Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke

She woke up late that morning, and knew:

Something had followed them home from Russia. ~ Opening Sentence from Mind of Winter


Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke

Harper, 2014
Fiction; 288 pgs

Mind of Winter is one of those novels that creeps up on you, page by page, the story building, the layers being pulled off very precisely, one at a time.  The novel is subtle in its intensity, especially in the beginning, making it all the more a worthwhile read

Holly Judge and her husband Eric adopted a Russian girl thirteen years ago.  They fell in love with her the moment they saw her on that Christmas Day long ago.  It was not an easy process.  Adoption never is.  And when adoption in another country brings with it its own challenges.

Waking up from a fitful night's sleep, still groggy from a not so good dream, Holly begins her day.  Her husband rushes off to pick his parents up from the airport and Holly goes to see what is keeping her teenage daughter, Tatiana (Tatty), in bed so late.  Haunted still from her nightmare, "Something followed them from Russia," Holly begins to really question events from the past: the seemingly innocent accidents, the growth on her husband's hand, the fate of Sally the chicken, the scratched CD's, and her daughter's ever growing dark mood.

What follows is a day in the life type story, set in the middle of a blizzard on Christmas Day.  Although written in third person, the story is told strictly from the perspective of Holly, as she remembers the past--the adoption process--and as she goes through the motions of the present day.  The entire book is told in one long narrative.  There are no chapters, with only the occasional section break.

When I think back to reading this novel, I find myself amazed at how well-crafted the story is, how every little detail was carefully placed, and, yet, it wasn't something I noticed so much as I read.  It was in hindsight I could see it most.  And aren't those among the best books?

I admit I wasn't overly fond of Holly.  I actually felt bad at times for her daughter because of Holly's constant questioning of Tatty and felt some of the mother's anger at her daughter was overblown or misplaced.  It was in part because of this I was not sure I would like the book initially, and yet something about the story kept me reading.  Perhaps it was the sense of foreboding that something bad was about to happen.  By the end of the novel, I felt a wide range of emotions.  The ending is what made the book for me.

This is very much a book about grief, regret, failures. It is one of denial and fear.  Mind of Winter is so much more than it seems at first.  Picture a small crack in a car's windshield.  If left unfixed, that crack will spread out, splintering off into various other fractures.  That is much how Mind of Winter plays out.  

Rating:  * (Very Good)


To learn more about  Laura Kasischke, and her books, please visit the author's website.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about Mind of Winter 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 Mind of Winter provided by 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, April 15, 2014

Where Is Your Bookmark? (04/15/2014)

I begged and pleaded with my husband a couple of weeks ago for us to attend this year's Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.  The last time we went was before my daughter was born.  It was one of my favorite bookish events.  I used to sign us up for every possible author panel we could fit into our schedule, often leaving very little time to actually peruse the booths.  This year I knew there would be no panels.  And I knew we wouldn't be able to attend both days of the festival.  I figured we could go for a couple hours or so, look around, and then head home.  I just wanted to take in the atmosphere.  The event is free with the exception of parking.  It would be worth it, I told him.  And it was.

My three year old, husband and I all had a fun time.  We took in a performance by the L.A. Opera at the Children's Stage and caught a demonstration of teen poetry slam (it was really awesome).  Mouse met a young author who isn't much older than her (well, closer to her age than mine--I don't think the girl is a teenager yet).  She also met Llama Llama, who was much taller in person than I imagined he'd be.  I got to meet mystery author Kwei Quartey, who is just as nice as can be.  He writes the Darko Dawson series set in West Africa.  I also saw T. Jefferson Parker, Cara Black, Denise Hamilton, Marissa Meyer, and Sarah J. Maas, among others.  Mouse was surprisingly patient.  Or maybe it was just because her dad was really good at keeping her entertained.  It might have involved a few tosses in the air, hanging upside down, and being chased around a tree several times.

I am glad we were able to go this year, and I hope I can drag my husband and daughter back again next year.  

I finished Shanghai Girls by Lisa See just in time for my online book group discussion, which started yesterday.  What a book it was! It took a lot of restraint not to dive straight into Dreams of Joy, Lisa See's sequel to Shanghai Girls. If there is any hope I can finish Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood before the end of the month as planned, however, I knew I needed to get started on that one.  I may still start Dreams of Joy yet though.  Who says I can't read more than one book at a time?   

