Monday, November 17, 2014

Random Musings, Playful Kitties & A See You Later, But Not Goodbye

I used to be a night owl.  Then I settled into being more of an afternoon person.  Now I am a morning person.  I knew for sure the morning I woke up at 10:30 a.m. and my first thought was one of panic.  I had wasted half the day by sleeping!  

For some reason, I always picture cozy heroines as being much older than they often turn out to be, and I am always surprised if the main character turns out to be much younger.

If I am starting a new book during my lunch break at work, I have to know ahead of time which book I will be reading or else I spend the entire time trying to figure out what to read next.

I woke up early one morning recently with a little seed of an idea, and I began writing until I had gotten all the words out, all that emotion that needed a voice. It has been years since I last wrote a poem and it will likely be years before I do so again.

I have always believed that our current place in life impacts our perceptions of what we read.  I have never felt it more acutely than I have now that I am a mother.

Sometimes when my daughter is pretending to talk on the phone, she talks to our dog Riley. She always asks him how he likes Heaven. 





Musings of a Bookish Kitty will be dark for the next three or so weeks, depending on how long it takes my body to heal enough for me to sit at a computer for any length of time. Today is my surgery day. I am going to use my recovery time to lose myself in books I have been meaning to read, and maybe catch up on movies and television, if the mood strikes.  My mother is bringing old photos for us to sort--and I've got plenty of my own to go through. I am sure I will be on Facebook and Twitter given the ease of using my phone for both. I wish it was that easy to use with blogs.

Happy Thanksgiving wishes to my American friends, and, for all of you, I hope the coming weeks treat you well.  Try not to forget about me. I will be back. You can't get rid of me that easily!



© 2014, 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.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

My name, in those days, was Susan Trinder. ~ Opening of Fingersmith


Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Riverhead, 2002
Fiction; 582 pgs

When I heard about the Fingersmith Read-A-Long hosted by Jennifer of Literate Housewife, I somehow finagled it into my reading schedule for the month of October.  I am so glad I did. I have wanted to try something by Sarah Waters for years. I always figured I would start with Night Watch or The Little Stranger. I knew very little about Fingersmith going into the novel. I knew it was set partially in Victorian London with an orphan as its heroine. An orphan who grew up among thieves. I knew there would be a love story. And perhaps some treachery. I admit, I had high expectations. 

Fingersmith is the story of two women in very different circumstances. There is Susan Trinder, an orphan raised by Mrs. Sucksby who seems to collect babies and farm them out. Then there is Maud Lilly, also an orphan, raised as a lady by her uncle and his staff, who has known little kindness in her life. Susan is raised in love, as if she is Mrs. Sucksby's own, while Maud was not spared the rod growing up and serves her uncle and his dark interests.

One day the Gentleman, a charming con man, walks through Mrs. Sucksby's door with a proposition for Susan "Sue" Trinder. If she will only help him with his most recent venture, she will be paid most handsomely. Sue sees this as an opportunity to repay the people who took her in as an infant and cared for her all these years.  Taking on the role of a ladies' maid, Sue begins working for Maud Lilly, an heiress to a fortune the Gentleman has his eyes on. All Sue has to do is help pave the way for the Gentleman to win Maud's heart, trick her into marrying him, and then steal her fortune.

Sarah Waters' writing is beautiful, and she has an extraordinary gift for weaving together a tale that is intricate, dark and engrossing.  This is one of those books that draws the reader in and stays with the reader even when the book is closed. There is a darkness to the story, a Gothic feel to it and a strong sense of foreboding throughout.

Both Maud and Sue struck me as being quite na├»ve in their own ways. Sue, even living among thieves has led a sheltered life. Maud had for so long been cloistered in her uncle's home and before that the asylum where she was raised in her early years. Sue was a much easier character to like and empathize with, given her situation. She had doubts all along the way of what she was doing and what it would mean for Maud if Sue and the Gentleman succeeded. So, while I did not always agree with the choices she made, I could see why she did what she did as the story progressed.  Maud was more of an enigma, especially in the beginning. The first portion of the novel is told from Sue's perspective and the second lets the reader into Maud's mind, before returning to Sue again in another section. It is with these varying perspectives the reader is allowed a more fuller glimpse into the lives of the two women, their relationship, and their fates as the story unfolds.

