Thursday, August 17, 2017

Where Is Your Bookmark (Bookish Gifts, A House Without Books & Friday Fun)

A weekly meme where readers share the first sentence of the book they are reading and say what they think. Hosted by Gillion Dumas of Rose City Reader.

It was dusk, but as he turned onto the rutted driveway he could make out the perimeter of yellow tape that still circled the property. 
While it is obvious from the opening sentence that the novel opens at a crime scene, just what occurred is still a mystery. One I am anxious to find out.


A weekly meme in which readers share a random sentence or two from page 56 or 56% of the book they are reading. Hosted by the wonderful Freda of Freda's Voice.
He was suddenly aware of his own cowardice and felt that after the shock wore off he was probably going to have a good long cry. he didn't feel good about it, but he also felt lucky to be alive and longed to be back in his apartment alone. [12%]

The above takes place right after the main character George had an unwelcome encounter. This particular excerpt struck me because it isn't often I read about a grown man so afraid he wants to cry. I thought it was a nice touch.


I am not too far into Peter Swanson's The Girl With a Clock For a Heart, only about a quarter of the way in. I haven't much of a chance to read this week, unfortunately. Hopefully this weekend I will be able to make up for it.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

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Everyone has a favorite and then we also have something we dislike. Like a coin, there are two sides to every question. Each week, Carrie at The Butterfly Reads and Laura from Blue Eye Books ask participants to list what they like and don't like about that week's topic.


This week's topic is Bookish Gift You'd Most/Least Like to Receive.

Would a gift card to a bookstore for an unlimited amount of money count as a bookish gift I want most count? A booklover can dream, right? I have had my eye on something like this for awhile now. I am just not sure where to put it if I did receive it, and I am pretty sure my husband is looking at me like I'm crazy right about now.


Or, more realistically, I would take an annual subscription to a book box. My favorite one is My Lit Box, featuring authors of color. The book selections are awesome and the goodies are always a fun surprise. If the gift giver didn't want to save me money on something I am already subscribing to, he or she could try another subscription book box. There are some pretty good sounding ones out there! 


As for what I would like least to receive, perhaps something like this:


I like purses. And I love totes with bookish themes. I might not even mind a purse with a bookish theme. But, I confess, I am not a fan of purses made out of books. I'm just not. Even when I like the book it's made from.


What bookish item would you most like to receive? What bookish item would you least like to receive?

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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.

When you enter an unfamiliar house or apartment for the first time, do you feel disappointed if you don't see any bookshelves, or books on the coffee table?
No, I would not be disappointed if I didn't encounter books on shelves or on a coffee table upon first entering an unfamiliar house. I would be be elated if I did, however, but it isn't something I would expect or necessarily need to see. Chances are, I am there for another reason--not to look for books. Not everyone feels the need to keep books out in the open. The real question is whether I would be able to resist looking at any books if there were any around . . .

What about you?
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Every Friday Ellen from 15andmeowing.com and Ann from McGuffy’s Reader get together to host the Friendly Fill-Ins. You can be serious or funny--the idea is just to have fun.


1. If someone were visiting my area, I would recommend a visit to so many places: the beach to see the Pacific Ocean, the Mojave Desert, San Diego, Disneyland, Lake Arrowhead in the mountains, and the Getty Museums, both the one in Malibu and the other in Los Angeles. And that's just for starters!

2. My favorite room in my home is my living room personal library. Who doesn't like to be surrounded by books? Plus, the couches are comfy and it's the perfect place to settle in and read for a little while.



3. Back-to-school time makes me think of the beginning of the new soccer season, the coming of fall (just over a month away!), and homework--lots and lots of homework.

4. My favorite year of school was fourth grade because that was the year I discovered my love for writing.


 I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Be sure and tell me what you are reading and are up to!


© 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, August 16, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

The funeral is well attended, the New Heidelburg Lutheran Church packed to capacity with farms and their families who have come to bid farewell to one of their own. ~ Opening of Those Who Save Us 



Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
Harcourt Books, 2005
Fiction (Historical); 479 pgs
Source: I purchased my own copy at Borders in November of 2007.

Goodreads Summary: 
For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy's sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.

Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother's life.

Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.

