was looking for big muscles: a hunk on legs. Puny, scrawny specimens were no use to her. [opening paragraph]

Under the Skin by Michel Faber
Harvest Books, 2001
Science Fiction; 319 pgs

I read The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber for an online book group a few years ago. It is a historical novel set in the 1800's about a prostitute who is taken in by a married man as his concubine. I really enjoyed the novel, especially the author's writing and approach to the social issues of the day. His characters weren't particularly likeable, but they were interesting and connecting with them was no problem. After reading The Crimson Petal and the White, I knew I wanted to read more by the author.

Fast forward to this past month. Under the Skin by Michel Faber was the February selection for the face to face book group I recently joined. I was both excited and eager to jump in and give it a try. My husband just happened to have a copy of the book, having received it as a Christmas gift the year before last.

The description of the book on the back cover is very vague, offering only that the book is about a woman who picks up a certain type of hitchhiker--well-built males with no attachments and very few commitments. I read no reviews of the book going in and so had no idea what to expect. Was this a serial killer novel? Was the protagonist, Isserley, an alien or some sort of supernatural being or just a psychopath? It was clear from the first that something bad was happening to the men she picked up. I don't think that's much of a spoiler. And perhaps by sharing my initial speculations about who--or what--she might be, I am giving too much away.

Sounds interesting, right? It was. To a degree. The novel held so much potential, but it fell flat for me. I was taken in at first but soon began to wonder where the novel was going. So little happened in the first half or so of the book--it just meandered along. It seemed as if the author was attempting to reveal a little bit more about Isserley and her purpose as the story unfolded, which he did. I just wish the reveals hadn't been so drawn out.

Like with The Crimson Petal and the White, Faber tackles pertinent social issues in Under the Skin, including corporate greed and classism. At times I swear the author was trying to turn me into a vegetarian. I came away from the book feeling like I was being preached to--the messages being too obvious and strong.

My new book group met the last Saturday in February to discuss our thoughts about Under the Skin. And I think the discussion went quite well. Only one person mentioned liking the book. The rest of us were less satisfied. I did walk away from the discussion with added insight to the book just the same. I can't tell you how good it felt to be a part of a book discussion like that. I have only really experienced book discussions on line and, while great in their own right, there's something to be said about an in-person discussion, people bouncing ideas off each other as you go.

I think what I most got out of the discussion was a clearer impression about the main character. I never really warmed to her as I read the book; but during the discussion, I began to have more empathy for her. There was a point while reading the book that I thought how much she was like so many people, wrapped up in her own world, insecure and just trying to survive. She was reluctant to see the world any differently than how she had for so long seen it, coping as best she could. As the novel progressed, she grew, however subtly and reluctantly. I wish, as the reader, I'd been privy to more of her back story. I think I might have found her more relatable if I had known a little more of what she had been through in her earlier years. The book hints at it, but I never got the full picture. But perhaps that is part of the point. Like Isserley who kept an emotional distance from the men she picked up, the reader is kept at arm's length to get a better understanding of what she was experiencing. Or it could just be me.

When all is said and done, I still can't say I liked Under the Skin. I didn't hate it though. I think it made a good book for a group discussion even if hardly anyone in the group liked it. Perhaps that's what made it even more discussion worthy.

Source: My husband received this book as a gift. He kindly loaned it to me to read.

© 2012, 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.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Kid Konnection: Guess How Much I Love You

To share your children's book related posts stop by Booking Mama’s feature,
Kid Konnection and leave a comment as well as a link to your posts!

Guess How Much I Love You
by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram (Candlewick Press)

Among the boxes in the garage (and there are still quite a few), I found a box full of my wedding stuff. The sign in book, the serving set, various cards of congratulations, and dozens upon dozens of photos. Packed in the box was also a copy of the board book Guess How Much I Love You along with a little stuffed bunny. Mouse was intent on helping me as I went through the box and in an effort to distract her from running off and eating any of the photos, I handed her the children's book. I wasn't sure how it ended up in the box--but that wasn't important. It's another book for her collection.

When my husband came home that night, he picked the book up off the floor where Mouse had dropped it. As he thumbed through it, he asked if I'd noticed there was a long note written on the last page of the book. I hadn't. Evidently the book had been a wedding gift from a college friend and former roommate of mine. She had watched our own "fairy tale" romance unfold and wanted to share one of her favorites with us as well.

I love this little book--not just because of the sentimental value either. It's a sweet story about a Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare. Little Nutbrown Hare is trying to show Big Nutbrown Hare just how much he loves him. "'I love you right up to the moon,' he said . . . " What could be better than that? It's the type of game I can see myself playing with Mouse.

Even as I think of this book and my daughter, I can't help but think of my husband too. This book is a symbol of our relationship too after all.

P.S. Although Mouse has only supervised visits with the book, I did let her keep the stuffed rabbit.

Source: This book was a wedding gift from a friend.

© 2012, 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.