Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Year In Review

Mouse, December 2014

Two thousand fourteen has been an ordinary year for the most part with its ups and downs. Our senior cat, Parker, continues to have health issues, although both he and our younger cat, Gracie, are as playful and affectionate as ever. My husband, daughter, and I saw each other through work, financial and life stressors, and several illnesses, including my recent surgery which put me out of work for several weeks. The doctor has lifted most of the restrictions as of now, thank goodness. It was months of pain and worry as I waited for a diagnosis, deliberated over my options and then the surgery. I am glad to be on the other end of all that now. I know my family is too.

I cannot thank my mother enough for all the help she provided us this year. It is not always easy for me to ask for help, even from family. We are so lucky to have her in our lives. I really need to express that to her more often.

It was a good year in many ways. The happiest moments were often the most simple: cuddling on the couch, reading a good book, playing dominoes, the feeling at the end of a good workout, finally winning that computer game, playing hide and seek or playing house, that first smile or kiss of the day, tackling a family project, work accomplishments, warm hugs, recounting our favorite parts of our day, singing along to a favorite song on the radio, making silly faces at each other, and just being together. There were extended family visits and trips to Disneyland. Lots of laughter and love. I have the best husband and daughter. And my cats are pretty special too. Oh, and good books. I can't forget those.

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

1. Best books read in 2014?

Seven books stand out above all the others I read this year. Three were part of a trilogy and I could not separate them out, hence seven instead of a top five like I initially intended. Each of these books made my list for a variety of reasons: rich character development, beautiful writing style, and a great story for starters. Every one of them touched me deeply in some way. Ben H. Winters' Hank Palace is my new literary crush; Yangszee Choo wowed me with her imagery and mystery of the afterlife; my heart ached for Susan and Maud in Fingersmith; I was swept away by Ann Leary's writing and depth into the heart and mind of Hildy; and just how much Sandra Hunter's heart-wrenching story spoke to and moved me. It was more than that, of course, with each book. If you haven't, I hope you will consider seeing for yourself.

Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

The Good House by Ann Leary

The Ghost Bride by Yangzee Choo

The Last Policeman Trilogy by Ben H. Winters (all three books in the trilogy were awesome)

2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t?

I had high hopes for Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale, but ultimately was disappointed. There were parts I loved. In the end, however, I was left feeling I missed something and was not completely satisfied with the ending.

And Isabel Allende's Ripper was another one I found disappointing. I had heard such wonderful things about the author's work, and so my expectations were high.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2014?

I had avoided reading anything by Jennifer Crusie for years because I did not think her books were for me. I read Fast Women for an online book group in early 2014 and was pleasantly surprised. The characters were well drawn, the story intriguing, and, despite its length, I raced through it, not wanting to put it down.

After being sorely disappointed with Beautiful Creatures, I was leery of Veronica Roth's Divergent. I ended up loving it.

4. Book you read in 2014 that you recommended to people most in 2014?

There were quite a few books that I read this year I have recommended to people (and given away as gifts), The Last Policeman Trilogy being at the top of the list.

5. Best series you discovered in 2014?

The Last Policeman Trilogy, of course!  I also read the first book in the Dead Witch Walking series by Kim Harrison and am excited to read the rest of the series.

Michael Robotham is a new to me crime fiction author I discovered just this year. I read three of his books and enjoyed each one.

6. New authors you discovered in 2014 and hope to read more by?

I read books by several new to me authors this year who are now on my "must read again" list.  I also finally got around to reading books by authors I have been wanting to read for years.

Jennifer Robson
Jennifer Crusie
Liane Moriarty
Michael Robotham
Ann Patchett
Max Austin
Kim Harrison
Ann Leary
Sandra Hunter
Heather Gudenkauf
Margaret Atwood
Ben H. Winters
Heather Graham
Yangszee Choo
Marc Krulewitch
Joshilyn Jackson
Rebecca Chastain
Malinda Lo
Deanna Raybourn
Sarah Waters
Rachel Caine
Sarah Jio
Sara Morgan
Cara Hoffman

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone?

While Science Fiction is not a new to me genre, it is not one I read often. I read a surprising number of books with science fiction elements in 2014. Among those was Liz Strange's novel, Erased. Erased was an intense and enjoyable book. It made me wonder why I do not read science fiction more often.

