Saturday, December 31, 2011

Merely Mystery Reading Challenge 2012 January Reviews


If you haven't already, please sign up for the Merely Mystery Challenge here!

One of my favorite parts of challenges is supporting and cheering on my fellow participants--not to mention all the great new-to-me book recommendations I come across! Please leave direct links to your January review posts for qualifying reviews for the challenge here. Participants without blogs can post reviews on general review sites such as LibraryThing, Goodreads or Shelfari. And if you have the time, stop by and check out some of your fellow participants reviews as well! I am sure they would love to hear from you!


Please include your name or blog name along with the title of the book you reviewed as well as a direct link to your review post (not just a general link to your blog). Thank you!




© 2012, 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.

Books Read in 2011

(Archive of books read in 2013, in alphabetical order)

Alt, Madelyn - The Trouble with Magic (2006) - Crime Fiction (Fantasy)
Bartlett, Allison Hoover - The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession (2009) - Nonfiction
Billingham, Mark - Bloodline (2011) - Crime Fiction
Briggs, Patricia - Blood Bound (2007) - Fantasy
Briggs, Patricia - Bone Crossed (2010) - Fantasy
Briggs, Patricia - Iron Kissed (2008) - Fantasy
Briggs, Patricia - Moon Called (2006) - Fantasy
Briggs, Patricia - Silver Borne (2011) - Fantasy
Butcher, Jim - White Night (2010) - Fantasy
Castillo, Linda - Sworn to Silence (2009) - Crime Fiction
Coakley, Lena - Witchlanders (2011) - Fantasy
David, Peter - Tigerheart (2008) - Fantasy (YA)
Fey, Tina - Bossypants (2011) - Nonfiction
Frost, Jeaniene - Halfway to the Grave (2007) - Fantasy (Paranormal Romance)
Gruley, Bryan - The Hanging Tree (2010) - Crime Fiction
Handeland, Lori - Any Given Doomsday (2008) - Fantasy
Harris, Charlaine - Dead Reckoning (2011) - Fantasy
Hyde, Catherine Ryan - When I Found You (2009) - Fiction
Kozak, Harley Jane - A Date You Can't Refuse (2009) - Crime Fiction
Kozak, Harley Jane - Dating Dead Men (2005) - Crime Fiction
Kozak, Harley Jane - Dating is Murder (2005) - Crime Fiction
Kozak, Harley Jane - Dead Ex (2007) - Crime Fiction
LePore, James - Blood of My Brother (2010) - Crime Fiction
Martin, George R.R. - Game of Thrones (2003) - Fantasy
Martinez, Michele - Cover-Up (2007) - Crime Fiction
Meeks, Christopher - Love At Absolute Zero (2011) - Fiction
Ness, Patrick - The Ask and the Answer (2010) - Fantasy (YA)
Ness, Patrick - The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008) - Fantasy (YA)
Ness, Patrick - Monsters of Men (2011) - Fantasy (YA)
Scheeres, Julia - A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception and Survival at Jonestown (2011) - Nonfiction
Sellers, L.J. - The Sex Club (2007) - Crime Fiction
Simon, Clea - Dogs Don't Lie (2011) - Crime Fiction
Smith, L.J. - Vampire Diaries: The Awakening (1999) - Fantasy (YA)
Sweeney, Leann - The Cat, the Quilt and the Corpse (2009) - Crime Fiction
Woodrell, Daniel - Winter's Bone (2006) - Fiction


© 2011, 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.

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: A Year in Review

Two thousand eleven was the year for comfort reads. While I did read a few thought provoking books, I spent most of the year craving brain candy. When I look over the titles of the books I read this year, I can pinpoint what was happening in my life at that particular time.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much was a fitting book to read as I gave away hundreds of my own books, preparing for my move. I read most of the Patricia Briggs's books, beginning with Moon Called, during my final days of pregnancy when I needed something fast paced and deliciously good to distract me from the million thoughts going through my mind. I read A Game of Thrones during those seemingly endless cluster feedings. Bloodline was the first book I read in our new house. And Harley Jane Kozak's Wollie series was what jump started my reading again when I was beginning to think I might never read again. Madelyn Alt's The Trouble With Magic saw me through right after my father's death. It's only been in the last few months I feel as if I have found my reading groove again--even if in a limited capacity.

