Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

I can do this.

 Digging in!

Nap time.

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

Smoke. ~ Opening of Smoke

Smoke by Catherine McKenzie
Lake Union, 2015
Fiction; 370 pgs

Wildfires are a reality in California, especially in the height of drought. Homes, businesses, and a lot of land are at risk when they strike, and the fears and damage can be devastating. It was this that initially drew me to Catherine McKenzie's Smoke.

Elizabeth who had devoted her life to fighting wildfires has been trying to settle into life away from them in the hopes of starting a family with her husband. Only it hasn't been easy for them. Their marriage is on the rocks, and Elizabeth feels like she is at a crossroads, unsure of her marriage and the direction her life should take. Her former best friend, Mindy, is having her own problems. Mindy's teenage son is acting strangely, and she finds herself keeping secrets from the husband she has always trusted and confided in. She feels at loose ends.

When a fire destroys the house of a widower, and spreads rapidly through the Cooper Basin, Elizabeth is assigned to investigate for possible arson. Could the fire have been started on purpose or was it just an accident? If it is arson, was it the widower or teenagers who had been hanging out near the widower's home? Elizabeth's involvement with the investigation only adds more tension to her already broken marriage, while Mindy finds herself drawn to the widower's plight and wants to help him.

As the fire gets closer, both Mindy and Elizabeth find their own lives imploding. The two women haven't spoken in years and yet they are both struggling with similar and yet different issues. The fire really is more of a background story for the two women's relationship issues, as they struggle to regain their footing in life, which at one time seemed so certain. Life hasn't gone the way either one of them had hoped.

I felt for Mindy, the mother of two teen-aged children, one of whom (her daughter) had serious health issues as a young child. Her son has grown increasingly distant from the family, clearly hiding something. Mindy is not sure what to do. She is afraid to bother her busy husband with her concerns when really that's exactly what she probably should have done. Although, it's obvious he is struggling with his own issues too.

It took me a while to warm up to Elizabeth, although I did eventually. She and her husband, Ben, have been through a lot, and I wanted so much for the two of them to sit down and have a real heart to heart conversation. There seemed to be a lot of blame going on in their relationship, and not a lot of inward reflection--at least not in the right direction. It's easy to get started on that blame game, and not look more closely at our own behavior.

I was most interested in the story surrounding the fire, and found it interesting the route the author chose to go with it--both the investigation and the final outcome. In and around it, the author raised several relevant issues of today, including that of bullying and privilege.

There was much I liked about this book, and yet it wasn't quite what I hoped it would be. It took awhile for the story to get off the ground, and I would have liked some of the reveals to have come out earlier so that they could have been more fully explored. I also wouldn't have minded more about  Mindy's son Angus, given the significance he plays in the novel.

Communication and trust are strong themes that run through this novel. As are love and family. Life is full of hardships, marriage is sometimes something you have to work hard to maintain. How do you know when to let go? Whose fault is it really, if anyone's? Catherine McKenzie captures the reality of some of life's difficulties, the feelings and thought processes people can go through as they try to come to grips with disappointment and change.  Overall, I liked Smoke, and found it to be a compelling read. I hope to read more by Catherine McKenzie in the future.

To learn more about Catherine McKenzie and her books, please visit the author's website. You can also find the author on GoodreadsFacebook, and Twitter.

Source: E-Copy of book provided by publisher via NetGalley for honest review.

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (11/24/2015)

My reading has turned to the upcoming Holidays as you saw from by last week's teasers.  This week is no different. I actually am sharing the opening of the first Christmas book I read this month, the review of which I will be posting in the next few days. I have since finished Jennifer Chiaverini's Christmas Bells, which mixes a present day story with a historical one, and a contemporary romance novella by Sara Richardson called One Christmas Wish.

Here are the first two paragraphs from A Cold Creek Christmas Story by RaeAnne Thayne, which is about a librarian turned children's author and her childhood crush who has temporarily returned to town with his young daughter, hoping the change will do her some good after all she's been through: 

If she didn't have thirty children showing up in the next half hour, Celeste Nichols would have been tempted to climb into her little SUV, pull out of the Pine Gulch library parking lot and just keep on driving. 

She shifted the blasted endlessly ringing cell phone to the crook of her shoulder while she sorted through the books scattered across her cubicle in the offices of the library to find what she would be reading for story hour.

Teasers from A Cold Creek Christmas Story at 39%

"I'm sorry," he said. "I just can't see how getting up in front of a bunch of strangers and singing about peace on earth will help a young girl suffering from PTSD."

and at 53%

"We don't get to choose the circumstances of our birth families, do we?" she said softly. "The only thing we have control of is the life we make for ourselves out of those circumstances."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

What are you reading at the moment?  Is it anything you would recommend?

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely ladies at Broke and Bookish.

