Monday, January 30, 2017

Where Is Your Bookmark - The Handmaid's Tale Read-Along


Goodreads Summary:
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...

Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where participants share the first paragraph (or a few) of a book they are reading or thinking about reading soon. It is also where I share my first impressions about the book I am sharing.

We slept in what once had been the gymnasium. The floor was of varnished wood, with stripes and circles painted on it, for the games that were formerly played there; the hoops for the basketball nets were still in place, though the nets were gone. A balcony ran around the room, for the spectators, and I thought I could smell, faintly an afterimage, the pungent scent of sweat, shot through with the sweet tang of chewing gum and perfume from the watching girls, felt-skirted as I knew from pictures, later in miniskirts, then pants, then in one earring, spiky green-streaked hair. Dances would have been held there; the music lingered, a palimpsest of unheard sound, style upon style, an undercurrent of drums, a forlorn wail, garlands made of tissue-paper flowers, cardboard devils, a revolving ball of mirrors, powdering the dancers with a snow of light. 

Every Tuesday, Ambrosia from The Purple Booker hosts Teaser Teaser at which participants grab their current read, open to a random page, and share two or more sentences from that page while avoiding any spoilers.


Teaser from page 33 of The Handmaid's Tale:


Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

The opening paragraph of The Handmaid's Tale brings back memories of my own high school and college gymnasiums, Atwood's words painting a more visceral picture. The author has also done an effective job of setting the time line, describing how things have changed over time, making me wonder what is happening in the novel's present.

I picked a random teaser as I have barely begun reading the book. The one I share immediately jumped out at me. It has an ominous sound to it, doesn't it?

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


*

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, along with George Orwell's 1984, has been in the news a lot lately. Parallels are being drawn to events, actions taken, and opinions being expressed in our world today. My own reason for wanting to read The Handmaid's Tale is not completely related to current events as I have wanted to read the book for a number of years now--add to that my husband's occasional reminder that I should give it a try--but the timing seems right. So, when I saw mention on Facebook that Michelle of Gather Together to Read is hosting a read-along of The Handmaid's Tale in February, I thought the timing couldn't be more perfect. This is a modern classic begging to be read and discussed.

Although the read-along is part of Michelle's 13 Ways Challenge, which I am not participating in, the read-along is open to anyone who wants to take part. There is a Facebook group for discussion, and she will be posting discussion posts on the main blog as well for those not on Facebook. For the full schedule, details and to sign up, please visit The Handmaid's Tale - The #Resistance Read-Along. I hope you will join in!


© 2017, 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, January 29, 2017

The Classics Club - Exploring the Classics

For awhile now I have contemplated joining the Classics Club, going back and forth about whether or not I want to make the commitment to read 50+ classic novels in 5 years. I periodically make a list of possible classics I would like to read, consider joining, and then talk myself out of it. It averages out to 10 books a year.  Is it really a commitment I want to make? Truth is, I need to focus on my backlog of review books. Still, the idea of getting back to reading the classics has been tempting me for quite a while now.  After talking it over with both Eustacia (Inside the Mind of a Bibliophile) and Debbie (Friday Friends), both of whom expressed their encouragement and support, I am going to take the plunge.

From the Classics Club FAQ page
Is this just another challenge? I don’t want to limit myself to a strict fifty titles, or plan ahead five years. There is so much to read. The idea is to create living lists. It’s assumed these lists will adapt to our exposure to literature. The point isn’t to challenge people to read by a strict list — but to create for ourselves a habit and a curiosity about literature. The idea is to grow together — to learn from one another and literature. It’s great if our lists reflect that growth throughout the event — changing and adapting as we become exposed to more literature, insight and feedback. So absolutely — switch up the titles on your list after you post it, at any time during the duration of your challenge.

When I mentioned on Twitter that I worried about violating my "no challenges for 2017" rule, Marcelle of Lesser-Known Gems kindly pointed out that "the Classics Club is not a literary challenge. It's a life style choice." Semantics maybe. But I'll take it. Besides, there are plenty more books not on my "official" list that qualify as classics I want to read, which makes this more of a perpetual project than a time limited one (even though the club requires we give a deadline up front). Joining the Classics Club fits into where I plan to go with my reading anyway. A good mix of the old and the new.

