Sunday, November 28, 2010

Checking In: Still Unplugged

Being unplugged for a week can be quite refreshing, don't you think? I had to fight the urge to check my e-mail every few seconds, and I confess I wasn't completely unplugged the entire time. Hence my Twitter and Facebook activity (but even that was minimal). I spent a good deal of Friday avoiding sales and crowds and instead settled in front of the television for a Law and Order: Special Victim's Unit marathon while I addressed holiday cards, wrote personal notes, and prepared the cards for mailing. By bedtime I could tell I was in trouble.

You see, I have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Most of the time it's manageable, with only minor flare ups here and there. Still, Saturday morning came and I was determined to finish those cards. One thing I learned about pregnancy early on was that it can exacerbate problems like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. And in the last few months, I have discovered that to be oh so true. Especially this weekend. So . . . My plan to come back after a week is being extended just a little longer. I appreciate your patience. Please do drop me a comment and let me know what you're reading, whether or not you'd recommend it or just to say hi!

© 2010, 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, November 19, 2010

Friday Fill-In Fun (with a dash of rant and thankfulness thrown in)

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

1. Why does it always seem like my colleagues disappear when it's my lunch time, which means I either can't go or have to put it off?

2. Our perceptions of ourselves and those around us affect how we see the world.

3. Thank you for all the support you have shown me over the years, both for my blog and personally.

4. Christmas is my favorite holiday because I love the decorations, music, and courteousness that often abounds. Except for those few exceptions who think shoving and elbowing to get to the front of the line at the store are acceptable behaviors. And the extra impatient drivers who swoop in and steal the parking spot you've been waiting for. Oh, add to that the people who make so much fuss over saying Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. Who cares?! The intention behind it is the same. Smile and say thank you.

5. I am feeling SO especially fat these days. I know it's par for the course when you're pregnant, but when your doctor tells you not to gain more than 10 pounds for the entire pregnancy, and you've already exceeded that . . . Well, it doesn't make a person feel at her best. At least not this person. And no, it's not all that comforting right now to know I'll lose a lot of weight once the baby is born and I'm breastfeeding.

6. The proverbial they say we can be whatever we make up our minds to be, and yet somehow I don't think I could be a walrus no matter how much I wanted to be. Maybe in my next life.

7. The weekend ahead is looking rather bland, but oh so heavenly from my standpoint. I have nothing significant planned. It's pretty much a free for all. I should enjoy it while I can, eh? Soon my time won't be my own. No matter, I am very much looking forward to those days too.

I should call this section my personal corner. It's where I sometimes ramble about the mundane--about what is going on in my life--or not going on as the case may be.

I had my 24-week prenatal appointment this past week and was able to hear the baby's heartbeat again. Such a wonderful sound! The doctor gave me that nasty deliciously sweet concoction to take in about four weeks to make sure my body is doing what it should be with all that sugar I consume. I was so relieved when I saw how small the bottle was. Nothing can be as bad as drinking that gallon of salty dishwater solution I had to take for the colonoscopy. Anyhow, I am a little worried about how the test will turn out, given my penchant for sweets/carbs and the fact that I'm overweight.

This next Monday I am scheduled to meet with the specialist so we can get a good look at the baby's heart. I am looking forward to seeing the baby again. If only wombs had little windows we could peek into now and then without having to visit the doctor . . .

On the work front, it looks like my new schedule will begin the beginning of December. At first it was looking very likely I would have every Monday (along with the usual Saturdays and Sundays) off, but now I seem to be slated to have every Friday off instead. With the new assistant manager working Tuesday through Friday, and my manager in meetings all day Monday, she felt it would be better to have me there every Monday in case something came up. So, unless something happens between now and the next pay period, I can look forward to every weekend being a long one soon. It does make for a longer work day, but only by an hour. I wonder if I'll ever see my house in daylight again? Not this time of year, anyway.

I have just about resigned myself to the fact that our move will not happen before the baby comes. With my luck it will be right around the time the baby comes, in fact. The city cogs are turning ever so slowly . . . It does make preparing for the baby difficult. I haven't done anything really. I don't want to fix up the spare bedroom, not knowing if we'll be here or not--and for how long. So, I have been spending a lot of time researching and waiting, window shopping and waiting, and trying not to dwell on it too much. As someone who is a big planner, you can imagine it's been especially tough on me.

My next door neighbors haven't helped matters. I am even more ready to move than before. While cleaning the backyard, my husband discovered several different types of pills that had been tossed onto our side of the fence. A quick search online and we discovered they are psychotropic medications--for mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia and Bi-Polar Disorder. Riley is an indoor dog, but he does spend time in that backyard, and I immediately grew fearful and angry. What if he'd gotten into those pills? Not only could they make him sick, they could kill him. Neither my husband nor I think that anyone was trying to intentionally poison our dog, but it doesn't make the situation better. Unfortunately there is not much we can do. The police cannot do anything nor can we. So, we wait. And pray that moves come sooner than the baby. Please. Pretty please, with a hot fudge sundae, whipped cream, nuts and a cherry on top?

