Monday, November 30, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (12/01/2015)

The long Thanksgiving weekend always spoils me and makes getting up for work Monday morning hard. Somehow I managed though. We had a brief lock down in my office. I guess someone had been seen with a weapon outside our building that morning. As far as I know, it was a false alarm. Thank goodness.

My family had a very nice Thanksgiving. A couple months ago, my husband had made reservations for us to eat at Ariel's Grotto, a restaurant in Disney's California Adventure Park. It turned into a lovely day. The food was delicious, and we were entertained throughout the meal by Disney Princesses, which made my daughter happy. I think her most favorite part of the day though was spending time playing with the ice and snow. She got to meet Santa Claus, at which time she made it known she wants a stuffed toy hippo for Christmas.

We slept in very late on Friday after a very long day at the Disney parks, and then spent the weekend decorating the house for Christmas. We still have the outside to do, but that can wait until the weekend. Mouse will not stop talking about Christmas. I am partially to blame for the constant stream of Christmas carols she is singing.

I did not get any reading done over the long weekend. I had hoped to make some progress in my current book, but I just did not get the chance. I have since eagerly jumped back into and am enjoying Alex Palmer's The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York. After all reading a couple Christmas romances, I thought it was time for a good dose of reality.

First Paragraph of The Santa Claus Man:

How quickly fortunes reversed.

At 9:30 p.m. on the cool evening of September 9, 1913, John Duval Gluck, Jr., dressed in his best suit and bowler, his mustache carefully groomed, basked in the excitement of a stadium full of his fellow New Yorkers. A light breeze carried the scent of saltwater and stale food over the hundreds of onlookers packed into their seats. They whooped at what they saw before them: in the flesh, ambling around the arena, was something they had only heard about in stories and seen in picture books.

Teasers from The Santa Claus Man at 7%

Without a qualified person to answer them, the fact that the Santa letters would simply be thrown out seemed a callous, unnecessary cruelty to him. He could picture what joy it would be to play New York's Santa Claus, to introduce poor kids to the sort of holiday cheer he had known growing up.

and 51%:

"I have just a few reasons to believe that the Mr. John Duval Gluck referred to in [the] paper as Founder of this Santa Claus Association, may be a German spy," began the anonymous letter sent to the U.S. Secret Service.

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 Top Ten 2016 Debut Novels I Am Looking Forward To. I decided to interpret this week's question as authors debuting their first novels. Trying to stick to debuts was a bit of a challenge because there are so many books by authors who have several books out already coming out this next year I want to read--and that's only the few I have heard of. Here are ten debut books by new authors I am VERY eager to read:


The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary (January, 2016) ~ This one comes recommended by my friend Caspette of Narrative Causality. I love the cover and the focus on Japanese mythology.


The Longest Night by Andria Williams (January, 2016) ~ I'm intrigued by the time period and setting of this one most of all:
Based on a true story of the only fatal nuclear accident to occur in America, The Longest Night is a deeply moving novel that explores the intricate makeup of a marriage, the shifting nature of trust, and the ways we try to protect the ones we love.


Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman (February, 2016) ~ The tale of a young man longing for the sea and a young maid wishing to return home. This is a retelling of Blackbeard's younger years, and what led him to become one of the most infamous pirates in history.


The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer (February, 2016) ~ Already published in the U.K., this one is coming to the U.S. in February. As much as books like this are likely to give me nightmares, I cannot resist them on occasion. And this one has grabbed my attention. It is about a mother whose daughter wanders off and goes missing--told from the perspective of both the mother and child in alternating chapters.


The Widow by Fiona Barton (February, 2016) ~ This one sounds very intriguing! Married to a man accused of committing a terrible crime, she has worked hard at being the perfect wife. When he dies, everyone turns to her for answers. But Jean has gotten good at being just who she needs to be, and the story she decides to tell may or may not be the truth.


Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon (February, 2016 ~ Alex is a young journalist who decides to try and solve a 15 year old crime involving a girl-now-woman still in a coma, while dealing with her own issues. On the surface, I admit this one sounded a bit like some of the other books out there recently in terms of Alex's particular demons, but something about this book calls to me. Maybe it is the solving of a cold case. Or maybe it's to see just how Amy and Alex's stories play out. Plus, I can't resist an unreliable narrator.


Tears in the Grass by Lynda A. Archer (March, 2016) ~ At the heart of this novel is a 90 year old woman who goes on a journey to find her long lost daughter, the daughter taken from her after she was raped as a child while at a residential school.
Confronting a history of trauma, racism, love, and cultural survival, [Tears in the Grass] is the story of an unflagging woman searching for the courage to open her heart to a world that tried to tear it


Just Fall by Nina Sadowsky (March, 2016) ~ I was sold when I read: "Balanced on the razor edge of moral ambiguity, this sexy and seductive debut novel asks: How can you find out that the person you love is a killer…and continue to love him anyway?" She had no idea her new husband had been keeping a dark secret from her--but she soon finds out. This one promises to be quite the suspenseful ride, and I am looking forward to taking it.


