Saturday, February 27, 2021

Weekly Mews: Mouse's Corner Edition (Whatever After) & What I Have Been Up To

I am linking up to the Sunday Post hosted by Kim of Caffeinated Book Reviewer and The Sunday Salon (TSS) hosted by Deb Nance of Readerbuzz  where participants recap our week, talk about what we are reading, share any new books that have come our way, and whatever else we want to talk about. I am also linking It's Monday! What Are you Reading? hosted by Kathryn of Book Date and a children's/middle grade version hosted by Jen Vincent, Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee of Unleashing Readers where readers talk about what they have been, are and will be reading.

Last year, Mouse and I read the Spill the Beans, the thirteenth book in the Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski, which she loved and I felt so-so about. But if it gets her excited about reading then I am all in! Mouse was eager to read more in the series and so for Christmas, I got her the first three books, which we recently read together.

The series begins with Fairest of All, in which 10-year-old Abby and her brother, who is 7, are adjusting to life in their new town. Abby was none too happy about the move and worries about fitting in at her new school. One night, Abby follows her brother down into the basement to see what has got him all excited: a mirror that seems to be more than a mirror. Three knocks and they find themselves swept into an entirely different world--and so their adventures begin. 

One of the things I like about this series is how the fairytales are not based on the Disney versions, as Abby explains to Jonah (and therefore the reader) in each instance. Abby's grandmother used to read Abby and Jonah fairytales frequently when they lived closer to her, and Abby remembers her fairytales very well. This is not a series in which the reader necessarily needs to know the original fairytales, and I appreciate that each is (somewhat) addressed in the books. The author even mentions some of the more shocking parts (toes and tongues cut out--"Gross!" as Jonah would say), but in an age appropriate way. Keep in mind though that even as the fairytales they find themselves in may appear to follow a similar story line at first as the original or a similar version, the actual characters, world building and overall story are quite different. 

This series is full of humor and I like the overall theme of girl empowerment that I have encountered so far. The distressed damsels turn the tables in their tales, and the outcome is never quite what you'd expect. Mouse loves that about these books too. Each book also contains a lesson for Abby, usually something she is struggling with in her real life that she comes to realize the solution to as she works out how to fix the fairytales she and Jonah land in. We laughed a lot as we read these three books and cheered when the fairytale characters get their happy ending--even if not the original ending expected.

In the first book in the series, Fairest of All (Scholastic, 2013), the siblings are dropped into the middle of a forest. They come upon a cottage in which an old woman is trying to entice a young woman to open her door and enjoy an apple. Jonah, ever hungry, would love an apple and immediately inserts himself in their conversation. It does not take long for Abby to figure out that this old woman is not who she appears to be and the young woman at the door is no other than Snow White. No apple is eaten that day. No one is poisoned. And therein lies the problem. They broke the story and now have to fix it. The twelve dwarves all have very different names than you would expect. And they are not all men. The prince ends up imprisoned in the dungeon, there are crocodiles in the moat, and the magic mirror is Jonah and Abby's only way to return home. Oh! And there's a fairy named Rosemary that lives in Abby and Jonah's mirror. She hasn't made an appearance yet, but there is time for that in a future book, I am sure. In this book, Abby is worried about getting Snow's story back on track, but by the end realizes that change is not always a bad thing. Maybe the move to the new town is a good thing. Change can be good, after all. 

In the second book of the series, If the Shoe Fits (Scholastic, 2013), Abby and Jonah again find themselves traveling through the mirror into yet another fairytale, this time Cinderella. They are determined not to interfere with the story this time, only of course things do not go as planned. Soon, Cinderella's story is derailed. And it seems to get worse and worse the more Abby and Jonah try to get it back on track. They call on the Fairy Godmother to help, only she isn't quite so willing. Cinderella has to prove she is no damsel in distress, that she can take care of herself, which turns out the be the message Abby needs to take to heart too--and not rely on her parents for everything now that she's older. In this book, one of the evil stepsisters proves not be be so evil, mice really can run up clocks, and hold on tight to that magic wand or it might end up in the wrong hands. 

Sink or Swim (Scholastic, 2013) is the third novel in the Whatever After series, and, you guessed it, is the Little Mermaid story. Like with the other fairytales, this one is not based on the Disney version where the Little Mermaid and the prince live happily ever after. No, this is the version in which the Little Mermaid will not only lose her voice and the prince, but also her life. Abby cannot let that happen. So instead of trying to keep the story from going bad, Abby and her brother set out to actually change it. On purpose. What was fun about this particular book is that it was very modern in its presentation. Surfing seems to be the favorite pastime. The king calls everyone, "Dude". And everyone has an obsession with mustard (to be fair, Jonah's obsessed with ketchup). The prince in this one is rather superficial and both Mouse and I wondered what Princess Lana, the Little Mermaid, sees in him. Despite Abby's best efforts, the wedding doesn't quite go as planned, and she must face the Sea Witch herself--with Jonah, of course. This was perhaps my and Mouse's favorite of the three. It was the funniest and quite creative in terms of story line. The overall lesson in this one was a bit more complex than the first two: knowing when to accept things the way they are and when to take a risk and speak up for what you want.

