Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

From my first breath in this world, all I wanted was a good set of lungs and the air to fill them with--given circumstances, you might presume, for an American baby of the twentieth century. ~ Opening from Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2001
Fiction; 312 pgs

From the Publisher:
[Leif Enger's] richly evocative novel, narrated by an asthmatic 11-year-old named Reuben Land, is the story of Reuben's unusual family and their journey across the frozen Badlands of the Dakotas in search of his fugitive older brother. Charged with the murder of two locals who terrorized their family, Davy has fled, understanding that the scales of justice will not weigh in his favor. But Reuben, his father, Jeremiah—a man of faith so deep he has been known to produce miracles—and Reuben's little sister, Swede, follow closely behind the fleeing Davy.
Affecting and dynamic, Peace Like a River is at once a tragedy, a romance, and an unflagging exploration into the spirituality and magic possible in the everyday world, and in that of the world awaiting us on the other side of life.

I had a couple reservations as I began reading the novel. The synopsis I initially read hinted at a strong faith, possibly religious aspect, which I worried I might find off putting. And while the opening of the book hooked me right away, the slow pacing soon after almost lost me. I pushed on though, and soon was rewarded with a thoughtful tale of a young boy's coming of age and his family's fight to stay together.

The reader is first introduced to Reuben Land as he recalls his birth, a rough start to be sure. I really liked Reuben's voice. He's a grown man, sharing his experiences as a boy, at a time when his innocence and the realities of the world begin to collide.  In many ways, Reuben is your typical 11 year old. He's also very thoughtful. I admit I was most drawn to Reuben's sister Swede, however, with her stories and gift with words. Enger uses Swede as a way to tell a story within a story, drawing on the Old West, tales of villains and cowboy heroes. There are parallels between the two stories, the one invented by Swede and the one Swede and Reuben are living. The black and white of good and evil begins to show shades of gray and everything isn't so easily placed now.  There is also the question of faith, which has always played a big part in the Land family's life. Their faith is tested and Reuben, in particular, begins to doubt what is right and wrong and what his role in all of it should be. We see this play out with Reuben's health too, the more he doubts, the more he makes poor decisions, the worse he begins to feel physically.

Jeremiah, the father, obviously loves his family. He is a good man, blessed with the ability to do miracles. Jeremiah's own faith is tested when his eldest son is charged with murder and escapes--he struggles with the right and wrong of his son's actions and what role he must play as his father. He knows he wants his family together; he wants to save his eldest son, Davy.

I started off like Reuben and Swede in terms of Davy and wanting him to get away. The more we learn though--the more gray the situation gets. Davy's heart was in the right place, but did he do the right thing? Does he feel remorse? All of these questions ran through my head as I read the book. I liked Davy from the start, including his protectiveness of his family. And yet I questioned some of the choices he made over the course of the novel.

The biggest disappointment in the novel for me was the ending. I felt that the ending veered in a direction that left me unsatisfied and took away from the rest of the novel. I wanted--expected--more. As is always the case, it is impossible to get into specifics without spoiling the book when talking about the end.

Peace Like a River was not a book I could--or wanted--to read in a day. The action is slow going, the writing the kind that sweeps you up and carries you along as if on a calm river boat ride.  It's a story about a family, one that has endured many hardships and yet still maintains a strong faith in life and in each other.

Source: Many thanks to Melinda of West Metro Mommy Reads for sharing this book with me through our postal bookclub! 

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark: (07/28/2015)

 (An Unbirthday Cake which easily could 
have been my blog's anniversary cake, 
now that I think about it.)

This past Thursday (07/23) was my ninth blog anniversary. I went back and read my very first post last week as I always do this time of year for nostalgia sake. Over the years, my purpose for this blog expanded from what it once was, although has still remained the same at its heart. Musings of a Bookish Kitty is simply a place where I can come to share my thoughts with you about the book I am reading (and other topics on occasion too). I had not realized the extent of the book blogging community at that time and was giddy with joy when I was welcomed into it. It's so much bigger today than it was back then. A lot has changed. And yet there is a lot that hasn't either. Book bloggers are still among the best people around, especially when it comes to getting book recommendations, discussing books, and finding support and acceptance for our more eccentric book loving tendencies and obsessions. Through all of that, many of us also have shared bits and pieces of our lives. We've seen each other through difficult times and the highlights of our lives.

My reading has changed over the years, both in part because of blogging and life events.  I am a more careful reader now, I think, than before I began blogging, and my reading has become more varied. I discovered reading challenges and accept books for review. I read books you have recommended, even ones outside my comfort zone. I still read for me. I still look for those connections in books between the story and characters and my own life, no matter how different we may seem. I read for pleasure and to learn and to feel and to hope and to grow. To be entertained and even escape. To understand. To reflect on life and also to expand my horizons. That has not changed. I am not a prolific reader like some of you, but I am no slouch either (as compared to the national average), but my love for books and reading has not diminished over my lifetime, and definitely not since I began blogging nine years ago.