The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan (April, 2016) ~ Another one that piques my curiosity and has me wanting to know more:
A debut novel in which two people are brought together by a very decent proposal cooked up by a very secretive benefactor in which the strangers go on one year of dates, one date a week, for half a million dollars each if they can stand each other for the whole time.


Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (April, 2016) ~ I generally try to ignore book comparisons because they often are far off, but when I read this one was a cross between World War Z and The Martian, I just know I have to take a closer look.
17 years ago: A girl in South Dakota falls through the earth, then wakes up dozens of feet below ground on the palm of what seems to be a giant metal hand. Today: She is a top-level physicist leading a team of people to understand exactly what that hand is, where it came from, and what it portends for humanity. A swift and spellbinding tale told almost exclusively through transcriptions of interviews conducted by a mysterious and unnamed character, this is a unique debut that describes a hunt for truth, power, and giant body parts.
Are any of these are your To Read List? What 2016 debuts are you looking forward to?

© 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, November 29, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

Even the kindness of the half-light could not hide his disfigurement. ~ Opening of A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton
Penguin Books, 2015
Fiction; 304 pgs

Amaterasu Takahashi has gone through the motions of living for much of the past forty years. She drinks too much, perhaps, but she has settled into a quiet existence. With that knock on the door and the man before her claiming to be the grandson killed in the atomic bombing, or pikadon, of Nagasaki, Ama refuses to believe it possible. After she shuts the door, she opens the letters he brought her and begins to read, forcing herself to relive the past she has worked so hard to forget. Soon she is digging the journals of her deceased daughter out of the closet and begins to read those as well. The past comes flooding back--not only of the events surrounding the attack on Nagasaki, but also of Ama's own childhood.

Told in a non-linear fashion, A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding is Ama's reflection on the past via letters, her daughter's journal, and her own memories. The reader learns of Ama's secrets and biggest regrets, about the role they played in her later actions, about her daughter's affair, and the fallout of that.

The relationship between Ama and her daughter, Yuko, was a complicated one, especially after Yuko began sneaking out. Yuko was bored with her life and falling in love was the best thing that had happened to her. Her parents were furious, not just because of her sneaking around, but with whom she had chosen to sneak around with. Their very family reputation was at stake--but it was really more than that. Much more than Yuko would ever know. Ama's own story is very different from her daughter's in many respects, but it is one she never talked about--of poverty and hostess bars--and it colored her reactions and behavior toward her daughter during those final years of her daughter's life. Ama had only wanted to protect her daughter, to save her, but she wonders now if she had made a mistake.

What stands out in the novel is the devastating impact of the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Nagasaki. It was the second of its kind to hit the country of Japan, and it's impact was horrific and long lasting. Ama had been scheduled to meet her daughter at a church in the city, but had been running late. Her daughter's body was never found, but her death a foregone conclusion. Ama and her husband were sure their grandson, Hideo, had been killed too. Ama had dropped him off at school that same morning. They had searched for both Hideo and Yuko for weeks after, finding no evidence of their survival.

Each chapter begins with an English word, followed by the Japanese translation and a definition in relation to the Japanese culture. It is a nice touch, adding more nuance to the story being told.

I liked this novel on many levels. It is a sad story to say the least, one of loss and grief, of regrets and secrets kept. It is also the story of forgiving oneself and finding peace with the past. Jackie Copleton's beautiful writing drew me in, and made me feel like I was part of the story, seeing everything as it unfolded and came together.

I had never heard such a noise before. It felt as if the world's heart had exploded. Some would later describe it as a bang, but this was more than a door slamming on its hinges, or an oil truck thudding into a car. There can be no word for what we heard that day. There must never be. To give this sound a name might mean it could happen again. What word can capture the roar of every thunderstorm you might have heard, every avalanche and volcano and tsunami that you might have seen tear across the land, every city consumed by flames and waves and winds? Never find the language for such agony of noise and the silence that followed. ~ Excerpt from A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding, page 23

To learn more about Jackie Copleton and her books, please visit the author's website. You can also find the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Source: E-copy from publisher via the First to Read Program 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.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

I can do this.

 Digging in!

Nap time.

© 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.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

Smoke. ~ Opening of Smoke

Smoke by Catherine McKenzie
Lake Union, 2015
Fiction; 370 pgs

Wildfires are a reality in California, especially in the height of drought. Homes, businesses, and a lot of land are at risk when they strike, and the fears and damage can be devastating. It was this that initially drew me to Catherine McKenzie's Smoke.

Elizabeth who had devoted her life to fighting wildfires has been trying to settle into life away from them in the hopes of starting a family with her husband. Only it hasn't been easy for them. Their marriage is on the rocks, and Elizabeth feels like she is at a crossroads, unsure of her marriage and the direction her life should take. Her former best friend, Mindy, is having her own problems. Mindy's teenage son is acting strangely, and she finds herself keeping secrets from the husband she has always trusted and confided in. She feels at loose ends.

When a fire destroys the house of a widower, and spreads rapidly through the Cooper Basin, Elizabeth is assigned to investigate for possible arson. Could the fire have been started on purpose or was it just an accident? If it is arson, was it the widower or teenagers who had been hanging out near the widower's home? Elizabeth's involvement with the investigation only adds more tension to her already broken marriage, while Mindy finds herself drawn to the widower's plight and wants to help him.

