Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Book Review: The Torchwood Official Magazine Yearbook by Titan Books

Torchwood: The Official Magazine Yearbook
Publisher: Titan Books (Sept. 23, 2008)
Hardcover $14.95
ISBN-10: 1845769368
ISBN-13: 978-1845769369

The Torchwood Official Magazine Yearbook is the ultimate guide to the second season of the BBC's hit series, Torchwood. One of two immensely successful Doctor Who spin-offs, Torchwood really came into its own during its second season.

Included in the book are brief character biographies of each team member, a Season 2 episode guide, interviews with John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness) and James Marsters (Captain John Hart), a set report from the filming of the episode "Something Borrowed", a tour of the Hub set, and five original short stories by Steven Savile, David Llewellyn, Andy Lane, Trevor Baxendale and Joseph Lidster. The short stories alone are worth the price of the book, but there are lots of other great features.

The yearbook is filled with full-color photos and behind-the-scenes information. If you've read the Torchwood Magazine, much of the content of the yearbook may be familiar to you. However, the magazine can be hard to track down in the United States. The yearbook is a great way to make the content of the (excellent) Torchwood Magazine more accessible to American fans, and it's truly a treat for any Torchwood fan.

Rating: 8/10.

Buy The Torchwood Official Magazine Yearbook:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

New Releases: Inkdeath, The Graveyard Book and Nation

Three young adult new releases of interest this week: Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and Nation by Terry Pratchett. I'll be reading and reviewing both The Graveyard Book and Nation soon. I'll be reading Inkdeath as well, but a review for that probably won't be coming any time soon since I still need to read Inkspell.

Tuesday Thingers: Banned Books: The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books from 1990-2000.

Tuesday Thingers
This week's question:
For this week's Tuesday Thingers, I've copied the list of the most-challenged books of the 1990s straight from the ALA website. I've highlighted the ones I've read. Highlight what you've read, and italicize what you have in your LT library.

1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
2. Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
8. Forever by Judy Blume
9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
15. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
19. Sex by Madonna
20. Earth's Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
30. The Goats by Brock Cole
31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
32. Blubber by Judy Blume
33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
37. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
40. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
46. Deenie by Judy Blume
47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
55. Cujo by Stephen King
56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
61. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
62. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
65. Fade by Robert Cormier
66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
71. Native Son by Richard Wright
72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies by Nancy Friday
73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
74. Jack by A.M. Homes
75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
77. Carrie by Stephen King
78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
88. Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford
89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

I really haven't read that many from this list, but I suspect I've read more of the children's titles than I highlighted. I have an awful memory when it came to books I read before the age of 16 or so. I read so much as a child that it all sort of blends together!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen Giveaway

Many thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway for Tess Gerritsen's new novel, The Keepsake. If you read my review, you know that I absolutely loved this book. Congratulations to all the winners!

As always, if you've won a prize from me, please send me an e-mail with your shipping information. My e-mail address is ruth [at] bookishruth [dot] com

The winner of the grand prize, a hardcover copy of The Keepsake and a signed bookmark is: Lana!

The six winners of signed Tess Gerritsen bookmarks are:

Again, congratulations to all of you, and check back on Thursday for another giveaway!

Friday, September 26, 2008

BBAW Giveaway Winners

Due to a rather nasty cold, I've been playing catch-up in the blogosphere since the weekend. So, without further delay, here are the winners of my BBAW giveaways:

The winner of the first three books in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series is Ramya!

The winner of The Sally Lockhart Mysteries set is Traci!

The winner of the first two Harry Potter books is Violet Crush!

Thanks so much to all the participants! If you won, please send me an e-mail at ruth[at]bookishruth[dot]com so I can send you your prize. Check back tomorrow for the winners in my Tess Gerritsen giveaway.

Review: The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

The Heretic's Daughter
The Heretic's Daughter
Author: Kathleen Kent
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company (Sept. 3. 2008)
Hardcover, $24.99
ISBN-10: 0316024481
ISBN-13: 978-0316024488

In her debut novel, Kathleen Kent offers a unique perspective of the Salem Witch Trials: the story is told through the eyes of a child, ten-year-old Sarah Carrier, daughter of one of the accused.