Next week many of you who are Americans will be gathering with your families and friends for a big feast. I will be joining the throngs of people at the movie theater and then heading over to the restaurant for my Thanksgiving dinner. I really appreciate that so many restaurants nowadays stay open for people like me on such big holidays--and don't think I forget the people who are working to make that happen! Big tips and extra kindness are about all I can offer, but we really do appreciate that these people have to take time away from their own families to serve us, the not so important (to them) people.

This season, I am also thankful to my wonderful husband who has been in my life for just over 19 years now (married for over 12 of those years). We've had such a rocky road this year, and yet he has been nothing but generous, supportive and loving. And although I haven't sent him out in bad weather or the middle of the night to get me a Dairy Queen blizzard (as if they'd be open!), I know he would go in a heartbeat if I asked.

I also want again to say how grateful I am to all of you. My blogging this year has been sporadic and my visits to other blogs even more so. I appreciate those who have stuck with me through the thick and thin of it. I cannot thank you enough for your friendship, advice, book recommendations, and support.

This next week will be quiet at Musings of a Bookish Kitty. I hope you all have a wonderful week. Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate!

© 2010, 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, November 17, 2010

Review: Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb

Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb
Harper Perennial, 2009
Fiction; 273 pgs

I have been a fan of Wally Lamb since I read his novel, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True. He has a way of getting into the heads of his characters and bringing them to life. He tackles serious topics, steeped in emotion and morality. I knew going in that Wishin' and Hopin' was a different sort of novel for the author, but I still eagerly anticipated reading it.

Although I have never seen the movie A Christmas Story straight through (I watched the movie out of order--second half first and then caught the first half another time), the book reminded me a lot of that movie. Set in 1964, Wishin' and Hopin' is the story of Felix Funicello. His father runs a diner at the bus station and Felix is the 3rd cousin of the famous Annette Funicello. He is in the fifth grade and attends a Catholic school. Felix is the second smartest in class but is by no means a goody two shoes like the number one student, Rosalie. He gets into his share of trouble, sometimes unintentionally.

It's a big season for Felix and his family. His mother will be competing in a cooking contest on national television, he will be making an appearance on The Ranger Andy Ranger Show, and the school term promises to be an interesting one with the long-term substitute taking over his class after his regular teacher has a nervous breakdown (helped along by Felix himself).

Told from Felix's point of view, it was hard not to imagine being right back in the fifth grade again, a time between innocence and learning about the world. The characters are easy to love, especially young Felix. The author captures well the time period in which his story takes place, from the political and racial climate to the memorable pop culture--even for those of us born after that time.

I started singing Annette Funicello's Tall Paul right alongside Felix as I read in the lunchroom at work one afternoon. And then I couldn't help but do the same when Felix described his Halloween costume, dressed up as an Alka Selzter. I've been driving my husband batty with that jingle for years. Wishin' and Hopin' is a delightful story. Author Wally Lamb shows off his lighter side in this novel. It is funny and at times sentimental, but never overly so. It's a great book to kick off the holiday season.

Rating: * (Good +)

I hope you will check out what others had to say on the TLC Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Book for review provided by the publisher.

© 2010, 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.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Help Needed: Book Recommendations

There was a time in my life when I was more on top of getting those Christmas cards written and in the mail, when all my holiday shopping was done by September, and when I was eager to put up the decorations the day after Thanksgiving. Somewhere along the way, other things began to become a priority and I let all that slip. My husband and I haven't decorated for Christmas in two maybe three years. And we won't again this year (why unpack all that stuff when we're trying to pack most of the house up right now?). That will have to change next year when the baby's here, of course. I have sent out the bare minimum of cards in recent years in comparison to the over 100 I sent several years ago, all to family and friends. I just don't have the energy to sit down and fill out all those cards anymore. I've become a bit of a grinch some might say. Or a scrooge. I still love my Christmas music though and I doubt that will ever change.

As for Christmas shopping, money is tight again this year, especially with the pending move and baby coming, but I do have gifts to buy and my mind almost always settles on books. The purpose of this post is to ask for your help in recommendations of old, new or in between books. I appreciate your help!

Woman A
Once an avid romance reader, her tastes seem to have broadened over the years. She enjoys Christian fiction, Dean Koontz, women's fiction, and family sagas. She loves cats (I gave her Homer's Odyssey last year and she really liked it) and family is extremely important to her. She is sentimental but not overly so and has a big heart.

Man A
He loves all kinds of sports and is really into history. He likes both fiction and nonfiction. He will read just about anything you throw his way though. Personality wise, he is funny and charming. He is definitely a family man and loves his sons and wife very much.

