Thursday, July 11, 2024

Where Is Your Bookmark: A Peek Into The Berlin Letters & More Friday Fun

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.

East Berlin Germany
Sunday, August 13, 1961

The jangling telephone broke into her dreams.  

As Haris climbed from bed with a groan, Monica felt the cool air touch her skin. Today would be another hot day, but it wasn't hot yet. It wasn't fully light yet. It was too dark for calls or climbing from the bed. Too dark for anything but sleep. [opening of prologue of The Berlin Letters]


Arlington, Virginia
Friday, November 3, 1989

While seemingly complex, codes, ciphers, cryptograms, or whatever you choose to call them, are deceptively simple. Once you crack them. [opening of Chapter One of The Berlin Letters]

The prologue opens with a phone ringing in the early hours of the morning, too early, which is rarely good. Unfortunately for Monica and Haris, there day is about to get a lot worse. And then in the first chapter, we jump to the future, to a scene that sets a different tone but is no less intriguing. What sort of code are we about to break, I wonder? 

A weekly meme in which readers share a random sentence or two from page 56 or 56% of the book they are reading. Our wonderful host Freda of Freda's Voice is on a break, and Anne of My Head is Full of Books  has stepped in to host! 

My heart races. I pop up and hold my hand out to him. "I don't have the letters with me, but I'll bring them into work tomorrow. I--" The lie comes easily to my lips. "I don't feel so well."

He stands and takes my hand. He holds it a moment longer, as if he's offering me condolences or some sort of gift. I resist pulling away. "Take the rest of the day. We'll talk first thing tomorrow. Back at our offices."

"Yes, sir, Thank you." With that he escorts me back to the lobby. I stay calm and I keep my steps measured.

Until I'm out of his sight. [excerpt from 49% of The Berlin Letters] 

Sounds like a tense situation, doesn't it? I am just past this moment in the novel and am anxious to find out what Luisa plans to do next. 

The Berlin Letters is a compelling read so far, and I was disappointed that I had to work through my lunch breaks the last few days and was unable to pick it up and read more. I wasn't alive when the Berlin Wall went up, but I was for its fall. It is one of those moments that is cemented in my memory. I am enjoying the dual timelines and look forward to seeing how the author brings everything together. 

The Berlin Letters
 by Katherine Reay

Near the end of the Cold War, a CIA code breaker discovers a symbol she recognizes from her childhood, which launches her across the world to the heart of Berlin just before the wall comes tumbling down.

November 1989 —After finding a secret cache of letters with intelligence buried in the text, CIA cryptographer Luisa Voekler learns that not only is her father alive but he is languishing in an East German Stasi jail. After piecing together the letters with a series of articles her grandfather saved, Luisa seeks out journalists Bran Bishop and Daniel Rudd. They send her to the CIA, to Andrew Cademan—her boss.

Luisa confronts Cademan and learns that nothing is a coincidence, but he will not help her free her father. So she takes matters into her own hands, empties her bank account, and flies to West Berlin. As the adrenaline wears off and she recognizes she has no idea how to proceed, Luisa is both relieved and surprised when a friend shows up with contacts and a rudimentary plan to sneak her across the wall.

Alternating storylines between Luisa and her father,
The Berlin Letters shows the tumultuous early days of the wall, bringing Berlin, the epicenter of the Cold War, to life while also sharing one family’s journey through secrets, lies, and division to love, freedom, and reconciliation. [Goodreads Summary]

Does this sound like something you would enjoy? If you have read it, what did you think?

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly discussion post where bloggers discuss a wide range of topics from books and blogging to life in general. It is hosted by Linda Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell and Jen from That’s What I’m Talking About. Join in by answering this week's question in the comments or on your own blog.
Have you kept any hobbies you started during the pandemic? 

I remember hearing about people who were able to take up new hobbies and projects during the early part of the pandemic, during the lockdown, but that was not me. I still had to work every day, including putting in lots of overtime because my office was so short staffed (not pandemic related). Schools in the state were mostly virtual at that time, and so Mouse's schooling was all online. She was in elementary school, and so I often had to juggle parenting and working at the same time on the days I was able to work from home, which was sometimes very challenging given the demands of my job. Her daycare was connected to the school and was closed--so that wasn't an option. Daycares in general were pretty scarce around that time. On the days I went into the office, my husband, who was working from home, had to do the juggling. We were lucky Mouse wasn't younger--I really felt for my coworkers and friends who had very young children and were trying to make it all work. Mouse was at least old enough to be somewhat independent. 