I do not know what the future holds, other than I am determined to make it to my tenth blog anniversary. There are days I think that will be it for me and Musings of a Bookish Kitty, and other days when I cannot imagine giving up blogging at all.

Thank you for letting me into your lives and taking the time to visit my blog. You all are what makes blogging worthwhile.

Moving on to what I am reading (because isn't that why you are really here?) . . . This weekend I devoured Julia Heaberlin's The Black-Eyed Susans. Everyone who said it was good wasn't lying. Now I am reading Amy Stewart's Girl Waits With Gun, which I picked up to read after Shaina from Shaina Reads helped get me over my near panicked oh-my-gosh-cannot-decide-what-to-read-next moment. She chose the book because of the cover. I chose it because I felt it would be a bit of a lighter read after Heaberlin's book. I think we both made a good choice!

First Paragraph Girl Waits With Gun:

Our troubles began in the summer of 1914, the year I turned thirty-five. The Archduke of Austria had just been assassinated, the Mexicans were revolting, and absolutely nothing was happening at our house, which explains why all three of us were riding to Paterson on the most trivial of errands. Never had a larger committee been convened to make a decision about the purchase of mustard powder and the replacement of a claw hammer whose handle had split from age and misuse. 

Random teaser from Girl Waits With Gun at 10% on my Kindle

An engine rattled around the corner and I pulled Dolley toward me. Would they come after me? I held my breath and waited, but the machine rumbled past and its driver didn't even turn to look at me.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

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

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mouse's Corner: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, A Guest Post by Alexandra Sokoloff

I am excited to host author Alexandra Sokoloff here on Musings of a Bookish Kitty today as part of her Cold Moon Blog Tour. I considered doing a book review, but ultimately thought it would be more interesting and fun to invite her over to discuss one of the most influential books from her childhood. I was happy when she took me up on her offer, and said she wanted to talk about Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. This is one of those mus read books I hope my daughter will want to read one day.

Alex has written many books over the years, her most recent being the Huntress/FBI series, which I have read and enjoyed over the past couple months (Huntress Moon, Blood Moon, and Cold Moon). I enjoyed this dark and intense series quite a bit as it took me into the mind of a female serial killer and the FBI agent tracking her down.

Please join me in welcoming Alexandra Sokoloff . . .

For this stop on my Cold Moon blog tour, Wendy asked me to do a guest post on an influential book from my childhood. Easiest question in the world!

It’s the story of thirteen-year-old misfit Meg Murry, who on a dark and stormy night is visited by three mysterious and iconically eccentric women who transport her, her child prodigy brother Charles Wallace, and her high school crush Calvin O'Keefe, on a cosmic adventure to rescue her scientist father from the evil forces holding him prisoner on a distant planet.

Famously, when author Madeleine L’Engle finished the book in 1960 (pre-YA is putting it mildly!) it was rejected by at least 26 publishers, because it was "too different", and "because it deals overtly with the problem of evil, and it was really difficult for children, and was it a children's or an adults' book, anyhow?" Oh, and “It had a female protagonist in a science fiction book.”

I’m eternally grateful to whatever forces of light were looking out for it.

When people ask me why I write what I do, or even just why I write, instead of rambling on, I could just as well just say A Wrinkle in Time. Countless female author and screenwriter friends, and a good number of the men as well, have said the same thing to me over the years—I suspect just about every woman genre writer who came of age pre-Harry Potter. Meg Murry wasn’t just our Hermione – she was our Harry Potter, too. She is every smart girl who ever lived. We didn’t just read that book—we lived it. We are Meg.

I’ve read just about everything L’Engle ever wrote. Once in a while I realize I’ve missed something and it’s always a treat to add that book to my shelf. She was a huge part of my extremely random spiritual education… in fact she might have been singlehandedly responsible for any spiritual sense I did have in my childhood and early adulthood. I was raised with both no religion and a smattering of a large number of religions. My parents took me and my siblings to Native American ceremonies, Orthodox celebrations, and Hindu holy days. If I spent a weekend night with a friend whose family had a religious practice, they’d drag me along to church or temple. But I was never sold on the idea of a single male God (I mean, come on, really? I love men in general, but omniscient? Let’s just look at the facts, here!).

Then A Wrinkle in Time introduced me to the concept of the Goddess, in the three “witches”: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and the very intimidating Mrs. Which. That powerful, eternal feminine triumvirate, whether you describe them as former stars, guardian angels, messengers, centaurs (don’t you love that scene where the three children try to explain them to Mr. Murry?) —is to me the Triple Goddess. It was the most positive depiction of spirituality I’d ever encountered, and the one that made the most sense to me: that the universe manifests itself in guardians, and we are watched over, and we are loved.

(L’Engle herself was a devout Christian, yet the book often appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books, because of references to witches and crystal balls, because it "challenges religious beliefs", and because Jesus appears on a list of “names of great artists, philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders".)