The Heretic’s Daughter begins months before the Salem Witch Trials. The Carrier family has just moved to Andover, Massachusetts from Billerica, hoping to escape the outbreak of smallpox there. Unbeknownst to them, one of Sarah’s older brothers, Andrew, is already infected. When Andrew becomes ill, Sarah and her younger sister Hannah are sent to live with their aunt and uncle, in the hopes that this will spare them from the disease.

On her own for the first time in her life, Sarah quickly bonds with her cousin Margaret. The two girls become inseparable. Sarah also notices a stark contrast between her family life and that of her cousin. Compared to Margaret’s family, Sarah’s parents – especially her mother, Martha Carrier – seem cold and distant.

When Sarah and Hannah finally return to their family, much has changed. Andrew has been ravaged by the disease, another family member has died from it, and many in the community are suspicious of the Carrier family. Sarah and her mother clash with each other frequently. Rumors begin to circulate about Martha Carrier, slowly at first but gaining strength as events in nearby Salem begin to incite mass hysteria.

At first, Sarah resents her mother and feels that Martha's willfulness and pride are what have damaged their family’s reputation in the community. But as the story progresses, and Martha Carrier is arrested for witchcraft, Sarah’s attitude towards her mother softens. She begins to admire and love the qualities in her mother that she previously resented. Sarah’s anguish over the fate she knows awaits her mother is palpable and heartbreaking.

Kathleen Kent’s prose is beautiful, frequently verging on poetic. One of my favorite passages is this description of Martha Carrier:
“It was not defiance only that made me study her so, although our cat-and-mouse-games did become a kind of battle. It was also because she, with a deliberation bordering on the unseemly, set herself apart from what a woman should be and was as surprising as a flood or a brush fire. … But Martha Carrier was like a deep pond, the surface of which was placid enough but deeply cold to the touch and which was filled beneath the surface with sharp rocks and treacherous choke roots.”
While Sarah’s relationship with her mother is the driving force for the novel, I found the relationship between Sarah and her siblings to be very touching as well. When Sarah is about to leave to live with her aunt and uncle, she’s given a handmade doll. Her departure came about so suddenly that the doll could not be finished before she left – it was missing buttons for eyes. One of Sarah’s brothers rips the buttons from his shirt cuffs and runs after her so that Sarah will have eyes for her doll.

The Heretic’s Daughter is one of the best historical fiction novels I’ve read this year. Kent’s narrative style is so refined that it’s hard to believe this is her first novel. If you enjoy excellent, well-researched and compelling historical fiction, this is a must-read.

Rating: 10/10

Buy The Heretic's Daughter:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

Monday, September 22, 2008

Book Review: Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins

Midwife of the Blue Ridge
Author: Christine Blevins
Publisher: Berkley Trade (Aug. 5, 2008)
Paperback, $14.00
ISBN-10: 0425221687
ISBN-13: 978-0425221686

As the sole survivor of a vicious attack on her village, Maggie Duncan is viewed by many in Black Corries, Scotland as a harbinger of bad luck. But Hannah Cameron, grateful to young Maggie for bringing her mortally wounded husband home to her, adopts the young girl. Hannah is a midwife and she soon teaches her healing skills to Maggie.

After Hannah’s death, Maggie finds herself in a difficult position. The people of Black Corries are very superstitious and blame her for Hannah’s death. Believing that Maggie possesses the “evil eye”, most of the villagers steer clear of her. When she’s offered a chance to sail to America to become an indentured servant, Maggie quickly agrees. Four years of work as an indentured servant seems a small price to pay for the promise of a new start in colonial America.

But the New World holds new dangers for Maggie. As settlers venture deeper into Indian territory, unrest grows within the local tribes. Indian raids are a constant threat. Illness can claim a person’s life swiftly, something Maggie is acutely aware of in her work as a midwife.

Along with the danger comes opportunity. Maggie’s skills as both a midwife and a healer are invaluable to the community. And when Tom Roberts, a vagabond hunter, starts to show romantic interest in Maggie, she begins to dream of a free life with him. Soon, however, Maggie will find her courage to survive in this new world tested as never before.

The Midwife of Blue Ridge is certainly a page-turner, but I found myself disappointed with several elements of the story. The crude language used throughout really distracted me from the main storyline. There were detailed descriptions of men urinating, numerous references to flatulence, etc. that I felt added little to the story. (One of the chapters of the book is entitled “Turds and Primroses.” While I appreciate that the author was trying to show the reality of frontier living, I often thought that these descriptions ventured into the realm of TMI – too much information.)

