Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. ~ Opening of The Handmaid's Tale



The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Anchor Books, 1986
Fiction; 311 pgs

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...

What a beautiful and sad book. The Handmaid's Tale is my second Atwood novel, and I liked it even better than The Blind Assassin. While I had been planning to read The Handmaid's Tale for some time now, the timing seemed fortuitous, given the current political climate in the U.S. I would like to believe that how quickly the government fell in the book version of the U.S. could not happen to us today. And yet, there are some eerie similarities that definitely give one pause. While I do not see a society like the one described in the The Handmaid's Tale becoming our reality--not exactly, anyway, it is food for thought. The Handmaid's Tale is certainly a cautionary tale, one deserving of its modern classic status.

Offred is not too young or too old to remember what life had been life before the current authorities came into power. She once worked and had a relatively nice life, living with her husband and young daughter. All of that changed seemingly rather quickly, however, when a more totalitarian theocracy slipped in to take over without too much protest or fight. Those leading the charge played on the fears of the society, wanting to "clean up" the amoral direction the society had seemingly taken. Suddenly, women were striped of their occupations and rights, no longer able to hold property or have bank accounts. They could not work outside the home. Eventually, they were no longer allowed to read, even just signs. In fact, a woman's value was, in many cases, determined based on her fertility. Women who couldn't have children, tried to take others' children.

Everyone has a role and place in the Republic of Gilead based on class and gender. Anyone who does not fall in line is either sent out to the colonies or killed, their bodies sometimes put on display for all to see--as a reminder. Offred is a handmaid, dressed in red. Handmaids play a special role in society and are both respected on one hand and looked down upon as well. They are the mistresses to the powerful with the job of reproducing and providing a baby for the elite, high up officials and their wives, many of who can no longer have children.

In Atwood's novel, fertility is a problem due to a toxic environment, something that has been proven by science to be true in the more polluted areas of our own world. The role of women also plays a large part in the novel. Are they victims to be protected? Are they the cause of their own misfortune (i.e. rape)? In today's society, a woman is judged by how short her skirt is or how much alcohol she drinks. When raped or assaulted, many would point to those things as the cause. In the Handmaid's Tale, it is that very view that helps perpetuate the stripping of rights of women. Our own Congress, in committees made up mostly of men, want control over women's bodies and their individual choices. They think they know better. In Gilead, the men would agree.

The bodies hanging on the wall reflect the lack of tolerance and acceptance of those who do not fall in line or fit in with the current regime's strictures and views. They are a message to everyone else the importance of following the rules: don't stand out, and maintain the status quo.

Offred documents her story by sharing her past and present. She remembers her life before, the freedoms and the family she once had, and the life she has now, careful of what she says and does, knowing anyone could be watching and listening. Reading is forbidden and you never know who you can trust.

Atwood's choice of narrator, a woman named Offred, who attempts to tell her story with as little emotion as possible, proves to be quite powerful. Offred certainly isn't unfeeling, but there is a matter-of-fact-ness in the telling that adds to the weight of the novel. 

This book has been targeted as anti-religious, but, like many others who actually read the book, I did not get that impression at all. Yes, those in charge in Gilead use the Bible to excuse their laws and behaviors, but this can be seen throughout history in one form or another. Religion used as a weapon. Those in power often use and manipulate religion, Christian or otherwise, to control the people. We see religion used by extremists today to excuse their actions all too often. While the party in power in The Handmaid's Tale is religious and has set strict laws in the name of religion--it is more symbolic than anything. Substitute someone like Hitler, and you could easily have a similar situation.

How easily human rights and freedoms can be stripped away in the name of protection and high morals! Just whose morals and who we are being protected from is the real question. The Handmaid's Tale is, indeed, a cautionary tale, one that resonates all too well today. Perhaps not in the same form or in the exact structure, but in just enough spots. Is anyone listening?


You can learn more about Margaret Atwood and her books on the author's website. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.


© 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, April 24, 2017

Where Is Your Bookmark? (04/25/2017)

I am in the middle of Hannah Dennison's A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall, the third in her Honeychurch Hall cozy mystery series. This is my first book by Dennison, but if this book is anything to go by, it will not be my last. I am quite enjoying getting to know Kat Stanford, antique dealer.





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.

"You are absolutely not selling William Dobson, Rupert!" The dowager countess, Lady Edith Honeychurch, was furious. Even Mr. Chips, her tan-and-white Jack Russell, seemed to bristle with indignation.
Edith's son looked pained. "Do we have to go through this again, Mother?"
For emphasis, Edith slapped her riding crop against the side of her leather boot. "As long as I am alive, this is still my house!"
"Mother," Rupert hissed and gestured to where Mum and I were standing in the doorway. "Not in front of . . . "
"The servants?" Mum chimed in cheerfully. "Don't mind us. We're always arguing--aren't we, Kat?" 

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 7% of A Killer Ball at Honechurch Hall:
"Don't! she cried and roughly elbowed me aside. I lost my balance and thrust both hands out to save my fall but fell heavily onto the top shelf. 
There was a whoosh of air and I felt myself falling, falling, a sharp pain, a deafening crack and then - - darkness. 