For fun, one of my coworkers put little masks on various figurines at her desk in the office.
 She was kind enough to add them to mine too! 
(back when I still had my own desk) 

I may not have picked up any new hobbies, but my blogging picked up a bit the first couple of years of the pandemic and I never stopped reading. Mouse still had her extracurricular activities--just virtually. She even performed virtually in a musical and ballet put on by her former dance studio! Her Girl Scout troop got very creative in the activities they did, dropping supplies for various art and science projects on the front porch, and they would have meetings via Zoom. Mouse took virtual piano lessons, attended theater and art classes online. And even attended a virtual spy camp! Mouse is really the one who got the opportunity to try out things she might not have otherwise, not me and my husband. My husband and I tried to make being cooped up fun for her. We took part in drive by birthdays and Mouse and her friends would occasionally leave little presents for each other at each others doors, and wave and chat a little from a safe distance outside. There was the occasional outdoor playdate later in the lockdown with people in our "bubble," who we knew hadn't been around anyone others and weren't sick. Our weekends and evenings didn't change much. We were still able to visit the park and take walks around the neighborhood. Mouse got to go trick-or-treating one Halloween inside our house, visiting each room where she found a stuffed animal passing out candy. While I missed my alone time which became nonexistent, one of the best benefits of that time was being able to spend more time with my husband and daughter. We were already close, but that time brought us even closer.

The rare can of Lysol was treated like royalty in our house. 
At the time it was next to impossible to find in the stores. 

My family and I have maintained certain safety precautions we began at the start of the pandemic, including wearing masks in certain high risk situations. My agency still has a pandemic protocol in place for all employees, although it isn't as strict now as it once was. I am lucky that my employer still allows many of us in my office to continue working a hybrid schedule, part of the time from home and the other part in the physical office. Staff rotate in and out of the office, so there are still not a lot of us in the office at one time (these days not because of the pandemic--it's more a space issue now). I had my own desk pre-pandemic and now I desk share with several other supervisors. While I have to go into the office more often now than I did during the lockdown, I am grateful it is still an option. My husband started working from home full-time at the start of the pandemic, which he loves (no long commute!). Mouse and I try not to feel too jealous.

Did you start any new hobbies during the pandemic that you continue today?

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.
July is the month for reading by the pool or on the beach. What's your favorite summer beach book, and why is it suitable for a sunny day? (submitted by Billy @ Coffee Addicted Writer)

For me, a beach book is a state of mind and not the book itself. Whatever I am in the mood to read is the perfect "beach read". But can we change the location, please? I rarely have access to a pool and am not really the kind of person who likes to sit on the beach under the hot sun. I love the ocean, don't get me wrong, but in more of a romantic evening walk along the water's edge or checking out the niche shops along the boardwalk kind of way. I would much prefer being in the mountains, surrounded by trees, and, even better, by a lake.  

What about you? Are you a beach person or perhaps you like the mountains like me? Do you have a favorite "beach" read? 

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

© 2024 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, July 09, 2024

Can't Wait Wednesday: The Haunting of Hecate Cavendish / There's No Murder Like Show Murder / A Certain Kind of Starlight / Mercer Girls

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

Here are three upcoming releases that caught my attention and immediately ended up on my wish list. I am looking forward to reading all of them! 

The Haunting of Hecate Cavendish
(#1) by Paula Brackston 
Release Date: 07/23/2024 by St. Martin's Press 
The Haunting of Hecate Cavendish is book one in New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston's new, magic-infused series about Hecate Cavendish, an eccentric and feisty young woman who can see ghosts. 

