Saturday, July 08, 2023

Weekly Mews: A Week of Magic and Mystery and Welcome Guests

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.

I hope your week has gone well and you were able to squeeze in quality reading time. Mouse's and my glasses came in early, and we spent the afternoon picking them up and then roaming the mall, looking for a birthday gift for one of Mouse's friends. Once we got home, I curled up on the couch to read. My poor husband ended up folding most of the laundry by himself because I was so engrossed in my book. Oops. 

We went out to dinner with friends from out of town one day this past week. It was nice to catch up and give them hugs again. They moved to North Carolina last October and are making the rounds visiting friends and family for the next couple weeks. We hope to get our girls together again before our friends have to head home. 

Has anyone else signed up for Threads, Instagram's (Meta) version of Twitter? I looked into several other social media type apps that were suggested as substitutes to Twitter, but I wasn't impressed with any of them. Threads comes the closest though. It is still early days, but I like it so far and there are so many other book bloggers and book lovers there, several of them familiar names and also new ones--it's been refreshing to have my feed filled with bookish topics. If interested, look me up @literaryfeline)! I haven't posted anything yet, but I do plan to. 

Sadly, I did not even crack open either of the two short story collections I am reading nor did I read any further in my current nonfiction book. I was too engrossed in the books I did finish. 

Finished reading recently
  • Neverseen (Keeper of the Lost Cities #4) by Shannon Messenger ~ This one was a big one with 672 pages. I am enjoying this series--and while Mouse was reluctant to let me start it, now she keeps asking me when I'm going to pick up the next book in the series. 
  • Witch Upon a Star (Witch Way Librarian Mysteries #4) by Angela M. Sanders (see below for review)

Still in the middle of reading
  • Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre edited by Tracy Chevalier
  • Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond (The Hollows #10.1) by Kim Harrison
  • Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour

What I Just Started:
A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab

Up Next

My TBR List is hosted by the awesome Michelle  at Because Reading. It’s a fun way to choose a book from your TBR pile to read. The 1st Saturday of every month, I will list 3 books I am considering reading and let you vote for my next read during that month. My review will follow (unfortunately, not likely in the same month, but eventually--that's all I can promise). 

Thank you to everyone who voted in this month's TBR List Poll! It took me quite a while to settle on these three books for the poll this month because I have so many tempting books on my shelves. I have been eagerly awaiting to see which one would be the pick for the July. I am not sure if Michelle is still doing the TBR List poll, but it is one of my favorite monthly features, and I am always so grateful by how many of you take the time to cast a vote. Thank you! 

Death of an Unsung Hero (Lady Montfort #4) by Tessa Arlen did not fare as well as the other two books in the poll, only getting four (4) votes. Murder in Postscript (Lady of Letters #1) by Mary Winters came in second with six (6) votes. That makes the winner A Botanist's Guide to Flowers and Fatality (Saffron Everleigh #2) by Kate Khavari, which received twelve (12) votes! I am looking forward to picking up Kate Khavari's second book in the series. I enjoyed the first quite a bit. As always, I still hope to read the other two contenders at some point and look forward to doing so. 

Thank you for voting!

Witch Upon a Star
(Witch Way Librarian Mystery #4) by Angela M. Sanders 
(Kensington, 2023; 304 pages)
I shivered in the parking lot of Darla's café. [opening of Witch Upon a Star]
Witch Upon a Star is the fourth book in the Witch Way Librarian series set in Wilfred, Oregon. Josie is well settled in her life as the town's head librarian now and is looking forward to her younger sister's visit. Josie's sister, Jean, cannot be more excited about taking part in a workshop at Wilfred's new retreat center about how to become a life coach, led by her idol, Cookie Masterson.

On the first day of the workshop, two people end up dead, one of which is for sure murder. While one of the deaths occurred at the local café and the other at the retreat center, the two deaths seem to be connected. Josie is even more worried about her sister now, which only increases her determination to conduct her own investigation. Yes, she trusts her neighbor and crush, the sheriff, to do his job--but it's in her blood to help him along.

Interwoven with the mystery is the big secret that Josie is keeping from her sister. That Josie is a witch with a special connection to books. Josie's skills have come in handy at solving crimes (and saving lives) in the past, and she cannot resist using them now.

This series continues to be a big hit with me. I just love Josie and the quirky characters of Wilfred. I admit I had a slight concern going into this one that it would be too much like the last--celebrity/well-known person coming into town, murder and havoc ensues--but I worried for nothing. Yes, there's murder and a bit of havoc, but that's where the similarities end. The mystery in Witch Upon a Star is solid with an interesting cast of suspects. I wasn't sure who was behind everything until close to the end. 

Jean and Josie have a fairly good relationship, but not without some tension and misunderstandings as can be expected. Jean still feels like the baby of the family even if she is an adult in her own right. Her mother tasks Josie with keeping an eye on Jean, worried she's in over here head with her new venture. I could appreciate Josie wanting to protect her sister, yet I could also understand Jean's wanting to be trusted to make her own decisions and not be questioned or doubted at every turn.

The library really is a character all its own in this series. It is a Victorian mansion turned library. And the way the books respond and speak to Josie is a booklover's dream come true. And of course there's a cat. Rodney, who is an awesome character on his own. I thoroughly enjoyed Witch Upon a Star and look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Challenge Met: Cruisin' Thru the Cozies / COYER

I hope you have a great week! Let me know what you have been reading!

© 2023, 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, July 01, 2023

Weekly Mews: Summer Book Downsizing & My Latest Bookish Mewsings (Please Vote in My July TBR Poll!)

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.

I am linking up Stacking the Shelves hosted by Marlene of Reading Reality a meme in which participants share what new books came their way recently.  

I had not planned to be away from my blog so long this time, but I ended up with allergic conjunctivitis, which was quite uncomfortable for awhile there. Prescription eye drops helped where over the counter ones didn't.  Mostly though, I think time and rest helped. I am all better now, fortunately. 

Mouse enjoyed her time this past month at musical theater camp. They ended with a performance of several Disney songs they all performed to. Mouse had a featured role as Mrs. Potts in their performance of "Be Our Guest". I love to hear her sing. All of the kids did an amazing job. 

It feels like summer is finally making an appearance in my part of the world with rising temperatures. We spent the afternoon at an early Independence Day celebration. My mom is a member of her community Masquer's Theatre Club, and they put on a very nice presentation for everyone in attendance. I am glad we were able to go! 

I have to work this coming holiday and so it will be a regular work week for me. For all my American friends, I hope you have a happy and safe 4th of July, whatever you have planned!

In the middle of reading
Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour
Neverseen (Keeper of the Lost Cities #4) by Shannon Messenger

My TBR List is hosted by the awesome Michelle  at Because Reading. It’s a fun way to choose a book from your TBR pile to read. The 1st Saturday of every month, I will list 3 books I am considering reading and let you vote for my next read during that month. My review will follow (unfortunately, not likely in the same month, but eventually--that's all I can promise). 

I could use your help deciding which book to read next! I am terribly behind on my cozy mystery reading, especially considering I took on the Cruisin' Thru the Cozies challenge this year. This month, I have selected three historical cozy mysteries for you to choose from. One is a new to me series while the other two are series I have already started. Which of these three books do you think I should read next? Have you read any of them? If so, what did you think? 

Murder in Postscript
(Lady of Letters #1) by Mary Winters
When one of her readers asks for advice following a suspected murder, Victorian countess Amelia Amesbury, who secretly pens the popular Lady Agony column, has no choice but to investigate in this first book in a charming new historical mystery series.

Amelia Amesbury—widow, mother, and countess—has a secret. Amelia writes for a London penny paper, doling out advice on fashion, relationships, and manners under the pen name Lady Agony. But when a lady’s maid writes Amelia to ask for advice when she believes her mistress has been murdered—and then ends up a victim herself—Amelia is determined to solve the case.

With the help of her best friend and a handsome marquis, Amelia begins to piece together the puzzle, but as each new thread of inquiry ends with a different suspect, the investigation grows ever more daunting. From London’s docks and ballrooms to grand country houses, Amelia tracks a killer, putting her reputation—and her life—on the line.
[Goodreads Summary]

A Botanist's Guide to Flowers and Fatality
(Saffron Everleigh #2) by Kate Khavari
1920s London isn’t the ideal place for a brilliant woman with lofty ambitions. But research assistant Saffron Everleigh is determined to beat the odds in a male-dominated field at the University College of London. Saffron embarks on her first research study alongside the insufferably charming Dr. Michael Lee, traveling the countryside with him in response to reports of poisonings. But when Detective Inspector Green is given a case with a set of unusual clues, he asks for Saffron’s assistance.

The victims, all women, received bouquets filled with poisonous flowers. Digging deeper, Saffron discovers that the bouquets may be more than just unpleasant flowers— there may be a hidden message within them, revealed through the use of the old Victorian practice of floriography. A dire message, indeed, as each woman who received the flowers has turned up dead.

Alongside Dr. Lee and her best friend, Elizabeth, Saffron trails a group of suspects through a dark jazz club, a lavish country estate, and a glittering theatre, delving deeper into a part of society she thought she’d left behind forever.

Will Saffron be able to catch the killer before they send their next bouquet, or will she find herself with fatal flowers of her own in Kate Khavari’s second intoxicating installment.
[Goodreads Summary]

Death of an Unsung Hero
(Lady Montfort #4) by Tessa Arlen

In 1916, the world is at war and the energetic Lady Montfort has persuaded her husband to offer his family’s dower house to the War Office as an auxiliary hospital for officers recovering from shell-shock with their redoubtable housekeeper Mrs. Jackson contributing to the war effort as the hospital’s quartermaster.

Despite the hospital’s success, the farming community of Haversham, led by the Montfort’s neighbor Sir Winchell Meacham, does not approve of a country-house hospital for men they consider to be cowards. When Captain Sir Evelyn Bray, one of the patients, is found lying face down in the vegetable garden with his head bashed in, both Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson have every reason to fear that the War Office will close their hospital. Once again the two women unite their diverse talents to discover who would have reason to murder a war hero suffering from amnesia.

Brimming with intrigue, Tessa Arlen's Death of an Unsung Hero brings more secrets and more charming descriptions of the English countryside to the wonderful Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson series.
[Goodreads Summary]

Thank you for voting!

Finished reading recently

Falling by T.J. Newman (Avid Reader Press/Simon Shuster, 2022; 320 pages)
When the shoe dropped into her lap the foot was still in it. [opening of Falling]
A pilot is put in an impossible situation when his family is held hostage. He is given a choice. Crash the commercial airliner he is flying or his wife and two children will die. The book takes place over the course of a six hour flight from Los Angeles to New York. This fast paced thriller kept me turning pages as fast as I could; it was intense right from the start. Talk about a harrowing read! The perspective changes back and forth over the course of the novel, from what is going on on the ground to events occurring in the sky, with occasional flashbacks into the characters' lives. I loved the way the flight crew pulled together in the most direst of circumstances. Falling was an entertaining and suspenseful read. I can see this one translating well to the big screen. 

The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner (Park Row, 2023; 350 pgs)
At an abandoned château on the wooded outskirts of Paris, a dark séance was about to take place. [opening of The London Séance Society]
Lenna Wickes takes an apprentice position with the world renowned spiritualist Vaudeline D'Allaire in Paris, intending to learn what it will take to talk to her dead sister and find out who killed her and why. Vaudeline herself has made a career out of conjuring spirits of murder victims to discover who killed them, and Lenna's own sister had once been a devote student of the spiritualist's.

When Vaudeline is asked to come to London, a place she fled after her life was threatened, to help solve the murder of a friend and fellow spiritualist, she reluctantly does so, with Lenna serving as her understudy. Lenna's own sister had died in London and perhaps this will be her chance to get some answers. The two women join forces with Mr. Morley, a high ranking member of the exclusive all men's club, the London Séance Society, in an effort to find the truth, only to find themselves getting more tangled in a web of lies and deceit, not to mention murder. Lenna's story is interspersed with the narrative of Mr. Morley's, which makes it an even more compelling read.

Although the novel got off to a slow start, heavy in set up, once Lenna and Vaudeline arrived in London, the book really took off for me, and I was hooked. Given Lenna's background and skepticism in the occult, her training under a famous spiritualist may seem out of character. Her guilt over her ongoing argument with her sister about the validity of the occult, however, weighs heavily on her, not to mention her desperation to find out what happened to her sister and why. The two women made an interesting team, to say the least, and I appreciated seeing their relationship evolve over the course of the novel. 

While I suspected early on the direction the novel would go, it was such fun to see the many paths the author took the mystery elements. The plot is extremely well crafted, wrapped in the perfect setting--Victorian Paris and London, at the height of of the spiritualist movement. The Gothic atmosphere, complex characters . . . I liked it all. 

Thank you to everyone who voted for The London Séance Society in my June TBR poll! 

Challenge Met: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge / COYER

What are you reading right now? What do you plan to read next? 

I have slowly been working my way through the short stories in Reader, I Married Him. Some stand out favorites were Francine Prose's "The Mirror", where Mr. Rochester attempts to convince Jane that Bertha was a parrot, and "A Migrating Bird" by Elif Shafak, about a young Muslim student who falls for a outsider, a visiting student. It's a story about love, hope, and loss. I also really liked "Behind the Mountain" by Evie Wyld about a housewife who has recently moved to a new town, going through the motions of living while longing for something different. And then she meets Annie. 

The ending of Joanna Briscoe's "To Hold" made that particular short story for me. I wasn't too taken with "Dangerous Dog" by Kirsty Gunn, unfortunately. I also read "It's A Man's Life, Ladies" by Jane Gardam and "Reader, I Married Him" by Susan Hill, neither of which made much of an impression on me. 

