Life, Gaming, Depression, Excercise, MARRIED! School…

Well, if you thought I’d fallen off the face of the Earth, I didn’t. Life has been a bit busy for me. I got into playing World of Warcraft, for one. Then I got lazy about writing reviews, though I kept reading. Then I got burned out on reading. Then I lost my home internet. Then I battled some bad bit of depression. Fought my way out of that by excercising and bike riding. While biking, I met a man, who became the most important person in the world to me.

Got MARRIED on March 6th, 2012 (our anniversary is 3-6-12… fun for math geeks 😀 )

Been a newlywed since then, so I have to get out of the BED to read a book 😉

Started back at school and am working at getting a degree in Criminal Justice. So now there’s less time for book-reading.

I’m missing it, though… and writing essays and research papers is reminding me of what I’m missing, so I’m going to try to get back into blogging.  I can’t promise it’ll be all book reviews, though. It may be a bit of everything from marriage, raising kids, school work… books, even, lol.

I might add that WORDPRESS has changed a bit since I last posted.  Not sure if I like it or not.

I promise not to wait another two years and a half to post again 😉

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Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

homers-odysseyTitle:  Homer’s Odyssey:  A Fearless Feline Tale, Or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat

Author:  Gwen Cooper

Hardback:  289 pages

ISBN:  9780385343855

Challenges:  ARC Challenge

The last thing Gwen Cooper wanted was another cat. She already had two, not to mention a phenomenally underpaying job and a recently broken heart. Then Gwen’s veterinarian called with a story about a three-week-old eyeless kitten who’d been abandoned. It was love at first sight.

Everyone warned that Homer would always be an “underachiever,” never as playful or independent as other cats. But the kitten nobody believed in quickly grew into a three-pound dynamo, a tiny daredevil with a giant heart who eagerly made friends with every human who crossed his path. Homer scaled seven-foot bookcases with ease and leapt five feet into the air to catch flies in mid-buzz. He survived being trapped alone for days after 9/11 in an apartment near the World Trade Center, and even saved Gwen’s life when he chased off an intruder who broke into their home in the middle of the night.

But it was Homer’s unswerving loyalty, his infinite capacity for love, and his joy in the face of all obstacles that inspired Gwen daily and transformed her life. And by the time she met the man she would marry, she realized Homer had taught her the most important lesson of all:  Love isn’t something you see with your eyes.

Homer’s Odyssey is the once-in-a-lifetime story of an extraordinary cat and his human companion.  It celebrates the refusal to accept limits -on love, ability, or hope against overwhelming odds.  By turns jubilant and moving, it’s a memoir for anybody who’s ever fallen completely and helplessly in love with a pet.

-Inside dust cover of Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

Okay… breathe…  I’m going to do my best to review this book on the its merits alone, and not gush about the author herself.  It would be easy for me to go on about how, upon hearing that my daughter, also named Gwen, loves animals and has a black cat, was really excited by the book when I got my advanced reader copy and wanted me to read it to her, emailed me for my address and not only sent her a signed copy of the finished book with a beautiful hand-written card and pictures of Homer, but also sent her a copy of the audio book.  AND that, with all that she’s got going on in her life with book-signings, fundraisers and feeling under the weather, she still takes time message us and even remembers my daughter’s cat’s name.  But this is a review of the book, not the author, so I will focus my attention on that.

Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper is a memoir of how the things that we might never choose on our own can be exactly what we need.  It is about recognizing value in someone or something and building your life around it.  It is about how, by looking at life and love through the eyes of another, we take on the traits we admire in that person.  In Gwen Cooper’s case, that person was a blind wonder cat, through whom she learned courage, how to love, and perseverance.

One thing I really like about this book is the format.  It’s set up as a journey from who and where Gwen was when she got the call from the vet about the eyeless kitten whom nobody wanted and would likely be put down if she, his last chance, didn’t adopt him, continues through jobs and moves and romances, and ends with what she has learned and insights she has gained through knowing and loving and living with Homer.  But, each chapter is also a tale in and of itself, making it a book that can be devoured straight through (honestly, it’s very hard to put down) or you can nibble on it and ponder each lesson.  Also, each chapter begins with a picture, usually of Homer, but occasionally of Scarlett or Vashti, Homer’s big sisters, and a quote from the other Homer, the Greek storyteller.

Another thing that I enjoyed with this book is Gwen’s sense of humor.  There are so many laugh-out-loud moments,  like bringing her date in and the two of them being greeted by a cat who not only discovered the tampons, but how to unwrap them, proudly carrying them in his mouth to show to his mommy.  Also, there is a quality to her writing that made me feel like we’ve been friends for years.

Like life, though, the book isn’t all sunshine and roses.  There are real dangers and some terrifying moments, like waking up to find a burglar in her apartment.  As well as the heart wrenching days after September 11th, when Gwen tried desperately to get back to her cats who were trapped in their apartment, just blocks from where the two towers had stood.