Woman B
Cozies are among her favorites. She enjoys a good mystery, especially if it's on the lighter side. She likes women's fiction and historical novels. Some of her favorite authors include Amy Tan, Nicholas Sparks, J.D. Robb, Jude Deveraux, James Rollins, and Diane Mott Davidson. She's a fun loving woman who is always on the go.

Man B
A history buff if ever there was one. He reads both fiction and nonfiction. A particular draw for him are books related to wars, especially World War II and Vietnam. He reads everything from fantasies (traditional) to crime fiction. He's really gotten into J.D. Robb's series and likes James Rollins. J.A. Jance is another favorite. He also enjoys his movies, especially war, action and westerns. He is a thoughtful man and isn't afraid to cry at the end of a book or movie.

Woman C
A bit of a Harry Potter and Twilight fanatic who loves paranormal romance and romance in general. She also enjoys YA novels in the same vein. She would rather stay away from reality when reading. She also loves movies, especially comedies and action flicks.

So have at it! What books might you recommend to these five people on my Christmas list?

© 2010, 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, November 15, 2010

Review: Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller

Thirty years and three thousand miles from that history, I can't believe it's come to this--pacing past the stacks of Parenting and Family Circle while my thirteen-year-old, on the other side of that door, makes her case against me. Don't we all assume we'll do it differently, not repeat the past? We believe with all our hearts that we can rise above the things they couldn't. Sometimes, our beliefs blind us. [pg 10]

Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller
Mira, 2010
Fiction; 376 pgs

My roommate and I were both psychology majors. She was working on a paper about infidelity and she asked me if I thought I could stay with a husband how had cheated on me. My answer was instantaneous. Of course not. No hesitation. The more we talked, however, the more I began to wonder. I still doubt I could stay in a relationship with someone who had broken my trust in that way, but I eventually came to see that it wasn't black and white. And you really never can know what you would do unless you were in that situation yourself. Relationships of any kind can be complex, marriage especially so. The reasons for infidelity vary and some couples are able to work through whatever issues they had that brought them to that particular juncture in their lives. Some aren't. So, while I don't condone infidelity, I do, on some level, understand why it can happen in certain instances. A breakdown of communication is often at the core. There are exceptions, of course. There are bad people out there, after all. And sometimes couples do grow apart.

Dori Ostermiller's novel, Outside the Ordinary World, tells the story of a family in turmoil. Sylvia finds herself unhappy in her marriage and frustrated with her life. She is an artist who hasn't felt inspired to paint like she once was, feels neglected by her husband, and overwhelmed by her motherly duties. When Tai walks into her life she gives in to her longings--here is someone who is interested in her, listens to her and has reawakened something in her that has long been dormant. Ironically, she finds herself on a similar path that her mother had led many years ago, despite her promise to herself that she'd be nothing like her. Sylvia's own mother had an affair for years; she, too, unhappy in her marriage and with her life. Their two stories are different, however, on many levels as became evident as the two stories progressed and eventually came together. Sylvia's marriage with her husband was much different from that of her mother's and father's. The direction their lives took was also much different.

It is easy to judge Sylvia and her mother for the choices they made. Both made mistakes and many of them. I found myself especially angry at Sylvia's mother, Elaine, because she involved her children in her affair, asking them to keep Mr. Robert a secret for so many years. It put the girls in a very bad position, pitting them against their father in a way and making them choose sides.

The novel goes back and forth between the present and the past. We get a glimpse into Sylvia's childhood as Sylvia sees it as well as her current life. To a degree I empathized with Sylvia. What she was feeling and going through is normal. How we react to such feelings is what makes the difference. Sylvia chose to seek the intimacy she longed for elsewhere. I don't agree with her choices and admit to clicking my tongue at her behavior and rationalization more than once throughout the novel. And yet. I still felt for her and could see how she could make the choices she made, however wrong they were. And as the story progressed, it became more and more clear that she wasn't the only one to blame for her failing marriage.

What most interested me in the novel was the impact the affairs had on the children, both Sylvia and her sister and well as Sylvia's own children, particularly her oldest. While Elaine was more obvious in her affair, Sylvia tried to keep hers a secret from her children. Even despite that, her secretiveness and unhappiness had severe repercussions on the rest of her family.

Dori Ostermiller does a good job of creating characters who are flawed and very real, and, while I did find myself feeling bad for the husbands (Sylvia's and also her own father), they weren't completely innocent for their part in their crumbling marriages, which is often true in situations like theirs. In fact, I had difficult time feeling bad for Sylvia's father at times; some of his own actions really made me angry. It doesn't erase the blame and fault that falls squarely on the shoulders of the person who had the affair, but it can shed light on the why of it.