I read a surprising amount of romance novels this year, which was a huge shift in my reading as compared to past years. I have always enjoyed romance as a side dish in the novels I read, but as a main course . . . Well, this is new for me. At least new in the last two decades or so.  I had burned out on the genre long ago, but the last couple of years I have been venturing back into it.

It would be easy to point to novels I thoroughly enjoyed such as Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson and The Ghost Bride by Yangszee Choo, Deanna Raybourn's Night of a Thousand Stars, or The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, I feel like that's cheating because I do not think of any of those books as being strictly romance novels. Even so, they each have strong love stories which moved me in some way. But if I were to choose one, separate from those that was more strictly romance, I would have to say Sarah Jio's The Look of Love.

8. Top five favorite covers of a books you read in 2014?

9. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2014?

I related to Sandra Hunter's Losing Touch on a deeply personal level. Even though my father died three years ago, I still find myself trying to know and understand him. I saw my father in Arjun, one of the main characters in the book.  And that final scene in the novel . . . I still cannot get it out of my head, and my eyes still well up with tears when I think of it.

Heather Gudenkauf's Little Mercies  also had a big impact on me. I was not sure I would be able to stomach the subject matter, but it was a book that reminded me how, as I stated in my original review, the "little mercies in our lives [...] help us get through even when we feel at our most helpless."

10. Shortest and longest book you read in 2014?

The Final Solution by Michael Chabon - 131 pages

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin at 768 pages

11. Favorite book you read in 2014 by an author you’ve read previously?

John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. I also really enjoyed Lisa See's Shanghai Girls.

12. Genre you read the most from in 2014? 

I was disappointed to learn that I read no nonfiction this year. Zip. I am not sure how that happened. Admittedly, I am not a prolific nonfiction reader, but I usually fit something in now and then.  I need to remedy that in 2015.

Some fun meaningless statistics:
(Much of what I read was falls under more than one genre. Here, I count them under the genre I most identified with the book).

Crime Fiction (mysteries & thrillers) - 19
Urban Fantasy - 15
Paranormal Romance - 5
Contemporary Romance - 10
Historical Fiction - 7
Contemporary Fiction - 17
Science Fiction - 5

Of those, 9 were labeled as Young Adult.

62 of the 78 books I read in 2014 were written by women.

I rated:
5 Paws (Outstanding) - 1
4.5 Paws - 9
4 Paws (Very Good) - 21
3.5 Paws - 34
3 Paws (Good) - 8
2.5 Paws - 4
2 Paws (Fair) - 1

Month I Read the Most Books: December - 10
Month I Read the Least Books: April - 4

13. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting?

Despite my disappointment in the book Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin, the world building was amazing. I could feel the freezing cold as I read and I loved the author's descriptions of his various settings, especially New York.

Dare I mention Ben H. Winters' The Last Policeman Trilogy again? The premise of the novel, an asteroid on its way to destroy a good part of the earth and possibly wipe out civilization may sound out there, but the the author was very meticulous in detail with the impact such an event would have on society from an individual to a more macro level.

14. Which book made me smile and smile and smile?

Deanna Raybourn's Night of a Thousand Stars.

15. Book that made you cry?

The better question is what book didn't make me cry. I am such a cry baby when it comes to books. Losing Touch by Sandra HunterThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and Last Train to Babylon by Charlee Fam were among the worst offenders (in a good way, each of them).

16. Most unique book you read?

Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke - This is one of those books I hesitate to talk about in depth with someone who hasn't read it. Just about anything I might say would be a spoiler.

17. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of 2014?

I participated in several challenges, each of which I completed.  I also read three books alongside Carrie in her "I've Always Meant to Read That Book!" Challenge (State of WonderA Prayer for Owen Meany and Blind Assassin), although not as many as I had hoped. I joined Jennifer of Literate Housewife in her Fingersmith Read-A-Long, which was a lot of fun.

I had hoped to make 2014 the Year of Re-Discovery, which did not happen.  So, in that, I failed. Perhaps this will be a goal I will work on this coming year.

Here is a summary of the challenges I completed:

I came close to not finishing the What's In A Name Challenge hosted by Charlie from The Worm Hole. When I began the year, I was not intentionally reading books to fit the challenge categories. Luck was with me. That changed when the end was in sight and I had two to go.

