Monday, May 30, 2016

Where Is Your Bookmark? (05/31/2016)

It was a weekend for reading! We spent a good part of it on the road, traveling to and from my in-laws. I finished Jesmym Ward's Salvage the Bones this evening after we arrived home, and thought I would share a bit with you. Set in Mississippi, this novel is about a teenage girl named Esch and her family. Her alcoholic father is preparing for a hurricane, her brother Skeetah is trying to keep his pit bulls pups alive, and another of her brothers is hoping to get a scholarship to a basketball camp for the summer. Esch, at 15, is pregnant.

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.

China's turned on herself. If I didn't know, I would think she was trying to eat her paws. I would think that she was crazy. Which she is, in a way. Won't let nobody touch her but Skeet. When she was a big-headed pit bull puppy, she stole all the shoes in the house, all our black tennis shoes Mama bought because they hide dirt and hold up until they're beaten soft. Only Mama's forgotten sandals, thin-heeled and tinted pink with so much red mud seeped into them, looked different. China hid them all under furniture, behind the toilet, stacked them in piles and slept on them. When the dog was old enough to run and trip down the steps on her own, she took the shoes outside, out them in shallow ditches under the house. She'd stand rigid as a pine when we tried to take them away from her. Now China is giving like she once took away, bestowing where she once stole. She is birthing puppies.

Every Tuesday, Jenn from Books And A Beat hosts Teaser Tuesdays at which time participants grab their current read, open to a random page, and share two (2) "teaser" sentences from that page while avoiding any spoilers.

Teaser from page 88 of Salvage the Bones:
They cannot tell, but it is there. Perhaps Skeetah saw when I walked from the water and put on my clothes. I do not know, but I will not give him the chance to see again now. I will not let him see until none of us have any choices about what can be seen, what can be avoided, what is blind, and what will turn to stone.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

The opening paragraph brought back the memory of my dog Riley who liked to play with my husband's shoes. He wasn't so much trying to nest with them as entice us to play with them. I finished Salvage the Bone Monday evening and hope to get my review written and up on my blog at some point. 

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.

This week's  Top Ten Tuesday Beach Reads Week --which is a difficult theme for me to take on. I could list books I think fall under the category of Beach Reads, but the truth is I don't really read at the beach. And my reading during the summer months--when people are likely to be at the beach-- doesn't really change in terms of the type of books I read. So, instead. I thought I would go with the Top Ten Books you should read if you are stuck at home alone on a stormy summer night (although I'm not sure "stuck" would be the appropriate word to use--because any reading time should be embraced, right?).

1. Storm Front by Jim Butcher and any of the other books in the Dresden Files series that follow. This is a fast-paced urban fantasy novel about a modern day wizard with his own Chicago-based agency. It's got its dark side, but it's also funny in spots.

2. Rachel Caine's Weather Warden Series is perfect if you are into urban fantasy and paranormal romance. You'll never think of a storm or tornado the same way again.

3. The Woman in White  by Wilkie Collins is the perfect choice if you prefer to settle in with something thicker with a Gothic feel. Don't be afraid to pick up this classic and read it. It's perfect reading for a stormy night.

4. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters is a modern Gothic classic that will have you reading long into the night.

5. If horror is more your style, I highly recommend Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box.

6. Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke offers a more subtle thrill, and is set in the middle of a snow storm.

7. For a quiet ghost story that will be much less likely to leave you checking under your bed, you might want to give The Uninvited by Cat Winters a try.

8. Perhaps you are more of a romantic at heart and would do best with Karen Marie Moning's Beyond the Highland Mist. 

9. This might be a good time to finally give George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones a try. You know you've been wanting to. Winter is coming, after all.

10. If you are looking for sweet dreams, perhaps you'd be better off sticking with Fredrik Backman's A Man Called Ove.

What books would you recommend for a stormy summer night?

© 2016, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Bookish Thoughts: A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi

Rock-a-bye baby in the tree top, when the wind blows, the cradle will rock . . . 
The nursery rhyme played itself in her head over and over again as she tried to fall asleep. ~ Opening of A House for Happy Mothers

A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi
Lake Union Publishing, 2016
Fiction; 316 pgs

Many women struggling to conceive will be able to relate to Priya's longing to have a child. Miscarriage after miscarriage and failed fertility treatments add to her heartbreak and disappointment. After researching  the topic, Priya convinces her reluctant husband to give surrogacy a try. They settle on a clinic in India called A House for Happy Mothers. 

Asha, the mother of two, is talked into being a surrogate mother by her husband and his family. They desperately need the money, barely able to afford the hut they live in. She also longs to send her son to a better school. He is obviously a gifted child, and would benefit from a better education. 