The more I learned about Maud, the more obvious it becomes just how much the two women come to mean to each other. Maud has proven she is not the kindest person, capable of cruelty, a product perhaps of the treatment she has received and her circumstances. Maud has known little love in her life, and Sue's kindness is foreign to her. Sue, in trying to be as warm and gentle as possible to gain Maud's trust, comes to care for the woman and want to protect her.

The novel is set in Victorian England, and the author captures the mood of the era well, including the cultural view of women, the divide between the poor and the wealthy and also the institutional side of the time period. It is clear Waters did her research to present as realistic and heart wrenching experience as possible.

Fingersmith was all the things I imagined it would be. Romantic and heartbreaking, full of betrayal and family secrets. Atmospheric. The novel was full of surprises and twists I did not see coming, although some I did. I do not imagine this is a novel I will soon forget.

Rating: * (Outstanding)

You can learn more about Sarah Waters and her books on the author's website

Source: I purchased both a trade paperback copy and e-copy of this book for my own reading pleasure.


 © 2014, 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, November 11, 2014

Where Is Your Bookmark? (11/11/2014)


Both my daughter and I have the day off today, and so you will not see me around. At least not until tomorrow. While for us it will most likely be a day full of games and board books and maybe some time at the park, it is also the day Americans take the time to honor and give thanks to the veterans, including my late father and grandfather, who sacrificed so much for our sakes.  To be honest, I don't just think of them on days like today, but rather all year round.  I suppose having been a military brat has something to do with that.  There will always be a special place in my heart for our soldiers--and their families. 


*

My reading has been progressing at a snail's pace recently. It's in part because I have been so busy, but also because my current book, Lynne Branard's The Art of Arranging Flowers hasn't grabbed me quite as much as I would like. Caspette (The Narrative Casuality) mentioned the other day that it might not be the best read for me right now, given everything I have going on. She might be right. I had been considering trying The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey next, but I think my mood might be better suited for something much lighter.  Maybe a cozy mystery or a holiday romance.

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





Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea hosts 
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.


The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is set in Alaska during the 1920's and is a re-telling of an old Russian fairy tale. Just from the first paragraph, I can tell I am going to love the writing. It's described as a heartbreaking story by some and has gotten great reviews.
Mabel had known there would be silence. That was the point, after all. No infants cooing or wailing. No neighbor children playfully hollering down the lane. No pad of small feet on wooden stairs worn smooth by generations, or clackety-clack of toys along the kitchen floor. All those sounds of her failure and regret would be left behind, and in their place there would be silence.
Just based on the introduction, would you continue reading?


© 2014, 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, November 05, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: The Last Train to Babylon by Charlee Fam

The rain assaults my car in the far corner of the empty train station lot, and the wipers dance to a furious beat, so awkwardly out of sync with everything else. ~ Opening of Last Train to Babylon



Last Train to Babylon by Charlee Fam
William Morrow, 2014
Fiction; 352 pgs

Last Train to Babylon is written from the point of view of Aubrey Glass, a twenty-three year old journalist, whose seemingly carefully controlled life is revealed to be hanging by a thread when she learns of her former best friend's suicide. Charlee Fam takes her characters back and forth between the present and past as Aubrey relives what she has tried so hard to block out and pretend didn't impact her.  Aubrey returns home with every intention of not attending the funeral.  Running into old friends and her old boyfriend, Adam, brings it all back . . . every painful detail.

It is is clear from the beginning that Aubrey is suffering; the multitude of suicide notes, her detachment from those closest to her, and her heavy drinking give her away. I admit to not being particularly fond of Aubrey initially. She and her friends, particularly Rachel, her former best friend, make several bad choices. Perhaps it was hard for me to relate to them because I was a different type of teenager. My focus was always on academics, whereas these girls were much more into the party scene, including drinking and sex. I can't tell you the number of times in this book I worried for the girls, especially Rachel, going off with boys, many of them older, after having had too much to drink, her cell phone turned off.

As the novel progressed, Aubrey grew on me, and I really came to care about her. At times she came across as self-centered, but, really, what teenager isn't, at least some of the time?  Even as an adult, Aubrey was not the nicest person to those around her--and I think that had, in part, to do with what she was dealing with--not to mention the excessive drinking. It was difficult to see her on her downward spiral, and yet, it was something she had to go through in order to get to a point where she could face her past, face her pain. I hurt for her. I cried for her. Her emotions and suffering were raw and authentic. The author did an amazing job with that.