I asked Mouse what her favorite parts of all three books were in hopes of sharing them with you here. Unfortunately for you, they each include a major spoiler. I will at least say that for Sink and Swim, it involved the King and Sea Witch's interaction toward the end. As for the other two, let's just say she liked how Cinderella and Snow White's stories ended.

Now Reading: Mouse is reading Trouble at Trident Academy (Mermaid Tales #1) by Debbie Dadey on her own. 

What I Am Reading:
I finished reading Michelle Obama's Becoming early in the week and loved it. What a humble and amazing woman. I am now reading The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. So far it is living up to the hype and my expectations.  

I have not quite decided what to read next. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo perhaps (so I can be ready for the release of the Netflix series). Although, I am in the mood for a historical novel. Maybe I will do that for next month's TBR Poll and make you choose for me! Hmmm.

What I Am Watching: My family and I watched the latest WandaVision episode. As anxious as I am to see how everything wraps up in the next episode, I am also sad it's coming to an end. We are also keeping up with our Buffy and Angel watching. We watch an episode almost every night, depending on what we have going on.

Off the Blog: It was a week. A very crazy-busy-thank-goodness-its-over kind of week. I was so relieved when I left the office Friday evening. I am behind on blog visits and responding to comments--thank you for your patience and understanding. 

The trimester is officially over for my daughter and the new one begins next week. We got word from the school district that they will be starting elementary school students in the hybrid program in the classroom one day a week beginning March 9th, raising it to two days a week a couple weeks after that if all goes well. Hopefully it will go well for those returning to the classroom. From talking to teacher friends and other parents, feelings are mixed. As I've mentioned before, my daughter is in the virtual program this school year, and so we will be watching from the sidelines. The COVID numbers are continuing to go down in my county and dare we hope we will be able to enter a slightly less restrictive tier soon? 

Mouse made breakfast for all of us last Sunday as part of a Girl Scout project she is working on. Chocolate chip pancakes topped with whipped cream. My favorite! 

I just received Mouse's March dance/rehearsal schedule for March. It's going to be a busy month for her. Which reminds me, I need to load the donation bags into the car and drive them over to the studio today. The booster club is doing a fundraiser, collecting clothes and some household items.  I have about nine or ten full garbage bags waiting for an opportunity to be donated. My husband will be so happy to clear the space in our garage!

Enjoying the sunny day

© 2021, 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, February 25, 2021

Where Is Your Bookmark? (Female Warriors / Ghostly Mystery / Connect Five: TBR Must Reads / BBHOP)

A weekly meme where readers share the first sentence (or more) of the book they are reading and say what they think. Hosted by the amazing Gillion Dumas of Rose City Reader.
Today is the Ritual of Purity.

The thought nervously circles in my head as I hurry toward the barn, gathering my cloak to warn off the cold. It's early morning, and the sun hasn't yet begun its climb above the snow-dusted trees encircling our small farmhouse. Okai gather in the darkness, crowding the weak pool of light cast by my lamp. An ominous tingling builds under my skin. It's almost as if there's something there, at the edge of my vision . . . [opening of The Gilded Ones]

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

As I finally allow myself to succumb to it, I notice something I didn't before. A little brown girl, about eleven or so, white shift fluttering as she runs away from us deeper into the forest.

"A girl . . . ," I say.

Then I surrender to the darkness. [excerpt from 56% of The Gilded Ones]

My initial thoughts: I am not too far into The Gilded Ones (Deathless #1) by Namina Forna yet, but I am already hooked. The opening gives the reader a sense of foreboding, although we can't quite be sure what it means just yet. 

I have not reached the second excerpt I shared yet, but possibilities are already swirling in my head about what it might mean. I look forward to finding out!

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity--and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki--near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire's greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she's ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be--not even Deka herself. [Goodreads Summary]

Does The Gilded Ones sound like something you would like to read? What are you reading this week?

Originally a feature called Last Year I Was Reading created by Maria from ReadingMaria
I liked it enough to continue on my own, but have tweaked it
 to feature Five Years Ago I Was Reading. 
(I would have gone back ten, but I read so little in 2011)

Five years ago at this time I had just finished reading Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer. On the first Saturday of the month I post a TBR List Poll asking my blog visitors to vote for one of three of my TBR books and Moyer's book happened to be the winner of my February poll in 2016. Delia's Shadow is a historical paranormal mystery, featuring a former teacher who leaves her job on the East Coast to follow a ghost asking for her help. Nineteen fifteen in San Francisco and a murderer is on the lose.  It was an atmospheric dark and entertaining mystery with a dash of romance mixed in. I really enjoyed it and meant to continue with the series but haven't managed to yet. 