I am breaking from my usual tradition of posting my stats and own special book categories this year. My record keeping fell by the wayside, and I haven't the energy or time to try and pull it all together at this late date. Instead, I am turning to an end of the year survey that is going around thanks to Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner.


1. Best Book You Read In 2011?

Looking over the titles of the books I read this year, I an struggling over which book would take top honors. I read a little less than half of what I read last year, and so I hesitate to make a top ten list like I normally do. Instead, I will share the titles of a few books that most stood out for me:

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin managed to hold me captive despite it's length at a time when my attention span was shot because of sleep deprivation and constant interruptions. It is the first in an epic fantasy series. The characters got under my skin and I fell under the spell of the world so completely. The HBO miniseries based on the book was pretty awesome too.

A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception and Survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres was not only well researched but also extremely well written. I learned so much I hadn't known before about the Jonestown Massacre, and about Jim Jones and his followers in general. There is much more to it than what meets the eye.

While Patrick Ness's The Chaos Walking Trilogy amazed me in its detail and world building as a whole, the first book in the trilogy was by far my favorite. The Knife of Never Letting Go was much more than I expected in terms of depth and heart. There was one scene in particular that was heartwrenching--I nearly threw my nook across the room.

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley was so very good. The writing, the characters, the setting , and the story . . . There wasn't anything I didn't like about it. It definitely is among my favorites this year.

Linda Castillo's Sworn to Silence is perhaps my favorite mystery of the year. The protagonist is a complex character and her past played a particularly interesting role in this first in the series. I liked the setting, particularly the Amish cultural aspects and the conflicts that arose as a result.


2. Most Disappointing Book?

The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L.J. Smith wins this category hands down. I wanted to like it because the television show is a guilty pleasure of mine, but the book fell completely flat for me.


3. Best series you discovered in 2011?

I finally got around to reading Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson series and it quickly became a favorite. I am anxious to read more by the author.


4. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2011?

I think most of the authors I read this year were new to me. Among my favorites would have to be Patricia Briggs, Lena Coakley, Linda Castillo, Patrick Ness, and George R.R. Martin.


5. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Hmm. I suppose I'll have to go with a book outside of my comfort zone on this one since I didn't tackle any new to me genres. Bossypants by Tina Fey--not only did I listen to the audio book (way outside of my comfort zone), but I generally avoid celebrity memoirs. I really liked Bossypants; I laughed all the way through it and have been recommending it to people right and left.


6. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?

Patrick Ness's Choas Walking trilogy had me from the first page. I began with The Knife of Never Letting Go, raced through The Ask and The Answer and devoured Monsters of Men.


7. Book you most anticipated in 2011?

I am afraid books were the furthest things from my mind when it came to anticipation. Baby. New House. These were things I anticipated. I did read several books that were published in 2011, however, all of which I enjoyed to different degrees.


8. Most memorable character in 2011?

Todd Hewitt and Viola from The Chaos Walking Trilogy captured my heart, but then, so did Arya Stark, the youngest daughter of Edward Stark, of A Game of Thrones. All three faced difficult times and were forced to grow up too fast. They each had an innocence about them and had good hearts.


9. Most beautifully written book read in 2011?

Tigerheart by Peter David probably comes the closest. I loved how the author wrote his novel in the spirit of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. It was poetic and fun. I felt myself transported right into the pages of the book, lost in the descriptions of places and characters.


10. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2011 to finally read?

Moon Called
by Patricia Briggs was so good! I am still kicking myself for putting off reading the series all these years.



11. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

I wanted to talk about The Chaos Walking trilogy with a passion you wouldn't believe. Only, everyone who had already read it seemed all talked out and those who hadn't yet--well, I couldn't exactly talk to them about it, could I? Ho hum. I almost made my husband read it but then decided against it. With my luck, he'd hate it and then I'd feel bad.

Another book that had me chomping at the bit to discuss was A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres. I actually did talk about it quite a bit as I was reading it--to my coworkers, whether they wanted to listen or not.


Looking Ahead

Two thousand twelve will no doubt be an eventful year. Soon the finalists for the Indie Lit Awards will be announced, and I will be busy catching up with the top five mystery nominees before the final votes are tallied. I will be hosting my first challenge, the Merely Mystery Reading Challenge, and I hope to join a few others just for the fun of it.

