cats

National Cat Day! Happy 10th Birthday to my cats!

October 29 is National Cat Day – and my fur babies turned 10 at the beginning of September so here’s a little timeline of my babies from ~8 weeks to present.

I think one of the computer crashes wiped a bunch of pictures so I can only find one (ONE! *sob*) picture of the boys as fuzzy little babies in October 2003.

They were so tiny – barely bigger than my hand.  I took this picture the night I got home from the farm where they were born (it was raining like mad, cold, and my friend’s elderly father had to come shoot a possum that had got into the barn).

But they adapted to their cushy indoor cat life well and soon started getting into all sorts of trouble like getting stuck under the dishwasher rack.

 And getting stuck in items meant for the recycling.

And had $1500 worth of abdominal surgery for an intestinal blockage as a result of eating thread (and other things on top of that including the spare wire for the mandoline cheese slicer – which was radiopaque, thank god) and then more charges for his wound infection because he licked the incision (the vet didn’t make him wear a cone).  Chaucer-kitteh still (STILL) tries to eat strings and ribbons.  He doesn’t learn.

And gained a lot of weight.  At his heaviest, the Dante-kitteh weighed 18 pounds.  We’re around 13 pounds now, which is much better, and I get to laugh about his poochy little tummy.  It is the cutest.

It helped that I moved to a split-level so they had to learn about (very scary!) things like stairs.  When one has to go up and down the stairs to eat, use the cat box, and sleep on the nice, warm bed you get lots of exercise.  When we first moved, they refused to go downstairs without me for the first few days – they would sit at either the top or bottom and cry for me to come and walk with them.

They’re about the most adorable, annoying things ever.  Chaucer is very good at begging (see left).  Dante knows exactly which drawer in the fridge contains the cheese – which is a favorite kitty treat – and comes running when he hears it open.

They drag their favorite toys all over the house and into bed while I’m sleeping (Chaucer likes to carry his around like a baby and make weird “mrower” noises).  They love to snuggle and can purr like a diesel engine.

They get into just about anything I’m doing – working, knitting, reading, etc etc etc.  They were the subjects of my most popular blog post for a while – “Die Katzen sind nicht amüsiert” – which expressed why they don’t like spam comments.

Chaucer has become the more photo-ready of the two – he’s a bit better at staying still while keeping his cute facial expression.

But Dante has his moments, too (his little face is getting whiter/graying, which makes me sad).

He is obsessed with the kitteh who lives in the mirror.  All the mirrors.

Also, we are extremely vocal when we want something.  Like when I’m having supper and Chaucer-kitteh would like some, too – he sits at the table and meows incessantly.

I love them so much.  Which is why I spent a good 20 minutes taking pictures/video of them with their new catnip hedgehog and green-frog-with-tail (?) toys because they were so funny.

Happy 10th birthday Chaucer and Dante!!

Happy National Cat Day everyone!

ETA: Plz send treats.  Don’t tell mommy.

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Romantic Reads · stuff I read

The Wicked Wallflower (Bad Boys & Wallflowers #1)

Summary from Goodreads:

Maya Rodale’s captivating new series introduces London’s Least Likely—three wallflowers who are about to become the toast of the ton…

Lady Emma Avery has accidentally announced her engagement—to the most eligible man in England. As soon as it’s discovered that Emma has never actually met the infamously attractive Duke of Ashbrooke, she’ll no longer be a wallflower; she’ll be a laughingstock. And then Ashbrooke does something Emma never expected. He plays along with her charade.

A temporary betrothal to the irreproachable Lady Avery could be just the thing to repair Ashbrooke’s tattered reputation. Seducing her is simply a bonus. And then Emma does what he never expected: she refuses his advances. It’s unprecedented. Inconceivable. Quite damnably alluring.

London’s Least Likely to Misbehave has aroused the curiosity—among other things—of London’s most notorious rogue. Now nothing will suffice but to uncover Emma’s wanton side and prove there’s nothing so satisfying as two perfect strangers…being perfectly scandalous together.

Rodale’s books always put me in a quandary when I go to rate/review them.  On the one hand, I find them inaccurate in the attention to detail and language that I prefer in my Regencies/historicals and possibly over-plotted in the lead up to the resolution, but on the other I quite like her hero/heroine pairings and plot elements.

“Least Likely to Misbehave” is a terrible misnomer when the punishment for stepping outside Society’s strictures is ruin and ostracism. The false betrothal announcement was just for fun, it was never meant to be sent to the paper and when it appears in print Emma is particularly lucky that Blake is in need of a very respectable fiancee.

