Saturday, December 1, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Maybe this blog will just become about cats

Watching this makes me immensely happy:

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ebony and Ivory

We have noticed some differences between our cats.  As in: we think one is retarded, and the other isn't.  Okay, retarded isn't the right word.  She's just... odd. 

These are our two cats:

I love both my cats.  Well, I'm using the word "love" loosely here.  They both have strengths and weaknesses.  Abba is very well behaved.  Rocky is very smart and affectionate.  I wouldn't part with either of them.  But as with pretty much everything, there is a flip side to the coin.  Rocky is naughty, crafty, and tries to get away with drinking the milk from our cereal bowls when we're not looking.  Abba is just... "special."

Take tonight, for example.  We came home from a movie to find that Rocky had left us a present on the back doorstep.

This is the whole reason I got cats in the first place.  As far as I'm concerned, Rocky is finally pulling his weight and earning his cat chow.  Good cat.

...And then there's Abba.  I was getting ready for bed and she came frantically into the room, communicating something like this:

Oh, Abba. 
Abba frequently stares at the wall above my bed.  There is nothing on this wall.  Nothing is happening on the wall.  There aren't even shadows or cobwebs on this wall.  But she keeps a steady eye on it!  Yes, sir.  If that wall puts one toe out of line, she will be on top of it!

Sometimes Abba comes up to you, panicked, crying, "Meow!  Meow!  Meow!  Meow!  Meow!  Meow!" desperately trying to get your attention like someone going, "Hey!  Hey!  Hey!  Hey!  Hey!  Hey!" 
Until I finally can't take it anymore and turn to her and say, "WHAT, Abba?!!"

And then she gives me a look so confused and irritated, she could be a teenage girl who's just been interrupted in the middle of a call on her cell phone, as if to say, "What?!  NOTHING.  Geez."

Yes.  Abba is the ditsy blonde of the family.
It's what we love about her.
Because if we didn't have her here, life would just make too much sense.  We need Abba.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Day 30 of my really long book discussion

I think we're somewhere around 6 months for this "30 day" book discussion.  Sorry.  I was depressed and then I got pregnant, it's lucky I somehow came up with 29 blog posts before this.

So this post is about Your Favorite Book.

A few months ago I came up with this great idea on how to tell this post with something insightful to say, etc, etc.  And then the next day I forgot what that insightful thing was supposed to be.  So I kept putting it off thinking it would come back to me.  It didn't, so I'm just going to tell you what my favorite book is:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

I know.  It's not fantasy or sci-fi or young adult.  The first time I read this was actually in college, but not for a class.  I worked in a tech support office, and in between calls I took advantage of a program on the computer that had a collection of books, many of them public domain books (I also ready The Secret Garden this way).  So I slowly started working my way through Pride and Prejudice in between my phone calls, and I steadily became more engrossed until I was rushing home after work and bringing up the novel online to finish my chapters and see if Mr. Darcy was going to talk to Elizabeth again.

I didn't know very much about the book before reading it, as this was 2004 and the Keira Knightley movie didn't come out until the next year.  I think I had seen the BBC version but didn't remember a thing.  Anyway, experiencing the twists and turns of Elizabeth's subtle relationship with Mr. Darcy (with no prior knowledge of it) had me holding my breath and staying up late.  I think this is the reason that the book remains my favorite book today, because the emotions that I experienced while reading it were so captivating that they made a lasting impression on me, and I guess I am still pretty captivated (if the way I continue to seek out Jane-Austen-y movies and books is any indication).

One of the biggest impressions the book made on me was the way that Elizabeth's feelings towards Mr. Darcy slowly, slowly changed as she started to re-evaluate his behavior and realized that she had been mistaken about him in so many instances.  And not only that, she also began to realize that Mr. Darcy was a good, thoughtful, breathtakingly honorable man.  And she had just rejected his marriage proposal.  Nice one, Elizabeth.

Anyway, like I discussed in my last blog post, everyone has different preferences, and those preferences are all okay.  If you don't like Pride and Prejudice, that's fine.  If you do, right on!  But I think the Favorite Book is a highly personal choice that is usually shaped by our personal experiences and views, and in a way, that's really cool that we're all so unique and can enjoy so many different things.

