Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Riding the Highway (Part 8)

New Mexico

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday At the Movies: Road Trips & A Trip to the Theater: Fiddler on the Roof

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

This week's movie topic is all about being on the road ...
So many movies are all about getting from Point A to Point B and the humor/drama/horror that occurs along the way. Here are some of the ones that rolled into our thoughts Share on your blog movies that focus on road trips.
As much as I like going on road trips, movies about them are not really high up on my must see list. I was able to think of a few irresistible ones though.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Thelma & Louise (1991)

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Rain Man (1988)

Apocalypse Now (1979)

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001/2002/2003)

Anjin and I did not see any movies this past week. We did, however, make it to the Pantages Theatre for a live production of Fiddler on the Roof yesterday evening. I hadn't really known what to expect going into the musical, having never seen the movie nor was I familiar with the story itself.

Set in pre-revolutionary Russia, Fiddler on the Roof is based on Sholem Aleichem's stories, with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein. The musical chronicles the trials of Jewish peasant Tevye the milkman (played by Chaim Topol), the father of five daughters, three of whom are marriage age. The oldest three set their eyes on their own prospective husbands, breaking the Jewish tradition of having the father choose the groom. On a bigger scale, their well-established community is suddenly threatened by the Tsar's orders to evict the Jews from their homes and land.

The musical was both funny and somber. Tevye struggles with the traditions he has always valued and held close while also wanting to make his daughters happy. He also has to deal with the outside threat to his family's well being in a society that is growing less tolerant of those who remain independent and seem different. Topol, who played the role of Tevye in the movie version as well, was amazing. He clearly owns the role. Although there were times we weren't quite sure what some of the lyrics were to a couple of the songs, the production was very well done; we had a great time. Now to get my hands on the movie!

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Salon: A Reading Retrospective (July 2004) & Going Through a Phase

I did the unthinkable this weekend. I marked all of the blogs in my Google Reader as read. There was no way I was going to catch up, no matter how much I wanted to. Now I am worried that I missed all these wonderful posts. What if you wrote about a book I have been curious about or haven't yet heard of but it would be the perfect book for me? What if you touched on a controversial topic that would get my blood rising or wrote something inspiring that I needed to read? And I missed it all! I think I just made myself feel worse rather than better. Oh dear.

I finished The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies earlier this week and have had a little more time to dive into The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. I even snuck in a little reading during intermission of Fiddler on the Roof yesterday. Thank you to all who expressed your thoughts on the book last week. I am finding it to be one of those books that, while I am enjoying it, I can't help but hope it gets better. I am not that far into it though--so don't hold me to that!

Being that this is the last weekend in July (Can you believe it? So much for finishing the Themed Challenge . . .), I decided it was time to take a look back at what I was reading five years ago. July 2004 was a hot one, temperature wise. What better way to stay cool than to find a nice comfortable spot under a vent or near a fan and read for hours on end?

More often than not, I am the kind of reader who likes to mix up my reading, reading different types of books so as to avoid burning out on one genre or book type. Occasionally though, I go through reading phases, where I read just one type of book until I feel the need to move on. July of 2004 was one much month. I was in the middle of an urban fantasy phase that had kicked into high gear. I was introduced to two new authors that month: Charlaine Harris and Jim Butcher. And I revisited a couple of ones I was already familiar with, Laurell K. Hamilton and Tanya Huff.

I read the second in Tanya Huff's Keeper's Chronicles, the aptly titled The Second Summoning, and the third, Long Hot Summoning. The second one did not have the draw for me that the first book did, but I still enjoyed it. And who could resist Austin the cat? I had this to say about the third: "Tanya Huff has a way of turning the most ludicrous ideas into hilarity while creating a fast paced and fun to read book." It certainly was a funny book.

The first time I met Sookie Stackhouse from Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series, I wasn't sure I would like her. I worried that she would be a bit of an airhead. I couldn't have been more wrong. Sookie may have been innocent and a bit too trusting, but she certainly did have a brain inside that skull of hers. Harris' novel, Dead Until Dark, was a nice break from the darker Anita Blake books by Hamilton.

In my quest for books about modern day witches, someone recommended I try Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. When I met Harry Dresden, it was love at first sight. While he wasn't a witch, he was a wizard, and a private investigator at that. I find the mix of mystery and magic an irresistible combination. I enjoyed Storm Front so much I made my husband read it. It was the beginning of what promised to be a great series, a series that is still one of my favorites today.

Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake, a vampire hunter who has the ability to raise the dead, had attracted my attention with her first and second books, at least enough to continue on with the series. It wasn't until the third book, however, Circus of the Damned, that I was completely and irreversibly hooked. I went on an Anita Blake binge, reading six more of Hamilton's books from the series, one right after the other that month. One of the biggest draws of the series for me is Anita herself. She is tough and sassy, with a strong sense of right and wrong. I love her dry sense of humor. During the early books, I most enjoyed the mystery element. Anita's work with the police, in particular. She was constantly balancing her work was a consultant for the police and the needs of the supernatural world, which seemed to grow stronger with every book. It was crime fiction vampire and lycanthrope style. It wouldn't be until August of 2004, when I read Narcissus in Chains, that I would begin to really see the shift in the series that so many farther along in the series had been talking about. But that's a topic for another day.

I did venture outside of the urban fantasy realm once during the month of July in 2004. I had been selected to review my second First Look book for Harper Collins. It was Into the Volcano by Forrest DeVoe Jr., a spy novel set in the 1960's, the first in a series featuring Jack Mallory, who has a gift with the women. Jack is a skilled and straightforward man that no one would want to mess with. His partner, Laura Morse is not only beautiful, but is a master in the marital arts. Not to mention she keeps a paperback novel in her purse for those "just in case moments". I was not overly thrilled with the novel, I admit, finding it lacking in parts, but overall I enjoyed it. It was one of those books that I could easily see being made into a movie.