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  


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


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

I missed last week's topic which was the Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want to Read a Book. It ties in nicely with this week's  Top Ten Tuesday, which is is Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Not Want To Read A Book. I decided to do both--and couldn't stop at five with either one.

Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want to Read a Book:

1. British/Scottish/Irish crime fiction~ Whether contemporary or historical, I enjoy a good novel set in the British Isles.

2. A World War I/II setting ~ There is just something about these time periods that draws me in.

3. A book with a character who shares my daughter's name ~ Silly, maybe, but for some reason, I can't help but take interest when I see a book mentioning her name.

4. Magic/Supernatural ~ Nothing attracts me to a book faster than the mention that it involves magic. Witches, shapeshifters, wizards, high fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal . . . I love anything involving magic or supernatural beings. Throw in mythology and folklore too, and I get even more excited.

5. Favorite authors or series ~ I do not even care what the book may be about. If it is by a favorite author or a part of a favorite series of mine, I instantly want to read it.

6. A banned or challenged book ~ tell me I should not read something and it makes me want to read it even more, especially if it's for so-called religious or moral reasons.

7. Emotional books (especially ones that make me cry) ~ Or what some might refer to as depressing books. These are often character driven books in which the main character faces some sort of traumatic event or giant obstacle and is forced to work through, overcome or accept it. The ending may or many not be a happy one. Sometimes it is ambiguous.

8. Books set in countries or cultures other than my own ~ I love exploring the world through books. Celebrating differences and yet also seeing how much alike we are in our experiences and thoughts and feelings. It's a reminder of just how small the world is.

9. Female leads who save themselves and possibly the day ~ There's nothing wrong with needing to be saved by someone else, including a man, but I really enjoy a story featuring a woman who is more than capable of getting herself out of tight situations more often than not.

10. When my favorite book bloggers gush and gush about a book and tell me I HAVE to read it ~ Because you know what I like.

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Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Not Want To Read A Book (or at least give it a second thought before I do):

1. An animal/pet book in which the animal dies in the end.

2. Animal cruelty.

3. Excessive violence and gore. If I know ahead of time, a book will feature either, chances are I will give the books a pass.

4. Although I do read and enjoy a number of books featuring serial killers, I am finding myself turned off more than not these days by them when the victims are all women.

5. If a character wants to lose my respect fast, committing adultery or cheating is sure to do it. I tend not to like books that feature adultery, although it won't always completely turn me off of reading a book. I do tend to avoid them, however--at least unless convinced by you all it's worth my time. This is another instance in which I have read some really good ones despite my aversion to the topic in question.

6. Incest/Sexual Abuse. It comes up in books I read and sometimes I have even sought out certain books knowing they tackled the subject (and they've been very good). Still, it's a topic I mostly avoid.

7. Books about or featuring American football, the sport or players.

8. Erotica. I prefer more story than sex in my novels. This is another area though where there might be exceptions--I just haven't had much luck with this sub-genre.

9. There are a couple romance tropes I do not like. Particularly rape to love and step-sibling romance. Both hold an ick factor I just can't get past.

10. Nonfiction titles I have absolutely no interest in. Like learning how to fly fish or (please don't hate me). . .  cookbooks.

What about you? What things will make you instantly want to read or not read a book?


© 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, April 23, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I was in fourth grade and in trouble. ~ Opening of Yes Please


Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Harper Audio, 2014
Nonfiction; 7 hrs, 31 min
Source: Purchased for my own listening pleasure.

Goodreads Summary: 
In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book full of words to live by.

Also included? A one-night-only live performance at Poehler's Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. Hear Amy read a chapter live in front of a young and attractive Los Angeles audience.
Amy Poehler wasn't a name I was too familiar with until listening Tine Fey's Bossypants. After that, I had it in the back of my mind that I needed to read Yes Please. I am adding both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to my list of celebrities I wish I could be friends with. Amy Poehler is funny, and real, and smart, and I wish she was my best friend. I like how honest she comes across, how genuine. I could relate to many of the stories she shared, especially about motherhood, love and friendship. I even didn't mind the Hollywood stories, and enjoyed hearing about her struggles as an up-and-coming comedian/actress, which I wasn't as interested in.

I had never watched Parks and Recreation before listening to this book, but hearing Amy Poehler's take on the show as well as her thoughts on her coworkers made me want to. My husband and I are only a few episodes into the first season.

Amy Poehler narrates her own memoir and I enjoyed the experience. She had a variety of guests, including Patrick Stewart, that made this an even more fun book to listen to. I now want to go out and see everything Amy Poehler has been 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.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sunday Post: Spring Flowers & Reading Books That Clash With My Personal Beliefs

New to My Shelves: 

Pinkalicious: and Aqua, the Mini-Mermaid by Victoria Kann
The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt and Adam Rex
(bookstore purchases)

The Littlest Bunny in California by Lily Jacobs and Robert Dunn
Trolls (A Little Golden Book) adapted by Mary Man-Kong and illustrated by Priscilla Wong
(from the Easter Bunny)

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
(bookstore purchase)

What I Am Reading: I am in the middle of A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison at the moment, a cozy mystery featuring antique dealer Kate Stanford who stumbles upon a long dead body--one that was possibly murdered. I am enjoying it so far.