This week's  Top Ten Tuesday theme is Ten Bookish Things I am Thankful for. It seems fitting given the time of year. I am most thankful for my family, but since that doesn't fall under "bookish" they didn't make my list. My family really is what is most important though. We recently got some bad news; my husband lost his job. It has cast a shadow on the holiday season. It is not the end of the world, of course, And we will be all right. At least this is what I tell myself when I start feeling overwhelmed. Deep down I know it is true, but it has still been a blow to us. Anyhow, keeping it positive, here are some of the bookish things I am grateful for:

1. Books ~ This one really is self explanatory. Book have been my inspiration, my escape, kept me entertained, and have helped educate me all my life. They have been there for me through all the ups and downs.

2. My E-Reader ~ If you dig deep enough on my blog, you will find statements I have made about e-books, and how I could not imagine reading them, especially not preferring them to print books. Then I gave birth to my daughter, and e-books suddenly became my main way to read books. My e-reader goes with me everywhere, even when I have a paper book with me. The ease with which I can hold it, turn pages, prop it up, read in the dark, carry multiple books in its small form, highlight and bookmark favorite passages, and adjust the font and size of the words, well, it's proven to be quite convenient.  Not that I will ever give up reading paper books--because I still love those too.

3. Book Blogs ~ I discovered book blogs over nine years ago and they have been a source of not only great book recommendations and book discussions, but also provided the opportunity for me to meet people and make new friends. The book blogging community is a large part of why I continue to blog today.

4. Long Waits ~ At least when I am alone. If I have a long wait and I am alone, I do not mind at all really (unless I have some place to be). I can just pop open my book and settle in and read. If anything, I get a little annoyed when I have to close my book in a particularly tense spot because it's finally my turn.

5. Libraries ~ Libraries are the heart of a community. They provide a variety of services. For me, they are places of fond childhood memories and have the makings of many more with my own daughter.

6. Writers ~ Because they write the books I love so much, of course!

7. Books That Make Me Cry ~ I love books that draw out my emotions.  Not that it's hard to do. But still. A book that can make me cry is one that I am invested in. It means I care about the characters and what happens to them. It's a sign of a good book.

8. Herald Vanyel Ashkevron ~ My husband (then boyfriend) introduced met to Vanyel through author Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar fantasy novels over twenty years ago. While I had read fantasy novels here and there before then, it was really this series that sparked my love for the genre.

9. The Squeal Factor ~ There are, of course, books that just are not a good fit for me. And that is okay. Not every book will appeal to everyone, right? Even so, I tend to like what I read more often than not--whether it is because I am not as discerning a reader as I should be or simply because I know what I like and choose what I read accordingly. Yet not every book earns a squeal or exclamation of "Oh my gosh! I love this book!" as I am reading it--or even as I finish it. It is actually quite rare. I love that feeling.

10. Reading to My Daughter ~ There are times when my daughter seems more interested in her tablet or toys than her books, but she does like to read--or rather to be read to. There are still books she loves to listen to over and over again. That hasn't changed as she's gotten older.  She's become quite the story teller too. I love listening to the stories she comes up with.

What bookish things are you grateful for this year?

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Novellas by Matthew Dunn, J.A. Jance, & Coreene Callahan

The Spy Trade: A Spycatcher Novella by Matthew Dunn
Witness Impulse, 2014
Crime Fiction; 208 pgs
Source: I received an e-copy of this book for an honest review from the publisher via Edelweiss

First Sentence: Later today, Bob Oakland would wish he'd been killed in a manner that was quick and painless and nothing like how he imagined it would feel to have the blade of a penknife saw through his gullet.

From Goodreads: 
When a mission goes awry in Syria, senior CIA officer Bob Oakland is captured by aspiring members of ISIS, who demand the release of one of their own, Arzam Saud, in U.S. captivity. When their hands are tied by Washington's refusal to negotiate, the CIA turns to MI6 officer Will Cochrane to find out what's really going on. The threats are escalating quickly, and in order to save the CIA officer, Cochrane must uncover why Saud is truly so important . . .
It has been awhile since I last read a spy novel, and this was my first time reading anything by Matthew Dunn. I was looking for something short and fast paced when I picked up The Spy Trade to read. The mention of CIA and MI6 caught my interest immediately. I imagine the characters are more fully developed in the longer novels and over the course of the series, and so there was little time spent on that aspect of the story.  Still, Dunn does a good job of setting up the characters and getting the reader invested in them and their plight. I wanted Bob to come home alive and in one piece. I am glad Will Cochrane is one of the good guys, although I think I would feel intimidated in his company. The story itself was at times intense, and always interesting.  I loved how it all played out. It wasn't quite what I expected. Will I read more in the series? I just might. I would like to see Will Cochrane in action again.