L’Engle’s equally profound influence on me (it’s inseparable, really) was as a genre writer. I always gravitated toward the spooky, the thrilling, the fantastical, the twisted, in my reading. I discovered A Wrinkle in Time when I was in sixth grade and something in my mind said – “THIS is what a book is supposed to be, do, feel like.” It’s a thrilling adventure with flawed but deeply moral characters, fighting for cosmic stakes. While you’re reading you experience it as a breathless, nail-biting ride, but the moral implications imprint on your soul.

In fact, I was so obsessed with the book the year I first read it that I wrote a movie adaptation of the book. This was a pretty radical and prescient thing for me to have done (at age ten!), considering a lot of adults don’t even understand that there is such a thing as an adaptation process from book to screen. I had no inkling at the time that I would grow up to work as a screenwriter and make a living adapting novels for screen. And no desire to, either.

It was just that book. I wanted to live in that book. I wanted to somehow create the world of that book around me. I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything ever since (except, um, Hamlet) that feels as perfect in every way – character, theme, structure, dialogue, action, spectacle, catharsis – every single layer and detail.

I’ve read it dozens, maybe hundreds of times, and I learn something new about how to tell a story every single pass. And not just about the how of it, but the WHY as well. It makes no sense on the surface to write as dark as I do and say that I aspire to the spirituality of that book, but it’s true.

As L’Engle said:
“Why does anybody tell a story? It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.”

At the moment, I fully admit, I am struggling with Book 4 of my Huntress Moon series. These are very dark books. They confront crimes so heinous that I think they can only be called evil. My FBI protagonist is on the verge of giving up entirely; he feels so powerless in the face of what he’s being exposed to. But these crimes exist. Someone must face them and fight them. And once again, I’m looking to A Wrinkle in Time to remind me that even in the darkest abyss, the universe manifests itself in guardians—and we are watched over, and we are loved.

There are other books of L’Engle’s that shaped me as a writer, an author, a genre writer. She wrote thrillers: Arm of the Starfish is a wonderful YA spy thriller, again with a profound spiritual dimension, and even her dramas have such an thriller edge – I’m thinking specifically of A Ring of Endless Light – that I’d almost call them cross-genre. She put urgency and cosmic stakes into everything she ever put on paper.

But A Wrinkle in Time is a masterwork… and I guess it’s always in the back of my mind, the question – will I ever be open enough, focused enough, skilled enough, mature enough… enough anything – to write something that is everything I could write, in a perfect world?

I don’t know. But at least I have a light to guide me on that path.

So how about you, readers and authors? Do you have A Wrinkle in Time experiences? Or was there another book that most influenced your childhood and/or writing?

- Alex

Alexandra Sokoloff is the bestselling, Thriller Award-winning and Bram Stoker and Anthony Award-nominated author of eleven supernatural, paranormal and crime thrillers. The New York Times has called her "a daughter of Mary Shelley" and her books "Some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre."

As a screenwriter she has sold original suspense and horror scripts and written novel adaptations for numerous Hollywood studios (Sony, Fox, Disney, Miramax), for producers such as Michael Bay, David Heyman, Laura Ziskin and Neal Moritz.

To learn more about author Alexandra Sokoloff and her work, please visit the author's website or her blog . You can also find her on FacebookTwitterGoodreads

I hope you will take time to visit some of the other tour stops along the way!

Thank you, Alex, for your wonderful guest post!

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: The Others Series (Books 1, 2 & 3) by Anne Bishop

I absolutely love this series. I am having such a hard time writing a review because I want to tell you everything, from the set up of the world the series takes place in to the conflict between the humans and the terra indigene (the Others). I want to tell you about Meg, the human, and how innocent and special she is, and how much I love Simon's character, even in his awkward moments--and the sweet and vulnerable Sam. I love all the Others really.  They are animal first, only able to look human and live like humans, but really they aren't.  It's an important distinction to make because the shape-shifters aren't humans who can shift into animal form and the vampires are not humans who have been bitten and turned into the undead. There are Elementals and other magical beings (I love the ponies!)--so many of them, really. Some you may recognize if you are a fantasy reader and others you may not. It is impossible not to be swept up into their world, to feel their power and to fear them on some level, knowing their strength and ruthlessness, while at the same time admiring and respecting them--and coming to love them too.

This is a series I highly recommend reading in order as each book builds on the other. As a result, expect a few spoilers below--although I tried to keep out most of them.

Written in Red by Anne Bishop (ROC, 2013; 433 pgs)

First Sentence: Half blinded by the storm, she stumbled into the opening between two buildings. 

From the Publisher:
As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.

Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.
Simon runs a bookstore, fellow readers.  How could that not draw you in immediately?  Okay, so there is a Wolf who sits by the door waiting to eat shoplifters.  But still. A bookstore!  Anyway, I was instantly pulled into Written in Red, falling under its spell. This is one of those books (and series, really) in which I found myself with one foot in reality and the other foot still in the book world even when I wasn't reading.