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.


At the moment, I am working my way through Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, a novel my husband recommended to me years ago, but I am only just now getting to. It's already proving to be a quite complex read.  Take a look at the first paragraph:
Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove her car off a bridge.  The bridge was being repaired: she went right through the Danger sign.  The care fell a hundred feet into the ravine, smashing through the treetops feathery with new leaves, then burst into flames and rolled down into the shallow creek at the bottom.  Chunks of the bridge fell on top of it.  Nothing much was left of her but charred smithereens.  
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.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

Poor, poor Pandora.  ~ First Sentence of The Husband's Secret


The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
Penguin, 2013
Fiction; 416 pgs
From the Publisher: 
Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret - something so terrible it would destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others too. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive . . . 
Cecilia Fitzpatrick achieved it all - she's an incredibly successful business woman, a pillar of her small community and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia - or each other - but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband's devastating secret.
I was excited when this won the poll as my online book group's February discussion book.  After reading so many great reviews last year, this proved a great excuse to move it up in my TBR stacks.

The Husband's Secret began like I would expect many women's fiction novels to.  You have the female character whose life seems too perfect to be true--you just know something is about to happen to derail all that--in this case a secret coming to light.  Then there's the female character whose marriage is falling part in another, more predictable way.  Also, there is an elderly woman who is still mourning the loss of her daughter, and who may soon lose her grandson, her only reason for living, when her son and his wife move away.

Liane Moriarty does a wonderful job of creating interesting and in depth characters, who are going through varying degrees of crises in their lives.  The three women, Rachel, Cecilia and Tess, all know each other and live in the same community, and yet they really don't know each other on a more intimate and personal level, something that will quickly change as the events in the novel unfold.

I wasn't as surprised by many in my group as to what was in that letter Cecilia's husband didn't want her to open until after his death.  It seemed kind of obvious to me, especially once everyone's stories had more of less been set up.  Maybe it's because I read so many mystery novels.  Anyway, my lack of surprise hardly took away from the suspense of the situation, nor the dire conflict Cecilia suddenly finds herself suffering. Cecilia wasn't especially a character I liked right out of the gate, but I came to really care about her.  About all the women in the novel, really.  I would never want to be in Cecilia's shoes.  This book reminded me in some ways of The Deepest Secret, which I read in December of last year.  Just how far will a mother go to protect her family?

Rachel's story is the most heartbreaking in many ways, from the loss of her daughter all those years ago to the distance she feels between she and her son and his wife.  She lives for her grandson, and with him about to move across the ocean, she feels her life line is slipping away.  The loneliness and grief and guilt she feels is palpable on the pages.

Then there is Tess who is lost in her own way.  Her husband has just revealed his big secret and it has torn their family--and life--apart.  Tess never saw it coming.  She returns to her mother's home to think things through, taking her son with her.  She has her own decision to make, her own re-evaluating of her life to do.

These three women are very different and yet they each have much in common.  Liane Moriarty is able to take each of their stories and weave them together in a way that will leave the reader breathless and not just a little bit shocked.  The Husband's Secret was heart-wrenching at times.  And it is certainly a novel that makes one think.

One of Cecilia's daughter's is studying the fall of the Berlin Wall throughout the novel, and I especially loved the juxtaposition that particular story line created in terms of the lives of the three women.  The symbolism, especially in terms of the walls we put up to protect ourselves and our secrets, was hard to miss.

I quite enjoyed The Husband's Secret, and hope to read more by Liane Moriarty in the future.


Rating of Book: * (Good +)

You can learn more about Liane Moriarty and her books on the author's website.

Source: I purchased the e-copy version 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, April 01, 2014

Where is Your Bookmark? (04/01/2014)

I  have only ever played one April Fool's joke on my blog.  I had hoped to make it an annual event, but it was extremely time consuming to set up and I never managed to recreate it.  It was the day my dog, Riley, took over my blog.  The anniversary of his death is coming up in another month, and I found myself giggling at the fun we had that one day in 2010.  Despite the name of my blog, this was also very much Riley's blog during his life.  He had such personality. If you have time, I hope you will take time to re-visit Riley's exploits on April 1, 2010.  Think of this as my flashback Thursday on a Tuesday.



