Monday, April 24, 2017

Where Is Your Bookmark? (04/25/2017)

I am in the middle of Hannah Dennison's A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall, the third in her Honeychurch Hall cozy mystery series. This is my first book by Dennison, but if this book is anything to go by, it will not be my last. I am quite enjoying getting to know Kat Stanford, antique dealer.

Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea 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. It is also where I share my first impressions about the book I am sharing.

"You are absolutely not selling William Dobson, Rupert!" The dowager countess, Lady Edith Honeychurch, was furious. Even Mr. Chips, her tan-and-white Jack Russell, seemed to bristle with indignation.
Edith's son looked pained. "Do we have to go through this again, Mother?"
For emphasis, Edith slapped her riding crop against the side of her leather boot. "As long as I am alive, this is still my house!"
"Mother," Rupert hissed and gestured to where Mum and I were standing in the doorway. "Not in front of . . . "
"The servants?" Mum chimed in cheerfully. "Don't mind us. We're always arguing--aren't we, Kat?" 

Every Tuesday, Ambrosia from The Purple Booker hosts Teaser Teaser at which participants grab their current read, open to a random page, and share two or more sentences from that page while avoiding any spoilers.

Teaser from 7% of A Killer Ball at Honechurch Hall:
"Don't! she cried and roughly elbowed me aside. I lost my balance and thrust both hands out to save my fall but fell heavily onto the top shelf. 
There was a whoosh of air and I felt myself falling, falling, a sharp pain, a deafening crack and then - - darkness. 

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.

I missed last week's topic which was the Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want to Read a Book. It ties in nicely with this week's  Top Ten Tuesday, which is is Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Not Want To Read A Book. I decided to do both--and couldn't stop at five with either one.

Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want to Read a Book:

1. British/Scottish/Irish crime fiction~ Whether contemporary or historical, I enjoy a good novel set in the British Isles.

2. A World War I/II setting ~ There is just something about these time periods that draws me in.

3. A book with a character who shares my daughter's name ~ Silly, maybe, but for some reason, I can't help but take interest when I see a book mentioning her name.

4. Magic/Supernatural ~ Nothing attracts me to a book faster than the mention that it involves magic. Witches, shapeshifters, wizards, high fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal . . . I love anything involving magic or supernatural beings. Throw in mythology and folklore too, and I get even more excited.

5. Favorite authors or series ~ I do not even care what the book may be about. If it is by a favorite author or a part of a favorite series of mine, I instantly want to read it.

6. A banned or challenged book ~ tell me I should not read something and it makes me want to read it even more, especially if it's for so-called religious or moral reasons.

7. Emotional books (especially ones that make me cry) ~ Or what some might refer to as depressing books. These are often character driven books in which the main character faces some sort of traumatic event or giant obstacle and is forced to work through, overcome or accept it. The ending may or many not be a happy one. Sometimes it is ambiguous.

8. Books set in countries or cultures other than my own ~ I love exploring the world through books. Celebrating differences and yet also seeing how much alike we are in our experiences and thoughts and feelings. It's a reminder of just how small the world is.

9. Female leads who save themselves and possibly the day ~ There's nothing wrong with needing to be saved by someone else, including a man, but I really enjoy a story featuring a woman who is more than capable of getting herself out of tight situations more often than not.

10. When my favorite book bloggers gush and gush about a book and tell me I HAVE to read it ~ Because you know what I like.


Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Not Want To Read A Book (or at least give it a second thought before I do):

1. An animal/pet book in which the animal dies in the end.

2. Animal cruelty.

3. Excessive violence and gore. If I know ahead of time, a book will feature either, chances are I will give the books a pass.

4. Although I do read and enjoy a number of books featuring serial killers, I am finding myself turned off more than not these days by them when the victims are all women.

5. If a character wants to lose my respect fast, committing adultery or cheating is sure to do it. I tend not to like books that feature adultery, although it won't always completely turn me off of reading a book. I do tend to avoid them, however--at least unless convinced by you all it's worth my time. This is another instance in which I have read some really good ones despite my aversion to the topic in question.

6. Incest/Sexual Abuse. It comes up in books I read and sometimes I have even sought out certain books knowing they tackled the subject (and they've been very good). Still, it's a topic I mostly avoid.

