Thursday, March 05, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Shady Cross by James Hankins

"You just got out of jail? Seriously?" ~ Opening of Shady Cross

Shady Cross by James Hankins
Thomas & Mercer, 2015
Crime Fiction (Thriller); 298 pgs
From the Publisher:

In one hand, small-time crook Stokes holds a backpack stuffed with someone else's money -- three hundred and fifty thousand dollars of it.

In the other hand, Stokes has a cell phone, which he found with the cash. On the line, a little girl he doesn't know asks, "Daddy? Are you coming to get me? They say if you give them the money they'll let you take me home."

From bestselling author James Hankins comes a wrenching story of an unscrupulous man torn between his survival instincts and the plight of a true innocent. Faced with the choice, Stokes discovers his conscience might not be as corroded as he thought.
The description is what initially drew me to this novel, which is kind of ironic given I generally avoid child abduction stories.  Just goes to show, I suppose, that there are exceptions to every rule. Shady Cross once began as a idyllic place, beautiful and a haven for those who lived there. As time passed, it became less so, "shady" no longer meaning what it once did.  

I knew going in that Stokes is not what I would call a nice man.  He doesn't like to get attached and he gave up on earning an honest living long ago.  When he comes across a bag of money, he is serious about running with it even despite the debt he owes one of the two Shady Cross loan sharks and even despite the girl whose only hope of rescue is no longer available. 

The kidnappers are serious though. They want their money and the evidence the girl's father has taken from them. For every misstep made, the girl will come to harm.  It doesn't take long for Stokes to figure out just how true that is--and it's finally what proves there might be a heart beating inside his chest after all. 

I enjoy a good anti-hero now and then, and Stokes certainly fits that bill. I will not pretend I liked Stokes by the end of the book, not exactly, although I didn't hate him either. I wanted him to come out on top.  Stokes isn't the easiest to like--but I appreciated how honest he was about the kind of person he is. And I came to have some respect for him, for the efforts he went through to help that little girl. He may not have been the best of men, but he wasn't the worst of them either. He really did want to do the right thing in the end. 

One aspect of the book I liked in addition seeing Stokes grow as a character, was the juxtaposition of his situation and what he was trying to do with those he went to for help.  Just because someone is an upstanding citizen on the outside, doesn't mean that person actually is underneath. For all that Stokes was a shady character, those who were supposed to be better than him were sometimes worse.

There is much in the way of twists and turns in this book, many of which are unexpected. I had a couple different theories about how it would all turn out as I read, some of which was correct  and others came as a surprise.  Shady Cross definitely earns its thriller label. There was only one scene in the novel that made me queasy, in which I wondered if I could read on, but my desire to see good prevail over evil was strong. I am glad I stuck to it.

Shady Cross by James Hankins is gritty and suspenseful.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.  Stokes is racing against the clock, and Hankins does a good job of keeping up the intensity of events as they unfold. It was a hard book to tear my eyes away from, I just had to know how it would all turn out.

Rating: * (Good +)

To learn more about James Hankins, and his books, you can find the author on FacebookGoodReadsTwitter, and on his website.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about Shady Cross 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 of the book via NetGalley for 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, March 02, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (03/03/2015)

My dinner table is covered in Lalaloopsy goody bags, decorations, plates, cups and napkins--all ready for the party at the end of this week. I have not yet wrapped Mouse's presents. Otherwise, I am about ready as I will ever be. I read a record number of books last month, but I imagine this month will be a slower one for me. It always makes me a little sad to see my reading slow down after a reading flurry, but it's probably for the best. The surest way to a reading slump is to burn out on reading. But, oh, are there ever a lot of books I want to read!  And all right now!

I began reading Anne Bishop's Vision in Silver this weekend, unable to stop myself. It is the third book in the Others series. In this book (no spoilers--this could describe the first book too), the heroine Meg Corbyn continues to adjust to life outside the compound in which she was raised and imprisoned by making her home in the Courtyard in Lakeside. A war between the humans and the terra indigene is coming and the blood prophets are at even greater risk. I just love this series and the world Anne Bishop has created.

What are you reading right now? Is it anything you would recommend?

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

This weeks' Top Ten Tuesday theme is Top Ten Books You Would Classify As ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS from the past three years.  Oh goodness.  My list of all time favorite books is probably longer than it should be, and so it's nice that this month's topic is narrowed down to just the past three years. I am interpreting that to mean books I have read in the last three years, regardless of the year the books were published (otherwise I am not sure I could come up with ten).  I talk about each of these books so much, I do not think any on the list will come as a surprise (I did not include any books I have read yet this year). The list is in no particular order.

1. Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern ~ I feel nothing but love for this book. I listened to the audio version and it was enchanting and beautiful and it completely swept me off my feet.