As I began putting together my list, I realized how many classic children's novels are out there I want to read, and what about classic speculative fiction in general, perhaps looking into some of the books or authors that helped shape the various sub-genres in that category over the years? And I just love crime fiction. I could probably read Agatha Christie novels for the next five years and nothing else (It's very tempting, actually)! Too often genre fiction is snubbed, seen as beneath "true" literature. I couldn't disagree with that assessment more. While some books may age more gracefully than others with the changing of times, genre books have helped shape culture and society over the years, not to mention future books within-and outside--their given genre as well. The definition of what constitutes a classic is quite broad for the purposes of the club, fortunately, and well it should be given the amount of literature out there, our diverse cultures and world, not to mention what we are exposed to.

With each title added, I felt my growing excitement. I admit I left off some of the more hefty and ambitious novels I would like to tackle at some point. I didn't want to intimidate myself right out of the gate. It doesn't mean I won't get to novels like Bleak House by Charles Dickens or The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien someday. Just not likely right away. I am looking forward to exploring more of the classics and being a part of the Classics Club. My goal is to read at least 50 classics by February 1, 2022.

Poetry
1. Annie Allen by Gwendolyn Brooks
2. Thomas and Beulah by Rita Dove

Children's Novels
3. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
4. Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
5. Matilda by Roald Dahl
6. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
7. The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
8. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
9. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Crime Fiction
11. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
12. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
13. Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
14. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
15. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
16. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
17. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
18. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
19. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by PD James
20. Beast in View by Margaret Millar

Speculative Fiction (Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror)
21. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
22. Foundation (#1) by Isaac Asimov
23. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (my review)
24. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
25. Kindred by Octavia Butler
26. Neuromancer by William Gibson
27. Dune by Frank Herbert
28. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
29. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
30. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
31. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
32. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
33. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
34. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Other
35. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
36. Love and Freindship and Other Youthful Writings by Jane Austen 
37. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
38. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen 
39. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
40. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck 
41. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
42. Silence by Shusaku Endo
43. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy by John le Carre
44. The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley
45. Arabella by Georgette Heyer
46. Norwegian Wood by Murakami, Haruki
47. The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes
48. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy
49. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
50. Native Son by Richard Wright

Have you read any of these? What did you think? 
Are there any classics you have been wanting to read, but haven't yet gotten to?


© 2016, 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, January 08, 2017

Sunday Post: Difficult Women & My January TBR List Winner

I hope everyone's New Year has gotten off to a good start. The first week is behind us already, which seems crazy. My Christmas tree is still up, but I hope to get it down within a week or two. Unless my husband and daughter convince me to keep it up through March like we have the last couple of years. We shall see.

We have been getting so much rain as of late. Not that I am complaining. I love the rain, and we get so little of it as it is. My mom left earlier than planned in order to avoid the worst of the storms up in her part of the state. We were all sad to see her go. Mouse enjoyed spending her Christmas break with her grandmother.

What have you been up to this weekend?

New on the Shelves: The January My Lit Box theme is "Short But Not So Sweet," and from the goodies inside my subscription box this month, I see just what that means.


Roxane Gay's Difficult Women, a Survivor note card, a "Burn the Ex" candle which smells like Aged Kentucky Bourbon (no kidding!), and a book mark with an image of artist Frida Kahlo.


I also recently purchased an e-copy of Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was a Kindle daily deal I just couldn't pass up.

What I Am Reading: I just finished reading Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, and I will likely be picking up Uprooted by Naomi Novik next.

What I Am Listening To: I plan to start listening to my TBR List winner tomorrow morning on my way to work. Thanks again to all who voted!

What I Am Watching: I recently watched Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice, which turned out to be much better than I expected. I also finally got around to watching Allegiant based on Veronica Roth's novel with the same title, the third in the Divergent series. What a difference from the book!

This Week In Reading Mews:

Tell me about what you have been up to! What are you reading, listening to and watching? How was your week? Do you have anything planned for this coming week?