As the fire gets closer, both Mindy and Elizabeth find their own lives imploding. The two women haven't spoken in years and yet they are both struggling with similar and yet different issues. The fire really is more of a background story for the two women's relationship issues, as they struggle to regain their footing in life, which at one time seemed so certain. Life hasn't gone the way either one of them had hoped.

I felt for Mindy, the mother of two teen-aged children, one of whom (her daughter) had serious health issues as a young child. Her son has grown increasingly distant from the family, clearly hiding something. Mindy is not sure what to do. She is afraid to bother her busy husband with her concerns when really that's exactly what she probably should have done. Although, it's obvious he is struggling with his own issues too.

It took me a while to warm up to Elizabeth, although I did eventually. She and her husband, Ben, have been through a lot, and I wanted so much for the two of them to sit down and have a real heart to heart conversation. There seemed to be a lot of blame going on in their relationship, and not a lot of inward reflection--at least not in the right direction. It's easy to get started on that blame game, and not look more closely at our own behavior.

I was most interested in the story surrounding the fire, and found it interesting the route the author chose to go with it--both the investigation and the final outcome. In and around it, the author raised several relevant issues of today, including that of bullying and privilege.

There was much I liked about this book, and yet it wasn't quite what I hoped it would be. It took awhile for the story to get off the ground, and I would have liked some of the reveals to have come out earlier so that they could have been more fully explored. I also wouldn't have minded more about  Mindy's son Angus, given the significance he plays in the novel.

Communication and trust are strong themes that run through this novel. As are love and family. Life is full of hardships, marriage is sometimes something you have to work hard to maintain. How do you know when to let go? Whose fault is it really, if anyone's? Catherine McKenzie captures the reality of some of life's difficulties, the feelings and thought processes people can go through as they try to come to grips with disappointment and change.  Overall, I liked Smoke, and found it to be a compelling read. I hope to read more by Catherine McKenzie in the future.

To learn more about Catherine McKenzie and her books, please visit the author's website. You can also find the author on GoodreadsFacebook, and Twitter.

Source: E-Copy of book provided by publisher via NetGalley for 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, November 23, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (11/24/2015)

My reading has turned to the upcoming Holidays as you saw from by last week's teasers.  This week is no different. I actually am sharing the opening of the first Christmas book I read this month, the review of which I will be posting in the next few days. I have since finished Jennifer Chiaverini's Christmas Bells, which mixes a present day story with a historical one, and a contemporary romance novella by Sara Richardson called One Christmas Wish.

Here are the first two paragraphs from A Cold Creek Christmas Story by RaeAnne Thayne, which is about a librarian turned children's author and her childhood crush who has temporarily returned to town with his young daughter, hoping the change will do her some good after all she's been through: 

If she didn't have thirty children showing up in the next half hour, Celeste Nichols would have been tempted to climb into her little SUV, pull out of the Pine Gulch library parking lot and just keep on driving. 

She shifted the blasted endlessly ringing cell phone to the crook of her shoulder while she sorted through the books scattered across her cubicle in the offices of the library to find what she would be reading for story hour.

Teasers from A Cold Creek Christmas Story at 39%

"I'm sorry," he said. "I just can't see how getting up in front of a bunch of strangers and singing about peace on earth will help a young girl suffering from PTSD."

and at 53%

"We don't get to choose the circumstances of our birth families, do we?" she said softly. "The only thing we have control of is the life we make for ourselves out of those circumstances."

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 Bookish Things I am Thankful for. It seems fitting given the time of year. I am most thankful for my family, but since that doesn't fall under "bookish" they didn't make my list. My family really is what is most important though. We recently got some bad news; my husband lost his job. It has cast a shadow on the holiday season. It is not the end of the world, of course, And we will be all right. At least this is what I tell myself when I start feeling overwhelmed. Deep down I know it is true, but it has still been a blow to us. Anyhow, keeping it positive, here are some of the bookish things I am grateful for:

1. Books ~ This one really is self explanatory. Book have been my inspiration, my escape, kept me entertained, and have helped educate me all my life. They have been there for me through all the ups and downs.

2. My E-Reader ~ If you dig deep enough on my blog, you will find statements I have made about e-books, and how I could not imagine reading them, especially not preferring them to print books. Then I gave birth to my daughter, and e-books suddenly became my main way to read books. My e-reader goes with me everywhere, even when I have a paper book with me. The ease with which I can hold it, turn pages, prop it up, read in the dark, carry multiple books in its small form, highlight and bookmark favorite passages, and adjust the font and size of the words, well, it's proven to be quite convenient.  Not that I will ever give up reading paper books--because I still love those too.

3. Book Blogs ~ I discovered book blogs over nine years ago and they have been a source of not only great book recommendations and book discussions, but also provided the opportunity for me to meet people and make new friends. The book blogging community is a large part of why I continue to blog today.

4. Long Waits ~ At least when I am alone. If I have a long wait and I am alone, I do not mind at all really (unless I have some place to be). I can just pop open my book and settle in and read. If anything, I get a little annoyed when I have to close my book in a particularly tense spot because it's finally my turn.