England, 1881. Hereford cathedral stands sentinel over the city, keeping its secrets, holding long forgotten souls in its stony embrace. Hecate Cavendish speeds through the cobbled streets on her bicycle, skirts hitched daringly high, heading for her new life as Assistant Librarian. But this is no ordinary collection of books. The cathedral houses an ancient chained library, wisdom guarded for centuries, mysteries and stories locked onto its worn, humble shelves. The most prized artifact, however, is the medieval world map which hangs next to Hecate’s desk. Little does she know how much the curious people and mythical creatures depicted on it will come to mean to her. Nor does she suspect that there are lost souls waiting for her in the haunted cathedral. Some will become her dearest friends. Some will seek her help in finding peace. Others will put her in great peril, and, as she quickly learns, threaten the lives of everyone she loves. [Goodreads Summary]

There's No Murder Like Show Murder
 by M.S. Greene

Release Date: 07/23/2024 by Crooked Lane Books
Tasha Weaver has seen her fair share of divas come and go while working as the costume shop head at the Eastbrook Playhouse, but her beloved theater is put at risk when the star of the show is killed in this fun but deadly debut for fans of Ellery Adams and Kellye Garrett.

Tasha Weaver is most at home in the cozy backstage world of the Eastbrook Playhouse. As the costume shop head at the charming regional theater, she’s used to watching dramatic acts of love and revenge from the shadows. But when Kurt Mozer–the insufferable Broadway reject who stars in their production of Annie Get Your Gun –is shot center stage, the spotlight turns to her.

Everyone knows Kurt was difficult to work with and after he got into a fight with both the director Marnie Mason and the artistic leader Arthur Winston, he promptly decided to quit the show. In deep financial trouble, the Eastbrook Playhouse depended on a big name like Kurt to keep afloat. With reporters coming in from the big apple to Tasha’s little corner of Connecticut, she realizes it's up to her to save their local theater and keep her community safe. After all, the show must go on… But what do you do when the killer could very well be one of your loved ones?

With the help of her friends, her long-time crush Bruno Machado, and her feline colleague Hilly, Tasha must catch a murderer before the shining lights of the playhouse go out forever. [Goodreads Summary]

A Certain Kind of Starlight
by Heather Webber

Release Date: 07/23/2024 by Forge Books
In the face of hardship, two women learn how to rise up again under the bright side of the stars.

Everyone knows that Addie Fullbright can’t keep a secret. Yet, twelve years ago, as her best friend lay dying, she entrusted Addie with the biggest secret of all. One so shattering that Addie felt she had to leave her hometown of Starlight, Alabama, to keep from revealing a devastating truth to someone she cares for deeply. Now she’s living a lonely life, keeping everyone at a distance, not only to protect the secret but also her heart from the pain of losing someone else. But when her beloved aunt, the woman who helped raise her, gets a shocking diagnosis and asks her to come back to Starlight to help run the family bakery, Addie knows it’s finally time to go home again.

Tessa Jane Wingrove-Fullbright feels like she’s failing. She’s always been able to see the lighter side of life but lately darkness has descended. Her world is suddenly in shambles after a painful breakup, her favorite aunt’s unexpected health troubles, and because crushing expectations from the Wingrove side of her family are forcing her to keep secrets and make painful choices. When she’s called back to Starlight to help her aunt, she’s barely holding herself together and fears she’ll never find her way back to who she used to be.

Under the bright side of the stars, Addie and Tessa Jane come to see that magic can be found in trusting yourself, that falling apart is simply a chance to rise up again, stronger than ever, and that the heart usually knows the best path through the darkness. [Goodreads Summary]
Do any of these books interest you? What upcoming releases are you looking forward to reading?

The Old(er) 
Carole of Carole's Random Life in Books has given me the perfect excuse to spotlight those unread books on my TBR in her Books from the Backlog feature, reminding me what great books I have waiting for me under my own roof still to read!

These past few months I have been featuring books on the losing end of my TBR List Poll, all books which are on my TBR shelves. This one was one of the options in my May 2017 poll that I have not managed to get to yet.

Mercer Girls
by Libbie Hawker
It’s 1864 in downtrodden Lowell, Massachusetts. The Civil War has taken its toll on the town—leaving the economy in ruin and its women in dire straits. That is, until Asa Mercer arrives on a peculiar, but providential, errand: he seeks high-minded women who can exert an elevating influence in Seattle, where there are ten men for every woman. Mail-order brides, yes, but of a certain caliber.

Schoolmarmish Josephine, tough-as-nails Dovey, and pious perfectionist Sophronia see their chance to exchange their bleak prospects for new lives. But the very troubles that sent them running from Lowell follow them to the muddy streets of Seattle, and the friendships forged on the cross-country trek are tested at every turn.