Thank you for helping me decide what book from my TBR collection I should read next:


My TBR List is a meme hosted by the awesome Michelle at Because Reading. It’s a fun way to choose a book from your TBR pile to read. The 1st Sunday of every month, I will list 3 books I am considering reading and take a poll as to which you think I should read. I will read the winner that month, and my review will follow. While I will attempt to post my review that same month, I make no promises--it may go up the following month. 




After having seen the winner's title pop up on a number of blogs in recent months, I had a good idea of which book would win, but all three are ones I am excited about listening to and each received a good number of votes. Thank you everyone who took the time to vote!

  • Yes, Please by Amy Poehler received 23.1% of the votes.
  • Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes received 30.8%
  • As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride by Carey Elwes with Joe Layden received 46.2%

The winner is:


As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride by Carey Elwes with Joe Layden
Goodreads Summary: 
From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

Thank you again for voting!

I hope you all have a great week! Happy Reading!




The Sunday Post is hosted by the wonderful Kimba, the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and gives us all a chance to recap our week, talk about what we are reading, share any new books that have come our way, and whatever else we want to talk about. 

© 2017, 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, January 04, 2017

Your 2017 Book Recommendations

Last year (doesn't that make it sound like a really long time ago?), I asked you to help me pick two books to read in the first half of this year. Many of you were kind enough to oblige me. Included on that same list, along with other books I wanted to get to this year, I mentioned I would be reading one book of my husband's choosing and another my daughter selected. Well, my daughter was in the bath when I remembered to ask her last night and not in a position to pick a book; so I'll have to catch her at another time. She did say she'd rather pick one of her own books for me to read instead of one of mine--also adding that we have to read it together. I am okay with that.

My husband had a few weeks to think on it, and finally revealed his choice to me earlier this week. He is going to make sure I take in some science fiction this year:


 Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) by An Leckie
Goodreads Summary: 
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.
I am really looking forward to reading it!


Thank you to all of you who recommended books for me to read this year by entering my poll last month. Ya'll, I am so EXCITED! Some of these were already on my to read list and after looking up each of them, they all are there now. One, A Man Called Ove, I read the year before last--it was one of my favorite reads of the year. My goal is to read at least two of these in the first half of the year. I have a feeling I may get to more than just those two though. They all sound so good!



The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
Goodreads Summary: 
Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really? 
On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?  
Dark secrets, a devastating mystery, and the games both children and adults play all swirl together in this gripping novel, packed with utterly believable characters and page-turning suspense.


Send in the Clowns (The Country Club Murders #4) by Julie Mulhern
Goodreads Summary: 
Haunted houses are scary enough without knife-wielding clowns. Especially murderous knife-wielding clowns. So thinks Ellison Russell, single mother, artist, and reluctant sleuth. Now death wears a red nose and Ellison is up to the blood-stained collar of her new trench coat in costumes, caffeine, and possible killers. Who stabbed Brooks Harney? And why? Money? Jealousy? Drugs?

With Mother meddling, her father furious, and her date dragged downtown for questioning, turns out Ellison's only confidante is Mr. Coffee.


The Go-Between by LP Hartley
Goodreads Summary: 
"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."

Summering with a fellow schoolboy on a great English estate, Leo, the hero of L. P. Hartley's finest novel, encounters a world of unimagined luxury. But when his friend's beautiful older sister enlists him as the unwitting messenger in her illicit love affair, the aftershocks will be felt for years. The inspiration for the brilliant Joseph Losey/Harold Pinter film starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates,
The Go-Between is a masterpiece—a richly layered, spellbinding story about past and present, naiveté and knowledge, and the mysteries of the human heart. This volume includes, for the first time ever in North America, Hartley's own introduction to the novel.


Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1) by Laini Taylor
Goodreads Summary:
Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair
actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?


Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Goodreads Summary: 
Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America -- to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood "just like Ireland" -- she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind. 
Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.


The Ghosts of Belfast (Jack Lennon #1) by Stuart Neville
Goodreads Summary: 
Fegan has been a “hard man,” an IRA killer in northern Ireland. Now that peace has come, he is being haunted day and night by twelve ghosts: a mother and infant, a schoolboy, a butcher, an RUC constable, and seven other of his innocent victims. In order to appease them, he’s going to have to kill the men who gave him orders.