Have you read Delia's Shadow? What were you reading five years ago? 

Connect Five Friday is a weekly meme where readers share a list of five books, 
read or unread, or bookish things, that share a common theme. 
Hosted by the  Kathryn of of Book Date.

For my Connect Five Fridays this month I have been featuring books by Black authors in celebration of Black History Month. Of course February is not the only month we should be celebrating Black and other authors of color. We should be celebrating them year round. 

My TBR collection (books I actually own) is embarrassingly huge and among them are these five gems by Black authors that I am really looking forward to reading. I am currently reading The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna, perhaps I will pick one of these up soon . . .

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
The Handmaid's Tale for a new generation . . .

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet's word is law, Immanuelle Moore's very existence is blasphemy.

The daughter of a union with an outsider that cast her once-proud family into disgrace, Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol and lead a life of submission, devotion and absolute conformity, like all the women in the settlement.

But a chance mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood that surrounds Bethel - a place where the first prophet once pursued and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still walking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the diary of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realises the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her . . . [Goodreads Summary]

Home Is Not a Country
by Safia Elhillo
A mesmerizing novel in verse about family, identity, and finding yourself in the most unexpected places—for fans of The Poet X, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, and Jason Reynolds.

Nima doesn’t feel understood. By her mother, who grew up far away in a different land. By her white suburban town, which feels both dangerous and familiar. At least she has her childhood friend Haitham, with whom she can let her guard down and be herself.

Until she doesn’t. As the ground is pulled out from under her, Nima must grapple with the phantom of a life not chosen, the name her parents didn’t give her at birth: Yasmeen. But that other name, that other girl, might just be more real than Nima knows. And more hungry.

This book is a story of mothers and daughters, of friends and enemies, of journeys and homecomings, and of realizing that sometimes the person you’re meant to be has been staring at you in the mirror all along.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
[Goodreads Summary] 

What We Lose
by Zinzi Clemmons
From an author of rare, haunting power, a stunning novel about a young African-American woman coming of age—a deeply felt meditation on race, sex, family, and country

Raised in Pennsylvania, Thandi views the world of her mother’s childhood in Johannesburg as both impossibly distant and ever present. She is an outsider wherever she goes, caught between being black and white, American and not. She tries to connect these dislocated pieces of her life, and as her mother succumbs to cancer, Thandi searches for an anchor—someone, or something, to love.

In arresting and unsettling prose, we watch Thandi’s life unfold, from losing her mother and learning to live without the person who has most profoundly shaped her existence, to her own encounters with romance and unexpected motherhood. Through exquisite and emotional vignettes, Clemmons creates a stunning portrayal of what it means to choose to live, after loss. An elegiac distillation, at once intellectual and visceral, of a young woman’s understanding of absence and identity that spans continents and decades, What We Lose heralds the arrival of a virtuosic new voice in fiction.
[Goodreads Summary]


The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.
A novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence.

Isaiah was Samuel’s and Samuel was Isaiah’s. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man—a fellow slave—seeks to gain favor by preaching the master’s gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel’s love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation’s harmony.

With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones, Jr. fiercely summons the voices of slaver and the enslaved alike to tell the story of these two men; from Amos the preacher to the calculating slave-master himself to the long line of women that surround them, women who have carried the soul of the plantation on their shoulders. As tensions build and the weight of centuries—of ancestors and future generations to come—culminate in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.  [Goodreads Summary]

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
From the New York Times -bestselling author of The Mothers, a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise. [Goodreads Summary]

Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? What fiction or fantasy novels would you recommend by Black authors? 

Be sure and check out my to read Connect 5 lists of Memoirs/EssaysRomance, and Mystery/Thrillers by Black authors celebrating Black History Month.

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

Do you use Goodreads to keep track of your books? (submitted by Elizabeth @Silver's Reviews)

For the past several years, I have used Goodreads to keep track of the books I have read--since I started keeping track, that is. I have considered adding TBR books to Goodreads but so far have always decided against it. That would be a huge undertaking. I actually catalog all the books I own on LibraryThing, whether read or unread. I like LibraryThing much better than Goodreads for that particular purpose. As if that wasn't enough, because I love making lists, I also keep my own spreadsheet of the books I read with various stats I like to track. 

What about you? Do you use Goodreads to keep track of your books?  Or perhaps another web-based website? Do you use a spreadsheet?

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

© 2021, 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, February 23, 2021

Waiting to Read Wednesday: Surviving Savannah / An Unexpected Peril / The Rest of Us Just Live Here

The New
Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by the marvelous Tressa at Wishful Endings to spotlight and discuss upcoming release we are excited about that we have yet to read.

Surviving Savannah
by Patti Callahan
Release Date: March 9, 2021 by Berkley
It was called "The Titanic of the South." The luxury steamship sank in 1838 with Savannah's elite on board; through time, their fates were forgotten--until the wreck was found, and now their story is finally being told in this breathtaking novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis.