What I Am Watching: The Voice is now in the live voting round stage. Not that it matters given I live on the West Coast and usually watch the show a day late. I am starting to pick out favorites as the performers are narrowed down. I am also keeping up with The Designated Survivor.

I have started watching Supernatural again. I cannot remember where my husband and I left off on the show, but it's been long enough I thought maybe I would start over with season one. I had forgotten how much I liked the show. As a family, we have sometimes been turning on Star Trek: The Next Generation to watch. I was quite fond of the show when it first came out, I remember. It's been fun to re-visit it, even as campy as it seems now. I was never a fan of the original series with William Shatner, admittedly, but I did enjoy the spin-offs that came later.

Movie wise, we recently re-watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Rogue One, and Trolls. All of which we enjoyed just as much the second time around. We also finally got to see the movie Moana. I was really impressed with it. Have you seen any of these?

What's Going On Off the Blog: Did those of you who celebrate Easter have a nice one? It turned out to be a whirlwind weekend for us. Mouse had soccer. This Easter Bunny had a lot of catching up to do to make sure everything was ready. There was the obligatory egg hunt, and then we spent the day binge watching the movies the Easter Bunny had given us in our Easter baskets. My husband and Mouse put together an island for our kitchen. I think it turned out pretty well. We are going to look for little baskets to put in the side cubbies for storage.

Our new island

Parker is responding to the new medication, thankfully. I took him to see the doctor Friday, and he has gained half a pound.  He is not completely out of the woods, and we are still not sure of the cause of his recent decline--only the symptoms. We will go back in another month to check on his progress.

Parker and Gracie are Troll fans

After soccer today, we visited the nursery to look for a couple plants for Mouse to finish her garden project for Girl Scouts, and to celebrate Earth Day. She even made a friend at the nursery, the two girls swapping bug stories and something about lizards doing push-ups (because we watched a little one do just that). Mouse is looking forward to releasing the ladybugs we bought on my rose bushes tonight.

Scrimmage 

End of Class - Parachute Time 

"I really want this plant, Mom!"

My rose bushes

Did you hear about the murder-suicide that occurred in San Bernardino the week before last? It was such a tragedy. Not only was a teacher shot to death by her estranged husband, but a child as well. Thank goodness the other injured child will be okay. Even though it was an isolated incident, many of the schools in the area, including my daughter's, have been re-evaluating their visitor and security practices. The lunch on the lawn event scheduled at my daughter's school this past week was even cancelled as a result. I cannot begin to describe the fear that went through my heart when I first heard there had been a shooting at a local elementary school. My heart goes out to the family who lost their son and to the family of the teacher who was also killed. Such senseless deaths.

It was quite a busy week at work. We had our mandatory all agency meeting, which is always a scheduling nightmare since my particular office has to be staffed 24/7. It is impossible for everyone to go, but we do what we can to get as many people there as possible. The guest speakers this time around were Azim Khamisa and Ples Felix from the Forgiveness Project. In 1995, Mr. Khamisa's son was murdered by a 14 year old gang member, the grandson of Mr. Felix. The two men came together to form the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, named after the murder victim. The goal of the organization is to stop teen violence. Both Mr. Khamisa and Mr. Felix's story is a powerful one. Instead of becoming angry and bitter over the death of his son, Mr. Khamisa found it in his heart to forgive the murderer and is working toward making the society that created such a young killer a safer place.

This past week our Girl Scout troop went to a ceramic craft and paint store and painted Daisy jewelry boxes. We hope to pick them up this next week. The girls had a great time. It just so happens the craft store is right across from the local independent bookstore, which of course we had to stop in to visit before heading home.

Mouse's school is having a fundraiser read-a-thon from now until the beginning of May. She's excited about participating. We set up her fundraiser page together, and she asked when she can have her own computer. I have no plans to participate in the upcoming Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon which is scheduled for April 29th, although it is tempting. The timing is never ideal, but I may try to fit in as much reading as possible. Will you be participating?

This weekend is the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, but we are unable to go. I am really sad about that. I was not able to go last year either.

My mom's dog, visiting over Spring Break

Around the Blogosphere:
The Week Before Last 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?


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Every Friday Coffee Addicted Writer from Coffee Addicted Writer poses a question which participants respond on their own blogs within the week (Friday through Thursday). They then share their links at the main site and visit other participants blogs.

Would you stop reading a book if an element of the plot strongly clashed with your personal beliefs, or would you continue reading until you finished the book?

One of the reasons I read is to be able to experience and explore worlds and ideas outside of my own limited sphere. I think it is important to venture outside of one's own comfort zone now and then. My way isn't always the right way--and especially not always the only way. And I like to understand where others are coming from, particularly when it comes to choices made, actions taken, and even beliefs that differ from my own. I like to read books that make me think, and sometimes reading books that question or challenge my beliefs is a good thing--whether it opens my mind to new ideas and ways of looking at things or solidifies my own position. I am also fascinated by human behavior (one of the reasons I got a degree in psychology and social work). I am a strong believer in being able to see multiple sides of an issue--even when you stand on one side or another. Problems are rarely solved if you cannot or are unwilling to take into account factors outside of your own life experiences and views. Even so, I have my limits when it comes to books.

