Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gentlemen and Players, by Joanne Harris

I just finished this book, literally, five minutes ago, and all I can say is, "Oh. My. God."

I really can't tell you too much about this book, kittens, because there are so many plot twists and turns that I'm afraid that I will give away spoilers. Because of the number of plot twists and turns, you may wish to read it again after a while, just so that you can re-trace all of the steps that Joanne Harris has masterfully laid out in this marvelous book.

I will, however, tell you of the basic plot. The story takes place in England, at the St. Oswald's Grammar School for Boys. Roy Straitley is a 33-year veteran Latin teacher at the school, beloved by his pupils and his colleagues. He is also, as you will discover in this book, the center of a rather bizarre, twisted plot of revenge. This revenge plot is very well crafted; it starts of slowly, as a series of minor incidents, but then gradually builds up to a very, very surprising climax in the last chapter.

Joanne Harris really makes her characters come to life. I had read Chocolat when it was first published and absolutely loved it. She puts so much effort into the minor details. Or rather, what you may think of as a minor detail eventually comes along and becomes a much bigger factor in the story. I love books like this!

Now, I've said before that I'm not much of a fan of the mystery genre. I'm starting to warm up to it, though, thanks to books like Gentlemen and Players. What other mystery novels do you recommend?

This is the latest entry in my 2009 100+ Reading Challenge, my 2009 2nds Challenge, my 2009 Read Your Own Books Challenge, and my 2009 A to Z Challenge. As always, click on the buttons in the sidebar for archived lists of all of my challenges!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Watership Down, by Richard Adams

This review is a little different than usual, kittens, for I am fulfilling one of the tasks that the lovely Jenners has spelled out in her Take a Chance Challenge:

Poetic Review. Write a book review in three different forms of verse: haiku, limerick and free verse. (You can pick any book you want to write about.)

So let's start off with a little haiku. I haven't written any haiku in a long time, so I may be a bit rusty:

Disgruntled rabbits
Form their own society
In a large warren.

Haiku: done. Now for a limerick:

I just read a book about bunnies,
Which was not written like the funnies.
They banded together
In all sorts of weather
To form a new tribe of smart bunnies.

OK, not the best limerick in the world, but that part of the challenge is done. And now for the free verse:

Fiver had a premonition:
Man was coming.
Their lives were in danger.
He set out with Hazel and other bunnies
To find a new home.

They found a new home
In Watership Down
And made some new friends along the way.
They also learned
That not all bunnies are as nice and kind as they were.

They went to Efrafa
To find some does,
Or rather, female rabbits,
Because they realized, without females,
They couldn't complete the circle of life.

Efrafa was dangerous,
A strictly-controlled society.
One of their own, Bigwig,
Became a patrol officer
And planned to get some rabbits out.

Efrafa's leader, General Woundwort,
Was authoritarian and controlling.
No one left Efrafa under his watch.
He was a large, intense rabbit
Who easily intimidated.

The General learns of Bigwig's plan,
And immediately plots revenge.
Bigwig and lots of does make their escape,
But Woundwort's bucks follow.
Who will be victorious?

Will Bigwig and the escapees make it back
To Watership Down?
Will the new warren thrive?
It's easy to find the answer:
Read the book!

Kitten's final thoughts: I understand why this book is considered a classic. It's got a lot of the classic literary epic themes in it; various points in the book reminded me of passages in The Odyssey. There is also lots of commentary on political structures, such as Communism and democracy, although it is not directly stated. Read the descriptions of Efrafian society carefully and you'll see what I mean: there are spies everywhere, patrol along the borders of the warren, and bucks who are well-trained in combat.

I really enjoyed the book in the end, but it was difficult to get into at first. It took me a whole month to read. The last 150 pages, though, are where the action really picks up. It's all worth it for that last section.

