Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison

London, the year I turned twenty. ~ Opening of A Small Indiscretion


A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison
Random House, 2015
Fiction; 336 pgs

Synopsis from Goodreads:
At nineteen, Annie Black abandons California for a London winter of drinking to oblivion and looking for love in the wrong places. Twenty years later, she is a happily married mother of three living in San Francisco. Then one morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, and an old obsession is awakened. 
After a return trip to London, Annie’s marriage falters, her store floods, and her son, Robbie, takes a night-time ride that nearly costs him his life. Now Annie must fight to save her family by untangling the mysteries of that reckless winter in Europe that drew an invisible map of her future.
Written as a letter to her son, Robbie, this novel tells the story of Annie Black whose seemingly idyllic life with her husband and three children is disrupted when a photo from her past arrives in the mail. It isn't the photo itself that outlines any possible transgression, but rather the events that surround it. It is the beginning of the unraveling of her life, and Annie is forced to reflect on her past and the choices she has made.

There were very few surprises in A Small Indiscretion. From what that "small indiscretion" could be (it's pretty obvious almost right away) to the role various characters played in the story and the actions they would take. Still, I was never exactly sure of Robbie's fate or what direction the author would take the story, especially in the end. There's the unhappily married couple, Malcolm and Louise, the mysterious and somewhat charming Patrick, Annie's ever reliable husband Jonathan, their best friend Mitch, and Emme, the wayward stranger turned employee.

The biggest draw for me to the book was not just the beautiful writing, which I found compelling and thought provoking, but also the characters themselves. I felt a certain disconnect with all the characters in the novel, but I am not sure that is a bad thing in this case. As Annie recalls the events from her past and ties them to what is going on in her life in the present, she is trying to be as objective as possible in terms of laying out her memories of what happened, why she made the choices she did, and the consequences that came after. She holds nothing back, not even in taking blame for her own actions.

I liked that that the author brings into question the validity of memories. This was a more minor point really, given the circumstances, but one can't help but wonder how reliable are memories really? The author brings this point up late in the novel, which at first I thought wasn't really fair as I would like to have seen that side of the story explored more.  And yet, the more I thought about it, the more I thought perhaps it was well-placed, this doubt the author suddenly had thrown my way. It gave me a chance to reflect on what had happened up to that point and re-evaluate my assessment of Annie.

I admit that Annie Black did not endear herself to me, not as a young woman trying to find her path in life nor really the more mature family oriented version of herself--and yet I was fascinated by her and could not help but feel pulled into her story. She was at times reckless and selfish (but aren't we all selfish to some degree?). I could understand why Annie made the choices she made even if I didn't always agree with them. I came to care about her as time went on. I saw a young woman, trying to make her way in the world on her own, but getting lost in loneliness and insecurities. She used alcohol as a balm. It was easy to see how she could get caught up with Malcolm and Louise and Patrick: Louise and Malcolm with their broken marriage, both of them pathetic and sad, really; and Patrick who seemed less a mystery artist type and more of a poser to me.

In the present, Annie is married to Jonathan, a doctor and loving husband. She feels as if she should be happy. She has a thriving business of her own, and yet there are moments when she feels restless and cannot help but wonder what might have been. When the photo arrives in her mailbox it brings it all back full force, however. It seems to be the domino that sets the other dominoes falling. She is forced to face secrets she has long kept hidden. Annie feels helpless and alone with the life she's built falling apart around her.

Jan Ellison does an amazing job of bringing out the inner turmoil Annie was and is feeling as well as giving us a good idea of what the other characters must have been going through too. Even Jonathan, who seemed more like a victim in all of this, isn't perfect by far. There is a scene near the end in which it becomes even more clear how the pieces of Annie's past fall into place--and I couldn't help but think of Jonathan's own past and how little we know about that and yet how he, like Annie, has his own ghosts, even if maybe not quite as prominent. It's another reminder of how the choices we make early on in our lives can impact us--as well as others--years later.

A Small Indiscretion hit two of my buttons in terms of topics that make me uncomfortable to read about because I have such strong opinions on them, one of which I suspected but decided to take the plunge anyway. I like to avoid those topics generally, but occasionally I think it's good to take them on, not just to challenge myself but also to take in a different perspective.