I predict my reading will follow a similar pattern this coming year as it did this year. I have enjoyed reading books from my own stacks and so want to keep the review books to a minimum. Also, I imagine I will be too busy chasing a certain little Mouse all over to read quite as much as I might like!

What were some of your favorite books and authors read this year? Did anything stand out above the rest? What are your goals for this coming year?

Changes

I mentioned before I might try my hand at writing about more than just books and movies here at Musings of a Bookish Kitty. I hope to do some of that this coming year. I would love to hear your ideas about what you might like me to write about. I confess I am not the best at brainstorming on my own so could use a little friendly guidance. Pretty please?

Also, I am going to start referring to my reviews as my bookish thoughts. I have never been good at writing a formal review and, really, my reviews tend to be merely my thoughts and reflections about how a book touched me or what I thought of it. Saying it's just my "bookish thought" takes some of the pressure off as well--at least psychologically. It gives me a little more freedom, if you will. Semantics, I know.

Before I close, I want to say again how grateful I am to those of you who are still keeping up with my blog. My posts have been sporadic this year, sometimes few and far between. I have not been able blog hop the way I would have liked which meant a lot less commenting on my favorite blogs. I truly appreciate your support this year and look forward to being more involved this next year. Thank you and have a very Happy New Year!


© 2011, 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, December 29, 2011

Review: Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
Avon, 2007
Fantasy; 384 pgs

As much as I enjoy urban fantasy, I can only take so much paranormal romance. The two are so intertwined these days that it is sometimes hard to tell where one begins and the other one ends. There's definite crossover and I imagine we could get into a real debate about the classifications if we wanted to. I can't say that I do though.

Jeaniene Frost's novel is set in a present day urban setting. Her protagonist is a rare breed--half human, half vampire. Out to avenge a wrong done to her mother, Cat Crawford has made it her mission to kill all vampires she comes across. She's doing a great job too--up until she runs into the likes of Bones, a centuries old vampire who is downright sexy and on a mission of his own. The two team up to track down a very dangerous vampire with powerful connections. There is no shortage of hot steamy sex--or good fight scenes.

I confess the book was a little too sexy for my tastes, but I did enjoy the story overall. I wasn't too sure about Bones at first, but he grew on me after awhile. I think, like Cat, I needed a little convincing to be sure of his intentions. Cat herself is an interesting character. She often uses her toughness to cover up her feelings of insecurity and internal conflict. I really like Cat and appreciated the growth she made as a person over the course of the book.

I wasn't sure I wanted to continue with the series, to be honest, but then near the end the book took an interesting turn that has me seriously reconsidering. Oh, what the hey. I have to find out where the author will take me next!


You can learn more about Jeaniene Frost and her books on the author's website.

Source: I purchased an e-copy of this book.


© 2011, 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, December 28, 2011

Review: Witchlanders by Lena Coakley

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
Atheneum Books, 2011
Fantasy (YA), 416 pgs

I first heard about Witchlanders on Twitter and, after reading a glowing blog review (wish I could remember whose!), I instantly added a copy to my nook for future reading. I had actually forgotten exactly what Witchlanders was about when I finally did open it up to read. I expected young adult paranormal romance or something similar. Instead I found myself reading a high fantasy novel, set in a different world. It wasn't quite what I was in the mood for, but once I stepped into the world of the Witchlanders and Baen, there was no looking back.

You have two young men on opposite sides of an old rivalry. Their two people had once been at war and now have a begrudging peace held by such a thin fraying thread that it can't possibly hold. Ryder is a Witchlander. He is skeptical of his own people's beliefs in the Goddess and the blind faith the people put in the witches and their prophecies. Then there is Falpian, the Baen, sent to the mountains on a secret mission he is even anaware of under the guise of praying for his dead brother.

Ryder and Falpian's fates come together in an unexpected way when Ryder's village is threatened. Full of magic and conflict as well as confronting one's own beliefs and testing the limits of loyalty and friendship, Witchlanders has a little bit of everything.

The novel is rich in culture and heart. I cannot believe this is a first novel. It is beautifully written, the characters well fleshed out, the world amazingly crafted . . . What more is there to say? I could go into more detail, but you're wasting time here. Go read the novel. What are you waiting for?!