This is the latest entry in my 100+ Reading Challenge, my 1st in a Series Reading Challenge, my A to Z Challenge, my Support Your Local Library Challenge, as well as the first entry in my Take a Chance Challenge. As always, click on the buttons in the sidebar for all of the archived lists!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The songs in my head

I was going to do a post on this last week, but I already wrote two "Songs in My Head" posts, and decided to postpone this one till now.

Yaya also mentioned this song in her last Friday Fragments post.

So kittens, sit back, relax, and enjoy "That's Not My Name," courtesy of The Ting Tings.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday at Bookkitten Headquarters

First of all, thanks to everyone who has dealt with all of my mood swings over the past month. I know I have said it before, but I will say it again: I really, really appreciate every single one of you. I really do love you all, and have missed sharing news of my life with you. Often, if I'm stressed or cranky, I tend to take it out on people, and that's not healthy. I promise you all I will be more careful about this in the future.

The regular members of the Kit Kat Club (aka The Very Best People in the Blogosphere) know that I have had a very busy, at times stressful, two months. At my job, the months of May and June are particularly stressful--and this year was more stressful than most, since I had more professional obligations. Additionally, I had a lot of social events to attend, which was always very nice, but by the beginning of this month, my body was sending me signals--fatigue, the occasional low-grade fever, tickly throat--signals which were supposed to tell me, "Kitten, slow down! You're doing too much!" Well, I ignored those symptoms--almost till it was too late.

What started off as a mild cold proceeded into a moderate sinus infection. Fortunately, it wasn't so bad that I had to go on antibiotics, but it still took me out of commission for a couple of days. Last Wednesday I went to the doctor because I had this annoying post-nasal drip/scratchy throat/colored mucus combo. The Good Doc insisted it was viral, and prescribed me cough medicine with codeine. Now kittens, please keep in mind that, prior to my doctor's visit, I had only been sleeping in four-hour intervals. I was overjoyed when I got this medicine, because I thought, "YAY! I can sleep more now!"

The meds actually made the problem worse--I started sleeping in two hour intervals.

By Father's Day, I had spent over $150 on meds--prescription and otherwise--to treat this stupid illness. Prior to that I had purchased two bags of cough drops, a ginormous box of Kleenex, and renewed the scripts for my inhalers. Finally, out of desperation, I bought a bottle of Mucinex (a wonder drug, by the way) on my way home to the Cat Homestead for the day honoring Dear Old Dad, and how did I spend it? Box of Kleenex to my left, Purell to my right, and working on work that I couldn't do Saturday because I had to sleep all day. Needless to say, I was in a winning mood on Father's Day. Mama Cat E-mailed me the next day, asking how I was, and mentioned that Papa Cat thought I had the flu. Thank God it wasn't that!

So, long story short, I'm feeling MUCH better. The Mucinex did its job, and I'm now on a regular sleeping schedule again. Plus, I'm now on vacation, which also helps tremendously.

Still, it doesn't truly feel like summer--yet. I keep checking my Google maps to make sure I'm still living in Connecticut and not in Seattle. It's been raining...and raining...and raining. Today the sun finally came out, and I was so shocked that I didn't know what to do with myself. I'm serious. I forgot what a sunny day looked like. On the plus side, everything looks so green and lush and gorgeous. Put a blue sky against the backdrop and it'll look fabulous!

Tonight, if the rain stays away (they've been predicting rain forever here), I'm going to attend a New Britain Rock Cats game with the Cat Family. We're celebrating Sister Kitten's 30th birthday. And tomorrow, I'm meeting up with some old friends for an outdoor pops concert in Fairfield. Sunday is our church's annual picnic. I'm sooooo looking forward to these events!

Oh, and one more thing before I leave you all for now...I'm back to reading again! I now have time to hold a book in my paws! I'm on page 231 of Watership Down. It was slow in the beginning, but now it's starting to get really good.

Okay, sorry about the tres long update, kittens, but I wanted to let you all know what was going on and that I haven't forgotten about you! Again, thanks so much for your support and your friendship. It really means a lot to me. Have the best of weekends!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dear So and So...

