Sunday, December 30, 2007

Day Five's Random Photo

My sweet, kind, gentle Andrew happens to be a die-hard rock and heavy metal fan. His absolute favorite band in the whole wide world is KISS (you can read his thoughts about the band here). As for myself, well, I can't stand KISS. I think their music is lackluster, unoriginal, and really repetative (the songs are all about the same thing- yeesh!).

Yet, as this is Andrew's favorite band, and I love Andrew, I try to be supportive. As a result, our basement could be a shrine to the band- we have pillows and throws and pitchers and mugs and models and posters and incense burners and rubuic's cubes and, well, you get the picture. We have a lot of KISS stuff. Andrew also has all their CDs and DVDs and tons of tee shirts bearing their make-up landen images.

Loving wife that I am, I even own a few tee-shirts like the tank above and their KISS perfume (Andrew has the cologne naturally). I have even gone to a KISS concert in full makeup, although photos of that are top secret. Sigh. The things one does for love!

Day Four's Random Photo

Day four's much delayed photo is of my calendar. Why? Because I apparently think that a week has an additional 14 days in it, which is the length of time between this random photo and my last random one. Sigh. So I took a picture of my calendar to help me remember to keep track of the days!

Andrew and I found this calendar at the Renaissance Fair in Pennsylvania several years ago. It is based on an old monastery calendar, and we fell in love with the unique design. You simply slide the three hanging pieces into the proper place to keep track of the days. I just love the simplicity of the design and its timeless (oh, bad pun!) nature.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone has a joyous holiday season!

Thursday, December 27, 2007


The holidays have eaten me!

I have not forgotten my week of "Random Photos," its just been seasonally delayed! Stay tuned for more photo fun!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Day Three's Random Photos

Welcome to day three's random photos! Any guesses what today's photo of randomness is?

If you guessed "Card Catalog," you'd be right! Now, quick, run to your local library and check out a book as your prizes!

Isn't an old fashion card catalog just beautiful? I spied this beauty on a recent tour of a neighboring library, and I just had to snap a picture!

I remember using card catalogs when I was a kid. I loved flipping through all the little cards, searching for just the right book. There was a wonderful, tactile experience to searching through the catalog, and when searching for one book in the catalog, I would often stumble upon other interesting books because those little cards were so hard to resist reading.

These days, the old fashion card catalogs have been replaced by modern, computerized catalogs that do a wonderful job of searching for books and other materials. I love using them, but sometimes, I get a little nostalgic for those little, typed cards.

This library I visited actually still uses their card catalog, although it has been re-purposed for another use:

Some would say this is ironic, but I think its a little sad.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Day Two's Random Photo

Today's random photo is of the stairs in my house. Aren't they exciting? No? Really?

Well, for me, stairs are kind of like the white picket fence dream. All my life I've lived in apartments, completely flat apartments, so I've always dreamed of a house with stairs. When Andrew and I moved into this home, I spent months playing a little game: I would climb up the top stairs and call out to Andrew:

-Hey Andrew!
-Guess what?

-I'm upstairs!

Sometimes, I would climb downstairs, and call out:

-Hey Andrew!
-Guess what?
-I'm downstairs!

Hysterical laughter followed- at least on my part. Andrew, the kind man, would just smile and try not to roll his eyes.

I've now lived in this place for over two years, and I still really love my stairs. They are as white picket fence great as I always thought they were. I love the fact that my home has levels! The upstairs is the private area, the bedrooms; the main floor is for entertaining; and the basement, which is furnished, is a fun rec room. Plus, I discovered a fantastic benefit to stairs: they make a great bookshelf! All of my overflow of books stack so nicely up the sides of my staircase

Ah, bliss!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Day One's Random Photos!

Long, long ago, taking pictures was a luxury. Film- remember film?- was expensive, and a roll of film only had 24 shots in it. Therefore, each picture taken was carefully planned and executed so that precious strip of film would not go to waste. Still, after each picture was taken, questions would form in your mind: "Did the picture come out right?", "Did Aunt Sally just blink?", and "Was my thumb in the viewfinder again?" Since it was also expensive to develop film, these question would linger for quite a while. I remember one time when my mother and I waited so long to develop a few rolls of film that when we finally did it, the photos were from three years previous. Now that was one long wait!

These days, however, taking pictures is much simpler. With a digital camera, you can take as many pictures as your heart desires. If you don't like the way your picture turns out, take another one; If Aunt Sally blinks, you can take another picture; If your thumb is in the way, delete the shot and take a new one! With one little memory card, you can take hundreds of pictures until the card is full to bursting, then download them all onto your computer and then take even more pictures on your newly empty card! If you want to actually print out your pictures, you can simply pick and choose the ones you want printed. It's a far cry from those long ago days.

With this new found photo freedom, I tend to go a little overboard. There's no film to waste, no money to spend, just one little button click and instant photo gratification! Therefore, I take lots and lots of photos. Some of them are great photos, some of them are silly, and some are just plain ridiculous. One of my most frequent photo subjects are my cats. They do such sweet and cute things that I simply must take pictures of them!

Pompey, Sleeping
Pretty Octavian
Peaceful Caesar

Aren't they cute? See why I can't resist snapping pictures of them? The only problem is, of each of these shots, I probably have six more examples of each shot, because I just can't stop taking pictures!

Sometimes, the pictures I take turn out quite amusing:

What did you say?!

So I like to fish, got a problem with that?

Get that camera out of my face!

But, sometimes I can catch the sweetest moments, like these:

Thanks for sharing with me!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Witty's New Toy!

The other day, the C.O.P* was acting so cute and cuddly that I just had to take a picture. I grabbed my digital camera, took aim, and -click- snapped the picture. But, tragedy of tragedies, nothing happened. I clicked again and still nothing happened. So I tried once more- hey! Three times a charm, right? Nope, not for me. Nothing.

I decided the batteries must be dead, so I replaced the batteries. Still, nothing. Then it must be the memory card. I switched out the memory card. Again, nothing. Maybe it was an operator error- i.e. me- so I handed it over to Andrew. Once more, nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing!

My poor digital camera had died. It had served me well for many a years, and I was heartbroken.

Well, okay, I was heartbroken up until the point when Andrew pointed out that this was a perfect time for me to get a new digital camera and my techie heart rejoiced!

So, although I still mourn for my dead first camera, I am jumping up and down with joy for my lovely brand new camera.

Now, in celebration of my new toy, I've decided to spend the week posting all the strange and random things I take pictures of with my digital camera simply because my camera is so cool and new and fun to use. I hope you enjoy the celebration!

*The C.O.P is the brand new nickname for my three boys, Caesar, Octavian and Pompey.

The Cats got Elfed!

Enjoy the video!