As he’s working his way down the list he encounters a woman who may offer him redemption; she has borne a child to an RUC officer and is an outsider too. Now he has given Fate—and his quarry—a hostage. Is this Fegan’s ultimate mistake?

Stuart Neville is a partner in a multimedia design business based in Armagh, northern Ireland. This novel, also known as The Twelve in the UK and Ireland, is the first in a series.


A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Goodreads Summary: 
A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.


The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin
Goodreads Summary: 
THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS... FOR THE LAST TIME. A season of endings has begun. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.


Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal
Goodreads Summary:
Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality.

Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Goodreads Summary: 
At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.


Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Goodreads Summary: 
New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were at the ready at Halderson’s Drug Store soda counter, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a summer in which death assumed many forms.

When tragedy unexpectedly comes to call on his family, which includes his Methodist minister father, his passionate, artistic mother, Juilliard-bound older sister, and wise-beyond-his years kid brother, Frank finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal.

On the surface,
Ordinary Grace is the story of the murder of a beautiful young woman, a beloved daughter and sister. At heart, it’s the story of what that tragedy does to a boy, his family, and ultimately the fabric of the small town in which he lives. Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, it is a moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.


Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Goodreads Summary: 
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.


Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova
Goodreads Summary:

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease. 
Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing? 
As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.


Any book by Simone St. James
(counted as 1, but I'm including all her titles here)
The Haunting of Maddy Clare
An Inquiry Into Love and Death
Silence for the Dead
The Other Side of Midnight
Lost Among the Living
Goodreads Summary of The Haunting of Maddy Clare (but all the books sound so good!): 
Sarah Piper's lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis-rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts- has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide. Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah's task to confront her in death. Soon Sarah is caught up in a desperate struggle. For Maddy's ghost is real, she's angry, and she has powers that defy all reason. Can Sarah and Alistair's assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, where she came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance-before she destroys them all?


A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay
Goodreads Summary: 
Art restorer Emily Price has never encountered anything she can’t fix—until she meets Ben, an Italian chef, who seems just right. But when Emily follows Ben home to Italy, she learns that his family is another matter . . .

See what I mean? They all sound too good not to read.

Now for the winners! I did the ol' title/author in the hat drawing because I was feeling old-fashioned. Two of my coworkers each drew separate slips of paper. The winners are:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

and 

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

I am super excited about reading both of these (and all the others too!) Thank you again to everyone who took time to offer their recommendations!

Have you read any of these? What did you think?


© 2017, 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, January 03, 2017

2016: A Year in Review & Looking Ahead (Part 2)


I enjoyed answering Jamie's (The Perpetual Page Turner) End of the Year Survey in past years and decided to join in again this year. If you haven't already, please check out the first half of my survey where I talk about my favorite reads of the year.

Read Part 1 of my 2016: A Year in Review Post to see what books most caught my attention last year!


My Blogging Bookish Life

In 2016 I published 159 blog posts. August was my most prolific month with 18 posts, and September was my slowest with only 9 posts. That's still pretty good considering.

This past July, I celebrated 10 years of book bloggingWhere has the time gone?!  Thank you to everyone who has visited, read and/or commented here at Musings of a Bookish Kitty throughout the years. I cannot express just how much that means to me. You all are the reason I have kept at it for all these years. Well, that and my love for books. Obviously. 

The second year of my Postal Mail Club was another successful one. Each member selects a book and mails it along with a journal to their specified person on the club member list. We have two months to read the book, journal our thoughts, and then we mail the book to the next person on the list. This year, the books chosen were not necessarily ones on my radar, and some were even ones I would have passed over completely otherwise. That is part of the fun of being a part of a group like this.

Postal Mail Club books read in 2016:

Memes


At the beginning of 2016, I began participating in Michelle's My TBR List Meme at Because Reading, enlisting your help in choosing one book each month to read. I really enjoyed having you all take an active part in selecting what I would read. It can be difficult to choose on my own with so many choices. I can waste a lot of time deciding! I am grateful to Michelle for coming up with the idea. I plan to continue to participate in the meme in 2017, and hope you will join me! 

