Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 2015 In Review

The weather has been: The past few days I have wished the dark clouds hovering above would let lose their burden.  They finally let loose yesterday for a brief time, coming along side thunderstorms, a tornado and 60mph winds.  Fires are burning in several parts of the state and not only would the rain offer some relief in that way, it would also help with the drought.  Most parts of the state have been under strict water conservation requirements for awhile now, and we are no different.  Although I expected the park water play area would be closed down this summer, I still kind of hoped it would be open. At least to bring some relief to the kids this summer from the heat.

I am listening: I am still listening to Paula Hawkins The Girl on the Train. I have made some progress since my last monthly review, but not as much as I would have liked. June just was not a month for listening to books, I'm afraid.

I am watching: I recently saw the movie Jurassic World, which I enjoyed--although I felt really bad for some of the dinosaurs. I also saw the 2011 version of the movie Jane Eyre, which left me disappointed. It was expected though wasn't it? Given how much I love the book.  I did like the visible chemistry between the two actors playing Jane and Edward, however, which isn't always so evident in the book.

What I am reading: June turned out to be your average reading month for me in terms of numbers. I read some good books, with the big stand out being Sarah McCoy's The Mapmaker's Children.  I am now reading Cold Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff, which I hope to finish very soon.

What I have been up to: In June we celebrated my husband's birthday at Disneyland. We had a nice breakfast at the Carnation Cafe, followed by a free birthday cupcake for the birthday boy. During our younger years, my husband and I used to love having lunch there. Back when you did not need a reservation to get in or else wait hours to be seated. Overall, it was a fun day, but an exhausting one.

Father's Day was more subdued. Mouse was coming off being sick and we were all still recovering from that. We had a nice day, however.

In between all that was the usual: housework, work, and all the other regular routine stuff we do. I have had some car trouble we are still working through, hoping and praying it is nothing serious.

My husband and I got news that a cousin's husband died in a tragic accident a few days ago. It is one of those life moments in which you hear about and cannot help but feel shock and terrible sadness, and want to hold your own immediate family closer and never let go. That expression about living every day as if it was your last makes even more sense than before. You just never know.  I am sad about the loss of a good man, and I am heartbroken for his wife who must be living through hell right now.

On a different note, I do not often talk politics or religion on my blog--such topics can sometimes lead to heated debates and hurt feelings. I have no plan to do so now (other than share a link), but couldn't help but mention a thoughtful post I came across earlier this week by fellow blogger, Athira of Reading on a Rainy Day. Her thought process mirrors mine these past few days as, and she's said it so much more eloquently than I ever could. If you are interested, please check her post out: The Sunday Salon: On true equality and perceived equality.

The child this past month: Mouse had an eventful June, both in sickness and in play. She missed her first week of swim lessons because she came down with walking pneumonia. Despite being sick, she was nearly as active as always. She enjoyed a week off from school and was really rather put out at having to go back when she was all better. Who can blame her really?

We joined her swim class half way into the session because of her illness. I had hoped her excitement and love for the water would carry over from last summer, but it wasn't meant to be. After two days of fighting and tantrums and lots of tears, Mouse finally went in without too much fuss. Well, maybe with a lot of coaxing on my part and reassurances that she could do it ("Are you sure, Mama?" "I'm sure." "Double sure?" "I'm double sure. I'm triple sure. I'm even quadruple sure!" That earned a big smile.). The second session started up again this week, and is going much better. She even volunteered to be first in the water. Mouse was sorely disappointed yesterday when we got to the pool only to find out it was closed due to the weather. The sky was perfectly clear by then, and I had not gotten a call to say it was cancelled.

We have started up our Sunday visits to a community pool with Mouse's best friend again, which I think has helped get Mouse re-acclimated to the water again. The girls have a great time playing in the pool and then in the park afterward.

The summer soccer season also started up the end of June, and Mouse is happy to be participating again. She really likes her coaches and playing with the other children.

Plans for July:  Vacation! We're actually going on a vacation this year. We will not be going far from home or taking much time off, but we are okay with that. It will be nice to get away from work for even just a little while.

On the home front, I think I finally know where I want to hang some of those old black and white family photos. First though, I want to figure out where I stashed the ones my mom gave me last year so I can go through those again and decide which ones might be a good fit for my little project.

Blogging wise, I have a guest post coming up later this month from author Alexandra Sokoloff. She will be talking about one of her favorite children's books. I hope you will stop by and see what she has to say.

How did June turn out for you?  Does anything in particular stand out?  

What was your favorite June read?