I liked Maggie’s character quite a bit, but I never felt a strong emotional connection to her. Several traumatic, emotional scenes are written in such a way that the reader feels like an outside observer. I really wanted to get inside Maggie’s head and know how these events affected her, but I felt that I was never given that opportunity. Events that should have had a lasting psychological impact were left largely unexplored.

The descriptions of medical treatment in colonial times were fascinating and they became one of my favorite things about Midwife of the Blue Ridge. There were lots of great little details like the use of spider webs to stanch bleeding or yarrow to ease the pain of a burn.

I felt that there was some unrealized potential with Midwife of the Blue Ridge, but I would not hesitate to read a future offering from Ms. Blevins.

Rating: 6/10

Buy The Midwife of Blue Ridge:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

Friday, September 19, 2008

New Releases: Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

Bookstores across the country are gearing up for the midnight release of Brisingr, the third installment of Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle. I read Eragon and Eldest in a single weekend last year, and enjoyed both of them. (I thought Eldest could have used some editing, however.) I'm looking forward to reading Brisingr, but I'll pick up my copy sometime during the weekend rather than this evening. Are you heading out to a midnight release party tonight?

Thanks Amy!

Amy, many thanks for a wonderful week. I hope you know that we appreciate all that you've done this week to spotlight all the hard work that we put into our blogs. I hope you feel as appreciated as you've made the rest of us feel!

This summer, after book blogging was patronized in the mainstream media, Amy from My Friend Amy made a suggestion that we celebrate book blogging. From that idea, Book Blogger Appreciation Week was born. Many of us have participated in interviews, contests, give-aways, and through awards; but, this would never have happened were it not for the dream, perseverance, planning, hard work and dedication of Amy. This has been a wonderful week and as members of the Book Blogging community, in one voice we want to thank Amy for all that she has done.

Amy, you are truly the Queen of Book Bloggers and we love you!

Review: The Lost Diary of Don Juan by Douglas Carlton Abrams

The Lost Diary of Don Juan
Author: Douglas Carlton Abrams
Publisher: Washington Square Press (Reprint Ed.; July 1, 2008)
Paperback, $14.00
ISBN-10: 1416532528
ISBN-13: 978-1416532521

Set in 16th century Seville during Spain’s Golden Age and the Spanish Inquisition, The Lost Diary of Don Juan is an action-packed look at the life and passion of the world’s greatest lover.

The son of a prostitute, Juan Tenorio is abandoned as an infant at the gates of a convent. He grows into a young man under the sisters’ loving care and instruction. Juan seems destined for the priesthood until he falls in love with one of the nuns, Sister Teresa. The two begin a passionate affair, meeting in secret each evening. When they are eventually discovered, Juan is forced to leave the Church.

The teenaged Juan Tenorio then joins a burglary ring in order to support himself. His skill as a thief and usefulness as a spy soon attracts the attention of the Marquis de la Monta, Don Pedro. The Marquis trains Juan as a libertine – one unbridled by traditional morality – and even secures a nobility title for the young man. Don Juan is a natural when it comes to the art of seduction, and his conquests are soon the stuff of legend. Unbeknownst to Don Juan, the Marquis is blackmailing the husbands and fathers of the women Don Juan seduces. Once Juan learns of this, he continues his libertine ways but refuses to reveal the identity of his partners to the Marquis.

When the beautiful Dona Ana captures Don Juan’s eye, the world’s greatest lover finds himself embarking on his most challenging conquest of all: the mastery of his own heart. Can one who has enjoyed the pleasures of so many women find himself content with one woman for the rest of his life?

Douglas Carlton Abrams gives us an intriguing look into the soul of a character who is usually portrayed as a villain and a rapist. Instead of depicting Don Juan as someone who preys on women, Abrams shows us a more tender side of the mythical lover. Passion is a central theme, not just sexual passion but also passion for life.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the humor. At one point, Don Juan is climbing a tree to reach a woman’s bedroom. As the rough bark digs into his hands, he tells himself that one day, he will seduce a woman on the ground floor.