7. Books about or featuring American football, the sport or players.

8. Erotica. I prefer more story than sex in my novels. This is another area though where there might be exceptions--I just haven't had much luck with this sub-genre.

9. There are a couple romance tropes I do not like. Particularly rape to love and step-sibling romance. Both hold an ick factor I just can't get past.

10. Nonfiction titles I have absolutely no interest in. Like learning how to fly fish or (please don't hate me). . .  cookbooks.

What about you? What things will make you instantly want to read or not read a book?

© 2017, 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, April 23, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I was in fourth grade and in trouble. ~ Opening of Yes Please

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Harper Audio, 2014
Nonfiction; 7 hrs, 31 min
Source: Purchased for my own listening pleasure.

Goodreads Summary: 
In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book full of words to live by.

Also included? A one-night-only live performance at Poehler's Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. Hear Amy read a chapter live in front of a young and attractive Los Angeles audience.
Amy Poehler wasn't a name I was too familiar with until listening Tine Fey's Bossypants. After that, I had it in the back of my mind that I needed to read Yes Please. I am adding both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to my list of celebrities I wish I could be friends with. Amy Poehler is funny, and real, and smart, and I wish she was my best friend. I like how honest she comes across, how genuine. I could relate to many of the stories she shared, especially about motherhood, love and friendship. I even didn't mind the Hollywood stories, and enjoyed hearing about her struggles as an up-and-coming comedian/actress, which I wasn't as interested in.

I had never watched Parks and Recreation before listening to this book, but hearing Amy Poehler's take on the show as well as her thoughts on her coworkers made me want to. My husband and I are only a few episodes into the first season.

Amy Poehler narrates her own memoir and I enjoyed the experience. She had a variety of guests, including Patrick Stewart, that made this an even more fun book to listen to. I now want to go out and see everything Amy Poehler has been in.

© 2017, 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, April 22, 2017

Sunday Post: Spring Flowers & Reading Books That Clash With My Personal Beliefs

New to My Shelves: 

Pinkalicious: and Aqua, the Mini-Mermaid by Victoria Kann
The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt and Adam Rex
(bookstore purchases)

The Littlest Bunny in California by Lily Jacobs and Robert Dunn
Trolls (A Little Golden Book) adapted by Mary Man-Kong and illustrated by Priscilla Wong
(from the Easter Bunny)

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
(bookstore purchase)

What I Am Reading: I am in the middle of A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison at the moment, a cozy mystery featuring antique dealer Kate Stanford who stumbles upon a long dead body--one that was possibly murdered. I am enjoying it so far.

What I Am Watching: The Voice is now in the live voting round stage. Not that it matters given I live on the West Coast and usually watch the show a day late. I am starting to pick out favorites as the performers are narrowed down. I am also keeping up with The Designated Survivor.

I have started watching Supernatural again. I cannot remember where my husband and I left off on the show, but it's been long enough I thought maybe I would start over with season one. I had forgotten how much I liked the show. As a family, we have sometimes been turning on Star Trek: The Next Generation to watch. I was quite fond of the show when it first came out, I remember. It's been fun to re-visit it, even as campy as it seems now. I was never a fan of the original series with William Shatner, admittedly, but I did enjoy the spin-offs that came later.

Movie wise, we recently re-watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Rogue One, and Trolls. All of which we enjoyed just as much the second time around. We also finally got to see the movie Moana. I was really impressed with it. Have you seen any of these?

What's Going On Off the Blog: Did those of you who celebrate Easter have a nice one? It turned out to be a whirlwind weekend for us. Mouse had soccer. This Easter Bunny had a lot of catching up to do to make sure everything was ready. There was the obligatory egg hunt, and then we spent the day binge watching the movies the Easter Bunny had given us in our Easter baskets. My husband and Mouse put together an island for our kitchen. I think it turned out pretty well. We are going to look for little baskets to put in the side cubbies for storage.

Our new island

Parker is responding to the new medication, thankfully. I took him to see the doctor Friday, and he has gained half a pound.  He is not completely out of the woods, and we are still not sure of the cause of his recent decline--only the symptoms. We will go back in another month to check on his progress.

