Monday, July 30, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: Night Watch by Linda Fairstein

Night Watch by Linda Fairstein
Dutton Adult, 2012
Crime Fiction; 416 pgs

I was first introduced to Alexandra Cooper, one of New York's Assistant District Attorneys, in 2006, when I went on a series reading binge. I read several of Linda Fairstein’s books that year, often back to back. Over the years, I was pretty good about keeping up to date with the series—I had to have my Alex Cooper fix—until about four years ago when I somehow fell behind. I’ve since caught up and now feel sort of lost. Lost in that way where I miss the characters and wish I had at least one more book in the series to go still.

Night Watch is the 14th book in Linda Fairstein’s legal thriller series featuring Alex Cooper. Alex is the head of the Sex Crimes Unit and doesn’t hesitate to get right down in the trenches with the detectives when it comes to investigating crimes—or witness credibility as the case may be in the latest series' installment. Night Watch is slightly different from much of the rest of the series in that Alexandra’s personal life is brought to the forefront for much of the book.

With plans to spend a romantic week with her lover, world renowned restaurateur Luc Rouget, the two settle into Luc’s home town of Mougins in France. It’s such a different life from her usual one and Alex is determined to enjoy every minute of it. It doesn’t take long, however, for trouble to come her way. Skulls and bones outside Luc’s door and a dead body with a clue suggesting a connection between the deceased and Luc . . . Things suddenly begin to take a turn for the worst. But before Alex can fully process these events, she is called back to New York to assist with a particularly high charged case that has become a media circus. A powerful and wealthy man of international renown is accused of raping a maid at a hotel.

Alex returns to New York only to find a mess—and she’s the one who has to try to clean it up while not rocking the boat too much. The rape case is a political nightmare given all the power players involved—especially given the fact that the victim hasn’t been completely honest about her background. If that wasn’t enough, another body is discovered, another murder somehow tied to Luc.

Linda Fairstein takes readers into the finest restaurants not only tempting my appetite with food but also their history. Given the exclusiveness and price range of many of these restaurants, I doubt I will ever visit them, but I still found them fascinating—the hidden doors, the wine cellars and basements, included. Fairstein never fails to include some New York history in her books and Night Watch was no exception. It’s one of my favorite characteristics of her books.

Alex is a strong female character—and she has to be given her occupation. She doesn’t back down easily and often takes risks. In Night Watch, she is shown in a much more vulnerable light. She is really shaken by Luc’s situation. It is personal this time and much of what takes place in the novel—including her current case—are outside of her control. She does what she can, but it’s clear that Alex is overwhelmed and the cracks are showing. I really appreciated that fact and felt that the author did an excellent job of bringing her character through it.

Another facet I especially liked was the interplay between Alex and Mike. The two have such an interesting relationship, best friends for years, and Alex has taken more from him than I ever would. I admit I have never been a big fan of Homicide Detective Mike Chapman. His sense of humor annoys me more than makes me laugh. Still, in the past four books of the series, he’s finally growing on me and after Night Watch, I can actually say I like him.

I was sorry to see Night Watch come to an end, if only because I am not ready to let go of my New York friends just yet. Night Watch is a great addition to the series. Linda Fairstein’s books continue to get better and better with each installment.


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

I hope you will check out what others had to say 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 Night Watch provided by the publisher.




© 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.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Beginnings on Friday & Wish List Additions

Hosted by Gillion Dumas of Rose City Reader
Weekly meme where book bloggers and readers share the
first sentence of the book they are reading say what they think
.


I love this meme. An opening may not make or break a book, but they are important. Especially for someone like me who needs an instant hook or else I might start looking elsewhere.

Bones. Human bones the length of a man's thigh. I stopped short at the sight of more than a dozen of them stacked like cord of firewood just steps in front of me.

I paused to catch my breath before heaving my shoulder against the thick wooden door for the third time. The sturdy threshold, reinforced with rust-covered strips of wrought iron, had withheld assaults by barbarian invaders throughout centures, so I didn't have much hope that it would yield to my slender frame.
I don't know about you, but I'm hooked. Linda Fairstein opens her novel Night Watch with quite a jarring image. 

What book opening caught your eye this week?