The cultural differences between both Asha and Priya are stark, from the roles women play in society to the lives they lead, including the economic disparity between the two. Priya is the daughter of a Caucasian man and an Indian mother. She was born and raised in the United States, and has made a life for herself in the Silicon Valley. Her husband, an Indian-American who immigrated to the United States, still has family in India. They live comfortably, although the stress on the job market does worry them in the current economy. Asha, on the other hand, has always lived in a small village. She, her husband and two children live in a hut with a tin roof. They use a communal water source and struggle to make ends meet as best they can. Asha's marriage was arranged and she is more submissive in her role as wife.

The money offered to Asha for having someone else's baby is more than she has ever seen in her life. Even despite her reservations about being a surrogate, she reminds herself of the money, and the good it will do. Many of the women Asha encounters at the House for Happy Mothers are in similar boats, needing money. Several of the women have come back again and again to have a baby, realizing the money that seems so great in the beginning doesn't go as far as they had hoped--or it was mismanaged by their husbands.

I found the beginning of the novel to be somewhat slow. It took me awhile to warm to Priya, even though she was the character I could most identify with. Asha's story stood out to me at first, perhaps because of her situation. I soon was invested in both characters' lives. 

The author is very honest in her portrayal of her characters, and I think this is what I liked best about the novel. Priya and Madhu are not perfect, nor is their marriage. That same can be said for Asha and her husband. Throughout the novel, the author does not hold back from sharing the strain their situations have on their lives and their relationships, including their relationships with others. Priya's relationship with her mother has always been strained, and becomes more so with her decision to use an Indian surrogate. It was interesting to see the dynamics play out between all the characters, including Priya and Asha. The reader also sees the characters grow as individuals and in their relationships, providing some balance. 

For all I felt for Priya and wanted her to be able to have the baby she longed for, I couldn't help but feel for Asha. She was not comfortable with what she was doing no matter how many times she tried to justify it to herself. She had doubts, both morally and emotionally. How do you grow a baby inside of you and not get attached? The party line was that the surrogates are giving gifts to families who want but cannot have children. And yet how much of it is really just about the money? Even for the doctor who runs the clinic. It is a business, after all.

Priya does wonder if she is doing the right thing. Is she exploiting Asha? Her mother feels she is. Malladi does not shy away from introducing that idea in the novel. The author takes a  more subtle approach, leaving it (mostly) up to the reader to decide. The use of surrogates in India has been on the rise in recent years. Impoverished women are the perfect target, vulnerable and in need of money to better their own lives or those of their families. They enter into a contract to have a baby for middle-class to wealthy families overseas. It's an agreement believed to be beneficial to both parties--a business transaction providing much needed money to the surrogate and giving a baby to a family that wants a child. Often the surrogates feel shame, hiding their condition, lying that they lost the babies after they are born--at least as was depicted in the novel. There are no regulations in place currently and prices are much lower than you would find in the United States and other European countries for surrogacy services. It is obvious why this has become such a popular practice. As I read Asha's story, I could not help but feel uncomfortable with her situation, feeling that she and the other women were being taken advantage of.

I found A House for Happy Mothers to be an emotional and thought provoking book. As I said, I was left feeling uncomfortable to some degree. Author Malladi takes on a controversial and relevant topic, offering the reader a glimpse at two different sides of the issue. Her attention to the cultural, social and economical differences and the emotional impact on both parties were right on target. I have read several of Amulya Malladi's novels in the past and enjoyed each of them. This one is among her best yet. 

To learn more about Amulya Malladi and her work, please visit the author's websiteShe can also be found on Goodreads and Twiter.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about A House for Happy Mothers on the TLC Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. A copy of the book was provided by the publisher 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, May 23, 2016

Where Is Your Bookmark? (05/24/2016)

At the moment, I am reading my second runner up in my May TBR List poll, Shadow Revolution, the first in the Crown & Key series, by Clay and Susan Griffith. Set in Victorian London, this urban fantasy novel is about a group of magically inclined people who discover a pack of werewolves living among them. They join together to route the werewolves out and save London.

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.

A bold moon hung over the dark London cityscape. A shroud of fog obscured the ever present grime as yellow smudges of gas lamps created black silhouettes of the skyline. London showed its hidden nature only at night. People moved like wraiths, appearing out of nowhere, shades made suddenly solid. 
The misty moonlight gave the city an otherworldly aspect in which Simon Archer reveled. He nodded amiably to passersby, but his senses were tuned to the indistinguishable world around him, listening, feeling for a shred of anything out of place.

Every Tuesday, Jenn from Books And A Beat hosts Teaser Tuesdays at which time participants grab their current read, open to a random page, and share two (2) "teaser" sentences from that page while avoiding any spoilers.