Looking back, I read an amazing amount of books in July of 2004, at least for me. I managed to stay cool and be entertained. What better way to pass a sizzling hot summer month?

Do you ever go through reading phases where you just want to read one type of book for a spell? What about book binges? How do you feel about reading books by the same author back to back?

In Reading Mews:

Book (in this case, story) Review Posted this Past Week:
Short Story Saturday: "Success of a Mission" by Dennis Lynds

Currently Reading:
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

New Additions to my TBR collection:
  • Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman (I had a gift certificate for Amazon and decided to spend it on this one. Many thanks to Wisteria of Bookworm's Dinner for the recommendation!)
  • Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper (Thanks to the author and her publicist for sending me a copy for review! I'm sure you can all guess why I want to read this one.)
  • A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi (Thanks to the author for sending me a copy for review! This sounds so good!)
  • A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley (Because I had to spend $25 at Amazon to get free shipping, and this was next up on my wish list. Many thanks to author Clea Simon of Cats & Crime & Rock & Roll for the recommendation!)
  • The Foreigner by Francie Lin (I had only $1 something left to get over that $25 mark at Amazon, and I couldn't resist this one.)

Other Posts of Interest This Week:
Monday at the Movies: No, I Didn't Walk Out of Harry Potter
Wordless Wednesday: Riding the Highway (Part 7)
TGIF: Quickies

(Many thanks to Florinda of The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness for allowing me to copy her status report idea. And an added thank you to Anya who helped my husband and I come up with the title of my status review report.)

© 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.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Short Story Saturday: Success of a Mission by Dennis Lynds

I chose this week's story with the roll of the dice. Literally.

I was excited when I first heard about the formation of the International Thriller Writers, Inc. Suspense/thrillers have always been among my favorite types of books. I subscribe to the ITW newsletter and, when I heard about their first anthology, Thriller, I was practically biting at the bit to get my hands on a copy. I finally did, and, like with many of the books that land in my TBR room, I shelved it and let it marinate awhile. This seemed like as good a time as any to dive into at least one of the short stories in the anthology. My husband's colorful dice rolled an eleven, and so Dennis Lynds' "Success of a Mission" it was.

Dennis Lynds was a prolific and award winning author in his time, writing under several pseudonyms, including that of Michael Collins. Under the name Michael Collins, Lynds wrote the Dan Fortune series, heralded by many to be the series that brought the private detective into the modern age. Other names the author used included Mark Sadler, John Crowe, William Arden, and Carl Dekker. "Success of a Mission" was initially written under the name of William Arden.

Captain Paul Hareet and Lieutenant Greta Frank are given the task of going into an enemy country and breaching army headquarters in order to retrieve vital information regarding the enemy's resources for a pending attack. Posing as a married American tourists, the two real-life lovers have their work cut out for them. They have three days to complete their mission. Getting in will be the easy part. Getting out will be impossible.

The suspense builds quickly, the plot propelling the story forward. This is clearly a plot driven story. However, Lynds manages to make it much more than that by the end. He captures the excitement of a spy thriller and the intrigue and moral ambiguity of a political thriller. Of all the characters, Paul stands out the most. He is a master of disguise and good at what he does. He has a confidence about him, but lacks any sense of arrogance that sometimes goes along with that. A definitely plus in my book. The writing itself seemed a tad bit dry in spots, but I enjoyed the story. "Success of a Mission" was originally published in 1968, but it could very well have been written--and even taken place--today.

Have you read a short story lately? I'd love to hear about it! Be sure and drop by Ready When You Are, C.B. for Short Story Sunday & The Book Mine Set for Short Story Monday, the hosts for this event.

© 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.

Friday, July 24, 2009

TGIF: Quickies

Which do you prefer?
(Quick answers--I tried to pick the choices I gravitate towards most often; however, for all of them, I take part in--and enjoy--each of the options. And as you can see, on several, I just couldn't choose no matter how hard I tried.)

Reading something frivolous? Or something serious?
Hard as I might try to choose one o the other, I cannot. I enjoy reading both equally. Some days call for something serious and others something more frivolous.

Paperbacks? Or hardcovers?
Trade paperbacks

Fiction? Or Nonfiction?

Poetry? Or Prose?

Biographies? Or Autobiographies?

History? Or Historical Fiction?
Historical Fiction

Series? Or Stand-alones?
Nope. Won't choose. I enjoy both.

Classics? Or best-sellers?
I read more bestsellers, but I do love a good classic.

Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose?
Another choice that leaves me straddling the fence. Much depends on the book and my mood. I enjoy both.

Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness?
With well developed characters, either will do.

Long books? Or Short?
Medium length

Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated?

Borrowed? Or Owned?
Definitely owned. I mean, have you seen my personal library?

New? Or Used?
I tend to prefer new over used.

(Yes, I know, some of these we’ve touched on before, and some of these we might address in-depth in the future, but for today–just quick answers!)

Graphic courtesy of Tonya!
*Click on the image above graphic to get to the Friday Fill-In headquarters, hosted by Janet!*

1. Mandatory furloughs are not the end of the world.

2. Sitting here, listening to the sound of rain falling, I feel nostalgic for cinnamon toast fingers, hot chocolate with marshmallows, and walks in the rain with my mother.

3. Barbecue chicken pizza with just right amount of sauce tastes so good!

4. Sometimes, putting others first is a mistake, in particular on that airplane when oxygen levels are falling fast. You have to first secure your own oxygen mask before being able to help others. If you aid someone else first, you may pass out and die. What good would you be then?