I distinguish my To Be Read (TBR) collection from my Wish List--one made up of books I own or have on hand to read, while the other is a list of books I want to read but do not yet have in my possesion.  On Fridays, I offer a sampling of books that have been added to my Wish List. 

Latest Wish List Additions:

Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris
recommended by Carrie from Books and Movies


The Memory Of Love by Aminatta Forna
recommended by Wendy from Caribousmom


The Hollow City by Dan Wells
recommended by Suey from It's All About Books


Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier
recommended by Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader


Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
recommended by Lauren from Gimme More Books!!! 
and Kelly from The Written World

The Unfinished Life of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier
recommended by Kathleen Boarding in my Forties


The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams
recommended by Samantha of Booked on a Feeling


Have you read any of those books?  What books have caught your eye recently and made it onto your wish list?
 


© 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.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

From the Archives: The Black Ice by Michael Connelly

I began keeping a reading journal several years before I began blogging. I find it interesting to sift through my thoughts of books that I read back then. My reviews were often brief and contained little substance, but I thought it'd be fun to document them here on my blog as well as share them with you. Here is one from September of 2005: 
 

The Black Ice by Michael Connelly
Vision, 1993
Crime Fiction, 427 pgs

The Black Ice is the second book in the LAPD Detective Harry Bosch mystery series by Michael Connelly. The death of a narcotics officer raises a lot of questions for Harry, including a possible connection with a current investigation he is conducting. He is determined to find the answers regardless of the obstacles. 

I hesitated before trying another of the Harry Bosch novels after reading the first in the series. Although I had liked the first book in the series, I was not convinced the series was for me. I had read The Poet by this author and loved it, however. With the coming out of The Narrows, toted as a crossover book between the Harry Bosch series and a sequel to The Poet, I decided to give Harry Bosch one more try. I am glad I did. This was an entertaining and suspenseful reading experience that has left me wanting to read more. Harry is a complex character that is hard not to like despite some of his not so admirable qualities. 

Source: I own the book.


© 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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Catching Some Zzz's

Hosted by Wordless Wednesday


© 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.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: Mini Reviews

I got this crazy idea in my head that I needed to get caught up in Linda Fairstein’s Alex Cooper mystery series before reading her most recent, Night Watch. I hadn’t realized I was so far behind. Still, I crammed in three of her books so I wouldn’t be behind. Not that it was a hardship. I have followed the series for the past several years, joining in on Assistance District Attorney Alex Cooper’s exploits, groaning at Homicide Detective Mike Chapman’s jokes, and wishing I had a friend like Special Victim’s Detective Wallace Mercer.

For those not familiar with the series, Alexandra Cooper is a prosector and the head of the Special Victim's Unit in the New York District Attorney's office, mostly dealing with sex related crimes.  She has her share of cases involving dead bodies and intricate investigations.  Alex is not a particular favorite of mine as far as protagonists go, but I enjoy my time with her. The real draw for me to Linda Fairstein’s books has always been the insider history on various New York City landmarks. And I love the cases Alex works on the side. They are often tied to current events and provide an interesting look into the court process. Murder is often at the heart of Linda Fairstein’s novels; and this proved to be the case in the three most recent books I read by her.

I have to say, I don’t know what it was—the books or me or a combination of both—but whatever it was, I had such fun catching up with Alex and friends. They are the best in the series yet. For once I actually didn’t find Mike Chapman all that annoying. And I have a new found respect for Alex.

Legal Legacy (Doubleday, 2009; 384 pgs) – Of the three, I liked this one the most. As much as I enjoy reading about and can relate to office politics and jurisdiction issues, it’s nice to get away from that now and then. Legal Legacy had much more to do about the actual mystery this round, and I really appreciated it. Learning about the New York Public Library and exploring some of the history of old books and maps was an added bonus.


Hell Gate (Dutton Adult, 2010; 400 pgs) – This particular book, the twelfth in the series, is steeped in politics. And it should be given politicians are at the center of the crime—or so it appears for at least one of crimes. Not only do we have government politics, but also office politics. It was an eye opener to see just how much one influenced the other in the district attorney’s office. The story that most grabbed me though was the one dealing with human trafficking, a very real problem that has been kept on the back burner too long.