So what is YOUR favorite book?  When is the first time you read it?  Do you think that seeing movies can ruin experiencing a book for the first time, or are movies beneficial for exposing a wider audience to books?

Thanks for doing the book discussion with me, everyone.  I know it's been a long-haul, but it's been really fun to hear about your experiences and talk books with all of my friends and family.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

30 Days of Book Discussion: Day 29

A book everyone hated but you liked

Alright, people. We need to talk about a little thing called Personal Preference. Frequently I have patrons who come up to me and say, "Do you have ____? My friend read it and said it was good." Usually, this is a big, big title that is checked out and we don't have on hand. Thank heavens! If I ever inquire into this friend's "recommendation," they usually admit to me that they know nothing about the book, all they know is that their friend liked it. Silly people.

Luckily, when we don't have the book checked in they usually say, "Well, can you recommend anything for me?" WHEW. Thank goodness. You made the right choice.

See, librarians are trained in this little thing called, "Reader's Advisory." That's a clunky term that's short for, "We're trained in figuring out how to recommend a book that's just right for you to read." We start by asking questions like, "What do you like to read? Do you have a favorite book? What have you read that you liked?" Some silly patrons are very resistant to these questions and just want me to pick a book off the top of my head that they will love. More helpful patrons will give me even a couple of answers to work with.

Usually I find that the person who had come in to ask for "The Kite Runner" (that their friend recommended) is really interested in cozy mysteries and Shannon Hale's light young adult fantasy books. Not that there's anything wrong with The Kite Runner... apart from the brutal sexual abuse, maybe. And maybe that person would like it, of course there is always a chance of that! But I will probably recommend something a little closer to their tastes... like something by Gail Carson Levine or Alexander McCall Smith.

So anyway, I have been doing this 30 "days" of books thing, and a few people have said to me, "Hey I read that book you liked. - I didn't like it." Hehehe. Well, I understand it's hard to resist when you hear a really emphatic review of something, or when you like the reviewer.

But the point of all this is to say: if you're looking for something good, something you will like, read a few reviews first (maybe one good and one sort of in the middle - Amazon and Goodreads make this so easy), or call your local library. Seriously, we do this over the phone. Just have a couple of book titles ready that you really liked and they can make some good suggestions for you. Ask different librarians, since we all have our own ideas also. There are also great websites out there that build read-alike lists (i.e. if you liked The Hunger Games they have a list of 20 other books you might enjoy), author read-alike lists, very specific genre searching, all sorts of stuff. Novelist is one of my favorites, which your library probably subscribes to. It has some great search options that let you narrow your search by crazy things like Pace, Tone, Writing Style, etc.

In case you're interested, it seems like what a book focuses on can be the real dividing line between Personal Preference. Readers usually gravitate to one of the following:

Action-packed: Pulse-pounding, high-octane excitement is the rule in these books!
Character-driven: The interior growth and development of the characters is an important element in these books.
Intricately plotted: These books have intricate, complicated, or elaborate storylines, often involving multiple plots, large casts of characters, or numerous narrative twists and turns.
Issue-oriented: Issue-oriented books explore controversial themes, which may cover a variety of emotional, ethical, or social problems.
Plot-driven: In these books, a pivotal event or series of events move the story forward; characters often react to the events, rather than causing them.
World-building: Almost exclusively found in works of fantasy and science fiction, these books immerse the reader in a vividly-created imaginary world that possesses such intricacies as invented histories, languages, geography, or cultures.

For instance, I am a world-building kind of gal. I really like immersive world type experiences. Historical fiction can really float my boat in addition to science fiction and fantasy, if I can experience a different world or time through the sensory experiences of the novel. However, I would never recommend a novel with world-building as it's main focus for a certain co-worker of mine (you know who you are). She is really into character-driven books - oh my goodness. If a book has believable, realistic characters who go through some kind of profound growth or development, and the book mainly focuses on them and doesn't get too waterlogged with setting descriptions and battle sequences (or preferably none of those), she's good!