Special thanks to Yaya for introducing me to this neat little feature, sponsored by Kat at 3 Bedroom Bungalow.

I think I'm going to enjoy this little feature, as it will help me get some things off of my chest.

Dear So and So...

1. Dear Blogger,
You have annoyed me beaucoup lately. Nine times out of ten, when I attempt to open my blog, all I get is my header, April's button, and nothing else. No widgets, no posts, nothing. And five times out of ten, I get the old "operation aborted" message. I have read in various places around the blogosphere that good ol' Internet Explorer is the culprit for this, and that Firefox is better. But could you PLEASE tell me the truth as to why you have so many...well, faults? Fix 'em soon, or else I shall defect to Wordpress.

I miss reading my blog, Kitten

2. Dear employees of AC Moore's,
Get your inventories straight! When I ask three different employees about what they sell at the store, I would like to make damn sure that I get one answer--the SAME answer--from each one! Yesterday I went to buy a yarn winder for my sister. One employee said they carried them, another wasn't sure, and yet another said that they didn't! Time for more employee training!

Frustrated customer, Kitten

3. Dear Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield,
I understand why regular Albuterol (a rescue inhaler for asthmatics) was taken off the market, due to its CFCs. I understand why I now have a CFC-free inhaler, but dear God, why must you charge me $35 for it, when I used to get it for $5 as a generic?

Hopefully I won't be another statistic in the ongoing healthcare battle, Kitten

4. Dear Mother Nature,
The last time I checked the map, I lived in Connecticut. Why, oh why, have you decided to transplant me to Seattle? It has rained almost every single freaking day this month. This afternoon I saw a bright light and didn't know what it was at first...and then I suddenly remembered, "Ah, so this is what the sun looks like."

I'm too pale for this time of year, Kitten

5. Dear Hartford Courant,
One of the reasons why I don't subscribe to your esteemed publication is that I can read it online for free. Another reason is that your recently redesigned paper is just plain awful. Well, guess what? So is your newly designed website. That and the fact that I get more local news--that is, news about my town--from our unofficial town blog than your paper. Have you forgotten about our existence? After all, we're home to an esteemed, renowned university as well as one of the country's top diners!

Feeling just a tad invisible, Kitten

And finally...

6. Dear Maggie and Gabby,
You know better than to wake up Mama when she's on vacation. For God's sake, let me sleep! And let me adjust sleeping positions every once in a while, too!

Don't worry, I still love you both, Mama

In shock

I went to sit down on the couch for my nightly visit with the NBC Nightly News when Brian Williams leads off the newscast with the following breaking news:


What...the...hell? My jaw literally fell to the floor. I stayed glued to my spot on the couch for the entire broadcast--even the commercials. I can't believe he's gone.

And this, coupled with the fact that Farrah Fawcett died earlier today, makes this one of the most tragic, sad days Hollywood has experienced in a very long time.

I remember when I was in the eighth grade, and I came home to the news that Sammy Davis, Jr. had died. I was saddened; I was raised on re-runs of 70s variety shows and really enjoyed his performances.

Then I was upstairs about an hour before dinner, doing my homework, when my sister wailed from the living room. That's how I found out that Jim Henson had died.

That news sent me over the edge. Sammy Davis, Jr.'s death was horrible, but for Jim Henson to die in the same day--and die so young--was too much to deal with.

Jim Henson was an institution in our house. Sister Kitten and I have been huge Muppet freaks since we were born. For us, losing Jim Henson was like losing a member of the family.

And now, something similar has happened today, with the premature deaths of two pop culture icons. I don't know what else to say other than, while I wasn't a huge fan of either Michael Jackson or Farrah Fawcett, I'm still very saddened by the news of their passings. I feel terribly for their families and their loved ones right now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Bookkitten's iPod Playlist: June 23, 2009

It's a lazy summer evening here at Bookkitten HQ. So lazy that I've taken to abbreviating...and y'all know I don't do too much of that.

