Thursday, August 17, 2017

Where Is Your Bookmark (Bookish Gifts, A House Without Books & Friday Fun)

A weekly meme where readers share the first sentence of the book they are reading and say what they think. Hosted by Gillion Dumas of Rose City Reader.

It was dusk, but as he turned onto the rutted driveway he could make out the perimeter of yellow tape that still circled the property. 
While it is obvious from the opening sentence that the novel opens at a crime scene, just what occurred is still a mystery. One I am anxious to find out.

A weekly meme in which readers share a random sentence or two from page 56 or 56% of the book they are reading. Hosted by the wonderful Freda of Freda's Voice.
He was suddenly aware of his own cowardice and felt that after the shock wore off he was probably going to have a good long cry. he didn't feel good about it, but he also felt lucky to be alive and longed to be back in his apartment alone. [12%]

The above takes place right after the main character George had an unwelcome encounter. This particular excerpt struck me because it isn't often I read about a grown man so afraid he wants to cry. I thought it was a nice touch.

I am not too far into Peter Swanson's The Girl With a Clock For a Heart, only about a quarter of the way in. I haven't much of a chance to read this week, unfortunately. Hopefully this weekend I will be able to make up for it.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?


Everyone has a favorite and then we also have something we dislike. Like a coin, there are two sides to every question. Each week, Carrie at The Butterfly Reads and Laura from Blue Eye Books ask participants to list what they like and don't like about that week's topic.

This week's topic is Bookish Gift You'd Most/Least Like to Receive.

Would a gift card to a bookstore for an unlimited amount of money count as a bookish gift I want most count? A booklover can dream, right? I have had my eye on something like this for awhile now. I am just not sure where to put it if I did receive it, and I am pretty sure my husband is looking at me like I'm crazy right about now.

Or, more realistically, I would take an annual subscription to a book box. My favorite one is My Lit Box, featuring authors of color. The book selections are awesome and the goodies are always a fun surprise. If the gift giver didn't want to save me money on something I am already subscribing to, he or she could try another subscription book box. There are some pretty good sounding ones out there! 

As for what I would like least to receive, perhaps something like this:

I like purses. And I love totes with bookish themes. I might not even mind a purse with a bookish theme. But, I confess, I am not a fan of purses made out of books. I'm just not. Even when I like the book it's made from.

What bookish item would you most like to receive? What bookish item would you least like to receive?


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.

When you enter an unfamiliar house or apartment for the first time, do you feel disappointed if you don't see any bookshelves, or books on the coffee table?
No, I would not be disappointed if I didn't encounter books on shelves or on a coffee table upon first entering an unfamiliar house. I would be be elated if I did, however, but it isn't something I would expect or necessarily need to see. Chances are, I am there for another reason--not to look for books. Not everyone feels the need to keep books out in the open. The real question is whether I would be able to resist looking at any books if there were any around . . .

What about you?

Every Friday Ellen from and Ann from McGuffy’s Reader get together to host the Friendly Fill-Ins. You can be serious or funny--the idea is just to have fun.

1. If someone were visiting my area, I would recommend a visit to so many places: the beach to see the Pacific Ocean, the Mojave Desert, San Diego, Disneyland, Lake Arrowhead in the mountains, and the Getty Museums, both the one in Malibu and the other in Los Angeles. And that's just for starters!

2. My favorite room in my home is my living room personal library. Who doesn't like to be surrounded by books? Plus, the couches are comfy and it's the perfect place to settle in and read for a little while.

3. Back-to-school time makes me think of the beginning of the new soccer season, the coming of fall (just over a month away!), and homework--lots and lots of homework.

4. My favorite year of school was fourth grade because that was the year I discovered my love for writing.

 I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Be sure and tell me what you are reading and are up to!

© 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, August 16, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

The funeral is well attended, the New Heidelburg Lutheran Church packed to capacity with farms and their families who have come to bid farewell to one of their own. ~ Opening of Those Who Save Us 

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
Harcourt Books, 2005
Fiction (Historical); 479 pgs
Source: I purchased my own copy at Borders in November of 2007.

Goodreads Summary: 
For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy's sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.

Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother's life.

Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.

When I heard about the read-along hosted by Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit) and Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) over at the War Through the Generations Challenges blog in June, I jumped at the chance. I had long wanted to read the book, but kept putting it off.

Novels dealing with the Holocaust are sure to be emotional reads given the subject matter. I have read many over the years, and my heart breaks to pieces every time. How can human beings be so cruel to other human beings? How could anyone stand by and let this happen? It is easy, in hindsight, to list the "should haves" and "if onlys", and to cast blame on those who seemingly did nothing. I admit it has been my curiosity to understand this that has led me to read several books that broach the subject.

Those Who Save Us came highly recommended and for good reason. Jenna Blum paints a very vivid and true to life history of what life may have been like in Weimer during World War II. The concentration camp, Buchenwald was within sight of the town.

Trudy is a history professor of German studies, divorced, and somewhat estranged from her mother, Anna. Anna is closed off from the world, shutting the door tightly on her past, and, as a result, unable to get too close to those in her life even in the present, including her daughter, Trudy. Trudy, for her part, has given up trying to reach out to her mother, but she still longs to understand her mother and why she is the way she is.