June In Reading Mews:

Number of Books Completed in June: 5
The Silenced by Heather Graham
My Highland Bride by Maeve Greyson
The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy
The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons by Heather A. Slomski
Blood Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

Favorite Book of the Month: The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

Currently Reading:
  • Cold Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff
  • Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins  (Audio)

Posts of Interest This Month:

© 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, June 29, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (06/30/2015)

I am nearly done with the third book in Alexandra Sokoloff's Huntress/FBI series and thought I would share a teaser or two with you today.

First Paragraph of Cold Moon (of the uncorrected e-galley):

The moon is high, spilling icy light through the pine branches.

Roarke is in the forest again, in the clearing outside the dark house. His breathing is labored . . . his heart pounding out of control. The night is alive. . . with a presence other than his own.

Teaser from 42% (of the uncorrected e-galley)

And the profiler's words of the previous evening were the first thing on his mind when he woke:

"The one thing that's certain is that she will kill until someone stops her."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

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

This week's Top Ten Tuesday theme is Top Ten Four Books I've Read So Far In 2015.  I do not give out five star reviews easily, but so far this year four books have taken that honor. I love how different each of these books is from the other.


I fell in love with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte several decades ago and have read it twice since, including this year. I read the book alongside my husband who was reading the book for the first time. I still love it all these years later. 


A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman turned out to be a pleasant surprise. More than that really. It was my first 5 paw book of the year. Yes, it is sentimental, but it is such a wonderful story--both sad and funny and well worth reading.


The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy lived up to my every expectation and then some. Sarah McCoy has a gift for creating characters with whom I can really relate and enjoy spending time. I love how she weaves history with the present, connectimg two seemingly unrelated characters  and their situations together.


Written in Red by Anne Bishop blew me away. Written in Red is the first book of The Others series, three of which I have read and really enjoyed. It's a dark fantasy series with an urban fantasy feel. The world building is amazing. The characters are interesting. And the story spell-binding. 

Honorable Mention (4.5 paws):

Behind Closed Doors by Elizabeth Haynes is probably my top crime fiction novel for the first half of the year. Haynes impresses me with each book she writes. She has a way drawing out her characters in not so obvious ways. In this particular novel, Haynes tackles a very difficult and relevant subject matter--that of human trafficking in a thorough and sensitive way without sugarcoating the truth of it.

What are your favorite books that you have read so far this year? Does anything stand out above the rest?

© 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, June 24, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Blood Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

The dark concrete corridor stretched out before him, smelling of blood and semen and terror. ~ Opening of Blood Moon

Blood Moon (The Huntress/FBI Thrillers #2) by Alexandra Sokoloff
Thomas & Mercer, 2015
Crime Fiction (Thriller); 318 pgs

More than ever, Special Agent Roarke with the FBI is determined to find the Huntress, a female serial killer who he believes caused the death of one of his undercover agents in the first book in the series, Huntress Moon. The more he discovers about this woman and how she chooses her victims, the more drawn to her he has become. His reasons have become blurred between the personal and the professional with the passage of time, but he knows the right thing to do--what he must do--is bring her in.  

With the assistance of his team, Special Agent Roarke comes up with a plan to bring the Huntress out into the open. They hope that by re-opening a cold case from the Huntress's past, the mass murder of her family, she will not be able to resist getting involved if she thinks the killer, known as the Reaper, is at it again.  What Roarke and his team did not expect, however, was the very real possibility the Reaper would strike again, even all these years later. Suddenly, Roarke's investigation becomes very complicated.  Not only must be try to find the Huntress, but also her family's killer, the Reaper, all the while hoping no one else will die.

Blood Moon is dark and intense, one of those books I had a hard time putting down while I was reading. The Reaper is an extremely dangerous serial killer who targets families with children. And not in a clean and gentle manner (as if that was possible). No, the crimes are brutal. They would strike fear in anyone's heart. As a result, I wanted the Reaper stopped just as much as the characters in the book. 

There are a few coincidences that occur in the book, some of which push the envelope in terms of suspension of disbelief. However, these weren't enough to pull me out of the story in my race to get to the end in hopes everything would be set right.  

I wish there was a bit more character development in terms of the more minor characters, especially Roarke's team. They play an even larger role in this novel, and it would have been nice to delve a little more into their backgrounds, know what they were thinking and about the jobs they do. Special Agent Epps plays a prominent role in Blood Moon, much like he did in the first book of the series. Epps doesn't quite trust Roarke's motives--and while I appreciated his being the legal conscience of Roarke in the first book, I admit he was a bit annoying this time around. Still, I think he offers a necessary grounding for his superior officer Roarke.