I had mixed feelings about the novel when I finished it. I loved the writing, but the novel left me in a dark place. At the risk of spoiling the end, it wasn't a particularly sad ending. It was more promising and hopeful than not. Still, I couldn't help but feel sad and a bit hollow as I finished reading it. Maybe even exhausted. I carried Annie and Jonathan and Robbie with me even after I finished the last page. Annie may have frustrated me more often than not, but Jan Ellison's novel was quite compelling and thought provoking. Most of all, what I took away from this novel is about the role forgiveness  can ultimately plays in our lives. Not just forgiveness of those we love, but also of ourselves.

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

Source: I received an e-copy of this book from a publicist for an honest 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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 2015 In Review

The weather has been: The past few days I have wished the dark clouds hovering above would let lose their burden.  They finally let loose yesterday for a brief time, coming along side thunderstorms, a tornado and 60mph winds.  Fires are burning in several parts of the state and not only would the rain offer some relief in that way, it would also help with the drought.  Most parts of the state have been under strict water conservation requirements for awhile now, and we are no different.  Although I expected the park water play area would be closed down this summer, I still kind of hoped it would be open. At least to bring some relief to the kids this summer from the heat.

I am listening: I am still listening to Paula Hawkins The Girl on the Train. I have made some progress since my last monthly review, but not as much as I would have liked. June just was not a month for listening to books, I'm afraid.

I am watching: I recently saw the movie Jurassic World, which I enjoyed--although I felt really bad for some of the dinosaurs. I also saw the 2011 version of the movie Jane Eyre, which left me disappointed. It was expected though wasn't it? Given how much I love the book.  I did like the visible chemistry between the two actors playing Jane and Edward, however, which isn't always so evident in the book.

What I am reading: June turned out to be your average reading month for me in terms of numbers. I read some good books, with the big stand out being Sarah McCoy's The Mapmaker's Children.  I am now reading Cold Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff, which I hope to finish very soon.

What I have been up to: In June we celebrated my husband's birthday at Disneyland. We had a nice breakfast at the Carnation Cafe, followed by a free birthday cupcake for the birthday boy. During our younger years, my husband and I used to love having lunch there. Back when you did not need a reservation to get in or else wait hours to be seated. Overall, it was a fun day, but an exhausting one.


Father's Day was more subdued. Mouse was coming off being sick and we were all still recovering from that. We had a nice day, however.

In between all that was the usual: housework, work, and all the other regular routine stuff we do. I have had some car trouble we are still working through, hoping and praying it is nothing serious.

My husband and I got news that a cousin's husband died in a tragic accident a few days ago. It is one of those life moments in which you hear about and cannot help but feel shock and terrible sadness, and want to hold your own immediate family closer and never let go. That expression about living every day as if it was your last makes even more sense than before. You just never know.  I am sad about the loss of a good man, and I am heartbroken for his wife who must be living through hell right now.

On a different note, I do not often talk politics or religion on my blog--such topics can sometimes lead to heated debates and hurt feelings. I have no plan to do so now (other than share a link), but couldn't help but mention a thoughtful post I came across earlier this week by fellow blogger, Athira of Reading on a Rainy Day. Her thought process mirrors mine these past few days as, and she's said it so much more eloquently than I ever could. If you are interested, please check her post out: The Sunday Salon: On true equality and perceived equality.

The child this past month: Mouse had an eventful June, both in sickness and in play. She missed her first week of swim lessons because she came down with walking pneumonia. Despite being sick, she was nearly as active as always. She enjoyed a week off from school and was really rather put out at having to go back when she was all better. Who can blame her really?

We joined her swim class half way into the session because of her illness. I had hoped her excitement and love for the water would carry over from last summer, but it wasn't meant to be. After two days of fighting and tantrums and lots of tears, Mouse finally went in without too much fuss. Well, maybe with a lot of coaxing on my part and reassurances that she could do it ("Are you sure, Mama?" "I'm sure." "Double sure?" "I'm double sure. I'm triple sure. I'm even quadruple sure!" That earned a big smile.). The second session started up again this week, and is going much better. She even volunteered to be first in the water. Mouse was sorely disappointed yesterday when we got to the pool only to find out it was closed due to the weather. The sky was perfectly clear by then, and I had not gotten a call to say it was cancelled.

We have started up our Sunday visits to a community pool with Mouse's best friend again, which I think has helped get Mouse re-acclimated to the water again. The girls have a great time playing in the pool and then in the park afterward.


The summer soccer season also started up the end of June, and Mouse is happy to be participating again. She really likes her coaches and playing with the other children.

Plans for July:  Vacation! We're actually going on a vacation this year. We will not be going far from home or taking much time off, but we are okay with that. It will be nice to get away from work for even just a little while.