Sometimes you find books that satisfy multiple kinds of people. I love the Hunger Games for the plot-driven world building. Experiencing a different world and time, the consequences of what has happened in history and how people are dealing with it, I love that. My co-worker loves the same book because of what happens with the characters - they are totally believable and she loves watching how they act and react, the choices they make, how they change, all that stuff. Other people really like the action in the books, or the plot twists, or the love triangle, or the controversiality of teens in a death battle.

So, in conclusion, this post was supposed to be about a book that "everyone hated but you liked." But I don't want this to feel like the proverbial drawing of a line in the sand between you and me, this book or that book. Everybody's different, and as far as I'm concerned as a librarian, everyone is making good choices. If you're reading a book: good for you. I will not judge you if you want another recommendation for a boddice-ripper romance. I have a couple favorites. =D

So, I would have to say for A book everyone hated but you liked, I would choose the Eragon series.  This is sort of a grey area, as there are LOTS of people who really like these books.  But I have also come across a LOT of people who don't like them.  I've heard a lot of complaints about "the writing" (which I think is a subjective term anyway, but that's another post), or complaints about the length or tangents or whatever.  Basically, all I'm hearing is: "I don't like long descriptive passages about fantasy crap."  Or "I like fast-moving books and don't want to diverge on tangents again and again."  Or whatever.  It's all just preferences to me.

Personally, I love all the descriptive tangential fantasy crap.  But that's just me enjoying the world he's created.  See?  So what about you?  Is there a book you feel like no one liked but you?  What about your reading preferences?  Are you a world-building plot fanatic like me, or do you like intricately-plotted, character-driven books?

(Next up: The last post of my book discussion and my Favorite Book!)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

30 days of Book Discussion: Day 28

Favorite Title(s)

I think "The Way of Kings" is one of the coolest titles ever.  Don't you just want to read that?  I mean, before you find out that it's 1000 pages long?  I want to know what the way of kings is!  Then I can be like kings... and their ways....

Other titles...
Some food-related ones we were discussing at work today:
"The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" and
"The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"

"5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth"
"I Was Told There'd Be Cake"
"Cry, the Beloved Country"
"Their Eyes Were Watching God"
"Ella Minnow Pea"
"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"

That last one is a particular favorite.  I could keep going.  In fact, I've erased a bunch because I didn't want it to get too long.  So how about you, any titles you adore?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

30 days of Book Discussion: Day 27

The most surprising plot twist or ending

I think this question is just asking for spoiler anger.  So if you're one of the three people that hasn't read The Hunger Games yet, then read no further.

The Hunger Games was full of twists and turns, but I think my favorite was Peeta announcing he was in love with Katniss on national television.  It's the kind of moment where I rub my hands together and think, "Now we're getting somewhere."

What about you?  Do you know of a good book with a great twist or surprise ending?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

30 Days of Book Discussion: Day 26

A book that changed your opinion about something

So I have this sister that's into natural birthing and midwives and such, and I always thought that stuff sounded a bit crazy.  There's an episode of Frasier where Niles and Daphne hire a freaky doula who bangs on bongo drums and chants things and is basically insane.  After being pushed over the edge, Daphne ejects her from the apartment saying, "I'm going to have my baby the way God intended: in a hospital, numb from the waist down."

Anyway, I didn't have a great outlook on "alternative" birthing methods - that is, alternative from what I was expecting to do myself.  So when I was pregnant with Jane I started reading this fascinating book called Birth Day by Mark Sloan, a pediatrician.  It was a great book to help me understand more about the birthing process, which it describes in detail, and it also discusses the history of childbirth (did you know that women used to have their babies crouching down, but when Louis XIV made his wife have a baby up on a bed so everyone could watch, doctors started making their patients do the same because it made it easier for the doctor to have access to the whole... situation.  Stupid Louis XIV).