Much depends on how the author presents the topic in question. If a novel is compelling enough, and I am invested in the lives of the characters, I do not necessarily have to agree with the choices made or even always the outcome to enjoy a book. For me, it isn't about whether I agree or not, but rather how it impacts the character and how that character reacts or evolves over the course of the book. I do not necessarily have to like the characters in books I read--as long as they are well-crafted and something about them draws me to their story. Sometimes the staying power in a book is the beautiful writing or an especially intriguing setting.

I do not like it when an author pushes their beliefs on me. Preach at me, and I will likely want to set the books aside. For instance, while I find religion of all kinds fascinating in a general sense, I tend to shy away from books that are too heavy in favor of any particular one. The same can go for politics. I do not like books that bash or disrespect other people's beliefs, including my own. But if an author is respectful and open to presenting all sides, I am more likely to continue reading the book even when it may conflict with my own beliefs.

Two instances pop immediately to mind when I think of books in which my personal beliefs got in the way and had me questioning whether I could finish them. One involved dog fighting (Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones) and the other involved the rape of a woman by the main character (Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson). In the first, the actions were normalized, and just a fact of life--but something I had trouble getting past because of my own strong personal views. In the second, well, I did not feel the character's behavior was adequately addressed, and was glossed over. I continued with both books, and feel they were worthwhile reads in the end, but my enjoyment was definitely impacted in a negative way.

On the other hand, I have also read books that have come up against some of my rather strong personal beliefs which I really liked, even as uncomfortable as they sometimes made me feel. They were compelling stories, well-written, and I was intrigued by the evolution of the characters with the turn of each page. Sometimes much to my surprise. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, for example. Humbert being a despicable and disgusting narrator of the story. The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd is another, in which the main character commits adultery (I have a strong bias against cheaters). Or even Jeff Lindsay's Dexter Morgan crime fiction series, Dexter being a serial killer with a bit of a moral compass, which I enjoy despite my strong feelings about his criminal activities no matter what the intention.

Then there is Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn, which deals with the topic of human trafficking in all its ugliness. While the author and I likely share the same opinion of human trafficking, some of her characters made choices that went very much against what I believe to be right. And I think that was part of the point. It was a difficult read, but so worth it. Reality is not always pretty and while some people may choose to only read books that skirt around or avoid reality all together (and there is nothing wrong with this--I like/need to read books for pure escape often myself!), I believe books like Dennis-Benn's bring much needed attention to subject matters that need to be addressed in our society today.

I generally only decide not to finish a book when I am completely and utterly bored with it or the writing is so bad I cannot get passed it. It's rare it has anything to do with challenging any strong opinion I have. There are certain books I may avoid reading at all because they support a topic or person I feel strongly opposed to--or even just carry certain elements that I do not like to read about--but that is an entirely different discussion for another day . . . 

What about you? Would you stop reading a book that challenged or went against any strong beliefs you may hold?

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, April 12, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: Monstress, Vol. One: Awakening by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

It took three years to find a name. ~ Opening of Monstress, Volume One: Awakening



Monstress, Volume One: Awakening by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda
Image Comics, 2015
Fantasy (Graphic Novels); 202 pgs
Source: I purchased a copy for my own reading pleasure.
Goodreads Summary: 
Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900's Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steam punk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both and make them the target of both human and otherworldly powers.

It has been awhile since I last read a graphic novel, although I have several on my shelf I would like to eventually get to. Most are memoirs, true stories based on their author's experiences and life. Monstress, Volume One: Awakening is pure fiction and fantasy, however, and one that I treated myself to after it came recommended by several fellow book bloggers.

The artwork is beautiful. It's hard not to linger on each panel, taking in all the details. Dark and shadowy to match the tone of events, rich and detailed, each one. From the gorgeous cover to the simpler and somewhat comic lectures (chapter breaks) of Professor Tam Tam, former first record-keeper of the Is'Hami Temple, the illustrations are really what tell the biggest part of the story in this graphic novel.

The graphic novel opens at a slave auction with Maika Halfwolf up for the bidding. Maika, only 17, and with one arm, is taken in chains, along with several others, including a fox-girl, to Cumaea where she is locked in a cell. What follows is a whirlwind of activity from her escape to the chase, all of which does not go without confrontations and has high stakes. I especially liked how nuanced the story is, with unexpected turns and the level of world building.

The graphic novel's world is entrenched in conflict, various factions vying for power. The two main ones, outside of the gods themselves, are the humans and the Arcanics, which are a cross between human and gods. They all have some sort of magic on their side. The Arcanics wield a more natural magic while there are witches among the humans.

