Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: Last Christmas In Paris by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb

Life is forever changed without her; without the sense of her somewhere near. ~ Opening of The Last Time in Paris

Last Christmas In Paris by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb
William Morrow, 2017
Fiction (Historical); 400 pgs

It may be surprising to learn I do not often read epistolary novels despite my long standing history in letter writing. It wasn’t that, however, that drew me to The Last Christmas in Paris. It had more to do with the World War I setting and the description of the novel about two young people, one a soldier on the front lines and another, a woman wanting desperately to do her part in the war as well. Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb joined forces to tell their story, doing so through letters.

World War I was supposed to be the war that ended all wars. At the start of the war, spirits were high, and it was believed the end to the fighting was in sight. Thomas Harding, an aspiring college professor, his best friend, Will Elliott and Will’s sister Evelyn believed it too. It was with anticipation, a dash of sadness, and a lot of hope that the two young men went off to war, expecting to be home by Christmas of that same year.

A much older Tom looks back on his life at the start of the novel, revisiting the war through letters he and Evie exchanged over the years, along with a smattering of letters from others as well, including Evie’s best friend Alice and Evie’s brother, Will. The reader is taken along the journey with him, and it is through those letters, the reader gets to know each of the characters, their lives, fears and dreams, as well as experience the horrors of war and how it irrevocably changed them.

At the heart of The Last Christmas in Paris is a love story, one that evolves slowly but undeniably over the course of the letters. Evie and Tom reminisce about their childhood pranks and the fun they had, while at the same time sharing their fears and the dire state of affairs both at home and on the war front. Tom longs to be home, the war a constant reminder of how fragile life is. Evie, on the other hand, longs to be in the thick of it, wanting to see for herself and help out as much as she can. A lady of society, her mother expects her to find comfort in knitting socks and gloves for the soldiers, but Evie wants to do more. Against her mother’s wishes, she volunteers to deliver mail, but even so, she is not completely satisfied.

Tom has worries at home himself—his ailing father and a foundering newspaper business with no way to help either. Despite his reservations, he reaches out to an estranged relative for help, which only leads to more problems. The government is coming down hard on the media, demanding they feed their audiences propaganda of a more positive variety instead of focusing on the realities of war.

It took me a moment to get into the flow of the narrative, although the opening section took my breath away. I soon was lost in the letters, wanting to know more and having a hard time not reading “just one more letter” when I had to set the book down.

I fell in love with Tom and Evie. Tom and his love for literature, his support of Evie’s writing and in  being her own person, his protectiveness, and honesty. I admired Evie’s longing for the truth, her will and drive, as well as both hers and Tom’s hearts. I hated to see the letters end, wanting to read more, to be a part of their lives for just a little longer.

Through the letters, the reader gets a sense of the war. The initial optimism to the reality of the damage and heartache the war brings with it—along with the exhaustion, dwindling faith in the cause, and the desperation and pain. There is a definite shift in the characters’ attitudes over the course of the novel. Evie comes to it later than the others, in part because she does not see it firsthand initially.

I enjoyed the historical tidbits, some I know better than others: the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) which assigned women to nonessential roles generally reserved for men in order to free the men to fight; the Order of the Feather, an organization of mainly women whose mission was to shame men at home who were not fighting in the war; the devastation caused at some of the worst battles during the war; and the treatment and stigma of those suffering from a war neuroses, what today we think of as combat fatigue or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is good, especially, to see attention paid to this last given how prevalent it is today. It brings home that this is not a new problem or occurrence.

Reading a novel written in letters creates an intimacy with the characters that one might not get otherwise, but it also limits the view of what is going on outside the letters. Both Gaynor and Webb do a great job of compensating for this overall. I was thoroughly wrapped up Tom and Evie’s story. Events speed up quickly towards the end, almost too quickly, but, emotionally, this book was a real hit with me. By the end, tears were streaming down my face, and I did not want to say goodbye to the characters.

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

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

I hope you will check out what others had to say about Last Christmas in Paris on the TLC Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour.  Review copy provided by publisher for an honest review.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

© 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, October 17, 2017

Wishing For Wednesday: The Secret, Book & Scone Society & A Spoonful of Magic

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.)