I also really appreciated how the author brought out the complexities in situations like this--that no two relationships are alike and that while couples do split up over affairs, attempts and actual reconciliation can also be a goal. Even in the aftermath, once the secret is out, however, it is not easy, not only for the couple but the children as well. There is no happily ever after ending.

Outside the Ordinary World tackles a subject matter that is outside of my comfort zone as I have rather strong negative feelings about infidelity. I wasn't sure how I would react to Sylvia. One of the aspects I love about fiction is being able to step outside of my own ordinary world and into that of others, including the lives of someone whose shoes I can't see myself walking in. I've always had an interest in knowing what makes people tick, why they make the decisions they do, and I find that often in the fiction I read. I never felt that Sylvia was a bad person, nor was her mother. They were lost and confused. I don't like the decisions they made, but when haven't we all made a mistake, some bigger than others? The hope is that we can learn from them so as not to make the same mistakes again.

Rating: * (Very Good)

You can learn more about Dori Ostermiller and her book on the author's website. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter. I hope you will check out what others had to say on the TLC Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Book for review provided by the publisher.

© 2010, 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, November 12, 2010

Friday Fill-In Fun

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

1. When pigs fly they'll be required to get their pilots' licenses.

2. Seriously?! You want me to stop reading with just one chapter to go?

3. Call me in twelve days, between 5:34 and 6:02, but not a minute before or after.

4. Sometimes I just want to be left alone if you know what I mean.

5. The most entertaining person in my life is actually more of an animal--three at that-- because they do the most cute and funny things.

6. Okay, I just finished Wally Lamb's Wishin' and Hopin'; what's next?

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to putting up my feet and relaxing after a long day at work, tomorrow my plans include taking in a movie maybe or curling up with a book and Sunday, I want to do a little blog hopping (finally!), polish my reviews for the upcoming week and do a little more book weeding!

This holiday season is full of opportunities to participate in gift exchanges. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the Booklovers Secret Santa 2010 (last day to sign up is November 15th).

Two more have come to my attention, including the Book Blogger's Holiday Swap, which has a November 14th deadline to sign up. I've taken part every year since it's inception and have never been disappointed.

Another one to consider is the Broke and Bookish Book Secret Santa exchange. Sign-ups will be open until November 17th.

It's a great time for giving--and receiving!

© 2010, 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, November 11, 2010

From the Archives: Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

I began keeping a reading journal several years before I began blogging. I find it interesting to sift through my thoughts of books that I read back then. My views in relation to Reading Lolita in Tehran became quite heated as you will see in my journal entry from March 2005:

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
by Azar Nafisi

Random House, 2003
Nonfiction; 384 pgs
Fiction was not a panacea, but it did offer us a critical way of appraising and grasping the world—not just our world but that other world that had become the object of our desires. [pg. 282, Reading Lolita in Tehran]
As I began to read the last chapter before the epilogue of Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, I found myself thinking of the movie Finding Neverland, the story about J. M. Barrie’s creation of Peter Pan. Both spoke to the power and necessity of imagination in our lives. In Reading Lolita in Tehran, Ms. Nafisi shares just how important the imagination played not only in her life but also in the lives of her students—all in the form of the novel.

There were a couple of moments when I felt as if I was missing part of the meaning behind her story because I had not read many of the books she mentioned nor studied the authors to the degree that she had. It is obvious Ms. Nafisi loves literature and takes every opportunity to delve into its depths, the authors’ motives for writing, and the impact it will have on those who read it, including relating it to her students’ lives and circumstances.

What I found most interesting was her own story, about her life in Iran. She described the changes Iran underwent after the revolution: the people seeking change and inevitably of what they ended up with. She wrote that the morality squads, the executions, the rigid laws, the lessening of the people’s freedoms, including and especially those of the women, were partly the fault of the Iranian people who did not fight against them in the beginning. And while they might not have known to what degree or form the changes would eventually bring, she believed that their complacency played a part in making it a reality. This is not a new phenomenon, however, as history has demonstrated throughout the years.

This book is especially interesting in today’s climate, as the war in Iraq wages and the Middle East and terrorists clamor for “the death of America.” The blind hatred toward my country and people astounds me. There is no distinction between what may be good about the so-called Western World and that which they consider evil as it is all considered evil; there is no interest in making peace other than through total destruction. There is no attempt at understanding, finding a way to compromise, or even for tolerance. Only hate and blame. It saddens me that there are people out there that harbor such strong anger towards me without knowing anything about me. That anger and hate seem to be based on ideas or assumptions that they know little about. And they do not want to know. Those that subscribe to such radical views are unwilling to face themselves and their own corruption and hypocrisy. It’s much easier to cast the blame outside of themselves rather than to look inward and try to improve their own failings and build on their own strengths. Of course, such people would rarely, if ever, admit that they have faults. They cast stones at others and yet are just as guilty—perhaps of the same or of different crimes. It’s different though, they may say. And they believe it. How do you counter that? People like that seek to oppress anyone who may be different even in the slightest of ways and to destroy that which does not support their beliefs. They feel threatened and therefore act out violently against those they don’t understand or who question them. There are people like this all over the world, and not just in countries like Iran or Iraq. Even in America people like this can be found, only with a different “perpetrator” to blame and be the target of that persecution and hate.