Just when the journey seems to lead only to ruin, an encounter with a famous suffragist could be their salvation. But to survive both an untamed new landscape and their pasts, they’ll need all their strength—and one another. [Goodreads Summary]
Have you read Mercer Girls?  Does this book sound like something you would like to read? 

© 2024, 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 06, 2024

Weekly Mews: Six Degrees of Separation (From Kairos to Charlotte's Webb) & My July TBR List Poll (Please Vote!)

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 am grateful for a working air conditioner right about now. When I left the office yesterday afternoon for my drive home, it was 107F outside. Summer weather is here, which also means it's fire season and they are popping up everywhere, unfortunately. My family and I had a quiet Independence Day. We ran errands and enjoyed spending the day together. I missed the fireworks because I had to get to bed to be up early for work the next morning. 

Summer band and color guard day camp for Mouse wrapped up this past week, ending with a concert on Wednesday that was open to family and friends. The kids were wonderful and had fun. The air conditioning was out in the woodwinds practice room for most of the camp, unfortunately, but Mouse still enjoyed herself. Luckily they weren't in that room the entire time!

I surprised Mouse this week with a flower delivery

What have you been up to?

This week I was able to finish three books. I listened to J.D. Robb's Vengeance in Death (#6), narrated by Susan Eriksen. Spending time with Roarke and Eve is always entertaining, and I got to learn a little more about Roarke's past in this installment. I finished reading the final book in the Shades of Magic Trilogy, A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. It was quite an intense read. I continue to be enamored by the world Schwab has created in this series and look forward to reading The Fragile Threads of Power. In the mood for something a bit less tense this week, I also read Pulp by Robin Talley, a dual time line novel, which pulled at my heartstrings in more ways than one. It held a tension of a different sort than Schwab's book, but definitely had it's tense moments. 

I only made a little more progress in Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver this week and am about half way through at the moment. I really like the book, but I have a hardcover copy (and it's heavy) and so it tends to stay by my bedside for nighttime reading, which I didn't do much of the last few nights. I just started Katherine Reay's The Berlin Letters, which I have heard good things about. I am in the mood for a little Cold War espionage!

What are you reading right now?

My TBR List is hosted by Michelle at Because Reading. The 1st Saturday of every month, I will list 3 books from my TBR pile 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).  

Please help me select my next read! I caught my husband looking askance at my overflowing bookshelves, which I am taking as a sign I need to go through my shelves again soon to make space for the newer books (although, he did tell me Thursday that I couldn't leave the bookstore without picking out a book, so he is partly to blame here). In the meantime, I selected three books from my TBR collection for this week's poll to help whittle it down some. Which one do you think I should read next? 

The Housekeepers
by Alex Hay
The night of London's grandest ball, a bold group of women downstairs launch a daring revenge heist against Mayfair society in this dazzling historical novel about power, gender, and class.

Mrs. King is no ordinary housekeeper. Born into a world of con artists and thieves, she’s made herself respectable, running the grandest home in Mayfair. The place is packed with treasures, a glittering symbol of wealth and power, but dark secrets lurk in the shadows.

When Mrs. King is suddenly dismissed from her position, she recruits an eclectic group of women to join her in revenge: A black market queen out to settle her scores. An actress desperate for a magnificent part. A seamstress dreaming of a better life. And Mrs. King’s predecessor, with her own desire for vengeance.

Their plan? On the night of the house’s highly anticipated costume ball—set to be the most illustrious of the year—they will rob it of its every possession, right under the noses of the distinguished guests and their elusive heiress host. But there’s one thing Mrs. King wants even more than money: the truth. And she’ll run any risk to get it…

After all, one should never underestimate the women downstairs.
[Goodreads Summary]

Assistant to the Villain (Assistant to the Villain #1) by Hannah Nicole Maehrer
Once Upon a Time meets The Office in Hannah Maehrer’s laugh-out-loud viral TikTok series turned novel, about the sunshine assistant to an Evil Villain…and their unexpected romance.

ASSISTANT WANTED: Notorious, high-ranking villain seeks loyal, levelheaded assistant for unspecified office duties, supporting staff for random mayhem, terror, and other Dark Things In General. Discretion a must. Excellent benefits.

