Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bookish Thoughts:Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

As far as days to die were concerned, the longest day of the yer was as good a day as any. (excerpt from Into the Darkest Corner)

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
Harper Paperbacks, 2013
Crime Fiction; 432 pgs

This is one of those books that I knew I would love as soon as I began reading, one that would linger with me even when I wasn't reading it. Elizabeth Haynes eases into her narrative, a story alternating between the past and present, introducing us to Catherine Bailey, a young woman is haunted by her past.  An intense and abusive relationship has left her wounded and alone.  She's begun a new life for herself, completely leaving behind her old one, but is constantly looking over her shoulder. Cathy's new neighbor, Stuart, reaches out to her, but Cathy isn't sure she wants to open up to him, much less trust him.  And then she receives news that upends her new life, sending her into a panic and wondering if her fears will once again become reality.

I really liked how the author built the suspense in the novel. It started off slowly but became more intense with each turn of the page.  We get to know Cathy as she is now and as she was.  Once a veritable party girl with all the confidence in the world, she is now a reclusive, frightened woman suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Throughout the novel, I felt as if I was inside of Cathy's head and could feel how terrified she was.  The author does an amazing job at describing what Cathy was going through and why she was as paranoid and scared as she was.

Her ex-boyfriend, Lee, was extremely charming and handsome.  It is no wonder Catherine fell for him initially.  It's the usual story in that sense. Mr. Charmer wins the woman's heart and she overlooks the warning signs, too swayed by the attention and love he offers her.  But then the mind games begin, slight ones at first--the kind you wonder if you are just imagining.  It soon became clear he was extremely controlling--and yet on the outside, he appeared to be the most attentive boyfriend.  All her friends thought so.  She was lucky, they told her.  She didn't feel she could turn to them for help as a result.

Elizabeth Haynes takes on the difficult topic of domestic violence in her novel. She does an excellent job of putting into words the breakdown of a person's confidence and the doubts that enter her mind as well as the guilt and desire to be loved even by the person who is hurting her. Catherine did want out, and acknowledges that escape isn't as easy always just a matter of walking out the door and never looking back. It can be much more complicated than that.  Especially with someone like Lee.  Even I was afraid of Lee.

Into the Darkest Corner can easily be described as a psychological thriller, but it really is more than that.  It is also the story of a woman regaining control of her life and overcoming her mental illness.  Cathy had to dig deep inside herself to find the strength she needed to work towards healing her mental wounds.  I thought Haynes did a marvelous job of documenting one person's difficult journey toward recovery, the ups and downs.  The details were true to real life.

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this book--and how much it disturbed me.  I found myself double checking the locks on my own doors.  I look forward to reading more by Elizabeth Haynes in the future.  She has a gift for characterization and weaving together an unforgettable story.

Rating: * (Very Good +)

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

I hope you will check out what others had to say about Into the Darkest Corner on the TLC Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Copy of book purchased by myself.

© 2013, 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, January 24, 2013

Bookish Thoughts: T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton

T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton
Marian Wood Book/Putnam, 2007
Crime Fiction; 400 pgs

There was a point, later in my grandmother's life, when she was still living on her own; but it was clear those days were numbered.  She was showing signs of dementia and of not being able to care for herself. I remember one instance in particular, right around the time my mom and her siblings had realized my grandmother shouldn't be driving anymore, when my grandmother, all on her own, walked onto a car dealership lot and drove away with a brand new mini van.  Knowing her as I did at the time, it's hard to imagine anyone selling something like that to her. But then, no one in the family was there to witness the transaction, how she presented herself and how hard a sale the salesperson made.  All we knew was some salesperson sold a car to an elderly woman who clearly (to us) wasn't completely right in the head.  I'm pretty sure one of my uncles gave a few people at the dealership the what for.

My grandmother would eventually be placed in a care home where her medical needs could be best met.  I was in college hundreds of miles away.  My mom and dad both worked full-time as did my mom's siblings.  My aunt's attempt at having my grandmother live with my uncle and her hadn't worked out.  My grandmother needed 24 hour care.  I think I drove my mom crazy with my constant questions about Grandma's care.  Chalk it up to too many classes about child and elder abuse, but I still worried.  

As far as we know, nothing bad happened to my grandmother in terms of the type of care she received.  Unfortunately, that isn't the case for some.  