There really were a number a fascinating stories in the history of how we got to hospitalized, medicated childbirth, which he doesn't endorse one way or another.  But he does discuss some interesting studies being done in the birthing world at the moment  (one of my favorites talked about how men's hormones are altered permanently when they care for a pregnant partner during the entirety of her pregnancy).  But the thing that really struck me the most while I was reading this book were the studies done on female companionship during birth.  I ended up scanning the pages and now I email them to my friends whenever they become pregnant.  Basically they had two groups of women: one group who labored alone, and a second group who had an unfamiliar, untrained woman in the room with her who basically held her hand and chatted with her.  The women who were accompanied had drastically shorter labors: 8.7 hours compared with the 19.3 hours in the control group.  Fewer of them also ended up needing cesarian sections: 7% compared with 17% of those who labored alone.

He goes on to talk about how further studies were done with professionally trained doulas doing continuous labor support through the entire process, and how those numbers were even better.  So I finally asked, "So who are these doulas anyway?"  I also asked my sister more about her natural birthing methods and started reading some materials that she gave me.  My initial reactions to it all were resistant: this is crazy, I'm not into this mumbo jumbo.  I even got angry at how silly it seemed at first.  But as I kept investigating, I became more impressed by the methods and psychology of it all.  The results from the studies I read about in Birth Day were so motivating, in fact, that I decided that I wanted a doula.  10 hours less of labor?  Yes, please.

So basically, that's how the book changed my mind about something.  It opened me up to a new way of thinking, and I found a wonderful doula.  The concept of doula changed from a chanting, drum-banging hippie to basically a very nice registered nurse that I paid to stay with me during my entire labor and delivery, who rubbed my feet and answered medical questions in the very moment that I had them.  She also coached me through Jane's birth, and stayed with me afterward when Michael and Jane went to the nursery for her bath and I would have otherwise been alone.  The whole experience I've described, sincerely, as being like "unicorns jumping over rainbows," and I attribute 90% of that to my doula, Katherine.

How about you?  Have you read any books that ended up changing your mind about something?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Can I complain for a minute?

Sorry to break up the book discussion, but I just wanted to talk a little bit about years.

Years seem to have themes for me.  I started noticing this in 2008, but I've realized that the trend goes back much farther than that.

2008 is what I refer to as "The year of depression."  Because that's pretty much what I experienced for the entire year.  After a huge disappointment earlier in the year that lingered for about 6 months, I then experienced a miscarriage in October that took me out for the rest of the year.

2009 is "The year of illness."  I'm counting a bit of December, 2008 in this, when I was in the ER 4 times for kidney stones.  Then I had several illnesses throughout the winter and early spring as a consequence of all the ER visits and medication.  Then I got pregnant and became unbelievably sick for the rest of the year.

2010 was "The year of joy."  I had Jane and the high didn't go away for 11 months.  Jane is so wonderful and sweet and amazing and every month I was incredibly happy to have her in my life.  Nothing brought me down.

Until 2011.  The best way I can think to describe that year is, "The Crucible."  2011 was incredibly awful.  I can't even really explain because I don't want to live through it again, but I'm still feeling a bit shell-shocked and numb.  The best comparison I can think of is being ground into a fine powder, slowly and excruciatingly, over a period of 1 year, until you're nothing even close to resembling what you were before.

I was telling Michael about this in January, and he said, "You know what?  2012 is going to be the year of fun!  I declare it to be the year of fun!"  I am trying to not tell him that they years don't really show their true colors until it's too late, but his positivity is encouraging and when I told him that I wanted to go to Comic Con in July, he said, "Yes! You are going because this is the year of fun!"  You have got to love someone like that in your life.

Pessimism notwithstanding, I am sort of getting hopeful.  I think this might be a good year?  Do I need to run and find some wood to knock on?  I found myself today contemplating making a dinner.  This is big.  It has been so long since I've even felt motivated to do that, as opposed to just lethargically making food out of a sense of obligation (I do feed Jane.  Most days).

Is this a sign of things to come?  I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope.

Just as a note: here is my best guess at summarizing recent years:

2001: Year of Serendipity
2002: Not good
2003: One of the best years of my life
2004: "Just keep chugging"
2005: Chugging and getting better
2006: Year of Success
2007: Year of enjoying life
2008: Year of depression
2009: Year of illness
2010: Year of joy
2011: The Crucible
2012: ???