Silent Mercy (Dutton Adult, 2011; 400 pgs)– I enjoyed this legal thriller on many levels. Religion has always interested me and here it comes to the forefront as recent serial murders seem to have a religious theme. There was also a clear feminist tie in—which I just loved--the whole women in church leadership roles, of which I am a staunch supporter. Like in the previous book, politics played a large part in the story, this time pointing out the strong connections between religious leaders and the government. I especially relished visiting the various churches in Silent Mercy—getting to know the history of such old buildings of worship and the various hands they have passed through over the years.

Now on to Night Watch . . . I hear I'd better bring my appetite!


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

Source: I bought all three books for my reading pleasure.  I read the hardcover edition of  Legal Legacy; and Hell Gate and Silent Mercy in e-book format.

© 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.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Musing Monday: Magazines

Hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading
Weekly meme where we muse over a weekly question.

Question of the Day:
Do you read magazines? If so, which ones? If not, why not?


Magazines and I have a hit and miss relationship.  Mostly miss.  More often than not, I will pick up a book to read before a magazine.  And I have so many books to read . . .

I like the idea of reading magazines--great for those reading slumps or for quick perusal when I am short on time--but I rarely take the time.  I cannot tell you the number of times I set a magazine aside to read later.  Only, later rarely comes.  Blame Sudoku and CrossMe (I am addicted, I tell you.  Addicted.). 

And yet, I recently subscribed to This Old House.  A coworker was passing around a booklet, fundraising for her son.  Although my house is not what anyone would call "old", I figure the magazine might have some worthy ideas to offer up.  Not to mention I like looking at pictures of remodeled rooms and nicely laid out gardens.

Then there are the two parenting magazines I subscribed to right after Mouse was born.  Parenting and Parents.  I'm lucky if I make time to quickly flip through the pages.  I do occasionally find worthwhile articles in both magazines, mostly ones I tell myself I'll have to refer back to when Mouse is older (like that will happen--imagine me three years from now stopping everything just to find the July 2012 issue of Parenting so I can try out that nifty discipline technique I read about way back when).  Truth be told, I often can't tell the ads from the articles.  Seriously.

Oh! Bookmarks.  I subscribe to Bookmarks.  I cracked open my issue recently because fellow blogger Wendy of Caribousmom was featured in the book recommendation section, but even those issues are collecting dust in recent months.  Sacrilege, I know!  I really need to make more time to read Bookmarks because of all the magazines I've ever subscribed it, it's by far my favorite and one I've always gotten the most use out of.

I don't know why I bother with subscriptions.  One day I'll smarten up and just buy an issue of a magazine when I have the time to read it rather than let them pile up.  For now I've got myself convinced Mouse will appreciate having so many available for her future art projects.

What about 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.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

From the Archives: Rage by Jonathan Kellerman

 I began keeping a reading journal several years before I began blogging. I find it interesting to sift through my thoughts of books that I read back then. My reviews were often brief and contained little substance, but I thought it'd be fun to document them here on my blog as well as share them with you. Here is one from September of 2005:


Rage by Jonathan Kellerman 
Ballantine Books, 2005 
Crime Fiction; 365 pgs 

 Although I did enjoy Jonathan Kellerman’s last two Alex Delaware novels, this one was definitely better. Two boys on the verge of teenhood are convicted of the murder of a toddler. Years later, one of the boys, now an adult, telephones psychologist Alex Delaware and asks to meet with him. However, the former client ends up dead. Homicide Lieutenant Milo Sturgis and Alex Delaware team up to find out who and the why, uncovering lies and darker truths at every turn. Jonathan Kellerman writes an entertaining and exciting suspense novel. Like with most of his recent work, a lot of the mystery is solved through dialogue and rumination between the two main characters, Milo and Alex.

Source: I own the book.

© 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.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
Viking Adult, 2012
Fantasy; 592 pgs

I was so excited about reading the next installment of Deborah Harkness's trilogy, I beat down NetGalley's door and secured an early review copy.  I really enjoyed the first book, A Discovery of Witches, and was eager to follow Matthew and Diana into the past as they sought out the book that would change everything and found a teacher for Diana's untrained powers.

Set in the late 1590's, Shadow of Night did not disappoint. I fell right into the pages like I'd never left their lives, feeling right at home.