You can learn more about Lena Coakley and her novel on the author's website.

Source: I purchased an e-copy of this book.


© 2011, 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, December 27, 2011

Review: Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
Ace, 2011
Fantasy; 336 pgs

I nearly rushed out to buy and read Harris' latest Southern Vampire Series book featuring Sookie Stackhouse, but I didn't. The book came out during a time when I wasn't reading all that much. I kind of had my hands full with a newborn and a move. I did eventually get myself a copy of the book though and finally got around to reading it in November.

I had a little trouble getting into the book initially, but once I did, it felt good visiting my old friends again. Knowing the end of the series is near, I find myself speculating about how the author will end it. Who will Sookie end up with? I have my doubts about her current beau. I know who I want her to end up with. Although I changed my mind twice as a read Dead Reckoning. Not that there is any mention of her switching up mates in the book--it was just where my mind took me as I read.

In this latest installment, Sookie finds herself the target of a woman bent on revenge, trying to uncover the purpose of a hidden treasure left behind by her grandmother, and exploring her fae heritage. I was pleased to see a couple of favorite characters from another of Harris' series make an appearance in Bon Temps. As I've come to expect with this series, Dead Reckoning was light and entertaining. I am looking forward to the final book in the series with both sadness and anticipation.

You can learn more about the Charlaine Harris and her books on the author's website.

Source: I purchased a copy of this book.


© 2011, 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.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

May your holiday season be filled with
love, laughter and happy memories.
Have a Merry Christmas!


© 2011, 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, December 21, 2011

Review: A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres

A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception and Survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres
Free Press, 2011
Nonfiction; 320 pgs

I wish now I had sat down to write my thoughts about Julia Scheeres' A Thousand Lives right after I completed the book. My mind was reeling as I read the book and there was so much I wanted to discuss about it. Alas, I decided I needed more time to think, and now, two books later, I am not sure what to say any more other than you have to read this book!

I had heard of Jim Jones as many of you have. I knew about Jonestown in Guyana. About the murder-suicides. I didn't know the details, however. I didn't know how Jones got his start, about how he dreamed as a child of being a pastor and how he wanted to bring whites and blacks together at a time when segregation and prejudice was running rampant. I could see how people were drawn to him. He was charismatic and full of passion. He was extremely personable. He took the time to get to know his congregants and reached out to them in times of need and doubt. He reached out to the underprivileged and gave them hope. He and his congregation did a lot of good for many people during those early years. At least that's the way it seemed on the surface.

It is unclear when Jim Jones' desire for power and adoration developed. Was it always there? Or was it something that grew over time, twisting into something ugly? I have no doubt Jim Jones was mentally ill, a condition exacerbated by drug use. I wanted to believe Jim Jones had started out with altruistic intentions, but given the amount of manipulation and lies, I have my doubts. The things he and those directly under him did . . . It's disgusting and appalling. I confess I am extremely skeptical of faith healings. I know about planting a supposedly sick person in the audience and then calling them up to have them miraculously healed. But reading about the lengths Jim Jones went to in order to create such an elaborate ruse, including drugging congregants without their knowledge and making them unwitting characters in his show made me sick.

In the beginning, the doors of his church stood open to all. As time wore on, however, those doors began to close. Jones reminded me of a domestic abuser. On one hand he could be extremely charming. On the other he was controlling and cruel. He moved his congregation from place to place, each time isolating his followers, getting them away from their families and friends. He made them completely dependent on him. He punished them just as he rewarded them.

His followers loved him initially. They would do anything for him. Jim Jones used that and twisted their faith and trust in him. The lie that was Jonestown, this supposed perfect socialist community, would become a grave for nearly one thousand people. Three hundred four of them were children, one hundred thirty one under the age of ten. The reality is that Jonestown was a living hell for most of the people there.

The sad thing is, this wasn't something that happened out of the blue. Jones had been building up to this for years. Many of the signs were there. He had such a grip on his followers, however, that many of them either didn't want to believe the worst or were too afraid or dependent on him to go against him. He made sure his followers knew to leave him meant certain ruin, possibly death. His threats were not idle.

I have said a lot about Jim Jones here, but the book really is about his followers. What is clear in the documentation and interviews with the survivors is that they believed in Jim Jones at one time only to be betrayed by him later. Scheeres does a good job of letting the reader into their hearts and minds, getting a better understanding of what his followers must have gone through. We never can truly know, of course. Even as horrible as it sounds on paper, I imagine the reality of it was even more terrifying.