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

30 Days of Book Discussion: Day 25

A character who you can relate to the most

The first character that comes to mind is Katniss from The Hunger Games, although we have pretty much nothing in common.  But I think Suzanne Collins just wrote an amazing character.  Katniss's thoughts and way of thinking feel very natural to me, and she is a character who is easy to sympathize with.  I am also strongly impacted by the dystopian nature of the novel.  I am instantly attracted to characters who are set in a world that is supposed to be utopian but where they have enough presence of mind to see that there could be cracks in the veneer of perfection that is supposed to be there.  I find that compelling and it's what attracts me to dystopian novels in general.

I have to admit that I can't stand main characters who are very flawed.  The stories that I connect to most have a protagonist who has good qualities and is essentially what I consider to be a "good person," people who have a sense of right and wrong and who try to do the right thing.  Usually if I really like a movie it's because the main character was valiant in some way that I admired.  I know that most people probably feel the same way... I just think that maybe the degree to which I like a movie is very heavily influenced by the admirability of the main character.

I was telling my sister the other day about an awful movie that I watched on Netflix.  The main character in this movie was immature, manipulative, conceited, dishonest, and arrogant.  I hated her and I hated the movie.  But... I watched the whole thing because it had pretty dresses.  I have a weakness, okay!  I like pretty dresses, shut up.  I can like those.  If you're going to write a movie about abhorrent characters, you better have some good costuming.

So what about you?  What characters do you relate to?

Monday, January 30, 2012

30 Days of Book Discussion: Day 24

A book that you wish more people would’ve read

This is an easy one.  There is a good mystery that I read a few years ago, and I have kept up with each new novel in the series so far.  It's called The War Against Miss Winter by Kathryn Miller Haines.  It's set during WWII, and Rosie is living in New York trying to make it as an actress.  She works on the side as a secretary for a detective, and when he turns up dead one of his clients enlists Rosie to finish what he started.  It's a decent mystery, moving along well, and Haines has done a remarkable amount of research into WWII-era New York City.  She brings the sights and sounds of it alive.  Haines was a screen writer before she started working on this series, and I think she has a good sense of timing and keeping things moving.

But by far the best part of this series is Miss Winter herself.  I love this character.  She is sassy and witty and loyal and adventurous, and is absolute fun to read.  She says quippy things like, "Her sincerity was so thin you’d be arrested for wearing it out in public."  I just hear Katharine Hepburn's voice saying that, don't you?

What's sad to me is that this series isn't more popular or well known.  I think the first book suffers from unfortunately bad cover art, and that can really affect readership sometimes (something that they've rectified with further books).  But I think most of the check-outs of this book in my library have come from my own recommendations.  I've even had people come up to me later and say, "You know that WWII mystery you recommended for me?  It was really good!"  Well, yeah!

This is a good pick for people who enjoy historical fiction and whodunnit mysteries, especially for those with interest in the WWII era.  Book #2 in the series wasn't great, but the rest after that have been pretty good, like the first.  Rosie even goes on a USO tour in the South Pacific!  It's fun but still sobering at times with the war taking place all around her.  Very enjoyable.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What day am I on again?

Oh, right.

30 days of Book Discussion: Day 23

A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t

This would be The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

More correctly, this is a book I have read half of when I was 14, and then never finished. I was reading it thinking "This is the most awesome book I have ever read," and then I saw the Wishbone* episode where they reenact the Count of Monte Cristo. After seeing it I was like, "So the first half of the book is awesome, and then the second half is just about stupid revenge? Lame." So I never finished it.

But in the back of my mind I'm hoping that perhaps if I finish reading the book, it will be more meaningful than I'm expecting and live up to the first half, so it's sort of an unfulfilled ambition thus far. There are just too many YA fantasy books out there in the meantime.

Remember Wishbone?  I loved that show.  Except the one where he played Cyrano de Bergerac was a little far-fetched.  Get it?  Fetched?  Just kidding.  But seriously, I felt really bad for the actress who had to unknowingly be in love with a Jack Russel Terrier.  I assume that was probably a low point in her career.