As one would expect, sex plays a large part in this book. The Lost Diary of Don Juan is very sensual but never crass. The prose seems, on occasion, a little too flowery, but the compelling story tends to compensate for much of the florid language.

Rating: 6/10.

Buy The Lost Diary of Don Juan:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

Final BBAW Giveaway: Harry Potter 2 Book Set

I hope everyone has enjoyed Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Amy, you've done an amazing job organizing all of this. Thanks so much for your hard work!

For my final Book Blogger Appreciation Week giveaway, I'm holding a contest for the first two books in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Both are brand new paperback copies.

To Enter:
1. Leave a comment on this post for one entry.
2. For an additional entry, tell me what your favorite Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Bean would be. (I'm torn between cinnamon and honey.)
3. If you have a blog, link to this contest for three additional entries.

Do all three for a total of five chances to win the books. I'll announce the winner on Friday, September 19, 2008 at 11:59 EST. Don't forget about my Percy Jackson and Sally Lockhart giveaways, which will end at the same time. Good luck!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Seasonal Reading

"Do not lose your way in the dark," voices sang in the houses, to harps and lutes. "O dear sweet dead, come home, and welcome here. Lost in the dark but always dear. Do not wander, do not roam. Dear ones, come home, come home."
-- Ray Bradbury, The Halloween Tree

Does the changing season change your reading habits? Less time? More? Are you just in the mood for different kinds of books than you were over the summer?

I'm a seasonal reader during autumn, certainly. Once the crisp autumn winds start blowing, I crave spooky stories. I read more suspense, mysteries and thrillers during the fall. In the winter I tend towards classics and longer books.

I think I read more in autumn and winter because there's very little to do outside. During the spring and summer I spend a lot of time gardening. I hate the cold so I don't participate in many outdoor activities once winter sets in.

What about you? Do you have any seasonal reading habits?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Have You Read the Dictionary?

"She'd read the dictionary all the way through. No one told her that you weren't supposed to."
-- Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

When I was young, I read anything that I could get my hands on. I read my books over and over again. I was at our public library multiple times per week. I couldn't wait for my few magazine subscriptions to arrive in the mail -- the day that American Girl magazine arrived, it was like a little bit of Christmas had come to my mailbox. I read the back of the cereal box over breakfast and, when I was finished with that, moved on to the nutritional information.

I craved words.

This craving, this need to read, was so powerful that I read some unusual things. I read all the articles in the TV Guide each Thursday, the day it arrived in the mail. I scoured catalogs for interesting product descriptions. At nine years old, I was reading all of my mother's magazines: National Geographic, People, Newsweek, Reader's Digest, Family Circle, US News and World Report. I didn't understand all of what I was reading, but that didn't matter to me. I even paged through PC World now and again, back in the days when DOS was still a viable operating system and Al Gore had not yet invented the Internet.

And yes, I even read the dictionary.

No matter how much I read, it was never enough. To me, words were like water to a man dying of thirst. I still feel that way. I need to read. And while I don't obsessively read every bit of print that comes into the house anymore, a book (or two, or three) is never too far from my hands.

What about you? Were you an insatiable reader as a child? Did you find yourself reading anything odd, just to satisfy a hunger for words?

BBAW: Blogging Tips

In my interview with Wendy of Musings of a Bookish Kitty, I asked her about her tips for new bloggers. My Friend Amy asked a similar discussion question, and as a relatively new blogger, I'm so grateful to see so many established bloggers chiming in on this.

What is one thing you wish you knew about blogging when you started or what advice would you give a newbie blogger?

Honestly, I wish I had known how much fun this was going to be. I would have started blogging a lot sooner!

My advice to new bloggers is don't allow anything to intimidate you. Don't worry about how your blog is going to stack up against other blogs. Don't hesitate to ask questions. Don't be afraid to contact an author. (They're people like us, just with cooler job titles.) Don't stress out over statistics or how many comments your latest review received. Most of all, have fun.

What is your best blogging tip?

Participate. One of the best thing about book bloggers is the unique community that we have, but you'll miss out on that if you focus only on your blog. Make an effort to get out there and meet new bloggers. Comment. Share your opinions. Participate in challenges if that's something that interests you. Be genuinely interested in what other bloggers have to say. Remember that no matter how different we may be, we all share a passion for books. I think that's a pretty powerful and amazing thing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

BBAW Giveaway #2: The Sally Lockhart Mysteries Series by Phillip Pullman

I hope everyone is enjoying Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I've met a lot of great bloggers in the past two days. On Monday morning, I was subscribing to 89 feeds with my Bloglines account. Less than forty eight hours later, I'm up to 123 and I'm still adding new feeds!