Meg has been through much in her life, even as isolated as she was. She has a way with people and the Others, an innocence about her that makes everyone around her want to protect her. It isn't just her vulnerability and child-like nature. It is also her kindness and sense of fairness. She may not be the kick ass heroine we so often look to in books like this, but do not mistake her as weak.

Meg is a highly valued blood prophet and her loss at the compound where she was held does not go unnoticed. It brings a lot of unwanted attention to the Lakeside Courtyard where the Others live and work, especially once it is known she is there. Simon, who has made it a point to study and know human ways, still does not trust them and thinks very little of them on the hierarchy of species, but something about Meg makes him want to protect her, even after he learns what she is and the danger she places the Others in the Lakeside Courtyard in.

I could make a list of all the wonderful characters that have earned a place in my heart, from the young Wolf who lost his mother to violence at an early age, to the exiled police officer, Monty, sent to the area because he chose to save a Wolf child from a human predator, and Tess, the Other hiding her identity among her own. And I will always be in awe of the Elementals, particularly Winter.

Early in the book, the reader knows that Meg has had a vision she believes to be that of her own death. She sees Simon in that vision and knows she will die in the Courtyard.  She does not want to die, but she is not sure how to stop it.

To say the world building and characters are what I loved most about this book would be an understatement, but the story, too, was compelling. It was often intense, the suspense building as the bad guys got closer to finding Meg and as tensions between the humans and Others rose.  I was glued to the pages of the book and did not want it to end.

Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop (ROC, 2014; 369 pgs)

First Sentence: Nudged awake by his bedmate's restless movements, Simon Wolfgard yawned, rolled over on his belly, and studied Meg Corbyn.

It is obvious tensions are high between the humans and the Others at the end of Written in Red, setting the stage for what is to come in Murder of Crows. Carrying over from the first book in the series, the presence of two very addictive drugs become more apparent--and dangerous, especially to the  terra indigene.  Violence is on the upswing as both sides suffer more casualties. Simon is doing what he can to hold onto a fragile peace between the two groups as are the local human law enforcement officers as they try to figure out who wants to kill the Others. Meg's visions are coming more frequently and the Others continue trying to figure out a way to help her control her urges to cut herself in order to see the prophecies. Too many cuts or a cut in the wrong place could mean death for the young cassandra sangue.

In Murder of Crows, the reader gets an even deeper look into Meg's character and just how difficult it must have been for her to escape the compound and strike out on her own.  Imprisoned, she had been exposed to so little--it was a very controlled environment. Now free, she struggles with being over stimulated by all the new sights and sounds she encounters. Meg is trying to learn to adapt and grow with all the changes in her environment.  It's not an easy process, and, in fact, can be slow going at times.

The relationship between Meg and Simon is an interesting--and an awkward one.  There is something there. As the reader, I can't help but think of a budding romance, but the author is taking it slow. And it's one of the aspects I love about this series. Especially given how different the two are from one another and in their individual struggles.  I mean, Simon thinks of humans as "clever meat". He may not see Meg as prey, but to think of her as a love interest when his feelings are still so conflicted about humans?  Yeah. And Meg really is like a child. She has a long way to go before she's ready for a romantic relationship.  Yet it's obvious the two have feelings for each other that may be more than friendship. Neither one is in a place where they are willing--or able--to admit it.  

Written in Red was dark in its own right, but Murder of Crows takes the story into an even darker place.  Anne Bishop doesn't shy away from describing just how bad life is for the cassandra sangue, the abusive treatment of the girls by their human keepers.  The growing struggle between humans and the terra indigene has reached new heights. The Humans First and Last movement is growing and becoming more of a threat.  They are a group who on the surface says they oppose the oppression of humans by the Others, including the total control of their resources. But more importantly, they want all the power.  The Others, of course, want to maintain the balance, hold onto their control, and many are not willing to give an inch to the humans.

Even with the very real possibility of war between the species, I admire Simon and his group's efforts to try and find a peaceful resolution, working with the humans, including local (human) law enforcement to make that possible.  If there is a way to live together, they are the ones who can do it.

The threat of the humans to the Others becomes all too real in Murder of Crows, and I found myself holding my breath more than once as the story unfolded. There is a definite cliffhanger at the end of this book, and I was so glad to have Vision in Silver handy to read next.

Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop (ROC, 2015; 400 pgs)

First Sentence: Meg Corbyn entered the bathroom in the Human Liaison's Office and laid out the items she'd labeled the tools of prophecy: antiseptic ointment, bandages, and the silver folding razor decorated with pretty leaves and flowers on one side of the handle.

Can these books get any better?!  I hate that I have to wait for the fourth book. It's pure torture.  

The Others are watching closely to see what comes out of the Lakeside Courtyard, the attempts Simon and the Others in his circle are making to create an environment where the two can co-exist. If that wasn't enough, they have their hands full trying to save the now free cassandra sangue who are not only being hunted by those who once used and imprisoned them but are also struggling to survive in their new environments. Those trying to help them are at a loss as to how to keep them safe, and Meg, a cassandra sangue herself, is perhaps the best person to try and help.  Unfortunately, she is still trying to control her own urge to cut, especially when she is feeling too overstimulated or stressed.  It doesn't help that the Others may need her to cut, despite their every wish they didn't have to ask her, in order to help end the growing conflict between the species. 