Anyhoo, I put the iTunes on shuffle tonight and came up with this playlist...eclectic, but it works.

1. "Dancing in the Moonlight," Toploader
2. "Everything's Just Wonderful," Lily Allen
3. "Girlfriend," Avril Lavigne
4. "I've Got a Thing About a 5-String," Bill Anderson
5. "New York Minute," Don Henley
6. "1979," Smashing Pumpkins
7. "Circle in the Sand," Belinda Carlisle
8. "Vision of Love," Mariah Carey (haven't heard this one in a LONG time...I know Bikini Girl sang it on the last American Idol, but I don't watch AI)
9. "I Can Do That," A Chorus Line, Original Broadway Cast
10. "Starry Eyed Surprise," Paul Oakenfold
11. "Heaven is a Disco," Patti LuPone
12. "Hips Don't Lie," Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean
13. "Cool Night," Paul Davis
14. "Pieces of Me," Ashlee Simpson

Alphabet meme

Stolen from Eadyn over at Faded Pictures and Misprinted Lies.

A - Age: 33

B - Bed size: Queen

C - Chore you hate: It's a toss-up between folding laundry and cleaning the litter boxes.

D - Donuts or Kolaches: What are kolaches?

E - Essential start your day item: COFFEE!!! Although lately, since it's been so humid and muggy here, an extra-large unsweetened iced tea from Dunkin' Donuts.

F - Favorite color: Purple. The deeper and plummier the shade, the better.

G - Gold or Silver: Gold

H - Height: 5'.25"

I - Instruments you play: the flute (in my younger days), my voice, and the occasional kazoo.

J - Jokes or Rhymes: Jokes

K - Kids: 0

L - Living arrangements: own a condo, live with two cats

M - Movie: Anything (almost) with Jared Leto

N - Nicknames: Shorty, Squirt, among others

O - Overnight hospital stays: 2005, stayed in the hospital for four days and three nights. I had a horrible asthma attack, which was exacerbated by the fact that I had the flu--and didn't know it.

P - Pet Peeve: People who have no respect for proper grammar.

Q - Quote you like: "A lot of comedy is tragedy plus time." --Carol Burnett

R - Right or left handed: Right

S - Siblings: Sister Kitten, who is three years younger than moi

T - Time you wake up: During the week, between 5:30 and 5:45. On the weekends, I sleep in till about 8:30.

U - Underwear: Most of the time.

V - Vegetable you dislike: Peas.

W - Ways you run late: Reluctance to get out of bed. Staying up late the night before, then paying for it dearly when I get ready for work the next morning.

X - X-rays you've had: Chest X-rays for pneumonia, as well as dental ones.

Y - Yummy food you make: Caprese pasta salad, bittersweet mocha coffee cake

Z - Zodiac sign: Pieces

Monday, June 22, 2009

More songs in my head

OK, just when I thought that more songs couldn't pop into my head, like the two that I posted yesterday, this pops up:

And that was in the afternoon hours! Here's what I was humming during the morning:

Who knows what songs will be going through my head tomorrow?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The songs in my head

Welcome, kittens, to another edition of "The Songs in My Head," where I have some random songs that I get stuck in my head so badly that I need to pass them on...to your little noggins. So that they can get stuck in your heads.

However, I hope you thank me for my choices today, since these two songs are positive, upbeat, and perfect for a first day of summer dance.

Okay...I'll be honest...it's been raining here in Connecticut...and raining...and raining...and raining some more...I almost forgot about that yellow orb that provides us light and life. I think it's called...the sun?!?

Anyhoo, here's the first tune, which comes to you courtesy of Relient K. It's called "Must Have Done Something Right".