Gus is a cantankerous old man.  He complained about everything and everyone--and loudly.  He lived on his own, next door to private investigator Kinsey Millhone, and her landlord, Henry.  Gus's only relative, a great niece, lived in New York.  When he falls and breaks his hip, Kinsey and Henry come to his rescue, but he needs more care than they can provide.  

The niece hires Solana Rojas, a nurse, to come in and check on her uncle.  On the surface, Solana seems a perfect fit.  She's experienced and willing and able to take care of the not always nice older man.  

Not everything is at it seems, however.  What Kinsey's surface background check failed to uncover was the fact that Solana Rojas is not, in fact, Solana Rojas.  Nor is she the LVN she claims to be.  Lest you think I am spoiling the book for you, this is information the reader is told upfront.  The reader knows exactly the kind of person Solana is from the beginning, and she's not a nice person.

In a departure from her usual straight up first person narrative, Sue Grafton intersperses third person narratives about Solana throughout the book, offering the reader an inside look at what is going on behind Gus's closed doors and into the mind of a sociopath.  Solana has been stealing identities for quite some time, preying on the elderly to earn a quick buck.  She is the mother of a thirty-something year old son who isn't quite all there.  He's never worked a day in his life and likes to use his fist to get his point across.  

Kinsey senses something is off about Solana, but proving it is another matter.  Solana is smart and cunning.  She knows just how to hide her tracks and always seems a step ahead.  

I really liked this book and yet it made my blood boil. I really--and I mean really-- didn't like Solana and yet she seemed to get the better of Kinsey at every turn.  I wanted to reach into the book and strangle her, save Gus, and give Kinsey a hand.  

For those who don't know, Kinsey is a private investigator in the fictional town of Santa Teresa in Southern California.  She isn't too good with relationships and she's often stretching to make ends meet.  She tried her hand as a cop once, which is how she ended up being in her current job. She isn't one who likes to take orders from anyone else.  

Kinsey's landlord, Henry, an elderly gentleman, is ever present in T is for Trespass--and a good thing too!  I adore him probably as much as Kinsey does.  He has a possible love interest this time around, a woman I'm not too sure about.

I especially enjoyed the side stories running through T is for Trespass.  Kinsey has to earn money after all.  She is short on actual detective work and has been taking jobs serving notices, whether it be for court appearances or eviction notices.  She's also working on a rather troublesome car accident case, looking into an injury claim in which a woman and her husband are suing another woman after they hit her car at an intersection.  The only witness is proving to be rather elusive, but Kinsey is determined to track him down.

The series is set in the 1980's, a time when cell phones and computers aren't in common use.  I particularly loved a scene in T is for Trespass when Kinsey is interviewing a computer repairman and he tells her she needs to get a computer.  She asks him how much it would cost her and his reply, $10,000, was enough to shock me too.

I've been reading Sue Grafton's alphabet series for years and am quite invested in it. There is rarely anything flashy about Grafton's novels.  She isn't one to take her stories over the top like so many crime fiction novels today.  And the crime isn't always murder.  They have a realistic vibe to them, something I especially love about these novels.  Each book in the series can be read on their own.

I'd forgotten what a good writer Grafton is, how tight her plots can be and just how witty Kinsey is.  This is a good addition to the series and I'm kicking myself now for taking so long to get to it. I am determined to catch up in the series this year (she's up to V).  I used to read the books as soon as they came out, and it's one of the few series both my husband and I love.

Rating: * (Very Good +)

You can learn more about Sue Grafton and her books on the author's website.

Source: I purchased a copy of T is for Trespass for my husband's and my reading pleasure.

© 2013, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Hula Hoop

Hosted by Wordless Wednesday

© 2013, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday's Random Mewsings

I am in between print and e-books at the moment, still trying to decide what to read next.  Something paranormal, I think.  Jennifer Harlow's What's a Witch to Do? is calling to me but then so is the more romance-y The Demon Lover by Juliet Dark (first book in the Fairwick Chronicles trilogy).

To offset the heavier topics of my recent reading, I downloaded the audio version of Mary Roach's Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex in an effort to lighten the mood.  It's funny, but not quite holding my attention the way I might like.  My audiobook lover friends will be happy to know I am appreciating audiobooks more these days, but I still struggle with keeping my mind on the books as I listen.  My brain doesn't like to rest!  Given that Bonk is nonfiction, I have the constant urge to take notes--which of course I can't do when I'm washing my face or driving to work.  How will I ever remember anything to put in a review?! It's so much easier when the audiobook is fiction.