2. The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan ~ A beautiful love story set in Niagara Falls during the early 1900's. I have so much love for this book.

3. The House At the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag ~ This book was magic for me. I smile just thinking about it.

4. The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy ~ This book spoke to me on a very personal level, not to mention I was drawn to both the story threads, the historical and contemporary.

5. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters ~ Because. Beautifully written. Full of bittersweet moments. A modern classic to be sure.

6. The Demon Lover  by Juliet Dark ~ This is the first in a trilogy. I found it to be beautifully written and a quite intense read. From the world building to the characters to the story . . . I was completely and utterly smitten from the first page.

7. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver ~ I experienced this book in audio format and am so glad I did. This was such an emotional story, heartbreaking and thought provoking.

8. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman ~ This is a book I wanted to jump right into the pages of and experience first hand. I loved CeeCee and Aunt Tootie and all the other characters in the book.

9. Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter ~ I still cannot think of this one without tearing up. Often the books that speak to me the loudest and stay with me forever are the ones that touch a personal chord in my own life, and this was one such book.

10. The Last Policeman Trilogy by Ben H. Winters  ~ I cannot think of these books separately. The trilogy is more complete taken as a whole. It's dark and gritty and such an amazing story. 

Of the books you have read in the last 3 years, did any make your all time favorite book list? If so, which ones?

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.

In line with the theme of all time favorite books, I thought I would share the first paragraph of one of my favorite books since my childhood. I have re-read very few books over my lifetime and this is one of them: 
"Elnora Comstock, have you lost your senses? demanded the angry voice of Katherine Comstock while she glared at her daughter.
"Why, Mother!" faltered the girl.
"Don't you 'why, Mother' me!" cried Mrs. Comstock. "You know very well what I mean. You've given me no peace until you've had your way about this going to school business. I've fixed you good enough, and you're ready to start. But no child of mine walks the streets of Onabasha looking like a play-actress woman. You wet your hair and comb it down modest and decent and then be off, or you'll have no time to find where you belong."
 It has been years since I last read Gene Stratton Porter's A Girl of the Limberlost (1909), but I still remember how absorbed I would become each time I read it.  Oh, how I loved the time Elnora and I spent in  Limberlost!  I am looking forward to one day sharing the book with my daughter. I hope she loves it as much as I do.

Blurb from Goodreads:
Set amid Indiana's vast Limberlost Swamp, this treasured children's classic mixes astute observations on nature with the struggles of growing up in the early 20th century. Harassed by her mother and scorned by her peers, Elnora Comstock finds solace in natural beauty — along with friendship, independence, and romance.
Would you continue reading?

© 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.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 2015 in Review

The weather has been: Much like last month, there have been sunny days and overcast and rainy days. In fact, we will be getting rain off and on the next few days.  One of the trees in our yard has purple blooms all over the branches. The bees are having a field day. The rain has come in spurts today, luckily the big downpour waited until after Mouse's soccer class. We didn't spend much time at the park afterward though.

I am listening to: I am still listening to Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I know, I know, what's taking me so long?! It's the same as always; hardly any time to listen. Those of you who have long commutes and can listen while you clean house or exercise are lucky. Because of the February holidays, I did have extra reading time, but instead of listening to an audio book, I decided I would rather use that time to read my e-books and print books. 

I am watching: The Walking Dead came back this month. Oh, how I love that show! I am still watching Scandal. Is anyone else annoyed with the whole kidnapping story line too? I'm so glad it's over. I saw the finale of How to Get Away With Murder. I heard there were a couple versions of the end filmed to avoid spoilers getting out. Now I want to know what the alternate ending was.  The Voice started again this week. I watched it for the first time last season and enjoyed it. It's one of the few shows I like to watch that I can watch in the presence of my daughter.  I don't know why, but The Voice always leaves me feeling happy. I love how supportive the coaches are.  So different from American Idol, which I haven't seen in years.

I am reading: February shaped into the month of fantasy, whether it be paranormal romance or urban fantasy, interspersed with a crime fiction novels. I finished reading Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop last night, the second in her Others series. This book has a bit more humor in it than the first in the series, Written in Red, which I had read just before it, but it is still very dark. It will be hard to top this series as my new favorite series this year, I think.  I also started re-reading Jane Eyre this month, which I am reading alongside my husband.  Sort of.  He's ahead of me right now. 

I am thinking/feeling: February always feels like it's only a couple weeks long, maybe in part because there are two holidays smack dab in the middle. Early in the month, I had my second post-op appointment and got a clean bill of health. The doctor did advise me to go easy on myself still and warned me against running any marathons (like that would happen).  I do not have to go back for another year. I am feeling so much better physically than I was the beginning of January.