Everything comes to a head in Vision in Silver, the Humans First and Last organization is as ugly as ever and out to take over the world. It's been difficult from the beginning not to see them as the bad guys, even knowing the Others are the ones in control and have the ability to wipe humans off the face of the earth.  Their greed for power, money and resources knows no bounds.  They do not care who they hurt in the process to get what they want. I do feel for those who feel they must choose a side. And really, they must given the circumstances. As someone in the know (the reader), I wish more people would see the wisdom in choosing the Others over the Humans First and Last (HFL) group, but it's not as simple as that, I imagine.

I continue to be in awe of Anne Bishop's world building in this series. Nothing is simple nor necessarily black and white. She puts much depth in her characters and it is hard not to care about them, even love them and ache for them in their plights. Meg is an interesting character and while at first I wished perhaps she would grow more quickly as a character, I reminded myself how little time had passed over the course of the books.  A person really cannot change overnight.  For all Meg has been through, for all she is struggling with now, is it any wonder there is some backsliding in progress now and then and some resistance? I continue to like her as a character, and have great respect for her as she takes on more responsibilities even despite her personal challenges.

I liked Simon from the beginning, but I like him even more as a character now. He's grown so much in terms of his view of humans. While most are still "clever meat", not all are anymore. I admire his willingness to continue working toward a peaceful resolution despite what the Humans First and Last organization has thrown at him. Many of his kind would not have been so tolerant or understanding--understanding in the sense that not all humans are bad and mean the Others harm.

While initially when this series began it was more about Meg, Anne Bishop has put great effort into creating other interesting and fully realized characters.  Those characters come even more into the forefront in Vision in Silver.  Monty and his daughter Lizzy, for example.  Can I just tell you how their story line not only pulled at my heartstrings, but there was one point at which I had to stand up to read because I couldn't sit still? And Tess still continues to be one of my favorite characters, even now that everyone knows who and what she is.

There was a lot going on in Vision in Silver. A lot going on in the entire series. I only see more turmoil in the future for all the characters--I hope that there is also hope and eventually peace. This is by far one of my favorite series of all-time, and I cannot wait until the next book in the series comes out.

To learn more about author Anne Bishop and her work, please visit the author's website. You can also find her Goodreads

Source: I purchased e-copies of both Written in Red and Murder of Crows for my own reading pleasure. I received an e-copy of Vision in Silver from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (07/21/2015)

It was nice to get away for a little while last week. The weather was perfect; I got to enjoy the best macaroni and cheese I have ever had; we took in a lot of sights and sun and enjoyed playing in the water. We were all spoiled by our vacation, my daughter especially. There were lots of tears on the drive home. Mouse did not want her vacation to end. And truthfully, I wasn't quite ready for it to end either.

We came back to rain and thunderstorms, which weren't exactly unwelcome. The rain is always welcome here. Although, we could have done without the flash floods.  Fortunately, we weren't one of the areas affected by power outages.

I did not get any reading done this past week. None. Zilch. Our entire vacation was full of activity and very little down time. When we were resting, we were eating or sleeping. I am still reading Kirsty Larson's The Gracekeepers, which I fell right back into when I picked it up again after my vacation.  I hope to finish it in the next day so so. I haven't decided what I will pick up next. I am kind of in the mood for a romance, but a mystery sounds good too.

I thought I would share a the opening of one of my all time favorite books with you today, one I feature below as part of the Top Ten list for the week.  Here is the opening of Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

I am what they call in our village "one who has not yet died"--a widow, eighty years old. Without my husband, days are long. I no longer care for the special foods that Peony and the others prepare for me. I no longer look forward to the happy events that settle under our roof so easily. Only the past interests me now. After all this time, I can finally say the things I couldn't when I had to depend on my natal family to reaise me or rely on my husband's family to feed me. I have a whole life to tell; I have nothing left to lose and few to offend.

Random teaser from Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: 

“When I knew I couldn't suffer another moment of pain, and tears fell on my bloody bindings, my mother spoke softly into my ear, encouraging me to go one more hour, one more day, one more week, reminding me of the rewards I would have if I carried on a little longer. In this way, she taught me how to endure--not just the physical trials of footbinding and childbearing but the more tortuous pain of the heart, mind, and soul. She was also pointing out my defects and teaching me how to use them to my benefit. In our country, we call this type of mother love teng ai. My son has told me that in men's writing it is composed of two characters. The first means pain; the second means love. That is a mother's love.”

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

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

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely ladies at Broke and Bookish.

This week's  Top Ten Tuesday theme is Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity/Diverse Characters (example: features minority/religious minority, socioeconomic diversity, disabled main character, neurotypical character, LGBTQ, etc.). Today I thought I would share with you some of my favorite books featuring diversity/diverse characters that I have read over the past ten years. All of these books received either 5 paws or 4.5 paws from me. There are others, of course, and it was hard to narrow down to just ten. All of the books I mention still resonate with me in some way, even those I read years and years ago.


Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ~  From the beauty of the writing, to the all too real characters and the difficulties they faced and endured. Set in Nigeria, this novel focuses on a number of characters, touching on class and race struggles.


Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal ~ I love this book for many reasons and am still recommending it to friends years later.  Set in Bombay, this novel gives readers "a taste of Indian culture as [the author] takes us into an upper class Indian family as well as deep into the city’s underbelly, where crime runs rampant. The reader gets a sense of the injustices that existed during that time period, including the corruption and prejudices." [Excerpt from my actual review]


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie ~ This one was first brought to my attention as a banned book.  Tell me a book is banned, and, of course, you give me a reason to read it.  This wonderful book is about a Native American boy who lives on a reservation and decides to attend an all white school. Alexie's book is both humorous and sad, touching on several very serious issues, including poverty, alcoholism, bullying, prejudice. This book might appeal to those who like graphic novels as well because of the occasional artwork throughout the novel.


Moloka'i by Alan Brennert ~ Having lived in Hawaii for a short time during my childhood made me forever interested in the Hawaiian Islands and their history. I can't say enough about Moloka'i and how much I loved it. The island of Moloka'i was once a leper colony where people were exiled and sent to die.  Missionaries and doctors cared for them, but it was a while before treatments were found that were successful in treating the illness--and in understanding exactly what leprosy (Hanson's Disease) was. There is a lot of Hawaiian folklore woven throughout the book, which I especially appreciated.


Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala ~ If ever there was a character I wish I could have reached into a book and saved, it would be Agu, a West African boy.  He is enlisted as a child soldier at a young age. The writing is raw and authentic, the story heartbreaking. This book made quite an impression on me, and is one I will likely never forget.


Out by Natsuo Kirino ~ Out is a Japanese crime thriller that delves into cultural and gender issues. It is the story of one woman  who murders her abusive husband and is aided by coworkers to hide the crime. This complex novel was not only intense, but also a harsh study of human nature.


Push by Sapphire ~ Precious is a black young woman, living in the Bronx with her mother who is collecting welfare. Discrimination is nothing new to her. She does not trust the authorities nor most white people. She spends much of her time wishing she was lighter skinned and thinner. She's also pregnant. What follows is a heart wrenching story of one young woman's struggle to survive and make something of herself. This story is as inspiring as it is heartbreaking.


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See ~ Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is set in nineteenth century China, and is the story of two lifelong friends, laotongs, who have their own langage, as they navigate through their lives. Lisa See's novel is rich in culture and history, capturing the hardships of the time, including the role women played in a society. I loved everything about this book, and it's one of my all time favorites.


The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar ~ This was my first Thrity Umrigar book, and she's become one of my favorite authors. The book broke my heart and yet it is so beautiful. The Space Between Us is about an upper-middle-class Parsi housewife and the woman who works as a domestic servant in her home. From GoodReads:
Thrity Umrigar's extraordinary novel demonstrates how the lives of the rich and poor are intrinsically connected yet vastly removed from each other, and how the strong bonds of womanhood are eternally opposed by the divisions of class and culture.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters ~ Fingersmith is a modern classic set in the Victorian era that delves into the cultural view of women, the divide between the poor and the wealthy and the institutional side of the time period. It is also the story of the two women who love each other. This is a beautiful book, rich in history and intrigue.  

Have you read any of these books? What are some of your favorite books celebrating diversity/diverse characters?

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

From the Archives: Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

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. The first half of 2006 seemed to be my time for series reading. Here are some of my reviews from 2006:

Fool Moon (The Dresden Files #2) by Jim Butcher
Roc, 2001
Fantasy; 342 pgs

I am not really sure why it took me so long to read the second book in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. I really enjoyed the first book when I read it years ago. I really shouldn’t have waited so long. Fool Moon finds modern day wizard Harry Dresden in the middle of a grizzly murder investigation that involves werewolves. With several different people hot on this trail and wanting him dead, Harry must find a way to save his own skin as well as save the day. I like the way Jim Butcher has drawn Harry’s world through words. Harry is a down to earth and likeable character. The Dresden Files series is urban fantasy at its finest. 

Grave Peril (The Dresden Files #3) by Jim Butcher
Roc, 2001
Fantasy; 378 pgs 

Grave Peril opens with Chicago’s very own wizard, Harry Dresden, and his friend Michael the knight on their way to the hospital to stop a ghost from reeking havoc. The third novel in the series is action packed and suspense driven as Harry lands himself in one life-threatening situation after another. Ghosts and vampires abound in Grave Peril. With Harry’s friends at risk, will he be able to sort through the clues to figure out who is behind the city’s recent supernatural problems before it is too late? I held my breath several times throughout my reading of this book. It was exciting at every turn. My only complaint is that I felt somewhat lost in the beginning, which was perhaps part of the point, as I wondered if I had skipped a book in between this and the one before it in the series. 