A reference to time in the title ~ Labor Day by Joyce Maynard 
A position of royalty in the title ~ Duke City Split  by Max Austin 
A number written in letters in the title ~  Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn
A forename or names in the title ~ A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
A type or element of weather in the title ~ Ill Wind by Rachel Caine
A book with a school subject in the title ~ The Art of Arranging Flowers by Lynne Branard

I challenged myself to read at least 5 historical fiction novels in 2014 for Historical Tapestry's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, and I ended up reading nine that qualified. Both Irving and Atwood's books take the reader into the past as the characters remember in their present times. There is enough history included for the books to count towards this challenge, fortunately.

1. Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson
2. The Final Solution: A Story of Detection  by Michael Chabon
3. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
4. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
5. Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
6. The Ghost Bride by Yangszee Choo
7. Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn 
8. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
9. The Summer of Long Knives by Jim Snowden

The Book to Movie Challenge hosted by Katie of Doing Dewey and Sergio of Tipping my Fedora was a lot of fun. I committed to read/watch six for the challenge. I had expected to exceed my goal, but it wasn't meant to be.

1.  Beautiful Creatures  by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl 
2. Labor Day by Joyce Maynard  
3. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
4. Divergent  by Veronica Roth
5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
6. A Prayer for Owen Meany  by John Irving

I was hesitant to join the Chunkster Challenge hosted by Vasilly of 1330V, but I could not resist.  Chunksters are defined as being 450 pages or more. I agreed to read 5 chunksters this year. Some were fairly quick books to read given the type of book and subject matter (the challenge allowed YA books). A few others took me a while to work my way through. I ended up reading eleven chunksters in 2015.

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin - 768 pgs
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving - 640 pgs
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters - 582 pgs
Beautiful Creatures  by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl - 577 pgs
The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness - 561 pgs
Insurgent by Veronica Roth - 544 pgs
Allegiant  by Veronica Roth - 544 pgs
Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood - 521 pgs
Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie - 496 pgs
Ripper by Isabel Allende - 496 pgs
Divergent  by Veronica Roth - 487 pgs

I also participated in the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril.  I challenged myself to read four books for the event, and I ended up reading six.

The Betrayed  by Heather Graham 
A Penny for a Hangman by Tom Savage 
A Fistful of Evil  by Rebecca Chastain 
Ash by Malinda Lo
Confessions by Kanae Minato
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

18. Looking ahead to 2015, do you have any goals for reading or your blog? Or life in general?

I have no plans as of now to join any reading challenges, but I have said that before. They can be so hard to resist! Let's see . . . Goals for the New Year. As long as we don't call them New Year's Resolutions, I am good. Semantics, I know. Still.

Reading Goals:
Read more nonfiction
Read more diversely
Re-discover favorite authors
Catch up on at least three favorite series
Read a book whose author's surname begins with an X.

Blogging Goals:
Make Mouse's Corner a more regular feature on my blog, including guest posts from authors, fellow bloggers and readers on topics related to children's books and reading (if you are interested, let me know!).

Life Goals:
Live more in the moment and less in my head
Continue to improve my health through exercise and eating right
Write more letters
Be a better wife and mother

I do not know what 2015 will hold for any of us, but I look forward to another year of blogging and sharing my life with you. Thanks to all of you, whether you are a long time reader, a sporadic visitor or visiting for the first time.  I hope your New Year is filled with love, laughter, good health, and the makings of many good memories. And may you read many wonderful books!

Happy New Year!

© 2014, 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.

Books Read in 2014

(Archive of books read in 2014, in order of month read)

Robson, Jennifer - Somewhere in France (2013) - Fiction (Historical)
Crusie, Jennifer - Fast Women (2001) - Fiction (Contemporary Romance/Mystery)
Chabon, Michael - The Final Solution (2004) - Crime Fiction
Garcia, Kami & Margaret Stohl - Beautiful Creatures (2009) - Speculative Fiction (YA/Romance)
Maynard, Joyce - Labor Day (2009) -  Fiction
Allende,Isabel - Ripper (2014) - Crime Fiction

Helprin, Mark - Winter's Tale (2005) - Speculative Fiction (Fantasy)
Moriarty, Liane - The Husband's Secret (2013) - Fiction
Robotham, Michael - Bombproof (2008) - Crime Fiction
Robotham, Michael - Watching You (2013) - Crime Fiction
Robotham, Michael - Say You're Sorry (2012) - Crime Fiction

Roth, Veronica - Divergent (2012) - Speculative Fiction (Science Fiction/YA)
Roth, Veronica - Insurgent (2012) - Speculative Fiction (Science Fiction/YA)
Roth, Veronica - Allegiant (2013) - Speculative Fiction (Science Fiction/YA)
Patchett, Ann - State of Wonder (2011) - Fiction
Austin, Max - Duke City Split (2014) - Crime Fiction
Shalvis, Jill - Once in a Lifetime (2013) - Fiction (Contemporary Romance)
Kasischke, Laura - Mind of Winter (2014) - Fiction
Harrison, Kim - Dead Witch Walking (2004) - Speculative Fiction (Urban Fantasy)

See, Lisa - Shanghai Girls (2009) - Fiction (Historical)
Simpson, Mona - Casebook (2014) - Fiction
Yates, Maisey - Avenge Me (2014) - Fiction (Contemporary Romance)
Gaiman, Neil - The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013) - Speculative Fiction (Fantasy/Horror)

Leary, Ann  - The Good House (2013) - Fiction
Kendal, Claire - The Book of You (2014) - Crime Fiction
Fairstein, Linda - Terminal City (2014) - Crime Fiction
Lemmon, Jessica - The Millionaire Affair (2014) - Fiction (Contemporary Romance)
Green, John - The Fault in Our Stars (2012) - Fiction (YA)
Smith, Carla Susan - A Vampire's Promise (2014) - Speculative Fiction (Paranormal Romance)
Smith, Carla Susan - A Vampire's Soul (2014) - Speculative Fiction (Paranormal Romance)

Hunter, Sandra - Losing Touch (2014) - Fiction
Gudenkauf, Heather - Little Mercies (2014) - Fiction
Fairstein, Linda - Death Angel (2013) - Crime Fiction
Irving, John - A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989) - Fiction
Atwood, Margaret - Blind Assassin (2000) - Fiction

Kiernan, Stephen P. - The Curiosity (2013) Speculative Fiction
Winters, Ben H. - The Last Policeman (2012) - Speculative Fiction (Crime Fiction)
Ione, Larissa - Bound by Night (2014) - Speculative Fiction (Paranormal Romance)
Crews, Caitlin - Scandalize Me (2014) - Fiction (Contemporary Romance)
Hewitt, Kate - Expose Me (2014) - Fiction (Contemporary Romance)
Graham, Heather - The Hexed (2014) - Crime Fiction (Paranormal Romance)
Winters, Ben H. - Countdown City (2013) - Speculative Fiction (Crime Fiction)
Harkness, Deborah - The Book of Life (2014) - Speculative Fiction
Choo, Yangszee - The Ghost Bride (2013) - Fiction
Krys, Michelle - Hexed (2014) - Speculative Fiction (YA)

Winters, Ben H. - World of Trouble (2014) - Speculative Fiction (Crime Fiction)
Krulewitch, Marc - The Maxwell Street Blues (2014) - Crime Fiction
Foreman, Gayle - If I Stay (2009) - Fiction (YA)
Jackson, Joshilyn - Someone Else's Love Story (2013) - Fiction
Emley, Dianne - The Night Visitor (2014) - Crime Fiction (Fantasy)

Hugo, Lynne - A Matter of Mercy (2014) - Fiction
Chastain, Rebecca - A Fistful of Evil (2014) - Speculative Fiction (Urban Fantasy)
Lo, Malinda - Ash (2009) - Speculative Fiction (Paranormal Romance/YA)
Abdullah, Shaila - Saffron Dreams (2013) - Fiction
Minato, Kanae - Confessions (2013) - Fiction
Graham, Heather - The Betrayed (2014) - Crime Fiction (Paranormal Romance)

Savage, Tom - A Penny for a Hangman (2014) - Crime Fiction
Raybourn, Deanna - Night of a Thousand Stars (2014) - Fiction (Adventure/Romance)
Strange, Liz - Erased (2014) - Speculative Fiction (Science Fiction)
Waters, Sarah - Fingersmith (2002) - Fiction
Snowden, Jim - The Summer of Long Knives (2014) - Crime Fiction (Historical)

Fam, Charlee - Last Train to Babylon (2014) - Fiction (NA)
Branard, Lynne - The Art of Arranging Flowers (2014) - Fiction
Caine, Rachel - Ill Wind (2003) - Speculative Fiction (Urban Fantasy)
Caine, Rachel - Heat Stroke (2004) - Speculative Fiction (Urban Fantasy)
Caine, Rachel - Chill Factor (2005) - Speculative Fiction (Urban Fantasy)
Jio, Sarah - The Look of Love (2014) - Fiction (Contemporary Romance)
Dunaway, Michele - A Little Christmas Jingle (2014) - Fiction (Contemporary Romance)