*C.O.P= Caesar, Octavian, and Pompey!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sweet Octavian

Recently, Andrew and I welcomed into our home a new set of pitter-pattering little paws. Our newest little fur-baby is a lovely, sweet natured cat with big blue eyes, chocolate and caramel colored fur, and the most charming ability to flop in adorable positions. He’s also a special type of cat, a breed called a Ragdoll*. Ragdolls are known for their mild manner, blue eyes, and soft long fur. Their name derives from their incredible ability to melt in your arms when you hold them. Our Sweet Octavian** is a delightful new member of our family, and his arrival at our house was quite a story!

It all started two days before my birthday. My mother was spending an idle afternoon browsing the ads on, having fun looking at all the items people try to sell or giveaway. There was the usual assortment of goods: free sofas, boxes, haircuts, etc. Nothing too exciting until her eye was caught by a posting at the top of the page. It was an odd posting, with an unusual headline: “Free Ragdoll Cat to a Good Home.”

“A Ragdoll? Witty’s favorite cat?***” My mother clicked on the ad “It’s too good to be true” she thought. Yet the ad seemed innocent enough. A family had moved and their beloved Ragdoll wasn’t adjusting well to the new house. It seemed a plausible enough scenario, so mom figured that it was at least worth forwarding to Andrew and me.

My mother’s email floated off into cyberspace and landed in mine and Andrew’s inboxes. Usually, during the course of a day at work, Andrew never has a chance to read his email as he’s swamped by experiments, but on this day, he had a rare moment’s break, and decided to see if he had any good email awaiting him. As he scanned through his inbox, my mother’s email jumped out at him: “Free Ragdoll Cat to a Good Home.”

“A Ragdoll?” Andrew knew it was my favorite type of cat. He remembered how delighted I was at a local cat show when I had the opportunity to hold one and felt it melt into my arms. It had been a little joke of ours, that on every birthday or gift-giving holiday, that I would grin and say “I want a Ragdoll,” whenever he asked what I wanted as a present. He also knew that although I loved Ragdoll cats dearly, I thought I would never own one because they were too expensive and there were so many other homeless cats that needed help. Yet, here was an offer for a free Ragdoll cat, one who needed a safe home to come home to, and two days before my birthday no less.

Andrew wanted to consult me about the Ragdoll, but there was a slight problem: I was at an all day conference, with no access to a phone or internet. I had no idea about the ad my mother forwarded to me. Andrew thought for a moment: getting a third cat is a big decision, one he normally would never make without me. Yet, a Ragdoll was my dream, it was two days before my birthday, and this was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed. He picked up the phone and called the number in the ad.

It was an interesting call. A very nice woman answered the phone and talked to Joel about her sweet cat. She was heartbroken to think of giving him up, but he was not adjusting well to a recent move. Her family had moved from a big house to a much smaller one. They had another cat and a dog, and the Ragdoll had suddenly become terrified of the dog, and spent all his days hiding from the dog. He was normally very affectionate and very social, and now he was never seen.

After almost three months of the cat hiding from the dog, the woman decided to take him to stay at a friend’s house for a while, to see how he managed. The change was immediate. The sweet and cuddly cat returned, and the woman, though sad, realized that her Ragdoll needed a new home. So she placed the ad on to see if anyone might want her lovely cat and provide him a good home.

Andrew told her all about us and our fur-babies. He told her of Caesar and Pompey, how well they got along, how they joined our family. He told her of our years of fostering cats: how we had tamed feral cats; treated diabetic cats; nursed back to help sick cats; gave love and affectionate to lonely cats. He explained about my love of Ragdolls, how I always said I wanted one, and how, believe it or not, my birthday was just around the corner.

The woman couldn’t believe it. She had been reluctant about placing the ad, but Andrew and I sounded like the perfect candidates for her cat. She agreed to meet with us to see if we were indeed as good of a match as we sounded. A time and place was arranged, and Andrew hung up the phone, delighted that my dream was coming together.

Then, Andrew’s phone rang. He picked it up. It was my mother. “Andrew,” she said, “I’m sorry to call you at work, but I sent you an email about a free Ragdoll cat a little while ago. I know Witty’s always wanted one, so I thought I should pass it on, but I just checked out craigslist again and the ad’s gone! Animals aren’t supposed to be posted on the free section. And I just realized that Witty’s not going to get my email until late tonight since she’s gone! Do you think you should call?”

The ad was gone! Andrew couldn’t believe his luck. He reassured my mom that he had already called about the cat. He told her he just couldn’t pass up the chance at that cat. They both breathed a sigh of relief- my mom because Andrew had called, and Andrew because my mom thought he should call. Now all that was left to do was to tell me about the cat.

That evening, when I got home, Andrew was grinning like a Cheshire cat. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. He asked about my day, and I told him all about my meeting and my day. I then asked him about his. “Well,” he said, “It was interesting. Do you think you might want to get a Ragdoll this weekend?”

My jaw dropped. I asked him to repeat himself. He then explained the whole story of the craigslist ad, the long phone conversation, and his and my mom’s wish to make my wish come true. I couldn’t believe it. I threw my arms around Andrew in a big hug, and didn’t let go for a long time. It was incredible!

Our meeting with the woman was the very next day, and in preparation, Andrew and I put together a little photo album of Caesar and Pompey, and of all our foster cats. We wanted her to see them all, so she could know that we were serious about our love of cats and our ability to care for them. Eagerly, we drove off to the meeting, hoping against home that a Ragdoll would soon be ours.

We met the woman at her friend’s home. She was very nice and sweet. We spent time talking about her cat, why she was giving him up and how hard it was. We told her some more stories of our cats, and all of our adventures fostering. We should her out albums, and she couldn’t believe the number of cats we had taken care of. She asked us how we would handle adding a third cat into our family, and we explained how we would go about incorporating another cat: a safe room to himself for a while, then slowly allowing him to mingle with our cats, until they all adjusted to each other.

As we talked, she grew more at ease with us and told us, that although she had been unsure about giving up her cat, having met us and heard our stories, she knew that we were the right home for her cat. So she got up, went into another room, and brought out the cat.

Oh, he was beautiful! His fur was so soft and silky, his eyes so big and blue. He immediately flopped down on the floor in front of me, begging to be pet. I happily obliged. Immediately, a loud, rumbling purr started- the loudest purr I had ever heard. Oh, it was love at first purr! This beautiful, sweet fur-baby was mine.

Seeing the cat’s reaction to me, the woman made up her mind, and told us that we could have the sweet cat, and if we wanted, we could take him home right away. We were thrilled! We thanked her profusely, and I gave her a big hug in thanks. We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses so we could keep in touch, and we promised to send pictures of the cat when he got settled. We then went home with the newest member of our family.