To learn more about Art Taylor and his book, please visit the author's website. You can also find the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Stand Down (A J.P. Beaumont Novella) by J.A. Jance
Witness Impulse, 2015
Crime Fiction; 112 pgs
Source: I received an e-copy of this book for an honest review from the publisher via Edelweiss

First Sentence: As the machine spat out the last drops of coffee that Monday morning, a tiny whiff of hairspray wafted down the hallway from Mel's bathroom and mingled with the aroma of freshly ground beans and the distinctive fragrance of Hoppe's #9 gun-cleaning solvent.

With his wife busy with her new job as Chief of Police of Bellingham in Washington, retired detective J.P. Beaumont is trying to stay busy finding and renovating a new house closer to her work. He feels a bit antsy, not being on the job. He spends quite a bit of time reflecting on his recent past, including the tragic accident that took the life of his well respected boss. Meanwhile, his wife is meeting some resistance from certain people in her field who weren't happy with her getting the job of chief. When Mel suddenly goes missing, Beaumont doesn't hesitate to put his old training into use, not trusting his wife's coworkers to get to the bottom of it before it is too late.

J.P. Beaumont has long been one of my favorite characters, and I am always happy for the chance to visit with him again. I have missed a few books in the series between the last one I read and this one, but I had no problem feeling caught up as I read this novella. Fans of the series will enjoy this one, it is a good transition book for what is to come next in J.P. Beaumont's life. I imagine we haven't seen the last of him. For those who are new to the series, know that there is a lot of history for the character, more than this novella can capture, but I think the reader will get a good idea of the sort of person J.P. Beaumont is. I found this novel to be more reflective than action packed, but I did not mind so much. When the action did kick in, it was at full-throttle and quite suspenseful.

You can learn more about J.A. Jance and her books on the author's website

Fury of a Highland Dragon by Coreene Callahan
The Story Vault, 2015
Romance (Paranormal); 102 pgs
Source: I purchased for my own reading pleasure.

First Sentence: Standing on top of his favorite cliff, Tydrin leaned forward to peer over the edge.

Ivy Macpherson is an ethical hacker now on the FBI's most wanted list for cyber espionage. She is determined to clear her name. She did not count on getting help from an unlikely source. Tydrin is haunted by his past, self-blame and guilt weigh heavily on him. When he comes upon Ivy, he is immediately drawn to her. Ivy gets more than she bargained for in accepting Tydrin's help, for he is Dragonkind, a dragon-shifter. If that is not enough of a shock, how will she react when she finds out the man she is so attracted to is keeping a terrible secret from her about hers and his connected pasts?

I have a soft spot for shape shifters. I am not sure why, exactly. I have been wanting to read one involving a dragon-shifter for a few months now, and decided to take a chance with this novella by Coreene Callahan. I enjoyed this story quite a bit, being pulled in Callahan's world of Dragonkind. While I did not feel lost as a first time reader to this series, I did feel I was missing some key elements that might have made my enjoyment of this book better. I am still not sure what a High Energy (HE) female is exactly and there were some threads picked up and left hanging that I imagine got their start in earlier books and/or will be resolved in a later book. Still, the story of Ivy and Tydrin was an interesting one--and rather steamy--and I liked the resolution. You don't always see endings that wrap up quite like that, and it was refreshing in a way. I am definitely curious to read more in this series.

To learn more about Coreene Callahan and her books, please visit the author's website. You can also find the author on Facebook and Twitter.

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Beyond the Books: What I Am Most Proud Of

Every Thursday Karen of KissinBlueKaren hosts Beyond the Books, at which time participants are given a topic and asked to write about it on their own blogs. They then share their links at the main site and visit other participants blogs.

Today Karen's Beyond the Books topic is about what I am most proud of.

I once ate an entire medium pizza by myself. I was about 15 or 16 years old. I can't remember exactly. 

Seriously though, my first thought when seeing today's topic was my family. I am most proud of them. We are not perfect, but we love each other dearly and are there for each other. My husband is an amazing man. Hardworking, generous, and loving. My daughter is kind and thoughtful and yet not afraid to speak her mind. They know how to make me laugh. I feel very lucky to have them both in my life.

A friend and I had a conversation about this a few months ago, and she would not let me get away with just saying my family. She wanted to know what accomplishments of my own I am most proud of. To be honest, I have not led a very adventurous or exciting life. I have no regrets about that; it just means I do not have any exceptional stories to tell.  Nothing out of the ordinary that would make me stand out or earn me a medal of any sort. 

What am I most proud of? My 17 years of marriage. Being a mother. Getting my Master's degree. Losing 75 pounds. Being a survivor and no longer a victim. My career. My blog. Myself. Sometimes I waver on that last one, but, for the most part, at least right this second, I am proud of who I am.

What about you? What are you most proud of?

 © 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.