On the home front, I think I finally know where I want to hang some of those old black and white family photos. First though, I want to figure out where I stashed the ones my mom gave me last year so I can go through those again and decide which ones might be a good fit for my little project.

Blogging wise, I have a guest post coming up later this month from author Alexandra Sokoloff. She will be talking about one of her favorite children's books. I hope you will stop by and see what she has to say.

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

What was your favorite June read?


June In Reading Mews:

Number of Books Completed in June: 5
The Silenced by Heather Graham
My Highland Bride by Maeve Greyson
The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy
The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons by Heather A. Slomski
Blood Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

Favorite Book of the Month: The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

Currently Reading:
  • Cold Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff
  • Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins  (Audio)

Posts of Interest This Month:

© 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, June 29, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (06/30/2015)

I am nearly done with the third book in Alexandra Sokoloff's Huntress/FBI series and thought I would share a teaser or two with you today.

First Paragraph of Cold Moon (of the uncorrected e-galley):


The moon is high, spilling icy light through the pine branches.

Roarke is in the forest again, in the clearing outside the dark house. His breathing is labored . . . his heart pounding out of control. The night is alive. . . with a presence other than his own.



Teaser from 42% (of the uncorrected e-galley)

And the profiler's words of the previous evening were the first thing on his mind when he woke:


"The one thing that's certain is that she will kill until someone stops her."


What do you think? Would you keep reading?  


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

This week's Top Ten Tuesday theme is Top Ten Four Books I've Read So Far In 2015.  I do not give out five star reviews easily, but so far this year four books have taken that honor. I love how different each of these books is from the other.

1. 

I fell in love with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte several decades ago and have read it twice since, including this year. I read the book alongside my husband who was reading the book for the first time. I still love it all these years later. 

2. 

A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman turned out to be a pleasant surprise. More than that really. It was my first 5 paw book of the year. Yes, it is sentimental, but it is such a wonderful story--both sad and funny and well worth reading.

3.

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy lived up to my every expectation and then some. Sarah McCoy has a gift for creating characters with whom I can really relate and enjoy spending time. I love how she weaves history with the present, connectimg two seemingly unrelated characters  and their situations together.

4. 

Written in Red by Anne Bishop blew me away. Written in Red is the first book of The Others series, three of which I have read and really enjoyed. It's a dark fantasy series with an urban fantasy feel. The world building is amazing. The characters are interesting. And the story spell-binding. 

Honorable Mention (4.5 paws):


Behind Closed Doors by Elizabeth Haynes is probably my top crime fiction novel for the first half of the year. Haynes impresses me with each book she writes. She has a way drawing out her characters in not so obvious ways. In this particular novel, Haynes tackles a very difficult and relevant subject matter--that of human trafficking in a thorough and sensitive way without sugarcoating the truth of it.

What are your favorite books that you have read so far this year? Does anything stand out above the rest?


© 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.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Blood Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

The dark concrete corridor stretched out before him, smelling of blood and semen and terror. ~ Opening of Blood Moon



Blood Moon (The Huntress/FBI Thrillers #2) by Alexandra Sokoloff
Thomas & Mercer, 2015
Crime Fiction (Thriller); 318 pgs

More than ever, Special Agent Roarke with the FBI is determined to find the Huntress, a female serial killer who he believes caused the death of one of his undercover agents in the first book in the series, Huntress Moon. The more he discovers about this woman and how she chooses her victims, the more drawn to her he has become. His reasons have become blurred between the personal and the professional with the passage of time, but he knows the right thing to do--what he must do--is bring her in.  

With the assistance of his team, Special Agent Roarke comes up with a plan to bring the Huntress out into the open. They hope that by re-opening a cold case from the Huntress's past, the mass murder of her family, she will not be able to resist getting involved if she thinks the killer, known as the Reaper, is at it again.  What Roarke and his team did not expect, however, was the very real possibility the Reaper would strike again, even all these years later. Suddenly, Roarke's investigation becomes very complicated.  Not only must be try to find the Huntress, but also her family's killer, the Reaper, all the while hoping no one else will die.

Blood Moon is dark and intense, one of those books I had a hard time putting down while I was reading. The Reaper is an extremely dangerous serial killer who targets families with children. And not in a clean and gentle manner (as if that was possible). No, the crimes are brutal. They would strike fear in anyone's heart. As a result, I wanted the Reaper stopped just as much as the characters in the book. 

There are a few coincidences that occur in the book, some of which push the envelope in terms of suspension of disbelief. However, these weren't enough to pull me out of the story in my race to get to the end in hopes everything would be set right.  