The reader gets to see more of San Francisco in Blood Moon, particularly the Haight-Ashbury District. I got a good sense of the place and the people from the author's descriptions. I was quite taken with Rachel Elliot. I remember a time early in my life when I imagined myself doing something like she does to help girls on the streets. I can't help but wonder if she will reappear in the next book in the series. I hope so.  She would be an interesting character to explore further, I think.

I did not mention it in my last review, but one of the big draws for me to this series is the setting. The books cross many borders, from city, county and even state lines. It is always an extra treat for me when a book is set in locations I am familiar with. San Francisco is one of my favorite cities, and so I always enjoy spending time there in books. But it's also nice to see places featured that may not get a lot of attention otherwise--like Blythe and Lake Arrowhead, both areas which are closer to home and very familiar to me.

While the overall story told in Blood Moon could be read on its own, I think it's best to start with the first in the series, given how tied to each other the two books are. I am curious to see what direction the author takes in the next book in the series, Cold Moon

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 author 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, June 22, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (06/23/2015)

Happy Summer! I hope your week has gotten off to a good start. Mouse was unable to start her swim lessons as planned last week. Her cold turned into Walking Pneumonia, unfortunately. She finished the last dose of her antibiotics this past Sunday and seems to be doing well now. She was unhappy about returning to school yesterday, having all of last week off.  I cannot blame her, really.

With the doctor's approval, she joined her swim class in progress Monday evening. My water loving daughter was suddenly afraid to get into the pool. It was my turn to be that parent whose child cries and screams about having to get into the pool. Hopefully Tuesday's lesson goes better.

This past weekend I was able to finish reading Heather Graham's The Silenced, the 15th book in her Krewe Hunter FBI series, which I enjoyed. I loved the historical tidbits the author threw into the novel about the Civil War and Virginia, in particular.

I recently began reading Alexandra Sokoloff's Cold Moon, the third book in her Huntress/FBI series, and am also in the middle of a short story collection called The Lovers Set the Spoons Down by Heather Slomski. One is a more intense, can't put down sort of book and the other is more the kind you want to take your time with and savor. I do need to hurry up with Slomski's book, however, because I need to get it in the mail by the end of the month for the next person in my Postal Book Club. I don't know how I got so behind!

My progress through Paula Hawkin's The Girl on the Train is slow going. I have not had much time to listen. I am still enjoying it though and hope to finish before then end of July. That's my goal anyway.

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

A blurb from the publisher about The Lovers Set The Spoons Down:
In the fifteen stories that comprise this collection—some short as breaths, two of them novelettes—Slomski writes with a keen eye about relationships. About the desires that pull us together and the betrayals that push us apart. About jealousy, obsession, loneliness and regret—the byproducts of loving someone that keep us awake at night.

First Paragraph of the first story in The Lovers Set The Spoons Down with the same title:

We are sitting at a table in a restaurant. The four of us. You. Me. The woman with whom you had an affair. Her boyfriend. I sit across from her, you across from her boyfriend. There is wine, red and white. There are four water glasses, four linen napkins, four spoons, eight forks, four knives. There are tables on all sides of us.

The opening of the first story struck me as interesting in that I automatically could tell the four characters are in an awkward situation. The story is written in the style of a play, which I also found interesting. The first paragraph sets the scene.

Teaser from page 67, from the short story "Iris and the Inevitable Sorrow, or The Knock at the Door"

On the wooden desk piled with books and papers was a red envelope scribbled with her name. Inside was a card with a small pink heart on the cover, and upon opening it she found in Stephen's handwriting the words, "I've met someone." Underneath his signature he apologized for the misleading card, but Valentines were all he could find in the shop.

The teaser is from a short story later in the book, with a title I just love:"Iris and the Inevitable Sorrow, or the Knock at the Door". It's written in a very different style from the opening story. I felt an instant sadness for the woman who receives Stephen's card.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

© 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, June 21, 2015

From the Archives: Plain Truth and Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

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 are some of my reviews from 2006:

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
Washington Square Press, 2000
Fiction; 405 pgs

Jodi Picoult is an amazing author. She takes on difficult subject matters and weaves a story that is complex, engrossing, and thought provoking. Despite the heavy subject matter of her books, they are next to impossible to put down, always fast flowing and intriguing. A reader rarely knows what to expect next. She did no less with Plain Truth where she brings the world of the Old Order Amish and modern American culture together. An Amish unmarried young woman is charged with the murder of her newborn child, a baby born in a barn of her family’s farm in Paradise, Pennsylvania. Defense attorney, Ellie Hathaway, trying to run from her old life and find out where exactly she wants to go, finds herself reluctantly coming to the girl’s aid. Katie and Ellie form an unusual bond despite their circumstances. From the interview in the back of the book, Jodi Picoult researched her topics thoroughly: neonatacide, farming and the Amish culture. Plain Truth touches on such subjects as community versus individuality, as well as the strength of faith, family, culture and truth. Plain Truth was a moving book that tugs at the heartstrings on many levels. Behind the main story line are the characters and their own struggles, all of which the author brought to the forefront with her usual expertise. The pain, the sadness, the joy, the love . . . All of it came flying off of the pages as I read. 