Parker and Gracie are Troll fans

After soccer today, we visited the nursery to look for a couple plants for Mouse to finish her garden project for Girl Scouts, and to celebrate Earth Day. She even made a friend at the nursery, the two girls swapping bug stories and something about lizards doing push-ups (because we watched a little one do just that). Mouse is looking forward to releasing the ladybugs we bought on my rose bushes tonight.


End of Class - Parachute Time 

"I really want this plant, Mom!"

My rose bushes

Did you hear about the murder-suicide that occurred in San Bernardino the week before last? It was such a tragedy. Not only was a teacher shot to death by her estranged husband, but a child as well. Thank goodness the other injured child will be okay. Even though it was an isolated incident, many of the schools in the area, including my daughter's, have been re-evaluating their visitor and security practices. The lunch on the lawn event scheduled at my daughter's school this past week was even cancelled as a result. I cannot begin to describe the fear that went through my heart when I first heard there had been a shooting at a local elementary school. My heart goes out to the family who lost their son and to the family of the teacher who was also killed. Such senseless deaths.

It was quite a busy week at work. We had our mandatory all agency meeting, which is always a scheduling nightmare since my particular office has to be staffed 24/7. It is impossible for everyone to go, but we do what we can to get as many people there as possible. The guest speakers this time around were Azim Khamisa and Ples Felix from the Forgiveness Project. In 1995, Mr. Khamisa's son was murdered by a 14 year old gang member, the grandson of Mr. Felix. The two men came together to form the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, named after the murder victim. The goal of the organization is to stop teen violence. Both Mr. Khamisa and Mr. Felix's story is a powerful one. Instead of becoming angry and bitter over the death of his son, Mr. Khamisa found it in his heart to forgive the murderer and is working toward making the society that created such a young killer a safer place.

This past week our Girl Scout troop went to a ceramic craft and paint store and painted Daisy jewelry boxes. We hope to pick them up this next week. The girls had a great time. It just so happens the craft store is right across from the local independent bookstore, which of course we had to stop in to visit before heading home.

Mouse's school is having a fundraiser read-a-thon from now until the beginning of May. She's excited about participating. We set up her fundraiser page together, and she asked when she can have her own computer. I have no plans to participate in the upcoming Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon which is scheduled for April 29th, although it is tempting. The timing is never ideal, but I may try to fit in as much reading as possible. Will you be participating?

This weekend is the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, but we are unable to go. I am really sad about that. I was not able to go last year either.

My mom's dog, visiting over Spring Break

Around the Blogosphere:
The Week Before Last In Reading Mews:

Tell me about what you have been up to! What are you reading, listening to and watching? How was your week? Do you have anything planned for this coming week?


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.

Would you stop reading a book if an element of the plot strongly clashed with your personal beliefs, or would you continue reading until you finished the book?

One of the reasons I read is to be able to experience and explore worlds and ideas outside of my own limited sphere. I think it is important to venture outside of one's own comfort zone now and then. My way isn't always the right way--and especially not always the only way. And I like to understand where others are coming from, particularly when it comes to choices made, actions taken, and even beliefs that differ from my own. I like to read books that make me think, and sometimes reading books that question or challenge my beliefs is a good thing--whether it opens my mind to new ideas and ways of looking at things or solidifies my own position. I am also fascinated by human behavior (one of the reasons I got a degree in psychology and social work). I am a strong believer in being able to see multiple sides of an issue--even when you stand on one side or another. Problems are rarely solved if you cannot or are unwilling to take into account factors outside of your own life experiences and views. Even so, I have my limits when it comes to books.

Much depends on how the author presents the topic in question. If a novel is compelling enough, and I am invested in the lives of the characters, I do not necessarily have to agree with the choices made or even always the outcome to enjoy a book. For me, it isn't about whether I agree or not, but rather how it impacts the character and how that character reacts or evolves over the course of the book. I do not necessarily have to like the characters in books I read--as long as they are well-crafted and something about them draws me to their story. Sometimes the staying power in a book is the beautiful writing or an especially intriguing setting.