Perhaps because I am a woman, I am drawn more to the plight of women who are oppressed within their own homelands. In Iran, it is even more astonishing that a country that was once so forward thinking and progressive could revert to oppressing a previously respected and strong group of people in their society: the women. It is argued that the women need protection—that the less freedom they have the safer they will be. They are treated like second, if not third, class citizens.

I have no doubt that my own westernized upbringing and ideology color my perception of what should be and how people should treat one another, regardless of religious affiliation, ethnicity, gender, color or creed. I cannot fully grasp the life and culture that Ms. Nafisi spoke of in her book, other than through what I may hear or read about in books and the media. Ms. Nafisi herself was considered westernized; she attended school in England as well as in the United States. I would like to have had the opportunity to read a similar memoir written by one of the women in her reading group, those who were not exposed to the western world initially (other than through literature and media) and who had very little notion of what life had been like before the revolution.

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books was thought provoking. It provided a look into the life and experiences of one woman in Iran as well as those around her and the part that fiction played throughout.
[ . . . what we search for in fiction is not so much reality but the epiphany of truth. [pg. 3, Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books]
Rating: * (Good +)

Source: The book was loaned to me via a bookring sponsored by a member.

© 2010, 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, November 10, 2010

Not So Wordless Wednesday: Author Signing

On November 2nd, my husband scoured the local bookstores (and I called a couple just outside of town) in search of Greg Rucka's Last Run. No one carried it. Anjin was disappointed. The one book he had been looking forward to for months was nowhere to be found. Sure, he could order it online or order it through the bookstores, but that meant waiting. And by then he wasn't exactly wanting to give them his business. I am sure many of you can relate.

Lucky for us, Greg Rucka was scheduled to make an appearance at our favorite independent bookstore in Westwood, California, a two hour drive (thanks to the traffic) into Los Angeles from where we live. We only had to wait until the 6th of November. It wasn't much of a hardship though, if you think I'm complaining--what better excuse to visit The Mystery Bookstore? And meeting Greg Rucka would be worth it.

Greg Rucka has written quite a number of books, including comic books. I've read just about all his novels, my favorites being the Queen and Country spy/espionage series, featuring Tara Chase. Last Run is the latest in the series.

Also on calendar for that hour was Michelle Gagnon, author of the Kelly Jones, FBI series. When I heard she was going to be there, I became even more excited. She was there to talk about her new book, the latest in her series, Kidnap and Ransom. I had heard about the author's books through Trish of Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? and it was on my list of series to try. I was excited to get the opportunity to meet Michelle Gagnon and to bring home a signed copy of the first book in her series, The Tunnels.

Greg Rucka and Michelle Gagnon were every bit as friendly as you might imagine--and quite funny. They played off each other well. The two authors took questions from the audience after talking a little bit about their recent releases. They discussed their research methods, where their story ideas came and about the surprising aspects of their books readers find to complain about. Everyone had a good time and Michelle Gagnon even did a bit of the Macarena for us!

You'll be happy to know I am not quite the same shy person I was a couple of years ago when approaching an author--no more hiding behind my husband, unable to say a word. I still get tongue-tied though, and why I told Michelle Trish was pregnant, I haven't a clue. That comment was totally out of the blue (didn't even mention my own condition)!

It was hard not to walk out of the store with an armload of books, especially given my current craving for crime fiction novels. Now I know how my husband must feel when I drag him to Dairy Queen (a pregnant woman's prerogative)--all those tempting choices before him, but, well, there's that darn diet to consider. I was good though. We bought only three books.

We followed our evening up with dinner at Jerry's Famous Deli before hitting the road for the long drive home. All in all, it was a pleasant afternoon and evening. The animals even forgave us for feeding them their own dinner three hours late.

© 2010, 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.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Review: Blue Nude by Elizabeth Rosner

Begin anywhere, Danzig says. The shoulder, the rib cage, the thigh, the ankle. It won't be an accident, even if it feels that way right now. [pg 3]

Blue Nude by Elizabeth Rosner
Gallery Books, 2010 (originally published in 2006)
Fiction; 224 pgs

I have never had the feeling of finishing a book and wanting to start over again right away and read it again cover to cover. Someone wrote that about Blue Nude, and so I set aside my reservations about the book and dived right in. I wanted to love it. I wanted to love the writing and the flow of the story. I wanted to love the characters. I did like Merav quite a bit. I wasn't sold on Danzig. And while that isn't always a problem, it was in this case. I never really connected with him. As the story progressed and more about his past was revealed, I did develop a sympathy for him. Even more so for his sister, Margot, who I came to love.