As I mentioned in my review of The Ruby in the Smoke, Phillip Pullman combines three of my favorite things with his Sally Lockhart Mysteries: Victorian London, a good mystery, and young adult fiction. I'm giving away brand new paperback copies of the entire series: The Ruby in the Smoke, Shadow in the North, The Tiger in the Well and The Tin Princess.

To enter:
1. Leave a comment on this post for one entry.
2. Tell me one or more of your favorite literary elements for a second chance to win. Do you love a particular setting or genre? A certain type of character? A specific theme? If you love time travel stories narrated by purple turtles in 15th century France, I wanna know about it.
3. If you have a blog, link to this post and I'll give you three additional entries.

That's a total of five chances to win if you do all three. I'll announce the winner on September 19, 2008 at 11:59 EST. Also, don't forget about my Percy Jackson and the Olympians giveaway, which will end at the same time.

BBAW: My Interview with Wendy of Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Amy at My Friend Amy paired me with Wendy of Musings of a Bookish Kitty for a blogger interview as part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Wendy has a wonderful blog (Go check out her post from this past Sunday for gorgeous pictures from her recent Hawaiian vacation) that I've been reading since before I started blogging myself. I love reading her reviews and author interviews. Best of all, she's a fellow cat lover. Pictured to the right is her cat, Parker, who looks quite at home on her bookshelf! Many thanks to Amy for pairing me with such an interesting interview partner! You can check out the great questions Wendy asked me here.

1. How did you get started with book blogging?

It is all my husband's fault. He had been trying to get me to start a blog for quite a while and one rainy day a couple of years ago, I decided to give it a try. I have kept a reading journal for the past several years, writing down my reviews and sometimes posting them to online book groups I belonged to. It seemed like a natural progression to move onto blogging.

2. Has your taste in books changed at all since you started your blog? Do you read more genres than you did previously or do you specialize more?

I have always been a rather eclectic reader, and I cannot really say my reading tastes have changed all that much since I began blogging. I think I have come to appreciate different aspects of books more and I pay closer attention to what I am reading, however. I still enjoy reading the same types of books, among which includes crime fiction, contemporary and literary fiction, fantasy in all its variations, horror/thrillers and nonfiction. My problem is that I don't feel like I have enough time to delve into all the different types of books as much as I would like--the old "so many books, so little time" conundrum. I do try and mix up my reading so as not to burn out on any one type of book. I read for a variety of reasons--but always for pleasure.

I definitely do see a difference in what books I am blogging about this year from last, which is directly related to blogging. Last year I went crazy over reading challenges, entering as many as I thought I could handle and was quite faithful to my lists. The majority of the books on my challenge lists were among my TBR collection, ones I had been wanting to read. It was a great opportunity for me to clear out some of the books that had been sitting on my shelves for a while. This year, on the other hand, I have been more focused on newer books, especially ARC's.

3. I love the title of your blog, Musings of a Bookish Kitty. How did you come up with that?

I have always considered myself a dog lover. I was raised with dogs all my life and couldn't wait to have one of my own. My husband, however, was raised around cats, and is most definitely a cat person. We ended up being adopted by both a cat and a dog. It seemed only fair, after all. I fell madly in love with our cat, discovering that not only am I a dog lover, but a cat lover as well.

For as long as I can remember, I always chose online nicknames related to my love for reading and/or my dog. When trying to come up with a nickname for myself and a title for my blog, I decided it was time to give my cat equal attention (yeah, I'm one of those people who has to give the cats a treat if the dog gets one). It was his turn to be in the spotlight. Literary Feline was born and Musings of a Bookish Kitty seemed a fitting name for my blog home.

I actually worried at first that Musings of a Bookish Kitty sounded too cutesy and feminine, but I have gotten over that. Mostly.

4. What's your favorite thing about blogging? Do you have a least favorite thing about it?

One of the most difficult hurdles for me in regards to even starting a blog was putting myself out there in the public eye. I love to write. I need to write. Truth be told though, I don't believe I am very good at it. When my husband and I first met, it was years before I would let him read anything I wrote--and even then he had to sneak a peek. Blogging has been a huge step for me. It has pushed me outside of my comfort zone and given me the opportunity to improve my writing.