Book Desciption:
A Discovery of Witches introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782. Drawn to one another despite longstanding taboos, and in pursuit of Diana’s spellbound powers, the two embark upon a time-walking journey.

Book Two of the All Souls Trilogy plunges Diana and Matthew into  Elizabethan London, a world of spies and subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night.  The mission is to locate a witch to tutor  Diana and to find traces of Ashmole 782, but as the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them they embark on a very different journey, one that takes them into heart of the 1,500 year old vampire’s shadowed history and secrets. For Matthew Clairmont, time travel is no simple matter; nor is Diana’s search for the key to understanding her legacy.

Shadow of Night brings us a rich and splendid tapestry of alchemy, magic, and history, taking us through the loop of time to deliver a deepening love story, a tale of blood, passion, and the knotted strands of the past.
My husband spoiled me for time travel long ago, or, at least, made me wary.  Inconsistencies, ripples of change, and all the technical over-analysis that can go into it.  I probably would have handled it differently in Harkness's shoes, but that's probably why she is the storyteller.  And I can't argue with her approach, not really.  I thought Harkness pulled it off quite well.

My only complaint about the book is that it did seem to go on a bit too long.  As much as I enjoyed reading and sharing in the experience of Diana becoming acclimated to the new time period and about Diana and Matthew's growing relationship, I found myself wondering if the characters would ever get back on mission--find the book and find a teacher.  They made token efforts to do so now and then, but there seemed to be a lot of other stuff going along that was more the focus.  That isn't to say I didn't enjoy the distractions--events and people included.  They were interesting in and of themselves.  It did take away from the general flow of the novel a bit, however.

I did really appreciate the way the couple's relationship evolved, although at times I wished they would talk to each other more instead of using their secrets and fear of being left by the other as excuses to continue to hide from each other.  Still, I really got a feel for why Matthew was pulling away from Diana as time went on, and I could understand and empathize with him. 

I continue to like Diana as a character.  She doesn't back down easily and speaks her mind.  She wasn't an easy fit in the 1590 setting and the author was able to get that across very effectively.  I was just as fascinated by the details of that time period as Diana was--imagine meeting such well known historical figures face to face! 

Although the novel is mostly told in Diana's voice, there were a scattering of chapters that provided the reader an idea of what was going on in the present, something I am thankful for as I would have missed not running into some of my favorite side characters.  Events had transpired in the present Diana, Matthew and the reader weren't privy too, which make me even more anxious to move onto the third book.  Only I can't. It'll likely be another year before that one comes out. 

I am very curious to see where the author takes us with the final book in the trilogy.  Going into this second book, I had a good idea, but I am not so sure about the third book.  There are certainly threads leading from each of the books to the upcoming one, but the direction Harkness will go is still unknown. 


You can learn more about Deborah Harkness and her books on the author's website.

Source: I received a review e-copy via NetGalley from the publisher.


© 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.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

From the Archives: Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

I began keeping a reading journal several years before I began blogging. I find it interesting to sift through my thoughts of books that I read back then. My reviews were often brief and contained little substance, but I thought it'd be fun to document them here on my blog as well as share them with you. Here is one from September of 2005: 


Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer 
Harper Perennial, 2002 
 Fiction; 276 pgs 

The hero (who shares a name with the author), Alexander the translator, and Alexander’s elderly grandfather as the driver set out on a journey through the Ukraine to find the woman who saved the hero’s grandfather from the Nazis during the second World War. In the novel, the author takes the reader along for the journey, into the hearts of the main characters, and even takes the reader into the past with a glance at the hero’s ancestors. 

The author, Jonathan Safran Foer, has created a beautifully crafted and haunting tale about love and loss. He writes in a style like no other author I’ve encountered, pushing the boundaries of literature and pulls it off successfully. I especially liked the author’s use of language throughout the book. It was not over the top or forced and had a very readable and natural quality to it. The humor that lined the pages in the beginning slowly faded away as the story took on darker tones. The change was subtle, however. Whereas I was chuckling in the beginning, by the end, my eyes welled with tears. 

Perhaps the only fault I can find with the book is that I came away feeling that I still did not know the characters well enough. This is not a book that everyone will take too, not only because of the subject matter but also because of the writing style. I, for one, can be counted among those who loved it.

