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.
The Santa Ana winds swept in the beginning of the week, helping to fuel a wildfire in the county. The firefighters have been making progress with containment and hope to have it fully contained by the middle of next week if the weather conditions cooperate. The winds have since died down.
Halloween has come and gone. I haven't yet put the decorations away. We wanted to enjoy them a little longer since we got them up so late. It's not a lot. Just enough for us to add some festiveness around the house. Mouse attended a trunk-or-treat the middle of October that was hosted by the Girl Scouts and then a Halloween dance at school. For the actual evening of Halloween, she had couple of her friends over to go trick-or-treating with around the neighborhood. While the dads were out with the girls, we moms enjoyed chatting and catching up. It had been awhile since we have had a chance to do that.
Work slowed down somewhat for a couple of days early in the week but has resumed it's fall busy-ness. I have been putting in overtime here and there when needed.
What have you been up to lately?
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).
For many bloggers, November means a month of Nonfiction reading. For others it is for Science Fiction. It's also National Novel Writing Month, commonly known as NaNoWriMo. While I don't have it in me to dedicate the month of November to writing a novel, I can read a published book written during NaNoWriMo. In honor of all three November traditions, I chose a book from each of the three categories--all have been lingering too long on my TBR shelves. Have you read any of these? What did you think? Help me choose what to read next!
My nonfiction pick:
In Being Mortal, author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending
Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.
Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession's ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified. [Goodreads Summary]
My Science Fiction pick:
An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.
Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed. [Goodreads Summary]
My NaNoWriMo pick:
While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.
Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.
Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.
Welcome to the Sixth World. [Goodreads Summary]
Thank you for voting!
Here is what I recently read and my thoughts on each of the books:
Starling House by Alix E. Harrow (Tor, 2023; 320 pgs)
Source: From the Publisher via NetGalley. My thoughts are purely my own.
I dream sometimes of a house I've never seen. ~ Opening of Starling House
I immensely enjoyed every page of this book. Opal and her brother have had a rough life, living in poverty and just trying to get by as best they can. Opal has been raising her brother since the death of their mother. She's a high school dropout who only wants to see her brother have a brighter future than she ever will. Opal has long been haunted by dreams of the Starling House. She's always been fascinated by the house and the reclusive nineteenth century author who mysteriously disappeared. E. Starling is quite the legend and her children's book, The Underland, haunts Opal. A not so pleasant encounter with the house's current curmudgeonly owner, Arthur Starling, leads to an unexpected job opportunity and an unlikely friendship. Opal soon learns that nothing is quite as it seems. The pull of the house is strong, and the more she learns its secrets, the more she becomes entangled in the mystery and history of the house and of the town. Opal's nightmares become a reality and she has to decide whether to stay and fight or try to move on.
Atmospheric with a touch of horror, this Gothic novel is everything I hoped it would be. I love it when I come across a book where the house is a character in its own right, and I felt that way about Starling House. It had a life of its own. I found Opal to be a relatable character. She has had to fight for everything she has and does not have much faith in humanity--and with good reason given the hand she's been dealt. Arthur's initial broodiness falls away the more he begins to trust Opal. The growth of the characters over the course of the novel is one of the aspects I liked most as they and their relationship evolved. I confess my initial impressions of Opal and Arthur was of her being barely an adult and of Arthur as much older which wasn't quite on the mark.
While the novel centers around Starling House, the small dying town of Eden in Kentucky, also has a big presence. The author does a good job of weaving the history of the town into the story and the impact of past events on the people and the town of today, including how how Starling House came to be what it is. I found the world building to be intriguing and well done. I only wish there had been more. I would like to have gotten deeper into the house's mysteries and previous occupants. My favorite of Alix E. Harrow's continues to be The Ten Thousand Doors of January, but this was another winner for me.
The night I watch Athena Liu die, we're celebrating her TV deal with Netflix. ~ Opening of Yellowface
This is one of the "it" books of the year, and while sometimes I avoid books that get a lot of hype, sometimes I gravitate toward them, which is exactly what I did with Yellowface. I get why people are calling Yellowface a "now" book. It touches on issues of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation, as well as the dark side of social media. It delves into the world of publishing, influencers and critics, the struggle of writing and breaking into the field, the challenges of marketing, and staying relevant in a fickle world. R.F. Kuang's writing is addictive, and I found this book to be impossible to put down.
June Hayward has long envied and resented Athena Liu whose writing career skyrocketed while hers went from middling to stagnant. When Athena dies in a freak accident, June sees this as her chance and steals Athena's unpublished manuscript about the World War I Chinese laborers who went to Europe to help the Allied Forces. She publishes it under the name Juniper Song, which while part of her actual name, is also misleading in terms of her background. Her novel becomes the book of the season and everyone is talking about it. But not everybody is excited about the book, questioning its authenticity and authorship, and doubts and animosity grow quite rapidly.