I particularly like Lady Emma in this instance and is very much the stronger character of this pairing. She’s allowed to have doubts, as annoying as they are to the reader, right up until the very end. Blake seems more of a stock character at times – the Reformed/Reforming Rake is a very popular type – but he has an interesting relationship with his aunt. (I would have offed the character of Benedict, Emma’s waffling long-time suitor, much earlier in the book. What a wanker.) Speaking of Blake’s aunt, Agatha, the section of the book that makes up the Fortune Games is a hilarious riff on the popular Hunger Games young adult series and movies. Very imaginative and a way to get her hero and heroine together without parents for a good portion of the book. The Wicked Wallflower is the first in Maya Rodale’s new series Bad Boys & Wallflowers that will consist of historicals with contemporary companion novels, the first being The Bad Boy Billionaire’s Wicked Arrangement.

Best American · mini-review · stuff I read

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013

Summary from Goodreads:
A selection of the best writing, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and comics, published in American periodicals during during 2012 aimed at readers fifteen and up.

This is apparently the last Nonrequired Reading volume that Dave Eggers will edit.  It will be interesting in future seeing the new direction for this section of the Best American series.  As usual, Eggers and the 826 kids came up with a really good selection of web pieces, essays, and short stories. It felt much more heavily weighted toward longer essays/stories than the shorter goofy stuff, which is a bit of a shame because those are often brilliant small pieces.

Karen Russell has a great reporting piece about a torero who now fights with one eye, having been seriously injured by a bull (note: accolades are for writing, not subject).

Romantic Reads · stuff I read

The Sum of All Kisses (Smythe-Smith #3)

Summary from Goodreads:

He thinks she’s an annoying know-it-all…

Hugh Prentice has never had patience for dramatic females, and if Lady Sarah Pleinsworth has ever been acquainted with the words shy or retiring, she’s long since tossed them out the window. Besides, a reckless duel has left this brilliant mathematician with a ruined leg, and now he could never court a woman like Sarah, much less dream of marrying her.

She thinks he’s just plain mad…

Sarah has never forgiven Hugh for the duel he fought that nearly destroyed her family. But even if she could find a way to forgive him, it wouldn’t matter. She doesn’t care that his leg is less than perfect, it’s his personality she can’t abide. But forced to spend a week in close company they discover that first impressions are not always reliable. And when one kiss leads to two, three, and four, the mathematician may lose count, and the lady may, for the first time, find herself speechless …

New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn’s enchanting third novel in the Smythe-Smith quartet is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud and tug at your heartstrings in equal measures.

Sarah feigned illness to get out of playing in the Smythe-Smith musicale (which, fortunately for her governess Anna and cousin Daniel, led into the love story in A Night Like This). The only way out of the quartet is marriage or death. Sarah, though, currently doesn’t have any prospects of marrying before next year’s musicale and wedding season is now upon her, first Honoria and Marcus (from Just Like Heaven) and then Anna and Daniel a week or so later. She’s thrown together with the person she holds chiefly responsible for her unmarried state: one Lord Hugh Prentice, who was gravely injured in a duel with Daniel during her first Season and whose absolutely deranged father caused Daniel to flee the country in disgrace. It may be an irrational belief, but it’s one she clings to.

Hugh, for his part, has put all the pieces of that night back together and concluded that he was as much at fault as Daniel. He made it possible for Daniel to return to England by holding ransom the only thing his father holds dear: Hugh’s own life. If Daniel comes to harm, then Hugh will kill himself. The Marquess of Ramsgate cares only that Hugh live to continue the family line and so the tenuous peace holds.

For now. Hugh and Sarah gradually get past their prejudices. He initially thought she was a flighty, overdramatic ton miss; she let him know in no uncertain terms that she did not like him. Daniel, ever the instigator, coops them up in a carriage with Sarah’s three younger sisters.  This is possibly the funniest scene Julia Quinn wrote in a very long time because Hugh and Sarah are forced to read a scene from one of Harriet’s plays. Also, if you have any number of younger siblings and spent a long car ride with them you will find the dialogue in this scene to be perfect. When Sarah injures her ankle, Hugh keeps her company…and romance takes off.

There are a lot of lovely beats in this book. Hugh is a mathmatical savant, he counts things almost involuntarily. Sarah and Hugh dancing together when they have only two solid legs between them. But a lot of realism runs through The Sum of All Kisses, chiefly that the law is no protection from a member of the peerage with a sadistic bent. Hugh’s father overshadows so much of the story that the ending, while satisfying, is tinged with bittersweet. Characters make decisions partially out of self-preservation when they would have freely made those decisions out of love. This is why I love historicals from Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Tessa Dare, and Sarah MacLean – they are breaking aspects of the genre and it brings up the quality of the storytelling. Speaking of Eloisa James – the cross-pollination that saw JQ’s characters in Once Upon a Tower brings Gowan and Edie into The Sum of All Kisses. If you aren’t familiar with EJ, I highly recommend her Fairy Tales series (standalones, so you can start with Once Upon a Tower if you wish, but then jump back to the first one, A Kiss at Midnight, which is EJ’s take on the Cinderella story).