Caine, Rachel - Windfall (2006) - Speculative Fiction (Urban Fantasy)
Caine, Rachel - Firestorm (2007) - Speculative Fiction (Urban Fantasy)
Caine, Rachel - Thin Air (2008) - Speculative Fiction (Urban Fantasy)
Kelly, Leslie - O, Naughty Night! (2014) - Fiction (Contemporary Romance)
Morgan, Sarah - Sleigh Bells in the Snow (2013) - Fiction (Contemporary Romance)
Caine, Rachel - Gale Force (2009) - Speculative Fiction (Urban Fantasy)
Caine, Rachel - Cape Storm (2010) - Speculative Fiction (Urban Fantasy)
Caine, Rachel - Total Eclipse (2011) - Speculative Fiction (Urban Fantasy)
Michaels, Nicole - Blame It On the Mistletoe (2014) - Fiction (Contemporary Romance)
Hoffman, Cara - Be Safe I Love You (2014) - Fiction

© 2014, 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.

First Sentences of 2014

It was past nine, past time, for the sun had set, the orchestra had begun to play, and hundreds of guests were streaming up the grand central staircase, their voices rising in an ebullient, ever-swelling chorus to the floors above. ~ Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson

The man behind the cluttered desk looked like the devil, and Nell Dysart figured that was par for her course since she'd been going to hell for a year and a half anyway. ~ Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie

A boy with a parrot on his shoulder was walking along the railway tracks. ~ The Final Solution by Michael Chabon

I used to think our town, buried in the South Carolina backwoods, stuck in the muddy bottom of the Santee River valley, was the middle of nowhere. ~ Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

It was just the two of us, my mother and me, after my father left. ~ Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

"Mom is still alive, but she's going to be murdered at midnight on Good Friday, " Amanda Martin told the deputy chief, who didn't even think to question the girl; sh'ed already proved she knew more than he and all his colleagues in the Homicide put together. ~ Ripper by Isabel Allende

A great city is nothing more than a portrait of itself, and yet when all is said and done, its arsenals of scenes and images are part of a deeply moving plan. ~ Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin

 Poor, poor Pandora. ~ The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

 Some days are diamonds. ~ Bombproof by Michael Robotham

 I fell in love and followed her, that's all you need to know. ~ Watching You by Michael Robotham

My name is Piper Hadley and I went missing on the last Saturday of the summer holidays three years ago. ~ Say You're Sorry by Michael Robotham

There is one mirror in my house. ~ Divergent by Veronica Roth

I wake with his name in my mouth. ~ Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I pace in our cell in Erudite headquarters, her words echoing in my mind:  My name will be Edith Prior, and there is much I am happy to forget. ~ Allegiant by Veronica Roth

The news of Anders Eckman's death came by way of Aerogram, a piece of bright blue airmail paper that served as both the stationery and, when folded over and sealed along the edges, the envelope. ~ State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Bud Knox relaxed on a park bench, basking in the April sunshine, his windbreaker zipped to his chin. A placid man with thinning brown hair, Bud looked nothing at all like a bank robber. ~  Duke City Split by Max Austin

There was one universal truth in Lucky Harbor, Washington - you could hide a pot of gold in broad daylight and no one would steal it, but you couldn't hid a secret. ~ Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis

She woke up late that morning, and knew:

Something had followed them home from Russia. ~ Opening Sentence from Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke

I stood in the shadows of a deserted shop front across from The Blood and Brew Pub, trying not to be obvious as I tugged my black leather pants back up where they belonged. ~ Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

"Our daughter looks like a South China peasant with those red cheeks," my father complains, pointedly ignoring the soup before him. ~ Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

The book you now hold in your hands is our first venture into the old long-form technology that our pay-to-print machine in the back room has made possible. ~ Casebook by Mona Simpson

It was supposed to be an evening of bland conversation. ~ Avenge Me by Maisey Yates

It was only a duck pond, out at the back of the farm. ~ The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I can walk through a house once and know more about its occupants than a psychiatrist could after a year of sessions. ~ The Good House by Ann Leary