When I heard about the read-along hosted by Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit) and Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) over at the War Through the Generations Challenges blog in June, I jumped at the chance. I had long wanted to read the book, but kept putting it off.

Novels dealing with the Holocaust are sure to be emotional reads given the subject matter. I have read many over the years, and my heart breaks to pieces every time. How can human beings be so cruel to other human beings? How could anyone stand by and let this happen? It is easy, in hindsight, to list the "should haves" and "if onlys", and to cast blame on those who seemingly did nothing. I admit it has been my curiosity to understand this that has led me to read several books that broach the subject.

Those Who Save Us came highly recommended and for good reason. Jenna Blum paints a very vivid and true to life history of what life may have been like in Weimer during World War II. The concentration camp, Buchenwald was within sight of the town.

Trudy is a history professor of German studies, divorced, and somewhat estranged from her mother, Anna. Anna is closed off from the world, shutting the door tightly on her past, and, as a result, unable to get too close to those in her life even in the present, including her daughter, Trudy. Trudy, for her part, has given up trying to reach out to her mother, but she still longs to understand her mother and why she is the way she is.

A photo from her childhood raises a lot of questions for Trudy. It is of her mother, herself and a Nazi Officer. Could that be her father? What role did her mother play during World War II, if any? Trudy is both afraid and eager to find out her mother's story. Only, her mother will not talk about it.

Through interviewing Germans who had been living in Germany during World War II, Trudy hopes to find some sort of answer--or perhaps some sort of reconciliation for her own guilt through association. She had been a toddler when she left Germany with her mother and her mother's American husband, Jack. Her memories of that life are few and far between.

As Trudy tries to come to terms in the present with her own feelings about her mother, and caring for her mother who has since moved in with her, the reader gets a glimpse into the past through Anna's memories. Anna struggles with her own feelings of guilt and shame over the past. Pregnant, she ran away from home and moved in with a widowed baker in Weimer. Anna's story is one of heartbreak and suffering. She did what she had to in order to survive and to keep her daughter safe.

I really felt for Anna who was in a very difficult position. I personally feel she had nothing to be ashamed of, but we are often our own worst critics, aren't we? Could she have made different--even better--decisions than she did? It's hard to say, given the circumstances. I truly did not like the Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald. He used his position and power to intimidate and get his way. I don't think he saw himself that way though, which, in some regards, makes him all the more dangerous.

Anna's closing off of herself has had a big impact on Trudy as she was growing up and continues to influence her now. It really got me thinking about how our actions and behaviors affect those around us. Anna is only trying to protect herself and Trudy from those painful memories, and yet she ends up hurting Trudy in a different way. This comes out a lot in the novel in the various relationships described.

Author Jenna Blum did quite a bit of research for the novel, and it shows in the detail and characters she's created. This was not an easy book to read at times, the subject matter being what it was. As a mother, I could relate to Anna, and as a daughter, I could relate to Trudy. I saw a bit of myself in both of them. I wanted so much for them to talk openly, to share their stories with each other. Both women, however, are quite stubborn.

My only really complaint is that I was hoping for more in regards to the ending. I do not expect a perfect bow wrapping up everything, especially from this type of novel, but the ending for this one felt too open ended. I would like to have had a bit more resolution.

Overall, I liked Those Who Save Us and find myself thinking of it long after having finished it. Thank you to Anna and Serena for finally motivating me to read this one!


You can learn more about Jenna Blum and her books on the author's website. She can also be found 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.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wishing For Wednesday: Map of the Heart & You Say It First



Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings to spotlight and discuss the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they're books that have yet to be released. (Based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.)


With everything going on in the world right now, reading something light sure sounds good. That's probably why the books that caught my eye this week both fall into that category.

Books set in and around--or about--World War II are likely to catch my attention and Susan Wiggs' latest is no different. Add in a little romance, family drama and the mention of secrets, and I know I have to read it.


Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs (368 pgs)
Release Date: August 22, 2017 by William Morrow
Susan Wiggs—an author “who paints the details of human relationships with the finesse of a master” (Jodi Picoult)—returns with a deeply emotional and atmospheric story of love and family, war and secrets that moves back and forth across time, from the present day to World War II France.  
An accomplished photographer, widow, and mother, Camille Palmer is content with the blessings she’s enjoyed. When her ageing father asks her to go with him to his native France, she has no idea that shes embarking on an adventure that will shake her complacency and utterly transform her. 
Returning to the place of his youth sparks unexpected memories—recollections that will lead Camille, her father, and her daughter, Julie, who has accompanied them, back to the dark, terrifying days of the Second World War, where they will uncover their family’s surprising history. 
While Provence offers answers about her family’s past, it also holds the key to Camille’s future. Along the way, Camille meets a handsome American historian who stirs a passion deep within her she thought she’d never experience again. [Goodreads Summary]
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I've seen author Susan Mallery's name around the blog universe quite often and when I saw she has a new series out, I couldn't help adding it to my wish list. I do love weddings! 

You Say It First by Susan Mallery (384 pgs)
Release Date: August 22, 2017 by Harlequin
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fool's Gold romances invites you to visit Happily Inc., a wedding destination founded on a fairy tale. 
Sculptor Nick Mitchell grew up in a family of artists and learned from his volatile father that passion only leads to pain. As he waits on a new commission, he takes a day job as a humble carpenter at a theme wedding venue. The job has its perks—mainly the venue's captivating owner, Pallas Saunders. Although he won't let love consume him, for ecstasy with an expiration date, he's all in.

Pallas adores Weddings in a Box. But if she can't turn the floundering business around, she'll have no choice but cave to her domineering mother and trade taffeta for trust funds working at the family's bank. Then when a desperate bride begs Pallas for something completely out of the box, her irresistible new hire inspires her. Nick knows she doesn't belong behind a desk, and she knows in her heart that he's right—where she really belongs is in his arms.  [Goodreads Summary]

Do either of these sound like something you would like to read too?


© 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, August 14, 2017

Tuesday Favorites: Summer & My Top Ten Classics For Those Who Do Not Like Classics

Each week Maureen from Maureen's Books asks participants to share a favorite on the weekly designated topic.

This week's topic is my favorite thing about summer.

Summer is my fourth favorite season. Although spring sometimes seems to want to compete for that spot (thanks to my allergies).

My favorite part of summer is late summer, when we all pretend it is already fall. It's the start of school and soccer season for many and there is a feeling of starting fresh. The evenings are just beginning to get a little cooler, but the sun is still shining late in the day.

As for summer itself, I think most of all I love the idea of summer. The beach, sunshine, vacations, sitting by the pool, and good books . . . But really, it means working in an office that is like a refrigerator and walking outside into an oven; my reading time doesn't really change; and smokey air full from the fires--it is fire season after all. Still, there is sunshine. And glorious thunderstorms from time to time. And there is a more relaxed atmosphere, less traffic, and no homework. Not to mention leisurely walks in the evening (if it's cool enough) with the sun still out and, of course, camping in the mountains.

What is your favorite thing about summer? 



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

This week's  Top Ten Tuesday is my Top Ten Book Recommendations of Classics for Those Who Do Not Like Classics. Here's the thing. I am not in school anymore and all of my reading I do for pleasure (with the occasional exception for work). I enjoy a wide variety of books, old and new. And, yes, that includes the Classics. If I am going to devote my time to reading a novel classified as a Classic, I want it to be readable and one I will enjoy. It's as simple as that. There are Classics out there like that, even among those that aren't.

I hate hearing someone say they don't read the Classics at all and never will, lumping them all together as if they were equal. Just because you did not like the Classics you were required to read in school, does not mean you will not like ALL Classics. Maybe none you've come across yet appeal to you, and that's okay. I am a big proponent of a person reading what he or she wants to read. All I ask is that you do not shut the door completely on reading the Classics. Or any other type of book, for that matter. Never say never. That contemporary novel you are reading right now, in fact, might one day be a Classic! Classics don't start out with that label, after all.


1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle ~ Now is the perfect time to read this one with the movie coming out later this year. Yes, it's a children's book, but it's a good one. Especially if you like time and space travel.



2. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie ~ People seem to forget genre fiction can fall into the Classic category too. If you are a mystery lover, consider giving the Queen of Mystery a try if you haven't already.



3. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood ~ A modern Classic to be sure, but one that has already proven it stands the test of time and is still very relevant today.



4. Dracula by Bram Stoker ~ I admit I was surprised how much I enjoyed this Classic. It was subtle in its horror, but creepy just the same. Not to mention, if you are a fan of the old Dracula movies, you really should see where they all started.



5. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins ~Although the writing may take a little time to settle into, this really is a great thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat at times.



6. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote ~ Capote's true crime book reads more like a novel, and is quite a compelling read.



7. The Color Purple by Alice Walker ~ Another modern Classic which tells the story of how love and independence can triumph even in the most dire of situations.



8. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis ~ Who among us hasn't sometimes wished we could step outside our own world into another? Or, in this case, into a wardrobe.



9. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle ~ As much of an institution Sherlock Holmes is in our culture, it wouldn't hurt to check out where he got his start.



10. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams ~ I found this and the other books in the series to be funny and easy to read. This series was actually my first venture into Science Fiction, and genre I've come to enjoy quite a bit.



What other Classics would you recommend to those who do not read the Classics?


© 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, August 13, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Her name is Melanie. ~ Opening of The Girl With All the Gifts


Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey 
Orbit, 2014
Horror; 435 pgs
Source: E-Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Goodreads Summary: 
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

Thank you to all who voted for The Girl With All the Gifts as my July TBR List book! This made the perfect book to read on my plane ride to and from the East Coast. I had high expectations going in given all the praise this one has received from my fellow book lovers. 

I became an instant fan of Melanie's from the very first page. Innocent and polite, an eager learner, and did I say innocent? It is clear from the beginning that she is not just an ordinary child. Why keep her locked in a cell with the guards taking extra precautions to keep their distance and protect themselves? Melanie has no idea who--or what--she is. This is the only life she remembers. She longs to be held and loved, dreaming of living a life in one of the fairy-tales she's been told so many times by her favorite teacher, Miss Justineau. 

It does not take long for The Girl With All the Gifts to take off, finding our protagonists in survival mode. The novel is told from several alternating viewpoints, jumping from one to the other to offer a more full view the world in M.R. Carey's book. I really appreciated the depth of the characters and the attention to what each of them was going through, especially Melanie who, as innocence turns into awareness, must find her own place in this new world she lives in. 

I hesitate to go into too much detail about the book, given it seems to be one best left to discover in the reading. As others have said, reading this book felt like watching a movie; I could see it playing out on the screen in my mind, one tense moment after the other. 

This book was at times touching and other times terrifying. M.R. Carey pulls no punches in describing the direction humanity has gone in The Girl With All the Gifts. It's not a world I would want to live in.

I admit to being worried the ending would disappoint, but it didn't. It was a perfect fit for the rest of the novel. The Girl With All the Gifts is everything everyone said it would be. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


You can learn more about M.R. Carey and his books on the author's website. He can also be found 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.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

My August TBR List Poll Winner!

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 Saturday 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 (unfortunately, not likely in the same month, but eventually--that's all I can promise).




It was a tight race this week. I had a three way tie up until Friday night, when I sent out a plea for a tie breaker. With nine votes to the other two at eight votes each, Peter Swanson's The Girl with a Clock For a Heart wins my August TBR poll. I think that was my closest poll yet! Thank you to all who voted!





It just so happens I just finished reading Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies and am ready to jump right into Peter Swanson's novel.

What are you reading this weekend?


© 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.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Where Is Your Bookmark? (08/11/2017)

I am just over halfway through Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies, a historical fiction novel about the Mirabal sisters, Las Mariposas (the Butterflies), who rebelled against the oppressive dictatorship of Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. Not exactly what you'd expect looking at this cover, is it? 



A weekly meme where readers share the first sentence of the book they are reading and say what they think. Hosted by the wonderful Gillion Dumas of Rose City Reader.
She is plucking her bird of paradise of its dead branches, leaning around the plant every time she hears a car. The woman will never find the old house behind the hedge of towering hibiscus at the bend of the dirt road. Not a gringa domincana in a rented car with a road map asking for street names! Dedé had taken the call over at the little museum this morning.
The novel opens as Dedé, one of the Mirabel sisters, waits for the woman who is coming to interview her. I like the opening, bringing the scene into my mind perfectly. Although, it reveals very little about the story to come.

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A weekly meme in which readers share a random sentence or two from page 56 or 56% of the book they are reading. Hosted by the wonderful Freda of Freda's Voice.