A Thousand Lives is extremely well written and researched. I only wish we could have known more about what went on in the minds of Jones' top aides, those who participated in the deception and lies and eventual murder of so many people, including hundreds of children.

I haven't come close to expressing all of my thoughts about this book. I do think it's one worth reading and definitely is among my top reads of the year.

You can learn more about Julia Scheeres and her books on the author's website.

Source: I purchased an e-copy of this book.


© 2011, 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, December 19, 2011

Review: The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening

Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L.J. Smith
Harper, 1999
Fantasy (YA); 320 pgs

I bet you were beginning to wonder if my recent love for all books, faults included, was related to postpartum hormones. Maybe. Or it could be a result of sleep deficiency, joy at finding any time to read at all, and the inability to be too critical right about now. Regardless, I met a book even my postpartum brain couldn't grow to love--or even like.

I actually tried reading the first book of The Vampire Diaries a couple of years ago, right before the start of the television series. I got about ten pages in and couldn't bear anymore. My liking a main character isn't mandatory, but I do have to find something redeemable in them--something relatable at the very least. Elena just made me mad. I didn't like her one iota. And I wasn't all that taken with the story either.

Fast forward to November. I have only just started really watching The Vampire Diaries television show and am somewhere in the middle of the second season. The show is a guilty pleasure of mine, I confess. And so, given my state of mind and my enjoyment of the show, I figured it was time to give the book series another try.

Let's just say I finished the first book in the series this time. I still don't care for Elena. I know she's a teenager but I couldn't get past how egocentric she is--and how superficial. I really didn't care for any of the characters. Maybe it is because I wasn't the popular kid in school and boys and being the prettiest weren't on my priority list. As a result, I never completely lost myself in the book. I found it easier to poke fun at it, I'm ashamed to admit.

I did like Damon's character, Stefan's estranged brother. He was different from the others. And mysterious in a bone chilling sort of way. Another positive is that the book was short. It made for a quick read.

The story is your typical vampire romance story: teen girl meets centuries old vampire and has to have him. He tries to keep his distance for her own safety (he's a monster after all) but can't resist her charms. Meanwhile, people are being attacked, even murdered in town by something more vicious than an animal. Sound familiar?

The book is not the television show. The television show is loosely based on the books--and I mean very loosely. Except for the names and the feud between the brothers, I never would have guessed they were related in any way.

The Awakening ended with a cliffhanger, but I won't be reading more in the series. I think I'll stick to the TV show.

Source: I purchased an e-copy of this book.


© 2011, 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, December 15, 2011

Reviews: Dead Ex & A Date You Can't Refuse by Harley Jane Kozak

I read Harley Jane Kozak's Dead Ex (Doubleday, 2007; 352 pgs) and A Date You Can't Refuse (Broadway, 2009; 340 pgs) back to back. Wollie had gotten under my skin, and I didn't want to say goodbye until I'd run out of books to read about her. Wollie, in case you missed my two reviews of the first two books in the series, is a greeting card artist, only it seems she rarely gets a chance to do much of that as it doesn't bring in enough money. In past books, Wollie has earned money dating men for research and being on a reality dating television show. Dead Ex follows suit as Wollie finds herself back on the little screen, dating celebrities. Her boyfriend isn't too sure what to make of it, but Wollie has to make money somehow. And it's not like she's sleeping with the guys.

Wollie's best friend Joey seems to be at the brunt of suspicion when Joey's (and Wollie's) ex turns up dead by gunshot. Another murder only adds to the suspicion of her guilt. Wollie doesn't believe it, however. Wollie takes more of a backseat to the actual murder investigation in Dead Ex. She has too much else on her mind. Although, that doesn't stop the trouble from coming her way.

In A Date You Can't Refuse, Wollie reluctantly accepts a job working for a media-training company, instructing the male clientele the intricacies of dating. She would have said no had a rather pushy FBI agent not twisted her arm in spying on her boss for him. She is tasked with getting close to the boss, his family and the other employees. She hadn't anticipated that she would have to move into her boss's compound. It's a minor complication . . .