The author and illustrator take us back and forth from present to past as Maika's story unfolds. She is a survivor of a horrific war. We learn of her mother's death and Maika's obsession with finding out what happened as well as more about the monster she is linked to. Throughout the novel, Maika struggles not only with memories of her past but also with the monster within her, which she cannot seem to control. Its power and hunger put everyone around her in danger.

The little fox girl is so courageous, even when most afraid. I just adore her. She's one of those characters you want to hug and protect, and yet she very much can take care of herself as she proves again and again.

Cats hold an interesting position in the world of Monstress, and it's one I am looking forward to exploring more. Helping and, dare I say guiding, Maika in her escape is a two-tailed cat.

Marjorie Liu has made a good start with this first volume of Monstress. The novel is on the dark side and at times violent. There is good and evil, a definite power struggle, and yet there is also a lot of gray area as well. Not everything is as straight forward as it may seem. I look forward to seeing how everything plays out in future volumes.

To learn more about author Marjorie Liu and her work, please visit the author's website.
To learn more about artist Sana Takeda and her work, please visit the artist's website.


© 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, April 10, 2017

Where Is Your Bookmark? (04/11/2017)

I just finished reading reading Etched on Me by Jenn Crowell, and thought I would share a few teasers with you today.



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.

Have you ever wanted something so much, it's not a desire so much as a beacon? Have you ever prayed for it so hard, your fingernails curl into your palms and your eyes squinch shut and your whole body just hums?
My daughter is that simple, shining thing. Taken away from me under bright lights in a white room, my stitches still raw. I fought so much they put me in hard restraints. I screamed so loudly they shot me up with sedative.  

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 48-49 of Etched on Me:
Dizzy now, I crawled to the stall door and pulled myself by its latch. Staggered out to the sinks, my gait wobbly. I couldn't look in the mirror. Couldn't look down at the dribbly trail I knew I was leaving. All i could do was yank paper towels from the dispenser on the wall. Stupid of me, I know--I mean, if thick work wasn't stopping anything, rough little paper scraps were hardly going to save the day. But still I pulled and pulled, dabbed and dabbed, until my knees buckled under me and I fell to the floor.
and from page 53:
"Waste of drugs." His face and his voice were one massive sneer. "She's obviously fine with pain." 
My chin jerked from the tray to the doctor to Miss as my mind stuttered. Oh my God oh my God oh my God, they really are going to hurt me--

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

This book has taken me through a range of emotions. I think you can see why from the opening and teasers shared.

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


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

Author Emily St. John Mandel wrote an interesting article back in October called "The Gone Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on the Train", in which she discusses the trend of "girl" in book and movie titles. Not all books with "girl" in the title are mysteries or or thrillers, of course, but quite a few are. While not meant as an academic piece, it is an interesting read. Taking a look at Goodreads data, Mandel found
A number of patterns emerged in our analysis: The “girl” in the title is much more likely to be a woman than an actual girl, and the author of the book is more likely to be a woman. But if a book with “girl” in the title was written by a man, the girl is significantly more likely to end up dead. 
Publishers are always on the lookout for ways to market their books, and having the word "girl" in the title seems to be one of the most recent selling trends the last few years. I have certainly read a number of books with "girl" in the title over the last several years. 

I decided to go in my own direction for this week's Top Ten Tuesday, and make a list of all the books in my TBR collection (books I own but have not read) that have the word "girl" or "girls" in the title. There are a lot. More than ten. *hanging head in shame*

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories by Aimee Bender
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
The Burning Girl by Mark Billingham
Dead Girl Walking by Christopher Brookmyre
The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi
The Last Girl by Jane Casey
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor
Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker
Gasa-Gasa Girl by Naomi Hirahara

When All The Girls Have Gone by Jayne Anne Krentz
Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
The Girls Guide to the Apocalypse by Daphne Lamb
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore
The Tattooed Girl by Joyce Carol Oates
California Girl by T. Jefferson Parker
Girl in the Dark by Marion Pauw
The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick
White Collar Girl by RenĂ©e Rosen
Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford
The Girl With the Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson


Now to read them all . . .

What other title trends have you picked up on over the years? 


© 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, April 09, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

For the love of God, can't you give me anything  challenging? ~ Opening of The Burning Page


The Burning Page (The Invisible Library, #3) by Genevieve Cogman
Roc, 2016
Fantasy; 368 pgs
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads Summary: 
Never judge a book by its cover...

Due to her involvement in an unfortunate set of mishaps between the dragons and the Fae, Librarian spy Irene is stuck on probation, doing what should be simple fetch-and-retrieve projects for the mysterious Library. But trouble has a tendency of finding both Irene and her apprentice, Kai [...] and, before they know it, they are entangled in more danger than they can handle...

Irene’s longtime nemesis, Alberich, has once again been making waves across multiple worlds, and, this time, his goals are much larger than obtaining a single book or wreaking vengeance upon a single Librarian. He aims to destroy the entire Library—and make sure Irene goes down with it.

With so much at stake, Irene will need every tool at her disposal to stay alive. But even as she draws her allies close around her, the greatest danger might be lurking from somewhere close—someone she never expected to betray her...