I also really like the community aspect of blogging. I had no idea it existed when I first began my blog. I didn't start receiving comments at a steady rate until I started participating in reading challenges. Would it be vain of me to say how much I love receiving comments? I make a point of trying to comment as often as I can on other blogs as well because I know how wonderful a feeling that can be--and because I enjoy being a part of such a great community. Admittedly, it's been harder and harder to do in recent months. Life has a way of getting in the way. Online, I am surrounded by people who share in my obsession for books and reading. I don't have that off line--at least not to the same degree.

My least favorite thing is typing that first word. Some nights I sit down at the computer, wanting to blog about something--anything--but having no idea what to say or where to start. That happens sometimes with my review writing too. I eventually do work my way through that initial moment. What seems to work best for me is to just start writing, even if I begin in the middle. I can go back and add that first word later.

The other downside is when that feeling of obligation creeps in. As much as I would like to write a post every day, I just don't have it in me. Accepting that and telling myself that it's not the end of the world is not always easy. Sometimes I have nothing to say, and that's okay. I can live with that. But not without first swallowing that first lump of irrational guilt.

5. I'm a relatively new blogger. Do you having any advice for folks who are just starting out? Is there something you wish you'd known when you started blogging?

I often feel like I am still new to blogging too, even after two years! I wish I knew more about HTML codes--that hasn't changed. I should buy one of those HTML for Dummies books, but since I have a husband who is relatively knowledgeable, I tend to just turn to him for help. It's the easy way out, anyhow. For those who use Blogger, I understand it's gotten much simpler and HTML knowledge isn't quite so necessary anymore. For someone like me though, who uses an outside template, it can still be a problem.

One thing I did discover soon after I began blogging was how supportive other bloggers are and how helpful they can be. If you like a certain feature on someone's blog, don't be afraid to ask them how they put it together. More often than not, other bloggers are willing to share their trade secrets. We all had to learn somewhere, right?

Another piece of advice I would offer is to try not to let yourself feel overwhelmed. Easier said than done, I know. I think every blogger feels overwhelmed at one time or another. Sometimes you may need to take a step back and re-focus. It's okay to take a break from blogging, if that is what you need to do. As soon as blogging becomes an obligation, it loses its value. Most of us do not blog for money--we do it for fun. Therefore, it should be fun.

Your blog should be about you--it should be what you want it to be. Don't try and live up to someone else's expectations or else you will burn out. Be honest and true to yourself.

And if you want to build up your blog traffic, get out there and visit other blogs. Leave comments, respond to the comments left for you, and participate in reading challenges (if interested), established memes (such as Booking Through Thursday, Tuesday Thingers, Thursday Thirteen, etc) and events like BBAW.

6. What are your favorite books of 2008?

Whew! I am glad you did not ask me what my favorite books in general are. Looking over my ratings, I haven't had one 5 star book yet. I admit that I have been tougher this year in that regard. I have a top heavy rating scale because I like most of what I read (I like to think it is because I am good at choosing books I know I will enjoy). It's the degree of how much I like a book that varies.

Craig Johnson is definitely one of the authors that stands out for me this year. I started reading his Sheriff Longmire mystery series this year and instantly fell in love with it. The Cold Dish was such a great book. Also, Adrian Hyland's Moonlight Downs knocked my socks off. It's another mystery, this one set in the Australian Outback. The Translator: A Tribeman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari really touched me. It was a book that raised my anger and made me very sad. Another book that stands out for me this year is Steven Pressfield's Killing Rommel, set in North Africa during the Second World War.

7. One of the things I love about blogging is that I can recommend books to total strangers and not feel awkward or shy about it. Have you ever recommended a book to a stranger in real life?

Not a total stranger, no. I have recommended books to acquaintances though. I am the go to person in my office for those looking for book recommendations. Since I read a wide range of books and have the reputation of being in the know about a wide variety of books, I can often recommend books in just about any category, depending on a person's tastes.

8. More and more books are being made into movies each year. Assuming you haven't already read the book, what do you do first: Read the book or see the film?