Books Read Because Of You (My TBR List Poll Winners of 2016):

I regularly participated in Diane's (Bibliophile By the SeaFirst Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros meme and later added in Tuesday Teasers (now hosted by Ambrosia of The Purple Booker), which seemed a natural progression. I also took part in the weekly Book Blogger Hop hosted by Billy (Coffee Addicted Writer) and The Sunday Post hosted by the wonderful Kim, the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. I have met so many new-to-me bloggers as a result. While my participation in Broke and Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday was at times sporadic, I had such fun coming up with lists--who among us doesn't like bookish lists?

I am so thankful to all of you who host these memes. It's amazing that you are able to keep up. Diane and Michelle, especially, make a point of visiting every blog who link to their memes, something I appreciate and admire.

In 2016, I tried out Karen's Beyond the Books topic, which was a lot of fun. My participation fizzled out after awhile, I'm afraid. Life got too busy to keep up. I also tried a couple other memes here and there as well, but they didn't stick.


Challenges

This past year, I signed up for several challenges early on. I tackled the TBR Triple Dog Dare hosted by James of James Reads Books in my own way and managed to complete it successfully. I also participated in last winter's Clean Out Your E-Reads Challenge hosted by Berls of Fantasy is More Fun, Michelle of Because Reading Is Better Than Real Life, and Stormi of Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My!. which went hand in hand with the TBR Triple Dog Dare. I took on The Nonfiction Challenge, hosted by Jennifer of The Introverted Reader, with the goal to read between one and five nonfiction books. Well, I read one. So, I guess you can say that counts as a win, although not a very satisfying one.

I attempted to take on FitReaders hosted by Felicia of The Geeky Blogger's Book Blog and Jen from That's What I'm Talking About, but lost steam somewhere in there. I got sick or something and just never got my momentum back. While I don't think I will be joining them again this coming year, I do plan to make an effort to become more active again. Poor motivation and stick-to-it-ness are my weaknesses. I just have to keep getting back on the wagon.

My other challenge failure in 2017 was the What's In a Name? Reading Challenge hosted by Charlie of The Worm Hole. I managed to read three books that fit into one of the six categories.
  • A country (try not to use ‘Africa’!) - If Neverwhere  were a country then maybe. But it's not. It's just Below.
  • An item of clothing - The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer
  • An item of furniture - My husband says a broken wheel (The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommenddoesn't count. 
  • A profession - The Fireman by Joe Hill
  • A month of the year - June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemere
  • A title with the word ‘tree’ in it - I began reading The Syringa Tree by Pamela Gien, but could not get into it, and so gave up. I had really hoped to like it. The novel is set in South Africa during the apartheid. 

2016 Goals

How did I do with 2016's  reading and blogging oriented goals? Let's have a look:

1. Keep track of last sentences in 2016.  By keeping a  log of last sentences from the books I read this past year, I was even more cognizant of just how significant a role they can play in my reading experience. Going back and reading through them at the end of the year, brought back so many of the books for me, including the feelings I had reading the books. I plan to do this again in 2017, along with continuing to keep track of first sentences.

2. Make more time to read.  Yeah. I read less this year than I have in four years. I don't think I did too well with this goal. 

3. Make Mouse's Corner a more regular feature on my blog. Also didn't happen. It looked like it might happen for awhile there this past summer, but then life got too busy again to keep up.


Looking Ahead


I will not be participating in any challenges this year. As tempting as many of them sound, I like the idea of reading to my own tune this year. I also plan to participate in fewer book tours. I always try to only accept tour requests for books I really want to read, but occasionally I still get in over my head. There are so many great sounding books out there, after all.

Thank you to everyone who shared their recommendations with me in my poll last month. I plan to share the list of recommendations in a separate post shortly.

For several years now I have heard and seen people adopt one word of the year to inspire, guide and focus on each year. It's never something I took part in though. Until now. I got thinking about it a few weeks ago, playing around with the idea of choosing my own word. I floundered about for awhile, until finally seeking advice from friends on how best to come up with a word. The general consensus was that the word would more likely find me. One friend recommended journaling, or jotting down my thoughts in stream of conscious style, and it set me off on a different path than I had been on in coming up with my one word.