With ailing family to support, Evie Sage's employment status isn't just important, it's vital. So when a mishap with Rennedawn’s most infamous Villain results in a job offer—naturally, she says yes. No job is perfect, of course, but even less so when you develop a teeny crush on your terrifying, temperamental, and undeniably hot boss. Don’t find evil so attractive, Evie.

But just when she’s getting used to severed heads suspended from the ceiling and the odd squish of an errant eyeball beneath her heel, Evie suspects this dungeon has a huge rat…and not just the literal kind. Because something rotten is growing in the kingdom of Rennedawn, and someone wants to take the Villain—and his entire nefarious empire—out.

Now Evie must not only resist drooling over her boss but also figure out exactly who is sabotaging his work…and ensure he makes them pay.

After all, a good job is hard to find. [Goodreads Summary]

Dreadful by Caitlin Rozakis
A sharp-witted, high fantasy farce featuring killer moat squid, toxic masculinity, evil wizards and a garlic festival - all at once. Perfect for fans of T. Kingfisher, K. J. Parker and Travis Baldree.

It’s bad enough waking up in a half-destroyed evil wizard’s workshop with no eyebrows, no memories, and no idea how long you have before the Dread Lord Whomever shows up to murder you horribly and then turn your skull into a goblet or something.

It’s a lot worse when you realize that Dread Lord Whomever is… you.

Gav isn’t really sure how he ended up with a castle full of goblins, or why he has a princess locked in a cell. All he can do is play along with his own evil plan in hopes of getting his memories back before he gets himself killed.

But as he realizes that nothing – from the incredibly tasteless cloak adorned with flames to the aforementioned princess – is quite what it seems, Gav must face up to all the things the Dread Lord Gavrax has done. And he’ll have to answer the hardest question of all – who does he want to be?

A high fantasy farce featuring killer moat squid, toxic masculinity, an evil wizard convocation, and a garlic festival. All at once. Dread Lord Gavrax has had better weeks. [Goodreads Summary]

Thank you for voting!

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate of Books Are My Favourite and Best: "The meme was inspired by Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy. In his 1929 short story, Chains, Karinthy coined the phrase 'six degrees of separation'. The phrase was popularised by a 1990 play written by John Guare, which was later made into a film starring Stockard Channing." Each month, participants start with a designated book, creating a chain of books, each connected to the one before. Seeing where we end up is half the fun! 

This month's Six Degrees of Separation starting point is the International Booker Prize winner Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, which is not one I have read. It is described as "a dramatic love story that unfolds as the GDR implodes." The reunification of East and West Berlin lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall, a notable time in the world's history. This immediately brought to mind one of my current reads, Katherine Reay's The Berlin Letters, a dual time line novel set in Germany as the Berlin Wall went up overnight in 1961 and then just before its fall in 1989.

I could not help but think of one of my favorite books set during the Cold War then: Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo, featuring a young Chinese American girl who falls in love with a female classmate at a time when same sex love was viewed as immoral. There is one scene in Lo's book, where the main character, Lily, finds a lesbian pulp novel in a drugstore. Across the country, a year later, Janet finds a lesbian pulp novel while shopping too; this time in Robin Talley's young adult novel, Pulp. Pulp is a dual time line novel with lesbian pulp fiction at its center, set in 1955, as a young high school graduate discovers who she is and wants to be, and in 2017 as a high school senior becomes immersed in those old novels and their history, desperately wanting to know more about the author behind her favorite one as she navigates through her own life and struggles. 
Well, I mean, it isn't as though I'd never enjoyed a book before--I loved Jane Eyre--but your book, well . . . it felt as though you'd written it just for me. [excerpt from Pulp by Robin Talley] 
Unfortunately, attempts to ban books have increased again in recent years, and most of the targeted books feature LGBTQIA+ characters or people of color, groups of people who are already sorely underrepresented. Representation in literature matters and it is explained so eloquently and from the heart by several authors in essays published in Well-Read Black Girl, edited by Glory Edim. I was familiar with several of the contributors, including Jesmyn Ward, Jacqueline Woodson, N.K. Jemisin, Tayari Jones, Nicole Dennis-Benn, and Rebecca Walker among others. 
Reading for me was a vehicle for self-exploration when real life wasn't safe. But without seeing that path in the power of story, I didn't know that it was one that existed for me. [excerpt from "The Need for Kisses" in Well-Read Black Girl by Dhonielle Clayton]
The above quote is from one of the essays included in Well-Read Black Girl by author Dhonielle Clayton. My daughter has a copy of Dhonielle Clayton's The Marvellers (Conjureverse #1), which I have been wanting to read for some time now. There's something about magical schools, that I cannot resist. Hopefully I can talk my daughter into letting me borrow her copy soon! 