I just love this series. Irene is braver than I sometimes expect her to be--which is silly given I've read both earlier books in the series and she is always brave. The Library is being threatened and Irene finds herself at the heart of it when the Library's arch-nemesis Alberich tries to draw her to his side. I didn't find this novel quite as intense as the other two, but I did like it. We learn a bit more about the Library and its role as well as the unrest within the Library itself. 

Irene is sent to a realm high in Order (the last book she was in a high chaos world controlled by the fae) and she must retrieve a book that has proven to be quite elusive to other Librarians who have gone after it. She and Kai run into quite a bit of trouble, much of which they are able to get out of--but not without drawing attention to themselves.

We see a different side of Vale, the private detective both Irene and Kai are quite fond of in their assigned alternate London. He is suffering the consequences of events from the previous book. Irene wants to help him, but isn't sure how. She knows something must be done, regardless.

There is a particularly cry-worthy scene for those of us who love books--or rather one that might make you cringe--it did me. But maybe not. It really was the only recourse, sad as that may be.

Although not my favorite in the series, ultimately, I enjoyed The Burning Page very much and cannot wait until the next book. Like its predecessors, it is fast paced and a fun read. I really must know what the fallout will be after this last adventure!

To learn more about Genevieve Cogman and her work, please visit the author's website. You can also find her on Twitter and Goodreads  


© 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.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Sunday Post: New Books, Blogging Tips & A Sick Cat

New to My Shelves: The April My Lit Box was waiting for me when I got home from work earlier this week. I always look forward to seeing what I will find. I hadn't realized it has been an entire year since I first signed up for the subscription box! This month's theme is "Letting Go," and the box included a bookmark of a door, doors figuring prominently in the month's book selection Exit West by Mohsin Hamid; a bit of green tea; and a tote with the word music printed in several languages in the shape of headphones, a reminder of something we all share, even if in different forms.


From my Going Postal Book Club I received:

Etched on Me by Jenn Crowell

Recent Purchases:

Blood's Echo by Isabella Maldonado

Veiled Magic by Deborah Blake

An Ancient Peace by Tanya Huff

For Review (Many thanks to Mulholland Books):

Penance by Kanae Minato

Additions to Mouse's Library:

 Wolf! by Becky Bloom and Pascal Biet
(free book with her well health check-up)

Peppa Pig and the I Love You Game by Neville Astley
(Mouse's choice at last bookstore visit)

What I Am Reading: I finished reading The Black Lily by Juliette Cross at the beginning of the week, staying up late one night to do so. It was more than I hoped for. I am looking forward to reading more in the series. I now am reading Etched On Me by Jenn Crowell, my current Going Postal Book Club selection. I have a feeling I will have a lot to say about this one in the group's reading journal. I have also started this month's TBR poll winner, which is already proving to be quite chilling.

What I Am Listening To: I am still in the same spot I was last week in The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. I hope to get back to it this week. Other things took my attention away from listening to any audiobook this past week.

What I Am Watching: Besides The Voice, I have not spent much time watching television. I did see the beginning of a Yo Kai Watch movie and the end of a Pokemon one, my daughter's current interest. She's also discovered Monster High. Should I be worried? Haha.

What's Going On Off the Blog: My daughter enjoyed her spring break and spending time with her grandmother. I think the feeling was mutual. I completely forgot about the Girl Scout Spring Break homework assignment Mouse was supposed to complete before our next meeting. We'll be doing that this week.

Both Mouse and the cats had doctors' visits this past Friday. I was really anxious to get Parker seen especially given his continuing health issues (Feline Triaditis and history of cancer) and more recent concerns that have arisen. He's a real trooper though, that cat. The veterinarian ran more blood tests, and found definite concern in regards to his kidney function. Parker will be undergoing an ultrasound this next week, before we settle on a course of treatment. He's lost a concerning amount of weight since his last veterinarian visit, probably the result of his throwing up more frequently. He also may have a tooth infection, but due to his other health issues, the doctor does not want to risk putting him under anesthesia at this time. In the meantime, he is continuing on his regular medications and we are hoping for the best.

Gracie and my mom's dog seem to be at a truce. Or rather, Gracie has decided not to torment the poor dog anymore. I can tell Gracie is feeling jealous though because whenever I am home, she is right on my heels begging for attention.

My husband and I took advantage of my mother's visit to spend an afternoon seeing a live performance of Evita at a local theater. We so rarely get time alone (usually only when my mom is in town), and so it was a nice treat for us. Sunday will be especially busy for us as Mouse has a Girl Scout event in the morning and a birthday party to attend in the afternoon. Soccer doesn't start up again until next weekend, thank goodness.


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?

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Every Friday Coffee Addicted Writer from Coffee Addicted Writer poses a question which participants respond on their own blogs within the week (Friday through Thursday). They then share their links at the main site and visit other participants blogs.

If you could meet one author, dead or alive, who would it be?
I went round and round in my head about who I would like to meet. I have met authors before--in person and via e-mail or on social media. I am always a bit nervous because I have a tendency to become really shy when meeting an author in person--tongue-tied even and a bit star-struck. So, meeting an author in-person isn't high on my to do list. I would rather admire them from afar rather than embarrass myself by falling to the ground and kissing their feet.(Okay, so I would never actually do that).