5. Watching my cats and dog sleep is breathtaking, really.

6. Well, maybe there is a God after all.

7. And as for the weekend, today I'm looking forward to getting out of work early and spending the afternoon with my husband; and tomorrow my plans include going to see Fiddler on the Roof at the Pantages!

© 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, July 22, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Riding the Highway (Part 7)


© 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.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday At the Movies: No, I Didn't Walk Out of Harry Potter

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

Movie: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Genre: Adventure, Mystery, Fantasy
MPAA Rating: PG
Directed By: Chris Columbus
Writers: J.K. Rowling (novel) & Steve Kloves (screenplay)

This weekend Anjin and I watched the first Harry Potter movie again. I am not sure how many times we've seen it. At least three. Maybe more. I imagine we will watch it along with the rest of the films again before the final two movies are released. It'll be a Harry Potter marathon, stretched out over a few days.

A rather generalized and overreaching summary of the films: Harry Potter is a young boy, left on the doorstep of his maternal aunt and her husband after the death of his parents. Upon his 11th birthday, he is whisked away to Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he will spend the next several years of his life getting in and out of trouble, facing danger and risking his life. His biggest foe is the dark wizard, Voldemort, who killed his parents and whose attempt to murder Harry alongside them failed. Harry bares the scar of that fateful night on his forehead. Years later, in an attempt to regain power, Voldemort also sets out to kill Harry, the one boy who, according to prophecy, can destroy the dark wizard. Wherever Harry is, so are his two best friends, the rather comical and loyal Ron Weasley and the brainy Hermione Granger.

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, viewers are introduced for the first time to a host of fantastical characters, many of whom we will come to love--or despise--over the course of the series. Daniel Radcliffe is perfect as Harry Potter. And I can't imagine anyone but Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in the roles of Hermione and Ron. Richard Harris plays the formidable and fatherly grand wizard, Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts. One of the most memorable characters is Alan Rickman's Professor Severus Snape, who plays the line between dark and light so well you aren't quite sure what side he is truly on.

Harry is so innocent, wide-eyed and unsure of himself. He hadn't a clue about the world of magic until he first met Hagrid on his 11th birthday. He hadn't known what to make of the strange things that happened around him sometimes, but everything began to make sense once he learned the truth about his identity. He is extremely likable, as are his friends. Seeing the first movie again, I was reminded of why I liked Hermione so much. She's a bit of a know-it-all, sure, but there's something irresistible about her just the same. She's tenacious and intelligent. The way a true heroine should be.

I remember being slightly disappointed in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when I first saw it. I thought it was a good movie, and I quite enjoyed it, don't get me wrong. However, I had just read the book, and it so closely followed the novel that I felt like I was reading the book all over again. It was too soon, I think, to be jumping from book to movie. My consequent viewings of the movie have been much more pleasurable. Of all the movies, it is the one that closest matches the book. My husband referred to the film as a comfort movie, one he could happily watch year and after year. Truth be told, so could I. I could say the same for all of the movies in the series, really.

It was with images of the young cast fresh in our minds that we walked into the theater Sunday morning to watch Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. They have all grown quite a bit in the last 8 years. Their friendship remains strong as does their determination to uncover the latest evil plot. This time it appears someone is out to assassinate their beloved headmaster, Dumbledore. Meanwhile, Harry and Dumbledore work together to uncover the secret behind Voldemort's renewed rise to power. And all throughout the halls of Hogwarts, love is definitely in the air, for better or worse.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is one of the darkest films in the series yet. Hanging in the air is a sense of foreboding. Evil is right on the doorstep. Hogwarts is on high alert, well-armed with security. It is no longer the carefree place it was in that first movie. The innocence of the characters is gone. They know what it is to have suffered and the risks they face.

It has been four years since I last read the book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. My coworker, who reread the book recently, mentioned that there were quite a few changes made, mostly in the rearranging of events. I can't speak to that, my memory of the book so fuzzy. I did notice, however, that much had been left out or scaled down. Considering the finished movie is 2 hours and 33 minutes long, I can understand why.

Regardless, the film was well done, exciting and way too short (yes, I know--how long could I possibly want it?). I nearly jumped out of my seat at one point during the film, even knowing what was likely coming. I hated to see the movie end. I wish I could spend a little more time with my favorite characters. (who wouldn't like to spend more time with the eccentric Luna Lovegood?) I don't know if it is because I feel the end is near or I have just grown so fond of the characters that I enjoy every minute I spend with them. I feel as if I have grown up right alongside these characters and shared in their adventures and sorrows.

Over the years we have seen different directors tackle and interpret tauthor J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter world. Fans have their favorites and least favorites. I know I have mine. Half-Blood Prince definitely comes out as one of my favorites. But then, that could be because it's the freshest in my mind at the moment.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Genre: Adventure, Mystery, Fantasy
MPAA Rating: PG
Directed By: David Yates
Writers: J.K. Rowling (novel) & Steve Kloves (screenplay)

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

This week's movie topic is all about walking out ...
Have you ever walked out of a theater? Demanded a refund after renting? Turned the channel? Share on your blog some of the movies that made you wish you had that time in your life back and then link back at The Bumbles.
Last June, my in-laws were visiting. As we sometimes do, we decided to spend an afternoon at the movies. I was not too thrilled about the movie choice, but what's a girl to do? So off we went to see Kung Fu Panda. The movie actually turned out to be quite good. At least what I saw of it. Unfortunately, the power went out about 20 minutes into the movie. We waited and waited and waited some more. Several times a theater employee came in to apologize and to ask for our patience. After about half an hour, the manager came in and announced that free passes would be handed out for those interested as the show would not go on as planned. I still haven't managed to see the rest of that movie, although someday I would like to.