5. Libraries ~ Libraries are the heart of a community. They provide a variety of services. For me, they are places of fond childhood memories and have the makings of many more with my own daughter.

6. Writers ~ Because they write the books I love so much, of course!

7. Books That Make Me Cry ~ I love books that draw out my emotions.  Not that it's hard to do. But still. A book that can make me cry is one that I am invested in. It means I care about the characters and what happens to them. It's a sign of a good book.

8. Herald Vanyel Ashkevron ~ My husband (then boyfriend) introduced met to Vanyel through author Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar fantasy novels over twenty years ago. While I had read fantasy novels here and there before then, it was really this series that sparked my love for the genre.

9. The Squeal Factor ~ There are, of course, books that just are not a good fit for me. And that is okay. Not every book will appeal to everyone, right? Even so, I tend to like what I read more often than not--whether it is because I am not as discerning a reader as I should be or simply because I know what I like and choose what I read accordingly. Yet not every book earns a squeal or exclamation of "Oh my gosh! I love this book!" as I am reading it--or even as I finish it. It is actually quite rare. I love that feeling.

10. Reading to My Daughter ~ There are times when my daughter seems more interested in her tablet or toys than her books, but she does like to read--or rather to be read to. There are still books she loves to listen to over and over again. That hasn't changed as she's gotten older.  She's become quite the story teller too. I love listening to the stories she comes up with.

What bookish things are you grateful for this 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, November 22, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Novellas by Matthew Dunn, J.A. Jance, & Coreene Callahan

The Spy Trade: A Spycatcher Novella by Matthew Dunn
Witness Impulse, 2014
Crime Fiction; 208 pgs
Source: I received an e-copy of this book for an honest review from the publisher via Edelweiss

First Sentence: Later today, Bob Oakland would wish he'd been killed in a manner that was quick and painless and nothing like how he imagined it would feel to have the blade of a penknife saw through his gullet.

From Goodreads: 
When a mission goes awry in Syria, senior CIA officer Bob Oakland is captured by aspiring members of ISIS, who demand the release of one of their own, Arzam Saud, in U.S. captivity. When their hands are tied by Washington's refusal to negotiate, the CIA turns to MI6 officer Will Cochrane to find out what's really going on. The threats are escalating quickly, and in order to save the CIA officer, Cochrane must uncover why Saud is truly so important . . .
It has been awhile since I last read a spy novel, and this was my first time reading anything by Matthew Dunn. I was looking for something short and fast paced when I picked up The Spy Trade to read. The mention of CIA and MI6 caught my interest immediately. I imagine the characters are more fully developed in the longer novels and over the course of the series, and so there was little time spent on that aspect of the story.  Still, Dunn does a good job of setting up the characters and getting the reader invested in them and their plight. I wanted Bob to come home alive and in one piece. I am glad Will Cochrane is one of the good guys, although I think I would feel intimidated in his company. The story itself was at times intense, and always interesting.  I loved how it all played out. It wasn't quite what I expected. Will I read more in the series? I just might. I would like to see Will Cochrane in action again.

To learn more about Art Taylor and his book, please visit the author's website. You can also find the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Stand Down (A J.P. Beaumont Novella) by J.A. Jance
Witness Impulse, 2015
Crime Fiction; 112 pgs
Source: I received an e-copy of this book for an honest review from the publisher via Edelweiss

First Sentence: As the machine spat out the last drops of coffee that Monday morning, a tiny whiff of hairspray wafted down the hallway from Mel's bathroom and mingled with the aroma of freshly ground beans and the distinctive fragrance of Hoppe's #9 gun-cleaning solvent.

With his wife busy with her new job as Chief of Police of Bellingham in Washington, retired detective J.P. Beaumont is trying to stay busy finding and renovating a new house closer to her work. He feels a bit antsy, not being on the job. He spends quite a bit of time reflecting on his recent past, including the tragic accident that took the life of his well respected boss. Meanwhile, his wife is meeting some resistance from certain people in her field who weren't happy with her getting the job of chief. When Mel suddenly goes missing, Beaumont doesn't hesitate to put his old training into use, not trusting his wife's coworkers to get to the bottom of it before it is too late.

J.P. Beaumont has long been one of my favorite characters, and I am always happy for the chance to visit with him again. I have missed a few books in the series between the last one I read and this one, but I had no problem feeling caught up as I read this novella. Fans of the series will enjoy this one, it is a good transition book for what is to come next in J.P. Beaumont's life. I imagine we haven't seen the last of him. For those who are new to the series, know that there is a lot of history for the character, more than this novella can capture, but I think the reader will get a good idea of the sort of person J.P. Beaumont is. I found this novel to be more reflective than action packed, but I did not mind so much. When the action did kick in, it was at full-throttle and quite suspenseful.

You can learn more about J.A. Jance and her books on the author's website

Fury of a Highland Dragon by Coreene Callahan
The Story Vault, 2015
Romance (Paranormal); 102 pgs
Source: I purchased for my own reading pleasure.

