Monday, October 12, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (10/13/2015)

My brother and his wife are in town visiting from the northern part of the state. It has been a couple years since we last saw each other and so we have a lot of catching up to do. Mouse is thrilled to have her aunt and uncle here. We celebrated my brother's birthday at Disneyland last week at his request. Mouse is quite the entertainer all on her own and has kept them busy.

I currently am in between books, having just finished Elizabeth Haynes's Human Remains. I am a little behind in my review writing and am afraid to start the next book until I catch up. Poor memory and all that. I usually stay on top of my reviews better, but it's been so hard to find time to sit and write.  Work is extremely busy as it always is this time of year and with company coming and going, I don't have the time to work on reviews or blog posts at home. I have a feeling it won't let up until after the holidays.

At Suzi Quint's request, I thought I would feature Rebecca Chastain's Fistful of Fire, the second in her Madison Fox series, which I will be reviewing next week. Rebecca will be visiting my blog tomorrow to talk about her favorite literary cats. Tasked with keeping her region clean of evil forces, Madison Fox is an Illuminant Enforcer. She's only been on the job a short time, barely had any training, but she's determined, and it's best not to underestimate her.

First Paragraph of Fistful of Fire by Rebecca Chastain:

A puddle of inky atrum pooled in front of a storage closet beside the hotel elevators. Six fist-size imps bopped around in the atrum, their primordial ooze. In the time it took me to pull my collapsible wand of petrified wood from my back pocket and extend it, a chinchilla-shaped bubble swelled in the atrum, grew glassy ebony eyes, a mouthful of needle teeth, and tiny feet. Soundlessly, it sprang an inch into the air, disconnecting from the puddle and becoming a seventh fully formed imp.

Teasers from Human Remains at 18%

I glared at the book. Being a book, it merely laid there. This was foolish.

"So, O great and wise book, teach me something useful."

Of their own accord, the pages fluttered. I jerked back and eyed the book in disbelief. Had it just sighed at me?

and because I couldn't resist the bookish recommendations (one of which I've read and loved), at 83%:

Val selected Jim Butcher's
Storm Front, Robin McKinley's Sunshine, and Robin D. Owen's Heart Mate. He had good taste.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

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

© 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.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

I believe just about anyone can kill in the right circumstances, given enough motivation.

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton
Minotaur Books, 2015
Crime Fiction; 368 pgs

From Goodreads:
In such a small community as the Falkland Islands, a missing child is unheard of. In such a dangerous landscape it can only be a terrible tragedy, surely... 
When another child goes missing, and then a third, it’s no longer possible to believe that their deaths were accidental, and the villagers must admit that there is a murderer among them. Even Catrin Quinn, a damaged woman living a reclusive life after the accidental deaths of her own two sons a few years ago, gets involved in the searches and the speculation. 
And suddenly, in this wild and beautiful place that generations have called home, no one feels safe and the hysteria begins to rise.

If you hang around book blog sites frequently, you may have come across mention of Sharon Bolton's Little Black Lies once or twice. Or maybe a lot. I know I have. After hearing nothing but good things about all of Bolton's books, I thought Little Black Lies might be a good place to start, given it's a stand alone novel. Now I know what all the fuss is about--and I have to agree.

Little Black Lies is everything I love in a crime fiction novel.  It is intense and thought provoking with fully fleshed out characters, a complex plot, and a setting that itself could be its own character. The story is told from three different perspectives, that of Catrin, a grieving mother who has nothing left to live for; Callum, a former soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who will do anything for the woman he loves; and Rachel, a woman being eaten by guilt and depression. Each of the characters have connected and complicated histories.

With the disappearance of three children from the Falkland Islands, the most recent from a tourist family, suspicions and fears are running high among the locals and those from out of town. Sharon Bolton captures the essence of both the individual panic and that of group think, which in and of itself can lead to terrible repercussions.

