Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn

"I say, if you're running away from your wedding you're going about it quite wrong."  ~ Opening of Night of a Thousand Stars

Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn
Harlequin MIRA, 2014
Fiction (Historical, Romance); 368 pgs

I knew I would enjoy this novel from the very first sentence, and I was not wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Poppy Hammond's world.  Yes, she was a bit presumptuous at times, but what a great character--I love how she took charge of her life. Then there is Sebastian, whom I adored (maybe even had a little crush on).

A little about the book, set in 1920: Penelope "Poppy" Hammond, step daughter to a wealthy industrialist, ditches her stiff groom on their wedding day, enlisting the aid of Curate Sebastian Cantrip. They flee to Poppy's father's country village home in England. It is there that Poppy reflects on her life thus far--how little she's accomplished and how often she's failed to follow through. Deciding to change that, Poppy is determined to return to London to find Sebastian Cantrip and thank him for his help as well as maybe find herself a little adventure.  And adventure she finds in spades! For the mysterious curate is not who he says he is--nor is he where she thought she'd find him. Poppy, along with her lady's maid, Masterman, begin their own investigation into the identity and whereabouts of Sebastian.

Their adventure takes them from the ports of London to Damascus and the deserts beyond.  There is intrigue, treachery, romance, and danger at every turn.  Poppy is quick witted and intelligent. She is ever tenacious.  Her wealthy upbringing showed a few times, her privilege and class being both a hindrance and a help.

I especially enjoyed the references to the political and social turmoil in Damascus and among the Bedouin tribes throughout the novel.  As well as the descriptions of the city itself.  Damascus was very much a character all its own, as was the desert. There was a romantic air about it and a dangerous one.

There is humor throughout the novel, and I found myself laughing as often as I found myself holding my breath in suspense, waiting to see what would happen next. This book wasn't quite what I expected in that I expected more romance and less adventure, but the level of adventure and intrigue was quite high. I liked how the romance progressed through the novel--more of a slow tease and less of an "in your face" type.

While things may fall a little too conveniently together in the end, this did not bring down my enjoyment of the novel in any way. It does make me anxious, however, to read City of Jasmine. When I first volunteered to read Night of a Thousand Stars, I had no idea it was a companion book to another that features some familiar characters. My only quibble with not reading that book first is that I did not get to experience the excitement others did about running into those familiar characters again.  Just the same, Night of a Thousand Stars is perfectly fine as a stand alone, and, I feel, nothing is lost in reading them out of order or even just one or the other.

I look forward to reading more by Deanna Raybourn in the future.  I can see why she's such a well-liked author.

Rating:  * (Very Good)

To learn more about Deanna Raybourn, and her books, please visit the author's website.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about Night of a Thousand Stars on the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. E-Copy of the book provided by the publisher.

© 2014, 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, October 21, 2014

Where Is Your Bookmark? (10/21/2014)

Hello from my little corner of California! The weather lately has been so pleasant. I can only hope it will be this way come Sunday, when my family participates in the Annual Cure SMA Walk-n-Roll. This will be our second year participating. My friend's teenager son (and my daughter's bestfriend's uncle) suffers from a rare form of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), an illness that, over time, gets progressively worse. There is no cure as of yet, and testing for such illnesses can be long and arduous. My friend's son has had to switch to home study because the pain in his body has become too great. He is beginning to lose feeling in his feet. He hid his pain from his mom for quite a while, not wanting to give up going to school with his friends.  It is a heartbreaking illness.  The walk is a way to raise money for a cure and also a way to bring SMA families and those who suffer with it together in support. It will be a great day.

 This past weekend we took time out to visit the pumpkin patch, which Mouse had been talking about nonstop for the last few weeks. We had a nice time.  There was a petting zoo, a pony ride, and a few carnival type rides to keep the children entertained.  Mouse went crazy in the petting zoo, she was so excited. She picked out a little pumpkin to bring home.

October has proven to be a month of challenges. If it is not one thing, it's another. Life gets that way sometimes, doesn't it? When I'm feeling at my lowest, I just have to look at my smiling daughter or remind myself it could be worse. Reading has helped too. I recently read Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn which was the perfect escape--adventure and romance in 1920. I also finished Liz Strange's Erased, a science fiction novel, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Talk about intense! And I am back to Fingersmith and loving it just as much as I was before I set it aside to read Night of a Thousand Stars for the upcoming tour. I plan to lose myself in Fingersmith over the next few days as much as I can (darn work--always getting in the way) so I can catch up to the read-a-long schedule.

What have you been up to lately?  What are you reading at the moment?  Is it something you would recommend?

Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea hosts 
First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where  
participants share the first paragraph (or a few) of a 
book they are reading or thinking about reading soon.

I have a couple books on tap I hope to begin after I finish Fingersmith, one of which is Last Train to Babylon by Charlee Fam.  It's a story about a young woman who returns home after the death of her former best friend. Memories of their friendship and just what ripped them apart come back full force. The book is getting good reviews, and I am looking forward to reading it.
The rain assaults my car in the far corner of the empty train station lot, and the wipers dance to a furious beat, so awkwardly out of sync with everything else. 
Smoke streams off the end of the lit cigarette. It's balanced against the car's ashtray--masking the scent of three-year-old air freshener--vanilla and sandalwood. I don't smoke it, but I crave the thick mist spreading beneath my ribs, filling my lungs--filling the space where you hollowed me gutless.
 Would you continue reading?

© 2014, 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, October 19, 2014

From the Archives: Urban Fantasy

I began keeping a reading journal several years before I began blogging. I find it interesting to sift through my thoughts of books that I read back then. My reviews were often brief and contained little substance, but I thought it'd be fun to document them here on my blog as well as share them with you. Here are two from November and December of 2005: 

Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn
Grand Central Publishing, 2005
Fantasy; 259 pgs

Laurell K. Hamilton and Kelley Armstrong whet my appetite for tales of werewolves, and so I could not resist reading Kitty and the Midnight Hour. Kitty is a werewolf who, practically over night, becomes the host of a popular radio talk show that deals with the supernatural. She's the last person on earth one would expect to be a werewolf. Suddenly, she finds herself on the hit list of the vampires, in the middle of a pack power struggle, and working with the police and a werewolf hunter to solve the brutal murders of prostitutes in the city. This was a light and sometimes funny novel. Kitty is a likeable and endearing character. I look forward to reading more about her adventures.

Bite by Hamilton, Laurell K. et al
 (Fantasy) (297 pgs)

Anita Blake, Vampire Executioner and Animator, is hired by a mother to stop her teenage girl from willingly being turned into a vampire; Sookie Stackhouse, telepath, has unexpected visitors who have come to give her more than just the legacy of her recently deceased cousin; Dr. Sophie Tourneau veterinarian and vampire, believes several recent suicides are not what they seem and she is determined to uncover the truth; witch and former school teacher, Caroline Lang, joins forces with the vampire Galahad to stop an evil army from multiplying; and microbiologist, Daniel Hart’s dreams are dashed when a vampire steals everything from him, including his fiancée and is so bent on revenge, he is determined to destroy the vampire and free his fiancée, even if it means turning into a vampire himself. Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Mary Janice Davidson, Angela Knight, and Vickie Taylor join together to create this anthology of short stories. Tough, mysterious, sexy, and fun, it’s hard to resist being swept into the worlds created by these five authors. Angela Knight and Vickie Taylor are new authors to me and although I doubt I will be seeking their books out, I did enjoy their tales.  It was fun to revisit some of my favorite heroines in Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris' and Mary Janice Davidson's stories.  

© 2014, 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.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: A Penny for the Hangman by Tom Savage

This is a day unlike any other day, ever, in the history of the world. ~ Opening of A Penny for the Hangman

A Penny for the Hangman by Tom Savage
Alibi, 2014
Crime Fiction; 259 pgs

New York journalist, Karen Tyler, has ambition in spades; and so when an anonymous caller offers her a juicy story about unknown facts in an infamous murder case, how can she resist? Fifty years before, two privileged teenage boys were arrested and convicted for the brutal murder of their parents. A new movie is about to be released and renewed attention in the case is high. Karen jumps at the chance to go to the scene of the crime on the beautiful Caribbean Island of St. Thomas when invited by her secretive source, sure that he is one of the killers. Karen's best laid plans are upended when her host implements his own. Then it's a race to see who comes out alive, if anyone.

Let's set aside the fact that Karen seems a bit too naive for an experienced reporter, and that she needs a good dose of skepticism and caution, my only real quibble with the book. Even with that, I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Penny for the Hangman. It was intense and suspenseful with an interesting twisty plot.  Much of the time I was felt the author knew the reader would be on top of everything going on and it was really more a matter of seeing how Karen handled it all. Whereas in some books this style of writing takes away some of the intensity, it felt perfect for this type of tale.

The novel is written as if it is a book compiled of Karen's journal entries, her news articles, book excerpts from a book written by the arresting officer, and journal entries of one of the killers, along with narrative of events as they unfold. It was an effective mode of storytelling, especially in building up the suspense as the story went along. You get a little history into the boys' mindsets and their relationship as well of Karen's experiences too.  Wulf and Rodney, the two boys convicted of the murders, were interesting characters to say the least.

This novel brought to mind the Lyle and Eric Mendendez trial that took place while I was in the middle of my undergraduate studies back in the early 1990's.  They were two real life murderers who killed their parents. I had a professor who knew the family and was very upset by the allegations that came out. While this particular case was never alluded to in the novel, other famous murders were mentioned that the reader is sure to recognize. I always like it when an author adds real life details into novels that way. It lends an authenticity a novel, I think.

While some might find events in this novel to be a little over the top at times, it was all a part of the roller coaster ride that made the novel so fun and exciting. A Penny for the Hangman was an entertaining and difficult to put down novel. It makes for a great read, especially if you want something fast paced and full of suspense.  

Rating: * (Good +)

To learn more about Tom Savage and his books, please visit the author's website

I hope you will check out what others had to say about A Penny for the Hangman on the TLC Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. The publisher provided me with an e-copy for review.

© 2014, 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, October 15, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Young Love

(My Grandparents)

© 2014, 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.