I suppose I could go with any one of my favorite authors (J.K. Rowling, Michael Connelly, Lisa See, who I heard speak once, Sue Grafton, Ilona Andrews, Juliette Cross, Nadia Hashimi, Jim Butcher, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte . . . The list could go on forever). And I even considered listing some that aren't necessarily favorites (but whose books I enjoy) that I think would just be fun to meet (Stephen King, John Green, or Nora Roberts, for example). How can I pick just one? And then it came to me. And especially fitting since April is National Poetry Month.


I wish I could go back in time to meet Emily Dickinson. She is the reason I first fell in love with poetry. I wish I could go back in time and sit with her and get to know her better. I figure she and I might both be uncomfortable at first, her being somewhat reclusive and all, but talk of our love for letter writing and poetry might open up the conversation. I don't know if I would be brave enough to share my poetry with her, but I would tell her how much hers has meant to me. In her life time, she never knew she would be revered as one of the most well known American poets.

What about you? What author would you like to meet?

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Every Sunday, Kendra Allen of Reads and Treats comes up with a theme for a Sunday list  of 5 things (because making lists are fun!) and asks participants to share.


Today's 5 Things on Sunday theme is on blogging tips!

1. If you want people to notice you and your blog, put yourself out there. Reciprocate comments. Comment on other people's blogs. Respond to comments on your own blog. Maybe even participate in memes or reading challenges. It may not happen quickly. Be patient. Keep at it. Also, keep in mind that a large audience is not necessarily better. Blogs with smaller readership are often the ones in which you'll build the stronger relationships and have the deeper conversations.

2. Do not be afraid or feel guilty for taking breaks--planned or otherwise. We all have lives off our computers and tablets. Your readers will understand.

3. Know that not all blogging tips will be a good fit for you and your blog. There's likely always going to be someone who may not agree with how you blog or what your blog looks like or even what you have to say. Blogger and review pet peeve lists may be popular, but they are just opinions. Do what works best for you.

4. Have fun. Blogging may feel like work sometimes, but try not to let it become a chore or just another obligation you feel you have to do. Blogging is voluntary. It's something you choose to do. So, have fun with it!

5. Most importantly, be true to yourself.

What sage advice do you have for other bloggers?


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. 



Thank you to everyone who took time to vote in my TBR List Poll! The final results are very close! For a while there, I thought the poll might end in a tie. In the end, however, The Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson and Alex Marwood's The Killer Next Door tied with 8 votes each, making The Girls Next Door by Mel Sherratt edging in for the win with 9 votes. 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. 


Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Team Tynga's Reviews and is a meme in which participants share what new books came their way recently.

 © 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, April 05, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: Uprooted by Noami Novik

Our Dragon doesn't eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. ~ Opening of Uprooted



Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Del Rey, 2015
Fantasy; 435 pgs
Source: Purchased for my own enjoyment.

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.

I remember deciding this was a must read from the very first moment I heard about it. I was especially excited when one of you cast your vote for me to read this one in 2017. Finally, the push I needed to read it!

Every ten years, a girl from one of the villages is chosen by the Dragon, a powerful wizard named Sarkan, and taken to his tower. The villagers do not know what the Dragon wants with the girls, but at the end of their ten years with him, they always leave home to strike it on their own, leaving behind their families.

Agnieszka did not expect to be chosen by the Dragon, but when he sees in her the gift of magic, he realizes it is his duty to the kingdom to train her. She has no idea she has the ability to use magic, nor does he come right out and tell her. Agnieszka is young and a bit naive and yet she is also very curious and smart. I quite liked her. She wasn't the pretty one or the most skilled. She was a bit clumsy and could be rather impulsive at times. You can tell this bothers Sarkan at first. He appears to be very cold--he's very logical and likes things done his way. He has the weight of the world on his shoulders, keeping the  evil in the Woods back. As Agnieszka gets to know him better, so does the reader. I grew to quite like him. As time goes on, Agnieszka begins to realize how little she knows and her dislike for Sarkan grows into tolerance and eventually respect for her new mentor.

What didn't work for me especially was the romantic thread between Agnieszka and Sarkan. I imagine the kind of magic they were doing would bring them closer together; what they experienced is very intimate. And yet, he seems too old for her with her being barely an adult, and I just didn't see the romance. It seems more like a teacher/student type relationship, which, in essence, is what it was.

Agnieszka is definitely not the same person by the end of the novel that she started out as. Early in the novel, she has no idea of her abilities, and only longs to live the normal life of a villager. She grows and changes throughout because of her experiences and the more she learns about her own abilities. She is an out of the box thinker, her magic makes her so. Her way is the old way, the forgotten way. It makes her the only one who can really save the Woods in the end--if it can be saved.