"If you had seen what I saw on that mountain," I pleaded with him, weeping all over again for that dead boy. "Ay, Pedrito, how can we be true Christians and turn our back on our brothers and sisters--" [pg 152]

Can you just feel the emotion in her cry? The heartache? I know I can.

Tell me about what you are reading right now!

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Each week Maureen from Maureen's Books asks participants to share a favorite on the weekly designated topic.

This week's topic is my favorite book that made me cry.

What favorite book of mine hasn't made me cry? It is a prerequisite for my favorites' list. As it is, I am an emotional reader and often get teary-eyed when I read. I read with my heart as much as my head.

Cries can be broken down into several categories: the teary-eyed, maybe a drip or two, but mostly just wet eyes; the wipe away tears that don't leave me looking like I cried at all unless you catch me in the act; the cry that requires multiple tissues; or, the ugly cry which leaves me with a sort of hangover for days after. The water works can be caused by anger, or sadness, or joy . . . It doesn't matter. Of course, the best books will make me cry for all those reasons--and most likely one of those last two category cries. Lots of tears. And a red nose.

As for me picking just one favorite out of all the books I have read . . . I cannot do it. Let me instead just name my favorite book so far this year that had me in tears the most. Okay, two books. Because I wish everyone would read them and cry along with me.


The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
I love this book for a lot of reasons: the writing style, the history, the characters (especially the characters), the setting, and the story. Lisa See is such a gifted story teller, and she really knows how to get to the heart of her characters and bring them to life. This one definitely made me cry. A lot. Out of anger, frustration, sadness and grief. Out of joy and hope. This is an amazing and beautiful book. (The cover links to my review.)


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My review for this one hasn't gone up yet, but I cannot stop singing this book's praises. It is relevant to today, opening the door to much needed discussion about police shootings and race relations. It is also about the bonds of family and community, about self-identity, friendship, and so much more. This book is a giant emotional roller-coaster, taking me through all the emotions. (Cover links to Goodreads)

What is your favorite book that made you cry? 
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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.

Do you participate in readathons and/or reading challenges?
The short answer is yes, although not right now.

My participation with readathons is limited to short spurts here and there. I love the idea of readathons, but I find it hard to fit in more reading than I already am able to on the longer run ones and bad timing on the part of the 24-hour ones. Someday, I would like to participate fully in something like Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon as it always seems like such fun, not to mention a great community activity (who says reading is a solitary hobby?!). Maybe when my daughter is older, and we don't have so much going on . . . It always comes back to not having enough time, I'm afraid.

As for reading challenges, I love coming up with a reading list at the beginning. But, truth be told, I am terrible at following lists. So, I tend to prefer reading challenges in which I can pick books as I go. In recent years though, I have been bad about following through with challenges. It is more of a chore than fun by the end. As a result, I am not participating in any reading challenges this year (other than my commitment to read more Classics, which I don't really consider a challenge). I decided I needed a break. My favorite part of reading challenges, besides the initial list making, has always been the community aspect: sharing a common goal with other readers and supporting each other in reaching that goal. 

What about you? Do you participate in readathons and/or reading challenges?


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Every Friday Ellen from 15andmeowing.com and Ann from McGuffy’s Reader get together to host the Friendly Fill-Ins. You can be serious or funny--the idea is just to have fun.

1.1. Blind dates never bring good books.

2. Ten years ago tomorrow, I posted my thoughts on one of my all-time favorite books, Moloka'i by Alan Brennert here on my blog.

3. I admire my mother because she is an amazing woman. She doesn't hesitate to drop everything and help family out when they need her. She is hardworking and loving and kind. She is smart. And supportive.

4. Sitting in my living room library and looking at all my books makes me think I need to find time to organize my shelves. Again.                              .


 I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Be sure and tell me what you are reading and are up to!


© 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, August 08, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: The Ice-Cream Makers by Ernest van der Kwast

Shortly before his eightieth birthday, my father fell in love. ~ Opening of The Ice-Cream Makers


The Ice-Cream Makers by Ernest Van der Kwast
Atria (37INK), 2017
Fiction; 288 pgs
Source: E-copy provided by publisher via NetGalley

Poetry and ice cream: two of my favorite things. I ended up highlighting quite a few quotes in my copy of The Ice-Cream Makers, particularly about poetry. Giovanni Talamini* discovered his love for poetry during his teen years. Much to his father's consternation, Giovanni wanted nothing to do with the family business, a long held tradition his great-grandfather had started in following his own dream. Giovanni's dream, however, took him in a different direction, and it caused a big rift in his relationship with his family. 