This is a difficult book to describe. It is at once a novel about two people struggling to reconcile their pasts and find peace within themselves and a novel about World War II, particularly the aftermath of the war and how it touched those who came directly after. Merav's grandmother had been a survivor of the Holocaust, eventually fleeing to Israel where Merav was born andraised. Danzig's father had been a German officer during the war, creating a shadow that would plague Danzig and his sister for the rest of their lives.

Danzig is a painter and art instructor. Merav is a nude model who poses for Danzig's class and awakes in him a spark of inspiration that has long been missing.

The writing was smooth and lyrical. There were several times, especially during Merav's sections when I felt the words roll over and through me, lingering and full of feeling. I also liked the format of the story--the nonlinear narratives and jumping from viewpoint to viewpoint, time period to time period. I was especially drawn to the sections of the book set in the past, particularly Merav's heartbreak and Danzig's own tragic childhood.

The war left behind many scars, as war often does. The Germans were left with much blood on their hands and how does a child reconcile that, once caught up in the fervor of nationalism? Can she? Rosner paints a vivid picture of the inner struggle of one family, while at the same time capturing the ingrained fear and mistrust of a people victimized, tortured and murdered at the hands of Germans. Danzig and Margot's story is directly tied to World War II, however Merav's is more indirectly impacted. It was an interesting juxtaposition.

Unfortunately, I never felt the book came together in a way I could truly appreciate. I know the characters found some of what they were looking for in the end, but I am not quite sure how they got there. I finished the novel feeling like I missed something important.

His gun pulled at his muscles and his knees were locked, but still he didn't make a move to pull the trigger. These people were lower than animals: this was what he'd been taught--that they were nothing to him. But meanwhile, here he was, wishing he could speak her language, whatever it was. Wanting to know her name. Needing all the blood washed from his hands. [pg xii]

Rating: * (Good)

For more information about Elizabeth Rosner and her books, visit the author's website.

Source: Copy of book provided by publisher for review.

© 2010, 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, November 08, 2010

Monday Musing: Which Author Blogs Do You Follow?

Do you subscribe or follow any author blogs? If so, which are your favorites?

I do now and then. Some I follow more religiously then others, and, I confess, I rarely comment on any of them. I do enjoy reading the comments, however, as often the comment are left by other authors sharing their own stories and views, and they can be quite entertaining.

What may be of interesting note is that some of the author blogs I follow are run by authors whose books I haven't yet read. I may have that author on my list to read one day--or I might not. I find I am drawn most to author blogs that are entertaining and often times funny. I like the personal stories and antidotes, whether about life, writing, or what have you. Many are multi-author blogs, which make them all the more interesting. There's never lack of material there--although it's easy for me to fall behind in my reading as a result!

Some of the author blogs you can find in my RSS feed:

Buzz, Balls & Hype ~ MJ Rose

Cats & Crime & Rock & Roll ~ Clea Simon

The Conscious Cat ~ Ingrid King

Cozy Chicks ~ Kate Collins, Deb Baker, Maggie Sefton, JB Stanley, Heather Webber, Lorna Barrett, and Leann Sweeney

Femmes Fatales ~ Donna Andrews, Dana Cameron, Charlaine Harris, Toni L.P. Kelner, Kris Neri, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Mary Saums, and Elaine Viets

Karen E. Olson: In So Many Words

Murderati ~ Pari Noskin Taichert, Alafair Burke, Louise Ure, Tess Gerritsen, Robert Gregory Browne, J.D. Rhoades, Brett Battles, Zoƫ Sharp, J.T. Ellison, Stephen Jay Schwartz, Alexandra Sokoloff, Cornelia Read, Toni McGee Causey, and Allison Brennan

The Lipstick Chronicles ~ Nancy Martin, Brunonia Barry, Nancy Pickard, Jacqueline Winspear, Kathy Reschini Sweeney, Cornelia Read, Elaine Viets, Louise Penny, Sarah Strohmeyer, Diane Chamberlain, Heather Graham, Margaret Maron, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Harley Jane Kozak

Neil Gaiman's Journal

Patrick Rothfuss

Scobberlotch ~ Karen Harrington

Looking over the list, I see that most are mystery authors. I'd love to know which author blogs you follow! Not that I need to add to my subscription list, but I would hate to be missing a good one.

© 2010, 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, November 05, 2010

Friday Fill In Fun

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

1. Sometimes I sit in the middle of my TBR room and stare at all the books lining the shelves and sitting in boxes and bags on the floor, wondering how--or if--I'll ever read them all.

2. My husband and I are cautiously optimistic about the whole thing. (Anya's latest positive health report)

3. Small things add up to big things when put together over time.

4. I've always believed that reading can be very enlightening.

5. I keep meaning to get to that book over there, and yet there's always another book that catches my attention. And then another one, and another one . . .