It is you. ~ The Book of You by Claire Kendal

"Not a pretty way to die, Alexandra." - Terminal City by Linda Fairstein

Landon Downey clutched the baby name book From Abba to Zed to his chest and knocked on his girlfriend's dorm room door. The Millionaire Affair by Jessica Lemmon

Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.  ~ Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I was folding laundry and watching an old CSI rerun on TV when Laycee called. ~ A Vampire's Promise by Carla Susan Smith

There are some people who will tell you that if you fall in a dream it's a bad thing. ~ A Vampire's Soul by Carla Susan Smith

The viewing of the body has started. ~ Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter

When people find out what I do for a living their first question is always about the most horrendous case of child abuse I've encountered. Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

"Can you hold up those guys with the body bag, Loo?"  ~ Death Angel by Linda Fairstein

I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice--not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany. ~ A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove her car off a bridge. ~ Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

I was already wide-awake when they came for me. ~ The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan

I'm staring at the insurance man and he's staring at me, two cold gray eyes behind old-fashioned tortoiseshell frames, and I'm having this awful and inspiring feeling, like holy moly this is real, and I don't know if I'm ready, I really don't. ~ The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

The vampires were behaving weird today. ~ Bound by Night by Larissa Ione

Zoe Brook strode into the exclusive strip club, hidden away beneath a discreet sign on a side street in an otherwise upscale Manhattan neighborhood, like an avenging angel on the warpath at last. ~ Scandalize Me by Caitlin Crews 

Alex Diaz leaned forward in his seat as the limo pulled to the curb of Seventy-Second Street and West End Avenue. ~ Expose Me by Kate Hewitt 

"Help me, Rocky!" ~ The Hexed by Heather Graham

"It's just that he promised," says Martha Milano, pale eyes flashing, cheeks flushed with anxiety. ~ Countdown City by Ben H. Winters

Ghosts didn't have much substance. ~ The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride. ~ The Ghost Bride by Yangszee Choo

Exactly twelve minutes into cheerleading practice, and I already wish I were dead. ~ Hexed by Michelle Krys

"Are you here about the dust?" ~ World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters

"I feared you wouldn't know me." The Maxwell Street Blues by Marc Krulewitch

Everyone thinks it was because of the snow. ~ If I Stay by Gayle Foreman

I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K. Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

Junior Lara saw the doves and knew something was wrong. ~ The Night Visitor by Dianne Emley

The dune fence between their house and the beach still tilted toward the water. ~ A Matter of Mercy by Lynne Hugo

The interview was a catastrophe. ~ A Fistful of Evil by Rebecca Chastain

Aisling's mother died at midsummer. ~ Ash by Malinda Lo

I decided to carry out the first task on my list when fall was about to lose its hue. ~ Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah

Once you finish your milk, put the carton back in the box.  ~ Confessions by Kanae Minato

Adrian Mahoney woke with a start. ~ The Betrayed by Heather Graham

This is a day unlike any other day, ever, in the history of the world. ~ A Penny for the Hangman by Tom Savage

"I say, if you're running away from your wedding you're going about it quite wrong."  ~ Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn

The usual miscreants filled the bar--thugs for hire, men looking for redemption in the bottom of an empty glass, and those simply on the prowl. ~ Erased by Liz Strange

My name, in those days, was Susan Trinder. ~ Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

As his car crunched the gravel on the side of the road next to the Epp Farm, Kommissar Rolf Wundt once again had to lean forward, pinch the bridge of his nose, and force his eyes open. ~ The Summer of Long Knives by Jim Snowden

The rain assaults my car in the far corner of the empty train station lot, and the wipers dance to a furious beat, so awkwardly out of sync with everything else. ~ Last Train to Babylon by Charlee Fam

Daisy was not crazy. ~ The Art of Arranging Flowers by Lynne Branard

Well, thank God this is over, I thought as I drove--well, blew--past the sign that marked the Westchester, Connecticut, city limits.  ~ Ill Wind by Rachel Caine

There was a storm brewing over Church Falls, Oklahoma. ~ Heat Stroke by Rachel Caine

The sky overhead was blue. ~ Child Factor by Rachel Caine

In the fashionable fifth arrondissement along the river Siene, Elodie stands beside her flower cart watching couples stroll arm in arm.  ~ The Look of Love by Sarah Jio

"Up on the rooftop, reindeer paws . . ." ~ A Little Christmas Jingle by Michele Dunaway

