Monday, August 31, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (09/01/2015)

I am reading two books at the moment: Fredrik Backman's tale of a girl tasked by her dead grandmother to deliver letters of apology to various people her grandmother has wronged, which is aptly titled, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry; and also Lilith Saintcrow's The Demon's Librarian, about your typical demon hunting librarian. Because all librarians hunt demons on their down time, right?

First Paragraph of My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman:

Every seven-year-old deserves a superhero. That's just how it is.

Anyone who doesn't agree needs their head examined.

Teaser at 4% (Elsa and her grandmother are waiting at the police station): 

"I didn't want you to remember this day because of the scarf. So I thought instead you could remember it as the day your Granny broke into a zoo--"

First Paragraph of The Demon's Librarian by Lilith Saintcrow:

She ended up knee-deep in slick rotting garbage with one hell of a shiner and a stitch gripping her side, holding a glowing-blue knife while something with tentacles thrashed toward her in the foul stinking water.

How the bloody blue hell do I get into these situations?

Teaser at 5% (after a patron demands The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn be removed from the library)

"Mrs. Pembroke, not a week goes by without you coming to my office or bothering my staff about something you feel is indecent. If this library is such a sinkhole of filth and corruption, why don't you patronize the parish library on Twelfth Street? I'm sure they will have texts more to your taste."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

These are two very different books, and both are the second books I have read by their respective authors.

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

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

This week's  Top Ten Tuesday theme is Ten Characters You Just Didn't Click With, and yet, for many of the books in which these characters appear, I liked (loved, in some cases) them still! That says a lot, wouldn't you say? To be fair, some of these characters are supposed to be unlikable--or at least, not easy to like.


Melanie Middleton from Karen White's Tradd Street series. I like so much about this series, especially the setting and the writing, but I just can't seem to completely warm to Melanie the way I wish I could. There's just something about her that annoys me.


Mike Chapman from Linda Fairstein's Alexandra Cooper series. He's one of the top secondary characters and cleary the main character adores him.  Then why don't I? Still, I do enjoy this series quite a bit.  And sometimes I find myself liking Mike. At least for a brief moment, and then I'm back to being annoyed by him.


I loved the novel We Need to Talk About Kevin, and in some ways, I could identify with Eva Khatchadourian, the narrator of the story, but she was not exactly an easy character to like.  I felt empathy for her. And sorry for her too. I don't think she and I would have ever been friends though if she'd been a real person.


Thomas Covenant is an anti-hero. He is part of a fantasy series by Stephen R. Donaldson' of which I have read the first book, Lord Foul's Bane.  Generally, I have no problems with anti-heroes, but Thomas did something unforgivable early on in the book that made it impossible for me to warm to him on any level. I can look past or forgive a character for a lot of things, but not what he did.


Owen Meany from John Irvings' A Prayer for Owen Meany. I wanted to like him--so many people do--but I found him more annoying than anything else. This is one of those books I did not care for when all was said and done.  And part of it was because of Owen's character.


For this one, I am cheating. Humbert Humbert of Lolita fame. I am so glad I finally took the plunge and read Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. This is one of those books I ended up loving, in spite of or because of how much I was disgusted by the character of Humbert. There is nothing redeemable about the man.


Walcott from Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson. Walcott, a secondary character, is Shandi's best friend. Shandi being one of the two main characters in the novel. I didn't care for him much at all, finding him annoying (annoying seems to be the key to hurting a character clickability with me).


Anna from The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  I cannot say any of characters in the novel particularly won me over, but I at least had sympathy for Rachel and Megan. I never warmed to Anna though. She wasn't a very nice woman.


Dr. Annick Swenson from Ann Patchett's State of Wonder. Beautiful writing and a compelling novel, I enjoyed Sate of Wonder quite a bit.  I never did warm to the main character, Dr. Annick Swensen, though. She is gruff in manner and spends more time pontificating than she does listening.


Rachel from Sharon Bolton's Little Black Lies. It would seem as if Rachel would be the easier character in the novel for me to relate to given my history of depression (mine took on a different form, admittedly).  And yet, I found her the most difficult to connect with in the novel. In fact, at times I found myself actually disliking her. She rubbed me the wrong way.

Are there any particular characters you didn't click with that stand out in your mind? Did that make or break the book for you?

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

August 2015 In Review

I cannot believe August is at an end. We are about to enter my favorite time of year, the final four months of the year. I love the festiveness of the fall with Halloween and Thanksgiving, leading into the Winter Solstice and Christmas. Mouse has already decided what she wants to be for Halloween. I am hoping she will change her mind. I know I need to start thinking about Christmas presents, but my mind isn't ready to go that far yet. My mom is planning a visit towards the end of September, we are attending a QuinceaƱera (which I still need to shop for--Mouse wants glass slippers, but I do not think I'll be able to manage that), and my brother and his wife will be coming in October. I am sure we will be fitting in a visit from the in-laws somewhere in there as well. I am seriously thinking of inviting everyone to our house for Christmas, but I am not sure how long that thought will last. I make a terrible hostess--most of all because I hate taking on that role. And it would be easier than traveling and deciding whose turn it is we would spend the holidays with. Anyway, that's still a ways away.

There is still almost a month of summer left. The temperatures outside will not let me forget it either. Mouse's swim lessons ended on a high note, thank goodness. The Saturday before last was also the final soccer class of the summer season. Mouse has come so far since she first began playing two years ago. She's decided she wants to try gymnastics, and so she will be taking a break from soccer for a tumble and dance class. She's very excited.

It has been a stressful month to say the least. Work, health issues, and Parker's poor health. The tests have been endless, or so it seems. It's much worse from his perspective, I am sure. He is scheduled to have surgery Tuesday to have his tumor removed. The tumor started out as a little bump and has grown quite rapidly in the past four months. Just in the last couple days, it's grown. Even ruptured. As if Parker licking it to the point of bleeding wasn't enough. The estimate for the surgery and biopsy was enough to make my jaw drop (although I did know it would be expensive). We never invested in pet insurance for him--but I think we will be doing so for our younger cat.

On the reading front, I finished listening to The Girl on the Train finally. Although I had already been on the right track (no pun intended), I was still disappointed when I came across a spoiler. As someone who often guesses the whodunit at the end of a mystery or crime thriller, I still take pleasure in the anticipation of finding out if I am right. So, that was kind of a bummer.

I was going to start on The Daughter by Jane Shemilt, but I ended up beginning Fredrik Backman's My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, which is proving to be a delight to read. I think it was the right choice given my state of mind.  

How did August turn out for you?  Does anything in particular stand out?  

What was your favorite August read?

August In Reading Mews:

Number of Books Completed in August: 8
Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec
Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton
Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The Society by Lilith Saintcrow
The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts by K.C. Tansley
Wet Silence: Poems About Hindu Widows by Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Drop Dead Punk by Rich Zahradnik

Favorite Book of the Month: Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

Currently Reading:
  • My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Posts of Interest This Week:

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Widowhood is trapping me unwillingly. ~ First line of the poem "My Husband is Leaving"

Wet Silence: Poems About Hindu Widows by Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Modern History Press, 2015
Poetry; 72 pgs

Sweta Srivastava Vikram captures well the many different voices of Hindu widows in India in this collection of forty-nine poems. The poems in Wet Silence speak of grief of all kinds, including that of love lost and of lost opportunities. The poetry I like the best is the kind that speaks to me on an emotional level, and Sweta Vikram's poetry did just that.  There was not a poem in this collection that did not work for me, that did not draw out my emotions in some way.

How do I tell anyone what you gave me?
Even when you had less hair and few breaths,
you kissed my questions,
we came crashing like a wave.
We contained each other.
~ Excerpt from "Never Abandoned" from Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

When I first saw mention of Sweta Srivastava Vikram's Wet Silence, I knew I wanted to read it. This collection appealed to me most because it is about women facing hardships, in addition to being  another opportunity to step outside my own experiences and culture to learn about another. Wet Silence gives readers a glimpse at the cultural restrictions placed on many Hindu women after the death of their husbands. They are not allowed to remarry and must live as if in mourning the rest of their lives. From what they wear to the food they eat to how they behave, they are required to adhere to strict religious and cultural norms. Just as the first sentence quoted at the beginning of this review, widowhood is its own sort of trap for these women.

We kept our dirty laundry
on separate shelves in the same closet.
~Excerpt from "Eulogy" from Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

A few of the poems are written from the perspective of the mistress and others from a wife whose husband was unfaithful. There are poems about abused wives as well as those who were well loved. There is one about an ungrateful son.  Sweta Vikram covers a wide range of experiences in her poems, writing about gender expectations and inequality; and about the freedom that comes with the death of spouse as well as that feeling of being trapped when one's spouse is gone.

Other men notice your prints on my breath;
you were everything to me.
But I remained a ghost story
in your life-a fish bone that no one wants
in the throat long after the fish is dead.
~Excerpt from "Your Wife" from Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

The book is divided into three sections, the first being “I can hear a white cotton sari weaving at the shop,” which were the poems that spoke to me most clearly--perhaps because I imagine these are how I might feel to some extent if I lost my husband. There is such sorrow and loneliness within the poems. The second section, “I didn’t promise to sleep in your shadow,” is made up of poems that speak of a mixture of feelings, each one very different: that of loss and love, of feeling burdened; of anger and frustration, especially by those who had been abused or were married to men who were unfaithful. The voice of the women in the third section, “Silence became my lover, that’s why,” who feel less constrained by cultural and religious expectations

You never pulled yourself together for me.
But like the autumn breeze,
I'll indignantly rise, and sing songs of freedom.
~excerpt from "I'll Rise" from Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

I have read each of the poems at least twice, some even more than that.  Each of the poems are emotional and have a power all their own. They spoke to me as a human being as well as as a woman. So much comes through in so few words regarding the cultural complexities each of these women faced. I loved that about this book.

Here is a brief video of the author during a poetry reading of Wet Silence:

To learn more about Sweta Srivastava Vikram and her books, please visit the author's website.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about Wet Silence on the Poetic Book Tours route:

Aug. 21: Suko’s Notebook 
Aug. 23: Emma Eden Ramos

Sept. 5: Bookie Obsessed 

Sept. 16: 5 Minutes for Books 

Sept. 18: Create with Joy 

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

 © 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: The Adventures of Flat Stanley


Flat Stanley is visiting us from Candor, New York.

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (08/25/2015)

I am feeling a bit frazzled as I write this. The week has gotten off to a busy start after a relatively busy weekend. Work has picked up considerably with the start of the school year, I have evaluations due, and, now that swim classes have come to an end, I am working later into the evenings again. My health has been giving me some trouble of late as well, which I have mostly been trying to ignore.

Many thanks to all of you who kept Parker in your thoughts and sent well wishes our way. We still are not sure what is wrong with him exactly. As I write this (Monday night), my husband and Parker are in the emergency room, and I am waiting for an update. It's more of a precautionary measure than a true emergency--at least we hope. I will update my blog when I know more. [Update: this really isn't much of an update. Parker has a tumor. He'll be seeing his regular doctor later this week to see about getting it removed.]

I finished reading Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec this past weekend, the first in a mystery series featuring a French detective. My review is written, and I hope to have it up soon. I also spent time over the weekend reading Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram, a book of poetry about Hindu Widows' experiences, which I will be reviewing this coming Thursday.

I am determined to finish listening to Paula Hawkins' Girl on the Train this week, which I have had in the background for months now. I made some progress on it the last couple of days.

Just yesterday, I dived into The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts by K.C. Tansley, a young adult paranormal/time travel mystery about a girl who can communicate with ghosts. Both Kat and her research partners visit a haunted island where they are pulled into the past to solve a 129 old murder and the reason behind a deadly family curse. I am not too far in at this point--maybe a quarter of the way through--and am not quite sure what I think yet.

Take a peek at the opening paragraph of The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts:

Two weeks leading up to finals were the perfect time to do research at Gilman Library--if you needed to be surrounded by people. Bustle and noise didn't distract me anymore. I was much more likely to be disturbed by quiet. Or, at least, what the quiet conjured up. Old buildings like Gilman were the worst.

Here is a random teaser from The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts from 5% on my Kindle

Cold air blew against my neck. The ghost was so close to me. I didn't turn around.

and a bit of humor at 16% on my Kindle:

"She is rather pale. She might catch fire in the sun," Evan said.
"Vampires don't catch fire anymore. They sparkle," Morgan said.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

I admit the opening paragraph did not grab me right away. but it does set up the scene to come. Kat is trying desperately to keep the ghosts at bay.  Being among a lot of people often does the trick.

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

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

From the Archives: Mysteries 2006

I began keeping a reading journal several years before I began blogging. I find it interesting to sift through my thoughts of books that I read back then. My reviews were often brief and contained little substance, but I thought it'd be fun to document them here on my blog as well as share them with you. The first half of 2006 seemed to be my time for series reading. I read quite a few mysteries at that time. Here are some of my reviews from 2006: 

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot, #4) by Agatha Christie
Crime Fiction; 241 pgs 

It has been over a decade since I last read something written by the queen of mystery. Agatha Christie is an even better storyteller than I remember. Set in King’s Abbot, the novel is narrated by the small community’s doctor, Dr. Sheppard, who takes on the role of assistant to the famous now-retired detective, Hercule Poirot. They set out to discover who killed and was possibly blackmailing the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. I found Ms. Christie’s novel to be delightful to read. I enjoyed getting to know here characters and spending time in the presence of M. Poirot. 

Deadly Housewives by Christine Matthews ed.
William Morrow, 2006
Crime Fiction; Mystery; 286 pgs 

Fourteen popular mystery writers join together in this anthology of short stories about housewives and murder. The stories touch upon everything from marriage, jealousy, motherhood, and friends. Compared to the hit TV show, Desperate Housewives, the stories that make up Deadly Housewives certainly share in drama, although be prepared for something much different. While I found all of the stories entertaining, four stood out and were my favorites, written by Carole Nelson Douglas, Marcia Muller, Suzann Ledbetter, and Eileen Dryer. Some made me laugh and some held suspense. I especially enjoyed reading the “Little Black Book” blurbs that were tacked on at the end of the book. It’s always fun to see a little slice in the lives of the authors. 

Laguna Heat by T. Jefferson Parker
St. Martin's,1985
Crime Fiction; 322 pgs 

I had seen T. Jefferson Parker’s name and his books advertised now and again over the last couple of years and never really considered giving one a try. No reason in particular. I had the opportunity to hear Mr. Parker speak at the 2006 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and decided it was time to give him a chance. On the ride home from the festival that evening, I started thumbing through the book my husband was kind enough to purchase for me while there and was hooked on the very first sentence. I somehow managed to set it aside until I could at least finish the book I had already been in the middle of, but as soon as I go the chance, I picked up and started reading Laguna Heat. Homicide Detective Tom Shephard returns home to Laguna Beach, hoping for a fresh start. He left the LAPD after a fatal shooting to save a fellow officer and his failed. His first case with the Laguna Beach Police Department turns out to be a serial murder, bodies found scorched to death and a link to the past that may involve his own family and friends. T. Jefferson Parker’s novel was an entertaining read. The author’s descriptions were colorful and brought the setting and characters to life. I couldn’t help but pick out the differences as I read of life back in the mid-80’s to today. Defense attorneys would have a field day in the courtroom if crime scenes were handled that way today. I liked the feel of the book in my mind as I read it, the words, and the way the story came together. It had an old-fashioned feel to it. Tom Shephard was a sympathetic character and I especially loved his dog Cal. Laguna Heat is a good hard-boiled mystery, definitely worth taking the time read. I look forward to reading more books by Mr. Parker. 

Bad Twin by Gary Troup
 Kingswell, 2006
Crime Fiction; 258 pgs 

Private detective Paul Artisan is hired by a wealthy businessman to locate his missing twin brother. The two brothers couldn’t be more different: one being the more responsible one while the other being carefree. Artisan has his work cut out for him as he begins the investigation. While the money is great, it’s not what drives Artisan forward in what sometimes appears to be an impossible quest. He wants to learn the truth and protect a man who might be in grave danger. For all the hype Bad Twin is receiving because of its appearance on my favorite TV show, Lost, and the big question mark as to the identity behind the author Gary Troup (a character from the TV show Lost who went missing when the flight he was on from Australia to Los Angeles crashed somewhere in the Pacific), this is a wonderful little mystery that stands all by itself. Lost fans may be thrilled to recognize a name here or there, but other than that, the book is very much its own entity. The novel was extremely well written, fast paced and interesting to read at every turn. There was humor, insight, and intrigue throughout. I loved the character of Artisan’s best friend Manny Weissman with all of his references to literature, which were peppered throughout the book. I did find the book predictable in some ways and pretty much had the ending figured out with one exception; however, that didn’t dull my enjoyment of the novel at all. **After seeing the season finale of the TV show, Lost, some of the characters take on new meaning in the Mr. Troup’s novel. The Hanso Corporation and the Widmore family are linked yet again. It raises more questions for fans of the TV show, but did we really expect anything else? 

Gone (Alex Delaware, #20) by Jonathan Kellerman
Ballantine Books, 2006
Crime Fiction; 365 pgs 

Police consultant and child psychologist Alex Delaware is back in another installment of Jonathan Kellerman’s series. He joins his friend, homicide detective Milo Sturgis, in the murder investigation of a young woman who Alex had been hired to evaluate after it was discovered the carjacking and kidnapping/torture of she and a friend was an elaborate hoax. As Milo and Alex begin to unravel the life of the young woman, they find something much darker and more sinister than they ever imagined. Mr. Kellerman effectively used dialogue, especially the conversations between the two main characters, to dissect the lives of the people they were investigating as well as their motives. Although I guessed right off the whodunit part, I still enjoyed seeing how it all came together in the end. I’ve never been a huge fan of Robin, one of Alex’s love interests, but by the end of the book, I actually liked her as a character. Alex continues to be a superman of a character, however, Mr. Kellerman doesn’t forget to remind readers that all that Alex sees and goes through takes its toll on him. 

Twelve Sharp (Stephanie Plum, #12) by Janet Evanovich
St. Martin's Press, 2006
Crime Fiction; 310 pgs 

It’s impossible not to laugh out loud when reading a Stephanie Plum novel, at least I haven’t been able to resist yet. The description of Grandma Mazur and Lulu in their costumes at the Plum’s residence had tears welling in eyes because I was laughing so hard. Although Janet Evanovich is not the best author around and her bounty hunter books are out there in the believability range, she certainly tells a good yarn. I still find myself feeling bad for Ranger and Morelli, the two men in Stephanie’s life. I’m not sure I would be as tolerant and patient as they’ve been with her—and with each other. Twelve Sharp offers readers a glimpse into Ranger’s life and character when his daughter is kidnapped and his supposed wife appears on the doorstep of the bonds office where Stephanie Plum works. In between trying to catch bounties, Stephanie is also on Ranger’s trail and that of his missing daughter. Action, hilarious bumbles mixed in with the usual high jinx, and romance fill the pages of the 12th novel in the Stephanie Plum Bounty series.

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Beyond the Books: My Favorite Game & Lost Without A Book

Every Thursday Karen of KissinBlueKaren hosts Beyond the Books, at which time participants are given a topic and asked to write about it on their own blogs. They then share their links at the main site and visit other participants blogs.

Today Karen's Beyond the Books topic is about my favorite game (board game, party game, or do you hate games?).

My family was big on playing board and card games when I was growing up. My brother and I often played Uno, Sorry!, Candyland, Clue, and Rummikub (my grandparents' favorite). I always wished I had the game Chutes and Ladders, but my parents would never get it for me. Instead I had to play it when visiting friends.

My husband and I played card and board games quite a bit early on in our relationship and marriage. They make for cheap date nights. Somewhere along the way we got out of the habit. It can probably be traced to Netflix, but I am not really sure. Some of my favorite games include Clue Master DetectiveSequenceHearts, and Cribbage. I still love Sorry!. Apple to Apple is a fun game too if I'm in a bigger group. I'm not good at drawing or acting out scenes or trivia--so I tend to avoid those types of party games.

My husband has let me test play one or two or his games over the years.  He's extremely creative and has made a few of his own over the years.

Admittedly, most games I play on my phone, Kindle or, more rarely, my computer. Solitaire, Minesweeper, Sudoku, and CrossMe are particular favorites on my electronic devices.

Mouse isn't yet interested in card games or games that are not more activity based. She has a Dora the Explorer Carnival game we sometimes play, but even then it's hard to keep her playing by the rules. More often than not, we do not bother.

Hungry Hungry Hippo is the most popular game in my house right now. Is it okay that sometimes I let my 4 year old win? Definitely not always though.

Do you have any favorite games? If so, what are they?

Book Blogger Hop

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

Are you ever without a book? (submitted by  Elizabeth)
I carry my cell phone just about everywhere, which means I always have access to a book one way or the other. I rarely read on my phone though. I much prefer to read from a paper book or my e-reader. As a result, I often have one of the two (more often than not it's my e-reader) handy as well, unless I know for sure I will not be able to fit in reading time. I think if I didn't have my cell phone though, I probably would take a book or my e-reader with me in those instances too.--you know, just in case.

What about you? Do you always carry a book with you?

 © 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Clare: It's hard being left behind. ~ Opening of The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Mariner, 2003
Fiction; 546 pgs

Every time I start thinking of Clare and Henry I begin to get misty-eyed. Every time.  Days after reading the book.  Oh my gosh, I'm doing it again!  Okay. Let's try to make it through this review.

I have been avoiding reading this book for years. I own a copy. It's sitting on my bookshelf right now, in fact. For years friends have recommended I read The Time Traveler's Wife.  Some rather strongly. I said I would. I never did.  Until the book arrived in the mail one day via my Postal Book Club.  I was a little surprised given the page limit for books we're supposed to read is lower than the page count for this book--but it is a fast read, so maybe that was taken into consideration.  I seem to be the first person in the group who hadn't read the book, which, upon reflection, isn't a surprise.  I mean you all have read it, right? Most of you, anyway.
From Goodreads: 
A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare's passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger's cinematic storytelling that makes the novel's unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant. An enchanting debut and a spellbinding tale of fate and belief in the bonds of love, The Time Traveler's Wife is destined to captivate readers for years to come.
And it did. I was spellbound and captivated. I wanted to be Clare. I wanted my husband to be Henry--at least while I was reading. I felt romanced and loved and completely wrapped up in Clare and Henry's story. I felt torn up and sad and lost as I read about the struggles they faced, loving each other and yet often, nearly always apart. (There I go, getting teary again. Darn it.)

The first time Clare meets Henry, she is six.  The first time Henry meets Clare, he is 28. Both at completely different points in time.  That sort of thing would complicate life, don't you think? It was interesting to see how their lives intersected, how Henry saw Clare grow up, him knowing he would eventually marry her; and then years later see an adult Clare meeting a version of Henry that hadn't encountered her yet as a child. I worried at first I would have trouble following the narrative, given the jumps in time and their unusual chronologically-challenged romance. The author made it easier by documenting the dates and ages of the characters over the course of the book which helped immensely. That, in part, made it easier to follow--that and such a compelling novel whose characters I grew to love.

Neither Clare nor Henry are perfect, not really. Okay, so maybe a little close to perfect, but not quite. Henry, especially in his young adulthood (before Clare), was a bit of a rogue. He went through drugs, alcohol and women like they were a bag of potato chips. Clare, especially in her childhood, at times seemed precocious. They did not always agree and there were definitely tense moments throughout their marriage, especially when they were trying to have a child. My heart ached for them.  I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be Henry, not being able to change the past, life just happening to you, really. No free will.  I change my mind. I am glad I am not Clare and that I am not married to Henry.

As much as I enjoyed reading this book and being caught up in the experience of being a part of Clare and Henry's world for a short time, I, at times, wished the author had taken the characters deeper, taken certain threads a little farther than she did. Yet there were times when she did, when she caught so perfectly the feeling of grief, the varying nuances of being both happy and sad to be alone, and the pure joy of being in love.

When I finished the book, I felt for sure I was missing something. I wanted more. I wish I could say it was just that wonderful sense of wanting more because you don't want a book to end. While it is true I didn't want Henry and Clare's story to end, I also felt a little let down. I thought the very end was perfect. It's what happens--or doesn't--right before that that left me wanting. Is that too much of a spoiler? Probably. Which is why I won't say more. Other than to say, I have questions!

At it's heart, The Time Traveler's Wife is a love story. It is about their courtship and eventual marriage. And it is about their life together, about the hardships they faced in living such an unpredictable life and yet trying to have a normal life just the same. My emotions as I read were all over the place. There was heartache. Lots of heartache. And yet, this is such a beautiful story of two people so utterly in love with each other. It's hard not to feel the joy in that.

To learn more about author Audrey Niffenegger and her work, please visit the author's website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterGoodreads

Source: Many thanks to Tanya of GirlXOXO for sharing this book with me through our postal bookclub! 

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (08/18/2015)

This past week was a stressful one. My senior cat, Parker, has not been feeling well, and so I took him to the cat hospital Friday afternoon. He has lost just over two pounds in the past four months and was feeling somewhat lethargic. He was throwing up again, and hiding under my daughter's bed (something he does when he is feeling bad). The veterinarian ran the usual tests to see what was wrong, wanting to see if his kidney disease had progressed or if his thyroid was functioning appropriately. As with the last several times we have gone through this with him in the last couple years, the tests were rather inconclusive in terms of what is wrong. He will likely need another ultrasound. He is on his usual medication along with two new pills. I haven't seen too much difference yet, other than he hasn't thrown up since being at the vet (he gave them a demonstration while we were there). That's at least one good sign. We are trying to remain optimistic. If you have an animal companion you love, you know the frustration and helplessness of not knowing what is wrong or exactly how to help.

Gracie and Parker playing with Lego

Other stress came by way of Mouse's swim class. She was promoted to the second level, which she excitedly but nervously began last week. She was especially glad to finally have a female instructor. At the beginning of the summer, Mouse had been afraid to get in the pool, screaming and kicking those first few days, and by the end of her level one classes, she was loving every minute of being in the water. It took one exercise during her first level two class and one bad instructor, to undo most of that. I will save you the sordid details, but needless to say, Mouse is back in level one--for Mouse's and my sanity. Mouse was disappointed, feeling like she had failed somehow. I told her that wasn't the case at all. It wasn't about failing at anything. I want her to learn how to swim, but she has to be comfortable in the water. And that means having fun in the water. She and I talked it out, and she agreed level one would be better all around. I kept my few choice words about the instructor to myself. And, boy, do I hope she has another job or is at another pool if we do this again next summer!

Mouse at her friend's pool this past Sunday

Over the weekend I read Ella Carey's Paris Time Capsule which I am reviewing for an upcoming tour next month. I was in the mood for something lighter than what I had been reading, and this seemed a perfect fit. A young American woman receives a surprise inheritance from someone she has never heard of and must travel to Paris, France to claim it. There she meets the good looking and charming grandson of the deceased woman. Working together, the two try to piece together their families' histories to understand why Loic's grandmother would give her estate to a complete stranger. Paris Time Capsule is a mix of mystery and romance.

First Paragraph of Paris Time Capsule:

The parcel was wrapped in brown paper and tied with an unblemished silk ribbon. This was quite a feat, given that the package had traveled all the way from Paris to New York. A tiny bow perched on top, its ends snipped short--almost, Cat thought, as if the person who had wrapped it was attempting to be economical. The sender's details were written in faded sepia pen: Monsieur Gerard Lapointe, ninth arrondissement, Paris. Cat had never heard of him.

Teaser from Paris Time Capsule at 15%: 

"But no one in ze building know who own zis apartment."

"No one knew Mademoiselle de Florian? How long have you lived here, Mademoiselle?"

"I've been here these twelve years," the woman announced. "Never have I seen a person enter zis apartment."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

I was curious right away what might be in the package, and couldn't wait to find out. This was a relatively quick book to read. After finishing it this past weekend, I was not quite ready to move away from France, and am now reading: Death in Brittany (Kommissar Dupin #1) by Jean-Luc Bannalec.

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

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

This week's  Top Ten Tuesday theme is Top Ten Of Your Auto-buy Authors. I had to think long and hard about this week's topic. At first, my immediate thought was about buying new releases. Truth be told, it has been a long time since I have bought books when they are first released, even books by favorite authors. It just doesn't happen. If we are talking books I buy based on author, regardless of what the books are about, there are quite a few of those. Generally they are authors who write in genres I love, and whom I know I want to read everything by. This doesn't mean I own all an author's books, however. Someday perhaps. Let's see if I can come up with ten . . .

1. Ilona Andrews ~ I love the Kate Daniel series and have read one of this writing couple's Edge series books, which I enjoyed. I love the mix of urban fantasy and romance.

2. Patricia Briggs ~ Another urban fantasy author I cannot get enough of.

3. Jim Butcher ~ Even though I have only read the author's Dresden Files,  I have every intention of reading his other books, whether it be urban fantasy or high fantasy.

4. Michael Connelly ~ One of the finest crime fiction authors around today.

5. Edwidge Danticat ~ If you want beautiful writing and heart wrenching stories about mother-daughter relationships and diasporic politics, look no further. I fell in love with this author's work several years ago, and she continues to be on my must read author list.

6. Sue Grafton ~ She is the author of one of my favorite crime fiction series, featuring P.I. Kinsey Millhone.

7. Craig Johnson ~ He is a sweetheart in person (I had the opportunity to meet him at a book festival one year) and I cannot recommend his crime novels enough. His series is set in rural Wyoming with well developed characters you can't help but love.

8. Elizabeth Haynes ~ It goes without saying that every on this list is a favorite, right? Elizabeth Haynes is one of my newer favorites. I love a good crime fiction novel set in England. She writes both stand alone novels and a series.

9. Sarah McCoy ~ I will read everything this author writes. Her books weave history with the present, and her characters have a way of getting under the reader's skin.

10. Lisa See ~ She is the author of one of my all-time favorite books, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I have enjoyed everything I have read by her so far and hope to one day read her entire backlist and everything else she writes. While her most recent books have all been historical fiction, she has also written crime fiction novels and a nonfiction book as well.

Once I started making this list, it was hard to stop. I went with the first ten that came to mind. There are so many more authors I want to read everything by who came tumbling out of my head the more I thought about it. Kelley Armstrong. Thrity Umrigar, P.J. Tracy, Linda Fairstein, Jane Austen, Patrick Ness, Sarah Waters, Anne Bishop, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, and on and on.

Have you read any of these authors? Which authors are on your auto-buy list?

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran

When French perfumer Danielle Bretancourt steps aboard a luxury ocean liner, leaving her son behind in Poland with his grandmother, she has no idea that her life is about to change forever. ~ Opening of Scent of Triumph

Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran
St. Martin's Griffin, 2015 (first published in 2012)
Fiction (Historical); 384 pgs

Synopsis from Goodreads:
When French perfumer Danielle Bretancourt steps aboard a luxury ocean liner, leaving her son behind in Poland with his grandmother, she has no idea that her life is about to change forever. The year is 1939, and the declaration of war on the European continent soon threatens her beloved family, scattered across many countries. Traveling through London and Paris into occupied Poland, Danielle searches desperately for her the remains of her family, relying on the strength and support of Jonathan Newell-Grey, a young captain. Finally, she is forced to gather the fragments of her impoverished family and flee to America. There she vows to begin life anew, in 1940's Los Angeles.

There, through determination and talent, she rises high from meager jobs in her quest for success as a perfumer and fashion designer to Hollywood elite. Set between privileged lifestyles and gritty realities, Scent of Triumph is one woman’s story of courage, spirit, and resilience.
The World War II setting is what drew me initially to this novel. I am not big on fashion or even perfume, but I do enjoy a good story about a woman overcoming hardships and landing on her own two feet. One good thing about a historical fiction novel that involves fashion is how much it can contribute to the setting, both the location and the time period. And that was true in this case.

I admit to being a little put off at the beginning by the strong attraction between Danielle and the sea captain, Jonathan Newell-Grey. Danielle is a happily married woman who has just left her young son in a country that is at risk of being invaded by the Germans. The long glances and the lingering touches bothered me, and I wasn't immediately inclined to think much of Danielle as a result. I worried they were going to wind up having an affair--and that was not the kind of book I particularly wanted to be reading.

I remember reading Katherine's review of this book before I had purchased it, and she referred to it as bordering on a soap opera--and it certainly did that. Between the miscommunication, mistakes made, the constant dilemmas arising just as things seem to be falling into place, the various romances, and the over the top story line involving assassins that, while entertaining, seemed a bit too hard to believe--there was a lot of drama within the pages of the novel.

The author takes the reader back and forth between various characters, including Danielle's son and mother-in-law, her husband, Jonathan, and Danielle, with most of the focus being on Danielle's story. It works well in this book, offering a more world view of what is going on in the characters' lives. I cannot even imagine what it must have been like for Danielle and her husband to leave their son behind, especially knowing the political situation in their country and neighboring Germany was so tenuous. And then when Hitler marches into Poland . . . As a mother, my heart hurt so much for Danielle. Not knowing what is happening, not being able to protect her son, not being able to rush to his rescue. I longed for news on both Danielle's son and her mother-in-law, hoping the author would hurry back so I could check up on them.

Danielle will do anything to find her son, but, of course, there are obstacles and only so much a woman at that time could do. She must rely on others to help her. When her husband goes off to Poland to find their son, she returns to her family home in France to wait where she thinks she will be safe until she can't wait any more.

I found this novel slow moving in spots, but mostly I was glued to the pages, fascinated by Danielle's life and everything that was happening to her and her family. I think my favorite part of the novel was when she first moves to the United States, two children and her invalid mother in her care, with hardly any money to speak of.  She could have asked friends for money, but she chooses not too, knowing she must rely on her own skills and intellect if she is going to survive for long. This was Danielle at her lowest and at her best, I think. It was then I admired her the most. There were a few instances throughout the book in which I wanted to shake some sense in Danielle, but overall, I grew to like her character, even if I didn't always agree with her choices.

The author does a good job of putting the reader into the various locales in which the book takes place. I loved the time spent in France, could feel the desperation of Poland, and  being a part of the magic of Los Angeles in the 1940's. It was such an interesting time in history, and Jan Moran manages to fit so much into her novel.

It was impossible not to become emotionally invested in the characters and their stories. This is a book that takes on a lot of serious issues, from war and loss to drug abuse and poverty to regret and heartache. There were many moments of heartbreak and anguish in which I found myself tearing up. Through it all, however, there was hope. Danielle proved a resourceful and capable woman during the toughest of times, and she never gave up hope of finding her son.

The ending was true to the novel, which are the kinds of endings I like best. While Scent of Triumph will not make my favorite book of the year list, I did enjoy it overall.

To learn more about author Jan Moran and her work, please visit the author's website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterGoodreads

Source: I purchased an autographed copy of this novel at the L.A. Times Festival of Books for my own reading pleasure. I also own an e-copy, which I purchased as well.

© 2015, 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.