Giovanni constantly questions his decision in life, giving up tradition to travel and follow his passion. When his brother, married to the girl both he and his brother had a childhood crush on, asks him for a life-changing favor, Giovanni has a difficult decision to make. It also makes him realize just how much he sacrificed in following his dreams.

As Giovanni recounts his and his family's story, the narrative takes readers back and forth between past and present. He introduces us to his great-grandfather who worked hard alongside his own father and would eventually discover a love for making ice cream. Guiseppe spent hours perfecting the perfect ice cream, getting the texture and taste just right. He experimented with different flavors and impressed those around him with his skills. It was a legacy he would pass down to his own son who would then pass the family business onto his son. 

When Giovanni decided to go down his own path, he left behind his younger brother who seemed to take pride in making ice cream. It never crossed his mind his brother might have had other aspirations. As it was, Giovanni's father's heart seemed divided between the family business and his love for invention.

The Ice-Cream Makers got off to a slow start for me, but I eventually settled into the rhythm of the narrative and was caught up in the story and in the lives of the Talamini's. I think most of us as adults know the struggle between obligation and following our dreams, especially as we get older and have families to support. 

I was raised by a hardworking father who believed in doing whatever it took to put food on the table. He was the kind of guy who would put up with a job he didn't care for if it meant bringing financial stability to his family. There was no family business to carry on, but if there had been, I imagine he and Giovanni's father would share similar views. I admire their steadfastness and their strong work ethic. 

That isn't to say Giovanni isn't hardworking--he is. Just not in the way his father and brother view it. They work with their hands and labor for hours at a time. It is a different type of work, but not less valuable to those they service. Giovanni knew he wouldn't be happy making ice cream all his life, and so he decided to follow his own dreams, something which I think takes a lot of courage. 

The bigger the divide between Giovanni and his father and brother became, I longed for them to see themselves in each other: to recognize the art and poetry in ice-cream making and the hard work and sacrifice that went into the work Giovanni did. 

I enjoyed my time spent in Italy and the Netherlands; Ernest van der Kwast brings it all to mind so vividly. I found the various stories about how ice cream came into being and how it was transported and sold fascinating. Flavors I never imagined were mentioned, some more appealing than others, but I longed to be the one able to taste test their creations. 

The references to poets and poetry won me over as well. I could relate to Giovanni's love for poetry and just how much it moved him. To be able to travel the world like he does--I can only imagine!

I was quite moved by The Ice-Cream Makers in the end. I think this would make a great book club pick, whether to discuss legacy versus desire, family ties and conflict, or the consequences of the choices we make.

*My copy of the book (which I cross checked with Amazon's sample and the one on the author's website to verify as the name used in the novel) used the surname "Talamini," but the description on Goodreads, Amazon, and the publisher's site use "Calamine." 


You can learn more about Ernest van der Kwast and his books on the author's website. He can also be found on Twitter.


[Side Note: My daughter told me the other night she cannot wait to grow up and start working. She imagines work as a big playground, I think. She then said she thinks she would most likely end up working in my office with me. Now I know what she thinks I do all day . . .]


© 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, August 06, 2017

Mouse's Corner: The Dark by Lemony Snickett


The Dark by Lemony Snickett
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013
Fiction (Children's); 40 pgs
Source: Library Book

During a visit to the library recently, I noticed The Dark by Lemony Snickett, and added it to my daughter's pile of books to check out. I couldn't help myself when I saw who the author was. I planned to read it with my daughter, but her father beat me to it. I ended up reading it on my own a few days later.

I really liked the story, and from what my husband said, my daughter did too. It's not too scary, but addresses a child's fear of the dark in such a way to make her feel a little anxious perhaps. 

My husband got a real kick out of the page he called "the wall of text" in which Dark explains to the little boy how darkness is always there. He thought it seemed a bit out of place given the narration through the rest of the book while I thought it was a perfectly reasonable and witty explanation. Mouse didn't seem to mind.

Were you afraid of the dark as a child? Or did you have other fears?