First Sentence: Standing on top of his favorite cliff, Tydrin leaned forward to peer over the edge.

Ivy Macpherson is an ethical hacker now on the FBI's most wanted list for cyber espionage. She is determined to clear her name. She did not count on getting help from an unlikely source. Tydrin is haunted by his past, self-blame and guilt weigh heavily on him. When he comes upon Ivy, he is immediately drawn to her. Ivy gets more than she bargained for in accepting Tydrin's help, for he is Dragonkind, a dragon-shifter. If that is not enough of a shock, how will she react when she finds out the man she is so attracted to is keeping a terrible secret from her about hers and his connected pasts?

I have a soft spot for shape shifters. I am not sure why, exactly. I have been wanting to read one involving a dragon-shifter for a few months now, and decided to take a chance with this novella by Coreene Callahan. I enjoyed this story quite a bit, being pulled in Callahan's world of Dragonkind. While I did not feel lost as a first time reader to this series, I did feel I was missing some key elements that might have made my enjoyment of this book better. I am still not sure what a High Energy (HE) female is exactly and there were some threads picked up and left hanging that I imagine got their start in earlier books and/or will be resolved in a later book. Still, the story of Ivy and Tydrin was an interesting one--and rather steamy--and I liked the resolution. You don't always see endings that wrap up quite like that, and it was refreshing in a way. I am definitely curious to read more in this series.

To learn more about Coreene Callahan and her books, please visit the author's website. You can also find the author on Facebook and Twitter.

© 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, November 18, 2015

Beyond the Books: What I Am Most Proud Of

Every Thursday Karen of KissinBlueKaren hosts Beyond the Books, at which time participants are given a topic and asked to write about it on their own blogs. They then share their links at the main site and visit other participants blogs.

Today Karen's Beyond the Books topic is about what I am most proud of.

I once ate an entire medium pizza by myself. I was about 15 or 16 years old. I can't remember exactly. 

Seriously though, my first thought when seeing today's topic was my family. I am most proud of them. We are not perfect, but we love each other dearly and are there for each other. My husband is an amazing man. Hardworking, generous, and loving. My daughter is kind and thoughtful and yet not afraid to speak her mind. They know how to make me laugh. I feel very lucky to have them both in my life.

A friend and I had a conversation about this a few months ago, and she would not let me get away with just saying my family. She wanted to know what accomplishments of my own I am most proud of. To be honest, I have not led a very adventurous or exciting life. I have no regrets about that; it just means I do not have any exceptional stories to tell.  Nothing out of the ordinary that would make me stand out or earn me a medal of any sort. 

What am I most proud of? My 17 years of marriage. Being a mother. Getting my Master's degree. Losing 75 pounds. Being a survivor and no longer a victim. My career. My blog. Myself. Sometimes I waver on that last one, but, for the most part, at least right this second, I am proud of who I am.

What about you? What are you most proud of?

 © 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.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My Bookish Thoughts: Hidden by Karen E. Olson

I went missing fifteen years ago. ~ Opening of Hidden

Hidden (Nicole Jones, #1) by Karen E. Olson
Severn House, 2015
Crime Fiction; 224 pgs

Nicole Jones has spent the last fifteen years establishing a life for herself on Block Island in the Long Island Sound. She has a small group of close friends and a job she likes. She has never quite been able to shake that outsider status, but the locals have come to think of her as one of their own, even despite her keeping mostly to herself. Nicole avoids getting too close to anyone--at least in terms of sharing information about her own past. She has secrets she would rather leave buried, including that she was once a hacker. That's why she changed her name. And why she doesn't have a driver's license or bank account. When someone from her past re-enters her life, Nicole's carefully crafted lies and world begin to unravel. Not only is her own life at risk, but so are the lives of her friends. The home she once felt so secure in, is no longer a safe haven.

To be honest, I would have picked up this book to read based on the author alone, having read and enjoyed her previous books. Karen E. Olson is one of my favorite crime fiction authors. Even without that though, I was drawn to this book based on the description. It isn't often you come across a female hacker as a protagonist, and I do love a mystery involving secrets.

I really liked everything about this novel, from the island setting to the small close-knit community and the people who live there. I ended up reading the book in a day; not because it was one of those fast-paced-every-second-is-a-thrill type novels, but because I just couldn't stay away. The writing drew me in immediately, and I could not help but connect with the characters. The reader gets a good feel for the life Nicole had been leading all those years in hiding and just what is at stake when all of that is threatened. The intensity increases as the story unfolds, each new twist raising the stakes.

The more I learned about Nicole, the more my heart went out for her. She hadn't always made the best choices in her younger years, and she openly admits that. While she likes the new life she's established, she had to sacrifice a big part of who she is. There is one scene in the novel in which Nicole uses a computer again after fifteen years, and Olson captured so well the excitement and trepidation someone in Nicole's shoes might feel. I like to see that kind of depth go into a character. It paints a more realistic picture.

I admit to being a little concerned about the fifteen year gap in Nicole's computer knowledge--a lot has changed technology-wise in that amount of time. I liked the way the author handled that though. She didn't gloss over it, nor did her character, who had the same concerns.