I do not like it when an author pushes their beliefs on me. Preach at me, and I will likely want to set the books aside. For instance, while I find religion of all kinds fascinating in a general sense, I tend to shy away from books that are too heavy in favor of any particular one. The same can go for politics. I do not like books that bash or disrespect other people's beliefs, including my own. But if an author is respectful and open to presenting all sides, I am more likely to continue reading the book even when it may conflict with my own beliefs.

Two instances pop immediately to mind when I think of books in which my personal beliefs got in the way and had me questioning whether I could finish them. One involved dog fighting (Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones) and the other involved the rape of a woman by the main character (Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson). In the first, the actions were normalized, and just a fact of life--but something I had trouble getting past because of my own strong personal views. In the second, well, I did not feel the character's behavior was adequately addressed, and was glossed over. I continued with both books, and feel they were worthwhile reads in the end, but my enjoyment was definitely impacted in a negative way.

On the other hand, I have also read books that have come up against some of my rather strong personal beliefs which I really liked, even as uncomfortable as they sometimes made me feel. They were compelling stories, well-written, and I was intrigued by the evolution of the characters with the turn of each page. Sometimes much to my surprise. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, for example. Humbert being a despicable and disgusting narrator of the story. The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd is another, in which the main character commits adultery (I have a strong bias against cheaters). Or even Jeff Lindsay's Dexter Morgan crime fiction series, Dexter being a serial killer with a bit of a moral compass, which I enjoy despite my strong feelings about his criminal activities no matter what the intention.

Then there is Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn, which deals with the topic of human trafficking in all its ugliness. While the author and I likely share the same opinion of human trafficking, some of her characters made choices that went very much against what I believe to be right. And I think that was part of the point. It was a difficult read, but so worth it. Reality is not always pretty and while some people may choose to only read books that skirt around or avoid reality all together (and there is nothing wrong with this--I like/need to read books for pure escape often myself!), I believe books like Dennis-Benn's bring much needed attention to subject matters that need to be addressed in our society today.

I generally only decide not to finish a book when I am completely and utterly bored with it or the writing is so bad I cannot get passed it. It's rare it has anything to do with challenging any strong opinion I have. There are certain books I may avoid reading at all because they support a topic or person I feel strongly opposed to--or even just carry certain elements that I do not like to read about--but that is an entirely different discussion for another day . . . 

What about you? Would you stop reading a book that challenged or went against any strong beliefs you may hold?

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

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. 

 © 2017, 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, April 12, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: Monstress, Vol. One: Awakening by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

It took three years to find a name. ~ Opening of Monstress, Volume One: Awakening

Monstress, Volume One: Awakening by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda
Image Comics, 2015
Fantasy (Graphic Novels); 202 pgs
Source: I purchased a copy for my own reading pleasure.
Goodreads Summary: 
Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900's Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steam punk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both and make them the target of both human and otherworldly powers.

It has been awhile since I last read a graphic novel, although I have several on my shelf I would like to eventually get to. Most are memoirs, true stories based on their author's experiences and life. Monstress, Volume One: Awakening is pure fiction and fantasy, however, and one that I treated myself to after it came recommended by several fellow book bloggers.

The artwork is beautiful. It's hard not to linger on each panel, taking in all the details. Dark and shadowy to match the tone of events, rich and detailed, each one. From the gorgeous cover to the simpler and somewhat comic lectures (chapter breaks) of Professor Tam Tam, former first record-keeper of the Is'Hami Temple, the illustrations are really what tell the biggest part of the story in this graphic novel.

The graphic novel opens at a slave auction with Maika Halfwolf up for the bidding. Maika, only 17, and with one arm, is taken in chains, along with several others, including a fox-girl, to Cumaea where she is locked in a cell. What follows is a whirlwind of activity from her escape to the chase, all of which does not go without confrontations and has high stakes. I especially liked how nuanced the story is, with unexpected turns and the level of world building.

The graphic novel's world is entrenched in conflict, various factions vying for power. The two main ones, outside of the gods themselves, are the humans and the Arcanics, which are a cross between human and gods. They all have some sort of magic on their side. The Arcanics wield a more natural magic while there are witches among the humans.

The author and illustrator take us back and forth from present to past as Maika's story unfolds. She is a survivor of a horrific war. We learn of her mother's death and Maika's obsession with finding out what happened as well as more about the monster she is linked to. Throughout the novel, Maika struggles not only with memories of her past but also with the monster within her, which she cannot seem to control. Its power and hunger put everyone around her in danger.