And here's the second tune, a remake of the old King Harvest tune, "Dancing in the Moonlight." I'm not usually one for remakes but these guys do a stellar job with this:

Kittens, what songs are in your heads right now?

Friday, June 12, 2009

We'll return with your regularly scheduled programming, after this pause to ask you for your pledges of support...

It's THAT time of year, kittens. That time of year when NPR stands for National Poorhouse Radio. It's also that time of year when PBS stands for People Begging for Some cash. All of the programming on these shows gets interrupted because they need your hard-earned dollars to continue operating.

On that note, kittens, I'm not asking you for money right now. I'm not putting up widgets from PayPal asking you to donate your hard-earned cash to support my blog (that's what Google ads are for, but I think they'd crowd my already over-crowded side columns). I'm gonna keep this blog a non-profit, thank you very much.

But on a serious note, thanks for bearing with me over the past few days. Those of you who are friends with me off-blog know what I do for a living, and at this time of year, it gets difficult sometimes. Fortunately I've got some well-earned vacation days coming up, and tres soon. :)

So this means that you won't see our regular features today--Friday Favorites, Focus, Fragments, Felines, and Fill-Ins--now with fotos since I am now a Friday Shoot-Out gangster. Over the next week I've got some important stuff to deal with off-blog. I'll be checking in with you all when I can, plus I'll be sending out some tweets.

And there are some book reviews coming tres soon. Right now I'm currently 125 pages into Watership Down. I'm sorry, I know it's a classic, but for some reason I can't get past the bunnies. I hope it picks up soon.

So anyway, that's it for ahora. Stay tuned to your Google readers for the latest listings, and we'll be back to uninterrupted programming soon. Thanks for tuning in. :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Clip of the Week: Canoeing the LA River

I honestly didn't know there was a river flowing through Los Angeles.

But count on Conan and Andy to navigate these waters.

I'm so glad Conan's on earlier. I can always count on him to make me smile. :)

(P.S. Yeah, I know this is the third Conan post I've done in the past week. But lately he's been the one thing cheering me up at the end of the day.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

If one more person asks me to do one more thing...

...I'm gonna hit my head against the wall and just. Keep. Pounding.

For those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, you'll recognize this as my status from last night...and up to now, since I haven't changed my status yet.

Lately, my life both in and out of work has consisted of questions like these:

"Kitten, can you do this for me?"

"Kitten, I need you to be at this meeting at 3:45."

"We need you to complete this by noon."

"So and so has been looking for you for the past 2o minutes."

"We need you here...we know it's short notice, but we really need you here."

Now, imagine that all those five above sentences are crammed into one, and say them as fast as you can, and you get the picture as to why I'm spinning like a top.

Don't get me wrong, I function better when I'm busy, but lately it's all been TOO MUCH!!

I also have another problem.


I've always had trouble saying no to people. Well, depending on the situation...I'm not like Ado Annie that I accept a date with anyone who asks. But I've always been willing to help and volunteer for things. However, there's a part of me that is a huge people-pleaser. I don't like to disappoint people, and have always been fearful of what will happen if I say no.

I've gotten better over the years at saying "no" to certain things, but I still go overboard with the yesses sometimes.

This is not one of those times, though. When your boss tells you to do something, you do it. Fortunately I have a really great boss who knows when things get too much for me. He's trying to teach me how to delegate. It's a lesson I'm learning, albeit slowly.

Anyhoo, I need some rest, and soon. This morning I locked my keys in my car after I arrived at work, and I've been a whirling dervish ever since. Fortunately AAA unlocked it for me in record time.

But I can't rest right now. I've got choir practice soon. And I have to bake pumpkin bread for someone who was a huge help when I locked myself out of my car.

Eight hours of uninterrupted sleeps sounds so luxurious right now, so glorious, so decadent...


Monday, June 8, 2009

A slloooooooooowwwwwwwww daaaaaaaaayyyyyyy...

This has been the slowest day I've had in a loooooooooonggggggggggg time.