Since then, it has been a delight getting to know Octavian. He has adapted well to his new home. He likes to follow us around the house, always right at our heels. At night, he sprawls across the foot of the bed, his contented purr a nice compliment to Pompey’s sighing snores. Of his two new brothers, he’s very intrigued by them. In Pompey, he sees a great play fellow, and in Caesar, he sees someone to admire. He does the most amazing flops around the house, begging for us to take a moment to scratch his fluffy tummy. We adore our little Octavian, the dream come true that he is, and the best birthday present I've ever had, thanks to my mother and Andrew!

* Want to learn more about Ragdolls? Check out this site for more information:

**As always, names have been changed to protect the furry. Octavian’s name derives from the second season of Rome, of which Octavian Caesar was the star. I thought it fit nicely with Caesar and Pompey’s names!

***By the way, I’m Witty, nice to meet you!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Maple Pecan Pie Recipe

Here is the ultra delcious pecan pie recipe I used this Thanksgiving, curtesy of Bon App├ętit magazine:

Maple Pecan Pie

3 large eggs
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 (heaping) cups pecans halves
1 Pie Crust (use your favorite recipe!)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk eggs and brown sugar in medium bowl until well blended.

Whisk in maple syrup,corn syrup, melted butter, and salt.

Stir in pecans.

Pour filling into an unbaked crust.

Bake pie until filling is slightly puffed and set, about 40 minutes (my oven required 50 minutes).

Transfer to rack and cool.

Eat and enjoy!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

Please, enjoy a yummy slice of virtual Pecan Pie on me!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Giving Thanks

Since it is the time for giving thanks, I would like to share with you, my dear readers, those precious things for which I am thankful for this year.

Always, I am thankful for Andrew. He is warm and kindhearted, he brings joy and laughter into my life each sweet day.

I am thankful for my mother, who over the years has become more than a parent but my best friend.

I am thankful for my grandmother who gives my family strength and love us all wholeheartedly.

I am thankful for my father who reaches out across the miles to connect with me.

I am thankful for my in laws, who have made me feel welcomed in their family.

I am thankful to my friends and family, for being such wonderful people in all their many ways.

I am thankful for having a job I love and working with people who are more than just co-workers, but friends.

I am thankful for my sweet little cats who provide love and comfort every day.

I am thankful for all the little things in life that pass by each day, almost without notice: the comfort of my house on a cool fall day, the endless stacks of books waiting to be read, the sound of the rain falling on leafs outside, the beauty of a blue cloudless sky, the delicious scent of pies baking, and so much more that passes by day by day.

And I am thankful to you, my dear readers, for taking time out of your day to share some time with me.

Take care, and have a joyous holiday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Whisper of the Heart

I recently had the pleasure of watching a delightful movie called Whisper of the Heart by animation genius Hayao Miyazaki, head of the animation group powerhouse Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki is probably best known in the United States for his Oscar winning film Spirited Away, his environmental masterpiece Princess Mononoke, the delightful Howl's Moving Castle, and the timeless classic My Neighbor Totoro. He creates wonderful films that fills viewers with a sense of wonder and enchantment. Whisper of the Heart is no exception.

This is a gentle and quiet film, full of life's small wonders and delights. The movie revolves around Shizuku, a young girl with a love of books and a sense of adventure. Shizuku has spent her summer reading book after book from her local library, eager to meet her goal of reading 200 books before school begins again. She thrills to delve into a new stories that whisk her away from her ordinary life in Tokyo. Shizuku also has a delightful sense of fun and whimsy that leads her to one day follow the trail of a strange cat she found riding on the train. What she finds send her on her own adventure, a quest to find herself, with the aid of a new friend Seiji Amasaw, using her love of books and stories, combined with her love of adventure.

This is simply a delightful movie, with sweet little twists and turns. Miyazaki has the unique ability to capture the pure innocence of youth, how delight can be found in even the most ordinary of things- a garden, a puddle, clouds in the sky, a statue, and even a cat. His animation style is both striking and captivating, focusing on small details and using images from Japanese folklore, creating an experience not soon forgotten.

Whisper of the Heart is a lovely slice-of-life film, a glimpse into a young girl's mind as she embraces who she is and her potential in life, and one I highly recommend. It combines the best of all worlds: books, , libraries, and cats, with a sweet romance thrown in as well! Oh, and did I forget to mention that the music of John Denver plays a significant role in the film? If you have the time, I am sure your local library has the film in its collection. For Shizuku's sake, you should check it out!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween!

No fur baby was harmed in the taking of this picture- rather he was just confused for the 30 seconds he had the costume on!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hail, Caesar!

Today, I was looking at Caesar, my regal cat, as he prowled about the house, playing and romping with Pompey, and then elegantly flopping on the floor for attention, and I couldn't help but think back fondly to the time when he joined my little family.

At the time we adopted Caesar, Andrew and I really had no plans of getting another cat. Pompey had been with us for two years, and was a joy in every way. He was simply an affectionate cat, lavishing us with love each and every day, and friendly to all visitors in our home. We were a happy little family.

As a proud mother of an adorable fur baby, I often browsed pet stores for new toys, collars and gadgets to spoil Pompey with. One of my favorite stores, PetSmart, works with local animal shelters to adopt homeless animals, and whenever I went into the store to get something for Pompey, I would always take a peek at the cats available for adoption, sometimes stopping to pet and coo at particularly sweet looking cats.

It was on one such visit that a cat of distinguished bearing caught my eye. He was a tall, long, and lean cat, with a charming pink nose outlined in black, and a most rakishly nipped ear. He was approachable and friendly, running up to the front of his cage to greet visitors with a little head butt and a sweet "Meow."

I stopped for a moment to say hello, and gave him a few scratches on the head. The cat's outgoing nature reminded me of Pompey waiting at home, loving and playful, and I thought to myself, "Well, this charming fellow will surely find a home soon!" Giving him another quick pet, I left to continue my shopping and head home, happy having spent a few moments of kitty time with a sweet new cat.

It was some two weeks later that I found myself back at PetSmart, looking for some new kitty supplies. As always, I headed toward the adoption center, eager to see what new faces awaited me there. The adoption center always had a fast turn around, and each visit to the center was greeted with a whole new group of adorable, adoptable cats. When I arrived, sure enough, new cats were prancing about their cages, looking eager for a new home. Yet, something seemed a little amiss to me as I looked at all those cats, and suddenly, I saw why. The distinguished looking cat from my last visit was still there, waiting to be adopted.

Unlike last time, he was curled up towards the back of his cage, looking a little dejected. I felt sad for the cat because I remembered what an affectionate fellow he was on the last visit, so I went over to the cage to say hello again. When the cat saw me approach, he uncurled himself from his resting spot and trotted up to the front of the cage, giving a little head butt when he reached me. I spent several minutes giving him scratches and pets, talking to him in a friendly manner. As before, he soaked it all up, giving sweet little purrs and lots of affection back.