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she's shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can't resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly's research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah's society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving.
[Goodreads Summary]
Why I want to read this: Everything about this historical fiction novel calls to me. 

An Unexpected Peril
 (Veronica Speedwell #6) by Deanna Raybourn
Release Date: March 2, 2021 by Berkley
A princess is missing, and a peace treaty is on the verge of collapse in this new Veronica Speedwell adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

January 1889. As the newest member of the Curiosity Club—an elite society of brilliant, intrepid women—Veronica Speedwell is excited to put her many skills to good use. As she assembles a memorial exhibition for pioneering mountain climber Alice Baker-Greene, Veronica discovers evidence that the recent death was not a tragic climbing accident but murder. Veronica and her natural historian beau, Stoker, tell the patron of the exhibit, Princess Gisela of Alpenwald, of their findings. With Europe on the verge of war, Gisela's chancellor, Count von Rechstein, does not want to make waves—and before Veronica and Stoker can figure out their next move, the princess disappears.

Having noted Veronica's resemblance to the princess, von Rechstein begs her to pose as Gisela for the sake of the peace treaty that brought the princess to England. Veronica reluctantly agrees to the scheme. She and Stoker must work together to keep the treaty intact while navigating unwelcome advances, assassination attempts, and Veronica's own family—the royalty who has never claimed her.
 [Goodreads Summary]
Why I want to read this: I haven't made it this far into the series yet, but having loved the first book, I will definitely be reading it when I get the chance!

Do Surviving Savannah and An Unexpected Peril interest you? What upcoming releases are you looking forward to reading?

The Old(er) 
I have an embarrassing number of unread books sitting on the shelves in my personal library. Carole of Carole's Random Life in Books has given me the perfect excuse to spotlight and discuss those neglected books in her Books from the Backlog feature. After all, even those older books need a bit of love! Not to mention it is reminding me what great books I have waiting for me under my own roof still to read!

The Rest of Us Just Live Here
by Patrick Ness
(HarperTeen, 2015)
What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable. [Goodreads Summary]
Why I want to read this: I bought a copy of this at a local indie bookstore just because it is written by Patrick Ness. I loved his Chaos Walking Trilogy and had been wanting to try something else by him and this one sounded really good. And yet there it sits on my shelf. Still waiting its turn. 

Have you read The Rest of Us Just Live Here? Does this book sound like something you would like to read? 

© 2021, 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, February 22, 2021

Bookish Mewsings: The Russian Cage by Charlaine Harris & The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

I sat at the table in my cabin, my sister's letter in my hand, and read it for the third time. ~ Opening of Russian Cage

The Russian Cage
 (Gunnie Rose #3) by Charlaine Harris
Gallery/Saga Press, 2021
Fantasy; 304 pgs
Source: NetGalley

Charlaine Harris's The Russian Cage is the third book in her Gunnie Rose urban fantasy series, set in or around the 1930's in an alternate history. It has a definite Western feel to it. The United States fell apart during the early 1900's after the worst flu epidemic the world had ever seen along with a period of depression. What was once California and Oregon is now a part of the Holy Russian Empire, the place the Romanov family fled to during the revolution. It is the last place Lizbeth wants to go, but when a letter from her sister arrives with a hidden message that Lizbeth's friend Prince Eli Savarov has been arrested, Lizbeth does not hesitate to make her way to San Diego to find out what is going on--and what she can do about it. 

The Holy Russian Empire appears to be the most advanced and wealthy of the various regions of the former U.S. readers of the series have encountered so far. Lizbeth feels out of her element, not used to the luxuries and protocols of the area. She's not at all happy having to give up carrying her guns when out and about and has little patience for the formalities of interacting with society and royalty. She is not really sure who she can trust but knows she is limited without help. She turns to her sister and an old acquaintance. 

I loved the first novel, An Easy Death, but this one is probably my favorite of the three books in the series. Lizbeth proves yet again how strong, smart and resourceful she is even when completely out of her element. She has good instincts which rarely let her down. The Russian Cage gives readers a closer look into Eli's family and the role Grigori's (magic users) hold in the Holy Russian Empire. We also get to know Felicia, Lizbeth's sister a bit more, although it is obvious there is still a lot to uncover there. She's attending school in San Diego, learning to master her Grigori abilities. 

The world building in this series is well done and interesting, from the history to the cultural and social aspects. Like the other books in the series, The Russian Cage is full of action and adventure and was an entertaining read. I had no idea what direction the story was going to take and just went along for the ride. I highly recommend reading this series in order as each one builds on the other. I enjoy spending time with Eli and Lizbeth and hope this won't be the last I see of them. 