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult
Atria, 2001
Fiction; 434 pgs

Upon his release from jail after serving time for sexually assaulting a teenage student, former teacher Jack St. Bride is looking to start over. He takes a job in the small community of Salem Falls as a dishwasher, working for a woman who is fighting off her own demons. Jack denies ever having assaulted anyone, much less having a sexual relationship with an underage girl, however, his past conviction creates quite a stir in the community when the townspeople learn about it. Suddenly Jack finds himself at the heart of a rape allegation by the daughter of the wealthiest man in Salem Falls. She and her three friends are a coven of witches who like to cast spells. No real surprises lurked around the corner in Salem Falls for me as they have in previous books by the same author. Just the same, Salem Falls was a very powerful and thought provoking novel. Besides taking on the subject of rape first hand, Ms. Picoult also opened the door for discussion about community reactions to those who have been punished for crimes and are looking to restart their lives again. While no one wants a child molester living next door, what if that person was really innocent and had been falsely accused? The subject matter of Wicca, which Ms. Picoult did a good job of portraying, including pointing out the misconceptions about the religion, was raised. It made for an interesting parallel, the community uprising at Jack’s presence in town and his nearly being figuratively burned at the stake by women who live under a banner that once had been under a similar attack. As expected, Ms. Picoult has created three-dimensional characters that come to life right from the pages. Readers get into their heads and know their hearts while at the same time, we are kept at a little distance so we don’t truly know them, one of the points that Ms. Picoult commented in the readers’ guide she wanted to make. Ms. Picoult has yet again expertly weaved her story together. Another excellent novel!

© 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, June 17, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

I stand at the edge of the crowded square, watching the executioners light the pyres. ~ Opening of The Witch Hunter

The Witch Hunter (The Witch Hunter #1) by Virginia Boecker
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015
Fantasy (YA); 368 pgs

I had so much fun reading Virginia Boecker's novel, The Witch Hunter. It isn't without its flaws, but, oh, how much I enjoyed it while I was reading it! Elizabeth Grey is the only female among the witch hunters, working for the kingdom. She has not had an easy time of it, having to prove herself every step of the way. Although, it did help having her best friend Caleb by her side, encouraging her.  

The witch hunters are an elite force, specifically trained to find and bring to justice those who practice magic, what is perceived to be the biggest threat to England.  Elizabeth knows the dangers of magic, her parents dying because of it. She feels very strongly that it is the root of evil and takes her job very seriously.

Set in sixteenth century England, the novel immediately captures the unrest of the times as events unfold in the opening of the novel. The king is not in good favor, and there is both fear and rebellion in the air. A person can be accused of witchcraft for caring herbs in one's pocket--and burned at the stake as a result. The Reformists, magic users and their friends, are determined to put an end to the tyranny and persecution they suffer. Leading their effort is Nicholas Perevil, one of the most powerful wizards alive.

It took me a while to warm up to Elizabeth. I liked that she presented as a capable and strong young woman, but I did not especially like her total acceptance of the politics around her. Given her family's history, I suppose I could credit that, but as the story unfolded, the reader learns she used to question the whys and what fors of what she was made to do. I can't help but wonder why that stopped as she got older. For someone in her position, a job that requires her to find magic users in hiding, I would have expected more of her in terms of not taking everything at face value. In many ways, Elizabeth makes the perfect pawn with her blind faith and loyalty, a weakness she will need to overcome over the course of the book.

When suddenly she finds herself accused of witchcraft and then among those who practice it, Elizabeth finds her world turned upside down. Her enemies cannot so easily become her friends. And yet . . . their kindness and actions as well as mounting evidence against the man she's sworn allegiance to force her to re-evaluate not only what she believes about the evil of magic and its users, but what she has done as a witch hunter. Elizabeth struggles to come to terms with what is happening to her and around her.

I really enjoyed getting to know the supporting characters, from Peter the Pirate (because pirates are so rare in books like this!) to George the Fool, Fifer (an apprentice witch), to John the healer. I loved how fiesty Fifer, is and I am dying to know more about her relationship with the Revenant, Shulyer. It's always nice to see strong female characters who can hold their own against male and female opponents alike--and that is definitely Fifer and Elizabeth. I was really curious about George and his background which we get so little of. He doesn't seem to be a magic user, but he is a valuable asset to the Reformist movement. And John, who at times seemed a little too perfect, but makes for the perfect love interest in a book like this. There were a lot of long looks and not a lot of action in terms of romance in the novel, but that never bothered me, especially how little the two knew each other.