There is so much to this novel. I felt transported to the islands as I read the novel, caught up in the beauty and cruelty of the land and sea, the history of the people, and wrapped up in the individual stories of the characters. Catrin is a difficult character to get to know at first; she is distant and may seem a bit uncaring--but the more I learned about her, the more I came to care about her. She has suffered so much; my heart ached for her. I liked Callum quite a bit from the start. The more I learned of his story, the more I liked him. He hasn't had an easy time of it either, suffering from his own demons.  Rachel was the hardest for me to warm to, I confess. I am not sure I ever completely did. There was a part of me that could identify with some of what she was going through. Perhaps some of that was in the way Bolton told the story; perhaps that was the intent. Or perhaps it was just me and which characters I found it easiest to identify with.

I hesitate to go into too much detail about the plot and the character's lives. I think my not knowing is part of what made this book even more powerful than it might have been otherwise. Although, I think I still would have loved it.  It touches on several issues I hate to read in books. I admit there is one scene that had me so disturbed I had to set the book aside for awhile. I still couldn't stop thinking about that scene. I found it so heartbreaking, even if necessary.

Little Black Lies is so full of twists and turns--and all so well done! This was a near impossible book to put down. Sharon Bolton knows how to build up the suspense and keep the reader guessing. I loved the ending and how everything played out.

I have no doubt I will be reading more by Sharon Bolton in the near future. If all her books are like this, she is sure to be a new favorite.

To learn more about Sharon Bolton and her books, please visit the author's website and Goodreads.

© 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, October 07, 2015

Beyond the Books: Worst Movie & Children's Halloween Reading

Every Thursday Karen of KissinBlueKaren hosts Beyond the Books, at which time participants are given a topic and asked to write about it on their own blogs. They then share their links at the main site and visit other participants blogs.

Today Karen's Beyond the Books topic is about the worst movie I have ever seen and why.

I asked my husband this weekend this question because I drew a blank. I thought of three of his favorite movies that I do not like (Lost in Translation, Sidways, and American Beauty--the first two of which I found boring and the third I just couldn't get past the sexual abuse scene that was glossed over), but I am not sure they count as the worst. I can see the artistic merit in all three, even though I didn't like them. And so that leaves a movie like Catwoman, which could have been good with a good script. Catwoman is a great character and this movie failed on so many levels. The CGI could have been better, for one, And where is the character development? Halle Berry as Catwoman was a good choice, but they completely wasted her talent. This movie was embarrassing. I wanted a movie about a strong woman dealing with better thought out issues--instead of a dumbed down plot. It was an insult to women, but I guess good eye candy for men. 

I didn't realize I felt so strong about that one.  Haha

What about you? What is the worst movie you have ever seen?
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.

Halloween Edition:You're volunteering to read a book to a group of young children at a library. What scary themed book for kids would you read to them?

Such an easy question! I would read Witch on a Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. It's my favorite Halloween book and my daughter just loves it. I can just imagine sitting in the library, with young children gathered round as I tell the story about a witch and the friends she makes on her travels. The scary factor is pretty low, I admit, but maybe just enough for a really young crowd.

What scary themed book would you like to read to a group of children?

 © 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, October 06, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec

The seventh of July was a magnificent summer's day, one of those majestic Atlantic days that always lifted Commissaire's Dupin's spirits. ~ Opening of Death In Brittany

Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec 
Minotaur Books, 2015 (1st published in 2012) 
Crime Fiction; 320 pgs

This is the first book in a crime fiction series featuring Commissaire Dupin. The series was originally written in German. This is very much a traditional police procedural with the focus on the plot and crime. Commissaire Dupin is good at his job, but not always easy to work with. He tends to keep all his cards close to his vest, not even letting his investigative team know what he's thinking. He is not a fan of politicians and they clearly are not fond of him. 

When an elderly hotel owner is brutally murdered in his own hotel, Commissaire Georges Dupin is tasked with solving the crime. Could it have been the victim's own family, an employee at the hotel, the wealthy art historian, or the victim's best friend? Everyone seems to be hiding something, Dupin is sure. The investigation heats up when a window is broken at the crime scene--vandalism or a break-in? And then another body is found. The Commissaire has his work cut out for him, unraveling the threads that will lead him to the killer and the reason behind the murder. With the summer tourist season just about to begin, even the politicians are looking for quick answers. Dupin will have to come up with the answers fast.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the idyllic setting. The author has a way with putting the reader right into the small community on the coast of France he writes about. It sounds like somewhere I would not mind visiting. I got a good sense of how tight the community was, everyone knowing everyone's business, and of the history and culture of the area. 