I wondered why such a sweet cat was still at the center. I looked at his information tag on the front of the cage for answers. The tag stated that he was a friendly, loving cat, who loved children and got along well with other animals. He had been surrendered by his family because of a move. Nothing seemed amiss; as a matter of fact, he seemed like the perfect adoptable cat. Why then was he still there?

As I pondered the situation, one little notation on his information tag caught my eye. It was a simple thing, really, but it was the most likely cause for his still being in a cage, unadopted. As a matter of fact, it was a reason many cats remained unadopted in shelters. There, written innocently on his tag, was his age. He was almost five years old, and for cats seeking to be adopted, the older you were, the worse your chances for being adopted were. The reasons for this are varied: most people are drawn to the fuzzy little kittens; others want younger cats less settled in their ways so they can adapt to their new families, and still others think that if an older cat is up for adoption then surely something must be wrong with it.

Yet this cat I was petting was fine- darling, in fact! He was a charmer- surely someone could see that! A cat as sweet as this one would be adopted soon, despite his age- it was just taking a little longer than usual. So I left the store feeling a little sad, but positive that some loving family would see the potential in that cat and take him into a loving home.

It was a while before I headed back to PetSmart again, almost three weeks after my second meeting with the distinguished cat. When I returned to the store, I once again made my way back to the adoption center, eager to see all the fresh new kitty faces. My eyes swept the rows of cages, seeing cats of all colors and sizes. There were so many new faces, filling all the cages, although one cage appeared empty.

I strolled down the row, peeking into cages, giving the occasionally pat on the head to a friendly face. As I passed by the sole empty cage, I happened to glance in, just looking in idle curiosity. What I saw wasn’t an empty cage at all, but one lone cat, curled way in the back corner, huddled into himself. The cat looked so forlorn, my heart ached for him. I stood by the cage and murmured to the cat, entreating him to come say hello. Slowly, the cat lifted his head and I saw with dismay that it was the distinguished looking cat from my previous visits. He was still there, despite all the time that had passed.

The cat looked at me solemnly for a few minutes. He seemed so dejected, as if he had given up hope of finding a new home. How many times had someone been to his cage door, calling entreaties, offering scratches, and then just walked away? I myself had done so twice. I felt horrible, and afraid, too. Sometimes, if a cat is in a cage too long, with too little interaction, a cat can change. The cat can become mean, lashing out at anybody who comes near them. Other cats become sick, the loneliness causing them to stop eating, until they simply waste away. What had become of this cat?

Yet, slowly, the distinguished cat began to unfurl himself from the back corner of the cage, and headed over to me. He approached the front of the cage, and delicately sniffed at my fingers, almost as if he believed I might snatch them away. When I didn’t move, he then rubbed his head into my hand, and a slow purr emerged. The sweet cat was still there, just a little more cautious and a lot more sad. I spent several minutes lavishing him with all the affection I could.

With reluctance, I eventually left the center to head back home. My heart was heavy with worry for the cat I had left behind. He was so sweet and gentle, and I remembered how the first time I met him he had reminded me of Pompey. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I knew I needed to do something.

At home, I told of my worry to Andrew. He remembered I had mention the cat on previous occasions, and when he found out that the cat was still there, waiting for a home, he felt as I did, that something should be done. So we looked at each other, thinking of the cat waiting in a cage, and Andrew was the first to speak: “We should adopt him.”

Although we hadn’t previously thought of getting another cat, the idea suddenly took hold with a surprising strength. We looked around our apartment and knew we had enough room for another cat. We looked at Pompey, our loving cat, and thought of how well he got along with others, and how, although he was happy whenever we were around, perhaps he was lonely while we were at work? We looked at each other and wondered if perhaps the cat was still at the center because he was waiting for us.

Within moments of the idea settling in, we were in our car heading to the PetSmart. Once there, we headed towards the adoption center and over to the distinguished cat. He was once again curled in the back corner of the cage, huddled into himself, but when he saw us approach, he immediately got up and headed over to greet us. Andrew held out his hand and the cat went right over to him and began to run his head back and forth over Andrew’s hand. Andrew grinned as the deep purr of the cat rose up around us. “There was no way that this cat will remain in a cage, ” Andrew said to me. “He’s ours.”

We quickly tracked down an adoption coordinator and began filling out the forms. The coordinator was so thrilled that we wanted the cat. She knew us from all our various visits to the center, and could tell we had a deep love for cats. This cat in particular was a favorite of hers, and she, too, had been heartbroken that he had stayed in a cage for so long. With a glad heart, she handed us our newest family member, a sweet, distinguished looking cat with a loving nature.

We took our new fur baby home with happy hearts. Although we had not intended on a second cat, we knew from our trusty reference manual Cats for Dummies how to integrate a new animal into a household. Once more, as we had done for Pompey, we had a safe room set up and into that room we took our new cat. He immediately took to exploring the place with an avid curiosity, stopping occasionally to look at us to determine if we were still truly there. He was particularly interested in the little cat paws that occasionally poked underneath the safe room door- Pompey was attempting to say hi. Andrew and I smiled at each other, knowing that we had made the right choice, that this cat was indeed ours.

And so it has proven true. Our new cat, soon named Caesar*, fit into our lives like he had always been there. He loved to sleep at the foot of our bed at night, and liked to flop in front of door when we came home from work for some cuddle time. Most of all, he loved Pompey. The two of them took to each other like bees to honey. There was never any tension in introducing the two. Within minutes of their meeting, they were grooming each other and playing. It was like they were long lost brothers, finally reunited.

Caesar has become our joy- a vibrant light in our lives. His nature is very kind and loving, yet also regal and protective. When we adopted Caesar, we were also inspired to do something for the other cats we couldn’t save. Our hearts had broken at the thought of poor Caesar wasting away in a cage, so we decided to help by becoming a foster family for animals. Foster families work with shelters in caring for cats like Caesar. We take in sick cats and nurse them back to health. We take in sad cats and lavish them with love and affection. We take in feral cats and tame them. Mostly, we give cats hope and love. So far, every foster cat we have taken into our home has found a new, loving home to call their own. It’s a small thing to do, but each time we do so, we like to think we’re giving one more distinguished cat a change at a happy life.

Thank you, Caesar.

*Names have been changed to protect the furry! :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lisey's Story by Stephen King

I have long been a fan of Stephen King. When I first started reading him way back in the seventh grade some countless years ago, I was looking for a type of terrifying read I couldn't find in any R.L.Stein book. King's books fairly shivered with fear. He captured horror on the page with the pen of a master, making ordinary things objects of sheer terror- cars, paintings, periods, and coke machines, just to name a few. I started with Carrie, and quickly followed with Salem's Lot, The Shining, Rose Madder, and The Stand, among others, in rapid succession.