Journaling, brainstorming, poetry, creative writing, Girl Scouts, crafts, music, building, guiding, work, creative, creativity, creating . . . Create. And I had it! My word had found me. I felt both excitement and a bit of fear as I considered the word more fully in my mind. I like the Free Dictionary's definition of create the best:
1. To cause to exist; bring into being.
2. To give rise to; produce.
3. To produce through artistic or imaginative effort.
It is the third point that stands out the most for me in what I hope to focus and work on this year. Although the others may come into play in other ways.

What I want to do this new year is write more. Not just blog posts, but write more for myself. I want to start journaling again, and find my way back into letter writing. Most of all, I want to get back to writing creatively, be it stories or poetry. I also want to explore and develop a more defined place with my Girl Scout troop. I am not the most crafty person, but I do love to sing--and so do the girls. I can also think of places in my work and family life my word can be beneficial. I am a passive person in many respects, but with my word, I hope to begin to open myself up to opportunities to grow and, well, create. From what I understand, these words can take on lives of their own, and I look forward to seeing what 2017 will hold for me and how my word and I will grow and evolve over the course of the year.


I am also excited to see what the new year will hold for us in books. I look forward to hearing about what you are reading and comparing notes on books read that we have in common.
  • Do you belong to any book groups? What did you read this year?
  • How did you do on your 2016 reading challenges? 
  • What are your reading and life goals for this year? Did you come up with one word to focus on this year?
  • What are you most looking forward to in 2017?

I hope you all have an amazing New Year.

Mouse looking out the window 
to see what 2017 will bring.


© 2017, 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, January 02, 2017

2016: A Year in Review (Part 1)



I enjoyed answering Jamie's (The Perpetual Page Turner) End of the Year Survey in past years and decided to join in again this year.  I did alter some of the questions and subtracted a few to make it my own.

Read Part 2 of my 2016: A Year in Review & Looking Ahead.


Overall I felt 2016 was a good reading year. I read less than I have in a while, but, for the most part, I enjoyed what I did read. There's a feeling a reader gets when opening a new book, one of anticipation and maybe a little fear. What if I hate it? What if I love it? Oh, I hope I love it! This year I was swept off my feet, visited new worlds, cried until my eyes were swollen and red, laughed, paced while I read as the tension kept building, and closed many books with an audible sigh of contentment, some of which left me deep in thought for a long time after.



Some Fun Meaningless 2016 Reading Statistics:

Number Of Books Read: 65

Genre Read The Most From:
(Some of what I read falls under more than one genre. Here, I count them under the genre I most identified with the book, Also of note, my categorization of each book by sub-genre using broad definitions).


Fiction - 23
  • 11 Contemporary Fiction (Literary, Women's, General)
  • 9 Historical Fiction
  • 2 Young Adult
  • 1 Thriller
Crime Fiction - 21 
  • 6 Thrillers
  • 5 Historical
  • 4 Cozies
  • 3 Mysteries
  • 2 Science Fiction 
  • 1 Paranormal/NonCozy
Fantasy/Science Fiction - 15
  • 7 Urban Fantasy
  • 2 Young Adult High Fantasy
  • 1 Middle Grade Fantasy
  • 2 High Fantasy Romance
  • 3 Science Fiction (1 Dystopian)
Romance - 5

Nonfiction - 1 

Of the book I read, 6 were audio books.

19 of the 65 books I read in 2016 were written by men.
1 of  the 65 was written by a male/female writing team.

Month I Read the Most Books: May (8)
Months I Read the Least Books: March (3)


Best In Books

1. Favorite Reads in 2016?

Five books earned my top rating in 2016 (5 Paws).  They each had that "wow" factor that is made up of a combination of good writing, well-developed characters, a memorable setting or world-building, an entertaining or thought provoking story, and one that brings out an array of my emotions. A book that makes me cry is worth its weight in gold. I went back to read my reviews when compiling this list, and I still feel the same excitement and awe I felt when I was reading them. 