The author did not skimp on the backstories and development of the minor characters. I came to really care about them as well. Especially Nicole's closest friend, Steve. He would do anything for Nicole.

I gobbled up the tattoo artist Brett Kavanaugh series and just loved Karen E. Olson's investigative reporter series featuring Annie Seymour. Both series are quite different from one another, but carry the author's trademark humor. Hidden is a more serious novel, more reflective really.  Hidden is both complex in story and character. It is also highly entertaining, as all Olson's novels have been. I am excited that there are two more books slated to come out in this series. I have no idea what will happen in the next book, Shadowed, but I can only hope it will be as good as Hidden.

To learn more about Karen E. Olson and her books, please visit the author's website. You can also find the author on GoodreadsFacebook, and Twitter.

Source: E-copy of book provided by 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, November 16, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (11/17/2015)

So far this week:

Listening To: Christmas music. I know, I know. It's too early still. One of the local stations switched to all holiday music this past week and will keep it up through Christmas Day. One thirty minute drive and my husband is already tired of it. It will take me longer, but I imagine I will be turning the station now and then to avoid burn out. I do love holiday music though--I just wish the station played more variety. They seem to play the same songs and same versions of those songs over and over again.

Watching: The Walking Dead. I am actually caught up, which makes one of my coworkers happy because she did not have to wait to talk about it like she always does.

I never watch the news on television anymore, but I did tune in on Friday to catch some of what was going on in Paris and elsewhere in the world. Every time I hear about a mass shooting, a suicide bombing, of some other act of terror, it breaks my heart. Others have said so much better than I can how I am feeling and what I wish for everyone in the world. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and friends.

Making: This weekend Anjin, Mouse and I made our traditional Nuts and Bolts snack for the holidays. It turned out pretty good, I think. Also, my husband and I enjoyed homemade root beer floats the other evening--something I haven't had in a long while.  Yum!

Planning: I am still thinking of what to get everyone for Christmas this year, and then I need to actually start buying gifts. Every year I try to start early so we're not spending so much money all at once, but I can never think that far ahead in terms of what to get people. People's ideas of what they want change over the course of the year. At least I know it's that way for my immediate family.

Enjoying: Coloring with my daughter. She is always asking me if we can color pages in my adult coloring book. I try to ration the pages out by suggesting we color a couple of mine and then color pages in her own book.  That works some of the time. Evidently my books are the preferred coloring books--probably because they are mine. 

Reading: I was having trouble sleeping Sunday night, and so started reading my second Christmas-themed book of the year, Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini, which is set in both the present and the past. One is of a music teacher who has just learned that she will no longer have a job at the end of the school year due to budget cuts. She tries to find comfort in her role as director of her church's children's choir, keeping busy with the coming Christmas program in which the choice will be performing a song based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "Christmas Bells." The novel also takes us back to 1860's and Henry Longfellow and his family. Civil War is in the air, and a horrific tragedy strikes his family shaking Longfellow's entire life. It was at that time that he penned "Christmas Bells," one of his most famous poems.

I like Chiaverini's writing so far. It is still too early to tell what I will think of the book overall, but right now I am enjoying it.

First Paragraph from Jennifer Chiaverini's Christmas Bells:

Only the most jaded of critics would deny that the Winter Holiday Concert had been an artistic triumph, and as far as Sophia could tell as the audience filed from the auditorium to meet the young performers in the cafeteria for juice and cookies, no one fitting that description had attended. Granted, the fourth-grade recorders might have been a little shrill on "Frosty the Snowman," and perhaps half of the second grade had mumbled all but the chorus of "I Have a Little Dreidel," and Sophia should have known better than to assign a treble solo to a boy who had started the semester as a sweet-voiced cherub but now looked as if Santa might need to bring him a shaving kit for Christmas. But despite those few glitches, the children had performed beautifully. Certainly the rapturous smiles and the crash of applause that met their curtain calls proved that the audience was well pleased.

Teasers from Christmas Bells at 32%

"I don't see any burn marks," her friend Emily had whispered, frowning skeptically at the library floor as the tour guide described the artifacts on display.

"Mr. Longfellow probably cleaned them up," Charlotte  had whispered back. 

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, November 15, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes

When I got home I could smell the trash cans on the cold air, a faint bad smell that made me wrinkle my nose. ~ Opening of Human Remains

Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes
Harper, 2013
Crime Fiction; 416 pgs

Elizabeth Haynes captivated me with her novel, Into the Darkest Corner, and I have enjoyed her series featuring Detective Inspector Louisa Smith.  I was eager to give another of her books a try, and dove into Human Remains with high expectations. While it isn't my favorite of her novels that I have read so far, I did enjoy it. Like her other books, she tackles a subject that the reader just can't help but think about in terms of their own lives, wondering what if.

I found Human Remains to be disturbing in more ways than one. Less a mystery where you have to guess who the bad person is, and more a thriller where you know up front (or close to it) who is up to no good, the novel jumps from the viewpoint of the perpetrator to the police analyst, Annabel, who discovered the decaying body of her neighbor, interspersed with sections written from the perspectives of the victims, each one a troubled soul who makes an easy target for a man like our perptrator.