What I didn't realize at first, and indeed, what is so often overlooked in King's writing is that which makes him a true master of his craft: it is not so much the horror of the situations he creates that terrify us, but rather it is the truth of his characters that carries the thrill. His characters seem so much like ourselves and our friends and our families that when they experience situations of sheer horror, we feel like we ourselves are suffering that very same terror.

Simply think about it: In all the great Stephen King novels, it is a character that pulls you in. Think of Carrie, the abused prom queen with terrifying powers. Think of Dolores Claiborne, that proud, strong, stubborn narrator of the book of the same name. What of poor, beleaguered and tortured writer Paul Sheldon, whose miserable experience we followed in Misery? Would any of these books be compelling if the characters were not people we could relate to?

Yet, for all that King’s past novels have carried this incredible power of character, it is in his latest novel that this talent truly shines. Lisey's Story is a poignant and powerful tale of love, carried on the shoulders of the memorable characters that live inside the novel.

The book opens with Lisey sorting through her husband Scott's belongings. Scott was a writer of world renown, and it is only two years after his death that Lisey has the heart to begin the arduous process of sorting through Scott's office, the one space that truly lives and breathes her husband's memory. As she browses through decades worth of magazines, journals and books that Scott contributed to, she is reminded of their past, of their life together. We, the reader, are treated to a journey of memories: harrowing, loving, and bittersweet memories, an accumulation of a lifetime spent together. We meander through first meetings, author tours, lover's talk, and even an attempted assassination.

Journeying with Lisey through her memories, an image of the love she and Scott shared is built. We see how a life is built together, each experience lending itself a new layer to a growing relationship. We learn of their secrets: lovers’ chats, secret words, painful moments, anger-filled fights. We even see how love endures, even after Scott’s death, with Lisey finding small, private jokes popping up in unexpected places in Scott’s office for Lisey to find.

And yet, as this is a book by the master of horror, there is an underlining to the story, a slow seeping otherness that shadows Scott and Lisey's life. It is Boo'ya Moon, a strange otherworldly place where Scott visits, seemingly for both escape and inspiration. It is a place of heart-wrenching beauty and unnamed horror waiting in the shadows. As much as Scott finds the wellspring of creativity in Boo'ya Moon, he finds an age-old demon that haunts him until his death. Lisey, both to bring closure to her life, and to reach out one more time to Scott's memory, travels to Boo'ya Moon, to conquer the demons, both real and imaginary, once and for all.

Between the exquisitely touching relationship of Scott and Lisey and the strangeness of Boo'ya Moon, this is a book to savor and enjoy. I found myself rereading passages, drinking in the words. Some pages thrilled me with scenes of slow drawn horror, others wooed me with sweet romance; my heart broke in some places, and my soul sobbed in others. When I turned the last page, it was with infinite sadness, for Lisey had become a dear friend, and I was distraught to let her go. It is a rare book indeed that can inspire such heights of emotion, and an even rarer author who can craft such a novel. It is with this book that Stephen King shows truly that horror is not the only thing he is a master of- he is a Master of Words, of Stories, of Characters, and Truth. I look forward to the next journey he takes me on.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Of Rome, Cats, and Silly Nicknames

I have long been fascinated by ancient history. I love to immerse myself in stories of Ancient Egypt and Rome. I’ve spent many a pleasant evening absorbed in fascinating stories that take place in these long ago time periods. Cleopatra by Margaret George swept me away with its lush language and engrossing historical detail about that beautiful and intelligent Egyptian Queen. Troy and Ithaka, both by Adele Geras, were written with a rare lyrical beauty, bringing new life to the story of the fall of Troy, with the many stories weaving together to form a beautiful tapestry of words.

My fascination with this ancient past runs so deep that I spent two years studying Latin, just so that one day I might walk among the ruins of Ancient Rome and speak a familiar language. With this deep rooted fascination, is it any wonder I was captivated and intrigued with the HBO miniseries Rome? I stumbled upon this series quite by accident, actually. Having no television, I am generally out of the loop with current shows. It was only by sheer luck that I ran across a review for the DVD box set of the first season of this epic miniseries, and curiosity demanded that I immediately check it out from my local library.

What followed was an amazing thirteen hours of intense drama, superb acting, superior plots, and the most luscious of historical details. Andrew and I both found ourselves drawn into the world of Rome, which chronicled the rise and fall of Julius Caesar, both from the point of view of well known historical figures and the common man of the streets. Although we well knew how the tale ended- Caesar dead on the Senate floor- the twists and turns that led to that fatal ending had us gripping our seats in intense anticipation and emotional turmoil.

One of the plot aspects that kept us thoroughly engaged was the interactions of sometimes friends and sometimes enemies, Caesar and Pompey. We were fascinated by the push and pull these two characters had on each other. Even as they drew apart to fight on opposite sides of a power struggle, there was still that lingering tensions of a not-forgotten friendship.They fought side by side together in many a battle and, yet, time and power drew them apart.

Now, it might be apparent that these two characters,Caesar and Pompey, left quite an impression on Andrew and I. After all, our two furry little children are indeed nicknamed Caesar and Pompey. I wish I could say that the noble struggle of those two fascinating historical figures inspired our furry little children's aliases but, alas, that is not the case. Oh no, rather it was a series of exceptionally well timed cat antics that inspired their names.

It just so happened that one night, as Andrew and I were watching the final two episodes of Rome, biting our nails in anxiety as the end was near- both for Caesar and the mini-series-that our two cats decided to get playful right in front of our television. This in and of itself was nothing new, they play-fight all the time, chasing each other all around our house. This time, however, there play-fighting was a well choreographed duel that precisely matched that of the onscreen duel between Caesar and Pompey.

On screen, Caesar, lean and lithe, gave a mighty slash with his sword. Our Caesar, lean and lithe, gave a mighty slash with his paw. On screen, Pompey, a little bit slow and pudgy from the good life, made a desperate counter slash with his sword. Our Pompey, a little bit slow and pudgy from the good life, made a desperate counter slash with his paw. Onscreen, Caesar attacked again with a graceful counter slash. Off screen, our Caesar attacked with a graceful counter slash. Onscreen, Pompey evaded with a several steps back and an ill swung swipe of his sword. Off screen, our Pompey evaded with a several steps back and an ill swung swipe of his paw.

For every blow that the onscreen Caesar gave, our Caesar followed. For every evasion the onscreen Pompey attempted, so, too, did our Pompey. When at last the battle ended, the onscreen Caesar was victorious but showed mercy to Pompey by letting him escape with his life. Our Caesar, no less generous, let our Pompey go with a sympathetic lick on the head.