In thinking about the direction to go after The Marvellers, I thought of my own favorite middle grade novels, and then I thought of the West African protector-spider from The Marvellers, which lead me to Charlotte's Webb by E.B. White, which is where my chain comes to an end. 
By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that. [excerpt from Charlotte's Webb]
I always spend a lot of time thinking about what direction to take my chains, and often come up with various options, settling on one. For the fun of it, I thought I would share a couple of the others I came up with starting with Kairos.
Have you read any of these books? What books would you put in your chain? 

New to my shelves (recent book purchases):

Heartstopper, Vol. 1 & 2 by Alice Oseman

City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraborty

The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo

Talismans, Teacups & Trysts by K. Starling (signed copy)

Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? 

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

© 2024, 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, July 02, 2024

Can't Wait Wednesday: It's Elementary / The Sky on Fire / The Briar Club / Toured to Death

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

Here are three upcoming releases that caught my attention and immediately ended up on my wish list. I am looking forward to reading all of them! 

It's Elementary
by Elise Bryant

Release Date: 07/09/2024 by Berkley
A fast-paced, completely delightful new mystery about what happens when parents get a little too involved in their kids' schools, from NAACP Image Award nominee Elise Bryant.

Mavis Miller is not a PTA mom. She has enough on her plate with her feisty seven-year-old daughter, Pearl, an exhausting job at a nonprofit, and the complexities of a multigenerational household. So no one is more surprised than Mavis when she caves to Trisha Holbrook, the long-reigning, slightly terrifying PTA president, and finds herself in charge of the school’s brand-new DEI committee.

As one of the few Black parents at this California elementary school, Mavis tries to convince herself this is an opportunity for real change. But things go off the rails at the very first meeting, when the new principal's plans leave Trisha absolutely furious. Later that night, when Mavis spies Trisha in yellow rubber gloves and booties, lugging cleaning supplies and giant black trash bags to her waiting minivan, it’s only natural that her mind jumps to somewhere it surely wouldn’t in the light of day.

Except Principal Smith fails to show up for work the next morning, and has been MIA since the meeting. Determined to get to the bottom of things, Mavis, along with the school psychologist with the great forearms (look, it’s worth noting), launches an investigation that will challenge her views on parenting, friendship, and elementary school politics.

Brilliantly written, It's Elementary is a quick-witted, escapist romp that perfectly captures just how far parents will go to give their kids the very best, all wrapped in a mystery that will leave you guessing to the very end. [Goodreads Summary]

The Sky on Fire
by Jenn Lyons
Release Date: 07/09/2024 by Tor Books
From the acclaimed author of the Chorus of Dragons series, this propulsive new standalone fantasy is Dragonriders of Pern for a modern audience.

Enter a world ruled by dragons…

Anahrod lives only for survival, preferring to thrive in the jungles of the Deep with the titan drake she keeps by her side. When an adventuring party saves her from capture by the local warlord, Sicaryon, she is eager to return to her solitary life, but this is no ordinary rescue. Anahrod's past has caught up with her. And these cunning misfits intend to spirit her away to the cloud cities, where they need her help to steal from a dragon’s hoard.

There’s only one in the cloud cities, dragons rule, and the hoard in question belongs to the current regent, Neveranimas―and she wants Anahrod dead.

Fans of Naomi Novik's Temeraire series and Rebecca Yarros's The Fourth Wing will enjoy this page-turning adventure with conniving dragons, high-stakes intrigue, a daring heist, and a little bit of heat. [Goodreads Summary]

The Briar Club
 by Kate Quinn
Release Date: 07/09/2024 by William Morrow
A haunting and powerful story of female friendships and secrets in a Washington, D.C. boardinghouse during the McCarthy era.