I took to Dead Ex like there was no tomorrow. I normally don't like the Hollywood scene, but Harley Jane Kozak makes it fun with her eccentric characters and their hijinks. Although I liked A Date You Can't Refuse, it wasn't my favorite in the series. Perhaps because it didn't follow the same familiar formula or featured fewer of her friends. It was a little more over the top than the other novels, although that isn't saying much. It also got a tad political--although not at all in a preachy way. I appreciated the way the book ended though, bringing closure to the series. Not that there isn't room for more if the author decides to write more though! A cozy series worth reading? Absolutely! Give it a try.


You can learn more about Harley Jane Kozak and her books on the
author's website and the blog The Lipstick Chronicles in which she contributes.

Source: I purchased an e-copy of these two books.


© 2011, 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, December 13, 2011

Review: When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde

When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Black Swan, 2009
Fiction; 512 pgs

I was drawn to the book, When I Found You, because of the subject matter: a newborn discovered abandoned in the woods by a hunter. The novel is about Nathan McCann, the man who found the child, and the child himself, Nathan (Nat) Bates, and how their lives intersect years later when Nat's grandmother leaves him on Nathan's doorstep. The novel takes the reader from that first day when Nat is discovered up into his adulthood.

When I Found You was a touching and thought provoking novel. Nathan is one of those characters I would love to know in person. Nathan is the constant, never wavering in his support of Nat, a child who, twice abandoned, is most in need of such love and support. Nat is not an easy child to raise. He is rebellious and finds trouble easily, sometimes even despite his best intentions. Nat is not a bad person. He is struggling to find himself and understand his place in the world. Nathan believed in consequences and Nat was not immune to them. Nathan's support of him was not to carry Nat, rather to guide and encourage him.

In my profession, I come across a lot of kids like Nat. They are labeled incorrigible and trouble makers. They are the ones who experiment with drugs and alcohol and get in trouble with the law. I couldn't help but wish that Nathan was a real person and that every child like Nat could have a person like Nathan in their life. It's all too easy to give up on kids like these when what they need most is someone constant in their life, someone who will be firm and stand by them even through the difficult times. It won't necessarily solve all their problems or even stop the bad behavior completely, but I do think it would help enough to make a difference, however small.

I do wish I could have gotten to know Nathan more, learn more about his past. As the book progresses, the reader does learn more about him. However, I never quite felt like I knew him quite the way I came to know Nat. Maybe that was intentional. The novel is more about Nat when all is said and done.

Catherine Ryan Hyde's When I Found You is definitely worth reading. I found it inspirational but not in a sappy or too sweet way. There is no sugar coating here. I fell in love with both Nathan and Nat. I only wish I'd had more time with them.

You can learn more about Catherine Ryan Hyde and his books at the author's website.

Source: I received an e-copy of this book from the author for review. Despite my current ban from accepting reviews, I couldn't help myself. I had read the author's Pay It Forward years ago and just knew anything else she wrote had to be worth my time. Fortunately, I was right.


© 2011, 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, December 11, 2011

Sunday Salon: This & That

The holiday cards and gifts are finally in the mail. The Christmas tree is up and the decorations set in their places. I have holiday music playing in the background. I am ready! Almost. I have yet to get to the bookstore to buy Mouse's books for Christmas. Likely it won't happen until next weekend at this rate. There's still time . . . I just hope I can find parking.

How have you all been? Are you ready for the holidays? Mouse, Anjin and I had plans to travel north to visit our families this past week but it fell through because of our recent illnesses. We hated to disappoint the grandparents and extended family--many of which have yet to meet Mouse. There will be other opportunities, I am sure.

As for reading, I am in the middle of a great fantasy novel called Witchlanders by Lena Coakley. It puts many of the young adult fantasy novels I've read in recent years to shame. I love the writing and the characters, not to mention the story. It's about two young men, one a Witchlander who sets out to find an assassin in mountains and a Baen who was sent to the mountains to offer prayers for his twin brother's death. The Witchlanders and Baens had once fought a vicious war and there are many hard feelings to this day. The book is full of music and magic, internal struggle, and grief. I hope it continues to enthrall me the way the first half of the book has.