Told from June's point of view, I was riveted to the pages, part in consternation at this character's audacity but also in wanting to see where the author would take her story next. June makes bad decision after bad decision and the reader sees her rise and fall over the course of the novel. I felt like I was watching a trainwreck, not sure if I should feel pity for June or just be completely disgusted by her.
Much of the criticism June initially gets centers around her being yet another white author having the full force of the publishing company push her book, a book using someone else's cultural narrative, while stories by authors of that culture are passed over--not too different from debates people are having today. June is of the misguided opinion that authors like herself are too often passed over in the industry in order to promote diversity. Reality and statistics does not support that belief. We cannot forget that June stole the manuscript and is passing it off as her own either, which brings about more controversy and accusations.
June's tale isn't the entire story though. The author paints a very raw picture of the impact social media can have on a person, the alienation and pain it can cause--whether it be someone like Athena or the unlikeable June. And R.F. Kuang pulls no punches in writing about how the publishing industry works with all its blemishes. I loved dark humor throughout the novel and admire the author's skills as a writer. I have so many more thoughts about this book, but will stop here. I think this would make a great book club pick. There are so many moving pieces in this book worth exploring more. Thank you to everyone who chose this book as my October TBR List book!
Source: From the Publisher via NetGalley. My thoughts are purely my own.
The involuntary morning mantra that had been running through my head every day for the past four months began as its usual time, nine thirty AM. ~ Opening of Murder by the Seashore
How could I resist a cozy mystery set in a bookstore by the ocean? Scarlet Garner's plan was to open the Oceanside bookstore with her boyfriend, but he pulled out of the business--and her life--at the last minute. She did not give up her dream, however, and is now the proud owner of her own bookstore, Palm Trees and and Page Turners. She's made a life for herself in Oceanside, sharing a townhouse with her attorney roommate.
One sunny morning she comes across a dead body under the pier--and suddenly finds herself the prime suspect. The body belongs to a one time customer who she met the night before. It comes as quite the surprise when Scarlet is told by a visiting attorney that she's the heir to the dead woman's fortune. How could that be? Who is this woman? And who would want to kill her? Scarlet, with the help of her roommate, decides she needs to get to the bottom of these questions and clear her name.
Having spent two years of my childhood in Oceanside and visited since, I was curious if I would recognize the city in Samara Yew's novel. While Yew's Oceanside doesn't quite match the reality, I still really like the version the author has created--it is fiction after all.
I thoroughly enjoyed this cozy mystery, and its wonderful cast of characters. Scarlet isn't sure who she can trust, even among her friends. And to make it worse, her ex is back in town. There are plenty of suspects and twists, and while I guessed almost immediately who the likely culprit was, that did not stop me from enjoying seeing Scarlett discover the truth for herself. This was such an entertaining read.
Challenges Met: Cruisin' Thru the Cozies / COYER / Bookish Books Reading Challenge
I read another couple of stories in Kim Harrison's Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond anthology, finally finishing the book off. It only took a few months to get through! To be fair, I did spread out the reading of the stories quite a bit, only picking this collection up when I was in need of something short in between longer reads. While most of the stories in this anthology are set in the same world as her Hollows urban fantasy series, the last handful of stories are independent of that. The collection ends on a strong note with "Spider's Silk" and "Grace."
Though, "Grace" is probably my favorite of all the stories in Kim Harrison's anthology. It's a non-Hollow story, featuring Grace. She has the ability to manipulate energy. Her job is to search out and collect others with the same abilities, usually young children, for her employer, The Strand, so that they can be taught how to control their powers, or, in the worst cases, have their powers removed. An uncontrolled "throw", as people with Grace's power is called, is a danger to not just themselves, but to society as well. There was so much to like about this story. Grace and her partner are assigned a particularly difficult run, picking up an older "throw" who has kept under the radar for 17 years. Grace is a great character, very relatable and easy to like. She's tough where it counts and one of the best at her job. There's a dog too! Hoc, who I adored. Grace's loyalty to him made me like her even more. There's a lot to this story--suspense, action, drama, an old flame, an intriguing world, and interesting characters. I would not mind reading more about these characters, especially Grace and Hoc, if Kim Harrison decided to take their story further.
My brief mewsings on other stories in the anthology:
- "Be Spelled," "Ley Line Drifter," "Undead in the Garden of Good and Evil," "Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel," "Dirty Magic," and "The Bridges of Eden Park."
- "Million Dollar Baby"
- "Pet Shop Boys" and "Temson Estates"
I enjoyed going on adventures with and getting to better know familiar Hollows characters, both the main and minor ones. I also enjoyed the non-Hollows stories. While some of the stories were stronger than others, as is often the case with anthologies, I found this to be a great collection overall.
I hope you have a great week! Let me know what you have been reading!
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