Other than that one instance, we have never walked out of a movie or even wanted to. There may have been a movie or two we wished we hadn't spent our money on seeing after the fact, but I have since forgotten what those movies were. The bad ones don't stay in my memory long, thank goodness.

In terms of rentals, since becoming a member of Netflix several years ago, I have returned a few movies unwatched. In all of the cases it was not so much because I did not like the movie, only that I was not in the mood to watch it right then. It's more a case of my returning the movies unwatched so I can receive movies I am in the mood to see.

A list of all the movies that I ended up returning unwatched (I had to look it up on my Netflix account--you really expect me to remember, did you?):
Made of Honor
Monster's Ball
The Life of David Gale
All About My Mother

Several of these movies are ones I hope to watch at some point in the future, and hopefully this time, I will be in the right mood.

© 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, July 19, 2009

Sunday Salon: No More Excuses

As I sat here thinking of what to write about, asking my husband for suggestions, he came up with the idea of distractions. I told him that's all I've been talking about for awhile now in one way or another. I don't seem to be reading nearly as much as I would like this year. Other things have been getting in the way. There are books I've committed to reading for which I am sure the authors and publicists have given up on me ever getting around to (it must be said that I still intend to keep my commitments, however belated I may be). I am much more aware of my limits than I was at the beginning of the year and have adjusted accordingly. More or less.

I wish I had one of those day jobs in which I could spend my time reading. That isn't possible. Not being much of a morning person, waking up earlier than I already do to read isn't really an option, especially considering how early I have to get up as it is. I fit in reading before bedtime, during my lunch break, on the weekends when I can, and whenever those other little but not-so-regular moments occur like waiting in line or for an appointment. And that doesn't ever seem like enough.

When it really gets down to it though, while I am reading less than I have in years past, I am not reading a whole lot less. Just a little less. When did it start to matter so much how much--or how little--I read? And why do I feel the need to make excuses? None of this mattered before I became involved with other readers online, through book groups and in the blogosphere. I suddenly feel like I need to keep up, and, when I don't, I feel like I have failed somehow. In truth, I haven't; not at all. There are actually many other bloggers just like me, who are lucky to read one book a week, if that. Some even less. We are no less readers than those who read hundreds of books a year. On the other side of the coin, the majority, if not all, of the readers I know who do read a jaw dropping amount of books a year think no less of me for reading less than they do. They really don't care how much or how little I read when all is said and done. So then, why do I?

Right here and now, I am going to stop making excuses and worrying over numbers. I will read as much or as little as I want and am able. And that will be okay. Give me a few days. Isn't there some sort of research out there that says to change a habit or thought pattern, it takes time and repetition?

I have not hit a reading slump, if that is what you're thinking. I am reading. This past week I read Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris. I enjoyed visiting again with old friends. I am about half way through The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies. It is a bit slow in parts, but I continue to enjoy it overall. I have had a few reading distractions to contend with while reading it. My effort to keep my short story reading to my lunch half hour at the office did not work out so well. As I mentioned last week, I was more in the mood to read short stories than to dive back in the novel and so ended up finishing the short story collection. And then the lure of Charlaine Harris' book was too strong to resist, thanks to the help of a well-meaning but pushy friend. Now it seems I have yet another distraction.

Normally I would not start another fiction book while reading one already, but I committed myself to reading The Red Tent for a book group discussion this month. I have the worst luck with group reads, and I know better than to join in one. I really do. But every once in awhile, I have to give it another try. I enjoy the discussions that can arise from reading a book as a group. Such discussions can get me to think about a book in a different way and perhaps bring to my attention something I may have missed. For some reason though, I have a difficult time sitting down and reading a group read in time for the discussion. It doesn't matter how much I try to plan ahead. I think my brain automatically sends out signals that I have no interest in reading the book I wanted to read when I first cast my vote for it. Really though, it is not that I do not want to read the book at all, just not when I am supposed to. I don't have this problem with reading books for book tours. So, I am not really sure what the problem is.

It doesn't help that The Red Tent has been one I have put off reading, however many people praise it. If I hear one more person say "it's a great biblical story," I'll run screaming for the door. That's exactly why the book has sat on my shelf unread for so long. What makes it all the more amusing is that the book really isn't a religious book per say. Add to that the fact that I actually like reading books that have ties to religious history to some extent. Religious history fascinates me. So why my aversion to this book for so long? I am not sure I have a rational response to that question. Maybe it's the word "biblical" that often pops up in descriptions (including on the back of the book) that turns me off. Isn't it silly, the small details that can get under our skin and bother us? Or maybe it's just me. I am kind of weird that way.

I am not sure how much reading I will get done today. Anjin and I have plans to see the new Harry Potter movie this morning and that will eat up a good part of the day. I still have household chores I've put off doing long enough. I will fit a little in somehow. I always do.

An Announcement:

Just about everyone's talking about it these days. The dates have been set for this year's Book Blogger Appreciation Week. If you thought it was fun last year, be prepared for a bigger and more fun-filled week this time around. The event will run from September 14-18, 2009. Registration is free. There will be special features, giveaways, awards, and much more. Nominations currently are being accepted for book blog awards. The deadline is August 15th, so hurry on over to nominate your favorite blogs before it is too late. I had a blast last year and discovered many new and wonderful book blogs. I hope you will join in this year!