6. I haven't begun my Christmas shopping . . . yet.

7. And as for the weekend, today I'm looking forward to running errands and putting in some quality reading time, tomorrow my plans include driving into Los Angeles with my husband to meet Greg Rucka (for him) and Michelle Gagnon (for me) at the Mystery Bookstore--only the best independent mystery store ever; and Sunday, I want to relax and take it easy!

Even though I only worked four days this week, it feels like it was much longer. Work has been especially busy, which isn't unusual for this time of year. It doesn't help that I tire more easily these days. The pregnancy is going well so far, thankfully. I do have my bad days (or nights) though, as can be expected. A friend of mine calls them "moments"--they come and go and rarely last long. I'm now five and a half months along and the baby is growing stronger every day. Her kicks and movements have become more obvious. Sometimes it's hard not to stop whatever I'm doing just to focus totally on the feel of her. I'm especially excited about this upcoming Christmas season as I adore Christmas music, and so the poor kid will have to suffer through my many caroling sessions--many of which will be just for the animals, her and me.

This past weekend, my husband and I saw the Broadway production of The Color Purple. It's been years since I read the book or seen the movie, but it's a story that sticks with you, wouldn't you agree? The show was fantastic. Tears were streaming down my cheeks at the end. I'd blame the hormones, but the truth is I would have cried just as much had I not been pregnant.

I commented on Twitter this past week that I somehow avoided any major food cravings but I find myself craving crime fiction (to read not eat), and it's true. I took a short break from crime fiction to break things up, and am nearly done with Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller and Elzabeth Rosner's Blue Nude. You can bet I'll be diving back into crime fiction next again, however. I have quite a stack of books here I want to get to. We'll see how successful I will be. What are you reading at the moment? Anything you'd recommend?

I had best get started on those errands before I decide sliding back under the covers with my book for the day sounds like the more attractive idea . . .

What are your plans for the weekend? Whatever you do, I hope you have a good one!

© 2010, 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, November 04, 2010

Short Story Thursday: "A Very Short Story" by Ernest Hemingway

"A Very Short Story" by Ernest Hemingway

I know, I know. Hemingway has many detractors given his style of writing and his personal history. I happen to love his work. I adore the expansive and detailed prose of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, but sometimes I need something more terse and straight to the point. I find that with Ernest Hemingway's writing. I have always been the kind of reader who likes to mix things up, whether it be book type, genre or writing style.

I came across this brief story online while searching for a short short story to read. I am currently reading two novels about heavy topics and needed a little break. Something quick and simple. I suppose I should have looked for something short and funny rather than something that was on the somber side, but I wasn't seeking something that different from what I was already reading. And so, it was with eagerness that I picked up Ernest Hemingway's "A Very Short Story" yesterday to read.

At the start of the story, the reader finds herself in Padua. It opens with the unnamed main character being carried up to the roof where he can look out over the town. With him is Luz, who stands guard. She'd taken care of him after his operation. It is a love story of sorts. The two want to marry but are unable to do so. The war keeps them a part for much of the time, but they long to settle down together afterward. It isn't so simple, however. After a brief unsatisfying meeting, they again must separate. Will they finally end up together in the end or will fate have something else in store for them?

There is only so much that can be said in seven paragraphs and while one could certainly argue for the need to fill out this particular story, it really isn't necessary as it stands well on its own. That said, I am one who wouldn't have minded a little more detail here and there. I felt I only got to know Luz and her love superficially.

You can find the story, "A Very Short Story", and read it here.

© 2010, 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, November 03, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Nap Time (For the Boys Anyway)

© 2010, 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.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Review: It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me by Ariel Leve

Sometimes after I wake up I will stand in my pyjamas in front of the mirror over the sink and watch myself getting older. I'll feel lucky. I'm not the sort of person who has to rely on my appearance to get by in life. Who cares what I look like? I'm the sort of person who relies on personality. But then it will hit me. That's what I have to rely on? [pg 1]

It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me by Ariel Leve
Harper Perennial, 2010
Nonfiction; 304 pgs

It isn't often I pick up a book of essays to read, but occasionally I find they make good in between reading--even better than a short story collection in some ways. The essays are short and perfect for those moments when you don't have a lot of time to spare but must get in your reading. Although it took me a few months to make my way through Ariel Leve's collection of essays (I read it in between novels and short stories) , it was an enjoyable read, nonetheless. Leve's humor shines through in each essay and yet I couldn't help but catch a bit of sadness underneath as well, however unintentional (and maybe that's just me).

Journalist Ariel Leve compiled a series of essays about her life and thoughts into It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me. She contemplates giving up coffee when she discovers it improves memory, discusses the bias against napping in bed, and why looking forward to anything is overrated. The author is a self-described worrier. My favorite section of the book, and the one I could most relate to was the one where she discusses health issues. I'm not so sure I'd go so far as to say I enjoyed that colonoscopy though!