A photo from her childhood raises a lot of questions for Trudy. It is of her mother, herself and a Nazi Officer. Could that be her father? What role did her mother play during World War II, if any? Trudy is both afraid and eager to find out her mother's story. Only, her mother will not talk about it.

Through interviewing Germans who had been living in Germany during World War II, Trudy hopes to find some sort of answer--or perhaps some sort of reconciliation for her own guilt through association. She had been a toddler when she left Germany with her mother and her mother's American husband, Jack. Her memories of that life are few and far between.

As Trudy tries to come to terms in the present with her own feelings about her mother, and caring for her mother who has since moved in with her, the reader gets a glimpse into the past through Anna's memories. Anna struggles with her own feelings of guilt and shame over the past. Pregnant, she ran away from home and moved in with a widowed baker in Weimer. Anna's story is one of heartbreak and suffering. She did what she had to in order to survive and to keep her daughter safe.

I really felt for Anna who was in a very difficult position. I personally feel she had nothing to be ashamed of, but we are often our own worst critics, aren't we? Could she have made different--even better--decisions than she did? It's hard to say, given the circumstances. I truly did not like the Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald. He used his position and power to intimidate and get his way. I don't think he saw himself that way though, which, in some regards, makes him all the more dangerous.

Anna's closing off of herself has had a big impact on Trudy as she was growing up and continues to influence her now. It really got me thinking about how our actions and behaviors affect those around us. Anna is only trying to protect herself and Trudy from those painful memories, and yet she ends up hurting Trudy in a different way. This comes out a lot in the novel in the various relationships described.

Author Jenna Blum did quite a bit of research for the novel, and it shows in the detail and characters she's created. This was not an easy book to read at times, the subject matter being what it was. As a mother, I could relate to Anna, and as a daughter, I could relate to Trudy. I saw a bit of myself in both of them. I wanted so much for them to talk openly, to share their stories with each other. Both women, however, are quite stubborn.

My only really complaint is that I was hoping for more in regards to the ending. I do not expect a perfect bow wrapping up everything, especially from this type of novel, but the ending for this one felt too open ended. I would like to have had a bit more resolution.

Overall, I liked Those Who Save Us and find myself thinking of it long after having finished it. Thank you to Anna and Serena for finally motivating me to read this one!

You can learn more about Jenna Blum and her books on the author's website. She can also be found on Twitter.

© 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.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wishing For Wednesday: Map of the Heart & You Say It First

Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings to spotlight and discuss the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they're books that have yet to be released. (Based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.)

With everything going on in the world right now, reading something light sure sounds good. That's probably why the books that caught my eye this week both fall into that category.

Books set in and around--or about--World War II are likely to catch my attention and Susan Wiggs' latest is no different. Add in a little romance, family drama and the mention of secrets, and I know I have to read it.

Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs (368 pgs)
Release Date: August 22, 2017 by William Morrow
Susan Wiggs—an author “who paints the details of human relationships with the finesse of a master” (Jodi Picoult)—returns with a deeply emotional and atmospheric story of love and family, war and secrets that moves back and forth across time, from the present day to World War II France.  
An accomplished photographer, widow, and mother, Camille Palmer is content with the blessings she’s enjoyed. When her ageing father asks her to go with him to his native France, she has no idea that shes embarking on an adventure that will shake her complacency and utterly transform her. 
Returning to the place of his youth sparks unexpected memories—recollections that will lead Camille, her father, and her daughter, Julie, who has accompanied them, back to the dark, terrifying days of the Second World War, where they will uncover their family’s surprising history. 
While Provence offers answers about her family’s past, it also holds the key to Camille’s future. Along the way, Camille meets a handsome American historian who stirs a passion deep within her she thought she’d never experience again. [Goodreads Summary]

I've seen author Susan Mallery's name around the blog universe quite often and when I saw she has a new series out, I couldn't help adding it to my wish list. I do love weddings! 

You Say It First by Susan Mallery (384 pgs)
Release Date: August 22, 2017 by Harlequin
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fool's Gold romances invites you to visit Happily Inc., a wedding destination founded on a fairy tale. 
Sculptor Nick Mitchell grew up in a family of artists and learned from his volatile father that passion only leads to pain. As he waits on a new commission, he takes a day job as a humble carpenter at a theme wedding venue. The job has its perks—mainly the venue's captivating owner, Pallas Saunders. Although he won't let love consume him, for ecstasy with an expiration date, he's all in.

Pallas adores Weddings in a Box. But if she can't turn the floundering business around, she'll have no choice but cave to her domineering mother and trade taffeta for trust funds working at the family's bank. Then when a desperate bride begs Pallas for something completely out of the box, her irresistible new hire inspires her. Nick knows she doesn't belong behind a desk, and she knows in her heart that he's right—where she really belongs is in his arms.  [Goodreads Summary]

Do either of these sound like something you would like to read too?

© 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, August 14, 2017

Tuesday Favorites: Summer & My Top Ten Classics For Those Who Do Not Like Classics

Each week Maureen from Maureen's Books asks participants to share a favorite on the weekly designated topic.