When asked this question in the past, I would unequivocally say read the book first. I still prefer to read the book before seeing the film--I like going into a movie with the background information about the characters. Then there is the fact that I am a walking contradiction. I hate to have books spoiled for me, but I don't mind movie spoilers at all. I have no good reason for it. It just is. Therefore, it's usually best if I read the book first.

I have discovered, however, that sometimes I prefer seeing the movie first, especially if the book is very confusing or the language is difficult to follow. Knowing the story ahead of time (or some semblance of it) by having watched the film first can make it easier for me to follow and understand the book.

I love movies nearly as much as I love books. I can appreciate both in their own forms, regardless of changes made in the translation of a book to film. I cannot help compare the two, however. And usually the book always comes out on top.

9. When you read a book that's the start of the series, do you usually continue with the series? Are you more or less likely to pick up a book that is part of a series?

I do enjoy a good series. I actually have quite a few going right now; an embarrassing amount really. Reading a series book is like visiting an old friend--new adventures and experiences in familiar surroundings. I cannot say I prefer them over stand alones, however. I enjoy reading both equally.

I definitely prefer to start a series from the beginning, but sometimes that isn't possible. If I am beginning a new series, I usually can tell right away whether I will like it enough to continue. I may give a series a couple of tries before deciding it isn't worth my time. As for series I have gotten involved in and enjoyed, only in one case have I given up after several books. It had gotten to the point where I stopped caring about the characters and did not really want to know what would happen next--that and the author's writing going downhill considerably. I am fairly certain I will not go back and start reading that series again even if positive reviews of a new book start pouring in. The author and I have grown too far apart.

10. Where do you get most of your book recommendations? How important are reviews to you when you choose your reading material?

I get most of my book recommendations from other bloggers and readers. I do follow blog reviews but not professional reviews. There is something more honest and genuine in a blogger review. They speak to me in my own language, you could say. I will sometimes come across mention of a book in a magazine or from other sources that will pique my interest, and in those instances, I almost always seek out other opinions.

Unless it's a book that I instantly know I want to read based on the subject matter alone or one written by a favorite author, I do like to do a little research before making a final decision on whether to read a book or not. I appreciate both positive and negative opinions. Sometimes the negative reviews are more helpful than the positive ones. It is often those that will push me in one direction or the other when I am sitting on the fence--and it's not necessarily the direction you might think. I do not necessarily decide against reading a book just because it received a negative review. Books that receive glowing review after glowing review tend to build up my expectations. A negative review brings me down to earth.

11. Do your family and friends know about your blog? What do they think of it?

I have not been too forthcoming with my family about my blog. I may have mentioned it on occasion, but as far as I know, no one in my family (other than my husband) follows my blog. I think if they did, they might worry about my sanity. As for friends, some do know, but most are not interested. They know about my obsession with books, think it is a cute eccentricity on my part and leave it at that. Because I am shy about being in the public sphere, I have a tendency to prefer it that way.

12. If you had a $1000 gift card to your favorite book store and only half an hour to spend it, which section of the store would you head to first?

I would head directly to the new release shelves. My reason is quite practical. If I only have half an hour, I wouldn't possibly have enough time to go through my TBR collection list in hopes of avoiding selecting duplicate books. It would take too long to work my way through my wish list since the books would come from a variety of areas, which wouldn't an effective way to spend my time. The new release shelves are a safe bet because I could easily tell which books I don't yet have but want to get. Thank goodness the new release section at my favorite bookstore holds both hardback and paperback books.

Be sure to visit Wendy's blog, Musings of a Bookish Kitty, and say hello! Thanks so much for the great interview, Wendy!

YA Quote of the Day: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

"I don't go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds me."
-- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Monday, September 15, 2008

Guest Blogger: Douglas Carlton Abrams, Author of The Lost Diary of Don Juan

I'm thrilled to be hosting Douglas Carlton Abrams, author of The Lost Diary of Don Juan, as a guest poster today. Please give him a warm welcome! -- Ruth

Was Don Juan truly nothing more than a rapist and a villain? You would certainly think so, judging by how he has been portrayed over the centuries.

From his inception, Don Juan has been depicted as a libidinous scoundrel, capable of rape, misogyny, and even murder. When Tirso de Molina first created the character of Don Juan in the early seventeenth century, he did so as a warning against the dangers of rampant male sexuality and the galanteadores, who were seducing the women of the time. Later, in Mozart and Da Ponte’s opera Don Giovanni, Don Juan rapes a woman and kills her father almost before the curtain even rises.