I found Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper to be moving and inspirational, at times hilarious and touching, and am thankful that there was a vet who refused to accept that an eyeless kitten was better off being put down, that Gwen Cooper was in the vet’s contacts list and opened her heart to him, and that she has shared Homer and his wisdom with all of us.  I give Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper 5 out of 5 stars.  It’s one of my favorites and I’ll be rereading it again and again 🙂

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Title:  Empire Falls

Author:  Richard Russo

Paperback:  483 pages

Date Published:  2001

PublisherVitage Books (a div of Random House)

ISBN:  9780375726408

MiscellaneousEmpire Falls won the 2002 Pulitizer Prize for Fiction

 

“Has it ever occurred to you that life is a river, dear boy?”  Mrs. Whiting said when Miles sat down opposite her in the gazebo.  In asking this question the old woman managed to convey, as with all such queries, that she was not anticipating a response that would enlighten her.  Whereas some people’s attitude suggested that perhaps they knew something you didn’t, Mrs. Whiting’s implied that she knew  everything  you didn’t.  She alone had been paying attention, so it was her duty to bring you at least partially up to speed.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo, page 161

Empire Falls by Richard Russois the multi-faceted and complex tale of the Central Maine town of Empire Falls. Woven together like a rich tapestry, it tells of the cross-generational intersections of the lives of its denizens, with the life of Miles Roby the central focus.

Miles has spent most of his life going with the flow. A devout Catholic, he’s predisposed to motivation-by-guilt and a nagging sensation that everything bad that’s ever happened can somehow, if one looked hard enough, back to him and is his fault. His desire to always do the right thing gives him the unintended air of moral superiority that can be repellent, and the fact that he attended 3 1/2 years of college before returning to Empire Falls when his mother was on her death bed gives him an added perception of intellectual superiority. All of this is not a truth about Miles, only what others sometime perceive about him.

Opposite Miles are Jimmy Minty and Mrs. Whiting. Jimmy Minty, Mr. Empire Falls as he referred to himself, is a police officer and possibly the next Chief of Police. Whereas Miles can seem morally and intellectually superior to the town even though it’s everything he is NOT, Minty is the “everyman”. People may not like him, but at least he’s one of them and knows it. What the town does NOT know is that this “everyman” has keys to each and every lock in Dexter County, a houseful of stolen electronics and no tangible income to explain his ownership of a shiny, new, red Camaro.

Minty’s off-the-book work as Mrs. Whiting’s muscle is, of course, how he affords the car. Think of a Bedford Falls in which George Baily just went along, obligingly, with what Old Man Potter said, and you’d have Empire Falls. Mrs. Whiting is Russo’s answer to Mr. Potter. Incapable of feeling love herself, she has an incredible knack of uncovering that affliction in others and does her best to eradicate it. “Power and Control” are the words by which she lives, and tells Miles that people often confuse will with power, and that the “power” they perceive the lucky few as having is simply that they know what they want in life and go after it.

 

“You appear to have been visited by some sort of revelation, dear boy,” Mrs. Whiting observed. “Here’s my suggestion, though. Why not think things over? Passionate decisions are seldom very sound.”

“When did you ever feel passion?”

“Well, it’s true I’m seldom swept away like those with more romantic temperaments,” she conceded. “But we are what we are, and what can’t be cured must be endured.”

“What can’t be cured mus be avenged,” Miles said. “Isn’t that what you mean?”

She smiled appreciatively. “Payback is how we endure, dear boy…”

Empire Falls by Richard Russo, pages 434-435

 

Another of Miles nemeses, Timmy the Cat, is one of my favorite characters in this book.  Timmy, found and adopted by Mrs. Whiting’s daughter Cindy, had, as a small kitten, been placed in a sack with her litter-mates and tossed into the Knox, the river that runs through Empire Falls.  She was the lone survivor and never right in the head ever after.  Described by Miles in such loving terms as “psychotic” or “homicidal”, Timmy is whispered by the townspeople (usually in the bar and after a few drinks) to be Mrs. Whiting’s familiar.  Appearing as if from thin air whenever Mrs. Whiting’s name is spoken, as if the uttering of her mistress’s name was the spell to summon the demon cat.  In a way, Timmy is representative of Mrs. Whiting’s nature and how she relates to people, as if she were a cat and they the wounded prey she toyed with until they bored her and she finally ended their lives.

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It took me a while to finish Empire Falls, and a bit longer than that to write this review.  It is a dense and complex novel, with several sub-plots and sub-stories.  There’s Tick, Miles’s daughter, and her steady march to adulthood.  Will she become passive and resigned to whatever the fate’s bring like her dad?  David Roby, Miles (maybe half) brother, and his life of sobriety after an accident caused by his own drunk driving, rendered his left hand useless.  And, of course, there’s the incorrigible Max Roby, Miles father, who’s life philosophy can be condensed into two words, “So What!”  Max is always on the look out for the hand out and badgers his son  for money, promising him if he’d just give him $500 then he’d take off for the Florida Keys, and he’d be out of Miles’s hair for a whole New England winter.  Tempting, Miles thinks, before realizing the old man would just call for more money once he got there.