The two titles I am featuring today first caught my attention because of their titles. You can probably guess why! The mention of books and magic? I can't resist either. And both of these sound right up my alley. 

The Secret, Book & Scone Society (Miracle Springs, North Carolina #1) by Ellery Adams (304 pgs)
Release Date: October 31, 2017 by Kensington
Miracle Springs, North Carolina, is a place of healing. Strangers flock here hoping the natural hot springs, five-star cuisine, and renowned spa can cure their ills. If none of that works, they often find their way to Miracle Books, where, over a fresh-baked “comfort” scone from the Gingerbread House bakery, they exchange their stories with owner Nora Pennington in return for a carefully chosen book. That’s Nora’s special talent—prescribing the perfect novel to ease a person’s deepest pain and lighten their heaviest burden.

When a visiting businessman reaches out to Nora for guidance, she knows exactly which novels will help. But before he can keep their appointment at Miracle Books, he’s found dead on the train tracks.

Stunned, Nora forms the Secret, Book, and Scone Society, a group of damaged souls yearning to gain trust and earn redemption by helping others. To join the society, members must divulge their darkest secret—the terrible truth that brought each of them to Miracle Springs in the first place.

Determined to uncover the truth behind the businessman’s demise, the women meet in Nora’s cramped and cozy bookstore to share stories and trade support. And as they untangle a web of corruption, they also discover their own courage, purpose, and a sisterhood that will carry them through every challenge—proving it’s never too late to turn the page and start over . . . [Goodreads Summary]

A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford (304 pgs)
Release Date: November 7, 2017 by DAW
Daphne "Daffy" Rose Wallace Deschants has an ideal suburban life--three wonderful and talented children; a coffee shop and bakery, owned and run with her best friend; a nearly perfect husband, Gabriel, or "G" to his friends and family. Life could hardly be better.

But G's perfection hides dangerous secrets. When Daffy uncovers evidence of his infidelity, her perfect life seems to be in ruins. On their wedding anniversary, Daffy prepares to confront him, only to be stopped in her tracks when he foils a mugging attempt using wizard-level magic.

Suddenly, Daphne is part of a world she never imagined--where her husband is not a traveling troubleshooter for a software company, but the sheriff of the International Guild of Wizards, and her brilliant children are also budding magicians. Even she herself is not just a great baker and barista--she's actually a kitchen witch. And her discovery of her powers is only just beginnning.

But even the midst of her chaotic new life, another problem is brewing. G's ex-wife, a dangerous witch, has escaped from her magical prison. Revenge-bent and blind, she needs the eyes of her son to restore her sight--the son Daffy has raised as her own since he was a year old. Now Daphne must find a way to harness her new powers and protect her family--or risk losing everything she holds dear.
[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, October 16, 2017

Tuesday Favorites: A Favorite Book I Want to See Turned Into a Movie & Top Ten Books On My TBR Shelf With Some Sort of Food in the Title

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 I Wish They Would Make a Movie Of.

So many of the books I can think of have already been made into movies or will soon be movies. I admit I have a weakness for a well done science fiction movie, and so choosing Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice seemed like a no-brainer. You can find my review of the novel here or click on the cover to go to its Goodreads page.

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

This week's  Top Ten Tuesday is food related, and when I first sat down to prepare a list, I completely drew a blank. I know I have read a number of books featuring bakeries, restaurants, cafes, and bars, but none of them immediately stood out to me. Suddenly, staring out at me from my bookshelves, however, were several titles that I keep meaning to read with food-type items in the title. And so I am going with that. Here are Ten Books From My Shelves With Food or Food-Type Item In the Title (covers are linked to Goodreads):


The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows


The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender


The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie  by Alan Bradley


Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown


Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel


Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen


Chocolat by Joanne Harris


Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin


Big Cherry Holler by Adriana Trigiani

Have you read any of these? What did you think? What books on your TBR shelf mention a food in the title?

Dessert (and a pumpkin)

© 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, October 15, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

The body lay naked and facedown, a deathly gray, spatters of blood staining the snow around it. ~ Opening of Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) by Ann Leckie
Orbit, 2013
Science Fiction; 410 pgs
Source: Purchased and read at my husband's recommendation.

Goodreads Summary: 
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren--a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose--to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch. 