Washington, D.C., 1950. Everyone keeps to themselves at Briarwood House, a down-at-the-heels all-female boardinghouse in the heart of the nation’s capital, where secrets hide behind white picket fences. But when the lovely, mysterious widow Grace March moves into the attic, she draws her oddball collection of neighbors into unlikely friendship: poised English beauty Fliss whose facade of perfect wife and mother covers gaping inner wounds; police officer’s daughter Nora, who is entangled with a shadowy gangster; frustrated baseball star Bea, whose career has ended along with the women’s baseball league of WWII; and poisonous, gung-ho Arlene, who has thrown herself into McCarthy’s Red Scare.

Grace’s weekly attic-room dinner parties and window-brewed sun tea become a healing balm on all their lives, but she hides a terrible secret of her own. When a shocking act of violence tears apart the house, the Briar Club women must decide once and for all: Who is the true enemy in their midst?
[Goodreads Summary]

Do any of these books interest you? What upcoming releases are you looking forward to reading?

The Old(er) 
Carole of Carole's Random Life in Books has given me the perfect excuse to spotlight those unread books on my TBR in her Books from the Backlog feature, reminding me what great books I have waiting for me under my own roof still to read!

These past few months I have been featuring books on the losing end of my TBR List Poll, all books which are on my TBR shelves. This one was one of the options in my March 2017 poll that I have not managed to get to yet.

Toured to Death
(Amy's Travel Mystery #1) by Hy Conrad
Book a ticket with this all-new mystery series featuring Amy and Fanny Abel, a spunky mother-and-daughter duo of travel agents who find their mystery tour becoming all too real. . .

while Fanny takes care of the business end of Amy's Travel in New York City, Amy is traipsing around Monte Carlo, managing their first mystery-themed excursion, a road rally in which guests compete to solve a fictional murder along the way. Amy still has reservations about partnering up with her mother. But both women, having lost the men in their lives, need a fresh beginning.

The trip starts off without a hitch. Clues quickly mount, the competition is lively, and just when the suspense is peaking, the writer they hired to script their made-up mystery is found murdered in his New York apartment. Suddenly, on top of running a new venture together, mother and daughter must solve a real-life case of foul play, while trying not to drive each other bonkers. But Amy and Fanny are ready, willing, and Abel to track down a clever killer with some serious emotional baggage, one who will go to any lengths to keep dark secrets from seeing the light of day. . . [Goodreads Summary]

Have you read Toured to Death?  Does this book sound like something you would like to read? 

© 2024, 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, June 29, 2024

Weekly Mews: My June and Mid-Year Wrap Up

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.

Mouse is off to an open mic event with friends, and I am spending part of my evening with you. The days have been warm and unfortunately the nights too (makes it hard to sleep). Work has been mostly calm, which is a nice change. I cannot believe June is coming to an end! It feels like the summer is slipping by too fast, and yet it's just begun. 

Books Read in June

I considered waiting until next weekend to post my mid-June and mid-year wrap ups, but I do not think I will be finishing my current two reads before the month is out. I read many good books in June. I started off the month with Etta Easton's The Kiss Countdown which I adored.

My daughter asked me to read one of her favorites, a middle grade thriller/horror novel, The Keeper, which was a fun read. I can see why she liked it! One of my favorite anime series is Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun, which Mouse got me hooked on a couple or so years ago, and I finally convinced her to let me read the manga the series it is based on. The books are just as good, if not better.

I am all caught up with one of my favorite historical mystery series by Jennifer Ashley, and I was finally able to read something by Daphne du Mauier; both books I enjoyed. I am continuing to enjoy Kim Harrison's The Hollows series. I finished American Demon this month. 