Over the course of the novel, the reader, as well as Agnieszka, begins to understand the Woods better, and realize the threat to not only to the villages surround the Woods, but also to the entire kingdom and those beyond. Prince Marek's appearance and desire to free his mother, long lost to the Woods years before, takes an ugly turn and Agnieszka finds herself in unfamiliar territory, having to travel to the castle to beg the king for assistance. There we meet other wizards, including Alosha, a female sword-master, who I wish we could have spent more time with. There is also Solya, the Falcon, who she had met early on at Sarkan's. Agnieszka's, along with her friend Kasia, travels to the castle with her. I never was quite sure about him, but I could never bring myself to trust him.

I loved the world building in the novel--the drawing from folklore and the "old" feel of the story. The Woods with their darkness and their pain. I really liked how everything played out--and to go into detail would be too much of a spoiler. I have already said too much. The conflict between the Woods and the surrounding kingdoms isn't just a matter of good versus evil. Sometimes you have to uncover the root to find the cause. The question becomes, can it be healed or will it all have to be destroyed?

There are several stories within the bigger story in Uprooted, all connected--some in smaller ways than others. I appreciated the various nuances to the characters, the setting and the story.  I would not mind spending more time in the world Novik has created in Uprooted. I imagine there are many more stories are there worth telling.

To learn more about Noami Novik and her work, please visit the author's website. You can also find her on Twitter.


© 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, April 03, 2017

Where Is Your Bookmark? (04/04/2017)

I currently am listening to The Sense of and Ending by Julian Barnes. It's a bit hard to share teasers as a result, but I couldn't resist trying.


Goodreads Summary: 
Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life. 
Now Tony is retired. He's had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He's certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer's letter is about to prove. .


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.

I remember, in no particular order:
- a shiny inner wrist; 
- steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it; 
- gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house; 
- a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams; 
- another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface; 
- bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door. 
This last isn't something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed. 

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.


Excerpt from The Sense of an Ending:
“How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.”
and another:
 History isn’t the lies of the victors, as I once glibly assured Old Joe Hunt; I know that now. It’s more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious or defeated. 

  What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

After reading several urban fantasy/romance novels in a row, settling into this one took a minute, and I admit the opening didn't hook me right away, but now I am really curious where the author is taking me.

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


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

This week's  Top Ten Tuesday Top Ten Fandom Freebie. I struggled with this topic because I was not sure what direction to go. My ardent admiration extends in many directions. I nearly included my daughter--because I am her biggest fan (although my husband and mom might argue that point), but I decided that was too obvious. Although, anyone who knows me well will say all of my list is fairly obvious. Once I finished the list, I noticed a theme . . . Fantasy weighs heavily in my choice of fandoms.

1.

Harry Potter, et al. I reluctantly began reading this series about mid-way through, and now I wear a Ravenclaw House lanyard around my neck at work and wear a Ravenclaw House hoodie. I have been approached in public by strangers who tell me they too are in the Ravenclaw House. And once in a work meeting with the agency bigwigs, one of them, upon introducing himself pointed in my direction (I was wearing my lanyard) and excitedly told everyone he was a Ravenclaw too. Harry Potter fans are pretty cool, I think. It isn't just the books I love either. I'm a big fan of the movies too.

2.

Doctor Who. I came late to Doctor Who, although my husband tried to indoctrinate me early. It wasn't until the "newer" Doctor Who (starting with Christopher Eccleston). I actually was mad when David Tennant took on the role, and now he's my favorite. I am behind a couple seasons on the show (embarrassing to admit given how much I profess to love this show and anything related to Doctor Who). My cell phone case for a long time was of the Tardis (until it broke). It was always fun when passersby would recognize it, and say hello. I need to find a good sturdy case to replace the old one, I think.

3.

Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files. Or rather, Harry Dresden. I adore Harry, and have a bit of a crush on him. I love books involving magic or having to do with witches and wizards, and Harry is one of my absolute favorites.

4.

Supernatural. My husband and I started watching this show together and were hooked early on. I am not caught up to the latest season (and am probably way behind), but I am a big fan of the show so far.

5.

The Others series by Anne Bishop. I have so much love for this series. I love everything about it. And I really need to catch up.

6.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My husband and I used to watch the television show religiously. Three of our pets (two of which are no longer with us) were named after Buffy characters (admittedly, only two of those were on purpose). The idea for our daughter's name also came from Buffy the Vampire Slayer show. We didn't want to break tradition, after all.

7.

Peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Best. Cookies. Ever. Maybe not a real fandom, but I am thinking of starting one.

8.

Lord of the Rings. The movies. The books. I love them all. I just love the world and characters Tolkien created. Especially the elves. I want to be an elf.

9.

The Walking Dead television show. I haven't read the comics, but I really enjoy watching the show. Daryl and Carol are my heroes. So are Rick and Maggie. I really miss Glenn. Every time a major character dies, I rant about how I hate the show, and yet I keep watching.

10.
I am completely and utterly obsessed with reading and books. I always have a book with me in one form or another. I have books in just about every room in my house. I buy way too many books. I talk about books all the time. I blog about books. I get cranky if I am unable to fit in any reading time. Every time I see a book related tote or piece of art, I want it. I can't get enough of books.

Are you a fan of anything on my list? What are you a fan of?  Please share!


© 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.