As I read this collection, I found myself relating to some of the stories the author shared. Maybe a little too well. Taking compliments, for example--neither Leve or I are good at accepting them. And evidently we both have that constant scowl or lack of a smile on our face because people assume something is wrong just because we aren't smiling. And like Leve, I hate it when people tell me to cheer up just because I am not wearing that expected smile.

There were other essays I was less able to identify with, but they were no less entertaining. I have two friends who share the same life philosophy as Ariel Leve and could see them in every story. I am trying to decide which of them to loan the book to first . . .

Rating: * (Very Good)
Source: Book provided for review by publisher.

© 2010, 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, November 01, 2010

Reviews: Damaged by Pamela Callow & Damaged by Alex Kava

Damaged by Pamela Callow (Mira, 2010 - Crime Fiction; 454 pgs)
Rating: * (Very Good)

Damaged by Alex Kava (Doubleday, 2010 - Crime Fiction; 272 pgs)
Rating: * (Good +)

I received Pamela Callow and Alex Kava's books for review around the same time. My husband joked that I should do a joint review given they share the same title, Damaged. If that wasn't coincidence enough, there were several similarities in terms of subject matter. The title Damaged could mean anything and yet these two authors, completely independent of each other, chose to write about the same type of crime, with quite a few similar details. Perhaps the same news stories caught their eye? It's funny how it worked out that way, and, as much as I would love to go into more detail, I would hate to spoil either book for you. Just as the two books are similar in content--at least when it comes to the crime--they are also very different from one another in feel and style, as well as in presentation. The differences in approach are such that I definitely did not get the impression that I was reading the same book twice. Although, perhaps reading both books back to back might not be the best idea . . .

In Pamela Callow's novel, Damaged, the main character, Kate Lange, is an up and coming attorney who has just landed a job in a major law firm. She has fought hard to reach the point where she is, overcoming a past that won't seem to let go. Assigned a custody case in which a grandmother wants to take custody of her granddaughter, Kate doesn't see much hope that the grandmother can win. She tells the grandmother as much but somehow feels she should have tried to do more. That feeling turns into guilt when the granddaughter turns up dead, her body mutilated. Kate is pulled into the investigation for a killer as she is asked by the grandmother to look into the disappearances of other young girls.

To complicate matters, her standing in the law firm is on shaky ground and her very career could be on the line. Kate knows that the only one she can trust is herself, not the law partners nor her ex-fiance, Detective Ethan Drake.

Pamela Callow's Damaged was an intense read, high in suspense and full of twists that kept me guessing until near the end. The characters, including Kate, were well developed. I really liked Kate, both for her strength and vulnerability. It didn't hurt that she had a dog that was easy to fall in love with. The only issue I had, a tiny one at that, was the sexual tension that seemed to exist between Kate and just about every male in the novel. It didn't detract from the flow of the story at all, but I admit to wondering if it was necessary. Perhaps it was an effort to show how lonely and tense the characters were--or a technique to keep the reader guessing. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed Callow's novel and will definitely be reading more by her.

Alex Kava's Damaged also featured a strong female lead, this time a FBI profiler named Maggie O'Dell. And she, too, has a lovable dog. The book is actually a part of an ongoing series. And as has become my recent habit, I jumped right in at the end instead of starting at the beginning. Kava's novel stands well on its own. This particular book seemed much more plot driven than character driven which was perfect for the mood I was in when I read it.

In Kava's novel, Maggie is asked to assist with an investigation into the discovery of several human body parts, found floating in a chest in the Gulf right off the Florida coast. The investigation takes her right into the eye of a hurricane, one that is expected to reach terrible proportions. Unknown to Maggie, a good friend of hers is working with the Navy to uncover the cause of a mysterious illness that seems to have infected and is killing off several military personnel. He just happens to be in Florida too. The coming hurricane was given an equal weight in the novel as was the other two mysteries, which added an extra dimension to the story, helping to build on the suspense. It was an enjoyable read. Not quite as intense as Callow's book, but entertaining nonetheless.

Both novels have varying viewpoints throughout, allowing the reader to see events from different angles. Only Pamela Callow's offers a glimpse into the killer's head, careful not to reveal the person's identity too soon. It worked well for the two novels, although I confess there was one perspective in Alex Kava's novel I could have done without. His part of the story was significant but the character himself really annoyed me and I found myself wanting his sections to be over before they started.

Now that I have thoroughly confused you . . . While I liked Pamela Callow's Damaged more than I did Alex Kava's Damaged, I enjoyed reading both and hope to read more of the authors work in the future.

For more information about Pamela Callow and her book and upcoming books, visit the author's website.

For more information about Alex Kava and her books, visit the author's website.

Source: Both books provided for review.

© 2010, 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.