The little fox girl is so courageous, even when most afraid. I just adore her. She's one of those characters you want to hug and protect, and yet she very much can take care of herself as she proves again and again.

Cats hold an interesting position in the world of Monstress, and it's one I am looking forward to exploring more. Helping and, dare I say guiding, Maika in her escape is a two-tailed cat.

Marjorie Liu has made a good start with this first volume of Monstress. The novel is on the dark side and at times violent. There is good and evil, a definite power struggle, and yet there is also a lot of gray area as well. Not everything is as straight forward as it may seem. I look forward to seeing how everything plays out in future volumes.

To learn more about author Marjorie Liu and her work, please visit the author's website.
To learn more about artist Sana Takeda and her work, please visit the artist's website.

© 2017, 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, April 10, 2017

Where Is Your Bookmark? (04/11/2017)

I just finished reading reading Etched on Me by Jenn Crowell, and thought I would share a few teasers with you today.

Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea 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. It is also where I share my first impressions about the book I am sharing.

Have you ever wanted something so much, it's not a desire so much as a beacon? Have you ever prayed for it so hard, your fingernails curl into your palms and your eyes squinch shut and your whole body just hums?
My daughter is that simple, shining thing. Taken away from me under bright lights in a white room, my stitches still raw. I fought so much they put me in hard restraints. I screamed so loudly they shot me up with sedative.  

Every Tuesday, Ambrosia from The Purple Booker hosts Teaser Teaser at which participants grab their current read, open to a random page, and share two or more sentences from that page while avoiding any spoilers.

Teaser from page 48-49 of Etched on Me:
Dizzy now, I crawled to the stall door and pulled myself by its latch. Staggered out to the sinks, my gait wobbly. I couldn't look in the mirror. Couldn't look down at the dribbly trail I knew I was leaving. All i could do was yank paper towels from the dispenser on the wall. Stupid of me, I know--I mean, if thick work wasn't stopping anything, rough little paper scraps were hardly going to save the day. But still I pulled and pulled, dabbed and dabbed, until my knees buckled under me and I fell to the floor.
and from page 53:
"Waste of drugs." His face and his voice were one massive sneer. "She's obviously fine with pain." 
My chin jerked from the tray to the doctor to Miss as my mind stuttered. Oh my God oh my God oh my God, they really are going to hurt me--

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

This book has taken me through a range of emotions. I think you can see why from the opening and teasers shared.

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.

Author Emily St. John Mandel wrote an interesting article back in October called "The Gone Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on the Train", in which she discusses the trend of "girl" in book and movie titles. Not all books with "girl" in the title are mysteries or or thrillers, of course, but quite a few are. While not meant as an academic piece, it is an interesting read. Taking a look at Goodreads data, Mandel found
A number of patterns emerged in our analysis: The “girl” in the title is much more likely to be a woman than an actual girl, and the author of the book is more likely to be a woman. But if a book with “girl” in the title was written by a man, the girl is significantly more likely to end up dead. 
Publishers are always on the lookout for ways to market their books, and having the word "girl" in the title seems to be one of the most recent selling trends the last few years. I have certainly read a number of books with "girl" in the title over the last several years. 

I decided to go in my own direction for this week's Top Ten Tuesday, and make a list of all the books in my TBR collection (books I own but have not read) that have the word "girl" or "girls" in the title. There are a lot. More than ten. *hanging head in shame*

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories by Aimee Bender
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
The Burning Girl by Mark Billingham
Dead Girl Walking by Christopher Brookmyre
The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi
The Last Girl by Jane Casey
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor
Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker
Gasa-Gasa Girl by Naomi Hirahara

When All The Girls Have Gone by Jayne Anne Krentz
Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
The Girls Guide to the Apocalypse by Daphne Lamb
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore
The Tattooed Girl by Joyce Carol Oates
California Girl by T. Jefferson Parker
Girl in the Dark by Marion Pauw
The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick
White Collar Girl by RenĂ©e Rosen
Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford
The Girl With the Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson

Now to read them all . . .

What other title trends have you picked up on over the years? 

© 2017, 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.