(Extra Long) Teaser from 13% of Shadow Revolution:
"Sir, I appreciate the exhibition of your manly virtues; however, I am perfectly capable of deflecting his repartee. But by all means, continue with your pummeling if you feel the need."
Surprised, Simon's jaw snapped shut. There was only a moment's pause before he said, "I profusely apologize for coming to your rescue." 
"I accept your apology sir. And I thank you for making me the center of attention." 
"Most women find that appealing." 
"I'm not most women." 
and at 17%:
"Mad dog?" he intoned with a bemused cock of his head. 
Kate threw her sword to the side. "Well, shouting werewolf seemed pointless."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

It doesn't take long for the action to start in Shadow Revolution. It's clear not much gets by Simon Archer. I couldn't help but share the long teaser of conversation between Simon and Kate. It's obvious Kate is no slouch. I quite like her so far. Simon's not so bad himself. Shadow Revolution seems like it will be an action packed novel with a bit of wit on the side. 

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.

This week's  Top Ten Tuesday theme is  Ten (or so) Books I Feel Differently About After Time Has Passed. Sometimes my initial reaction after finishing a book changes the more I reflect and think about the book. It can happen from the moment I finish a book to when I write my review or being over the course of a long period of time. Here are a list of ten books in which I came to feel differently about over time. Admittedly, my shift in thinking is usually not by much. I cannot think of a book I liked and then came to hate or vice versa.

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green ~ I loved this book when I read it. And while I still think it is a great read, time has made me wonder if perhaps I wasn't caught up in all the hype and enthusiasm over the book when I read it. When I think of it now, I can't help but wonder if it was too saccharine, even given the subject matter. A little too perfect?

2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov ~ I really liked this book upon finishing it, and now consider it among my favorites. I think what kept me from thinking of it that way when I read it was because of the subject matter--it really is disturbing--but ultimately, this was a brilliant book on many levels.

3. The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall ~ This was such a unique and weird book. I liked it at the time I read it, but I like it even more now in retrospect.

4. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls ~ Well written, this book is a favorite for many. It never has been for me. What I liked most about this one was the author's positive attitude through it all and how reselient she is, but nothing about her story really stood out for me. Maybe because I hear and see the same and worse just about every day while on the job.

5. The Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris ~ At one time, I counted this series among my favorites. Now, not so much. Maybe because I eventually read similar books I liked better or the later books just weren't as good. I am not sure. I have no regrets reading the books--they were fun and enjoyable, but part of me wonders what it was I saw in the series in the first place. At least in terms of considering it a favorite.

6. Emma by Jane Austen ~ Another one I liked upon finishing, but love in retrospect. I found Emma annoying and didn't think much of her for too long. Now I think she's one of my favorite Austen characters--at least in terms of character growth of Austen's I've encountered so far.

7. The Twilight Trilogy by Stephanie Meyer ~ I actually found all three books to be fun reads, even with the less than stellar writing. It wasn't until later when such a big fuss was made between the lovers and haters of the series, that I took a closer look at the books. I still don't dislike the books (well, maybe the last one), but I definitely like them less and find myself more critical of them now than I once was.

8. The Girl on Legare Street and The House on Tradd Street by Karen White. I enjoyed both these books, but admit the main character grates on my nerves a bit. Still, I think highly of these books--the writing style and the world White's created, especially the ghosts and the way she brings Charleston to life. At one time I wasn't sure I would want to read on in the series, but now I'm pretty sure I will.

9. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne ~ While overall I liked this book, I still had mixed feelings about it, and over the years, the criticisms have stood out more so for me.

10. Room by Emma Donaghue ~ I liked this book more upon finishing it than I do now. The overall impact of it was much more powerful right after finishing it, but as time has passed it hasn't stayed with me as much as I had expected. I haven't even been compelled to see the movie the way I normally am with books I really liked.

What about you? Are there any books that you liked or disliked and had a change of heart down the road?

© 2016, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sunday Post: Blog Lists & Fairytales

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. 

My husband said I have been crying for an hour as I finished my most recent read (I don't believe it was actually that long). Both happy and sad tears. It could have also been because the end of the movie Inside Out always gets to me too, although I wasn't really paying that much attention to it, admittedly. It was a good way to round out the day.

How have you all been? What are you up to this weekend?

I spent a good part of the day with Mouse at the park. She's all registered for this fall's soccer season. She'll be playing on an actual team. I am not sure how that will go over with my little loves-to-chase-but-not-really-go-after-the-ball soccer player. As long as she has fun, I will be happy. She also had her regular soccer class, and then she and I played at the park awhile. She as a pirate princess sorceress and me, as, well, I'm not sure. We steered our pirate ship around a bit, went looking for treasure in a cave that was guarded by a mean troll that we put to sleep with a lullaby. Mouse used her considerable charms to turn the troll into a friend and convince him to share the treasure with us once he woke up. That was after a chase around the playground. When it was time to go, my pirate princess sorceress threw her sparkly red shoes and refused to budge. I became the evil mother who forced her to return to her castle.