I found my rhythm with Tolstoy's War and Peace at about chapter 11 of Part One.  I admit to struggling through the French, and I find always going back and forth between the text and reading the footnotes distracting.  What's a reader to do though?  I hope to post an update on my progress at the end of the month.

January has been a busy month on the work front.  It began slow as the schools were just beginning to open again, but now that classes are back in full swing, the calls are coming in steadily.  Last week was a tough one.  Hearing about a child dying always is.  Mouse got extra hugs and kisses that night, as you can imagine.

Speaking of Mouse, she and a friend recently spent a day at the Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert.  We all had a fun time.  Mouse's friend is three, and Mouse follows her lead just about anywhere.  One thing I love about this particular museum is how it caters mostly to the younger age set.  I understand there is a similar museum in another county that has more activities for the older kids.  I imagine we'll make our way there one of these days too.

Coming back around to books, Mouse is obsessed with them!  You mention the word book to her and she's off to find a book for you to read to her.  She counts along with us when we're reading her a number book and will say the letters or animals and objects that coincide with the letters as we go along.  It's amazing how much she knows!  I'm just in awe of her much of the time.

I recently saw the movie Jack Reacher.  You know the one.  It's based on one of Lee Child's books featuring the character Jack Reacher.  It was an entertaining action movie, but not without its faults.  There was one scene in which the defense attorney (whose name escapes me) and Jack Reacher are talking to each other and it felt like a dry reading from the script.  Then there was the funny escape scene--that while funny on one hand, was kind of upsetting on the other.  At least if it would have happened in reality.  Maybe that's just me though.  Although I haven't read the book, I found the movie to be entirely predictable.  Still, as I said, it was entertaining and I did enjoy it overall.

Anjin and I have a day off together coming up later this week and we are hoping to catch the movie Les Miserables on the big screen.  I'm a little nervous.  Even despite the rave reviews.  I love--LOVE--the musical and am not happy about all of the casting choices made.  I'm sure I'll like it just the same.  Hopefully.

That sums up my latest news.  I hope you all are well and finding time to read.

What are you reading, by the way?  Do tell!

© 2013, 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, January 17, 2013

Bookish Thoughts: Evil Without a Face by Jordan Dane

Evil Without a Face by Jordan Dane (Narrated by Xe Sands)
Harper Collins, Unabridged, 2011
Crime Fiction; 11 hrs, 42 min

Nikki Archer is your typical teenager.  Her mother doesn't understand her and she feels trapped inside her own home.  She's tried running away once before--and the price she paid was her mother tightening the reins.  Nikki thinks she's finally found a way.  She is leaving home for good this time, meeting a friend she met on the internet, someone who understands her.  Only, what she finds on the other side is no friend at all.

Jessica Beckett is a bounty hunter with a personal vendetta.  She is haunted by her past, constantly battling old demons and trying to prove herself.  She is good at her job, only sometimes gets side tracked, especially when it comes to the likes of Lucas Baker. He doesn't have a bounty on his head, but Jess will risk it all to bring the man down.  With the help of her new assistant, Seth Harper, computer whiz extraordinaire, and her long time friend and Chicago vice detective Samantha Cooper, she is sure she can.

Former NFL quarterback Payton Archer will do anything to find his niece, Nikki, and bring her home safely.  Along with his friend, Joe, Payton follows the trail from Alaska to Chicago, where they cross paths with Sam and Jess, eventually teaming up to search for Nikki, who they know is in mortal danger.

Jordan Dane wastes no time jumping into the story, putting me on the edge of my seat right from the start.  Evil Without a Face is an intense book and rarely lets up as the story unfolds.  I liked Jess right away.  She's got an edge to her.  She is smart and resourceful, but often gets so focused on going after what she wants that she doesn't think of the impact it will have on others until it is too late.  It's as if she has something to prove--to herself or to the world, maybe both. Throughout the novel, the reader is given glimpses into Jess's past.  She obviously was abused, taken from her mother at an early age.  She has the scars to prove it.  Jess grew up in the foster care system.  And she wants nothing more than to take down people like those who hurt her.  Jessica grows a lot in the course of the book, coming to terms with her past and learning to trust--and love.

My heart ached for Nikki throughout the story.  Imagine being in her situation: scared and alone, surrounded by people who mean you harm.  It was difficult listening to the graphic scenes in the book of what that poor girl had to endure--both she and Jess.  No one should have to suffer through anything like that.  Ever.

I wish I knew more about Payton.  An alcoholic at the start of the book, he has his own set of demons chasing him.  And while we get to see Jessica grow as a character, the change in Payton seemed to happen over night.  But then, maybe a big shock like having your niece disappear and her life being in danger will do that to a person.  He had no choice really but pull himself together if there was any chance of finding her at all.  He just seemed a little too perfect at times, though.

There is a quite a bit of lead up to Jessica and Payton meeting, but it is set up that is needed.  I got good feel for the characters and their plight as well as a picture of what they were facing.  The book has plenty of action for those who like action packed thrillers.  There was one aspect of the story I found myself questioning (trying to avoid big spoilers, I won't say exactly what), but, setting aside reality, I got past it pretty quickly.  I wanted to believe it for the sake of the book.

I listened to the audio version of the book, which was narrated by Xe Sands.  I confess I chose this book because of the narrator, having "met" Xe Sands on Twitter this past year.  I looked up a list of the books she narrated and came across this one.  It sounded like something I'd like, and so I gave it a try.  I don't know why I do this to myself.  What if I hated the narration?  Fortunately, I didn't.  I thought Xe Sands did a good job reading Evil Without a Face.  The novel is told in third person, but jumps from viewpoint to viewpoint, giving the reader a fuller idea of what is taking place with the various characters.

I count an audio book a success when I forget I'm listening to a book, but rather find myself lost in the story, as if it is going on around me.  Much like the feeling I get when reading a book.  Sands brought Jess and Nikki to life for me.  I was comforted by Payton's voice and dreaded hearing the cold voice of the Russian villain.  It's a credit to both the author and narrator that I sneaked in listening moments, even when I really had so few to spare.  I had to know what would happen next.  Lives were on the line.   

Human trafficking is a growing problem around the world, including in the United States.  It is a modern day form of slavery that comes in many forms and affects people of all ages, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, and income levels.  For many people, I imagine it is something you hear about in the movies or see on television.  You don't think of it as touching your personal lives.  Yet for many others it is their living nightmare.  I hear the horror stories every day in one form or another.  It is a real problem.  A very serious one (and one I am very passionate about if you haven't noticed). The criminals behind human trafficking have become even more sophisticated and savvy than they once were.  They prey on the young and the vulnerable. They are in our malls, in our schools, and on our streets.  They are on the internet.  Evil Without a Face is only fiction, but for some, it is an all too real, a reality whose web we don't want our children--or anyone's for that matter--to be caught in.  For more information about human trafficking, visit the Polaris Project website.

Evil Without a Face is the first in the Sweet Justice series, a series I will definitely be following up on.

Rating: * (Good +)

You can learn more about Jordan Dane and her books on the author's website

Source: I purchased an audio copy of the book for my reading pleasure.

© 2013, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: A View From the Desert

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© 2013, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Top Ten 2013 Debuts I'm Looking Forward To

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

You would think as a book blogger I would be in the know about all the latest upcoming books.  Sadly, I sometimes feel like the last to know, especially when it comes to debut books.  Occasionally though, I come across word of a book that sounds too good to pass up. Here, in no particular order, are ten 2013 debuts that sound irresistible and have top spots on my wish list:

1. The Midwife's Tale by Samuel Thomas ~ This one comes recommended by Heather of Raging Bibliomania.  
From the publisher:  
It is 1644, and Parliament’s armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York. Even as the city suffers at the rebels’ hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion. One of Bridget’s friends, Esther Cooper, has been convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to be burnt alive. Convinced that her friend is innocent, Bridget sets out to find the real killer.

2. Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill 
From the Publisher:  
A brilliantly crafted modern tale from acclaimed film critic and screenwriter C. Robert Cargill—part Neil Gaiman, part Guillermo Del Toro, part William S. Burroughs—that charts the lives of two boys from their star-crossed childhood in the realm of magic and mystery to their anguished adulthoods. 

There is another world than our own—one no closer than a kiss and one no further than our nightmares—where all the stuff of which dreams are made is real and magic is just a step away. But once you see that world, you will never be the same. 

Dreams and Shadows takes us beyond this veil. Once bold explorers and youthful denizens of this magical realm, Ewan is now an Austin musician who just met his dream girl, and Colby, meanwhile, cannot escape the consequences of an innocent wish. But while Ewan and Colby left the Limestone Kingdom as children, it has never forgotten them. And in a world where angels relax on rooftops, whiskey-swilling genies argue metaphysics with foul-mouthed wizards, and monsters in the shadows feed on fear, you can never outrun your fate.

3. Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason
From the Publisher:
“There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.” 
With this memorable first line, we meet Jason Getty, a regular guy in every mild sense of the word. But extraordinary circumstances push this ordinary man to do something he can’t undo...and now he must live with the undeniable reality of his actions. And just as Jason does finally learn to live with it, a landscaper discovers a body on his property—only it’s not the body Jason buried . . . 
With the tense pacing of a thriller and the language and beauty of a fine literary novel, Three Graves Full heralds the arrival of a stunning new voice in fiction.

4. A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri 
From the Publisher:
Growing up in a small rice-farming village in 1980s Iran, eleven-year-old Saba Hafezi and her twin sister, Mahtab, are captivated by America. They keep lists of English words and collect illegal Life magazines, television shows, and rock music. So when her mother and sister disappear, leaving Saba and her father alone in Iran, Saba is certain that they have moved to America without her. But her parents have taught her that “all fate is written in the blood,” and that twins will live the same life, even if separated by land and sea. As she grows up in the warmth and community of her local village, falls in and out of love, and struggles with the limited possibilities in post-revolutionary Iran, Saba envisions that there is another way for her story to unfold. Somewhere, it must be that her sister is living the Western version of this life. And where Saba’s world has all the grit and brutality of real life under the new Islamic regime, her sister’s experience gives her a freedom and control that Saba can only dream of.
Filled with a colorful cast of characters and presented in a bewitching voice that mingles the rhythms of Eastern storytelling with modern Western prose, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is a tale about memory and the importance of controlling one’s own fate.

5. Murder at Rosamund's Gate by Susanna Calkins 
From the Publisher: 
In Susanna Calkins's atmospheric debut novel, a chambermaid must uncover a murderer in seventeenth-century plague-ridden London.
For Lucy Campion, a seventeenth-century English chambermaid serving in the household of the local magistrate, life is an endless repetition of polishing pewter, emptying chamber pots, and dealing with other household chores until a fellow servant is ruthlessly killed, and someone she loves is wrongly arrested for the crime. In a time where the accused are presumed guilty until proven innocent, lawyers aren't permitted to defend their clients, and--if the plague doesn't kill them first--public executions draw a large crowd of spectators, Lucy knows she may never see this person alive again. Unless, that is, she can identify the true murderer.  

6. The Missing File by D.A. Mishani 
From the Publisher:  
In The Missing File, Israeli detective Avraham Avraham must find a teenage boy gone missing from the suburbs of Tel Aviv in this first volume in a fresh new literary crime series by D. A. Mishani. Crimes in Avraham’s quiet suburb are generally not all that complex. But when a sixteen-year-old boy goes missing and a schoolteacher offers up a baffling complication, Avraham finds himself questioning everything he thought he knew about his life.

7. Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
From the Publisher:
The Walker family is good at keeping secrets from the world.They are even better at keeping them from each other.
Max Walker is a golden boy. Attractive, intelligent, and athletic, he’s the perfect son, the perfect friend, and the perfect crush for the girls in his school. He’s even really nice to his little brother. Karen, Max’s mother, is a highly successful criminal lawyer, determined to maintain the facade of effortless excellence she has constructed through the years. Now that the boys are getting older, now that she won’t have as much control, she worries that the facade might soon begin to crumble. Adding to the tension, her husband Steve has chosen this moment to stand for election to Parliament. The spotlight of the media is about to encircle their lives.
The Walkers are hiding something, you see. Max is special. Max is different. Max is intersex. When an enigmatic childhood friend named Hunter steps out of his past and abuses his trust in the worst possible way, Max is forced to consider the nature of his well-kept secret. Why won’t his parents talk about it? Will his friends accept him if he is no longer the Golden Boy? Who is Max Walker really?

8. Good People by  Ewart Hutton  
From the Publisher:
Detective Sergeant Glyn Capaldi, fallen from grace and exiled from Cardiff to the Welsh countryside, does his best to serve as the catchall detective in the big bit in the middle that God gave to the sheep. It’s a place where nothing of any significance is meant to happen, a place where his superiors believe he can do little harm.
But trouble has a way of catching up with Capaldi. Six men and a young woman disappear after a night of rugby and drink. They don’t all reappear. The ones who do are “good people,” and they give a reasonable explanation for the absence of the woman and their friend. Only Capaldi remains unconvinced. In the face of opposition, Capaldi delves deeper and starts to uncover a network of conflicts, betrayals, and depravity that resonates below the outwardly calm surface of rural respectability.

9. The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Pragg  
From the Publisher:  
A magical debut about an enchanted house that offers refuge to women in their time of need . . .
Distraught that her academic career has stalled, Alba is walking through her hometown of Cambridge, England, when she finds herself in front of a house she’s never seen before, 11 Hope Street. A beautiful older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she has ninety-nine nights to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in.
She soon discovers that this is no ordinary house. Past residents have included George Eliot and Beatrix Potter, who, after receiving the assistance they needed, hung around to help newcomers—literally, in talking portraits on the wall. As she escapes into this new world, Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds—and maybe even save her life. 
Filled with a colorful and unforgettable cast of literary figures, The House at the End of Hope Street is a charming, whimsical novel of hope and feminine wisdom that is sure to appeal to fans of Jasper Fforde and especially Sarah Addison Allen.

10. Toms River by Dan Fagin 

From the Publisher: 

The riveting true story of a small town ravaged by industrial pollution, Toms River melds hard-hitting investigative reporting, a fascinating scientific detective story, and an unforgettable cast of characters into a sweeping narrative in the tradition of A Civil Action, The Emperor of All Maladiesand The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Do any of these sound good to you?

What debut novels are you looking forward to this year?

© 2013, 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, January 10, 2013

Bookish Thoughts: Burden of Truth by Terri Nolan

Burden of Truth by Terri Nolan
Midnight Ink, 2013
Crime Fiction; 384 pgs 

I love a good mystery, especially one featuring an investigative reporter.  I admit, too, to being curious about Burden of Truth because of the author.  I'm a long time listener of the radio, and know Terri Nolan as the voice of the news.  When I saw she'd written a book, a mystery no less, I couldn't resist reading Burden of Truth.

From the Publisher:
Investigative journalist Birdie Elizabeth Keane would give anything—even her Pulitzer—to see Matt Whelan, the love of her life, one more time. The sudden death of the Los Angeles cop has left her devastated, angry, and baffled. Coming from a traditional Irish-Catholic family of cops, Birdie can’t ignore the bizarre coincidences surrounding his “accidental” death—or her suspicion that he planned it. A twisting trail of clues leads her to a sixteen-year-old murder, a cold case she’s always wanted to solve. With dangerous forces closing in, Birdie races to decipher Matt’s last message for her. Each stunning revelation brings her closer to the dark truth about a man she thought she knew—Was he a dirty cop?—and unimaginable, painful secrets about the people she loves most.
Birdie is a recovering alcoholic, all too familiar with loveless relationships, and an eye for the truth.  She is hard as nails. To go through what she does in this book and still be standing in the end . . . I don't know how she managed it.  She must have been running on pure adrenalin and determination.

While I enjoy reading books set all over the globe, there's something to be said for spending time closer to home, in familiar places.  I think that's one of the big draws for me to Michael Connelly's books and this one, Burden of Truth.  From the culture to the city itself, Los Angeles is its own character.  While I think this particular book could have taken place in just about any major American city, it fits best in Southern California, with the high desert to the southeast and the forest just a short drive away.  

Family plays an integral part in Birdie's story.  She has a tight knit family.  And law enforcement runs in her blood.  She is an only child to a high ranking career officer father and several of her cousins are on the force too.  While she's not a cop herself, she does have connections, and it makes it easier for her to get the information she needs for her own purposes.  I liked the interplay between Birdie and her family and with the family of the man she loved.  Their relationships are complicated, as many relationships are.

While in some respects Burden of Truth is your typical crime fiction novel, with the pursuit of truth, the unexpected--and expected--twists, secrets, betrayal, murder, and suspenseful moments, it is also more than that.  Terri Nolan has created complex characters and their inner struggles are really what make this novel what it is.  I didn't mind the side stories, enjoying my time getting to know the various people in Birdie's life.  The author threads the stories together well.  It has a very natural feel to it.  And when it all comes together in the end, well, let's just say there's a big finale.

I did wonder about one aspect of the story, which I hesitate to mention for fear of spoiling the book.  I doubted the reality of the possibility--wondered if the heart can swing so easily from one direction to the next without another thought.  That's probably saying too much.  Still, Nolan handled that quite nicely too, and the very last of the book had me smiling.  She hadn't failed me after all.

I really enjoyed reading Burden of Truth and look forward to reading more by this author in the future.  

Rating: * (Good +)

You can learn more about Terri Nolan and her books on the author's website

Source: I received an e-copy of the book via NetGalley for review.

© 2013, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Reading Time

Hosted by Wordless Wednesday

(Can you believe my baby is 22 months old today? Where does the time go?!)

© 2013, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Top Ten Bookish Goals For 2013

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

The past couple of years I have been hesitant to make specific reading goals.  I haven't wanted to be too confined by structure, rather wanting to have a more come what may attitude.  Except I do like some structure and so can never stay away from it completely. In an effort to balance both these ideas, here are my ten reading goals for this year:

1. Read more of my already owned TBR books.  It's embarrassing how many unread books I have sitting on my shelves. 

2. Buy fewer books.  Sorry, authors.  I want to support you.  But right now, I have way too many unread books on my shelves and in my e-readers to read.  Let me read some of those first.  Besides, supporting an author is more than just spending money on a book.  It's reading and sharing about it too, right?

3. Read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.

4. Read the rest of the books on my Top Ten Books I Resolve to Read in 2013 list.

5. Read the books I received for Christmas in 2012.  You would think this would go without saying, but I can't tell you how many books I have received as gifts for Christmas in past years that I have yet to read.  Terrible, I know.

7. Read at least one book recommended to me by a friend (Go ahead.  Recommend a book and I may choose to read your recommendation!).

8. Read the Shining by Stephen King.  Because Trish and Jill are making me.

9. Catch up with at least two series that I love but let fall behind.

10. Go easy on myself if I don't meet any of the above goals.

What are your reading goals for 2013?

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Merely Mystery Reading Challenge Giveaway Winner!

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the Merely Mystery Reading Challenge this past year. Whether you completed the challenge or gave it a try, give yourself a big pat on the back. As promised, a winner among those who finished the challenge was selected randomly to receive a book of his or her choice. 

Please join me in congratulating Neer of A Hot Cup of Pleasure!  Neer participated in the Shamus Who Has Seen It All level, reading twelve books in each of the different sub-genre categories.

© 2013, 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, January 04, 2013

Bookish Thoughts: The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell

Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.  ~ Excerpt from The Death of Bees

The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell
Harper, 2013
Fiction; 336 pgs

When I read the description of The Death of Bees, I knew I had to read it.  Two sisters, fifteen year old Marnie and twelve year old Nelly, haven't had the best of childhoods.  Neglected and abused by drug addicted parents, the girls have learned to fend for themselves.  The sudden death of their parents puts the girls in an awkward position.  They fear being separated and put into foster care and so decide to bury the bodies in the backyard.  Orphaned and trying their best to survive, the girls can't help but be drawn to their kindly elderly neighbor who had noticed something was amiss, believing the girls had, once again, been abandoned.  Lennie is still grieving the loss of his lover and lives with the stigma of being a sexual offender after being arrested for propositioning an under age prostitute.  He finds comfort in caring for the girls and only wants to earn their trust and help them.

Set in Glasgow, the novel is told from the point of view of Lennie, Marnie and Nelly, each having their own very distinct voices.  Lennie is a sweetheart, a gay man, who, despite abuse from neighbors, has avoided turning bitter.  He has faced his own challenges in life and he offers the girls something they've never really had before: a loving home.  

Nelly and Marnie couldn't be more different.  Marnie is one tough young woman.  She has taken care of her sister all Nelly's life just about.  She is street smart.  She is an excellent student, earning straight A's in school even despite her extracurricular activities.  Marnie has no reason to think her life will amount to much, and yet she knows she wants more from life than what she's had to live with so far.  Her sister, Nelly, has a gift for playing the violin.  She speaks in a formal manner, but is not always able to hold her tongue.  There is an innocence about her, and she clearly has been damaged by her past.

The secret about the parents' deaths have puts a significant strain on the two girls and their relationship, and yet both of them know the importance of sticking together and hiding the truth.  They both long for normalcy.  Marnie wants to get on with her life and Nelly wants to get back that family feeling.  While Marnie distrusts everyone, Nelly is quick to lean on anyone who shows an interest in her.  It puts them all in a dangerous position.

Lisa O'Donnell has created characters that are not only believable, but who pull at one's heart strings.  It was impossible not to be pulled into the lives of the three main characters and to care about them--and root for them.