Romantic Reads · stuff I read

The Arrangement (The Survivors’ Club #2)

Summary from Goodreads:

Desperate to escape his mother’s matchmaking, Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, flees to a remote country village. But even there, another marital trap is sprung. So when Miss Sophia Fry’s intervention on his behalf finds her unceremoniously booted from her guardian’s home, Vincent is compelled to act. He may have been blinded in battle, but he can see a solution to both their problems: marriage.

At first, quiet, unassuming Sophia rejects Vincent’s proposal. But when such a gloriously handsome man persuades her that he needs a wife of his own choosing as much as she needs protection from destitution, she agrees. Her alternative is too dreadful to contemplate. But how can an all-consuming fire burn from such a cold arrangement? As friendship and camaraderie lead to sweet seduction and erotic pleasure, dare they believe a bargain born of desperation might lead them both to a love destined to be?

[Note: I did not manage to save my review of The Proposal, the first book in this series, but I do recommend it.]

Vincent, Viscount Darleigh, has had enough – his well-meaning but overbearing mother has equated his blindness with mental deficiency (not to mention that he is now titled and rich) and has decided that he needs a wife in short order. Vincent escapes to a small village with only his valet as company to enjoy a little peace and quiet. It doesn’t last. When the neighborhood nest of viperish social climbers decides to trap him into marriage he is soon rescued – by the quiet, unassuming, and very poor Sophia Fry, who is the companion to the intended young lady (I use “lady” loosely). For her basic human decency, Sophia is flung out onto the streets. Vincent seizes the opportunity – he doesn’t really want to be married and neither does Sophia yet a marriage of convenience will protect each of them from relatives (and Sophia from destitution). He proposes the arrangement and offers that they will separate after enough time has passed that the marriage cannot be legally questioned or over-turned. Sophia will have the protection of his name and income and Vincent will have some peace.

Love comes in and upsets the apple cart, of course. Sophia determines that before she leaves that Vincent is as self-sufficient as possible; she devises the Regency version of a seeing-eye dog and a track to enable him to ride his horse unassisted. Vincent gives Sophia the confidence to become an independent woman. Most fascinating is that Vincent’s blindness is total, his sight will never recover unlike many other blind/partially blind heroes, and so any love that Vincent feels for Sophia develops from their interactions and her personality rather than her looks.

This is a much stronger novel from Mary Balogh than The Proposal. The plot is a bit tighter, the stakes are a bit higher for the hero and heroine, and the resolution is much more satisfying. However, there are a few minor points that could have been better. The actual agree-to-separate-later portion of the proposal scene sounded quite hollow and years of childhood trauma and neglect seemed suddenly forgotten with a good haircut, nice clothes, an attentive husband, and a well-placed punch to the face (though, the punch was very well-deserved, so that’s less problematic). On the whole, a good installment to the Survivor’s Club series. I’m looking forward to the next one.

mini-review · stuff I read · YA all the way

Fangirl

Summary from Goodreads:
In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.  Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

If Fangirl had existed when I was a HS senior I would have ate it up with a spoon and asked for more.  It is such a great YA/coming of age story.

I was a bit like Cather when I started undergrad – socially quiet, maybe a little unsure of who I was but definitely sure that I was smart and talented, and I went to a big state university.  My first serious relationships were in undergrad as well as my first major crises of confidence.  Granted, not all within my freshman year as happens to Cath.

I really liked how Rowell contrasted Cath’s outgoing immersion in the Simon Snow fanbase with her tentative interactions among the student body in the real world.  Add to that Cath’s support – her twin Wren – has decided that she no longer wants to do the “twin thing” and not only changes her social group but also her appearance.  Rowell allows Cath to make mistakes as she goes and to learn from them.  And Cath slowly learns that she is strong enough to take life on her own terms.  This leads me to wonder why the “New Adult” category is so narrowly defined because Cather’s story is definitely one in which a new adult learns to be an adult.

Now, mixed in with all this are snippets of Simon Snow novels – a Harry Potter stand-in – and Simon Snow fanfic as written by Cather.  All of it is great fun.

mini-review · Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Duke of Midnight (Maiden Lane #6)

Summary from Goodreads:

WHEN A MASKED MAN . . .

Twenty years ago Maximus Batten witnessed the brutal murders of his parents. Now the autocratic Duke of Wakefield, he spends his days ruling Parliament. But by night, disguised as the Ghost of St. Giles, he prowls the grim alleys of St. Giles, ever on the hunt for the murderer. One night he finds a fiery woman who meets him toe-to-toe—and won’t back down . . .

MEETS HIS MATCH . . .

