Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

I remember being pestered by a sense of dread as I walked to my car that day, pressed down by a wave of foreboding that swirled around my head and broke against the evening in small ripples. ~ Opening of The Life We Bury

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
Seventh Street Books, 2014
Crime Fiction; 303 pgs

Joe Talbert is getting a late start on his writing assignment for one of his college courses, and is hoping to interview someone and write a brief biography about his or her life. Walking into a nursing home, he has no idea who he might find. Hopefully someone with an interesting story. What he did not expect was to find Carl Iverson, a man convicted of the rape and murder of a teenager girl who had been paroled from prison after 30 years only because he was dying of cancer. It is not lost on Joe what a unique opportunity this will be. 

As Joe digs into Carl's past, he discovers Carl had fought in the Vietnam War and is still haunted by his time there. Joe wonders at Carl's heroism during the war and weighs it against the crime the man was convicted of committing. With the help of his neighbor, Lila, Joe uncovers more and more information that make him doubt Carl's guilt. 

Joe is forced to juggle his coursework with trouble with his own family. His mother's dysfunction as a parent has always been a problem, but is beyond the point of ignoring. Her alcoholism is out of control and her mental illness continues to go untreated. She has a new boyfriend who is bad news, and her youngest son who has Autism and is unable to care for himself is right at the center of it. Joe feels responsible for his brother, and is faced with some hard choices. 

The Life We Bury is the perfect title for this novel. Both Joe and Carl, and even Lila, have tried to bury their pasts, particularly the parts they long to forget. Each hold onto secrets that have impacted their lives and still weigh heavily on them. It was interesting to see how the relationship between Joe and Carl evolved, as well as that between Joe and Lila, over the course of the novel--how their trust in each other grew and they became closer.

Joe struggles with his decision to leave his brother with his mother to attend college. He wants to make something of his life, get out of his mother's house, and yet he also knows he is the only reliable person his brother has. He truly loves his brother and does not hesitate to step up when necessary. I really felt for him and his situation. 

I also was drawn to Lila who fought her own demons and was very wary of Joe at first. She took to Joe's brother, Jeremy, quickly, however, and I enjoyed the ease at which she and Jeremy interacted right from the start. Jeremy needs all the warriors on his side he can get. I liked him and felt the author did a good job fleshing out his character.

Allen Eskens knows how to create characters that get under your skin and draw you to them. The action really picks up in the last 100 or so pages of the novel, the suspense having been built up and Joe finding himself in dire straits. It was the kind that makes you hold your breath and not want to stop reading until you know everything will be okay. I was not surprised by the outcome. Eskens does not try to obfuscate too much--a little twist here and there. 

I enjoyed reading The Life We Bury quite a bit, although I felt there were several threads that could have been explored further for a richer reading experience. I was left feeling a bit short-shifted by the end because of that, but otherwise it is a solid read.

I could relate to Joe wanting to get out of a dysfunctional home, away from an abusive parent. I also understood the guilt he felt leaving behind his brother. In this case, a brother who is autistic and completely dependent on others. As a result, Joe can't completely move on. His brother needs him.

Carl, truly was a war hero --even in his guilt for taking a life. My dad was a Vietnam Vet and I spent years trying to get him to share and open up about his time there. I always felt a distance between us, a wall, I couldn't breach. I don't believe my dad witnessed the horrors Carl did, although I am sure he heard about them and saw the fall out after. My dad had his own nightmares and was haunted by his own demons.

This book, for me, was more about the characters and their journeys rather than the murder itself. I felt a little cheated in the end. How quickly things were wrapped up--how nicely. Threads that popped up early in the book not being more fully explored. Still, I found The Life We Bury to be an entertaining and interesting book to read. I enjoyed it over all and recommend it.

You can learn more about Allen Eskens and his books on the author's website. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

© 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, May 22, 2017

Where Is Your Bookmark? (05/23/2017)

I am about half way through Sarah-Jane Stratford's Radio Girls, historical fiction, at the moment and thoroughly enjoying it. I have had to stop several times to make notes of names of well known historical figures in history for further research. I feel like I'm apart of something big while reading this book. To be a fly on the wall! Maybe I can temp you with a teaser or two or perhaps three . . .

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.

She ran, weaving in and out of the startled pedestrians, but her pursuer was still close on her heels.
All their meticulous planning, all that work in spinning the web and catching all these flies, but they hadn't factored in this possibility, the chance that the papers in her bag were worth so much that someone would chase after her to get them back. 
Chase after her with a gun. 

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 27% of Radio Girls:
"Well, that's a turnup," he said, echoing the unspoken sentiment. "I'd have pegged you for the type who faints at the sight of blood."
"Yes," Maisie agreed. "And I'd have pegged you for a gentleman. Some surprises are nicer than others." 

from 29% of Radio Girls: 
There were moments when Maisie felt the chill of walking shadows, all those vanished people under poppies. Sometimes, she was sure others felt them too, even the brightest and most beautiful, glancing nervously over their shoulders. Maybe we're all trying to outrun something, like me outrunning the kids in Toronto. They'd wanted to beat her till she broke, and not just her bones. The suffragettes had put themselves forward for breakage, hadn't they? That would be something, being the person who could put herself in harm's way for a cause.

What about this one from 33%:
Maisie had never owned a book and couldn't imagine rereading anything when time was so short and the libraries so full.  

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

As I mentioned earlier, I am really enjoying Radio Girls so far. The opening certainly caught my attention--who is she running from? What are on those papers?

The teasers that follow each caught my attention as I read, and I couldn't help but share them. Maisie is very innocent and naive at the start of the book, although she has quite an impressive backstory, I think.

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

© 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, May 21, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: The Nightwing Trilogy by Juliette Cross

Sometimes I need to spend some time reading my guilty pleasures, and that would include Juliette Cross's Nightwing Trilogy set in the Gladium Provence, where Morgon (dragon hybrids) and humans live side by side. There is definite tension between the two races. Humans have long feared the dragon/human mixed race, afraid of their strengths and special powers. Believing them to be animals. Not all humans are fearful of the Morgons, accepting them as equal and wanting to live in an integrated world, side by side.

The story of how the Morgon race came into being varies depending on the telling. Was it through force or forbidden love? Some will use history to help stir up fear, manipulating it to fit their purpose. Author Juliette Cross has created a world which was easy to get lost in. 

The heroines in each of the Nightwing trilogy could not be more different, but one thing is sure, they are the best of friends. I enjoyed getting to read each of their stories and meeting the men who they would spend the rest of their lives with.

It is true the men in these novellas are alpha males and do most of the rescuing. None of these heroines can be called weak, however. They stand up for themselves and know what they want. There is also the insta-love factor, which makes sense in this particular world given the way fate plays a part in bringing people together. But, oh, how I enjoyed my time in Cross's world and with her characters! I wish the stories were longer and more fleshed out, something I often find with novellas and short stories that I am enjoying reading.

I enjoyed all three novellas quite a bit, but admit I liked Windburn the most. I think it had a lot to do with the strong mystery element involved (which carries over into the next part of the series).

Soulfire (Nightwing #1) (Lyrical Press, 2014; 109 pgs)

Opening sentence: Thousands of years ago, Radomis, the dragon king of the North, took flight on the last full moon of winter.

Jessen Cade is the daughter of one of the most powerful businessmen in the Gladium Province. His feelings for the Morgons are fierce and strong. He loathes everything about them and would like to see them brought to their knees. His daughter doesn't agree. A run in with the gorgeous and formidable Lucius Nightwing, eldest son of the most powerful Morgon clan, throws her father's plans to marry her off to his partner's human son into a tailspin. Will family loyalty win over true love? 

I liked Jessen's spirit and Lucius's regard and respect for her and she for him. Jessen isn't one to play games nor is Lucius. Soulfire was my introduction to the Morgon world and it certainly whet my appetite for more. I wasn't sure about the concept of soulfire, I admit; I felt a little underwhelmed by it in this first novella. And Jessen at times seemed too perfect at times, but this novella hit the spot.

Windburn (Nightwing #2) (Lyrical Press, 2015; 91 pgs)

Opening sentence: Yeah.

Sorcha Linden and Lorian Nightwing are quite the match, both with fiery tempers and very strong wills. Sorcha has long used her femininity to get what she wants. She keeps her heart behind a wall, built over the years to keep it safe. She does not trust easily nor does she trust love. Lorian longs to bring that wall down and win Sorcha's heart. He will do anything to make sure that happens. 

Windburn was particularly dark, involving a cult who believe in Morgon superiority. Lorian is determined to protect Sorcha just as she is sure she can protect herself. I liked the energy of Lorian and Sorcha--both individually and when they are together. They seem well suited for each other.

Nightbloom (Nightwing #3) (Lyrical Press, 2015; 151 pgs)

Opening sentence: "Would you like to hear the story about tragic Princess Morga and the dreadful dragon king of the North again?" 

Ella Barrow wears her own shield, only she is the picture of perfection--the dutiful daughter, the quiet agreeable woman. She's settled into a relationship with a human who comes from a respectable family. Only, she isn't completely happy. Especially not when Paxon Nightwing walks into the picture. He sees more in Ella than she sees in herself, and he wants her body and soul. 

It's clear that Ella's human boyfriend isn't a good person. I really didn't like him, and was so glad when Ella realized she was better than that. I adored Paxon. I admit I wasn't sure I would given my impression of him in an earlier book. He seemed nice enough, but my first impression of him was that he was too much of a lady's man. In Nightbloom, the reader gets to see a different side of him. Paxon is so patient with Ella and really draws her out of her shell. Not only that, but he shows her genuine respect and often lets her make the first move. Ella cares a lot about her parents and what they think, about what others think, and it's one of the chains she must loosen (and break) before she can truly be herself. I could relate to her reluctance to let go of what was comfortable.

After reading the Nightwing Trilogy, I was excited to find out the Vale of Stars series is set in the same world, with guest appearances by some of these characters, and dove right in. My review will be coming soon.

*Source: E-copies of Soulfire and Windburn purchased for my own reading pleasure. E-copy of Nightbloom provided by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

You can learn more about Juliette Cross and her books on the author's website. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

© 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, May 13, 2017

Sunday Post: Happy Mother's Day! (And My May TBR List Winner)

I hope you are enjoying the weekend however you are spending it. I am nearly done with reading Emma Newman's science fiction novel Planetfall.  I came really close to finishing it last night while everyone else was sleeping, but decided I needed my sleep too. Now I'm regretting that decision. I've been thinking of the book all day! I haven't had a chance to pick it up and finish it yet--hopefully tonight.

This week was crazy busy, and so I wasn't able to get around the blogging community the way I would have liked. Hopefully I can do better this coming week. Thank you to everyone who offered me support last week. Work was tense, but I survived. Whew.

We have one more soccer class and then a much needed break. We have been considering other options for the summer. Maybe ballet. There are quite a few activities Mouse would like to participate in during the summer, but unfortunately she has working parents whose schedules limit what she can do. I was really hoping to get her back into swim lessons . . . Not going to happen. Oh well.

Are you doing anything special for Mother's Day? My husband mentioned taking me to John's Incredible Pizza for a balloon corsage and free buffet meal. I am sure my daughter would like that. She's always begging us to go. I don't think we've been since her birthday. If you do celebrate Mother's Day, I hope you have a wonderful day!

This Week 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.

If you read a book you ended up hating, would you stay away from future books by that author, or would you give them a second chance?
Whether I give an author whose first book I read and didn't care for another try depends on why I didn't like the book--and if another of their books interests me. A writing style I do not like would be a deterrent for me or the type of book an author writes. If it's just a matter of my not liking the subject matter, a certain aspect of the plot, or a character, but I like the author's writing, I am more open to giving an author a second chance. There are authors whose works are hit or miss with me. And so I do not like to let one bad book be the judge of the rest. Just the same, admittedly, there are some authors whose books I haven't picked up because of a bad first experience due to the writing style, and the jury is still out on whether I will give them another try.

What about you? Are you willing to give an author another chance if you hate one of his or her books?


Thank you for helping me decide what book from my TBR collection I should read next:

My TBR List is a meme hosted by the awesome Michelle at Because Reading. It’s a fun way to choose a book from your TBR pile to read. The 1st Sunday of every month, I will list 3 books I am considering reading and take a poll as to which you think I should read. I will read the winner that month, and my review will follow. While I will attempt to post my review that same month, I make no promises--it may go up the following month. 

Thank you to all who voted in my May TBR poll! There's something about the month of May that makes me think of historical fiction. I am excited to read this month's selection.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford

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, May 10, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: WTF: Poems by Laura Foley

The night before his imprisonment,
after a truly Russian feast, 
toasting each course with vodka,
he danced and sang all night.
~ Opening of  "Tientsin, December 1941" from WTF: Poems

WTF: Poems by Laura Foley
Cw Books, 2017
Nonfiction; 34 pgs

Goodreads Summary: 
Laura Foley's "WTF" refers to her father's initials and, slyly, to the abbreviated colloquial exclamation, in a pun that laughs and cuts, in this reckoning with a fraught father-daughter relationship. These spare poems communicate more like snapshots than narrative lyrics, beginning with sympathy and gratitude, moving through disappointment, anger and resentment, without ever losing compassion, as Foley examines her father's formative WWII experiences and, consequently, how he shaped her experience and character, ending with a positive recognition of her father in herself.

A couple years ago, I read Joy Street, a collection of poetry by Laura Foley, and when asked if I wanted to be a part of her WTF: Poems tour, it did not take me long to agree. Especially when I discovered what her new collection of poetry was about. My own relationship with my father was . . . complicated. Like Foley's father, mine was a war veteran, and was greatly impacted by his brief time in Vietnam. Growing up, I wanted so much to understand my dad, what he'd been through, why he was the way he was. He was a difficult and closed man, however, sometimes cruel. 

Many of the poems in WTF affected me quite deeply, bringing tears to my eyes. It is a short collection of poems, poems of her father's experiences during World War II and those of her own childhood or experiences with her father. She writes of her father's experience as a prisoner of war and of his accomplishments, how demanding and hard he was on his first wife and children. I got a real sense of Laura's conflicted feelings about her father. 

I do not consider myself an academic admirer of poetry. Rather, I am attracted to poetry that I am able to connect to and to how it makes me feel. As a result, Foley's style appeals to me, the simplicity and straightforwardness in each of her poems. They are full of her memories and rich in feeling. I could relate to some of what she expressed through her poetry. Feeling like I was not good enough or was found wanting in some way, for example. 

One of her poems that spoke to me was "Hindsight" (pg 21):

I happen after the photo
of my emaciated father
standing on a ship's deck,
dark hair combed neatly to the right.
He's just endured four years of war, 
POW for the Japanese, starved,
One feature commands our attention;
my partner names it, his survivor eyes
just like mine.

"Ghost Street" was another one, beginning with "People speak of wanting to relive a day in their youth, wishing the dead alive." It was the final line of the poem that especially resonated with me. It being my truth too. The final poem, "Family Photograph" is a good way to end, and also one I especially liked and could relate to. It captures a happy moment in her childhood life, one of pride.

Laura Foley is one of those poets whose poetry inspires me to keep writing my own.

To learn more about Laura Foley, and her book, please visit the author's website.

hope you will check out what others have to say about WTF: Poems by Laura Foley on the Poetic Book Tours route:

March 28: The Modern Creative Life (Guest Post)
April 5: Wall-to-Wall Books (Review)
April 12: the bookworm (Review)
April 13: Diary of an Eccentric (Guest Post)
April 18: Celticlady’s Reviews (Book Spotlight)
April 25: Soapy Violinist (Review)
May 3: The Modern Creative Life (Guest Post)
May 4: The Book Connection (Interview)
May 11: Musings of a Bookish Kitty (Review)
May 15: Katherine & Books (Review)
May 19: Margie’s Must Reads (Review)
May 24: Suko’s Notebook (Review)
June 1: Readaholic Zone (Review)
June 5: Patricia’s Wisdom (Review)

Many thanks to the Poetic Book Tours and Laura Foley for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour! Thank you also for providing a copy of the book for my honest review.

© 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.