*Minor Spoiler Alert* If I had to nitpick, I do wish the book was a little heavier in terms of some of the serious issues it broaches. One of them being the issue of rape (which was off page and historical in terms of the story). Perhaps because this is a young adult novel, the subject was not delved into more deeply in terms of the impact it had on Elizabeth, but in this day and age, as much as our youth are exposed to the subject, I think it only could have only added more to the novel and Elizabeth's character as a whole.*End of Minor Spoiler Alert* 

I also wouldn't have minded more historical background in terms of the time period--it's very light on the history and heavier on the fantasy. Which isn't a bad thing, and did not hurt my enjoyment of the book as I was reading. I enjoyed The Witch Hunter quite a bit, getting to know the characters, seeing how everything would play out with the various characters. While many of the plot twists I guessed early on, I found this book hard to put down. I am eagerly awaiting the next book by the author.

To learn more about author Virginia Boecker and her work, please visit the author's website

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, June 15, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (06/16/2015)

Summer seems to want to start early around here. We are already seeing triple digit temperatures. And, of course, my office is freezing. I guess I would rather that than to be outside under the hot sun.

This weekend I polished off two books I had been reading: Blood Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff and My Highland Bride by Maeve Greyson. One is a dark thriller about the FBI's search for a female serial killer and the other is a historical paranormal romance set in, you guessed it, the Highlands. After much back and forth about what to read next (because so many books are calling my name), I settled on a paranormal mystery by Heather Graham, called The Silenced. I have enjoyed the books I have read by her in the past, and am hopeful this one will be good too. I am barely in though

First Paragraph of The Silenced by Heather Graham:

Lara Mayhew held her cell phone to her ear, trying to reach her friend Meg as she hurried along the length of the National Mall. She moved as quickly as she could; she'd never intended to be out so late--or early, whichever it might be. The buildings she loved by day seemed like massive living creatures at night, staring at her with a strange malevolence. She loved the White House, Capitol Building and, maybe more than any of them, the Castle building of the Smithsonian with its red facade turrets.

Teaser from 56% into the e-book

She found her tweezers and an eyeliner pencil with a soft end for smudging color.

Matt very cautiously began to use the tools to open the damp paper. Meg watched it unfold.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

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With the help of some of the books below, I am participating in this summer's COYER's Scavenger Hunt hosted by Fantasy is More FunBecause Reading Is Better Than Real Life, and Books, Movies, Reviews.Oh My!, which runs Saturday, June 20th through Friday, September 4th. There are 80 categories of which there is no way I would be able to complete in such a short amount of time (I'm not even sure I could do it in a year--I just don't read that many books). Fortunately, there is no requirement to fit a book into every category. Whew. Why am I joining, you ask, after I swore off challenges for the year? Because I think it will be a fun community event to participate in--and I enjoy scavenger hunts. 

Although the scavenger hunt is open to all book formats (as long as they are ones you already own), I am planning to stick to e-books. I really do need to work on cleaning out my e-reader (Clean Out Your E-Reader = COYER). I also hope to make some new friends by visiting other blogs and seeing what the other participants are reading.

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This week's Top Ten Tuesday theme is Top Ten Books On My TBR For Summer 2015.  Many of last week's books could easily go on this list, but I will make every effort not to duplicate any of the titles just the same. As I have said before, I am not good at sticking to book lists, but these are a few coming up on my TBR stack I wouldn't mind getting to this summer season.  Have you read any of them?

1. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman, translated by Henning Koch) ~ A young girl whose world revolves around her eccentric grandmother, sets out to deliver her grandmother's letters apology to a colorful cast of characters.  I loved, loved, loved Backman's A Man Called Ove, which I read earlier this year, and am excited to read the author's latest book. [COYER Scavenger Hunt Category: Read a book by an author you’ve previously read and given 5 stars.]

2. Death in Brittany (Kommissar Dupin #1) by Jean-Luc Bannalec ~ Murder and the French Coast, a thrilling combination. I enjoy a mystery set in another country (and I really like this cover). [COYER Scavenger Hunt Category: Read a book with word DEATH in the title.]

3. Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin ~ A psychological thriller involving a woman who long ago had survived a murder attempt and now fears for her daughter's and her own life as signs begin t appear that maybe the wrong person is in prison for the crime. I read another of Heaberlin's books, Playing Dead, years ago and really enjoyed it. From friends who have already dived into this one, I have only heard good things.  I can't wait! [COYER Scavenger Hunt Category: Read a book with BLACK in the title.]