Source: I own the book.


© 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.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

I duck into the parking garage, hoping to escape.  But my books echo on the slick cement, broadcasting my location to anyone listening.  And I know they are listening.  I make a mental note to myself not to wear those shoes again if there is a chance I'll get involved in the pursuit. [opening paragraph]


The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
Simon & Schuster, 2007
Fiction; 358 pgs

Many moons ago, I heard Lisa Lutz speak at the L.A. Times Book Festival. She explained that although her books are often categorized as mysteries, they don't exactly fit the mystery mold--at least not what a reader might expect. What they are is about a family of Private Investigators (P.I.), and rather eccentric ones at that. While I am sure I have a copy of the first book in the series (and the subsequent ones--from my "must collect entire series before I read it" days), I actually read the copy my mom loaned me.

It was a spur of the moment sort of situation. Mouse had FINALLY fallen asleep--but on me. I didn't want to risk getting up to search for my e-reader or copy of The Stand because if she did wake up, it'd be all cries and lots of comforting with only a miniscule chance of her going back to sleep. And so I grabbed the only book in arm's reach: The Spellman Files. The next week when I was getting ready to decide what to read during my lunch break, The Stand or The Spellman Files, I chose The Spellman Files. It's not that I am not enjoying The Stand--I am--I just was in the mood for something a bit more comical and quirky.

Excerpt from the author's website:
Isabel Spellman, the uncompromising—okay, obstinate—twenty-eight year-old San Francisco private eye in Lisa Lutz's riotous debut novel, THE SPELLMAN FILES has her share of problems. And those problems all happen to be named Spellman. Her parents, Albert and Olivia, co-owners of Spellman Investigations, think nothing of placing their daughter under 24-hour surveillance simply to find out if she has a new boyfriend. David, her perfect older brother, who escaped the family business by becoming a lawyer, is hypercritical of just about everything Isabel says, wears, or does. Fourteen-year-old sister Rae lives on sugared snacks, considers recreation surveillance her favorite hobby, and believes that life is one endless opportunity for intra-familial blackmail. And good-natured Uncle Ray, a former cop and health food nut, now embraces gambling and drinking; and when he's not in battle with his niece Rae over the whereabouts of his favorite shirt, must be rescued from "lost weekends."
Isabel's family is eccentric to say the least.  Privacy is a hard to find commodity in the Spellman family and Isabel goes to great lengths to get just a little bit of it.  When she meets a guy she likes, one she knows her parents would disprove of and who would likely be scared off by them, she attempts to keep the two parts of her life separate.  It proves to be quite a challenge and eventually, on top of every other issue that's been building, it all comes to a head. 

What I loved about this book: the writing, the characters, the humor, and the story. I also loved that it was set in San Fransisco, one of my favorite cities. It was predictable at times, but as Isabel says in the beginning of the book, private investigations aren't so much about solving the crime, they are about finding evidence to support the (assumed) facts. And yes, it was a bit over the top in spots--but in a fun sort of way.

The author does a great job of developing her characters over the course of the book. Particularly when it came to Isabel and her sister Rae. Isabel has always been a bit of a rebel, giving her parents all kinds of grief. She is both confident and insecure, smart and yet immature. It's those kinds of dichotomies that really draw the character out of the pages. Rae has similar characteristics, only in different ways. She's the genius child who knows what she wants and goes after it. Underneath, however, has a great need to belong. It seems to be the trademark of the Spellman family: tough on the outside, while being vulnerable on the inside--only, don't let anyone, even other family members, know.  First person narratives can be challenging, especially in a character driven novel. Lisa Lutz pulled it off though. Even through Isabel's eyes, I felt like I understood her parents' concern for her given Isabel's past as well as Rae's growing frustration.

Just over half way through the book, Isabel takes on a missing person's case and I couldn't help but notice the parallels between the two stories--the one involving the case and the other involving Isabel's own family life. I won't say more for fear of spoiling the story. I really like how the author tied everything together in the end. 

The humor in the book is sometimes cynical, sometimes ridiculous, and I laughed out loud a few times.  There was a nice mix of the serious, however, which added a nice balance.  I really enjoyed my time with The Spellman's but I have to say, I am glad they aren't my family! Living in their household would be exhausting.