I kept trying to tell myself, You've survived worse than this, but it didn't seem to be working. ~ Windfall by Rachel Caine

I was thinking that the Wardens needed a new motto. ~  Firestorm by Rachel Caine

There were worse things that being naked, freezing, and alone in a forest. ~ Thin Air by Rachel Caine

"There's nothing worse than having the hots for a sexy guy, and then finding out he has the personality of a turnip." ~ Oh, Naughty Night! by Leslie Kelly

Kayla Green cranked up the volume on her favorite playlist and blocked out the sound of festive music and laughter wafting under her closed office door. ~ Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan

"Honey!" I yelled. ~ Gale Force by Rachel Caine

I've had many oh crap moments in my life. ~ Cape Storm by Rachel Caine

Black corner. ~ Total Eclipse by Rachel Caine

Snowflakes whirled around Brooke Abbott's head in blustery waves as she started down the sidewalk and back to her shop from the Stop & Go convenience store. ~ Blame It On the Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels

She had been naked for less than ten seconds when the snow began to feel hot. ~ Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman

© 2014, 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, December 30, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman

Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea hosts 
First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where  
participants share the first paragraph (or a few) of a 
book they are reading or thinking about reading soon.
She had been naked for less than ten seconds when the snow began to feel hot. Her body, pale and lean and strong, biceps and thighs banded with black tattoos, lay basking against the glacial ice; a snow angel overcome by shadows and lights, calm and awed in whatever seconds remained. ~ Opening of Be Safe I Love You

Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman
Simon & Schuster, 2014
Fiction; 289 pgs

Lauren Clay has just returned to her home in upstate New York after completing her tour of duty in Iraq. Her friends and family cannot be more excited to have her home again. The life Lauren left behind is not quite the same as it once was. Her boyfriend has acclimated to college life, her dad has gotten back on his feet after years of suffering from Severe Depression, and her brother can't seem to put down his cell phone. There is a lot that has not changed as well in her hometown, and yet nothing quite seems the same for Lauren. Her own experiences in Iraq color the way she sees the ordinary world around her--and she feels herself caught between the two, not really in either place.

Cara Hoffman takes the reader into the mind of one woman's struggle returning to regular society after having been in an extremely hostile one, as well as having to deal with what happened in Iraq. She also touches on how others in the veteran's life are impacted. The story is told from multiple perspectives (always third person), although the main focus is on Lauren. The author takes us from the present to the past throughout, the reader learning what Lauren's life was like before she went to Iraq, to the woman she became after. Much of her early experiences shaped who she would become. When her mother abandoned them and her father fell into a deep depression, she was the one who cared for her brother and father. It was because of that sense of obligation she passed up on going to a prestigious music institute and joined the military. She needed money to support her family.

I like the subtle escalation of Lauren's state of mind and behaviors as the novel progresses. It's very natural. It's clear she is really struggling with her experiences in Iraq as well as falling back into "normal" life. I wanted so much for her to open up and talk to one of the many characters who themselves were veterans, although of different wars. P.J. most of all. I think he would have understood the most. It's hard though, to open up to someone who hasn't been through exactly what you have--you don't think they would understand. Lauren certainly didn't think they would.

I found the relationship between Lauren and Shane, her high school boyfriend, interesting--how different they were, especially after Lauren's return. They both had once been of one mind, or at least close to it--and now they are very different. Their philosophies of life are not the same. I could see that with Lauren and other characters as well--with her best friend Holly and her music teacher, Troy, who himself was a veteran. Hoffman does an excellent job of examining many facets of relationships between a returning vet and their family and friends.

Of all the characters, I most liked Danny.  There is an innocence about him, and yet it's clear he is used to adapting to his environment. He loves his sister and will do anything for her. Lauren has been a mother figure to him most of his life. He is the one person she most wants to protect--and build up to be strong.  She felt guilty for abandoning him when she joined the service and it shows in her actions when she returns.

There are many war stories out there, but not many that deal with women who have been to war. Cara Hoffman does not gloss over the realities of what her main character faced in Be Safe I Love You nor the impact it had on Lauren. She also paints a very harsh but true portrait of just how poor mental health evaluations and services are for returning veterans. While the novel got off to a slow start for me, I found it to be well worth reading. 

Rating:  * (Very Good)

To learn more about Cara Hoffman, and her work, please visit the author's website.

Source: I purchased both the e-copy and print copy for my own reading pleasure.

© 2014, 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.