Everything was slow today. I'd be at work, plugging away, and I'd look at the clock and realize that only five minutes had passed. And that was the whole day.

It didn't start off well. I almost slept through the alarm and forgot to make my coffee (!). Then I got to work and realized that I forgot to bring the food that I had to bring for a meeting after work today. Fortunately I have book club in...FIVE MINUTES?!!?!

Everything has been slow today--my computer, my cats, my brain...

I have book club in five minutes.


Excuse me, kittens, I need to get going...I've been slow...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

An apology...

I recently received a comment from a reader that hurt me. She said that she was going to stop following me because of something I had said in a post I had written earlier this morning. I was afraid that I potentially offended other readers by what I had said, so I deleted the post in question.

Am I being too sensitive for doing this? Maybe. There's another part of me that wants to say, "If you don't like what I write, don't read it."

But this really bothered me. I did not publish the comment, because that was my choice. I need to set the record straight here: I am a decent person. I am not hateful; I respect all races, creeds, religious beliefs, and sexual orientations. I do not mean to offend anyone who reads this blog, and if I do, I apologize. But if I hurt one person, I wonder how many others I could potentially--but unintentionally--hurt as well.

I also need to let you all know that this is not strictly a book blog. It started out that way, but it has grown to something much more. I don't have time in my life to keep a separate book blog and a personal blog, so I just use this as an outlet for many topics. Sometimes I do get political, and I have strong political opinions. I don't mean to slander anyone who does not believe in my political opinions, but again, if I do, I'm sorry to offend.

So, the bottom line is, if you don't like what I have to write, don't read it. And if you think I'm being a wuss for writing this post, just mention it in the comments and delete my blog from your reader.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Quote of the day

"[In the year 3000] YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook will merge to become one super time-wasting website called 'YouTwitFace.' "

--Conan O'Brien, "In the Year 3000 Sketch", The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, June 3, 2009

(Yeaaaaahhhhhh, I diiiiiiiiigggg Conan.) :)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Friday Shoot-Out: Random

Kittens, I haven't had time to go out and shoot some proper photos for this week's Friday Shoot-Out. I had a clever idea for the "random" theme, but life has kept me tres occupee this week. (Yeah, I know that "tres occupee" needs to have some accents in there, but how does one make accents in Blogger? Help!)

Anyhoo, for this week's "random" theme, we could choose anything we wanted. And since they haven't made any appearances on the blog for a very, very long time, I thought it was time for me, the Bookkitten, to highlight...my own kittens.

So here are some of the best of my Gorgeous Grey Girl, Maggie, and her sister, my Most Colorful Girl, Gabby.

The first three shots were taken on the same day, within the same hour, in one of their favorite spots: my glider rocker. Note how they switched positions during their nap:

Notice especially how their sleep positions are nearly identical: same angles, same facial expressions, same tail position.

Here's a random cat fact for you: cats love boxes.

Cats also love bathtubs, especially on warm afternoons.

Mags never lies on the vanity. Notice how nervous she looks as I snap her photo:

Both my girls love to stare out the window from their perch. I'd love to photoshop the trees as a winter scene and use this as a Christmas card. I'd call it "Waiting for Santa":

Maggie loves boxes, too:
Gabs loves to take naps in the most random places. One day I was getting ready to go grocery shopping, and set one of the empty bags on the couch. Let's just say my trip to the store was postponed for about an hour:

We end with a shot of both gals on top of nice, clean, fresh from the dryer laundry. Notice how Mags has her leg wrapped around Gabby's body. They rarely cuddle like this, so whenever the opportunity presents itself, I get the camera out right away.

We wish you all a very happy weekend!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Quote of the day

"I've timed this perfectly. I'm on a last-place network, I moved to a state that's bankrupt, and tonight's show is sponsored by General Motors."

--Conan O'Brien, during his monologue on his first episode of The Tonight Show, June 1, 2009