4. Killing Secrets by Dianne Emley ~ I am taking a chance on this one as I wasn't a big fan of her stand alone novel, Night Visitor. [COYER Scavenger Hunt Category: Read a book by an author you have previously read and given less than 3 stars.]

5. Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton ~ Because everyone says I should give her a try. [COYER Scavenger Hunt Category: Read a book with water/or the ocean on the cover.] 

6. As Night Falls by Jenny Milchman ~ You can tell my reading mood at the moment is leaning most often towards psychological thrillers.  This book comes directly out of the headlines--only it was written before the recent prison break of two convicts.  While the premise isn't new, escapees come across a seemingly perfect family at home, I'm curious to see what direction Jenny Milchman takes her characters and the story. [COYER Scavenger Hunt Category: Read a book with no magical or futuristic elements.]

Cold Moon (The Huntress/FBI Thrillers #3) by Alexandra Sokoloff ~ I am enjoying this crime fiction thriller series and cannot wait to read the next book. This one picks up where the last one ended. [COYER Scavenger Hunt Category: Read any type of crime novel. (police procedural, detective, etc.)]

8. Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart ~ "[B]ased on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs", this is one novel I could not resist adding to my TBR pile. [COYER Scavenger Hunt Category: Read a book featuring a strong female protagonist.]

9. The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts (The Unbelievables Book 1) by K.C. Tansley ~ This young adult/fantasy/mystery novel caught my attention right away. There's a centuries' old murder, time travel, ghosts, a curse, and magic.  This one sounds like it will be an entertaining book to read. [COYER Scavenger Hunt Category: Read a book that's is 1st in its series as indicated on Goodreads.] 

10. Drop Dead Punk by Rich Zahradnik ~ One of my favorite journalists is back in the second Coleridge Taylor mystery, set in 1975 New York. I was quite taken with the author's Last Words, and am anxious to continue with the series. [COYER Scavenger Hunt Category: Read a book with no living thing on the cover.] 

Have you read any of these books or plan to read them? If so, what did you think?

What books are you planning to read this summer?

© 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, June 10, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

The old house on Apple Hill Lane shuddered against the weighty snow that burdened its pitch. 
~ Opening for The Mapmaker's Children

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy
Crown, 2015
Fiction; 320 pgs
From the Publisher: 
When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.
Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance. Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.
I admit I was a little gun shy about reading The Mapmaker's Children given how much I loved and connected with The Baker's Daughter. I have been in the position before where I loved a book so much, only to be disappointed by the author's other work. Maybe it's too high expectations. I don't know. What I do know is that I'm not quite sure which book I liked more, The Mapmaker's Children or The Baker's Daughter. I can think of a couple of people at least who will be getting this book for their birthdays this year. 

When reading a dual time period novel, I often am more drawn to the historical story than I am the contemporary one. I am not sure exactly why that is, but it happens often enough that I almost consider it a given. In The Mapmaker's Children, I was pulled into both stories equally and I found myself feeling a little frustrated at having to leave one time period for the other--I was never quite ready to leave Eden's or Sarah's presence, depending on who I was with at the time. I say this as a compliment, really. I was invested in both characters' stories and wanted to continue on with each one.

It took me a little while to warm up to Eden even so. The more I got to know her and her situation, the more I began to understand her. I know what it is like to want to have a child--the pressures and stresses that can come with trying. The waiting and hoping. Followed by the disappointments. It consumes you, and it takes its toll on you. I eventually was able to have a child, but not everyone who wants to is as lucky. Eden wants so badly to have a child, has had miscarriages, and all the efforts she and her husband have tried have so far failed. She isn't sure who she is anymore; her relationship with her husband is strained. She's not sure she can salvage it. She is in a dark place emotionally. She feels angry, lost and disconnected--purposeless really. I felt those things along side her, and my heart soared as she began to come out of her depression to reconnect with others and rediscover herself.

There was a moment in the novel, during Eden's story, when I saw myself in Eden so clearly.  I have never been in her situation, not exactly, but there was something about that moment, something about her relationship with her husband that sparked something in me--an epiphany of sorts--about my own life. It was both a beautiful and a sad moment for me. As with The Baker's Daughter, it is as if Sarah McCoy was speaking directly to me. (How does she do it?!)

Sarah Brown, in her own time period, is quick to substitute her inability to have children with action, taking an active role in the abolitionist movement and helping with the Underground Railroad. She feels very strongly about ending slavery. She's resilient and strong, a very capable woman. She is ever practical minded, something I admired her for but also gave me cause to feel sorry for her. I wanted so much for her to find the happiness she deserved.