The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary 

I had this to say about The Night Parade in my review: 
What a delightful book The Night Parade turned out to be! I loved every minute of it. I lost myself in the pages and wished I could join Saki on her adventures through the spirit world. The vivid descriptions, the sometimes quirky and always interesting characters, and the world Kathryn Tanquary has created had me under their spell as I read this novel. The story may seem simple on the surface, but it is quite complex when you look at it more closely.


The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan

I had this to say about The Hummingbird in my review: 
Healing and forgiveness are at the center of this novel as it deals with the difficult topics of war and dying. Stephen P. Kiernan expertly takes three seemingly different stories, one from the past and two from the present, and weaves them together. The Hummingbird is an emotional and thought provoking novel that will resonant with many readers.



Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I had this to say about Neverwhere in my review: 
A mixed band of individuals going on a quest is not new to the fantasy genre, but I like Gaiman's approach to it in Neverwhere. An astute reader may notice the several literary allusions, although it isn't at all necessary to do so to enjoy the novel. I'm sure I missed half of them at least. Gaiman's sense of humor, the enduring and interesting characters, and the mystery surrounding Door's family's death kept me riveted to the pages of the novel. I found Neverwhere to be extremely entertaining and a fun read over all.


When the Moon Is Low by Naida Hashimi

I had this to say about When the Moon Is Low in my review: 
I fell in love with this novel from the start. The writing is beautiful. The characters feel so real. The story is such a sad one, intense, and heartbreaking, and yet there is also hope. Hope that they will reach their family in England. Hope that they will find a better life elsewhere. There was breath-holding and tears--both happy and sad.


The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

I had this to say about The Sun Is Also a Star in my review: 
Fellow readers, I am so enamored with this book. Eleanor and Park, move over. There's a new young couple in my heart. [...] Nicola Yoon's writing style drew me in immediately. I appreciated the way Yoon told Natasha and Daniel's story. I liked the shifts in perspective, including the side stories of some of the minor characters. It was a good reminder of how our actions or inactions, however big or small, something so simple as a smile or a thank you--or lack thereof--can impact another's day. Our actions have consequences, whether good or bad, intended or not. We are all connected in some way.

Although not in my top five, The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum by Kirsten Weiss came close and was my favorite crime fiction novel of the year. It is rare a cozy ends up being one of my favorite, although I do enjoy the sub-grenre from time to time. There was just something about this one that set it above the rest, and I am looking forward to reading the next in the series this coming year.




2. Book I Was Excited About & Thought I Was Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones sounded so good from its description, set in the South around the time of Hurricane Katrina. The writing is beautiful, and it's one of those books I feel like I would have loved if I had been able to get past the animal cruelty and dog fighting. Alas, it was too much for me and it ultimately hurt my enjoyment of the novel.


3. Most Surprising Book I Read?

The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister was a surprise to me. Somehow I got it in my head this was more of a mystery than it actually was. I also wasn't expecting it to be a historical novel. I must have forgotten that when I finally picked up the book to read. Regardless, I ended up really enjoying The Magician's Lie.


4. Book I “Pushed” The Most People To Read? 

Both my mom and mother-in-law received copies of Nadia Hashimi's When the Moon Is Low for Christmas this year. And I have been recommending The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan right and left. Also, Nicola Yoon's The Sun Is Also a Star. The Invisible Library series is a must read for anyone who enjoys fantasy and adventure.


5. Best series I started in 2016? 

So many! I am always starting new series (which is bad for all the series I have yet to finish). If I had to pick just one, I would have to say The Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman. I read both The Invisible Library and The Masked City. It is such a fun series that features a librarian spy who travels between dimensions. Her home base has a distinct Victorian feel to it, with steampunk qualities.

Seraphina and Shadow Scale, books in Rachel Hartman's duology featuring dragons and humans living side by side, was quite enjoyable as well. I look forward to visiting that world again.


6. Favorite Authors I Discovered in 2016?

I know I should narrow this list down more, but I I find it impossible to do so any further. All of these amazing authors are new to me, and I definitely plan to read more of their books at some point in the future.