You can learn more about Lisa Lutz and her books on the author's website.

Source: I read my mother's copy of the book which she bought at an author's signing earlier in the year.


© 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.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sunday Salon: Monogamy vs Polygamy

Recently I stumbled onto a conversation on Twitter between Carrie from Books and Movies, Unfinished Person from Still Unfinished and Xe Sands, author and narrator, regarding monogamous and polygamous reading.  It got me thinking about my own reading.  I once was a diehard one book woman.  On the rare occasion I might have two books going at once, one nonfiction and the other fiction, but I was never quite comfortable with that arrangement when I was in the middle of it.

When I read,  tend to immerse myself in a book, let it take over, and, not too long ago, I would have told you that I rarely had the urge to stray.  Once caught in the spell of a book, I was dedicated and loyal to it.  It had nothing to do with my being unable to keep multiple books straight at once, although I worried about that, and was more about my wanting to finish what I'd started.

For many years, much of my reading was done in big gulps.  I would spend hours on the weekends lost in a book.  My reading time during the week was limited to my half hour lunch break at work and maybe a half hour of reading before bed each night.  I couldn't really see switching from one book to another on a Saturday afternoon, especially not once I had my mind firmly planted within a book's pages.

With the birth of my daughter and my eventual return to working outside the home full-time, my world shifted, including my use of time.  My reading became more sporadic, reserved for my now hour lunch breaks, a page here and there during a slow moment at the office or between those at home chores if I am lucky, and a little bedtime peek if I don't fall asleep first.  My weekend reading is just about nonexistent.  I've gone from those big gulps to taking a sip here and there.  As a result, my reading has changed.

It didn't happen over night.  It's been a gradual change.  And not exactly one I planned or intended to happen.  It just did.

I no longer have the patience for slow starters, at least not to the degree I once did.  When I pick up a book to read, it has to grab me right away.  Otherwise, it gets set aside for another day.  I need a book that will pull me in as soon as I pick it up and carry me through the short minutes or hour I have to read, otherwise I don't remember what I have read or I find myself easily distracted. 

That isn't to say a slower book won't be perfect for me at another time.  Sometimes what constitutes a slower book one day, is what grabs me the next, whether it be the story, the characters, or the language.  Just that in the moment I choose to read it, it isn't working for me.  You could say this stems from my many moods as a mood reader.  I have always known my mood plays a part in what I choose to read and when; only, it's become even more of a factor in recent months.  So much so that my cravings have led me to stray.   I find myself going from book to book, starting one then another, whatever sounds best in the moment.

There are other, less significant, factors that I can attribute to my change in heart, I suppose.  For example, there are times I am limited to what I have on hand, sometimes literally what is in my reach.

In the quiet of the night when I do not want to wake the baby by turning on a light, my Kindle Fire is a blessing.  So, I often am reading an e-book.  My Nook and Kindle are light and convenient--turning pages is a breeze and so much easier to manage one handed when I am mobile and reading in short snatches.  At work, I am able to break out the paper books much more easily (although my e-readers aren't strangers to the office either), and so I often have one book going at work and another one or two going at home.

Occasionally I listen to an audio book on my drive to work (I don't listen on the way home since I have Mouse with me, and she prefers music).  It's not the most effective way to go about it, given my commute is 15 minutes.  That doesn't leave enough time to really get into a book and often I am stuck stopping at a not so appropriate spot, but I make do.

If you had asked me a year ago if my reading habits would change so much, I would have replied in the affirmative.  I was sure I would barely be reading at all.  I underestimated by passion for reading, something I didn't think was possible.  I didn't anticipate, however, that I would go from reading just one book at a time to sometimes juggling three or five--or even six. 

For the record, right now I'm only reading two books and listening to one.  Three if you count the book in my desk drawer I haven't touched in a month but keep telling myself I'll get back too . . . 

How many books do you read at a time?  Are you strictly monogamous or do you practice book polygamy? 




Time to announce the mid-way winner of the Merely Mystery Reading Challenge Giveaway!   The winner was chosen randomly among those participants who shared links to their reviews over the past six months.


Congratulations to Laurie of In Laurie's Mind 
You have won a book of your choice!


Thank you again to all who are posting reviews to the books you are reading for the challenge!