Ancillary Justice has gotten mixed reviews from friends who have read it. I was not sure what to expect. From the description, I imagined it would be heavy on the technical, and in some ways it was. It took me a moment to get into the mindset of the first person narrator. Breq or Esk One Nineteen or Toren, isn’t your typical narrator. She is an ancillary, a part of a ship. Or rather the ship itself, depending on how you look at it.

In the end, I really liked Ancillary Justice--from the unique viewpoint the novel is told in to Breq herself, both as a whole and as a part. I loved the detailed world Leckie has created and the story she tells here. In the first part of the novel, Breq is on a mission to find someone who has something she wants—or rather, needs.

She runs into someone from her past who needs help, wanted or not. Breq isn’t quite sure why given she didn’t especially care for this person (Severign) when she knew her (or is it him? Gender in this novel is a bit confusing, and I'm not even 100% sure Breq is a woman--in my mind she is, so I went with it here), but she helps anyway.

Breq is passing as human—and does so quite well. She has spent the last twenty years practicing. She’s tough as nails, smart, and resourceful. She is the kind of person who gets things done. I found her relationship with Severign an interesting one. Breq clearly could have left Severign at any point to continue on her mission, and yet she doesn’t. She never quite trusts Severign—and frankly, I didn’t either—but she really has no one else. Nor does Severign.

Ancillary Justice takes the reader back and forth between the past and present as we learn what led up to Breq's current situation, and what she is up to in the here and now. Tension builds as the story progresses. I found it all very intriguing and had trouble pulling myself out of the book when I had to. The second half of the novel especially is more action packed and had me turning pages as fast as I could to find out what would happen next. There are a number of tense moments that had me unsure which direction the book would go.

Leckie has created a complex world, and it is in the telling of Breq’s back story that we more fully get to understand it, including the political climate of the times. She takes an interesting approach in narrating the story, and I imagine it was a challenge to capture the full essence of Breq and just exactly who she—or what—she is. I was quite impressed with this first novel in the trilogy and look forward to reading more by Ann Leckie.

You can learn more about Ann Leckie and her books on her 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.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

October 2017 TBR List Winner

I hope you all are enjoying your weekend! Mouse was back at soccer today after missing her last game due to illness. The team didn't fare so well, but they had fun playing. Hopefully we will get our Halloween decorations up this weekend--we're running behind if you look at all our neighbors' houses.

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 had a great turn out for this month's poll. Thank you to everyone who voted. Forty-one votes total! It started out as a very close race, but the winner ended up taking quite a big lead somewhere in there.

My three choices:

Shadow and Bone (Shadow and Bone #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer

And the winner is:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer!

I hope to read all three of these books before the year is out (wishful thinking, maybe, but one can dream), but I will definitely be diving into Cinder this month. My daughter is happy as she was rooting for this one--anything to do with Cinderella, even if a retelling. I look forward to finally starting the Lunar Chronicles! Thank you again to all who voted!

Have you read read this one? Is there a book you can't wait to get to this month? 

© 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.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Where Is Your Bookmark: The Last Christmas in Paris & A Little Friday Fun

At the moment I am juggling two books, one of which is The Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. While World War II novels are quick to catch my interest, so are books set in and around the first World War. I knew I wanted to read this one the minute I first heard about it. You may say it is too early for Christmas-themed novels, but I already know this is much more than that.

Goodreads Summary: 
August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him.

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.

Life is forever changed without her; without the sense of her somewhere near. Empty hours wander by as  I listen for the soft tread of her footfall on the stair and wait for her laughter to cheer these lifeless rooms. When I close my eyes I can conjure her; the scent of her perfume, the feather-touch of her finger-tips against my cheek, those intense blue eyes looking back at me. But it is all illusion. Smoke and mirrors that conceal the truth of her absence.

I just love this introduction. It is part of the prologue that opens the book and sets the stage. It's evident that Thomas loved this woman and misses her terribly. I can feel his grief in this paragraph.

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.

Oddly, now I find myself asking, is "real life" what happens back in London? cars jamming the streets, people rushing about, ladies tending their gardens and buying new hats, men knocking back a fine scotch after a round of billiards at the club. Or is the reality here, harsh and unspeakable? Blood and flesh and all that senseless death.