There's a lot I wish I could say about Sarah. I was awed by her character.  She truly was an extraordinary woman, both the fictional version McCoy has created and the real life woman. I don't want to spoil her story for you, however. 

McCoy doesn't skirt around the issue of how painful war can be. She captures well the tension in the year leading up to the Civil War and the devastation it caused, not only to the land, but to families and individuals as well. I admit to not remembering much about John Brown, Sarah's father, from my studies of the Civil War, but McCoy's book has inspired me to seek out more about Sarah and her father. I have always found myself more drawn to World War I and II, but I think I will delve more deeply into the Civil War--there are many stories worth reading and remembering.

I have always been interested in the Underground Railroad, but had never really thought much about the amount of detail and work that went into making it work--the maps, the people who made it possible, and those who had to go into hiding to make their way to freedom.  Such stories are inspiring, sad, and a core part of American history I hope we never forget and never experience again.

The minor characters in The Mapmaker's Children were no less compelling than the two protagonists. How I loved Jack, Eden's husband, and Freddy, Sarah's friend and confidant! I liked Alice and Siby, especially Siby's loyalty to the Hill family even when things became very dangerous for her in the South. I adored Cleo, a young girl hired to walk and feed Eden and Jack's dog, Cricket. She is a girl after my own heart--industrious and thoughtful. She loves a good mystery, just as I always have. And Cricket and Gypsy. They would make anyone's heart melt. Dogs often do.

There is so much I want to say about this book, and yet I find myself not sure how to put it into words. The author is such a good story teller. She has a gift for weaving together history with the present in such a way as to make them seem so different, and yet, by the end, you can't help but look back and see how everything, including the characters, were connected, and appreciate the book even more. I was touched by the characters and moved by their stories. I didn't want either of their stories to end.  Even now, days after finishing the book, I am still thinking about both Eden and Sarah.

Oh my goodness, how I loved this book with all the emotional ups and downs! My heart broke and my heart sang. I wish I could hug the characters and move to New Charlestown right now.

To learn more about Sarah McCoy and her books, please visit the author's website or her blog.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about The Mapmaker's Children on the TLC Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Copy of book purchased by myself.

© 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, June 08, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (06/09/2015)

I am nearly finished reading The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy. I had hoped to finish it this weekend, but I wasn't able to fit in any reading time. We were celebrating my husband's birthday, among other things. I did make a little more progress in my audio book, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, however. I thought I would share the first paragraph and a teaser from a book I read last month. My review will be going up later this month.

First Paragraph of The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker, a young adult, historical fantasy novel:

I stand at the edge of the crowded square, watching the executioners light the pyres. The two men, dressed for work in dark read cloaks and charred leather gloves, circle the narrow wooden platform, their lit torches held high. At the top of each, four witches and three wizards stand chained to a stake, bundles of wood heaped around their feet. They stare into the crowd, determined looks on their faces.

Teaser from 28% into the e-book

I think about denying it. Then I remember what Blackwell told us: If ever we got caught, tell the truth, as much as doesn't condemn you. The less you lie, the less chance there is of confusing your own story. Not that it mattered anyway. He also told us that if we ever got caught, we were on our own.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

*                    *                    *

This week's Top Ten Tuesday hosted by Broke and Bookish theme Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015. Oh my goodness, have you seen all the wonderful books that are coming out the second half of this year?! I am so bad about keeping up with what's coming out when, I admit, but in preparation for this post, I did a little research. And my wish list grew by ten feet. At least. Here are the top ten books I am looking forward to the release of in 2015.

1. X by Sue Grafton ~ Because . . . Sue Grafton!  This is one of my favorite mystery series, which features Private Investigator Kinsey Millhone.

2. Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg ~ Don't you just love this cover? This particular book just came out, and  is about a Mazie Phillips, owner of a movie theater. During the Great Depression, she opens the doors to help those who need help the most. This novel is told from the perspective of those who knew her, interspersed with entries from her diary. This story is a fictionalized story based on the life of the real Mazie.

3. Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos ~ One of my all time favorite books is Broken for You. This one sounds like it will be just as good. According to Goodreads, the author "spins the stories of a dedicated teacher, his enigmatic son, and a wartime survivor into an affecting tale of love, loss, and handwriting."

4. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George ~ The obvious reason for my wanting to read this one is that the title contains the word "Bookshop". But it's really more than that. This is the story of lost love and the power books can have on our lives.

5. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley ~ I am really excited about this one. It's been described as a historical fantasy novel, set in London 1884, with somewhat of a Sherlock Holmes feel to it.  