Work has been extremely busy, as it always is this time of year. If January and February are anything to go by, the last week of each month are going to be drama filled this year--and not in a good way. This week wasn't even close to being as bad as the last week of January though, and for that I am grateful.

The child this week: I cannot believe my little girl will be four in just over a week.  It seems impossible.  She's both ready and not. Some days she tells me she cannot wait to be a big girl and other days she cries because she does not want to get any older. She's starting to question her mortality, asking me about death, telling me she does not want to die and asking me to point out Heaven on a map.  I think she finally understands what it means to die, at least in terms of not being able to see a person or animal again.  I never expected to be asked such questions by her at such a young age, especially given the losses she often refers to happened last year--or in the case of her grandfather, 3 1/2 years ago). She gets very sad when she talks about Heaven and death. I do not know if any of the answers I give her are the right ones. It's so easy to make light of them, but she's so serious and that would not be fair.

On a lighter note, Mouse's teacher told me the other day that it is obvious Mouse is read to a lot at home because of how much she knows. I guess they were learning about sea life one week and Mouse was able to name the fish and whales before anyone else, even the teacher. I did not tell the teacher Mouse likely learned those names via Octonauts, a cartoon show, she watches on television. 

Plans for March: In a week from now, Mouse will be celebrating her fourth birthday with her family and friends. It's not possible she is already four, is it? It seems like yesterday when I was taken to the hospital to give birth to her.

I haven't thought much farther than having a house full of family visiting next weekend and into the following week. I think once everyone is gone and I will breath a huge sigh of relief and need at least the rest of the month to recover. I'm an introvert through and through.

How did February turn out for you?  Does anything in particular stand out?  

What was your favorite February read?

February In Reading Mews:

At the beginning of February, I completed the Goodreads Reading Challenge! 

Number of Books Completed in February: 8

Favorite Book of the Month: Written in Red by Anne Bishop (review pending)

Currently Reading:
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Next Up:
  • Vision in Silver (Others, #3) by Anne Bishop

Reviews Posted:

Posts of Interest This Week:

© 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.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

In years to come, Flora would remember this as the day of Before and After. ~ Opening of Under a Silent Moon

Under a Silent Moon (DCI Louisa Smith #1) by Elizabeth Haynes
Sphere, 2013
Crime Fiction; 368 pgs

An excerpt from the Publisher:
Two women share one fate. 
A suspected murder at an English Farm. A reported suicide at a local quarry.
Can DCI Louisa Smith and her team gather the evidence and discover a link between them, a link which sealed their fate one cold night, Under a Silent Moon?

A couple of years ago, I read and loved Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes. It was an intense reading experience that left me checking the locks on my doors and windows more than I had before. Under a Silent Moon is a very different crime fiction novel. While the other had been more of a thriller, Under a Silent Moon is most definitely a police procedural.

Haynes was meticulous in her research and in detailing the investigation of the two deaths as it unfolded over six days time. As a result, I felt as if I was right in the middle of the investigation with the police, rushing to find the truth, waiting for resources and technology outside their control to become available and chasing each lead as it came in, hoping one or two would lead them in the right direction. The novel is told from multiple perspectives, giving the reader a good overview of the various parts of the investigation.

I always find it interesting to be in the middle of a police investigation, seeing how the pieces falling into place as well as the dynamics of those involved in the investigation. At the head of this investigation is DCI Louisa (Lou) Smith. It is her first time at the helm, and she wants to make a good impression. It isn't always easy for her. Her lead detective seems distracted and their history together only complicates matters.

As focused on the two deaths and their possible connection as the novel was, I admit to being concerned character development would suffer as a result. I should not have worried. The reader gets a good feel for many of the players in the book as the investigation unfolds, including the victims. And given this is just the first book in a series, I am sure the reader will get to know more about the various continuing characters in future books. I definitely want to know more about Lou and Jason Mercer, the analyst.

Many possible motives are raised throughout the book, some more likely than others. For the last third of the book, I was racing through to the end to see what the conclusion would be. While I was not surprised by the final outcome, I wanted--and needed--to know how everything would play out. In some ways this book is very similar to other police procedurals out there, but I really like Elizabeth Haynes' writing style and her characters, and I am looking forward to reading Behind Closed Doors, the next book in the series.

Rating:  * (Very Good)

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

Source: I bought an e-copy version of this book for my own reading pleasure.

© 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, February 23, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (02/24/2015)

Oh, how I love the rain! We got some rain this past weekend, a most welcome sight.  My daughter was eager to try out the rain boots she had received for Christmas (she was not interested in testing them out earlier this year), and so, despite it being dark out, we let her explore our backyard in the rain, dressed in her boots and raincoat.  The sky was overcast, but rain free enough for her soccer class on Saturday, which was a good thing given her best friend met her after for a visit to the library and park.  The girls had a blast, playing on the swings and slides.  Mouse's friend "read" to her on the couch at the library. It made for a fun weekend.

Then came the shoe shopping. I already do not like shoe shopping, but having to do it with my daughter is even more of a challenge. She hates new shoes. She gets very attached to her shoes, no matter how torn and small they may get. After announcing her dislike for every pair I showed her, threatening finally to buy her whichever pair I liked, she finally chose two--both the ones I initially said she might like.  It would be so much easier to go shoe shopping without her, I know. It's hard to know though what size she wears when her feet are growing so fast. And I do like to include her when I can.  Although, now that I think about it, I generally buy her clothes without asking her . . . Anyway, she has new shoes, and I tossed some of her old ones, although not her favorite pair.  I'll let her keep them a little while longer.

On a completely different topic, I have been on a good reading streak as of late, my most recent endeavor being Anne Bishop's Written in Red, the first book in her Others series.  Anne Bishop is one of those author's whose name I see, and I melt in anticipation. Written in Red is a dark urban fantasy novel set in an alternate world in which humans have migrated into areas belonging to the Others, supernatural beings with untold powers and abilities. The Others generally do not like the humans, viewing them as food, while the humans fear the Others, hoping they can live peacefully alongside  them.  In Written in Red, a young woman seeking to escape the compound she's been kept a prisoner in all her life, seeks refuge with the Others by taking a job as their human liaison.  They have no idea who she is or what secrets she hides, not at first.  The leader of the Others in that area takes a special interest in her. I devoured the 487 page book over the weekend (much to the chagrin of my daughter and husband--who I hope will forgive me) and will share the first paragraph with you below.  I am now in a state of wondering what to read next but not quite being ready to jump into something else. I might just pick up the second in the series, Murder of Crows.

What have you been reading lately?  Is it anything 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.

Here is the opening of the first chapter Written in Red by Anne Bishop, which I just finished reading:
Half blinded by the storm, she stumbled into the open area between two buildings. Hoping to hide from whomever was hunting for her as well as get some relief from the snow and wind, she followed an angled wall and ducked around the corner. Her socks and sneakers were soaked, her feet were so cold she couldn't feel them. She knew that wasn't good, wasn't safe, but she had taken the clothing available just as she had taken the opportunity to run.
I imagine if you are not a reader of dark fantasy and do not like shape-shifters and vampires, this book might not appeal to you, but if you do enjoy this type of fiction, I highly recommend this book.

Would you continue reading?

Katherine from I Wish I Lived in a Library tagged me for the Mustache You a Question meme (my husband is groaning as he reads the title, I'm sure).  Thank you, Katherine! It was fun to do.

Four names people call me other than my real name:
Literary Feline
Mama (and all it's other variations)
Mouse's Mom

Four Jobs I've Had:
1. Receptionist
2. Circulation Desk Assistant/Supervisor
3. Recreational Leader
4. Social Worker

Four Movies I Have Watched More Than Once (too many times to count really):
1. While You Were Sleeping
2. Sleepless in Seattle
3. Ever After
4. Caillou's Holiday Movie (but only because I have to--I've probably see this one more than any other movie ever--and my daughter is only 3 1/2)

Four Books I'd Recommend:
1. The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli
2. The Last Policeman Trilogy (Yes, I'm cheating and counting three books as one because you have to read all three!)
3. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
4. Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

Four Places I've Been:
1. Niagara Falls (New York & Canada)
2. Kaneohe, Hawaii (lived there for three years)
3. Warren, Pennsylvania
4. Seattle, Washington

Four Places I'd Rather Be:
1. My comfy bed
2. London, England
3. Adelaide, Australia
4. Scotland

Four Things I Don't Eat:
1. Seafood
2. Hot Dogs
3. Beets
4. Sauerkraut

Four of my Favorite Foods (all bad for me):
1. Ice cream
2. Chocolate
3. Pasta
4. Pizza

Four TV Shows That I Watch:
1. Walking Dead
2. Scandal
3. The Voice
4. Blacklist

Four Things I'm Looking Forward to This Year (2015):
1. Maybe, hopefully, taking an actual vacation this year.
2. Getting in better shape.
3. Visiting the San Diego Zoo
4. Reading a lot of good books

Four Things I'm Always Saying:
1. "Do you think you should be doing that?"
2. "Do you need to use the restroom before we go?"
3. Come on, Honey, please try."
4. "Heavens!"

Four People I Tag: 
Can I tag all of you?  You should all do this meme.

© 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.