I have been eying the reading challenges starting this coming January. So many sound good. And as much as I would like to dive in and join several, I am trying to be realistic. I don't anticipate my reading increasing back to what it was pre-baby for a while yet. Still, I decided to take the plunge and am hosting my own challenge this year. It's called the Merely Mystery Reading Challenge and the goal is to explore a variety of the crime fiction genre's sub-genres. If you are interested in, I hope you will sign up!

Also, now is the time to run--not walk--over to the Independent Literary Awards website to nominate your favorite books published this year. The following categories are being considered:

Select a genre to view and complete the 2011 nomination form!

Biography/ Memoir

GLBTQ

Lit Fiction

Mystery

Non-Fiction

Poetry

Speculative Fiction

Nominations are open until December 31st. Time is running out so nominate now! And please, please, please spread the word! The more nominations, the better!

That is it for my news. Do drop me a note and let me know what you're reading lately! Happy Reading!


© 2011, 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, December 07, 2011

Review: Dating is Murder

Dating is Murder by Harley Jane Kozak
Doubleday, 2005
Crime Fiction, 352 pgs

I had every intention of reading A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres after finishing the Chaos Walking Trilogy. I was in a certain mindset and figured the nonfiction book about Jim Jones and his followers was a good place to go next. Only when I sat down to begin, I suddenly felt like catching up with Wollie Shelley from Harley Jane Kozak's greeting card artist and amateur sleuth mystery series. And so I found myself reading Dating is Murder.

Dating is Murder is the second book in the series. Wollie is a contestant on a low rated reality dating show called Biological Clock, a show her friends talked her into participating in. Wollie is really only in it for the money. She isn't particularly interested in any of the male contestants and, while she does want to have a child, she isn't actually planning to do so if she wins. Things heat up for Wollie when a young woman helping out on the show who has also been tutoring her in math goes missing. The young woman's mother, who is in Germany, requests Wollie's help in locating the girl. Wollie can't refuse. She ends up stumbling into a whole lot more than she anticipated.

I could be extra critical and go on about how the male love interest in this second book wasn't all that much different than the one in the first (maybe Wollie has a type?) except by occupation. He, of course, is mysterious and over protective. Haven't seen that before, have we? Then there was the not so subtle warning to stop--of which our main character hasn't a clue what the warning could apply to. Yeah, I was rolling my eyes too.

And yet. And yet, I didn't care. I loved the novel anyway. It was fun. It was escapist. I enjoy spending time with Wollie and her friends. I was actually surprised by the ending, a definite plus in its favor. Like with the first book in the series, the author mixes humor and suspense together, in what turns out to be a fast paced and entertaining read.


You can learn more about Harley Jane Kozak and her books on the author's website and the blog The Lipstick Chronicles in which she contributes.

Source: I purchased an e-copy of this book. Reading on my Nook has proven to be a godsend in terms of getting any reading done these days!

© 2011, 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, December 05, 2011

Merely Mystery Reading Challenge 2012


There is something about a mystery I just can't resist. If you think about it, all books contain some element of mystery. Only, the mystery might not involve an actual crime. Even so, crime fiction has a special place in my heart. It's the place I go when I am seeking out a comfort read or to be entertained. I turn to mysteries when I am looking for a good puzzle to solve or am wanting to further explore human behavior and motivation. There are different types of crime fiction to satiate a variety of my reading moods, whether I want to read something funny, thought provoking, heavy in atmosphere, lyrical, suspenseful, or serious.

There are those who snub their noses at genre fiction, including crime fiction. I think they just haven't met the right mystery for them yet. While crime fiction is known for being plot driven, it isn't always. Nor does a good crime fiction novel have to sacrifice well developed characters, a strong setting and good writing. The best, in fact, often include all of those qualities.

Yes, it's true. I am crazy. Just when I start to wonder if I should give up blogging, I decide to try my hand at hosting a reading challenge. As if there aren't enough challenges out there already. Maybe only one or two people join. That's okay. We'll have a great time and maybe discover new authors and books to try!

The focus of this challenge is to explore the different types of crime fiction out there. If you are new to the crime fiction genre, want to step outside your comfort zone and try another kind of mystery or are a mystery lover needing an excuse to join another crime fiction related challenge, here's your chance!

As sources go, there are a number of them that offer a wide range of sub-genres to crime fiction. For the purposes of this challenge, I've narrowed it down to the following because they tend to encompass the full breadth of mystery sub-genres. Within each sub-genre are even more categories (for example, add in a bit of romance or fantasy for good measure). So you have a never ending list of choices to choose from!