Getting into the mind of a psychopath can be quite interesting and is always disturbing. This one is no different. He believes he is providing a good service, helping people down their chosen path. Just being in his head sent shivers down my spine. It was hard to imagine he could be good at what he did and yet he was.  Too much so.

Annabel herself is a bit lost. She lives alone with her cat, doesn't really have any friends, and takes care of her ailing mother who also lives alone. She is the one who initially notices the alarming increase in deaths in the community and begins to look into why. I felt for her.

I know so few of the neighbors living on my street. I admit much of what I do know is thanks to my next door neighbor who knows everyone else. He's extremely friendly and social, something I'm not. At least not the social part. The neighbors on the corner we are familiar with because they have a son my daughter's age. We wave to the other neighbors on our street in passing (although there is one family across the way that doesn't wave back), but we really don't know each other beyond that. If someone were to die, alone in their house, I am not sure I would notice. We all come and go, living our own lives.  It's sad to think about. I remember growing up in neighborhoods in which everyone knew everyone. It was much different all those years ago. Do you know your neighbors?

Like her other novels, Human Remains is on the darker side, perhaps her darkest novel of all. It is graphic at times, which may be off putting to some. It is both a disturbing and intriguing book.

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

Source: Review e-copy provided by the publisher via Edwelweiss 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.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: On the Road with Del and Louise: A Novel in Stories by Art Taylor

I hadn't been thinking about killing Delwood. ~ Opening of On the Road with Del and Louise.

On the Road with Del and Louise: A Novel in Stories by Art Taylor
Henery Press, 2015
Fiction; 286 pgs

From Goodreads: 
Del’s a small time crook with a moral conscience—robbing convenience stores only for tuition and academic expenses. Brash and sassy Louise goes from being a holdup victim to Del’s lover and accomplice. All they want is a fresh start, an honest life, and a chance to build a family together, but fate conspires to put ever-steeper challenges in their path—and escalating temptations, too.  
From screwball comedy to domestic drama, and from caper tale to traditional whodunit, these six stories offer suspense with a side of romance—and a little something for all tastes.  
When I first began reading On the Road with Del and Louise, I expected a lighthearted and funny collection of short stories, only loosely tied together. Art Taylor's novel is so much more than that. It's the story of a couple, Del and Louise, who meet, fall in love, face difficult times and must make hard decisions. There is quite a bit of humor mixed in with many more thoughtful moments. I genuinely loved Taylor's writing style. He makes it seem so effortless, drawing out the lives of these two characters on the page, bringing them to life. 

At the beginning of the novel, I wasn't quite sure I would like Del and Louise: Del robbing a convenience store and Louise handing him her number in the middle of the hold up. And yet, the more the reader gets to know the two, the easier it is to not only see the good in them, but come to love their flaws as well. Del seems to the be the most sensible of the two, while Louise is the dreamer. They are just ordinary people, not particularly the brightest, trying to make their way in the world. The various stories that make up this novel show the characters at different points in their life. We see them grow as they attempt to make a better life for themselves. They are met with many disappointments along the way.  From their first meeting, to life on the road, a career in real estate to wine tasting, and reconnecting with family to settling down on their own, I had a great time traveling cross the country, getting caught up in Del and Louise's story.

The stories flow well into each other, and the book really does read like a novel, although each of the stories can be read individually.  My favorite stories was perhaps the most emotional (to me)--as Del and Louise seem to finally be really settling down. It turns out to be an extremely difficult time for both Del and Louise, one that had me in tears. But then, I especially loved the final story of the collection (which I won't go into detail about because I wouldn't want to spoil it for you), which finds the characters in Louise's hometown trying to solve a mystery. It was both funny and sentimental. It was the perfect ending for this particular book. I already miss Del and Louise wish the book hadn't had to end.

On the Road with Del and Louise turned out to be quite a gem, and I am so glad I took a chance on it. I look forward to exploring more of Art Taylor's writing. 

To learn more about Art Taylor and his work, please visit the author's website. You can also find the author on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.

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

© 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, November 09, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (11/10/2015)

After finishing Jackie Copleton's novel, A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding which was the story of a family in Nagasaki during the atomic attack by the United States, I was not quite ready to dive into one of the Christmas romance novels I had been craving.  It seemed wrong somehow to pick up something light and fun, in light of such a serious time in our world's history. Instead I found myself pulling Denise Kiernan's The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II of my shelf.

First Two Paragraphs of The Girls of Atomic City:

Southbound trains pierced the early morning humidity. The iron and steel of progress cut through the waking landscape.

Celia sat in her berth, the delicate folds of her brand-new dress draping over her knees as she gazed out the window of the train. Southbound. That much she knew, and that she had a sleeping berth because it was going to take a while to get to her destination. Towns and stations simmering in the August heat rippled past her view. Buildings and farms bubbled up above the horizon as the train sped by. Still, nothing she saw through the streaked glass answered the most pressing question of her mind: Where was she going?

Teaser from page 2:

Toni had spoken the word that, until this day, was not to be spoken. A word to change the world. 


Teaser from page 56

December 7, 1941, brought Japan to the shores and skies of Pearl Harbor and brought the United States into World War II.