This week's topic is my favorite thing about summer.

Summer is my fourth favorite season. Although spring sometimes seems to want to compete for that spot (thanks to my allergies).

My favorite part of summer is late summer, when we all pretend it is already fall. It's the start of school and soccer season for many and there is a feeling of starting fresh. The evenings are just beginning to get a little cooler, but the sun is still shining late in the day.

As for summer itself, I think most of all I love the idea of summer. The beach, sunshine, vacations, sitting by the pool, and good books . . . But really, it means working in an office that is like a refrigerator and walking outside into an oven; my reading time doesn't really change; and smokey air full from the fires--it is fire season after all. Still, there is sunshine. And glorious thunderstorms from time to time. And there is a more relaxed atmosphere, less traffic, and no homework. Not to mention leisurely walks in the evening (if it's cool enough) with the sun still out and, of course, camping in the mountains.

What is your favorite thing about summer? 

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

This week's  Top Ten Tuesday is my Top Ten Book Recommendations of Classics for Those Who Do Not Like Classics. Here's the thing. I am not in school anymore and all of my reading I do for pleasure (with the occasional exception for work). I enjoy a wide variety of books, old and new. And, yes, that includes the Classics. If I am going to devote my time to reading a novel classified as a Classic, I want it to be readable and one I will enjoy. It's as simple as that. There are Classics out there like that, even among those that aren't.

I hate hearing someone say they don't read the Classics at all and never will, lumping them all together as if they were equal. Just because you did not like the Classics you were required to read in school, does not mean you will not like ALL Classics. Maybe none you've come across yet appeal to you, and that's okay. I am a big proponent of a person reading what he or she wants to read. All I ask is that you do not shut the door completely on reading the Classics. Or any other type of book, for that matter. Never say never. That contemporary novel you are reading right now, in fact, might one day be a Classic! Classics don't start out with that label, after all.

1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle ~ Now is the perfect time to read this one with the movie coming out later this year. Yes, it's a children's book, but it's a good one. Especially if you like time and space travel.

2. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie ~ People seem to forget genre fiction can fall into the Classic category too. If you are a mystery lover, consider giving the Queen of Mystery a try if you haven't already.

3. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood ~ A modern Classic to be sure, but one that has already proven it stands the test of time and is still very relevant today.

4. Dracula by Bram Stoker ~ I admit I was surprised how much I enjoyed this Classic. It was subtle in its horror, but creepy just the same. Not to mention, if you are a fan of the old Dracula movies, you really should see where they all started.

5. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins ~Although the writing may take a little time to settle into, this really is a great thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat at times.

6. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote ~ Capote's true crime book reads more like a novel, and is quite a compelling read.

7. The Color Purple by Alice Walker ~ Another modern Classic which tells the story of how love and independence can triumph even in the most dire of situations.

8. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis ~ Who among us hasn't sometimes wished we could step outside our own world into another? Or, in this case, into a wardrobe.

9. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle ~ As much of an institution Sherlock Holmes is in our culture, it wouldn't hurt to check out where he got his start.

10. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams ~ I found this and the other books in the series to be funny and easy to read. This series was actually my first venture into Science Fiction, and genre I've come to enjoy quite a bit.

What other Classics would you recommend to those who do not read the Classics?

© 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, August 13, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Her name is Melanie. ~ Opening of The Girl With All the Gifts

Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey 
Orbit, 2014
Horror; 435 pgs
Source: E-Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Goodreads Summary: 
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

Thank you to all who voted for The Girl With All the Gifts as my July TBR List book! This made the perfect book to read on my plane ride to and from the East Coast. I had high expectations going in given all the praise this one has received from my fellow book lovers. 

I became an instant fan of Melanie's from the very first page. Innocent and polite, an eager learner, and did I say innocent? It is clear from the beginning that she is not just an ordinary child. Why keep her locked in a cell with the guards taking extra precautions to keep their distance and protect themselves? Melanie has no idea who--or what--she is. This is the only life she remembers. She longs to be held and loved, dreaming of living a life in one of the fairy-tales she's been told so many times by her favorite teacher, Miss Justineau. 

It does not take long for The Girl With All the Gifts to take off, finding our protagonists in survival mode. The novel is told from several alternating viewpoints, jumping from one to the other to offer a more full view the world in M.R. Carey's book. I really appreciated the depth of the characters and the attention to what each of them was going through, especially Melanie who, as innocence turns into awareness, must find her own place in this new world she lives in. 

I hesitate to go into too much detail about the book, given it seems to be one best left to discover in the reading. As others have said, reading this book felt like watching a movie; I could see it playing out on the screen in my mind, one tense moment after the other. 

This book was at times touching and other times terrifying. M.R. Carey pulls no punches in describing the direction humanity has gone in The Girl With All the Gifts. It's not a world I would want to live in.

I admit to being worried the ending would disappoint, but it didn't. It was a perfect fit for the rest of the novel. The Girl With All the Gifts is everything everyone said it would be. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

You can learn more about M.R. Carey and his books on the author's website. He can also be found on Twitter.

© 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.