I wish there was a bit more character development in terms of the more minor characters, especially Roarke's team. They play an even larger role in this novel, and it would have been nice to delve a little more into their backgrounds, know what they were thinking and about the jobs they do. Special Agent Epps plays a prominent role in Blood Moon, much like he did in the first book of the series. Epps doesn't quite trust Roarke's motives--and while I appreciated his being the legal conscience of Roarke in the first book, I admit he was a bit annoying this time around. Still, I think he offers a necessary grounding for his superior officer Roarke.

The reader gets to see more of San Francisco in Blood Moon, particularly the Haight-Ashbury District. I got a good sense of the place and the people from the author's descriptions. I was quite taken with Rachel Elliot. I remember a time early in my life when I imagined myself doing something like she does to help girls on the streets. I can't help but wonder if she will reappear in the next book in the series. I hope so.  She would be an interesting character to explore further, I think.

I did not mention it in my last review, but one of the big draws for me to this series is the setting. The books cross many borders, from city, county and even state lines. It is always an extra treat for me when a book is set in locations I am familiar with. San Francisco is one of my favorite cities, and so I always enjoy spending time there in books. But it's also nice to see places featured that may not get a lot of attention otherwise--like Blythe and Lake Arrowhead, both areas which are closer to home and very familiar to me.

While the overall story told in Blood Moon could be read on its own, I think it's best to start with the first in the series, given how tied to each other the two books are. I am curious to see what direction the author takes in the next book in the series, Cold Moon

To learn more about author Alexandra Sokoloff and her work, please visit the author's website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterGoodreads

Source: I received an e-copy of this book from the author for an honest 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, June 22, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (06/23/2015)


Happy Summer! I hope your week has gotten off to a good start. Mouse was unable to start her swim lessons as planned last week. Her cold turned into Walking Pneumonia, unfortunately. She finished the last dose of her antibiotics this past Sunday and seems to be doing well now. She was unhappy about returning to school yesterday, having all of last week off.  I cannot blame her, really.

With the doctor's approval, she joined her swim class in progress Monday evening. My water loving daughter was suddenly afraid to get into the pool. It was my turn to be that parent whose child cries and screams about having to get into the pool. Hopefully Tuesday's lesson goes better.

This past weekend I was able to finish reading Heather Graham's The Silenced, the 15th book in her Krewe Hunter FBI series, which I enjoyed. I loved the historical tidbits the author threw into the novel about the Civil War and Virginia, in particular.

I recently began reading Alexandra Sokoloff's Cold Moon, the third book in her Huntress/FBI series, and am also in the middle of a short story collection called The Lovers Set the Spoons Down by Heather Slomski. One is a more intense, can't put down sort of book and the other is more the kind you want to take your time with and savor. I do need to hurry up with Slomski's book, however, because I need to get it in the mail by the end of the month for the next person in my Postal Book Club. I don't know how I got so behind!

My progress through Paula Hawkin's The Girl on the Train is slow going. I have not had much time to listen. I am still enjoying it though and hope to finish before then end of July. That's my goal anyway.

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


A blurb from the publisher about The Lovers Set The Spoons Down:
In the fifteen stories that comprise this collection—some short as breaths, two of them novelettes—Slomski writes with a keen eye about relationships. About the desires that pull us together and the betrayals that push us apart. About jealousy, obsession, loneliness and regret—the byproducts of loving someone that keep us awake at night.

First Paragraph of the first story in The Lovers Set The Spoons Down with the same title:


We are sitting at a table in a restaurant. The four of us. You. Me. The woman with whom you had an affair. Her boyfriend. I sit across from her, you across from her boyfriend. There is wine, red and white. There are four water glasses, four linen napkins, four spoons, eight forks, four knives. There are tables on all sides of us.



The opening of the first story struck me as interesting in that I automatically could tell the four characters are in an awkward situation. The story is written in the style of a play, which I also found interesting. The first paragraph sets the scene.


Teaser from page 67, from the short story "Iris and the Inevitable Sorrow, or The Knock at the Door"

On the wooden desk piled with books and papers was a red envelope scribbled with her name. Inside was a card with a small pink heart on the cover, and upon opening it she found in Stephen's handwriting the words, "I've met someone." Underneath his signature he apologized for the misleading card, but Valentines were all he could find in the shop.


The teaser is from a short story later in the book, with a title I just love:"Iris and the Inevitable Sorrow, or the Knock at the Door". It's written in a very different style from the opening story. I felt an instant sadness for the woman who receives Stephen's card.

What do you think? Would you keep 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.