But in December 1938, events had transpired that would send the first ripples across the Atlantic of the unleashed power of what the Greeks called atomos, news that had resulted in the birth of the Project.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

I'm quite interested in this subject matter, particularly the time period and the role the women played. This book has gotten good reviews, and I am finding it quite interesting so far.

It seems fitting I would read this book in November, given the Nonfiction November theme that seems to be blazing through the blogospere right now. I tend to read nonfiction novels more slowly than fiction, novels, and so I imagine I will be adding something else to the mix as I read this one. Perhaps one of those Christmas romances.

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 Top Ten Book To Movie Adaptations I Am Looking Forward To Seeing (both already released and that are still forthcoming).

Book to movie adaptions of books I have read:


Mockingjay: Part 2 ~ I just  finished re-watching the first two movies in the series and saw Mockingjay: Part 1 in anticipation of the final movie's release later this month. I am excited to see how this final installment turns out.


The Divergent Series: Allegiant ~ Based on the book by Veronica Roth, I am anxious to see how this one is pulled off. There will actually be two movies and so it will be awhile before we see the end of this one. The movies in the Divergent series have gotten mixed reviews, but I have quite enjoyed them so far.


Beasts of No Nation ~ This movie was made by Netflix, and so you will not be seeing this on the big screen. I am curious to see how well it was translated to film. It is one of my favorite books by Uzodinma Iweala.


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan ~ One of my favorite books of all time by Lisa See and I have yet to see the movie. There's something wrong with that picture.


Before I Go To Sleep ~ I read S.J. Watson's novel last year with the intent of watching movie soon after, but I haven't yet gotten around to it. I still want to see it.  Hopefully soon.

Book to movie adaptions I haven't seen because I have not yet read the books:


Warm Bodies ~ Another book on my TBR shelf I want to read, this one by Isaac Marion. I admit to not being a big fan of zombies, especially in books where they aren't mindless enemies to fight off. A friend said I would enjoy this one though--so I will give it a fair shake.


Coraline ~ It's by Neil Gaiman so of course I want to read it. And then I can follow it up with the movie.


The Help ~ Kathryn Stockett's novel and movie has received much praise. Sad to say this book has been on my shelf since it first came out. I do want to read it--and see the movie--the timing just hasn't been right, I guess.


Water for Elephants ~ Just as The Help has long sit on my shelf unread for awhile, so has this novel by Sara Gruen. Someday . . . 


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close ~ I put off reading this book by Jonathan Safran Foer because of the subject matter, although I do still want to read it. Very much so. Once I do, I will make a point to see the movie.


House of Sand and Fog ~ Everyone I know who has read Andre Dubus III book has said how depressing it is. It is the favorite of a friend, and, as a result, I intend to one day read it, and eventually watch the movie.

What Book to Movie Adaptions are you waiting to see?

© 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, November 08, 2015

From the Archives: Fiction 2006

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:

The People’s Republic of Desire by Annie Wang
Harper, 2006
Fiction; 445 pgs

I read somewhere that this book is like the popular American TV show, Sex in the City, but set in Bejing. I only saw the American TV show a couple of times. The main character was a columnist who explored being young and single in New York. The People’s Republic of Desire is much like that. Narrated by Niuniu, an American Chinese woman who returned to China after she has her heart broken in the United States, readers are introduced to contemporary Beijing and other major Chinese cities through the eyes of young women and men. The novel read like a series of vignettes and essays in many respects as Ms. Wang touches on various cultural topics regarding ethnicity, love, sex, money, and power. In exploring the lives and motivations of her friends and acquaintances, Niuniu also learns more about herself. I enjoyed The People’s Republic of Desire quite a bit. I found it entertaining and interesting. Because the copy I have is an uncorrected proof, I can forgive the multiple typographical errors. One thing I found particularly annoying in this novel, however, was that the author’s attempt to get information across through dialogue at times seemed more like a lecture and less like the conversation it was portrayed as being relayed through. This happened on at least two or three occasions. Fortunately, the book had many redeeming qualities. 

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
Dial Press, 2002
Fiction; 291 pgs

As Kate's nephew's 18th birthday approaches, memories of her life in Crow Lake resurface and at times overwhelm her. Orphaned at a young age, the Morrisons were forced to pull together to survive. Kate's two older brothers made many sacrifices for their family in order for the four siblings to stay together. Kate's recollections also took readers into the lives of the Pyes, another family in Crow Lake, whose fate seemed far worse than the Morrisons. No one in the Morrison family or even the others in their community truly understood just how bad it was for the Pye children or how their lives would eventually be connected. Crow Lake is a novel that delves into the heart of family sacrifice, community, disappointments, and family love. The novel started off slow but eventually found its groove. Kate is not the type of character that a person easily warms to. Her personality is on the dry side and yet it is hard not to feel empathy toward her and her situation. She has a lot to learn, both about herself and her family, in particular her brother Matt. I was most taken by the sacrifices her brothers made in order so that Kate, her sister and the two brothers could stay together in Crow Lake. The way the community came together for the family was heartwarming.

© 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.