6. Lair of Dreams: A Diviners Novel by Libba Bray ~ The second book in A Diviners series, the first of which I still have to read and plan to. I cannot NOT read this series. Fantasy. Thriller. This sounds right up my alley. (I'm not a big fan of the cover. I liked the first book's cover much better.)

7. The Forgotten  by Heather Graham ~ I have enjoyed the other FBI Krewe Hunter books I have read. This is another paranormal mystery/romance novel in the ever growing series. (Each book can be read as a stand alone-so feel free to jump in anywhere if you want to give the books a try.)

8. The Blue Between Sky and Water by Susan Abulhawa ~ The title is what first caught my attention, and I barely had to read beyond the first sentence of the synopsis to know this is a book I want to read. Abulhawa's novel is the story of four generations of Palestinian women who are forced out of their home in a farming village and into a refuge camp in Gaza.

9. On the Road with Del and Louise (A Novel in Stories) by Art Taylor ~ This sounds like such a fun book. Something on the lighter, funny side. Del is "a small time crook with a moral conscience" and Louise, a rather sassy holdup victim turned lover of Del's, go on all sorts of adventures together, and this book of six stories offers the reader a ride along with them.

10. Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta ~ When I first heard about this book I knew I had to read it. This is a coming of age story for both a country (Nigeria) and a young woman. It is the story of forbidden love, prejudice, and the impact a civil war can have on people and a country. Somehow, I doubt my eyes will be dry when I finish reading this one.

Do you plan to read any of these books? What new releases are you looking forward to, this second half of the year?

© 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, June 07, 2015

From the Archives: The Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan

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 and one from 2005:

The Magicians' Guild ( The Black Magician Trilogy #1) by Trudi Canavan
Harper Collins Eos Fantasy, 2001
Fantasy; 370 pgs

My husband was the first to introduce me to the world of fantasy novels, encouraging me to read the Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey. I am especially drawn to stories involving magic, which is why The Magicians’ Guild caught my eye when I saw it listed in a publishers’ e-newsletter that I subscribe to.

Set in Imardin, the novel opens with the main character, Sonea, working her way through the streets to warn her old friends of an impending attack. She finds herself caught up in the confrontation between the street dwellers, or commoners, and the magicians who have come to clean the streets of the riff raff. Enraged, Sonea throws a stone at a magician expecting it to bounce off the shield, however, much to hers and everyone’s surprise, the stone breaks through and hits the magician, knocking him out. Suddenly, Sonea finds herself on the run, trying to hide from the magicians, fearing they will punish and destroy her. And yet, the magicians have other ideas. They want to bring her in to train her to control her power before it destroys her and possibly those around her. Not all of the magicians are so inclined, however. One in particular has his own ideas.

The Magicians’ Guild was enjoyable, however, it was predictable and there was not very much excitement. I liked it enough to want to continue with the trilogy and look forward to getting to know Sonea and her friends more in the future books.

The Novice (The Black Magician Trilogy #2) by Trudi Canavan
Harper Voyager, 2002
Fantasy; 465 pgs

In the second book in the Black Magician Trilogy, The Novice, seventeen-year-old Sonea begins her first year of study at the Magician’s Guild. She finds herself targeted by a nasty bully who rallies her classmates against her to play mean-spirited jokes and pranks on her. Lord Dannyl, newly appointed as Second Ambassador to Elyne, is given a secret secondary assignment to uncover what High Lord Akkarin had been up to in his research of ancient magic. And a serial murderer appears to be at large in the city, one who possibly uses dark magic. I enjoyed The Novice slightly more than I had the first book in the trilogy, The Magicians’ Guild. Although predictable and not always original, I enjoyed the story. The characters are likeable and my curiosity about the High Lord increased tenfold as I read this novel. I have a strong suspicion that all is not as it seems. 

The High Lord  (The Black Magician Trilogy #3) by Trudi Canavan 
Orbit, 2003
Fantasy; 531 pgs 

Full of suspense and magic, The High Lord was an intense reading pleasure. The third novel in the Black Magician Trilogy was darker and more complex than the first two in the trilogy. Magician-in-training Sonea is faced with a difficult decision when she learns her guardian, the High Lord’s secret, including his reasons for practicing the forbidden black magic. I was glad to see Sonea’s childhood friend, Cery, take on one of the leading roles in the book. The difference in treatment between the classes comes out clearly in this novel and the poor, who the magicians and upper classes tried to hide and forget about, show they are much stronger than anyone imagined (except perhaps to themselves). Browsing the author’s website, I was relieved to see that there will be more books set in Sonea’s world.

© 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.