Sunday, August 28, 2016

From the Archives: A Blogging Retrospective - August 2006

[Post idea stolen borrowed inspired by Kay of Kay's Reading Life's Bookish Nostalgia and Stacy of Stacy's Books' A Look Back features. Thank you, Ladies!]

I spent less time amongst the pages of books this month than I have in the last couple of months, but my August adventures were no less worthwhile. I traveled the world and through time, ducked a few physical and magical blows, tracked down the bad guys, and breathed in the ocean air.
And so August of 2006 came to an end. After starting my book blogging career with a bang (16 posts in the later half of the previous month), I settled into what would become my average for the next couple months with 9 posts. 

I cross-posted a couple reviews I had written for the website Front Street Reviews, which is no longer in business, as well as a few from Curled Up With a Good Book, mixing it up with books of my own. The one book I won from Harper Collins First Look Program, was my first DNF of the year. The book was Haweswater by Sarah Hall, a historical fiction novel set in 1936 England. While the prologue drew me in, I was soon bored, weighed down by description, and decided it best to set the book aside. I never returned to it.

I tried out a new mystery series called Targets of Affection by RG Willems featuring a veterinary technician, that tackled the heavy topics of animal and child abuse. Although at times on the slow side, I enjoyed the novel and getting to know the characters. The relationship between Shelby, the protagonist, and her husband, as well as her dog, Spin, especially stood out for me.

The Shattered Blue Line by Patrick A. Davis was a new to me type mystery, a military thriller, set at the Air Force Academy. Murder and politics always mean high stakes, and it proves true in this case too. Continuing with the thriller theme, I read and enjoyed my first George Pelecanos' novel, The Night Gardener. I had heard a lot about Pelecanos and was eager to give his work a try. True to expectation, the novel was dark and gritty, where nothing was simply black and white. While The Shattered Blue Line was more about guilt and atonement, The Night Gardener was centered around our actions and their consequences.

Stepping a little out of my comfort zone, I agreed to read a Christian thriller novel, the first in a trilogy by Lisa T. Bergren called The Begotten, in August of 2006. The novel has some fantasy elements and was overall an entertaining read. Not enough, however, for me to go on and finish the trilogy.

Catherine Chidgey's The Strength of the Sun stands out from my August reads that month ten years ago because it was the only book that I reviewed that didn't qualify as a mystery. The past and the present, as well as the characters lives, are woven together in a story about loss, love, and human connectedness.

That August, I revisited two series I enjoyed. It was good to visit again with protagonist, Melanie Vargas, a federal prosecutor in a series by Michelle Martinez. The Finishing School is the second in the series. Melanie is a great character, and it was interesting to see how she balanced motherhood with work, especially with such a demanding job. I ended the month visiting with my favorite wizard, Harry Dresden in Proven Guilty. I always feel a bit out of breath after finishing one of Jim Butcher's novels. 

On a personal front, I discovered that month my request to change shifts at work was accepted. At the end of the month, I would move from the swing shift to the day shift, or so I hoped. My husband and I were enjoying the second season of Veronica Mars, and Parker and Riley were as playful as ever. And so concludes my August of 2016.

  • Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think?
  • Do you remember what you were reading 10 years ago? 
  • What was the last book you read that was outside of your comfort zone?

  • © 2016, 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.

    Saturday, August 27, 2016

    Sunday Post: New Books, Soccer & Busy Times

    The Sunday Post is hosted by the wonderful Kimba, the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and gives us all a chance to recap our week, talk about what we are reading, share any new books that have come our way, and whatever else we want to talk about. 

    The weather has been wonderful this weekend. It almost feels like fall is on its way; although, I suppose that will change quickly as another heat wave is on its way. Summer never gives up easily. And it's too soon for wishful thinking.

    How have you all been? I hadn't meant to be away last week, but life has been crazy. It will probably be like that for awhile until our family settles into our new routine. Changes are afoot at work too, which means getting used to new routines there as well.

    What are you reading this weekend? Have you watched anything you would recommend?

    Here's what I've been up to:

    New to My Shelves:

    Fractured by Catherine McKenzie
    (from the publisher for tour review)


    Peanut Butter and Cupcake by Terry Border
    (purchased for my daughter)

    What I Am Reading: I am behind in my reading. I still haven't started my August TBR book. And I'm slowly making way through Love Anthony by Lisa Genova for my postal mail group. It isn't that I am not enjoying it. It just touches on two topics I do not like to read about (infidelity and the death of a child). Not to mention I have been very busy as of late. Work has picked up considerably now that school is in session and with the start of school and the soccer season for Mouse . . . well, you get the picture.

    What I Am Listening To: My cat purring.

    What I Am Watching: A couple weeks ago I got the rare opportunity to catch a movie by myself in the theater. The Suicide Squad fit into my available time slot just perfectly, and I had been wanting to see it. I am not too familiar with comic villains, but I do love a good superhero movie. I thought it was entertaining and action-packed, even if violent and very dark.

    Mouse and I have been watching the first season of Once Upon a Time (my second time around). She's quite fond of Henry's character and has added Emma and Henry characters to her imaginary play when she's playing with her princess toys (except in her world, the two are married--not mother and son).

    I got the chance to see the latest episode of Fear of the Walking Dead now that the second season has resumed. The episode focused on Nick, and was quite good, I thought, portraying the suffering and desperation he was going through as he struggled to survive.

    What's Going On Off the Blog: Mouse had her first soccer game Saturday. At this age, the teams don't keep score. It is obvious some of the girls have more experience than others. And even despite my daughter's own experience, she isn't the most competitive or aggressive. Of course, it's all about having fun at this age and just learning to keep the ball going in the right direction.

     Before Game Huddle

    It didn't help that Mouse was not feeling her best. Her allergies got the better of her and her swim lesson on Friday didn't help. She ended up with an ear infection. She's now on antibiotics and is feeling much better.

    Mouse and I attended the meet and greet with her teacher Friday, and we got to meet some of Mouse's new classmates. There was a scavenger hunt so the kids would be familiar with the layout of the classroom. When we left the school that afternoon, Mouse couldn't stop talking about how she was looking forward to starting school on Monday.

    Mixed in with all that was a stressful week at work and some bad news on the home front. I was feeling emotionally exhausted going into this weekend, and am so glad it is finally here.

    Around the Blogosphere:

    Book Blogger Hop

    Every Friday Coffee Addicted Writer from Coffee Addicted Writer poses a question which participants respond on their own blogs within the week (Friday through Thursday). They then share their links at the main site and visit other participants blogs.

    Can you say this sentence describes you? READING IS MY PASSION. (submitted by Elizabeth

    According to Merriam Webster's simple definition, passion means
    : a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something  
    : a strong feeling (such as anger) that causes you to act in a dangerous way 
    Considering I have walked into a wall or two while entranced by a book that has me gripped in its thrall, I guess you could say my strong feelings for reading have caused me to act in a dangerous way. I also am able to tune everything out around me, which is risky when someone you love is trying to talk to you. Mostly though, my passion for reading falls under the "feeling of enthusiasm or excitement" category. I suffer withdrawals if I go without reading for long, my mind aching to read the written word. I like to always carry a book with me, wherever I go, even when I know I will not be able to read. I feel lost when I don't have a book with me. I cannot imagine my life without books. So, yes, reading is my passion. At least one of them, anyway. 

    Is reading one of your passions?

    I hope you all have a great week! Happy Reading!

    © 2016, 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, August 21, 2016

    Bookish Thoughts: The Whiskey Sea by Ann Howard Creel

    She opened her eyes to blackness. ~ Opening of The Whiskey Sea

    The Whiskey Sea by Ann Howard Creel
    Lake Union Publishing, 2016
    Fiction; 300 pgs

    From Goodreads: 
    Motherless and destitute, Frieda Hope grows up during Prohibition determined to make a better life for herself and her sister, Bea. The girls are taken in by a kindly fisherman named Silver, and Frieda begins to feel at home whenever she is on the water. When Silver sells his fishing boat to WWI veteran Sam Hicks, thinking Sam would be a fine husband for Frieda, she’s outraged. But Frieda manages to talk Sam into teaching her to repair boat engines instead, so she has a trade of her own and won’t have to marry.  
    Frieda quickly discovers that a mechanic’s wages won’t support Bea and Silver, so she joins a team of rumrunners, speeding into dangerous waters to transport illegal liquor. Frieda becomes swept up in the lucrative, risky work—and swept off her feet by a handsome Ivy Leaguer who’s in it just for fun.  
    As danger mounts and her own feelings threaten to drown her, can Frieda find her way back to solid ground—and to a love that will sustain her?
    I was instantly drawn into The Whiskey Sea, the story of Frieda Hope, a young woman with the world on her shoulders. Just out of high school, Frieda's dreams are wrapped up in caring for her sister, Bea, and in carrying for the ailing fisherman who took she and her sister in when they were young children. Frieda loves the sea and wants nothing more than to earn her living the same way Silver had. Frieda is both stubborn and determined. Her heart is in the right place, but she does not always see beyond her own thoughts and ideas. This is a theme we see throughout the novel, as Frieda matures and grows into the woman she will become.

    Most of what I know about the Prohibition era is what I learned from history books and organized crime movies and shows (i.e. Boardwalk Empire). Occasionally a novel will take me into a speakeasy, but the focus is rarely on Prohibition itself. Prohibition was a Constitutional law (the 18th Amendment) prohibiting the production, importing, transportation and sale of alcohol throughout the United States. Frieda's decision to join a rum running team did not come easy. She would be putting her own life at risk, not to mention breaking the law. The lure of making fast money--and a lot of it--is too good to pass up, however, and Frieda soon finds herself drawn into rum running. Especially given Silver's poor health and Bea's future to look after.

    The author really brings to the forefront the changes rum running went through over the course of the Prohibition era. From being a local free for all to becoming more organized, from a party atmosphere to a more dangerous business, as time went on. Even enforcement of the law changed over time, as can be seen as Frieda and her team run into more obstacles. Seeing all this come together was perhaps my most favorite part of the novel.

    For me, The Whiskey Sea is more a coming of age story. Frieda's lead a sheltered life in many respects, even with the hardships she has faced. Her world expands when she becomes a boat mechanic and then a rum runner. As someone who prides herself for her independence and self-preservation, falling in love with a gentleman with money is last thing she expects. The handsome Charles is intrigued by Frieda, who wears trousers and drinks with men. She is unlike anyone else he has met.

    Sam Hicks and Bea Hope are minor characters in the novel, but both play large roles in Frieda's life. Bea is so different from her sister in temperament and life experience. Sam is more so the faithful friend and moral compass of the novel. I adored him.

    I cannot say I was surprised by the direction the novel took. Whether in love or rum running, it was pretty obvious to me how everything would turn out. Still, I enjoyed this novel quite a bit, getting to know Frieda and her family and friends. And I love Ann Howard Creel's writing style.

    The historical aspects of the novel were what most intrigued me in this novel, but I also was quite taken with Frieda's own journey and growth as a character. She did not always make the best choices and faced the consequences as a result, but as is true for many of us, these are lessons we need to learn on our own. They are what shape us and make us who we are.  Overall, I enjoyed  The Whiskey Sea.

    To learn more about Ann Howard Creel and her work, please visit the author's websiteShe can also be found on Goodreads.

    I hope you will check out what others had to say about June on the TLC Book Tours route!

    Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour.  Review copy provided by publisher for an honest review.

    © 2016, 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, August 17, 2016

    Bookish Thoughts: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

    I am running. ~ Opening of In a Dark, Dark, Wood

    In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware, narrated by Imogen Church
    Simon & Schuster, 2015
    Crime Fiction; 9hrs 34 min
    Source: I bought the audio version of this book for my own listening pleasure.