Artemis Greaves toils as a lady’s companion, but hiding beneath the plain brown serge of her dress is the heart of a huntress. When the Ghost of St. Giles rescues her from footpads, she recognizes a kindred spirit-and is intrigued. She’s even more intrigued when she realizes who exactly the notorious Ghost is by day . . .

DESIRE IGNITES A DANGEROUS PASSION

Artemis makes a bold move: she demands that Maximus use his influence to free her imprisoned brother-or she will expose him as the Ghost. But blackmailing a powerful duke isn’t without risks. Now that she has the tiger by the tail, can she withstand his ire-or the temptation of his embrace?

[Note: this is another where I had a lengthy review at BR, now lost]

Maximus Batten, Duke of Wakefield.

**dies**

Artemis is no dummy – when the Ghost of St. Giles rescues her and her feather-brained cousin Penelope from footpads in St. Giles (because Penelope had a bet with another idiot aristocrat to drink a cup of gin in St. Giles at midnight) he leaves a distinctive signet ring in her hand.  Only one man would wear such a ring…Artemis uses this knowledge to force Maximus to save her twin brother, Apollo.  The wretched Apollo is locked in the “Incurables” ward at the terrifying Bedlam asylum, accused of a triple-homicide.

Maximus (grudgingly) agrees and, as the Ghost, spirits the maimed Apollo out of the asylum and into the cellars of Wakefield House.  Along the way, he considers marrying Penelope (she’s a duke’s daughter and wealthy as they come, even if she’s an idiot and unkind) and persuades Artemis to move into his house as a temporary companion to his nearly-blind sister, Phoebe.

Now, this is where all the good bits happen and I won’t spoil it for you.  Suffice to say, there is a lot of plot left in Duke of Midnight and it has a fantastic final chapter.

(And an Epilogue! This won’t be the final Maiden Lane book!)

meh · mini-review · stuff I read

The Novel Cure

Summary from Goodreads:
A novel is a story transmitted from the novelist to the reader. It offers distraction, entertainment, and an opportunity to unwind or focus. But it can also be something more powerful—a way to learn about how to live. Read at the right moment in your life, a novel can—quite literally—change it.

The Novel Cure is a reminder of that power. To create this apothecary, the authors have trawled two thousand years of literature for novels that effectively promote happiness, health, and sanity, written by brilliant minds who knew what it meant to be human and wrote their life lessons into their fiction. Structured like a reference book, readers simply look up their ailment, be it agoraphobia, boredom, or a midlife crisis, and are given a novel to read as the antidote. Bibliotherapy does not discriminate between pains of the body and pains of the head (or heart). Aware that you’ve been cowardly? Pick up To Kill a Mockingbird for an injection of courage. Experiencing a sudden, acute fear of death? Read One Hundred Years of Solitude for some perspective on the larger cycle of life. Nervous about throwing a dinner party? Ali Smith’s There but for The will convince you that yours could never go that wrong. Whatever your condition, the prescription is simple: a novel (or two), to be read at regular intervals and in nice long chunks until you finish. Some treatments will lead to a complete cure. Others will offer solace, showing that you’re not the first to experience these emotions. The Novel Cure is also peppered with useful lists and sidebars recommending the best novels to read when you’re stuck in traffic or can’t fall asleep, the most important novels to read during every decade of life, and many more.

Brilliant in concept and deeply satisfying in execution, The Novel Cure belongs on everyone’s bookshelf and in every medicine cabinet. It will make even the most well-read fiction aficionado pick up a novel he’s never heard of, and see familiar ones with new eyes. Mostly, it will reaffirm literature’s ability to distract and transport, to resonate and reassure, to change the way we see the world and our place in it.

I have a bit of a bone to pick with the blurb – the concept of The Novel Cure is nice, rather than brilliant, and the execution is in no way satisfying.  The authors apparently have a bibliotherapy service (?) which is interesting but I don’t think I’d be making use of it based on this book.

The nicest thing I can say about The Novel Cure is that it added lots of books to add to my TBR pile.  There’s a really good range and selection of titles but the authors undercut everything with an uneven tone. Are they being flippant, witty, or sarcastic? Earnest? Serious?  I can’t tell.  I also think the layout of the book didn’t quite work.  I would have much preferred longer chapters by broad subject (relationships, aging, birth, death/dying, etc) rather than an a-to-z run down with really silly alphabetical categories i.e. “Bad Blood”, “Beans, Temptation to Spill”, etc.  There’s even a header for”Broken China”….huh?  Carnivorousness (which ails us)?  There also a moment where “new novels” are dismissed in favor of novels that have stood the test of time yet the authors later recommend Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings for the section on Mr./Mrs. Wrong – it had only been published in April 2013, less than six months prior to the publication of The Novel Cure.

Perhaps this isn’t a book for me.  Too late – I read the whole thing.