An Inquiry: I considered reaching out to individual people with this request, but not knowing who to ask and not wanting to put anyone on the spot and making him or her feel like the only answer could be yes, I decided to put it out there to you, my dear readers. I will be taking a two week leave of absence during the middle part of August and was wondering if any of you might be interested in being a guest here at Musings of a Bookish Kitty. I could go dark during that time (and then you wouldn't have so many blog posts to fall behind on), and if no one volunteers, that's certainly an option. I thought it would be more fun to hear from some of you, however. Whether you are a non-blogger looking to try your hand at writing a blog post, a blogger who would like to play in my playground for a day, an author or publicist who wants to reach out to my readers and share a little something about yourselves or whoever, please let me know. I would prefer the topics remain somewhat book-related (maybe even movies or television), but if you have another idea, let me know. You can leave a comment below or e-mail me at literaryfeline AT gmail DOT com if interested. Thank you.

In Reading Mews:

Book reviews posted this past week:
Sookie Stackhouse: Five Years of Memories
Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris (& Sook Stackhouse Challenge Wrap Up)
Short Story Saturday: "Rat Beach" by William Styron

Currently Reading:
The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

New Additions to my TBR collection:
Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter by Darwin Cooke (This is a graphic novel that my husband actually bought for his collection this past Wednesday. It is now on my TBR pile. I almost stole it from him before he'd finished reading it.)
Sophie's Choice by William Styron (How could I not add this book to my collection after reading Styron's short story this past week?)
Testimony by Anita Shreve (Many thanks to Wisteria of Bookworm's Dinner for this one!)
God Sleeps in Rwanda: A Journey of Transformation by Joseph Sebarenzi with Laura Mullane (ARC from Atria Books with Simon and Schuster)

Other Posts of Interest This Week:
A Page in the Life with Kristie from Kristie Love Books
Wordless Wednesday: Pitstop at USAF (Part 6)
TGIF: Appearances Aren't Everything, the TBR Room, Friday Fill-Ins

(Many thanks to Florinda of The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness for allowing me to copy her status report idea. And an added thank you to Anya who helped my husband and I come up with the title of my status review report.)

© 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.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Short Story Saturday: Rat Beach by William Styron

I wandered over to The New Yorker website just to take a look. I had not intended to spend too much time there, but wouldn't you know it, the first story on the page jumped right out at me and I had to take a look. I figured I would read just the first paragraph or so, but that was not enough. Soon, I found myself on the last page.

The story is called "Rat Beach" and it is evidently part of a collection of stories that will be published later this year. The author, William Styron, is perhaps best known for his novel Sophie's Choice (1979), which was later made into a movie. I have not read the book nor seen the movie, both of which I have been meaning to do.

In William Styron's "Rat Beach", our American narrator is on the beach in Saipan, a beautiful place whose beauty still stands out despite having been trampled by war. A second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, he awaits his next assignment. His company had previously been tasked with acting as a decoy, distracting the Japanese from the intended targets. This time, it would be for real. He would have to face the enemy and take his chances with fate.

The story is set during World War II as the war is nearing its end:
. . . had I been older by only a year or so I would have been immersed in Iwo Jima's bloodbathl a mere six months and I would have been one of Sledge's Okinawa martyrs, obliterated in the deadliest land engagement of the Pacific war. I escaped this horror by a hair. [excerpt from "Rat Beach"]
He watches as ambulances and trucks arrive on the beach from Okinawa, full of the injured and the dead. Hopelessness and fear threaten to paralyze the young officer. Styron's words put the reader right into his shoes.
Such thoughts were torment. As I lay on my cot, "The Pocket Book of Verse" would slip from my hand, and fear--vile, cold fear--would steal through my flesh like some puzzling sickness. I actually felt my extremities grow numb, as if the blood had drained from my toes and fingers, and the sensation caused me both alarm and shame. [excerpt from "Rat Beach"]
The narrator finds a bit of comfort in the common bond and camaraderie of his fellow soldiers, and yet feels separate from them, wondering if they too feel the same fear he does. They talk about everything, sharing intimidate details, but never about their fears or inner turmoil about the war and they are about to walk into.

Finally word comes down that there will, in fact, be an invasion. The details are a secret, however, even from the officers who will have to be prepared for the upcoming battle. The closer the moment comes, the greater his fear. It haunts his dreams and waking hours. I could feel the terror he felt so clearly as I read.

Styron's writing is beautiful and raw. He captures well the time and place, but what is most striking is his portrayal of the nameless soldier. This story makes me want to run out and get everything William Styron wrote in his lifetime.

Have you read a short story lately? I'd love to hear about it! Be sure and drop by Ready When You Are, C.B. for Short Story Sunday & The Book Mine Set for Short Story Monday, the hosts for this event.

© 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.

Friday, July 17, 2009

TGIF: Appearances Aren't Everything, the TBR Room & Friday Fill-Ins

This week's Musings Monday question is about book covers:
We all know the old adage about not judging a book by it’s cover, but just how much sway does a book cover have when it comes to your choice of book – whether buying or borrowing? Are there any books you’ve bought based on the cover alone?
Doing a little digging in the depths of my blog, I found a Booking Through Thursday post from March of last year in which I briefly touched on this topic:
I may judge a book by its cover; it is a temporary impression that can easily be changed once I find out what is inside a book. What the author has to tell me is what really matters. The words written on the pages, the story told, the characters and setting that are brought to life . . . All of this is what matters most to me.
I often come across a book while browsing in a bookstore, the cover catching my eye. I pick up the book to take a closer look, peering at the back cover or inside flap to see what the book is about. I have never bought or borrowed a book solely based on the cover. Looks can be deceiving, after all. I base my decision to read a book on whether the subject matter appeals to me.

Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?
I never meant for it to happen. To this day, I am not sure when it came into being. It just was. It got its start as a spare bedroom. A twin bed, a desk and a television set for any company that might come for a visit. There were books, of course. They lined the shelves of the desk. Eventually they lined the desk itself, triple stacked. And then the bookcases came. Books, lining the shelves, sometimes stacked ontop of those. I have always kept my TBR collection separate from the books we had already read. At first it was just a handy way to avoid losing track of what still needed to be read. Now that I keep a spreadsheet with all the titles of my unread books, that really isn't necessary. Still, they remain separate.

I jokingly began calling the spare bedroom my TBR room a few years ago. The books had taken over, and it seemed a fitting name. Years later, the name just rolls off the tongue without a second thought. Even my husband refers to it as such now and then (I am trying to reframe and think of it as my library instead, but it's not working very well).

Separate even from that are the books in my "immediate" TBR collection. They fill the once empty spaces on my computer desk in my home office: shelves, stacks, and a box of books. This consists mostly of my review books and a few others that I want to read sooner than later.

There are books I have not yet read mixed in with the "read" books on my husband's and my shelves. These are books my husband has read, books I hadn't realized I wanted to read until after they'd found their place on the bookshelves in the living room, our "read" library.

So I guess you could say my unread books have just about taken over the house. They're throwing their own part, host or no host.

Graphic courtesy of Tonya!
*Click on the image above graphic to get to the Friday Fill-In headquarters, hosted by Janet!*

1. Milk and frosted shredded wheat cereal make a quick and easy dinner. It's been ages since I've indulged in a meal like that!

2. The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies and The Red Tent by Anita Diamant are the books I'm reading right now.

3. July brings back memories of a wedding in the rose garden, Riley's first homecoming, and Anya's introduction to her new family.

4. The fact that Riley has a new friend who is sneaking in under the fence to play was obvious. He was sprinting around my backyard as Riley looked on in amusement yesterday evening. He was too quick for me to catch, unfortunately. I haven't a clue who this little dog belongs to. He wasn't wearing a collar. I'm sure he'll be back.

5. They say if you tell your dreams to the stars, they may very well come true. Just not always the way you expect them too.

6. Before ordering that messy chocolate sundae on the Roadhouse menu, it might be best to think it over.

7. And as for the weekend, today I'm looking forward to a "Pamper Me" Day; tomorrow my plans include visiting Mesopotamia, Canaan and perhaps venturing into Egypt; and Sunday, I want to continue on with yesterday's journey, maybe resting in the Welsh countryside somewhere along the way.

© 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, July 16, 2009

Review: Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris (& Challenge Wrap Up)

"Caucasian vampires should never wear white," the television announcer intoned. [first sentence from Dead and Gone]

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris
ACE Fantasy, 2009
Fantasy; 312 pgs

There are times when I wish I could read people's minds. I imagine it would get tiresome after awhile--not to mention the headache! And would I be able to block out the voices and images that flood my mind? I am sure there are some thoughts I would rather not be privy to. No, I don't envy Sookie Stackhouse at all.

Dead and Gone is the 9th book in Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire mystery series, featuring Sookie Stackhouse, a Southerner in Bon Temps with the ability to read minds. It's a series filled with supernatural beings, a bit of magic, romance and mystery. Sookie and I have been through a lot together over the years. We have shared laughs, tears, and many frightening experiences. I was with her when she met her first vampire and discovered that the world around her was not the world she'd grown up believing it to be.

In this latest installment of the series, the were-people and shape shifters have decided it is time to announce their existence to the world. The vampires have been more of less integrated into society for quite a while, and the two-natured folk feel the time has come to step outside of the proverbial closet. Their coming out is met with a mixture of fascination, excitement, fear and anger. When the body of a woman, partially shifted into her animal form, is found hanging from a cross in the back of Merlotte's, the bar and grill where Sookie works, it's a sure sign of a hate crime. The real question though is whether the murder took place as a warning to other shape shifters or was it more personal?

As if that wasn't enough, a civil war is brewing between the fairies, and Sookie is right in thick of it. Add to that the inquisitive FBI agents who are breathing down her neck and a rather disturbing turn in her relationship with one of her vampire friends.

Trouble always seems to find Sookie and it does not waste time finding her again in Dead and Gone. She is joined by some of her usual crowd: her brother Jason, whose neck I wasn't quick to want to ring this time around; the ever sexy and confident vampire Eric; Sam, Sookie's charming boss; Amelia, Sookie's witch roommate; ex-boyfriend and vampire Bill Compton; and, of course, a special appearance by none other than the King Bubba himself. And that's just for starters.

I enjoyed Dead and Gone overall. I gobbled it up quite quickly as I often do Harris' books. That said, it left a little something to be desired. I liked the story well enough, but a couple of major scenes fell a little flat for me, especially towards the end. There were also side story lines that I would like to have seen more fully developed. All in all though, it was still a fun novel and a good escape from an otherwise stressful day.

It's been interesting to watch Sookie grow as a character. She isn't quite as innocent as she once was. The series has definitely taken a darker turn with each book. While Dead and Gone is not my favorite book of the series, it will tide me over until I can get my next Sookie fix.

In the meantime, let's get back to supernatural powers we wouldn't mind having. Now telekinesis . . . There's a gift I wouldn't mind having.

Rating: * (Good)

Challenge Commitment Fulfilled: 2009 Pub Challenge, Buy One Book and Read It Challenge, & Sookie Stackhouse Challenge

Well, what do you know? I have completed my first challenge! Technically, I suppose, it's the second one I have completed, but since I have have yet to prepare a wrap up post for that particular one, it's fair to say this one will end up being tallied as number one. It also happens to be the most recent challenge I joined. What challenge is that, you ask? Why the Sookie Stackhouse Challenge!