It was that climatic battle that sealed our two furry children's fate. They had so accurately fought out the onscreen battle of Caesar and Pompey that they had become Caesar and Pompey. It only made sense that they should be named Caesar and Pompey in real life, if only as an occasional nickname for when they run rampant throughout the house.

And so it was, and so it is, that whenever the mood to chase each other wildly throughout the house arises in our cats, Andrew and I look at each and say, "The endless campaign of Caesar and Pompey begins anew." And the glory of Rome lives on.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

All About Pompey

Shortly after Andrew and I got married, we decided our life was missing something: the pitter patter of little feet, or more accurately, the pitter patter of four furry little paws. It was time to get a cat.

To prepare for our new arrival, we bought Cats for Dummies, a book that, for all that it has a silly title, is filled with valuable information. Together, we read the book from cover to cover, soaking up advice on how to find the perfect cat, and then how to care for that perfect cat. We went out and bought everything we needed and then some. We bought a litter box and food bowls, a scratching post and cat bed, pet brushes and nail trimmers, toys and more toys. We set everything up in our guest room, making it nice and cozy. Our book had said it was best to set up a "safe" room for a new cat, a place where they could feel comfortable as they adjusted to their new living environments. When everything was ready and in place, we felt we were ready to go out and find a cat.

We went to a nearby shelter, to see what cats were available for adoption. There were several other families looking, and Andrew and I joined the small crowd of "oohhing" and "ahhing" potential cat families. We spent time peeking into each cage, watching the cats as they lazed about or paced back and forth. We spent some time in the giant cat room at the shelter where the older cats spent their days in comfort. Was there a perfect cat for us at this shelter?

We wandered around the shelter some more, and my eye was caught by a cluster of people around one cage. The "ooohhhs" and "aaahhhs" were much louder at this cage, and I was curious as to why. I peeked in a gap between the cluster of people, and saw a little kitten, a very little, itty bitty kitten, prancing about, preening under all the attention and admiration he was receiving. He was easily the youngest and smallest kitten at the shelter, which might have explained all the admiration he was receiving. I thought he was cute, but nothing about the little kitten really called out to me.

I was about to turn away from the cage when something again caught my eye: movement. There was another kitten in the cage. He was slightly older and bigger, with black and white markings. He was trotting back and forth behind the younger kitten, eager to get some attention himself, but the large crowd ignored him in favor of the younger, smaller kitten. Something about that older kitten, the way he eagerly moved about, looking adoringly up at the faces peeking into his cage, tugged at my heart. I couldn't believe no one was paying any attention to him.

I decided to move in closer to the cage, elbowing my way past the crowd. I managed to wedge myself near a corner, and immediately the black and white kitten came running in my direction. He butted his head against the side of the cage, trying to get closer to me. We had an amusing few minutes of cage play, with him rubbing up against my fingers and prancing about in pleasure. Before long however, one of the other kitten's adoring fans requested to hold the itty bitty kitty, and I had to move away as the small kitten was placed into the welcome arms of one of his welcoming fans. My little black and white kitten looked crestfallen. Why had his roommate got picked up but not him? I immediately tapped the shelter attendant on the shoulder and asked if I could hold the black and white kitten. My request was granted.

That black and white kitten just melted into my arms, with a purr starting up immediately. He seemed so content to just be held. He looked up at me with golden eyes and seemed to say, "Gee, I could get use to this!" As I cradled him in my arms, I continued to walk around the room, looking into other cages. My little companion looked about with curiosity as we moved from cage to cage, but he never squirmed to get away, never growled at another cat, never did anything but purr contentedly. I must have held him for twenty minutes before I reluctantly passed him over to Andrew. The black and white kitten didn't put up a fuss, just again snuggled right down into Andrew's arms, and then looked up at him adoringly, as if to say "I like you!" Andrew became smitten with the kitten, too.

As Andrew held the kitten, we looked at each other. We looked at the little black and white kitten. The black and white kitten looked up at us. We knew we had found our cat. Andrew passed the kitten back to me and tracked down an attendant to start the adoption paperwork. I held that kitten for a half an hour while Andrew answered question after question on the adoption form. The little kitten never stopped purring and never made even the slightest move to get down. He was just content to be held and continued to look up at me with an adoring look upon his face. He knew he had found his family.

Although the shelter was no more than 15 minutes from our house, it was one of the longest car rides Andrew and I had ever shared, that drive home with our new kitten. The shelter had let us take our new family member home that very day, tucked safely away into a carrier. Our new kitten cried like his heart was broken during that car ride. He had started crying as soon as he was placed in the carrier because we were no longer in his sight. We talked soothingly to him, but nothing helped. We knew all that kitten wanted was to be held and to see his new family. We were never so grateful to get home in our lives!

Up in his new room, our kitten showed just a passing interest in his surroundings, rather, he was eager just to get closer to us. Andrew laid down on the floor and I sat down on the futon in the room, and the little kitten spent an hour running between the two of us. He eagerly would run up to Andrew, go nose to nose with him, and give Andrew several adoring licks on the nose. Then, the kitten would run across the room, jump up onto the futon, crawl into my lap, up my arms, onto to my shoulders, so he could get nose to nose with me and give several adoring licks to my nose. He repeated this endlessly, until he finally fell asleep in my lap with a cute kitty grin on his face. He was definitely happy in his new home and he loved his new family.

Later that evening, conscious of all that our trusty worthy Cats for Dummies book had told us, we kissed and petted our new little addition, newly named Pompey*, goodnight, and left him to the safety of his "safe" room. We immediately regretted it. Rather than spending the time exploring his new space, relishing in the safety of the 'safe' room, our little Pompey begin to cry. If Andrew and I thought that the car ride home was unendurable, well, this was worse. After having spent several blissful hours with us, Pompey couldn't bear to be parted from us. He cried like the world was ending. Andrew and I stood outside the door, holding each other, willing each other the strength to do what the book told us what the right thing to do.

We caved.

Within fifteen minutes, we had let little Pompey out of his room, and he was having a grand time running around our house, exploring every nook and cranny. He never strayed far from our sight. In fact, Pompey would constantly run up to us, just to look at us. He always had this look upon his face, one that said, "Yup, you guys are still there!" Everything our book had told us to expect- shyness, a little fright, perhaps, the need for a secure space- this kitten didn't need. Apparently, we were his secure space. As long as Pompey had us, he was fine.

When it was time to go to bed, Andrew and I were firm in our resolve NOT to share our bedroom with the cat. We were not entirely sure we wanted a kitten, a very playful kitten, bounding and pouncing on top of us all night long. We decided that if Pompey had the full run of the house, he would surely be fine. There was lots to explore. We once more said good night to our new little fur baby, and then shut ourselves into our 'safe' room.