There will be no April Fool's jokes today.  At least not from me.  I would like to hear from you, however. What are some of your favorite April Fool's jokes?  Do you like to pull pranks on people in honor of the day?

As for books, I recently read the first Rachel Morgan book by Kim Harrison called Dead Witch Walking
All these years people have told me I would love the books, and yet I let the book sit on my shelf and collect dust.  Yeah.  So now I am kicking myself for not listening to all of you who told me to read it sooner.  

Yesterday I began reading Lisa See's Shanghai Girls, another book I should have read a long long time ago.  My online book group is reading it this month.  I loved Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, the only other book I have read by the author.  So far, I am really enjoying Shanghai Girls.

Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood is on my April must read list. My husband has been trying to convince me to read the book for years.  It's the next book up on Carrie's "I've Always Meant to Read That Book!" Challenge list.  I hope you will consider joining us.  If you have read the book already, feel free to join in on the discussion.

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.


Shanghai Girls by Lisa See is a historical novel about two sisters who travel from Shanghai to Los Angeles  with their husbands from arranged marriages during the 1930's: 
"Our daughter looks like a South China peasant with those red cheeks," my father complains, pointedly ignoring the soup before him.  "Can't you do something about them?"
Mama stares at Baba, but what can she say? My face is pretty enough--some might even say lovely--but not as luminescent as the pearl I'm named for.  I tend to blush easily. Beyond that, my cheeks capture the sun.  When I turned five, my mother began rubbing my face and arms with pearl creams, and mixing ground pearls into my morning jook--rice porridge--hoping the white essence would permeate my skin.  It hasn't worked.  Now my cheeks burn red--exactly what my father hates.  I shrink down in my chair.    
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.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: Duke City Split by Max Austin

Bud Knox relaxed on a park bench, basking in the April sunshine, his windbreaker zipped to his chin.  A placid man with thinning brown hair, Bud looked nothing at all like a bank robber. ~ Opening to Duke City Split


Duke City Split by Max Austin
Alibi, 2014
Crime Fiction; 208 pgs

Last year my husband won the Windhammer Commendation Award for Short Gamebook Fiction for a game he wrote about a bank heist.  He's really the reason my antenna went up when I saw mention of this book on tour.  His story put me in the mood for similar type stories, and so I was excited when I first came across mention of Max Austin's Duke City Split

Bud Knox is your average stay at home dad.  He is raising two daughters, picks them up from school, takes them to their soccer practices, cooks for his wife, and has made a decent life for himself.  Money can be tight, sure, but they make do.  His wife, Linda, is in real estate, and Bud does some internet stock trading on the side.  His real profession, however, is robbing banks.  So, maybe he's not the average dad after all.  Bud and his partner Mick Wyman have been robbing banks together for years and never been caught.  Mick is the complete opposite of Bud. He's the tough guy, the strong arm, the one you look at and know he's probably got a criminal past.  

When Mick is approached by a stranger about a lucrative bank job, Bud has some doubts.  The two have been careful to avoid stealing money in their own backyard of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Things could get messy too fast.  There's also the fact that they have only ever worked with each other.  Who is this new guy and can they trust him?

What follows is an exciting and fun caper mystery about a bank robbery and just how hard it can be to hold onto the loot.  Bud and Mick find themselves being chased by not only the good guys, but the bad ones as well.  

It was easy to fall on the side of Bud and Mick, even when the dirty work needed to be done.  I found myself hoping they'd come out on top and evade arrest, even knowing had it been real life I would feel completely different.  There is a lot of action in the novel and some self-reflection, but if you are looking for strong character development, you won't find it here.  Some of the characters are a bit cliche, but they added to the charm of the novel.

Can I just say how much I appreciate Bud's relationship with his wife?  There was no drama about keeping secrets from each other--it was refreshing.

Duke City Split was as entertaining as it was suspenseful and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I gasped at times and could not help but laugh at others, even as dark as the novel was.  Going in I had not idea this was just one book in three planned.  For those adverse to series, don't dismiss this book outright.  It reads as a stand alone; even the ending seemed pretty final.  I am anxious to see where the author will go with the next in the series.


Rating: * (Good +)

To learn more about Max Austin, aka Steve Brewer, and his books, please visit the author's Facebook Page or his blog.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about Duke City Split 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 Duke City Split provided by 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.