I have mixed feelings about Rachel, Aubrey's former best friend, although mostly I did not like her. Aubrey painted a very negative picture of Rachel, about how controlling she was and how manipulative. There were aspects of her character I wanted to know more about to better understand where she was coming from. I wish the author had gone one step further in that regard. But I do understand why she did not. This is not Rachel's story.  It is Aubrey's, about her coming to terms with events from her past.  What we do learn about Rachel is a lot, just the same. While I never warmed to her, I did feel sorry for her in some ways. She was a train wreck waiting to happen. Yes, she could be manipulative and cruel. What I saw beneath that, however, was a girl who was trying too hard, and who, on the outside, appeared to have it all together, but was struggling with her own issues.

Last Train to Babylon would make a good book club pick, I think. There is so much in the book worth discussing; relevant issues for today dealing with post traumatic stress, the complexities of friendship and young love, date rape, and underage drinking and sex, just to name a few. Charlee Fam has proven herself to be a talented author, taking such difficult subject matter, weaving dark humor into it, and giving voice to young women everywhere who have shared similar experiences with those in this book. The Last Train to Babylon was an emotional read, and one I am glad to have read.

Rating:  * (Very Good)

To learn more about Charlee Fam, and her book, please visit the author's website.

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




Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. E-Copy of the book provided by the publisher.



© 2014, 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, November 04, 2014

Where Is Your Boomark? 11/04/2014)

Happy November! I hope you all are well and in the middle of reading some great books. Did you remember to turn back your clocks this weekend? Those of you who had to, anyway. I generally try to change my clocks that need changing the night before, but I forgot to do that this year. I woke up Sunday morning and thought it was later than it was at first. Then I groaned because it meant my daughter had gotten up at her usual time again.

Halloween was this past Friday and what a fun day it was.  The day would not have been even half as much fun if it weren't for my daughter. I got to help out at her school Halloween party (there were games, and then we went trick-or-treating around the school's neighborhood) and took her trick-or-treating in my office. She loved all the attention. I cannot tell you how many times I heard, "I love trick-or-treating" throughout the day. She got to go again with her father when he got home from work, and in the meantime helped me pass out candy, which she loved doing as well. Mouse dressed up as Queen Izzybella, one of Pirate Izzy's many personas on the cartoon series Jake and the Neverland Pirates show. It seemed quite fitting given last year my daughter was a pirate princess dressed in pirate garb.  This time she was a pirate queen dressed in a princess queen gown. She refused to wear her crown, but did carry around her sword this time around.

Since last we visited, I finished reading Jim Snowden's The Summer of Long Knives, which I reviewed yesterday. And tomorrow my review of Last Train to Babylon by Charlee Fam will go up. Two very different books. I decided I needed something uplifting to read next and so began The Art of Arranging Flowers by Lynne Branard, set in a small town in Washington.  Ruby Jewell owns a flower shop and has served the people of her town for over twenty years. She and her dog, Clementine are well known and well liked in the community. Ruby closed her heart long ago after the death of her sister, and now finds it opening with the help of those around her.  It just so happens qualifies for the What's In A Name Challenge which I'm sadly behind in completing.  I may just complete that challenge yet!

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





Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea hosts 
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.


I am only a few chapters into The Art of Arranging Flowers by Lynne Branard, but am enjoying it so far. Here is the opening paragraph and part of the second:
Daisy was not crazy. At least not like they said. She wasn't unstable or paranoid. She wasn't disassociative or delusional, nor did she ever display homicidal tendencies. She didn't impost some means of self-mutilation or harbor a borderline personality. She did not require restraints or group therapy and she never intended harm. She took her meds and she was fine. She was not crazy.
The day she died, that cold gray day when I withdrew into myself, that day I cleaned the house from top to bottom, wiped down every wall, emptied every trash can and discarded most of my clothes, that day when I scrubbed and mopped and threw away the things of no matter, closed the curtains in the front room, unplugged all the clocks and disconnected my phone, put on my grandmother's only black suit, changed the sheets, and lay down on the bed, I was the one who was crazy. 

Would you continue reading?


© 2014, 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.