To share your children's book related posts stop by Booking Mama’s feature,
Kid Konnection and leave a comment as well as a link to your posts!

© 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, August 05, 2017

Monthly Reading Mews (July Wrap-Up) & What Should I Read Next? (August's My TBR List Poll)

I am linking up to the Sunday Post hosted by the wonderful Kim of Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where participants 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. As well as Stacking the Shelves hosted by the great Team Tynga's Reviews and Marlene of Reading Reality a meme in which participants share what new books came their way recently.

After eleven years of blogging, I finally got around to setting up a Facebook page for my blog. If you are interested, I would love it if you liked/followed my page!

July In Review: I got very little reading done during the month of July, but I have no regrets. My mom, daughter and I flew east to for my niece's wedding and to celebrate my paternal grandmother's 100th birthday. The birthday party turned into a family reunion, with many of my dad's siblings and their kids coming from near and far for the celebration. My grandmother's actual birthday isn't until later this month, but since we were already in town for the wedding, everyone was gracious enough to move the birthday celebration up.

It was a whirlwind visit, and we had an amazing time. My brother and sister-in-law were able to spend much of the time with us, flying in themselves from Northern California. This was my daughter's first visit to the East Coast and meeting all of my dad's side of the family, including her great grandmother. My daughter, husband and I are pretty isolated where we live in Southern California with most of our family being hours away. Mouse was in heaven, surrounded by so many cousins, aunts and uncles. My husband, unfortunately, was unable to come due to work obligations.

We spent a brief amount of time in New York state, visiting Niagara Falls (Mouse's first visit, but my third), when we first arrived. And then on our last day of our visit, we met up with a long time friend and former pen pal of mine and her two children (who Mouse thinks of as her cousins) in Rochester at The Strong National Museum of Play. It's an amazing place, if you ever get the chance to go. The museum has its own library and their are children's books throughout the museum kids can read or check out. Mostly, during our trip, we were in northeastern Pennsylvania, which is such a beautiful part of the country. It was much more humid than I am used to, but I can honestly say I didn't mind given my surroundings. So much green!

The best part of the trip was being able to see my sister and her family, aunts, uncles, cousins, and my grandmother who I hadn't seen in 15 years--and introducing them all to my daughter. Hopefully it will not be another 15 years before we see everyone again.

Here's what I read last month:

Solely For Me:
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • The Pinks: The First Women Detectives, Operatives, and Spies with the Pinkerton National Detective Agency by Chris Enss
  • The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

Some of the Books I Read With My Daughter in July (a couple of which we read over and over and over again. And then again):
  • Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish and Lynn Sweat
  • How Martha Saved Her Parents From Green Beans by David LaRochelle and Mark Fearing
  • Ling & Ting: Together in All Weather (Ling & Ting #4) by Grace Lin
  • Biscuit Finds a Friend (World of Biscuit Beginning Reader) by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and Pat Schories
  • Niagara Falls (Wonders of America) by Marion Dane Bauer and John Wallace
  • Pennsylvania: What's So Great About This State? (Arcadia Kids) by Kate Boehm Jerome
My Favorite Book Read in July: Even with my limited reading this month, the book that stands out the most is Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give. It will likely be on my list of top ten books at the end of the year.

Mouse's Favorite Book Read in July: Mouse was disappointed I did not read How Martha Saved Her Parents From Green Beans more often to her while we had it checked out from the library. She even told her dad she wanted to try broccoli because of the book. (Unfortunately, when it came time to eat the broccoli her father made for her, Mouse refused.)


Book Reviews Posted in July (but not necessarily read in July):

Non-Book Review Posts in July:

How did your July shape up reading wise? What was your favorite book you read in July?

*

New To My Shelves:

July's My Lit Box included Roxane Gay's latest, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. along with a journal, pencils and a bookmark, centering around the theme of "Once Upon a Time". What happens to us does not define us necessarily, nor does it make us any less worthy of love and respect. Although I do not read memoirs often anymore, I am eager to read this one!


I also received August's My Lit Box, which came in the mail yesterday. The theme for this month is "Love After Loss". Included in the box is What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons. There's also a candle carrying the scent of memories: Lavender Chamomile, a floral pencil pouch, and a card representing the ideal Heaven for booklovers.