Commissaire Dupin is an interesting character, stereotypical in some ways, but I especially loved the little details the author added to make him his own person. He loves coffee (what a relief he isn't a drunk!) and food. I do wish he had been more forthcoming with his investigative team. I can appreciate someone preferring to work alone (I tend to be like that too), but it could have put him in a dangerous spot, not to mention left his team in a bind if something had happened to him. I am overthinking it though. Ultimately, I really did like Dupin and his quirks. I often was glad to wander off with him, lost in thought, to look out over the water and put the details of the mystery together. There were several hints of an interesting backstory that I would love to see explored further. 

As this is a first book in a series, I can only hope that future books will more fully flesh out some of the minor but significant characters, particularly those on Dupin's investigative team. My only real complaint about the novel was that they were not more developed, particularly Le Ber and Labat and even Nolwenn.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Death in Brittany. If you enjoy reading about France and enjoy a plot-driven police procedural, you should definitely give this book a try.

Source: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley 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, October 05, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (10/06/2015)

My plans to schedule October's blog posts last week fell by the wayside. Mouse became sick towards the end of the week and is still feeling under the weather. Her dad stayed home with her yesterday, and it took everything I had not to call out of work too, especially when she begged me to stay. Talk about mother's guilt.

This past weekend I finished reading Rebecca Chastain's Fistful of Fire, which I hope to review for you later this month. It was such a fun and intense urban fantasy novel. It took me awhile to start a new book after that. You know how bookish high's sometimes take a moment to come down from?

I started reading Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes to feed my current hunger for a crime thriller Sunday night and have already been pulled in, although not quite as much as I have with her other books--still, it's good. This one is about a police analyst who finds the decomposing body of her next door neighbor one night while investigating where her cat has been. She suddenly becomes aware of just how easily something like that might happen to her--no one noticing she's dead for days, or even months. In her usual style, Haynes uses several different narrators to tell the story.

First Paragraph of Human Remains:

When I got home I could smell the trash cans on the cold air, a faint bad smell that made me wrinkle my nose.

Inside, I opened the back door, rattling the box of cat biscuits in the hope that it would bring her scurrying. It was a clear night, so she would most likely not make an appearance at the back door until I was in the bath, when she would howl and scratch to be let in. Despite the cat flap and my efforts to get her to use it--propping it open, coaxing her, bribing her, and even shoving her forcefully through it--she ignored it and came in and out only when I was hope to open the door for her. I'd even tried getting rid of the litter box, but she'd just piss on the lino in the kitchen and then pull it up at the corner with her claws to try and cover her excretions. After that I gave up.

Teasers from Human Remains at 22%

Nobody can see pain. They have no frame of reference for pain that's happening to someone else. They can only see inactivity - which they interpret as laziness.

and at 23%:

I dreamed of death the way previously I'd dreamed of the pain leaving me, and the way before that I'd dreamed of gardens and children and weekends away. Death was my elusive lover, treasured and longed for and jealously guarded, and always distant. Always out of reach.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

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 Books I Was Unable to Finish.  It is rare I do not finish a book. More so in the years before I had my daughter, before my personal reading time became even more precious. I have less patience for books I cannot get into right away these days. Still, I try to give a book a fair shake. What makes me give up on a book? Most often, it's my lack of interest in the characters, the story, what is happening, what will happen, etc. I am not one of those who reads the end of unfinished books to see what the outcome will be. If I don't finish the book, I likely don't care how it ends.  

1. Haweswater by Sarah Hall ~ I had actually hoped to revisit this book at some point to try again, but it wasn't meant to be. The writing is descriptive and lovely, but after three attempts, I just could not drum up interest in the story or characters. It is well liked by many who read it, however. Maybe you would like it too.