Summer Knight (The Dresden Files #4) by Jim Butcher
Roc, 2002
Fantasy; 371 pgs 

Wizard Harry Dresden faces certain death if he does not uncover the identity and motive behind the murder of the Summer Knight. Not only is he compelled to solve the crime because of the hold the sidhe Winter Queen has over him, he also risks expulsion from the White Council into the hands of the Red Vampires. With the help of friends, including an unexpected face from his past, Harry just may have a chance. Summer Knight was exciting and suspenseful. Jim Butcher’s books are hard to put down because the action is nonstop. Sometimes with so many characters the pages get a bit crowded, but the story always comes together in the end. Summer Knight has put me in the mood to start on the next book in the series right away! 

Death Masks (The Dresden Files #5) by Jim Butcher
Roc, 2003 
Fantasy; 374 pgs

Modern day wizard, Harry Dresden, is called upon to fight in a duel to the death with the Red Court of Vampire’s champion in order to save his friends and create a neutral area during the war between the vampires and the wizards of the White Council. In between preparations for the duel, Harry is tasked with finding the Shroud of Turin, only to learn that he isn’t the only one looking for it. Susan and the Knights of the Cross come to Harry’s aid in fighting off assassins, searching for the shroud, and in fighting in the duel. As I’ve come to expect of the Dresden Files books, Death Masks was nonstop suspense and heavy on the action and magic. Jim Butcher knows how to tell a gripping story that has yet to disappoint. 

Blood Rites (The Dresden Files #6) by Jim Butcher
Roc, 2004
Fantasy; 372 pgs

Asked to do Thomas a favor for a friend, modern day wizard Harry Dresden goes undercover in the adult film industry, trying to uncover who is behind a deadly curse that seems to be attacking women involved with the latest movie project. Harry also has his hands full when he discovers that the Black Court Vampires are in town. He’s determined to find their lair and destroy them. Blood Rites is fast paced and wild ride as Harry comes up against strong foes and learns a family secret that will change his life forever. Jim Butcher’s books keep getting better and better as the series continues. Although Harry’s a fairly open person as narrator of the Dresden Files books, Blood Rites added a more in-depth personal touch that goes straight to the heart. 

Dead Beat (The Dresden Files #7) by Jim Butcher
Roc, 2005
Fantasy; 424 pgs

Dead Beat, the seventh book in the Dresden Files series, was rich with action and subject matter. Harry takes on powerful necromancers who are using black magic; he must locate the Word of Kemmler or else Marva of the Black Vampire Court will ruin the reputation of one of his closest friends; and Harry struggles with a new inner voice that he must decide to trust or not. Some of Harry’s old friends (and not so much friends) make an appearance: the local werewolves, Queen Mab, Butters the mortician, the Wardens from the White Council, and Harry’s brother Thomas. Jim Butcher delves deeper into Harry’s psyche as he juggles with right vs. wrong, realizing that not everything is black and white. Harry has always bent the rules and has never claimed to follow the righteous path, however, his aim and motive are always good. Harry learns much about himself in this novel, and it is my favorite of them all so far. As usual, Jim Butcher has demonstrated his talent at putting together a suspenseful and nearly impossible to put down novel. Dead Beat is fast paced, action packed and one wild ride. 

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Cold Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

The moon is high, spilling icy light through the pine branches. ~ Opening of Cold Moon

Cold Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff
Thomas & Mercer, 2015
Crime Fiction (Thriller); 391 pgs

This book should definitely not be read without having read the first two books, Huntress Moon and Blood Moon. As it is, this review may contain some spoilers, although I tried to keep out any major plot points or twists that may occur.

Author Alexandra Sokoloff continues to keep the tension high in Cold Moon, the third book in her series, even despite FBI Special Agent Roarke and his team having caught their killer. If only it were that simple.  Roarke continues to struggle with his feelings for the Huntress and what the implications of that may be for his job. Law enforcement has always been his passion and yet he doubts its effectiveness--his effectiveness--at trying to root out the evil in society. To complicate matters, he is also dealing with issues of Post Traumatic Stress, something that anyone in his shoes would likely be given everything that has transpired over the course of the series.

With the Huntress in jail awaiting trial, another killer appears to be picking up her mantel. Roarke and his team are not sure what they are dealing with. A serial killer? A vigilante? They know they have a job to do though, and they do what they can to try to get to the bottom of it.

There's a lot of discussion about intuition and feelings that can seem to border on the paranormal, but does not go there. At time it felt like it could, but Sokoloff keeps the story grounded in reality. She does a good job of letting us see into Cara's mind and know what her thought process is.

In my review of Blood Moon, I commented how I wanted a little more character development of the minor characters; I get it in Cold Moon. I really like the character of Singh, one of the FBI team members working with Roarke, in the novels and was glad to see her featured a bit more in this installment of the series. And I'm back to liking Special Agent Epps. Whew. I really do understand his frustration though. Both he and Roarke have similar goals, but it's not as clear cut for Roarke, given his ambiguous feelings toward the Huntress.