I thought I might share a bit of one of Evie's letters, but Thomas's letter to Evie takes center stage on page 56 and the pages before and after. This excerpt actually comes from page 57,  but stood out for me in just  how violence and war can shake one's perception and view of the world. He isn't the first to wonder, and unfortunately, won't be the last.

What do you think? Is this something you would want to read more of?


Every Friday Ellen from 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. "Keep calm and stick your leg up in the air!" (My daughter's contribution)

2. Not being able to cuddle with, pet or be awakened each morning by my Parker disappoints me.

3. Reading is my way of slowing down and stepping outside the fast lane that life often can be.                          .

4. In retrospect, sometimes the biggest struggles and challenges we face are the ones that lead us to our greatest accomplishments.

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

Because sitting on my husband's journal in the rocking chair is the best seat in the house.

© 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, October 11, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: The Girl With a Clock For a Heart by Peter Swanson

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. ~ Opening of  The Girl With a Clock For a Heart

The Girl With a Clock For a Heart by Peter Swanson
William Morrow, 2014
Crime Fiction; 289 pgs
Source: I received this book for review via NetGalley for an honest review.

I was really excited when this book won my August TBR List poll. I had been wanting to read it for awhile now, having heard great things about the author’s work. The premise especially intrigued me and I went into this one not sure what to expect.

Ultimately, I enjoyed reading The Girl With a Clock For a Heart while I was reading it, but I had hoped for more, and, at the end, found myself asking if that was it. It follows the noir tradition with the downtrodden cynical protagonist, moral ambiguity, and being a hard boiled mystery. George Foss is a rather unhappy man, just getting on with his life. He never got over his college girlfriend, and when she reappears in his life, just getting by turns into fighting to survive. There is an acronym that came to mind a couple of times as I read Swanson’s book: TSTL (Too Stupid to Live). George makes some pretty bad choices; I kept telling myself if he’d made a different decision, there would be no book. But it bothered me enough that I stopped reading to tell my husband. And then went to work the next day and told two of my coworkers (separately). Clearly, I didn’t see what he saw in his old flame. Or feel the way he felt about her.

The Girl With a Clock For a Heart was on the predictable side (even my husband knew what was going to happen from what I told him about a particular scene here and there, and he wasn’t even reading the book). Even so, I really liked Peter Swanson’s writing. I did not like any of the characters, but with a book like this, I didn’t expect to. It was fast-paced, and I was engrossed in the story. I wanted to know how everything would turn out--if I was right. Will I read more by Peter Swanson? Absolutely. For all my complaining about this one, I actually did enjoy the reading experience.

You can learn more about Peter Swanson and his books on the author's website. He can also be found on Facebook and 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.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Bookish Thoughts from Anjin: Mage, Book One: The Hero Discovered, Volume One by Matt Wagner

Please join me in welcoming my husband, Anjin from Anjin Unleashed, to Musings of a Bookish Kitty! After a little--okay, so maybe a lot of--arm twisting, I finally was able to talk him into writing a guest review for my blog.

Mage, Book One: The Hero Discovered, Volume One by Matt Wagner, inked by Sam Kieth 
Image Comics, 2017
Fantasy (Graphic Novel); 216 pgs
Source: Review e-copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.

Do you ever wonder what urban fantasy was like before it got cool? Then I have the graphic novel for you.

Originally published during the rise of independent comic publishing in the 1980s, Mage: The Hero Discovered was Matt Wagner's second attempt to launch a series after his first series, Grendel, faltered. Based loosely on the Arthurian legend with a lead character who looks suspiciously like Wagner himself, Mage was unlike anything a kid into Spider-Man comics had ever seen before. Instead of superheroes in tights, this comic portrayed a world of fantasy overlayed on an urban environment. It was a revelation to me.

Mage is the story of Kevin Matchstick, a man dissatisfied with the path his life has taken. Finding himself without friends, family, or lovers, Kevin has shut himself off from the world. But after a chance encounter with Mirth, a modern day Merlin, his uneventful life spins out of control. Suddenly under attack from ogres, red caps, and other minions of the baleful Umbra Sprite, Kevin must accept his destiny before the forces of darkness overwhelm him and his new companions.

This edition is based on the remastered comics produced by Image in the late 90s. All of the pages were recolored in the digital style. This greatly benefited the early, rougher issues, but reduced some of the warmth and charm of the later issues. As well, a few errors crept into the text that still have not been corrected for this issue. I can't tell you to go back and collect all the original issue just to see what I mean (that took me several years to accomplish myself), so I'd rather have this not-exactly-ideal version than none at all.

Somehow when I started reading, I was unaware that Mage, Book One: The Hero Discovered, Volume One contains only the first half the series, leaving off on a weirdly unsatisfying cliffhanger. I can't imagine reading this volume without having the second available. Nonetheless, Mage is one of my favorite series and I'm glad to see it return for more people to experience.

© 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.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Weekly Mews: September Wrap-Up & What Should I Read Next? (October'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.

Happy October! The month opened with my daughter getting sick and having to miss school a couple days. My husband and I took turns staying home from work to be with her. I have been working hard on the holiday schedule at work, especially trying to ensure the big holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day are covered. In past years, staff were allowed to work at home and telecommute on those days, but this year we have been told we have to have staff working from the office. It's quite a blow coming so close to the holidays as many people have already made plans, but we will do what we have to do to make it work.

The weather here has been all over the place. Mostly in the 80's and high 70's during the day and into the 50's at night. Friday it was back into the high 90's and this weekend we expect more of the same. At least there were a few days when I could open the windows wide and let in the fresh air.

September In Review: School got off to a good start for my daughter. We settled into our fall schedule of extracurricular activities. Mouse's soccer team is doing great this season with two wins, one loss and a tie so far, and she is learning her dance routine for the holiday showcase in December. The new Girl Scout season also kicked off to a good start.

I had high hopes for September both in blogging and with my reading. I think I managed pretty well for the month in terms of blogging. I do not think I have ever posted so often!  I was up to six posts a week some weeks, which is too much for me to keep up with. On the reading front, I managed to fit in four books. I had good intentions (don't I always?), but life got in the way as it often does.

Here is what I read last month:

Solely For Me:
  • The Sworn Virgin by Kristopher Dukes
  • Gin and Panic by Maia Chance
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  • Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish
Some of the Books I Read With My Daughter in September: 
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle 
  • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister, translated by J. Alison James
  • Ruby and the Magic Garden by Cari Meister, Erika Meza (Contributor)
  • The Too-Scary Story by Bethanie Deeney Murguia 
  • The Water Princess by Susan Verde, Georgie Badiel, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • Rulers of the Playground by Joseph Kuefler
  • The Magic School Bus Comes to Its Senses by Kristin Earhart, illustrated by Carolyn Bracken, created by Joanna Cole
Of the books I read just for myself, I wish I could tell you I had a favorite. I enjoyed my reading last month, but none scream "FAVORITE" to me. I liked them all, and they were each so different from one another. Of the children's books, my favorite is by far The Water Princess. What a great story! My daughter and I had such a great discussion while reading that one. The artwork is beautiful and the story itself is a good one. My daughter would probably say her favorite was The Magic School Bus Comes to Its Senses. She recently discovered the television show. I have to say, the book, while not the best story-wise, was actually pretty good in the education department. I was surprised and maybe a little bit impressed.

Non-Book Review Posts in September:

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


New to My Shelves: The October My Lit Box arrived in the mail this week. Another great box! I am relieved I hadn't already purchased a copy of this month's book selection. It just so happens to be on my wish list! This month's theme is "Things Fall Apart", a sentiment I can relate to all too well. Art evidently plays a big part in Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, which is why Sanura included a Mini Doodle Kit and Bookmark Magnifier in the shape of a camera in the box. Also in the box is a box of matches, with A Raisin in the Sun cover. There is also a Tiwalade pin which hadn't made it in time for last month's box, which is just beautiful. I have a feeling I will have to fight my daughter for at least two items out of this month's box. Can you guess which ones?

Also in the mail this week I got an unexpected surprise! Gilly MacMillan's Odd Child Out, The Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb, and Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan.

What I Am Reading: I am struggling on the reading front right now. Nothing interests me. Nothing sounds good. I am still trying to get through Miss Jane by Brad Watson. I might actually have loved this book had I read it at any other time. The only reason I am persisting is because I need to get it in the mail for the next person in my Going Postal mail group by next week.  I started Death in the Stacks by Jenn McKinlay last night as my daughter drifted off to sleep. I didn't make it too far before my own eyes didn't want to stay open anymore.

What I Am Listening To: The news. What happened in Las Vegas is horrific. So so sad. It seems like everyone I know what touched by it in some way.

What I Am Watching: Hallmark movies and re-runs of Catfish and even Grey's Anatomy. More Supernatural. I should be reading, but I can't right now. I just can't. 

What My Past Two Weeks Were Like: Sad. Heartbreaking. Last week we received my senior cat, Parker's blood test and ultrasound results, and it didn't look good. In a month's time, Parker had lost half his weight and was fading fast. My husband and I had a difficult decision to make. We had hoped Parker would last until the weekend, but it wasn't meant to be. I spent all of the Thursday before last with him, cuddling with him and sitting with him. That night, he took a turn for the worse. He was struggling to walk and breathe. I was up all night with him, not sure he would make it. The next morning, I drove him to the cat hospital for the last time.

Parker was the inspiration for my blog title and the reason for my nickname, Literary Feline. He spent fifteen and a half of his sixteen years with us, and is very much missed by us all, including Gracie, my surviving cat.

What I Am Worried About: My daughter's cough. A doctor's visit may be in order in our near future.

What I Am Looking Forward To: A visit to San Diego's Safari Park this weekend with our Girl Scout troop.

This Week In Reading Mews:

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


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

My TBR List is a meme hosted by the awesome Michelle at Because Reading. It’s a fun way to choose a book from your TBR pile to read. The 1st 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 seriously thought about skipping this month's TBR List poll. I have fallen into a grief-related slump and am not sure how much reading I will get done this month. I want to try though. So, this month's selections are books I have been dying to read, hope to love, and which have been highly recommended. Two are new to me authors, but the other is one whose books I have enjoyed before.

Shadow and Bone (Shadow and Bone #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Goodreads Summary: 
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine
Goodreads Summary:

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn…

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer
Goodreads Summary: 
Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder's brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it "a matter of national security," but Cinder suspects it's more serious than he's letting on.

Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder's intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that's been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter's illness, Cinder's stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an "honor" that no one has survived.

But it doesn't take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for.

Have you read any of these? Which one do you think I should lose myself in this month? 

Thank you for voting! I hope you all have a wonderful October and Happy Reading!

© 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, October 04, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo

The main problem was her hands. ~ Opening of The Fire by Night 

The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo
William Morrow, 2017
Fiction (Historical); 336 pgs

My dad’s interest in World War II history rubbed off on me, and I find myself continuously drawn to that time period. When I first heard about Teresa Messineo’s The Fire by Night, I knew I had to read it. Not just because of the time period, but also because it is the story of two military nurses, deep in the trenches.

The two best friends met in nursing school, coming from entirely different backgrounds. Jo McMahon grew up in the tenements of Brooklyn. Kay Elliott grew up in idyllic small town Pennsylvania. They both volunteered to serve in the war, believing in the cause and their country.

Kay Elliott was sent in the Pacific in 1942, newly married and optimistic. The realities of war came crashing down on her the deeper into the war she got. Forced to surrender to the Japanese, Kay spent years in a Prisoner of War (POW) camp, where the prisoners made up of Allied men, women and children lived in the direst of conditions. Starvation being the death of many of them.

In 1945, Jo McMahon was waiting to leave her war-torn camp in France when the convoy was destroyed, leaving Jo and six of their patients to fend for themselves as best they can, surrounded by the enemy. Jo swears she will see all of her patients get out alive, even if it means going to drastic measures to save them.

Teresa Messineo paints a very realistic and raw portrait of what life must have been like for nurses in Jo and Kay’s positions. She weaves well her research and history into the time period really bringing it to life.

Both Kay and Jo feel helpless, and struggle with wanting to give up or go on. For Kay, being so cut off from the rest of the world, dealing with grief and loss, and not knowing whether she will ever survive the camp, all she has is her role as a nurse. The crying of a baby is a reminder of who she is and keeps her going despite all odds. In Europe, Jo has grown numb, no longer feeling much of anything. She goes through the motions, not really caring if she lives or dies.

While both women’s stories were extremely compelling, Jo’s seemed to get more of the focus. Her determination to keep her patients alive is as much for their sake as it is for hers—it is what ultimately keeps her going when all hope seems lost. I came to really care for Jo and each of her patients, getting to know a little about each one. Jo finds herself drawn particularly to one of them, his life teetering on the edge throughout the book.

I really appreciated the depth that the author goes into with her two heroines. In many ways, this is a character driven novel that delves into the impact war had on these two women— both during and after. My heart ached for both women, the tension high in each of their circumstances, wondering if they would survive—wondering how they could survive. It was obvious they would have scars if they did, and Messineo pulls no punches in that regard either.

As of late it seems like the historical fiction I read set in this time period, involving female leads, is on the lighter side. Yes, the books tackle some serious issues, but they are more on the surface, often with a strong romance element as a side story—or even the focal point. While there is a bit of romance in The Fire by Night, it never overshadows the personal sacrifices and journey of the two main characters. It really is a part of the women’s stories in a way that makes it more real and highlights the sacrifices made during the war. Nor is this a particularly light novel that sticks only to the surface of the war. It really does get into the worst of it: the devastation, the terror, the misogyny, and the emotional impact war has on one’s psyche.

If I have one complaint about the novel, it would be that I would like to have seen Kay and Jo’s stories come together a bit more by the end. The tie of friendship between the two connected the stories, but the two narratives, which alternated with each chapter, seemed to remain separate from one another even in the end with a minor tie in. Even so, the way each of their stories ended seemed very fitting given their circumstances, and I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

The Fire by Night is at once a heartbreaking novel about a time in our history which is often romanticized, but which here is shown in a much more realistic light. I have such admiration for the real life Jo’s and Kay’s who served in the war. Their contribution to the war effort was invaluable and they deserve much more attention and accolades then they have received.

To learn more about Teresa Messineo and her work, please visit the author on Facebook.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about The Fire by Night on the TLC Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour.  Review copy provided by publisher for an honest review.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

© 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, October 01, 2017

My Parker

Parker Runyon, Our Heart and Soul (2001 - September 29, 2017)

There was a kitten that hung out in the parking lot of the courthouse where I worked. He was one of several who called the bushes and back fence home. Unlike his litter-mates, he was not afraid of humans, and would often venture close for water and food, letting himself to be pet. As I walked back into my office from the courtroom one spring day, a coworker coaxed me into the supervisor's office. There was a box, and inside was the orange kitten. My coworker was well known for her love of cats and her efforts to rescue them. I had never expressed an interest in cats. In fact, I was vehemently a dog person. I did not want a cat. I had just adopted a dog the summer before and he was the light of my life. There was no way I could take in a cat. Besides, my husband, even though he was a cat person, would never go for it. Especially not as spirited and hyper as Riley our dog was. My coworker would not take no for answer, however, and without even consulting my husband, I took the kitten to the vet where he would get a check up and be neutered.

The next day, my husband and I brought our new family member home from the cat hospital. All the books say to introduce new animals to the household slowly--and we sort of did that. Just in a day.  We bundled up Parker in a blanket, my husband with him on one side of the door and Riley and I on the other to start. There were moments I thought all was lost, but the cat and dog were best friends by night fall. They were my boys. Parker and Riley.

I loved how well they got along with each other. They played together, and while Riley wasn't much of a cuddler unless it was with me, Parker snuck in there a few times.  Where my dog Riley was hyper, Parker was the opposite. So calm and laid back. He was the friendliest cat. Company would come and he would not run for the closest hiding place. He would march out to see what who was there and maybe climb on or into their bag if they had one.

Parker was very proper in that he would not walk across or sit on anyone's lap if it wasn't covered. He would patiently wait for me to pull a blanket over my legs if I was wearing shorts, and then climb on. He loved sitting on our laps. It did not matter if Riley and later Mouse or Anya were already there. He would find a place to squeeze in. Even more so, Parker loved to lay on our chests when we were laying down. One of his favorite places to settle in was Anjin's lap and chest when Anjin was at his computer. Sometimes Parker would sit on the desk in front of the monitor and nudge my husband's hand with his head whenever Anjin reached for the mouse.