From Goodreads:
The village of Marsdale is a quiet corner of the world, cradled in a remote dale in England's lovely Lake District. The rhythm of life in the deeply religious, sheltered community has not changed for centuries. But in 1936, when Waterworks representative Jack Ligget from industrial Manchester arrives with plans to build a new reservoir, he brings the much feared threat of impending change to this bucolic hamlet. And when he begins an intense and troubled affair with Janet Lightburn—a devout local woman of rare passion and strength of spirit—it can only lead to scandal, tragedy, and remarkable, desperate acts.

2. Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers ~ This book sounded like it would be perfect for me: a historical setting, scary vampires, and interesting characters with literary ties. Alas, I made it as far as half way and just couldn't make it the rest of the way through. Getting that far had been a bit of a struggle, a sure sign being when I avoid a book. It's a rather slow going book, even for a thriller.

From Goodreads:
Winter, 1862. A malevolent spirit roams the cold and gloomy streets of Victorian London, the vampiric ghost of John Polidori, the onetime physician of the mad, bad and dangerous Romantic poet Lord Byron. Polidori is also the supernatural muse to his niece and nephew, poet Christina Rossetti and her artist brother Dante Gabriel. 
But Polidori's taste for debauchery has grown excessive. He is determined to possess the life and soul of an innocent young girl, the daughter of a veterinarian and a reformed prostitute he once haunted. And he has resurrected Dante's dead wife, transforming her into a horrifying vampire. The Rossettis know the time has come – Polidori must be stopped. Joining forces with the girl's unlikely parents, they are plunged into a supernatural London underworld whose existence they never suspected.

These wildly mismatched allies – a strait-laced animal doctor, and ex-prostitute, a poet, a painter, and even the Artful Dodger-like young daughter – must ultimately choose between the banality and constraints of human life and the unholy immortality that Polidori offers. Sweeping from high society to grimy slums, elegant West End salons to pre-Roman catacombs beneath St. Paul's cathedral,
Hide Me Among The Graves blends the historical and the supernatural in a dazzling, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride.

3. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris ~ Many love David Sedaris and his essays about his life experiences. He's written several books, in fact. I thought this particular collection would be a good one to listen to. I needed a good laugh and was assured he would be the one to deliver it. Let's just say Sedaris and I are not a good fit.

4. American Psycho by Brett Eaton Ellis ~ I attempted to read this as part of a group read, but it didn't work out. The writing bored me to tears before I got too far into it. I at least got through the movie and liked that.

From Goodreads:
Patrick Bateman is twenty-six and works on Wall Street; he is handsome, sophisticated, charming and intelligent. He is also a psychopath. American Psycho is a bleak, bitter, black comedy about a world we all recognize but do not wish to face and it takes us on a head-on collision with America's greatest dream - and its worst nightmare.

5. Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver ~ I have made several attempts to read this one, and each time failed to get into it. I have finally come to terms with the fact that I will likely never get through it.

From Goodreads:
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it -- from garden seeds to Scripture -- is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

6. Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan ~ The writing is beautiful, and I wanted so much to like this one. I was very disappointed when I didn't. I kept hoping I would fall into the book, and, at times, I thought I might--I was on the cusp--and then nothing. About half way in, I realized reading this one had become more of a chore than anything, and I had to let go.

From Goodreads: 
Of Bees and Mist is an engrossing fable that chronicles three generations of women under one family tree and places them in a mythical town where spirits and spells, witchcraft and demons, and prophets and clairvoyance are an everyday reality.
Meridia grows up in a lonely home until she falls in love with Daniel at age sixteen. Soon, they marry, and Meridia can finally escape to live with her charming husband’s family—unaware that they harbor dark mysteries of their own. As Meridia struggles to embrace her life as a young bride, she discovers long-kept secrets about her own past as well as shocking truths about her new family that push her love, courage, and sanity to the brink.
Erick Setiawan’s astonishing debut is a richly atmospheric and tumultuous ride of hope and heartbreak that is altogether touching, truthful, and memorable.

7. Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta ~ I had heard such great things about this book and eagerly dove in. It sounded like something I would really like. It wasn't what I expected, which isn't usually the death knell for a book; but it this case, I suppose it was.

From Goodreads:
An ambitious and powerful story about idealism, passion, and sacrifice, Eat the Document shifts between the underground movement of the 1970s and the echoes and consequences of that movement in the 1990s. A National Book Award finalist, Eat the Document is a riveting portrait of two eras and one of the most provocative and compelling novels of recent years.

8. A Touch of Passion by Bronwen Evans ~ Historical romance and I are not always the best of friends, although I do love history and I enjoy a good romance. This particular novel sounded like fun, but I didn't like either of the main characters right out of the gate. While that isn't always cause to not finish a book, it was in this case. I could care less what happened to them.

From Goodreads
Independent and high-spirited, Lady Portia Flagstaff has never been afraid to take a risk, especially if it involves excitement and danger. But this time, being kidnapped and sold into an Arab harem is the outcome of one risk too many. Now, in order to regain her freedom, she has to rely on the deliciously packaged Grayson Devlin, Viscount Blackwood, a man who despises her reckless ways—and stirs in her a thirst for passion. 
After losing his mother and two siblings in a carriage accident years ago, Grayson Devlin promised Portia’s dying brother that he’d always watch over his wayward sister. But having to travel to Egypt to rescue the foolhardy girl has made his blood boil. Grayson already has his hands full trying to clear his best friend and fellow Libertine Scholar of a crime he didn’t commit. Worse still, his dashing rescue has unleashed an unforeseen and undesired consequence: marriage. Now it’s more than Portia he has to protect . . . it’s his battered heart. 

 9. Further Out Than You Thought by Michaela Carter ~ Such beautiful writing! I was drawn to this book because of the time period it is set in (1992 L.A. Riots). It is one of those books that one needs to read slowly and savor, but at the time I was reading it, I struggled to stay with it. It is a much more literary fiction novel than I was in the mood for at the time, I think.

From Goodreads:
In the Neverland that is Los Angeles, where make-believe seems possible, three dreamers find themselves on the verge of transformation. Twenty-five-year-old poet Gwendolyn Griffin works as a stripper to put herself through graduate school. Her perpetually stoned boyfriend, Leo, dresses in period costume to hawk his music downtown and seems to be losing his already tenuous grip on reality. And their flamboyant best friend and neighbor, nightclub crooner Count Valiant, is slowly withering away. 
When the city explodes in violence after the Rodney King verdict, the chaos becomes a catalyst for change. Valiant is invigorated; Leo plans a new stunt—walking into East L.A. naked, holding a white flag; and Gwen, discovering she is pregnant, is pulled between the girl she's been and the woman she could become. But before Gwen can embrace motherhood, she's forced to face the questions she's been avoiding: Can Leo be a father? Can she leave the club life behind, or will the city's spell prove too seductive?
Weaving poetry and sensuality with an edgy urban sensibility, Further Out Than You Thought is a celebration of life, an ode to motherhood, and a haunting story of love, friendship, and one woman's quest for redemption.

10. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy ~ Three or four attempts to read this one, and I am finally coming to the realization that I might never finish it. I want to try though. I really do.

From Goodreads:
Tolstoy's epic masterpiece intertwines the lives of private and public individuals during the time of the Napoleonic wars and the French invasion of Russia. The fortunes of the Rostovs and the Bolkonskys, of Pierre, Natasha, and Andrei, are intimately connected with the national history that is played out in parallel with their lives. Balls and soirees alternate with councils of war and the machinations of statesmen and generals, scenes of violent battles with everyday human passions in a work whose extraordinary imaginative power has never been surpassed.
The prodigious cast of characters, seem to act and move as if connected by threads of destiny as the novel relentlessly questions ideas of free will, fate, and providence. Yet Tolstoy's portrayal of marital relations and scenes of domesticity is as truthful and poignant as the grand themes that underlie them.

What books made your DNF list? 

© 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.