    In the mood for something suspenseful, I decided to download In a Dark, Dark Wood to my phone and give it a try. Much praise has been given to Ruth Ware's novel and Imogen Church's narration of it, and it did not disappoint. I can see this novel being perfect on a particularly stormy night . . . 

    Crime fiction writer Nora is startled when she receives an e-mail inviting her to a hen party (bachelorette party) for her former best friend, Clare. The two women have not spoken in many years and did not exactly leave on the best of terms. Although reluctant, Nora accompanies a friend to their weekend destination: a glass house in the woods in the English countryside. The home is owned by the aunt of Clare's current best friend, Flo, and seems an odd out of the way place for a Hen party, or so Nora thinks.

    The novel alternates between the recent past and the present, as Nora slowly remembers what happened over that short weekend and why she is now in the hospital recovering from injuries--not to mention the prime person of interest in a murder investigation. Who died? What was the motive? What role in Nora play? All of these questions haunt Nora.

    I was drawn into the novel immediately, Imogen Church's Nora expressing the tension and a subtle eeriness as the story unfolded.  I had no problem differentiating between the different characters and felt the narrator captured their personalities well. Imogen Church was a good choice as the narrator and one I will enjoy listening to in the future.

    The reader gets to know each of the characters, particularly those at the weekend long hen party, as Nora recalls her time there. No one is without motive, although some have stronger motives than others. Nor are the characters particularly likable, but that in no way hurt my enjoyment of the novel. I wanted to know what happened, and found myself listening to the book whenever I could.

    The twists were not entirely unexpected, although still exciting to see whether I was right or wrong. It was fun to go back and think on the clues dropped and see how they lined up once all was revealed. In a Dark, Dark Wood was an enjoyable thriller over all. 

    To learn more about Ruth Ware and her work, please visit the author's website. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook

    For more information and Imogen Church, please visit her website and Twitter.

    © 2016, 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, August 16, 2016

    Shelf Control: My Haruki Murakami Collection

    Shelf Control hosted by Lisa of Bookshelf Fantasies "is all about the books we want to read — and already own! Consider this a variation of a Wishing & Waiting post… but looking at books already available sitting right there on our shelves and e-readers."

    Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Vintage, 1987; 296 pgs) ~ Per Goodreads, this is "a poignant story of one college student's romantic coming-of-age, Norwegian Wood takes us to that distant place of a young man's first, hopeless, and heroic love."

    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (Vintage, 1994; 607 pgs) ~ According to Goodreads, this is an "imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II."

    Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami (Vintage, 2002; 467 pgs) ~ A runaway and an aging simpleton's paths cross, and readers find themselves in "a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder." [as described by Goodreads]

    After Dark by Haruki Murakami (Vintage, 2004; 191 pgs) ~ Two sisters are drawn into a nightlife like they have never known. As described by Goodreads, "After Dark moves from mesmerizing drama to metaphysical speculation, interweaving time and space as well as memory and perspective into a seamless exploration of human agency—the interplay between self-expression and empathy, between the power of observation and the scope of compassion and love."

    How and When I got them: Kafka On the Shore has been on my TBR shelf since June of 2007, a  purchase I made at Barnes and Noble one day based off the recommendation of an online book group friend, Christine. In April of 2008, I received a copy of Norwegian Wood as a gift from a fellow online book group friend, Sylvie. After Dark landed on my TBR shelf in May of 2008 thanks to a purchase made at Borders. And I haven't a clue how or when The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle ended up on my shelf. I imagine I purchased it at some point, unable to help myself. It wasn't a recent purchase, I know.

    Why I want to read them: It is curiosity and all the good things I have heard about the author, Haruki Murakami. I mean, Ti of Book Chatter has been singing his praises for as long as I can remember. I am both mesmerized by the descriptions of these books just as I am intimidated by them. Will I fall under Murakami's spell or will his books go right over my head? I will not know until I try. It's just a matter of which book to start with and when will I work up the courage to give his books a try.

    Have you read any of this author's books? If so, what did you think? Which one do you think would be the best to start with?

    © 2016, 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.