After considering and weighing Empire Falls by Richard Russo, I came to the understanding that the best way to describe it is that it’s a “grown up book”.  Not necessarily for language, though it does have plenty of that, nor for sexual content, ditto, or for violence, though there is animal cruelty and a shooting in it, but rather that it’s the kind of book that rings several emotional and experiential bells that one needs to have lived a little to even begin to catch the nuances and appreciate the full sensations found in the book.

For its intimate and tangible moving portrayal of life in a small town, I give Empire Falls by Richard Russo  4 1/2 out of 5 stars.  I cannot, for the life of me, explain why I’m holding that last 1/2 back… perhaps because it’s not a WOW book, but rather, like water slowly flowing along, eroding the rocks and banks slowly and imperceptively over time, until, all at once and a long way down river, it’ll suddenly hit me.

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I’ve been watching the HBO mini-series Empire Falls, based on this book.  It’s a really good show, and does a good job of staying close to the book, in spirit if not literally.  The screenplay was also written by Richard Russo.  As for the casting, I wasn’t entirely stoked about Ed Harris as Miles, but I did like Paul Newman’s Max Roby, and thought William Fichtner as Jimmy Minty was SPOT ON. 🙂

and a twofer, this one is a brief “making of” but gives a great feel for the book itself.

The Sunday Salon -Tan Lines and Lemonade Stands

The Sunday Salon.com

For some reason, I feel this week has been very unproductive. I’ve really only read one book this week, Tan Lines. I finished Sana Krasikov’s One More Year, and I’m about halfway through The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deavers.

I did receive a nomination for the Brilliante Weblog Premio 2008 award, finished my interview with Nam Le, author of The Boat. Technocrati set spiders loose, LT recommendations were discussed and favorite lines from books were shared.  But I still only read one book. 😦

Part of the reason for only reading one book is I can’t seem to keep away from the computer.  If I would just keep my happy butt off of it I could get some things done.  That problem will be remedied this week since Sammi, my 15-year-old, has come back from her dad’s and she’ll be taking over the ‘puter.  A second impediment to reading this week is people won’t leave me alone!  I no sooner than crack the spine and the phone rings or there’s a knock at the door.  Someone selling Amway products came by this week… Amway?!  I thought they were run out of the country back in the 80’s. 

Friday and Saturday I got nothing read… at all.  No, correct that, I got the same paragraph read… over and over… of Julius Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul.  Mags had Vacation Bible School this week and Friday was the program for their families.  Then she was invited to go to Indiana Beach, so she had a Fresh Baked Cookies and Lemonade stand yesterday.

Okay, when did a child showing inititive and motivation become the equivelent to begging? My stinky-head neighbors (the ones I don’t like) treated her like a leper because she was hawking her wares. She gave up on the stand after an hour and took her products door to door (just on our block where I could see her). She made enough to go, but her friend never came and picked her up to go. What the heck happened to decency? If her mom had decided she couldn’t take a friend, or if she’d picked a different friend as her plus one, she could’ve called to let Mags know. People!

-)

Mags and Sam with their blue tongues 🙂

Then, of course, Sam came home and wanted to get her 3-weeks-attention last night. Mags missed her, as did their friend across the street, and they played until 10:30 to 11 o’clock last night.

So, here I am… nothing much in the way of bookish things to report. Last week was the fair, this week… not much excuse. Next week I’m gonna make it up and get three books done. I swear!! 😀

Oh, I almost forgot! My First Ever Giveaway!! has 691 entries. Prizes are now the $20 Borders gift card, plus two $10, and a $5 gift card. Another 9 entries, and I’m throwing in another $5, which makes the total prizes add up to $50. But, I’m thinking 700 entries is pretty monumental, so I’m giving the grand prize winner a mystery prize to boot. So don’t forget to enter!

Booking Throught Thursday -6/26

btt button

What, in your opinion, is the definition of a “reader.” A person who indiscriminately reads everything in sight? A person who reads BOOKS? A person who reads, period, no matter what it is? … Or, more specific? Like the specific person who’s reading something you wrote?

I would call someone would indiscriminately reads everything they can get their hands on as a really and tryly bibliophile, bookworm, a true reader. If was a speed reader with a photographic memory, I could read a lot more than I do now, and maybe it wouldn’t be Mt. TBR, but a small hill. I’d call someone who could read everything LUCKY!

A “reader” in my opinion, it someone who reads when they can. WHAT is not as important is the simple fact that they prefer books over other media, and they read regularly. An “avid reader” would be someone who reads whenever they have a free moment, reading while eating and anytime they have to wait somewhere. A book junkie reads at the expense of showers, eating, cleaning their house, and even leaving the house. A book junkie would call into work to stay home and read. I rank somewhere between “avid reader” and “book junkie”.

One of my fantasies have always been to be locked in library and left to read away (of course food and bathrooms would be avaialble).   I often joke in the winter time that I’m praying for a freak blizzard while the kids are in school so I can just stay in and read.  I’ve stopped watching movies for the most part, because they lack imagination… the movie screen inside my head is much better than their pale interpretations. 

It shocks me to think that a lot of people never read more than 12 books a year, and some people don’t even read ONE book a year.   These people will joke about not having read anything since they were made to in high school.  I just don’t understand how people can say this in an almost bragging tone of voice!