Well, by this point, I'm sure you can guess what happened. Little Pompey sat in front of our door and just sobbed his little heart out. Where were we? Where had we gone? He missed us. We couldn't take it. It was too much, this pitiful cry of Pompey's. We opened our door, and Pompey leaped joyously into our room and up onto our bed. He promptly claimed his own space right above our heads, nestled on the pillows, and fell right asleep. Andrew and I drifted off to sleep ourselves, lulled to dreamland by the gentle kitty snores and sighs of Pompey.

It's been five years since that first day with Pompey, and each day with him has been a joy. Pompey has been an endless source of love and devotion for us. We adore him just as much as he adores us. To this day, Andrew and I look at each other, look at Pompey, and wonder what we would ever do without him. He's such a wonderful member of our little family, a sweet little person in a furry package.

*Names have been changed to protect the furry! Pompey is just an amusing nickname for my furry little baby.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Life without Television.

For the past two years, my husband Andrew and I have been conducting an interesting experiment: living life without television. We didn't intend to make it an experiment- quite frankly, our television-less state evolved from a move to a new apartment in which we were too lazy to call the local cable company to set things up and a strong desire to save fifty bucks a month. We had plans to at least get an antenna- but as we were too lazy and cheap to call a cable company, we never got around to that (as a side note, a relative got exasperated at our television-less state and bought us an antenna for Christmas last year. When we hooked it up in August, we were amused to see we only got two very fuzzy channels in languages we can't quite comprehend).

Being television-less has some interesting side effects. For one, we miss out on a lot of water cooler conversation. No, we haven't seen the latest Survivor or that action packed episode of 24. We're lost when it comes to Lost. We don't have a favorite hero on Heroes. Occasionally, we go through withdrawal. We had been addicts of shows like Law and Order and Monk, and suddenly, they were gone from our life. We'll never know if that criminal was brought to justice or what weird small clue solved the case. I in particular feel cravings for the Home and Garden channel, because I absolutely need to know the latest on home design (I like to dream!).

On the other hand, we find we have a lot of time on our hands. We read a lot. The latest Stephen King? We've read it. The final Harry Potter- we read it the night it came out (Okay, so did everyone!). We play games: Andrew still has yet to catch up to my some 5,000 point lead in Rummy, and I still can't beat him at Chess. We go for lots of walks. We play with out cats. Sometimes, we watch movies (we have no cable or antenna, but we still have that big black box collecting dust). We talk a lot. It's a nice quiet life, and we rather like it.

How long is this experiment going to last? I don't know. We've been dancing around the subject for a while now, wondering when we'll cave. The one thing we know is that when we do decide to get reconnected to the television life, we're going to make sure we know where that off button is and make good use of it.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Summer Reading Begins!

Ah, Summer has returned. The sun shines bright in the sky, brilliant in its golden haze, the heat washes over the land in warm balmy waves, and people rejoice in all the light, greenery and warmth. Well, most people do, but as for myself, this becomes my huddle and hide season. During the summer, I love nothing more than to avoid the sun and heat, and curl up inside- with air conditioning!- and read a good book. I'm just not made for the heat, I suppose- I did grow up in an Arctic Climate (Iceland, anyone?) after all, but that's a story for another day!

Summer provides ample opportunities to indulge in my favorite activity, reading, but my reading is slightly altered during these summer months. As a children's librarian, I feel its my duty (okay, it's really a joy!) to immerse myself in all the new children's literature with an occasional classic thrown in for good measure. After all, summer is the one time of year kids have the chance to read for themselves, and I love being able to converse with my patrons about good books, ones they've read and ones I've read. Its one of the wonderful perks of my job. Therefore, my summer reading list is quite varied, as I jump from genre to genre in an effort to read as much wonderful children's literature as possible before September rolls around.

So what exactly am I reading? This summer is proving especially diverse: I started off with the hot Young Adult title, Twilight by Stephanie Meyers. This was recommended to me by a patron, who said it was a great book, and she absolutely loved it. I have to admit, too, that it was a pretty good, rollicking read. A story of young love with a twist- the main love interest just happens to be a vampire! The story is filled with lush descriptions, some intense action scenes, and a healthy dose of angst-filled romance. Narrated from the first person point of view of Bella, the 17 year old heroine, the tone is both warm and amusing, I found myself reaching for the sequel, New Moon almost immediately, and am anticipating buying the third and final book, Eclipse in the next few weeks.

I followed Twilight with a jaunt into animal fantasy by reading Kenneth Oppel's Silverwing. I have to confess, of all the genres of literature out there, animal fantasy is my least favorite. I just can never wrap my mind around the concept of animals acting like humans. Yet, for all that I am not found of animal fantasy, Silverwing proved to be a rather good read. Once I accepted the fact that I was following the story of a young male bat named Shade, I was quite charmed with his heroic journey to join his colony after being separated from them during a horrible storm. The characters, for bats, were quite diverse and well rounded, the action was gripping, and the bits of mystery scattered about (what are those silver bands some bats have?) were gripping. I might, just might, pick up the other two volumes in this trilogy.

Next up is actually another jaunt into animal fantasy: Swordbird by Nancy Yi Fan. This book caught my eye because the author started writing the book when she was 13. The novel is turning into an interesting allegory for peace, using tribes of birds as representatives for the human race. The plot is compelling (how to maintain peace when war is threatening from all corners) and the writing is fairly well done- outstanding, in fact, when you consider the age of the author!

The next few weeks are being claimed by perhaps the biggest phenomenon of the summer for children's literature- Harry Potter. I am an avid fan, of course, and with the seventh and final book about to be released, I want to refresh my memory of all the wonderful twists and turns of the past six books. Already, I have kids coming into the library wanting to discuss theories (is Snape good or evil? Will Voldemort or Harry die? Who is RAB?). It is fantastic to see so many children involved in this book series, and wonderful that, thanks to Harry, many have opened their minds up to other books. Harry Potter might just be the reason we have such a strong generation of readers!

My reading list will continue to grow over the summer as kids and friends and coworkers tell me of must read books ( The Manny Files by Christian Burch just landed into my to-read pile!). It will be interesting to see what the summer brings (just so long as I don't have to go outside!).

Friday, May 4, 2007

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Heart Shaped Box is a hard novel to review. Not because it was a bad read, but because the author's background is hard to separate from the story. Joe Hill, soon after his book was published, was revealed to be the son of Stephen King. Some may say the revelation was a publicity stunt, and maybe it was on the publisher's part, but I do not believe this was Hill's desire. According to reports and interviews, Hill was careful not to tell his publishers exactly who he was until his manuscript was accepted on its own merits. I can respect and understand that: how can you know you are good if you are published on your father's laurels? Add in the fact that Heart Shaped Box is a ghost story and I believe Hill hands down. You have to be pretty blasted bold to write and publish a ghost story while hanging on your father's, the master of horror's, reputation.