There is quite a lot going on in Cold Moon. The case against the Huntress is weak at best, the only witness to the crime they can pin on her has gone missing, and then the new murders . . .  Add to that Roarke's mental state, a social worker hellbent on protecting her girls, a distraught sister, the speed and influence of social media, and the growing discontent of the public. What you get is a novel that takes you on an intense ride that you just have to see until the finish--and what a finish it is.

The only fault I found with the book was that, with so much going on, it felt sometimes as if I was reading two books instead of just one. There were also moments when my suspension of disbelief was put to the test, but fortunately I never left the story. As often happens with series' books there are things I still have questions about, characters left hanging--which likely will be answered in future books. I hope. So, I am always more forgiving in that regard.

Overall, I have enjoyed this series, as dark as it is. It was impossible not to be pulled into the novel and cheer for the Huntress, even in her lawlessness. I want the evil to be stamped out as much as she does. If only it were that simple.

To learn more about author Alexandra Sokoloff and her work, please visit the author's website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterGoodreads

Source: I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

 © 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (07/14/2015)

 I am currently reading The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan.

First Paragraph of The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan:

The first Callanish knew of the Circus Excalibur was the striped silk of their sails against the gray sky. They approached her tiny island in convoy: the main boat with its bobbing trail of canvas-covered coracles following like ducklings, chained in an obedient line. Ships arrived a dozen a day in the archipelagos, and Callanish knew that the circus folk would have to fight for their place on her island. Tomorrow the dock would be needed for a messenger boat, or a crime crew, or a medic. In a world that is almost entirely sea, placing your feet on land was a privilege that must be earned.

Teaser from 12% of The Gracekeepers: 

Hunched in the boat's prow, or speaking in a monotone while staring at the horizon, they'd confess to her. They'd lied or hurt or killed, and they wanted her to make it all better. She couldn't fix anything, but she could listen and stay quiet, and that had always been enough.

Here is the blurb about the book:

As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, sending the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance. 
In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland ("landlockers") and those who float on the sea ("damplings"), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives--offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.  

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

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

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely ladies at Broke and Bookish.

This week's  Top Ten Tuesday theme is Last Ten Books That Came Into My Possession (bought, borrowed, or received). Books do not flow into my home the way they once did. I used to visit every bookstore in town every other week, coming out of each store with multiple books. I also request fewer review copies, trying to limit them to only books I feel excited about reading (and not just want to read because it sounds good). Here are the latest ten  that found there way into my house. Most are e-copies.


The Tide Watchers by Lisa Chaplin ~ I practically drooled when I read the description for The Tide Watchers. I love historical fiction full of intrigue. This one is about a young mother who goes undercover to try to help save Britain from Napoleon. (from the publisher via Edelweiss)


The Book of Night Women by Marlon James ~ I had not even left Lisa's of Lit and Life blog after reading her review of the audio version of this book before I was purchasing my own copy. It sounds like a book I will need to be in the right mood to read--but a necessary and important book, nonetheless. (purchased on


Werewolves Be Damned by Stacey Kennedy ~ This is the first book in the series of which I have the second to review. Upon starting the second book first, I realized I might want to read the first book first. So, I ran off to Amazon to buy a copy. (purchased e-copy)


The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler ~ This sounded like a cute story I could share with Mouse in the not so distant future. (purchased e-copy)


Sunbolt (The Sunbolt Chronicles 1) by Intisar Khanani ~ I read Athira's review of this one just last week over at Reading on a Rainy Day, and decided I just had to read it. It's short, more like a novella. (purchased e-copy)


The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi ~ I love this author's books and am looking forward to reading this one. (purchased e-copy)


Name of the Devil by Andrew Mayne ~ I chose Name of the Devil because it appeals to my love of mysteries and the paranormal. It's the second in the series, but I'm told it can be read as a stand alone. I may end up buying the first book to read first anyway. (review copy from publisher)


Crooked Little Lies by Barbara Taylor Sissel ~ I am an Amazon Prime member, and I take full advantage of their Kindle First program (I'm not a Vine member). This one appealed to me for the mystery aspect. And I like an unreliable narrator now and then.


The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith ~ I read so little about the American Revolution, and, to be honest, it's not a time period I'm particularly drawn to. This book, however, caught my attention immediately and I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing it. (review copy from publisher)


Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder ~ This is the first book in the Soulfinders series. I heard about the book earlier in the year, and it sat on my wish list until recently when I decided to take the plunge and buy it. (purchased e-copy)

Honorable Mention:

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger ~ I received a copy in the mail via my Postal Book Club at the beginning of July. But I have owned my own copy for years. As a result, I didn't include this one on the official list.

Have you read any of these? Have you borrowed, purchased, or received any books lately?  What were they?  

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Pictures from the Disney Soundsational Parade, which is how my husband, daughter and I spent our 17th wedding anniversary this past weekend: