Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Bookish Thoughts: The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan

Before gray hair, or crow's-feet, or achy backs and fickle knees, there is one sign of aging that makes appearance early enough to bewilder its young(ish) victims instead of alarming them, as it should. ~ Opening of The Decent Proposal


The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan
Harper Collins, 2016
Fiction; 320 pgs
From Goodreads: 
A debut novel in which two people are brought together by a very decent proposal cooked up by a very secretive benefactor in which the strangers go on one year of dates, one date a week, for half a million dollars each if they can stand each other for the whole time.
I really enjoyed Kemper Donovan's A Decent Proposal. I suspected it would be funny and maybe even a bit sentimental (although not overly so), and I was right. The novel also had an unexpected depth to it, which I found to be a good balance.

Our two strangers brought together for an unknown reason are quite different from one another. One is an out of work down-on-his-luck producer who enjoys partying late into the night and working off the hangover by sleeping in at his leisure. The other is a workaholic attorney who is every bit a perfectionist. When presented with the offer to go on one date a week for a year, Richard Baumbach is eager to give it a try. He needs the money after all. Elizabeth Santiago is more reluctant. Is this a trick? What strings are attached--because who in their right mind would do something like this? Deciding her life needs a little shaking up, Elizabeth finally agrees. Richard and Elizabeth begin to fall into a regular routine after a few rough starts. Their conversations range from the movies and books to life and the more personal.

I came to like both characters quite a bit over the course of the novel, although I most identified with Elizabeth. While not as compulsive as she is, we both share a love for books, and I could relate to the overachiever in her. Richard was charming in his own way (charming in a good way; not the smarmy bad way). He really is an all around nice guy. I loved his optimism. Both characters have their pasts to contend with, Elizabeth holding on more tightly to hers, which fits her character. She is a cautious person. Both are very caring people who seem to have good heads on their shoulders.

A couple of minor characters play a big part in the story as well: Elizabeth's homeless friend Orpheus, and Richard's best friend, Mike (short for Micaela). Both have their own ideas and motives in regards to the deal, and also both very attached and protective of their respective friends. I wasn't sure what to make of Mike at first, but by the end I quite liked her. And I am glad Orpheus's back story was shared with the reader as he is a character I was quite curious to know more about.

This seems to be another one of those novels I have read recently that is firmly placed in a particular setting and for which the setting plays an important part. While I suppose the same story could have been set elsewhere, the author's descriptions of Los Angeles, the diversity in the characters and their lives, really bring the Los Angeles setting to the forefront. I enjoy reading novels set in familiar locations, being able to visualize them more clearly in my mind.

I can only say so much about the end without giving away spoilers. Upon reaching the end, I wasn't sure what to think. There is a shift in perspective that was at first off-putting. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized how much it did fit--done up with that old Hollywood flare.

While the story and the direction it took was predictable to some degree, there were a few surprises. The mystery of who the benefactor is, the reasons behind the proposal, why Richard and Elizabeth were chosen exactly, being among those surprises. I was quite enamored with the writing. I was swept into The Decent Proposal quite easily and did not want to stop reading until I had reached the end. Even then, I am not sure I was ready to let go. Not completely.


To learn more about Kemper Donovan and his work, please visit the author on Goodreads and Twitter.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about The Decent Proposal on the TLC Book Tours route!







Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. I received a copy of this book for an honest review from the publisher. 


© 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.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Where Is Your Bookmark? (04/19/2016)

I am nearly finished with my current read, When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi. There have been moments I am on the edge of my seat or on the verge of tears. It is a beautiful book so far. This is the story of Fereiba and her children as they leave behind the only home they know in Afghanistan in search of safety and a better life elsewhere after the Taliban murders her husband and the father of her children.


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.

Though I love to see my children resting soundly, in the quiet of their slumber my uneasy mind retraces our journey. How did I come to be here, with two of my three children curled on the bristly bedspread of a hotel room? So far from home, so far from voices I recognize. (from the Prologue)
and
My fate was sealed in blood on the day of my birth. As I struggled to enter the twisted world, my mother resigned it, taking with her my chances of being a true daughter. The midwife sliced through the cord and released my mother from any further obligation to me. Her body paled while mine pinked; her breaths ceased as I learned to cry. I was cleaned off, wrapped in a blanket, and brought out to meet my father, now a widower thanks to me. He fell to his knees, the color leached from his face. Padar-jan told me himself that it was three days before he could bring himself to hold the daughter who had taken his wife. I wish I couldn't imagine what thoughts had crossed his mind, but I can. I 'm fairly certain that had he been given the choice, he would have chosen my mother over me. (first paragraph of Chapter 1) 

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 16% of When the Moon is Low:
"You're not invisible. I can close my eyes and picture you. I can be alone and hear your voice. You're anything but invisible."
at 33%:
It was easier to walk in the day but harder to look at the children. Their eyes were heavy, their feet blistered and bleeding, and their lips parched.
and and at 35%:
Fate will make things right in the end, though only after the work has been done, the tears have been shed and the sleepless nights have been endured. 
I wanted to believe him. 
What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

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


© 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, April 16, 2016

Sunday Post: Inspiration & Airshows

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. 

I thought for sure we would all be blown across the park Saturday morning by the wind. Or at least my daughter, as light as she is. It turned out to be a lovely day, and we enjoyed our time at the park. Sunday will likely be a lazy day. There's a house that needs to be cleaned and I wouldn't mind getting some reading done. We'll see.

What are your plans for the day? How was your week?

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.

Where do you find motivation and inspiration for your blog? (submitted by Ana
My love for reading is my ultimate inspiration. Years ago I began keeping a reading journal in which I jotted down my thoughts about the books I read--how they made me feel and how I related to them. It gave me a chance to not only reflect on the books, but also organize my thoughts about each one. I felt a sense of closure in the process. That did not change when I switched to blogging about my reading instead. It's replaced my journal, in a sense. Or, rather, become my journal. What keeps me blogging about books is my passion for books, the enjoyment I get from writing about them, and the connection I have found among other passionate readers.

Other things inspire me as well. It could be a comment someone makes on mine or someone else's blog, another's blog post, something I read in a book, or even something that happens to me in real life. My daughter, certainly. My husband. You. Ultimately, it always comes back to the books. My blog is a book blog, after all. I have tried to branch out from that as some other bloggers have, but ultimately, I find I am most comfortable writing and talking about books.

You could also say I am most motivated by the books I read. Although, a lot of credit goes to the blogging community whose enthusiasm and support has made me feel at home. Even when I am at my lowest, wondering if it is worth continuing, someone says something somewhere--most often not even directed at me--and it motivates me to hang on and keep going. I long ago gave up looking at my blog stats, and I stopped following the advice of those "how to be a good blogger" lists. It was such a freeing decision and increased my motivation tenfold. Blogging when I want and how I want, not worrying about how many followers I have or how other people think I should blog has taken off some of the pressure and stress I was feeling. I am just where I need to be.

I cannot deny though that comments are wonderful. I love it when people take the time to leave a comment. It definitely helps motivate and inspire me--knowing someone is out there reading what I have to say.

What about you? What motivates and inspires you to blog?


What I Am Reading: I looked all over my house for my copy of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman and couldn't find it. I could have sworn I had a copy. I was anxious to start it, craving something in the fantasy genre. Here I had been telling everyone I have had my copy for years . . . Well, where it is it??  I ended up buying another copy--and expect the old one to show up any minute. But before that happened, I went ahead and started Nadia Hashimi's When the Moon Is Low, a fiction novel about an Afghani woman whose husband is murdered by the Taliban and flees with her children, hoping to reach Europe. Not fantasy, no. It is good so far though. Seraphina will definitely be next. 


What I Am Watching: I began watching the second season of Daredevil, although I have to admit it's not holding my interest much. The last couple episodes served as background noise more than anything else. Does anyone else watch Blacklist? I did not see that coming. Not at all. Do you think it's true? We watched The Pirate Fairy again. It really is a cute movie, but there is such a thing as watching a movie too much. Oh! And we are enjoying Doctor Who still. We are a couple more episodes in to Season 8. I really like the new Doctor even if he's rough around the edges. Listen was such a great episode.

We also got to see some of the airshow from my daughter's bedroom window this weekend. I am a huge Thunderbirds fan, and never tire of seeing them perform. I was glad to be able to share that with Mouse this year. I actually got to see them practicing, along with several other planes, this past week as they prepared for the airshow. My office is right next to the base where the airshow is being held.

Thunderbirds


Around the Blogosphere:


What's Going On Off the Blog: It is official. My little girl is enrolled in kindergarten. There is an parent orientation early next month. It's not at the most convenient time for a working parent, but it isn't like I haven't encountered that before. I also got her enrolled in an after school program. You may remember my mentioning touring a couple of those programs I was considering.

Last Sunday was our last visit to Disneyland for awhile. Our annual passes have now officially expired. We very nearly renewed them, but there are a number of places and things we would like to do this year, and having the money to do them will be nice.

Mouse at Disneyland

Saturday was the first soccer class of the new season. Mouse moved up in age groups, and she's back to being the youngest. The class is also at a later time, which means sleeping in (yay!) and hotter days (ugh!). She was very nervous, but in the end she had fun. I think she'll be happy to go back next week. Whew.

Mouse playing soccer

Work was a less stressful this past week. No lives lost that I know of, and I managed to get through to the weekend. I think my husband even had a better week at his office. 


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, April 13, 2016

Bookish Thoughts: Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman

Once, on a train going God knows where, to give still another speech, I awakened in the middle of the night nauseated. ~ Opening of Terrible Virtue



Terrible Virture by Ellen Feldman
Harper, 2016
Fiction (Historical); 272 pgs

Terrible Virtue is coming out at a time when it is needed most. Women's health rights are being brought into question--and I do not just mean on the abortion front. Whether you are for or against abortion, or fall somewhere in between, the reality is women have had to fight every step of the way to gain some control over their own lives throughout history, including the use of contraceptives. As I write this review, the California Senate has passed a law allowing birth control to be distributed without a doctor's prescription. The law is not without its opponents, to be sure. But I imagine Margaret Sanger would be smiling from ear to ear, maybe even dancing for joy.

There was a time when the law (the Comstock Laws) limited and prohibited the sale and advertisement of contraceptives. Just to talk about them was not only considered indecent but was illegal as well. Not only was it considered lewd and immoral, but it was also seen as promoting promiscuity (some would say this is true still today). With the changing times came the women's suffragist movement in which women began to ask for the right to vote. They wanted to be heard, and rightfully so. Along with that came women like Margaret Sanger who advocated for women's health issues; her top priority being contraceptives (what she would later come to call birth control).

Terrible Virtue is a novel about Margaret's life, particularly the early years of her activism and fight for women's rights. Ellen Feldman recreates Margaret's life, imagining what it must have been like for Margaret in a time when so many seemed against her as she fought for social change. One of eleven children, Margaret knew hardship of growing up in a home with so many children as her mother and father struggled to care for them all. It isn't surprising that Margaret would take an activist role given her upbringing and her beliefs. She felt very passionately about many things, but especially about educating women about their bodies and about the use of contraceptives.

As a nurse working in the tenements with the working class and the poor, she saw how the women struggled, unable to control the number of children they had, dying in childbirth, and sometimes performing abortions on themselves. Margaret wanted to spare them that. No one should have to use a button hook to perform an abortion. As a result, Margaret fought hard to educate women from all walks of life about their contraceptive options, writing up pamphlets and providing advice that flew in the face of the Comstock Laws. She wanted to save lives and give these women some control over their own lives. She would go on to open the first clinic in 1916 for women's health issues, specializing in providing them with information on birth control and family planning. She is known today as the founder of Planned Parenthood.

Margaret devoted her life to her cause, believing the only way to change the law was to first break it. Her path was not an easy one. She sacrificed much in the end. Including her family. I really felt for her children who longed for the love and attention of their mother. While I do imagine Margaret loved them, she wasn't really there for them. Her cause was her first love. Her children always took a backseat. Her marriage suffered as well. Although, that wasn't as surprising given Margaret's view on traditional marriage. Her many affairs were, for the most part, out in the open. Her husband knew going in what her beliefs about fidelity were--she thought he agreed. As much as I might disagree with her choice in lifestyle, it isn't fair of me to fault Margaret for hers as open and honest as she was about it all, at least not when I really think about it.

Written in memoir style, it was hard to remember this novel is fiction. Author Ellen Feldman paints Margaret Sanger as the human being she likely was, both her admirable qualities and her many flaws. She was charismatic and passionate. She was extremely competitive and determined, at at time when both qualities were viewed as negatives in a woman. Margaret could be ruthless and calculating, but she also could be generous and thoughtful. While I admire Margaret in many ways for the strides she made, I admit to not being a fan of her on a personal level. Whether that's because of the way she was drawn in the novel or based on her real character, is hard to say. That would depend on how realistic the author was in her portrayal of Margaret.

Periodically throughout the novel, Feldman includes viewpoints of others in Margaret's life written in the form of letters to Margaret. The one from her middle child was particular poignant. And another from her sister was quite revealing. All help form a more whole picture of who Margaret was and the impact it had on those around her.

There is some controversy surrounding Margaret Sanger in regards to her involvement with the Eugenics movement, which, while addressed in the book to some degree, is mostly glossed over--something I wish the author had delved into a little more deeply. I could not help but do a little digging of my own after a conversation I had with a coworker on the subject. I can see why Eugenics might have been appealing, especially to someone like Margaret who was in the medical profession. It was a popular theory at the time, and while she did not subscribe to the whole of Eugenics, Margaret did support it in part, at least as far as it played into her ideas surrounding birth control. She felt strongly about any decision regarding family planning being in the hands of the individual. There is a lot of misinformation out there, including quotes attributed to Margaret that weren't actually hers and statements she made taken out of context--this done in an effort to discredit and suppress her. This, at least, Feldman does mention to some extent.

I admit I had only known the bare basics about Margaret Sanger before reading Ellen Feldman's novel Terrible Virtue. Margaret was a fierce supporter of women's rights and pushing for necessary social change. She fought hard and sacrificed much. Feldman reminds us, however, that Margaret was also very human, and at times conflicted, especially where her children were concerned. I imagine there is much more to the woman than Feldman could possibly cover in her novel--or else it would turn into a biography.Overall, I found Terrible Virtue to be a compelling and fascinating book about a significant figure in American history.


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


I hope you will check out what others had to say about Terrible Virtue on the TLC Book Tours route!





Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.


© 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.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Where Is Your Bookmark? (04/12/2016)

After finishing Ellen Feldman's Terrible Virtue, I craved more historical fiction, this time settling into a novel about a horticulturist who leaves London for an estate in the country, volunteering to serve in the Women's Land Army. Gwen is to organize a group of women in cultivating and growing food for the war effort. Nearby is a house full of Canadian soldiers awaiting orders for the war. The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys is the story of a hidden garden and the woman who brings it back to life, meanwhile finding friendship and love, as well as loss.


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.
What can I say about love? You might see me sitting in this taxi, bound for Paddington Station--a thirty-five-year-old woman with plain features--and you would think that I could not know anything of love. But I am leaving London because of love.

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 62 of The Lost Garden:
"Have you been out climbing trees, Gwen?" Jane whispers to me. She reaches up and pulls bits of yew from my hair, laying them carefully beside my place as a sort of table decoration.
and at page 71:
There's a dark blur, moving from the shadows of this building, running across the grass towards the stables. From this angle and height I can't tell who it is. The moon disappears behind a cloud and I momentarily lose the figure in the shadows of the opposite buildings. When the moon returns, the figure has vanished.
What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

Reading the opening paragraph, I cannot help but wonder if it is love Gwen is fleeing or is it what she is running to. Of course, having read more of the novel, I know the answer to that. But still, it was my first thought upon starting the novel. The two teasers give off a bit of mystery, especially the second one. Who is that person she sees?

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


© 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.