Emma Donoghue's "Since First I Saw Your Face" is based loosely on the real life Mary "Minnie" Sidgwick Benson. Set in 1872-3, about an affair between two women while convalescing at a boarding house, one of whom (Minnie) was married and had given birth to child after child and the other who had fell hopelessly in love with the other.   

I also read a couple of stories in Kim Harrison's Into the Woods anthology, both in the Beyond the Hollows section. This section of the book is made up of stories outside of Rachel Morgan's world. She sets up each of her stories in the collection by sharing a little backstory about them, which I appreciate quite a bit. It was no different with the two stories I read recently. "Pet Shop Boys" is a vampire-fae horror story about an unwitting pet store clerk who gets more than he bargained for when he goes on a date with mysterious woman. It is one of those stories that creeps up on you and then bang! I much preferred "Temson Estates", however, which is about a man who inherits a plot of woodland from his grandfather. A wrench is thrown into his plans to sell the land for logging when his great aunt introduces him to a well-kept secret about the woods and it's inhabitants. I liked the mythology of this one, but felt the story was way too short. 

Have you read any good short stories recently? Please share!

After our optometry appointments earlier this week, Mouse and I stopped at Barnes and Nobles and brought home these three books:

Spellbinders: The Not-So-Chosen Ones by Andrew Auseon
Yellowface by R. F. Kuang
Pegasus: The Flame of Olympus (Pegasus #1) by Kate O'Hearn

What new books made it onto your shelf recently? 

I am in the process of downsizing my physical book collection (again), this time trying to be more ruthless. Since my husband's books are mixed in as well, he has some say. Although most are mine. My mom took a few bags full of books to give away, and hopefully I can get the rest to the  local library in good time. I still have a few more shelves to go through, mostly in other parts of the house, but I feel like I have made good progress so far! I even have empty shelves! As tempting as it will be to fill them with more books, I want to get some pet-friendly plants (that hopefully the cats won't actually get into) to maybe place in strategic locations on the shelves. (I apologize in advance for the angle these photos are taken from--there was some standing on couches required.)

Two empty shelves! I will likely rearrange the books a bit so the empty spaces are higher or more central--away from the cats as best I can manage.

I still have a couple of shelves on this side of the library to go through as you can see (both full of my daughter's books--we won't mention the giant basket of her books off camera in the corner), but I cleared one whole shelf (currently with owls keeping watch) and have space on a couple of others. 

This is my cats' favorite shelf to sit on to look out the window, especially when it's open. 

I also went through the bookcase by my bedside, which is where I keep most of my unread graphic novels and poetry books. A few of Mouse's books have found a home there as well for the time being, as I make my way through them. 

Many of the books I am letting go are books I have read (and do not feel the need to keep) or got so long ago I have lost interest in. I kept them in anticipation that my interest would swing back in their direction, but, truth be told, I have so many other books that I am eager to read--and the ones I'm less interested in just keep getting pushed farther back on my priority to read list. And of course there are favorites I cannot bring myself to part with. My next project will be to tackle the shelves in the spare bedroom . . . We're also hoping to get my daughter a new bookshelf for her room as her current one is overflowing and then some. 

Do you catalog your books? I have been using Goodreads for a number of years now to record the books I read,* but I use LibraryThing as a catalog for as all the books I own. I haven't been the best at keeping it updated, other than adding physical books that come in, and so one of my goals over the next few months (years?) is to slowly get that updated: add tags, remove books I no longer own or move them to the donated collection, and add e-books that haven't already been added (I'm sure there are a lot--I always forget to record my e-books). This will be an ongoing project for a long while, I imagine. 

*I have been using the free version of Storygraph  to record the books I read for about a year and a half as well to  see if I like it better than Goodreads,, but I am not sold on it. It has the neatest graphs and tables though. Here's my favorite one depicting the moods of the books I have read so far this year: 

I recently watched the first season of Invasion, a mix of a psychological drama and alien invasion series featuring an ensemble cast. It got off to a slow start for me, but it grew on me, and I would like to see the second season when it comes out.

Although I haven't read Wool by Hugh Howey, I watched the first season of Silo, which I really enjoyed. This science fiction dystopian series has me intrigued, and I have so many questions! Enough to read the books? I am still undecided. Have you read them? If so, what did you think?

My husband talked me into starting Severance, a science fiction psychological thriller, about a group of people who underwent a procedure separating their lives in such a way that their work self and personal life self  have no memory of each other and what the other does. We are almost half way through the first season and I am still not sure what I think of it, but my husband is enjoying it.

I am glad The Wonder Years is back for a second season. It is one of our favorite family shows. Remakes of shows do not always work out, but this one has its own charm and has won us over. 

What have you watched recently?

I hope you have a great week! 
Let me know what you have been up to!

© 2023, 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.