Alexa Monroe walked into the Fairmont hotel in San Francisco that Thursday night wearing her favorite red heels, jittery from coffee, and with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne in her purse. ~ opening line of The Wedding Date

The Wedding Date (The Wedding Date #1) by Jasmine Guillory
Berkley, 2018
Romance; 320 pgs
Source: NetGalley

On her way to a celebratory evening with her sister, Alexa Monroe gets stuck in the hotel elevator with the rather attractive Drew Nichols. Their harmless flirting turns into Alexa's promise to attend not only the wedding of Drew's ex-girlfriend, but also the rehearsal dinner the night before. What could it hurt, Alexa wonders. A fake date quickly turns into a fake boyfriend/girlfriend situation. 

There is no denying the chemistry between Alexa and Drew, both physically and otherwise. They feel at ease with each other and enjoy spending time with one another. They had planned for their date to only last the weekend of the wedding, but neither is quite ready to say goodbye when the time comes. The only catch? Alexa lives in Berkeley where she works as the mayor's chief of staff and Drew is a pediatrician in Los Angeles. Where there is a will, there is a way, and thanks to frequent flyer miles and probably hefty savings accounts, the two take turns flying back and forth to visit with each other on the occasional weekends. 

As their feelings grow for each other, they both know they must end their relationship before they get too attached. For Alexa, it is the fear of falling in love and wanting more than Drew is willing to give. He made it clear he wasn't relationship material right from the start. For Drew, he does not want to break Alexa's heart, knowing that is exactly what will happen if they continue to see each other. 

It's a common trope, sure, but the characters and the magic Jasmine Guillory works to tell their story is what makes this such an entertaining romance. I found Alexa to be an extremely relatable character. I loved her charm and dedication to her work. She's clearly a smart and capable woman. Drew is easy to like as well. They both have some great supportive friends too who not only call them out when necessary but also comfort them when they most need it.

I appreciated the side stories that each character was struggling with and how they came together for each other, whether it was the diagnosis of one of Drew's young patients and how to help the boy's mother or Alexa wanting to start a project for helping at-risk teens (we need more programs like this!). 

I also really liked how Jasmine Guillory approached the interracial relationship aspects of the novel. Romance novels are expected to have that Happily Ever After or For Now ending, but it does not mean they cannot tackle more serious topics. The author does not beat anyone over the head with the challenges a couple might face, merely a mention here or there in a very natural-to-the-novel way. As simple as Alexa asking Drew if she will be the only Black person in the room, for example, or having that conversation about privilege in terms of how a Black teen is treated compared to a White teen in the same situation. These are conversations we need to see and engage in more. 

After reading Royal Holiday, the 4th book in the series last year, I was not expecting as many bedroom scenes as there were in The Wedding Date, admittedly. The Royal Holiday wasn't without, mind you, but it was significantly less in that regard. Not that I am complaining. Two different novels. Four very different characters. 

I am always curious as to how long distance relationships in romance novels will be resolved in the end. Who will have to give up what? I know, I know. It isn't about what they are leaving behind but rather what they are gaining. My mind still goes there though. I am happy to say The Wedding Date had a very satisfactory ending in that regard. 

Overall, I found The Wedding Date to be a delight to read. I was smiling just about the entire time I was reading it. Except maybe when I was crying in the sadder moments. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Challenge Met: Winter COYER

© 2021, Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Weekly Mews: Poetry Corner Edition (#2)

I am linking up to the Sunday Post hosted by Kim of Caffeinated Book Reviewer and The Sunday Salon (TSS) hosted by Deb Nance of Readerbuzz  where participants recap our week, talk about what we are reading, share any new books that have come our way, and whatever else we want to talk about. I am also linking It's Monday! What Are you Reading? hosted by Kathryn of Book Date where readers talk about what they have been, are and will be reading.

Welcome to the Poetry Corner on this third weekend of February! I want to first acknowledge the hardships so many have been going through this last week because of the storms and freezing temperatures. Thoughts and prayers only go so far, but know that I am thinking of all of you and your loved ones who have been impacted. Reading the Facebook updates of friends living in Texas, I am glad to see most have had power and power restored. I hope things continue to improve steadily.

I had hoped to dive into another collection of poetry this month (Nikki Giovanni's A Good Cry, which I have right here on my desk), but my readings have been more of the random variety, fitting a poem in here and there when I am able. I re-read some old favorites as well as explored new poems. 

Maya Angelou has long been one of my favorite poets, inspiring not just for her words but by her life acts too. She overcame so much during her lifetime, advocated for others as a civil rights activist and a woman, and was a role model for so many. I have talked about her before on my blog as someone I admire and respect as a person and a writer. Some of my favorite verses from her poems:
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still ~  "Caged Bird" by Maya Angelou
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
'Cause nobody, 
But nobody  
Can make it out here alone. ~  "Alone" by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise. ~ "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou

I am still relatively new to the works of Gwendolyn Brooks and look forward to exploring her writings further. She was the first Black author to receive the Pulitzer Prize and later to become a consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, a role that would later become known as the Poet Laureate.  Here is a sampling of verses that resonated with me: 
I pass you my Poem! - to tell you
we are all vulnerable -
the midget, the Mighty,
the richest, the poor."Winnie" by Gwendolyn Brooks
Live not for battles won.
Live not for the end-of-the-song.
Live in the along."Speech to the Young" by Gwendolyn Brooks

I subscribe to Poem-a-Day service, which I admit I do not always keep up with on a daily basis. I often let the poems pile up and read them on the weekend or when I have some extra time. I have come across some great poems through the service.

One of the poems that particularly caught my attention this month was "On Time Tanka" by June Jordan. It holds a power all its own--it speaks to racism and violence. I was curious about the poet behind the poem and a quick internet search opened up a treasure trove of some of her other work. June Jordan was a bisexual Jamaican American poet, playwright, essayist, and teacher and was committed human rights and political activism. She wrote on issues of race, sexuality, and class among other things. Some of the standout verses I found that I thought I would share with you today: 
I refuse to choose
between lynch rope and gang
the blues is the blues!
my skin and my sex: Deep dues
I have no wish to escape"On Time Tanka" by June Jordan
Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear
my head about this poem about why I can't
go out without changing my clothes my shoes
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening/
alone on the streets/alone in the evening/
the point being that I can't do what I want 
to do with my own body because I am the wrong
sex the wrong age the wrong skin [...] ~ "Poem about My Rights" by June Jordan
I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name
My name is my own my own my own"Poem about My Rights" by June Jordan
A few years ago I came across a poetry collection by Q. Gibson called Sugar Sunday which I love to re-visit from time to time. Q. Gibson's poetry is about womanhood and healing. It is truly inspiring. The poems in this collection speak to the human spirit and never fail to move me.
She planted her feet
and finally she stood there
blooming from all the places that once withered. from Sugar Sunday by Q. Gibson
Though I break
I bare my bones before
the world and do not weep
because the world
breaks too
I have watched it
ample times crumble
and still find its way
into tomorrow. from Sugar Sunday by Q. Gibson

If you haven't already, I highly recommend checking out these writers' works. 

Have you read any of these poets before? Have you read a poem recently that moved you? Please share!

What I Am Reading: Earlier this week I read my TBR Poll winner, The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins. I understand now why so many of you are singing the book's praises! Mouse and I also finished Sink or Swim (Whatever After #3) by Sarah Mlynowski, which we both enjoyed. 

I made progress on my lunch read (which I haven't been reading just at lunch this week), Michelle Obama's Becoming, and will likely finish this weekend. I wish now I had been better about marking passages that stood out for me. It's easier to do when I am reading on my e-reader because I can just highlight the text. But my copy of Becoming is a hardcover and I didn't think to have post-its, paper, or a pencil handy from the start. Oh well. I am really enjoying it. 

I am in the mood for a fantasy novel and have settled on my next read being The Gilded Ones (Deathless #1) by Namina Forna. 

What I Am Watching: Last weekend we put Back to the Future on hoping to introduce my daughter to one of my husband's and my favorite oldie-but-goody movies. My husband and I enjoyed re-watching it. My daughter wasn't as into it. We will try again later. 

Those of you watching WandaVision . . . Have you seen the most recent episode?! I hate having to wait until next week for the next one. It's torture. 

We are very near the end of Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and are reading to start Season 4 of Angel. Willow is out for vengeance and Cordelia chose a higher path while Angel . . . well, he's not in a good place.

Off the Blog: What has been happening this week? Goodness. For a minute I was drawing a blank. Monday was a holiday for Mouse and me. It was a fairly uneventful day. We made a Starbucks run and re-watched a couple of the Disney Fairy movies at her request. Tuesday I got my second dose of the COVID vaccine. I am glad I had the foresight to warn my boss and arrange for coverage in case I had to be out from work on Wednesday. It wasn't awful, but I was definitely feeling the side effects: low grade fever, achy all over, fatigue, sore arm, and terrible headache. I spent the day sleeping and reading and not much else. Mouse was nice enough to make me hot chocolate to help me feel better. I really appreciated her thoughtfulness! By the end of the night, I was feeling a bit better. The fever carried over into the next day as did the headache, but I was able to be present at work Thursday without too much trouble. From talking to coworkers who had the same type of vaccine I did, we all had similar experiences in terms of the side effects. Some worse than others, but mostly the same. 

Mouse had a shortened day of virtual school yesterday (although the independent work kept her busy like it was a regular day) because teachers needed the time to work on report cards. I hadn't realized it was that time already. On one hand it seems too soon to be the end of the trimester, but then when I think how it started back in November, it feels like forever ago. 