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Katarina Bivald
Genevieve Cogman
Lia Davis
Nicole Dennis-Benn
Rachel Hartman
Naida Hashimi
Ninni Holmqvist
Greer Macallister
Danielle Monsch
Delores Fossen
Jaime Lee Moyer
Amanda Quick
John Scalzi
Kathryn Tanqaury
Ruth Ware
Kirsten Weiss
Nicola Yoon


7. Best Book From a Genre I Don’t Typically Read/Was Out of My Comfort Zone?

Grace Without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age by Katherine Ozment came at the perfect time for me, and I could relate to much of the author's own struggles with faith and religion. While the subject matter has long interested me, it isn't something I often read about and it definitely isn't something I am comfortable talking about on such a public forum as my blog. And yet, I did, and it was worth it.


8. Most Action-packed/Thrilling/Unputdownable Book of the Year?


In audio, that would easily be John Scalzi's Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, which I couldn't tear myself away from and listened to in one day.

In print, I will have to go with The Invisible Library and The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman. Both books had me from the start, and were almost full of nonstop action from start to finish. Another one that comes close to being just as action packed is Charming by Elliott James, an urban fantasy novel that, once it had me in its clutches, wouldn't let go. 


9. Top Five Favorite Covers of Books I Read in 2016?


Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer



Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister




The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary 


The Ninja's Daughter (Shinobi Mystery #4) by Susan Spann




The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam


10. Book I Can’t Believe I Waited UNTIL 2016 to Finally Read?

Why did I wait so long to read The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)?! I know why, of course, but my excuse is silly given how much I ended up liking this book. I am eager to read the other books out in the series now.


11. Shortest Book I Read in 2016? 

White Christmas by Rebecca York - 86 pgs


12.  Longest Book I Read In 2016?

The Fireman by Joe Hill - 747 pgs


13. OTP of the Year (you will go down with this ship!) (OTP = one true pairing)?

Natasha and Daniel from Nicola Yoon's The Sun Is Also a Star. No question about it.


14. Favorite Book I Read in 2016 From An Author I’ve Read Previously?

It would be easy to say Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman or The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan, both books which made my top five list in 2016, but I really want to give some love to Tessa Arlen's Death Sits Down for Dinner, the second in her Edwardian series, featuring Lady Montfort and her servant, Mrs. Jackson. I adore this series and am anxious to read the next book when it comes out.

I also really enjoyed Amy Stewart's Lady Cop Makes Trouble, A Black Sail by Rich Zahradnik, and Curse of the Gargoyles by Rebecca Chastain, all of three of which are great series I am reading and can't help but mention.



15. Best World-building/Most Vivid Setting I Read This Year?

I have so much love for The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary. The world-building is amazing and it's such a good book, combining modern day Japan with mythology and old traditions. Everyone should read it.

Also, Anuk Arudpragasam's writing in The Story of a Brief Marriage vividly brought to life the conditions Dinesh and his fellow evacuees were living in on the coast of Sri Lanka during the civil war. It's one that stays with you quite a while after reading.


16. Most Unique Book I Read In 2016?

Elan Mastai's All Our Wrong Todays. It was . . . mind-bending. Seriously.


17. Book That Made Me The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn had some pretty ugly mad-making moments. From colorism to the human trafficking and everything else that came with it. Amazing book, but a very difficult read. 

Another book that got my ire up rather significantly, but not in a good way, was Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. I really struggled with this one because it hit on a subject matter I have difficulty reading about (animal cruelty).


18. Book That Made Me Cry in 2016?

I say it every year, but it would be easier to ask me which books didn't make me cry. Of all the books I read, the one that made my cry the most was Stephen P. Kiernan's The Hummingbird. It hit so close to home, and is such a beautiful book.


19. Book That Put A Smile On My Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?



I loved every minute of reading The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, which was such a fun read.


20. Hidden Gem Of The Year?


June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. I thoroughly enjoyed it--even gave a copy to my mother for Christmas this year. A dual time period novel set in 1955 and the present, it's set in a grand old house and has a little bit of everything-romance, family drama, intrigue, and even ghosts.


I would love to know what your favorite reads of 2016 were! Please share a link to your favorites list below if you posted one--or just tell me in the comments. Did we read any of the same books? If so, what did you think?

Here's to another great year in reading in 2017!


© 2017, 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.