This is not an easy book to read.  It is dark and at times gritty.  The reader gets a real taste of the ugliness of life.  But what makes this book so great is how the author weaves rays of light into the dark.  While showing humans at their worst, it also shows them at their best.  Sometimes in unexpected ways.

Rating:  * (Very Good)

To learn more about Lisa O'Donnell and her book, please visit the author's website.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about The Death of Bees on the TLC Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Copy of The Death of Bees provided by publisher.

© 2013, 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, January 03, 2013

2013: What's in a Name 6 Reading Challenge & War & Peace Read-Along

I was not going to sign up for any challenges in 2013, but I don't want to miss out on Candace's What's in a Name Reading Challenge.  It's one of my favorites and although the categories are quite specific, they are open to interpretation, allowing for quite a bit of flexibility.  And one little challenge won't hurt, right?

Time Frame: January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013.

Objective: Read 1 book in the following categories (I've included possible titles from my TBR collection to consider reading for the challenge, but I reserve the right to read something entirely different):

1. A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title.
The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa
Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster

2. A book with something you'd find in your kitchen.
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
Trans-sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian
Heartburn by Nora Ephron

3. A book with a party or celebration in the title.
Skeleton of the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
The Seance by John Harwood
In the Wake by Per Petterson

4. A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title.
The Virgin of Flames by Chris Abani
Girl in the Flamable Skirt by Aimee Bender
Beside a Burning Sea by John Shor

5. A book with an emotion in the title.
Impatient with Desire by Gabrielle Burton
Blame by Michelle Huneven
Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt

6. A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title.
Songs for the Missing by Steward O'Nan
Our Lady of the Lost and Found by Diane Schoemperlen
The Unseen by Katherine Webb

No matter how tempting all the other challenges are this year, I am refraining from joining any more.

Have you joined any reading  challenges this year?  If so, which ones?

About four years ago, I begged and pleaded with my husband for a copy of War and Peace for Christmas. I had read Anna Karenina and loved it, deciding Tolstoy wasn't as intimidating an author as his books made him out to be.  And there was going to be a read-along!  What better way to read such a big tome than with a group of others?  Unfortunately, I dropped out early on during the read-along.  War and Peace got the better of me.  Until now.  I am going to take the monster on again, and this time I will finish it!  That's the plan anyway.

Amy from My Friend Amy and Iris from Iris on Books are hosting the 2013 read-along of War and Peace.  They plan to spread the reading of the book out over a year, which makes it seem much less daunting.  Okay, so not really, but it does leave room for other reading in between, which I'm sure I'll need.

I never would have considered reading War and Peace had I not enjoyed Anna Karenina so much.  Here's hoping War and Peace is just as good!

The tentative schedule:

Book I

part 1 by 31 Jan

part 2 by 28 Feb
part 3 by 31 Mar

Book II

part 1 by 31 March

part 2 by 30 Apr

part 3 & 4 by 31 May

part 5 by 30 Jun 

Book III

part 1 by 31 Jul

part 2 by 31 Aug

part 3 by 30 Sep

Book IV

part 1 & 2 by 31 Oct

part 3 & 4 by 30 Nov


part 1 & 2 by 31 Dec

I have a print copy of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation and an illustrated e-version translated by Constance Garnett.  Now to decide which one to read!

Have you read War and Peace?  If not, will you be joining in?  Or maybe you want to read it again if you have already read it.  Come on! You know you want to.

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Taking a Walk

© 2013, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Top Ten Books I Resolve To Read In 2013

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

Happy 2013! We survived another holiday season, and now it is time to look toward the new year--and what we will be reading. Whether you want to read new books or old ones, I'm sure you've already got a stack started. I know I do!

I have an embarrassing amount of unread books on my shelves, and some have been there for years. It's always been my intention to get to them. Somehow though, they get passed over each time and they continue to wait their turn. It was easier to ignore them in my old house. I kept my TBR collection tucked away in a spare bedroom. I still swear I heard voices now and then, calling to me. In our current home, the TBR books are on full display. Every time I stop and glance at the shelves, titles jump out at me, begging me to read them. I really want to too. It's just . . . well, there are so many! The following is a list of ten books I resolve hope to read this year.

1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
2. Garden Spells by Sara Addison Allen
3. The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
4. Saving CeeCee Honeycut by Beth Hoffman
5. Trans-Sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian
6. Nightwatch by Sarah Waters
7. The Blind Assassin by Margeret Atwood
8. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
9. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
10. The Outlander by Gil Adamson

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

What books are you planning to read this year?

© 2013, 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.