There's talk of opening the schools for in-person classes in our district--but getting anyone to pinpoint a date is next to impossible. I heard the end of March then April--which, given schools break for the summer in May, seems a bit shortsighted. But that's just my opinion. Maybe for some any time in a classroom is better than none. Mouse will continue to be virtual through the end of the year regardless. 

Other than that, it's been a fairly normal week for us. Dance, work and school.

Gracie making herself comfortable to watch me work

My supervisor for the day

© 2021, 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, February 18, 2021

Where Is Your Bookmark? (Bookish Mewsings: A Glimmer of Death by Valerie Wilson Wesley / Connect 5: TBR Mysteries/Crime Fiction by Black Authors / BBHOP: Squeezing in the Reading)

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

The office reeked of nutmeg. It tickled my nose, filled my mouth, forcing its way down my throat. Funny thing about nutmeg. A dash can spice up cocoa; too much can make you sick. Determined to ignore it, I focused on the real estate listings in front of me. Yet the smell wouldn't leave. I closed my eyes, trying to block this pain-in-the-neck, useless sixth sense, but it did no good. To me, Odessa Jones, nutmeg means death. [Opening of A Glimmer of Death]

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

"Dessa, this is serious business. If you think your dead boss was running some kind of a scam that resulted in his murder, you need to tell the authorities."

"I will," I said in the most earnest voice I could manage. This wasn't the time to share my reservations about the good will of the police. [an excerpt at 56% of A Glimmer of Death]

A Glimmer of Death
 (#1) by Valerie Wilson Wesley
Kensington, 2021
Crime Fiction/Cozy/Paranormal; 240 pgs
Source: NetGalley
Award-winning author Valerie Wilson Wesley launches a thrilling new mystery series set in New Jersey, featuring a multicultural cast, and starring a caterer-turned-realtor with the gift of second sight...

In the first of a thrilling new series, one woman's extraordinary psychic gift plunges her already-troubled present into chaos--and puts her future in someone's deadly sights...

Until now, Odessa Jones' inherited ability to read emotions and foretell danger has protected her. But second sight didn't warn her she would soon be a widow--and about to lose her home and the catering business she's worked so hard to build. The only things keeping Dessa going are her love for baking and her sometimes-mellow cat, Juniper. Unfortunately, putting her life back together means taking a gig at an all-kinds-of-shady real estate firm run by volatile owner Charlie Risko...

Until Charlie is brutally killed--and Dessa's bullied co-worker is arrested for murder. Dessa can't be sure who's guilty. But it doesn't take a psychic to discover that everyone from Charlie's much-abused staff to his long-suffering younger wife had multiple reasons to want him dead. And as Dessa follows a trail of lies through blackmail, dead-end clues, and corruption, she needs to see the truth fast--or a killer will bury her deep down with it.
 [Goodreads Summary]

My thoughts:  Paranormal cozy mysteries are tied with historical cozies as my favorite type of cozy mysteries. I love that added touch of magic or psychic abilities. Dessa is still trying to understand her own psychic gift, not quite trusting it. She's such a great character, insightful and smart. I agree with Lennox that she has a big heart, but she is also the kind of woman who can take of herself. She's the kind of person I would like to be able to call friend--and not just because she makes such delicious sounding treats. 

There were several times throughout the novel that I wished she would just walk away from the real estate agency. Talk about a toxic work environment! Charlie really was the boss from hell. Everyone had a motive for wanting that man dead, and even I was not sure who was behind it, suspecting just about everyone at one point or another. The mystery goes deeper than just the murder a cruel boss though, and I liked that added darker layer.

Besides Dessa, I enjoyed spending time with Aunt Phoenix and Lennox. And who can resist a cat companion like Juniper? I hope I get to spend more time with these characters (and maybe meet more of Dessa's family) in future books in the series, and get to know them all a bit better. I look forward to reading more by Valerie Wilson Wesley, both her future books as well as her backlist.

Challenges Met:  Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge & Winter COYER

Have you read A Glimmer of Death? Does it sound like something you would like? 

Originally a feature called Last Year I Was Reading created by Maria from ReadingMaria
I liked it enough to continue on my own, but have tweaked it
 to feature Five Years Ago I Was Reading. 
(I would have gone back ten, but I read so little in 2011)

Five years ago I was finishing up reading Death Sits Down to Dinner by Tessa Arlen, the second in her series featuring Lady Montfert and Mrs. Jackson. Set in Edwardian England, this fun historical cozy mystery has yet to disappoint. 

Have you read this series? If so, what did you think? What were you reading five years ago?

Connect Five Friday is a weekly meme where readers share a list of five books, read or unread, or bookish things, that share a common theme. 
Hosted by the  Kathryn of of Book Date.

I cannot resist a good mystery/thriller, and the list of books I want to read is, well, huge. I thought today I would feature five mystery/thriller books by Black authors that I want to read. I have to say, it was hard to narrow it down to just five. There are many more than just these I want to read! 

Bluebird, Bluebird
(Highway 59 #1) by Attica Locke 
A powerful thriller about the explosive intersection of love, race, and justice from a writer and producer of the Emmy winning Fox TV show Empire.

When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules--a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.

When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders--a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman--have stirred up a hornet's nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes--and save himself in the process--before Lark's long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.

A rural noir suffused with the unique music, color, and nuance of East Texas, Bluebird, Bluebird is an exhilarating, timely novel about the collision of race and justice in America.
[Goodreads Summary]

A Deadly Inside Scoop
(Ice Cream Parlor Mystery #1) by Abby Collette 

Recent MBA grad Bronwyn Crewse has just taken over her family's ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and she's going back to basics. Wyn is renovating Crewse Creamery to restore its former glory, and filling the menu with delicious, homemade ice cream flavors—many from her grandmother’s original recipes. But unexpected construction delays mean she misses the summer season, and the shop has a literal cold opening: the day she opens her doors an early first snow descends on the village and keeps the customers away.

To make matters worse, that evening, Wyn finds a body in the snow, and it turns out the dead man was a grifter with an old feud with the Crewse family. Soon, Wyn’s father is implicated in his death. It's not easy to juggle a new-to-her business while solving a crime, but Wyn is determined to do it. With the help of her quirky best friends and her tight-knit family, she'll catch the ice cold killer before she has a meltdown . . .
[Goodreads Summary]

The Strivers' Row Spy
(Renaissance #1) by Jason Overstreet

Stunning, suspenseful, and unforgettably evocative, Jason Overstreet’s debut novel glitters with the vibrant dreams and dangerous promise of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, as one man crosses the perilous lines between the law, loyalty, and deadly lies…

For college graduate Sidney Temple, the Roaring Twenties bring opportunities even members of his accomplished black bourgeois family couldn’t have imagined. His impulsive marriage to independent artist Loretta is a happiness he never thought he’d find. And when he’s tapped by J. Edgar Hoover to be the FBI’s first African-American agent, he sees a once-in-a-lifetime chance to secure real justice.

Instead of providing evidence against Marcus Garvey, prominent head of the “dangerously radical” back-to-Africa movement, Sidney uses his unexpected knack for deception and undercover work to thwart the Bureau’s biased investigation. And by giving renowned leader W. E. B. Du Bois insider information, Sidney gambles on change that could mean a fair destiny for all Americans...

But the higher Sidney and Loretta climb in Harlem’s most influential and glamorous circles, the more dangerous the stakes. An unexpected friendship and a wrenching personal tragedy threaten to shatter Loretta’s innocent trust in her husband—and turn his double life into a fast-closing trap. For Sidney, ultimately squeezed between the Bureau and one too many ruthless factions, the price of escape could be heartbreak and betrayal no amount of skill can help him survive.
[Goodreads Summary]

My Sister, The Serial Killer
by Oyinkan Braithwaite

When Korede's dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what's expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This'll be the third boyfriend Ayoola's dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede's long been in love with him, and isn't prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other...

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker - and more difficult to get out of the carpet - than water...
[Goodreads Summary]

Murder in G Major
(Gethsemane Brown Mysteries #1) by Alexia Gordon

With few other options, African-American classical musician Gethsemane Brown accepts a less-than-ideal position turning a group of rowdy schoolboys into an award-winning orchestra. Stranded without luggage or money in the Irish countryside, she figures any job is better than none. The perk? Housesitting a lovely cliffside cottage. The catch? The ghost of the cottage's murdered owner haunts the place. Falsely accused of killing his wife (and himself), he begs Gethsemane to clear his name so he can rest in peace. Gethsemane's reluctant investigation provokes a dormant killer and she soon finds herself in grave danger. As Gethsemane races to prevent a deadly encore, will she uncover the truth or star in her own farewell performance? [Goodreads Summary]

Have you read any of these? If so, what did you think? What mysteries/thrillers by Black authors would you recommend? 

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.
Is reading a fixed part of your morning or evening routine? (submitted by Elizabeth @Complex Chaos)

Yes! Well, in part. Reading is not really a part of my morning routine unless you count catching up on the news or sometimes on a Sunday when I linger in bed and read before finally getting up for the day. My attempts at reading a book in the morning on workdays usually result in my running late--I lose track of the time so easily.

I do try to make a point of reading during my lunch break on those workdays though. I really benefit from that mental break. It was easier in pre-pandemic days when I was working in the office full-time and could just slip away into an empty office and shut out the world for half an hour. Nowadays, it isn't quite so simple since I work from home part of the time. During my days in the office, I easily fall into my usual routine. But working from home is more complicated since my husband works from home full-time now and my daughter's schooling is all virtual. I have gotten better at finding a way to make time for lunch time reading on days I am home, although it does not always work out. 

I get really grumpy if I do not get in a little bedtime reading. Reading often quiets my mind at night and helps me fall asleep. 

What about you?

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

© 2021, 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.