Bookstore Purchases:


The Witchwood Crown, Book One of the Last King of Osten Ard by Tad Williams
and
The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams
(my husband's selections)


Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Brigette Barrager 
and 
You Can't Win Them All, Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
(Mouse's selections)


The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James
and
Ordinary Grace by Willliam Kent Krueger
(my selections)


Monstress, Volume II: The Blood by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda
(I am so excited about this one!)

Unsolicited Review Book (from publisher):


Betrayal At Iga by Susan Spann

E-Book Purchase:


I am not big on make-up, but I do like trying out new lipsticks. To support my friend, Wisteria Leigh, in her new business, I recently made a Lipsense purchase (and am quite pleased!). In her package to me, she included a book (The True Story of Balto), Forget Me Not seeds, and stickers for my daughter. Talk about winning over a customer!



Have you read any of these? What new books did you add to your shelves recently?


*

What I Am Reading/Listening to Now: I took a break from Brave New World Aldous Huxley for the majority of last month because of lack of listening time, but I got back to it this week. I should finish it in another week or so. This past week, I finished reading Ernest van der Kwast's The Ice-Cream Makers, a multi-generational novel about following one's dreams versus family obligations. My dreams the night I finished it were full of ice cream and poetry.

I am now reading In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez with a Facebook reading group. The book has been sitting on my shelf for years, and so this is a great excuse to finally get to it. Alvarez's book is historical fiction, set in the Dominican Republic and tells the story of four sisters who were active in the rebellion against General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. 

Off the Blog:

School will be starting for Mouse the end of the month, and with it the fall soccer season. Mouse is looking forward to playing on a team again. As of right now, there is no coach for her team, and so we're waiting to hear if anyone volunteers. Mouse has been enjoying her ballet class quite a bit this summer and would like to continue with it. I noticed a combo ballet/tap/jazz class is being offered this fall, and, when I mentioned it to Mouse, she really liked the idea. It's going to be a busy school year, I have a feeling. Especially when Girl Scouts starts up again next month.

I am in the process of updating my LibraryThing catalog, going through all the physical books on my shelves and making sure they've been recorded in the system. It's a slow process as I am not able to devote big chunks of time to it at once. When I first entered all my books into the LibraryThing catalog, I was on vacation, childless, and able to devote days to the process, if I wanted to. I had been very good about keeping it up to date--at least until my daughter was born and then our big move. I have a lot of catching up to do, as you can imagine.

*

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 Saturday 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 (unfortunately, not likely in the same month, but eventually--that's all I can promise). 




I am continuing this month with the "girl" in the title theme. I don't know how you are all going to decide! All three of these sound like winners. Two are by the same author, believe it or not (just under different names). I look forward to reading whichever wins the poll this next week!


The Girl With the Clock Heart by Peter Swanson ~ It turns out the girl he thought had been his girlfriend who had committed suicide, was not in fact the woman he loved at all. And now, twenty years later, having tried to escape her past, the one he loved is back--and says he is the only one who can help her.


The Girl Who Knew to Much by Amanda Quick ~ A reporter leans on a once world famous magician turned hotel owner for help in getting to the truth when an actress is found dead at the bottom of a pool in 1930's California.


When All the Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz ~ A sister joins forces with a private investigator when she discovers her sister has gone missing. The two are drawn together the deeper the danger gets for both of them.



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



We were able to get up close (and very wet) to Niagara Falls via the Maid of the Mist Boat Tour.
(Canadian Side)

The American side of Niagara Falls from the Maid of the Mist Boat Tour

The Kinzua Bridge was once considered the 8th Wonder of the World, spanning 2,052 feet (625 m) long and 301 feet (92 m) tall. It eventually was closed to trains and opened to the public to walk across (which my sister and her family took advantage of in 2002). In 2003, the bridge was destroyed by a tornado, and the remaining portion of the bridge (since re-enforced) is now a sky-walk for tourists to visit. We walked out to the end--they valley is gorgeous.

 My Niece's Wedding, Along the Allegheny River

Allegheny River View From Wedding Site

Mouse and the Ring Bearer Playing



Mouse and her Great-Grandma

The Mystery Mansion at The Strong National Museum of Play

Display at The Strong National Museum of Play

Heading Home


© 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.