So, for the moment, let us set aside the notion that Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King, and see how Hill stands on his on two feet.

Heart Shape Box opens on one of the most absurd, but logical premises: an aging rock star, Jude Coyne, (think an American Ozzy Osbourne, but one who was a little more sober) buys a ghost off an Internet auction site. Absurd, yes, but logical, too: after all, there seems to be EVERYTHING for sale on eBay. The ghost really does exist: a menacing figure of an old man, with disturbing black squiggles for eyes- as if a child scribbled on the eyes in a photograph with black marker. Yet, the ghost is no ordinary ghost, however, rather he is the ghost of the father of one of Jude's cast away girlfriends, and he's out for revenge.

What follows is a curvy, up and down ride of slow thrills and chills. Hill takes the simple yet absurd premise and builds up a tale of surprisingly chilling horror. Nothing is ever how it seems, neither Jude nor the ghost, the haunting or the haunted. The story itself takes off in directions not to be expected: for example, rather than stay and fight the ghost at home, Jude hits the road- if he has to fight a ghost, he'll fight it in his own way and time. The result is an enjoyable thrill ride, and a nagging feeling to check the eyes of any suspicious person for black scribbles.

Now, as mentioned above, Hill does have an impressive family background, and the question remains: how does he compare? The answer is simple, yet complex. Joe Hill stands on his own. If you read the book with no knowledge of who his father is, you would find it perfectly enjoyable: the writing is impressive, well composed; the plot is quirky, unique, enjoyable; the characters seem like old friends. Those same traits, though, are what his father is known for. Yet, rather than just being an imitation of King's style, Hill has shaped that style into a form of his own. The bones are the same, the delivery- excellently done- is all his own. It is obvious Hill learned on the knee of a master, but it is also apparent that Hill is a writer of his own merits- one to watch.

Bottom line: Joe Hill is a writer to watch, and his parentage just makes the package all the sweeter.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

You may have heard of this book, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, it was recently selected for Oprah's Book Club. It was really amusing, actually, because the day before the book was announced, I ran across a review of the book, which reminded me I wanted to read this title due to the interesting concept, and I placed a hold at the library for it. Who knew that this grim little book would be Oprah's book choice?

And The Road is a a grim little book. It is sparse and dry, empty and full of quiet heartbreak. One does not smile reading this book. One does not feel joy reading this book. McCarthy paints a bleak future, where man hunts man and the world is dead. After closing the pages of this book, I felt tired and emotionally dead. The book left me feeling there was no hope in the world, if that was the end.

The story follows a nameless man and his son. In this future world, names do not matter, only survival. The man strives on only for his son: if he can stay alive, so can his son. The son is suppose to be a bright beacon. He still believes in good guys and honesty and something waiting at the end of the world. Yet the world this child walk through shows nothing to support this belief in good amd a future. The earth is dust, dry and barren. The few people encountered on the road are theives and cannibals. Starvation is a constant companion.

Yet, for all that the book is depressing and draining, it is compelling. Although you know there is no hope, it is written into the very landscape of the novel, you read on, hoping against hope for some ray of hope. The writing is crisp and smooth: McCarthy has a deft hand at words. If you are looking to go on a journey with a master storyteller, regardless of an outcome of sheer darkness, than this is a book to persue, but if you are simply wishing for a pleasent read, well, one might wish to look elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Angelica by Arthur Phillips

On the surface, Angelica seems simple enough: a classic take on the Victorian ghost story, with a slight psychological twist. The plot revolves around a young mother in Victorian England who begins to suspect that her daughter is being haunted by a vengeful ghost. But what begins as a simple Victorian thriller spins out to be a complex and thought-provoking study of human relationships and the delicate nature of the human psyche.

The book starts from the point of view of Constance Barton. Her young daughter, Angelica, is finally being sent to stay in her own room, after having spent the first four years of her young life sleeping in her parents' room. The move is more traumatic to Constance as a mother than it is for her young daughter. Angelica is Constance's only child, after a painful series of ill-fated pregnancies. She also serves as Constance's protection from intimacy with her husband Joseph: Constance has been warned that having further children will kill her, and as a result she fears her husband's touch.

On Angelica's first night in her own room, Constance wakes in the middle of the night, feeling uneasy and bothered by a slightly noxious smell. She follows it to the door of her daughter's room, peers in and sees a ghostly sight: a faint blue glow hovering over her daughter. Thus begins Constance's battle with nightly terrors, and the reader's journey into wonder: What is Constance seeing? Is it truly a ghost? Is Constance stress and terror over the separation from her daughter causing hallucinations? Or is something even more sinister at work?

When Constance's story reaches its pinnacle, the novel takes an unexpected turn: the story turns back on itself, and begins again, only this time from the perspective of Anne Montague, a medium whom Constance called upon for help. Things first seen from Constance's perspective are now shown in a new light: conversations have a new depth, events a slight twist. Angelica's haunting is seen with a fresh eye and new suspicions: the mystery expands as new details are revealed. Anne's tale then spins to a close to reveal the same tale again, this time from Joseph's point of view. The book closes with the recollections of Angelica herself.

The effect of a story told in four parts, over and over again, from a different perspective is an unusual one: a fifth perspective is created. That fifth perspective is that of us, the reader. Following the tale as told by four separate voices, one cannot help but tell the tale to themselves, thus creating one's own private interprations of events. The result is a tale both engaging and thought provoking, one that will stay with a reader long after the book is done.

Angelica is one of those rare books that, when you close the cover on the final page, you can't help but see the world in a new light.

Who am I? And why are you reading me?

Welcome to my little spot on the Internet! After idly reading other people's blogs for ages and ages, I decided it was time to be a lemming and start my own blog of random musings.

I have to confess, though, that I live a very boring life with not much excitement in it. I'd wondered for a while what on earth to blog about, without much success, until just the other day inspiration struck! While my life is fairly boring, I liven things up by reading, reading, and reading. To say I am an avid reader would be an understatement- I am never without a book, never. So, I thought I would blog about the books I read, or rather, those books I feel merit blogging about (I'll spare you the boring ones!). Occasionally, I might even comment on movies, TV shows, and other random occurrences in my life, as the mood strikes me.

Beyond all that, who am I really? Well, that's a secret! But, as my name suggests, I am indeed a librarian (hence the love of books), but that "witty" part is up for debate. I am also happily married to Andrew and have two adorable fuzzy children, Caesar and Pompey (they're cats, so they are suppose to be fuzzy).

So that's me, and this is my blog. I hope you enjoy it, and maybe you'll find a good book or two or a dozen (and remember, all books are available at your local library!).