But would Don Juan have been capable of feeling and doing much more? Male desire can be villainous and overpowering, but it is also multi-dimensional, ranging anywhere from heroic passion to caring tenderness. Any man long rumored to be the world’s greatest lover would certainly have understood these subtler aspects of desire, as well as the unspoken needs of the women he loved.

It is this side of Don Juan’s story that motivated me to write The Lost Diary of Don Juan. I wanted to explore the true nature of love and passion by creating a more complex Don Juan than the one we usually meet. His previous incarnations in plays, novels, and films have only allowed us to see the man from a distance, and we have judged him accordingly. Reading about his life in the form of an historical diary set in Golden Age Sevilla lets us go further into the body, mind, and heart of the man himself. What we find there is far more than an indifferent playboy, but rather a man for whom romance was elevated into an art form, a Casanova with a calling.

This is a Don Juan worthy of far more than mere lust and villainy, a man capable of forming deep and complex relationships with women. This 16th century Don Juan is worth recovering for the 21st century, if only to provide balance in a culture that all too often forgets the true complexity and mystery of desire.

BBAW Giveaway #1: Percy Jackson and the Olympians 3 Book Set

Book Blogger Appreciation Week
is here! To celebrate, here's the first of three giveaways that will be featured here at Bookish Ruth.

One lucky winner will receive the first three books in Rick Riordan's young adult series Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I have brand new paperback copies of The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters and The Titan's Curse. Not familiar with the Percy Jackson series? Check out the blurb for The Lightning Thief:

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse. Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. Percy's mom decides its time that he knew the truth about where he came from. She sends Percy to Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends -- one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena -- Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

Sounds good, huh?

The Rules:
1. Leave a comment here to enter.
2. Please include an e-mail address or link to your blog so I can contact you if you win.
3. Blog about this contest and you'll receive four additional chances to win.

I'll draw a winner on Friday, September 19, 2008 at 11:59 PM EST.

Weekly Geeks: YA Quote of the Day

Today's quotations come from another recent read, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I don't know if I'll write a review of this one. It's not because I didn't enjoy it; quite the contrary, actually. I enjoyed it so much that it's hard to put my feelings into words. My words, at least. For now I'm just going to let some of my favorite passages speak for themselves.

"So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be."

"Then, I turned around and walked to my room and closed my door and put my head under my pillow and let the quiet put things where they are supposed to be."

"Patrick actually used to be popular before Sam bought him some good music."

"The outside lights were on, and it was snowing, and it looked like magic. Like we were somewhere else. Like we were someplace better."

"I really think that everyone should have watercolors, magnetic poetry, and a harmonica."

"She was sad, though. But it was a hopeful kind of sad. The kind of sad that just takes time."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday Salon: The Week Ahead

The Sunday Salon.com
This Sunday, instead of looking back on the previous week, I’m looking forward to the coming week.

On Monday, Douglas Carlton Abrams, the author of The Lost Diary of Don Juan, will be stopping in as a guest blogger. Look for my review of his book on Friday, September 19, 2008.

Monday also marks the beginning of Book Bloggers Appreciation Week. It will run until Friday.

I’ll be having three special BBAW giveaways this week. Check back on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the giveaway posts. (This is in addition to my ongoing giveaway for The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen, which ends just after Book Blogger Appreciation Week.) I’ll announce the winners of all three of these giveaways on Friday, September 19, 2008 at 11:59 PM EST. Here's a sneak peek at what I'll be offering.

For my giveaways, I decided to share my love of young adult literature, so I picked three of my favorite series. My first giveaway will start on Monday. I'll be giving away brand new paperback copies of the first three books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan: The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters and The Titan's Curse.

On Wednesday, I’ll start a giveaway for the complete Sally Lockhart Mysteries series by Phillip Pullman: The Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North, The Tiger in the Well and The Tin Princess, also brand new in paperback.

On Friday, my final giveaway will feature the first two Harry Potter books, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling. These are also brand new paperback copies.

So, what's going on in your corner of the blogosphere? Getting ready for Book Blogger Appreciation Week? Catching up on some reviews? A little bit of both?