© 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.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: Playing Dead by Julia Heaberlin

Despite its name, Ponder, Texas, pop. 1,101, isn’t a very good place to think. Four months out of the year, it’s too damn hot to think.

It is a good place to get lost. That’s what my mother did thirty-two years ago. The fact that she successfully hid this from almost everyone who loved her makes her a pretty good liar. I’m not sure what it says about me. [Opening Paragraphs]


Playing Dead by Julia Heaberlin
Ballantine Books, 2012
Crime Fiction, 352 pgs

From the author's website:
What if your whole life was a lie?
That's the question torturing child psychologist Tommie McCloud after she opens a stranger's letter only days after burying her father. The woman claims that Tommie is her child, kidnapped thirty-two years ago. Suddenly, a deeply rooted Texas girl finds herself linked to a horrific past: the slaughter of a family in Chicago, the murder of an Oklahoma beauty queen and the kidnapping of a little girl named Adriana. With everything she has ever believed in question and a stalker determined to stop her, Tommie must discover the truth about her family's secrets and the girl who vanished.
The first half of 2012 has turned out to be a fantastic year for crime fiction, at least at my end.  I have had the privilege of reading several mysteries that have stood out and made me take notice, most from established authors I am beating myself up over for not getting to sooner.  Then there is Playing Dead, Julia Heaberlin's first novel, although you wouldn't know it. She has a masterful grip on storytelling as well as character development.  Julia Heaberlin weaves her characters and their stories together seamlessly. The characters are the story, really.

Heaberlin's writing drew me in immediately and it was difficult to tear myself away.  In fact, I, who am lucky to get one book finished in a week, read this book in a day.  I was that hooked (and lucky to find the time!).  Even when away from the book, I found myself thinking about it, wanting to go back, and I hated to see the book end.  My heart raced with just about every page.  Cliche, I know, but true.

Tommie's world is turned upside down when she first receives the letter suggesting her life as she knows it is based on a lie.  Tommie is one tough lady with a very hard outer shell.  As the story unfolds, the reader begins to see a more vulnerable Tommie, one who is scarred and touched by her past.  She never ceases to be independent, headstrong and resourceful, but she also doesn't fit the usual stereotypical tough sassy heroine in a suspense novel.  Tommie is layered.  She felt real.

The first person narrative is perfect for Playing Dead.  It gives the reader the opportunity to process the information coming in just as the protagonist does--feel what she is feeling and come to the same revelations she does.  And Heaberlin catches just the right tone and pacing to make it all the more meaningful in Tommie's case.  My heart beat faster right alongside Tommie's.  I felt her fear.  I felt her doubts.  I felt her grief and frustration.  I felt her determination.  I felt her love and devotion to her family.  The author is also able to give the reader a good feel for many of the other characters in the novel and what they are experiencing, something that isn't always easy to do from a single first person perspective.  Jack Smith comes to mind as an example.  He is such an interesting character on many levels, one whose story touched me to the core.  Unfortunately, to say too much more about him would take us into the realm of spoilers.

There were other characters who won my affection: the smart and thoughtful Maddie, Tommie's niece and world; Sadie, Tommie's sister and voice of reason; and Hudson.  He's a man who has a lot of connections, a reputation for getting things done, and is sexy as all get out.  Okay, so he may be the one character in the book who is too good to be true, but I sure do like him. 

Tommie and Sadie's mother, Ingrid, was another character that I really cared about.  Her particular story was more about the past, given that she has dementia and is able to remember--or at least share--so little.  As I read the novel, it was quite apparent Ingrid suffered from depression.  I so wish I could have known her better . . . I know Tommie felt the same way.

Heaberlin takes the reader down unexpected paths as her novel unfolds, and there's a bit of everything from romance to action to self reflection and to the mystery itself.  The story is layered and complex.  I found the novel not only entertaining, but thought provoking too.  This is one of those novels that is more than just a mystery and really is more of a crossover, delving into issues such as loss, grief, post traumatic stress, familial relationships and the toll secrets can have on someone.  It'd make for a great discussion, I think!

I am going to go so far as to say this is one of my favorite book of the year so far.  I look forward to reading more by this author in the future.


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

I hope you will check out what others had to say 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 Playing Dead provided by the publisher.





© 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.