Book Blogger Hop

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

Do you keep a Blog Roll List? (submitted by Elizabeth
Kind of. I use The Old Reader as a way to keep track of the blogs I read, and some I subscribe to by e-mail. It was the closest I could come to Google's Reader, which was a huge loss I have yet to get over. I tried Feedly and Bloglovin' but neither really were a good fit. I used to keep a scrolling blog roll on my actual blog, but updating it was very time consuming. Blogs would become defunct, and I was constantly adding on. I suppose it takes some of the fun out of it for other bloggers or readers looking to discover new blogs. In the end though, I decided to do what worked best for me.

What about you? Do you keep a Blog Roll List?

New to My Shelves:

Salvage the Bones by Jessmyn Ward (Postal Book Club Pick)

The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman (from the publisher)

Curse of the Gargoyles by Rebecca Chastain (from the author)

The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders (Netgalley)

What I Am Reading: This week I read Charming by Elliott thanks. It was  fun diversion from my more serious reading as of late. It's put me in the mood to read more urban fantasy, and I'm thinking of picking up another of my May poll picks. Maybe the second place winner. I just finished reading June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore for an upcoming  book tour. It's about a woman who is still mourning the loss of her grandmother when she discovers she is the sole heir to the fortune of a stranger. His family isn't too pleased and sets out to find out who this woman is, opening the past wide open. 

What I Am Watching: I am all caught up with Fear of the Walking Dead--at least until Sunday night's episode airs. It got very interesting this last episode. I'm actually looking forward to seeing the next one. I also got a chance to catch up with Quantico. I have mixed feelings about the show, but no one can deny it had its shares of twists and turns. I doubt any of the characters had they been real people would have made it into the FBI. But what do I know?

Around the Blogosphere:

This Past Week In Reading Mews:

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

© 2016, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bookish Thoughts: Death Sits Down for Dinner by Tessa Arlen

A wet and miserable late-autumn day had turned into a bitterly cold winter night as the sun sank unseen below a horizon obscured by a bhank of thick gray clouds. ~ Opening of Death Sits Down for Dinner

Death Sits Down for Dinner by Tessa Arlen

Minotaur Books, 2016
Crime Fiction (Historical); 320 pgs
Source: NetGalley

Tessa Arlen's series is fast becoming my favorite cozy mystery series. From the Edwardian English setting to the proper Mrs. Jackson and the ever persistent Lady Montfort, I adored the author's earlier book, and this second one was quite a delight to read too. The previous book was set in the countryside while this one was placed in London. It opens with Lady Montfort preparing to attend a birthday party for the well known Winston Churchill hosted by a close friend and patroness of one of England's largest charities. The evening does not go quite as planned when Lady Montfort stumbles on a body, a knife the obvious murder weapon.

Churchill assures everyone the best of the authorities is on the case, but Lady Montfort, despite being told to stay out of it, cannot help but insert herself into the investigation. She knows there are things her friends, London society and the servents will not share with the police even in the face of murder.

Mrs. Jackson is anything but thrilled to be pulled into another murder investigation. She would much rather keep to her housekeeping duties, and when asked to help plan a big charity event in London, she is insistent that is all she will do. Soon, however, she is lured into the investigation too. What they find are secrets upon secrets. Time is short and the body count is on the rise. The two women must work quickly to find answers and stop a killer from taking another life.

Author Tessa Arlen vividly captures the world of London's high society as well as the politics of the time. The differences between the society class and the working class were stark during that time, which is why Mrs. Jackson's role in helping with the investigation always proves to be so invaluable. And yet cultural change is definitely in the air, even if in the slightest of ways. It is an exciting time in England's history.

I could have taken issue with two amateur detectives actively investigating a murder that they really had no reason to get involved in, but I so enjoy seeing Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson in action. There is one scene in the novel in which Lady Montfort's son calls his mother out on her involvement, which I thought was well placed. Even though her son's and her perspectives may be different about why she's decided to conduct her own investigation, I appreciated the author acknowledging how it might look to any observer (reader included) in such a natural way.

As always, I enjoyed spending time with the ever sturdy and reliant Mrs. Jackson as well as the too-curious-for-her-own-good Lady Monfort. Both are rather traditional in their thinking, and while reluctant to step outside their comfort zones, they both recognize that their ways might not be the only or even the best way. I like seeing growth in characters, and both of these women demonstrate insight and intelligence throughout the novel.

Death Sits Down For Dinner is a wonderful follow-up to Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman, one I enjoyed quite a bit. The mystery itself was intriguing at every turn. I look forward to reading more in this series and seeing what else Tessa Arlen comes up with.

For more information please visit Tessa Arlen’s website. Read Tessa Arlen’s blog at Redoubtable Edwardians. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

© 2016, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.