When we first brought Anya, a stray kitten, home, she and Riley hit it off instantly. Not so much Parker and Anya. It took a while, but the two grew quite close after awhile. I like to think it is because Parker and I had a talk about his responsibility of being a big brother to her, but likely he fell for the cute ball of fur just like everyone else in the household had. Parker was there for her when she was really sick and we almost lost her. He groomed her and played with her. We would often find them curled around each other napping.

Parker was not sure what to make of Mouse at first, but when she would cry, he would come running to see what was wrong. Sometimes it seemed like he was able to comfort her when Anjin and I were not able to. He was so patient with her--always. Sometimes at night when I would be cuddled in bed next to Mouse, Parker would settle half on me and half on her, purring to his heart's content. These last few months, Parker took to sleeping on our pillows by our heads at night, something I discouraged for many years and he never showed an interest in until one night I offered him the chance. He especially loved to curl up near Mouse's head.

As soon as the bath water started running for Mouse's bath, Parker was right there. He would either like on the floor towel in front of the tub as Mouse bathed or he would sit on the edge of the tub watching her play. There was one time when he fell in and just stood stalk still in the water, unsure what to do until I pulled him out.

People say dogs are more affectionate and eagerly greet you at the door when you come home after a hard day's work unlike a cat. Those people never met my cats. Parker especially was often right at the door when I opened it in each evening. He liked to wait for me in the bathroom area as I got ready for work in the mornings or bed at night. Parker always seemed to know when I needed him the most. If I was in physical or emotional pain, he would lay with me, his purrs helping to ease that pain.

Like most cats, Parker was a morning cat, and would often wake me up in the wee hours of the morning (always before my alarm was set to go off). Pluck. Pluck. Pluck. he would pluck my nightshirt or the blanket to get my attention. Sometimes mewing, but mostly just plucking. He had this habit, too, of trying to move a blanket away from my face if he thought it was covering  or too close to my mouth. When we would nap together, just he and I, he would settle in with his face just an inch or so away from my own. He liked to be close. Anjin always got a little annoyed at how Parker liked to groom his beard, but we would always end up laughing about it. 

Parker was a comforting force in our house. When I think of him, it is always how he was there for us--this solid, calm force. The worst I saw him was after Riley and Anya died four years ago. He took their deaths very hard. It is also when his health began to decline.  During a visit the Cat Hospital the November after their deaths, the veterinarian talked me into bringing home a scruffy kitten named Gracie for a trial visit, thinking perhaps Parker would like some company. His health and demeanor did improve after that. Gracie turned out to be good for all of us, I think.

Parker went through a lot in his sixteen years of life, including having a cancerous tumor removed a couple years ago and other chronic health issues involving his digestive system (Triaditis) in his later years which required him to take a variety of medications on a daily basis. In his life, he survived a move, a break in, a new baby, new cats in the home, the loss of his fur friends, and the attentions of a young child, among other events.

Parker was the inspiration for my blog's name, Musings of a Bookish Kitty. It is because of him I took on the name Literary Feline. He often would butt his head against my book or kindle while I read, and liked to lay on my books on the shelves. He sometimes would even lay on my book as I was reading if I had it laid flat on the bed. He liked to sit on my lap or chest as I read, depending on if I was sitting or laying on my back.

This past year Parker had many ups and down, adding new medications to his existing regiment. He seemed to improve considerably, only to take a turn for the worst in September. More blood tests and another ultrasound which only led to bad news. Lymphoma. Parker's condition deteriorated rapidly after the diagnosis. By then he had already lost half his weight and was unsteady on his feet. Mouse, Anjin and I took turns saying goodbye to our Parker, our heart and soul, before we visited the cat hospital for the last time.

Words that instantly spring to mind when I think of him are kind, gentle, calm, considerate and loving and oh so soft. He had the softest fur of any cat I have ever had the chance to pet. They say cats have a favorite person, but I am not sure Parker really did. He seemed to always dole his time out between us fairly. He was my first ever cat. He turned this dog person into a cat person. Losing Parker has been heartbreaking. We all loved him so much. There will never be another cat like him in our lives. 

When I think of him now, I imagine him playing with Riley and Anya, young again and happy, his purrs filling the air the way they did my heart. 

© 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.