When I signed up, I mentioned that it felt like cheating, considering I only had the one book to go. I am now officially caught up with the Southern Vampire mysteries.

The True Blood television show that is based on the series is one of my favorite shows on the air today. Whereas the books are light and somewhat humorous, the television show is edgy and dark (not to mention graphic in terms of violence and sexual content). While the two are very different, they both are deliciously good.

Dead and Gone is the first novel in the series I have read since the start of the television series. It did make the reading experience different for me. The characters in the book blended a bit with the characters in the show. For some, it was important to keep them distinct, however, since their story lines vary so much from page to screen. I have to wonder if my warming to Bill a little in Dead and Gone has something to do with his television persona. I've never been a fan of his in the books before now.

I think my favorite books in the series fall somewhere in the middle. Dead to the World, book four, is at the top of that list. I have not been quite as impressed with the later books in the series, including Dead and Gone, however, I still find the novels entertaining. They're pure brain candy, and who does not need that once in awhile? I will continue to follow Sookie wherever she may go. I enjoy the world Charlaine Harris has created and look forward to seeing what new directions she will take Sookie and I next.

The Books:
Dead Until Dark
Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead
Dead to the World
Dead as a Doornail
Definitely Dead
All Together Dead
From Dead to Worse
Dead and Gone

Many thanks to Beth Fish for hosting this fun challenge!

©2009 Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All rights reserved.

Sookie Stackhouse: Five Years of Memories

My first foray into the urban fantasy genre featuring vampires was Anne Rice with Lestat and Interview with a Vampire. Then it was the Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series. Then I met Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden, wizard extraordinaire, who knocked my socks off. It was still in the early years, when vampire and werewolf fiction was really beginning to take off. I cannot remember how I came to read the Southern Vampire series. Most likely someone mentioned it in one of my books groups. However it happened, from book one, I was hooked.

I nearly did not sign up for the Sookie Stackhouse Challenge. I only had one book left in the series to read at the beginning of the challenge. Our gracious hostess, Beth, welcomed me in spite of that, saying that everyone was welcome no matter where the participant was in the series. At her encouragement, I am taking a trip down memory lane, revisiting the many adventures I have been on with Sookie Stackhouse over the last five years.

I began reading the series long before I started blogging. As a result, there are no links for old reviews to send you to. However, wouldn't you know it, this month five years ago, I read my very first Sookie Stackhouse book. I had begun keeping a reading journal in late 2003, and so happen to have a record of my thoughts on all the Sookie books I read before blogging. I have read all the published short stories as well, but, alas, no reviews. The best I can do is open up my reading journal for you and give you a glimpse at the trouble Sookie and I have gotten into over the years through Charlaine Harris' full-length novels.

Keep in mind if you continue on and read my "reviews" of the first six books in the series, these were never meant for the public's eyes. They are rough and often very brief. Another word of warning: there may be spoilers as each book piggy backs on the next. I tried to keep the majority of the spoilers out, and so there are no major plot points revealed. Regardless, read at your own risk.

Dead Until Dark (2001)
Harris, Charlaine (fantasy) (260 pgs)
Completed: 07/08/2004

Dead Until Dark is the first book in the Southern Vampire series. While compared to Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series quite often, the books do indeed have similarities and yet are very different. In Dead Until Dark, the reader is introduced to Sookie Stackhouse, a small town cocktail waitress who has the uncanny gift to read minds. She’s always longed to meet someone whose mind was closed to her, and when suddenly a vampire walks into the bar, her dream comes true. However, with the brutal murders of several women who were known to have relationships with vampires, suddenly Sookie finds her new vampire friend, Bill, and her own brother at the top of the suspect list. She strikes out on her own to clear both their names only to learn the hard way that she is a target for the killer as well. Unlike the darker and more violent Laurell K. Hamilton books, in the Southern Vampire series, Charlaine Harris paints her story with much softer strokes. The mystery and tension, with a twist of romance, is still there, however, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book. I admit to being a little put off by Sookie at first, worried that she would be a little too bubbly, however that did not last long. I look forward to reading the other books in the series.

Living in Dead in Dallas (2002)
Harris, Charlaine (Fantasy) (262 pgs)
Completed: 12/26/2004

When a friend and coworker is murdered, mind reader and waitress Sookie Stackhouse sets out to uncover who could have committed the crime. However, almost immediately after the murder, she is pulled away from home and sent to Dallas to help in the investigation of the disappearance of a vampire. It proves to be a dangerous undertaking, which could very well end in Sookie’s death.

Although I did not find myself mesmerized with this book as I was with the first in the series, I did enjoy it. Sookie is a smart and yet sweet heroine who is hard not to like. This was a fun, light and entertaining read.

Club Dead (2003)
Harris, Charlaine (Fantasy) (258 pgs)
Completed: 01/02/2005 (12:55 a.m.)

It is always fun to spend time with Sookie Stackhouse and this time was no different. Thanks to her involvement with the vampire Bill, she often finds herself in danger way over her head. When Bill disappears under suspicious circumstances, and rumors of his being unfaithful abound, Sookie agrees to help find him and bring him home. She teams up with a werewolf and hobnobs with the king vampire of Mississippi in order to learn where Bill is being hidden. Ever the endearing woman, who just happens to have the gift of telepathy, Sookie shows grit in this novel, taking on an ex-girlfriend, weres, ill intended-humans and vampires. She is not so innocent anymore.

Dead to the World (2004)
Harris, Charlaine (Fantasy) (291 pgs)
Completed: 12/24/2005 (1:30 a.m.)