Sub-Genres:
The Whodunit: The classic crime puzzle. The story generally revolves around determine who committed the crime, and potentially apprehending them. Some Whodunits, called "fair play mysteries", will include all of the clues available in the text so that a careful reader can solve the crime on his or her own.

Locked Room Mystery: Like the Whodunit, there is a puzzle (crime) to solve. However in this instance, the crime has taken place under impossible circumstances, such as in a locked room or on an island with no way to exit or enter.

Cozy: The nice person's mystery. Often the crime, particularly if it's violent, occurs off scene. Sex and language are on the cleaner side. Humor is a common feature of the cozy.

Hard-Boiled/Noir: Often cynical, bleak or realistic, hard-boiled and noir stories often focus more on the characters involved instead of the crime. Violence and sex are not downplayed.

The Inverted Detective Story: In this style of story, the person perpetrating the crime is known up front. The point of the story is to see how (or if) the detective goes about solving the crime and how the perpetrator reacts to the investigation.

The Historical Whodunnit: Simply put, this is a mystery set in a historical setting. Often the mystery has some historical significance and features detection methods that are appropriate for that era.

The Police Procedural: Instead of featuring a independent detective, the police are investigating the crime in these stories. They often focus on the actual methods that police officers use to solve crimes.

The Professional Thriller: This kind of mystery involves a professional who is not involved directly in law enforcement, such a lawyer or doctor, who nonetheless finds themselves investigating a crime.

The Spy Novel: Related to the other professional mysteries, spy novels focus on intelligence operatives as they work to prevent or avenge some criminal plot. Spy novels can feature either in fantastic or realistic settings.

Caper Stories: While other crime and mystery stories look at the aftermath of crimes, caper stories feature criminals as the lead characters. The story usually details the planning and commission of a crime.

The Psychological Suspense: In these stories, the detective story takes on a psychological component.

Spoofs and Parodies: Spoofs and parodies make light of crime fiction, often with the goal of commenting on the conventions of the genre. Many feature famous characters, e.g. Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Philip Marlowe, or pastiches of those characters.

The Merely Mystery Reading Challenge will last the entire year (January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012), giving participants a chance to read at their own pace. In addition, to make things easy, participants can complete one of two levels. One is for those of you who want a more relaxed challenge while the other is for those more serious about exploring the various sub-genres:
Down on Her/His Luck Gumshoe - Read two or more books falling into any of the above sub-genres. Each book can be from the same sub-genre or can be varied among the different sub-genres. You pick the combination and the number of books.

Shamus Who Has Seen It All - Read at least one book from each of the sub-genres for a total of 12 books. If you are feeling ambitious, read more than one book from each sub-genre.

Making a reading list ahead of time is not mandatory, but it's fun--not only for you, but also for your fellow readers. Even if you don't stick to the list, we'd love it if you could share a few of the titles you are considering reading.

*Audio books and graphic novels are welcome.
*Crossover books from other challenges are okay.
*Cross-genre books are perfectly fine.

To sign up, please fill out the below form. The challenge is open to everyone, regardless of whether you have a blog. If you have a blog, please provide a link to your initial blog post committing to the challenge. Participants without blogs can post reviews on general review sites such as LibraryThing, Goodreads or Shelfari. I will be creating a post in which all participants will be able to link their reviews so that everyone can follow everyone's progress and perhaps get a few good mystery recommendations. [Edited to add: You can post your reviews following this link.]

Sign ups are open ended and so you are welcome to sign up at any time throughout the year.

There will be a prize! The biggest reward will be completion of the challenge, of course, but isn't it more fun when, at the end of the day, there's a drawing for a prize? For all those who complete the challenge, your name will be entered into a drawing for an as-of-yet-unspecified prize.

If there is an interest (and volunteers), I would like to feature guest posts from authors and readers on the topic of crime fiction throughout the course of the challenge. It won't be every day. Maybe once or twice a month at most, depending on volunteer interest (so, if you are interested, please let me know! Shoot me an e-mail).

I hope you will join me for the Merely Mystery Reading Challenge!



(*Let me know if I have forgotten something, please. This is my first time hosting a challenge, and I'm sure I missed something!)

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© 2011, 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.