On her way home from work, waitress and telepath, Sookie Stackhouse, finds the sheriff of the local vampires running barefoot down the road with no memory of who he is; an evil coven of witches appears to have moved into the area and wants to take over; and her brother has gone missing. Sookie finds herself embroiled in the middle of a battle between Weres, witches and vampires. Sookie is her usual likeable self in the fourth novel of the Southern Vampire series: witty, charming and genuinely good-hearted. Dead to the World was suspenseful, sexy and funny. I enjoyed the book immensely and cannot wait to dive into Dead as a Doornail.

Dead as a Doornail (2005)
Harris, Charlaine (Fantasy) (295 pgs)
Completed: 12/25/2005 (4:56 p.m.)

Ever since Bill the vampire appeared in her life, Sookie Stackhouse finds herself in the middle of trouble regularly. Between the upcoming contest for a new pack leader for the local werewolves, someone killing shapeshifters, suspicion falling on her brother, and an attempt on her own life, Sookie has her share of problems in Dead as a Doornail. This particular novel was not quite as focused as the previous novels, multiple story lines vying for center stage. Even so, I enjoyed reading the book. Sookie is an extremely likeable character. It’s obvious all the men in her life think so too.

Definitely Dead (2006)
Harris, Charlaine (Fantasy) (324 pgs)
Completed: 05/06/2006 (1:17 a.m.)

I love this series! It’s such a fun lighthearted series full of laughs and heartwarming moments mixed in with action and suspense. Telepath Sookie Stackhouse finds herself in all sorts of trouble in the latest of the Southern Vampire series books. Sookie is summoned to New Orleans to clean out her deceased cousin’s apartment. She’s being attacked be Weres and the Vampire Queen of Louisiana has desires on Sookie’s talents. I was really sad to see the book come to an end, but Ms. Harris made sure to leave behind a lot of hope that there are plenty more Sookie stories left to come.

Reviews for the Remaining Three in the Series (so far):
All Together Dead
From Dead to Worse
Dead and Gone

© Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty 2004-2009. 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, July 15, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Pitstop at the USAF Academy (Part 6)

(Cadet Chapel)
Air Force Academy, Colorado

Hosted by Wordless Wednesday

© Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty 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.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Page in the Life of Kristie from Kristie Loves Books

Please join me in welcoming Kristie from Kristie Loves Books to Musings of a Bookish Kitty! Kristie's blog is one of my favorite places to go for suspense and mystery recommendations. I like her review format; it's straightforward and helpful. With each review, she offers insight into what she'll be reading next. Kristie is one of the nicest bloggers I know.

Literary Feline: Welcome, Kristie! It is great to have you with us today. Inquiring minds want to know: how do you like to start off your morning?

Kristie: The start to my day varies. While I am working, I awake at the very last possible moment (I am so not a morning person), get ready for work and arrive there at least 15 minutes early to sneak in some reading time. During the summer, I awake without an alarm, drink my Diet Coke (a must for me), and read the blogs I follow. Then I run whatever errands I may have, and then settle at home, most of the time reading.

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

Kristie: Besides reading, I love watching sports, especially my Detroit Red Wings and Tigers. I follow all sports, except for basketball, which is weird since that is one sport I played all through school. I also love working with kids, and watching crime tv shows. Reading has always been my main passion though.

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

Kristie: I got started blogging about books after reading many blogs for about a year. At the time, I was keeping track of what books I was reading but not my feelings about them, so I decided to start a blog. It is very helpful to go back and read my thoughts about a book, particularly in a book in a series, when I go to read the next book by the author.

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

Kristie: Blogging has definitely impacted my reading. I find so many suggestions from other bloggers and as soon as I read a good review or hear about a book that I may like, I go to my library's website and place a hold on it (right now I am on a no-buying books ban). I really need to keep better track of where I hear about the books though, as I love to go back and compare with how another blogger felt about the same book I read. Blogging has also allowed me to branch out into different genres, though I do tend to stick with what I love.

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

Kristie: Most of the types of books I read have some aspect of mystery or suspense in them. I think if I hadn't become a teacher, I would have loved to go into law enforcement and be a detective. While I will read other types of books, like romance, I always enjoy when there is at least a bit of mystery involved. I do blog about every book I read, unless it is something for school. I normally blog about it as soon as I finish it, when everything is still fresh in my mind.

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

Kristie: I really don't have any reading rituals. I always have a book with me, because I never know when I may be stuck in traffic, waiting for awhile somewhere, or just have a couple of minutes here or there to sneak a few pages in. I always arrive to work a few minutes early to read a bit before I start my day and also read each night when I blow dry my hair. Other than that, I don't have a spot where I read at home, or anything like that.

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?

Kristie: When I feel a reading slump coming on, I pull a book out by one of my favorite authors. I rarely go and reread books, so I try and save a couple of books for that reading slump. I haven't had a blogging slump, probably because I don't receive ARCs for review and I review a book as soon as I finish it so everything is still fresh in my mind and I am enthusiastic to talk about it. Blogging is supposed to be fun, as is reading, so I don't try to make it a job or something I feel obligated to do. It works for me most of the time!

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

Kristie: Right now I am reading Dean Koontz's latest book, Relentless It is my first Koontz book and I am looking forward to reading it. Some wonderful authors that I really enjoy include Emily Listfield (a new one to me!), Wendy Corsi Staub, John Lutz, and Lisa Lutz. Again, most have a little mystery involved.

Thanks again for asking me to be part of this! I love talking books, and can go on and on so I will stop now before I ramble too much! If anyone has any great recommendations for me, please let me know!

Literary Feline: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Kristie!

Be sure to stop by and visit Kristie over at Kristie Loves Books!

© Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty 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.