I was one virtual bookmark away from earning the entire set for Spring on the Kindle Insights feature, and so I read Iris Beaglehole's Accidental Magic, a fun cozy paranormal mystery which I had been wanting to read for awhile now, to earn that last one. Thank you again to everyone who voted in my June TBR List poll! If it hadn't been for work and needing sleep, I would have finished it in one sitting.
  • Accidental Magic (Myrtlewood Mysteries #1) by Iris Beaglehole
  • Don't Look Now and Other Stories by Daphne du Mauier
  • The Kiss Countdown by Etta Easton
  • American Demon (The Hollows #14) by Kim Harrison
  • The Keeper by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
  • Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun, Vol. 1 by Osamu Nishi
  • Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun, Vol. 2 by Osamu Nishi
  • Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun, Vol. 3 by Osamu Nishi
  • Murder Road by Simone St. James
  • Locked in Pursuit (Electra McDonnell #4) by Ashley Weaver
It was yet another month of not reading a book I did not like in the bunch. I just can't pick a least favorite this month, try as I might. I struggled choosing a favorite too. It came down to Murder Road and The Kiss Countdown, two very different books, both of which I loved for different reasons. In the end, I decided to go with the book that left me smiling for days after. It hit the right spot for me at the exact moment. So, my June favorite is The Kiss Countdown by Etta Easton. 

What was your favorite book read in June? Did you have a good reading month?

Mid-Year Check-In

Although I did not sign up for any reading challenges this year (the Goodreads and Storygraph ones don't count because I purposefully set that bar low), I am making a point of reading more. I am not aiming for a particular number goal, but I am making a concerted effort to choose reading over some of my less productive activities (I'm talking about you, phone games and social media). Unfortunately, it may have cut into my blogging time too. I am a work in progress. All that to say, I have read 52 books so far this year, which to some may not seem like a lot, but for me, it is the total number of books I read last year. Of course, there are novellas, short stories, graphic novels, and manga in that mix, but I am still averaging more reading per month than I have in a while. 

Of the books I read so far this year, I have yet to DNF a book and none rated below three paws (meaning good) on my rating scale. Only four books have earned my top rating of 5 paws. This year I set out to select a favorite book each month and these were the ones that have come out on top so far: 

January ~ Legends & Lattes (#1) by Travis Baldree

February ~ Emily Wilde's Map of the Otherlands (#2) by Heather Fawcett

March ~ Speculations in Sin (Below the Stairs Mystery #7) by Jennifer Ashley

April ~ Dune by Frank Herbert

May ~ The Fox Wife by Yangsze Choo & Kindred by Octavia Butler 

June ~ The Kiss Countdown by Etta Easton

One of my favorite Storygraph features is their moods graph. Admittedly, it is dependent on the moods the majority of users of the app apply to the books, but I find it fun to see which direction my reading is going mood-wise based on their findings. 

I set a few personal reading goals for myself for the year and have been steadily making progress on, and even completing several of them. Of the ones for which I have made progress:
  • Read one classic this year and I have read two: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens and Kindred by Octavia Butler (three if you count the short story collection, Don't Look Now and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier). 
  • Listen to six audio books, which I managed to do in the first half of this year. 
  • Read at least one fiction/nonfiction pairing, and I accomplished that: Women of the Post by Joshunda Sanders and One Woman's Army: A Black Officer Remembers the WAC by Charity Adams Earley.  
  • Read a book over 700 pages and I ended up reading David Copperfield, 768 pages. I also read Legacy (Keeper of the Lost Cities #8) by Shannon Messenger, 780 pages.
  • Read three books recommended by my daughter, which I did do--not counting the recent manga volumes I had to twist her arm to get her to let me read. She recommended I read Misfit Mansion by Kay Davault, Legacy by Shannon Messenger, and The Keeper by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. 
  • Read all my TBR List Poll winners, which I have--and all but one in the month they won (I was so close to finishing it in its appointed month, but I went over by a day or two). 
How did the first half of 2024 go for you reading wise? What is your favorite book of the year so far? How are you doing on your reading goals? 

I am about half way through Barbara Kingsolver's Demon Copperhead. Having recently read David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, I am very conscious of the similarities in the story and characters. From what I have read so far, Kingsolver's modern adaptation of the classic is very well done. I cannot help but wonder if she wrote Demon Copperhead with David Copperfield open by her side to make sure she kept true to the original story. 

Someone on Threads mentioned reading and enjoying the Shades of Magic trilogy recently, and so last night I started reading A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab. I am kicking myself for waiting so long to jump back into the series. It feels like I never left--and it's so intense!

What are you reading right now?

My mom, Mouse and I went to see Inside Out 2 the week before last. We loved the first movie and have seen it multiple times. The second was wonderful too--and with the main character turning 13, just like my daughter did this year, it made the movie even more poignant for all of us. 

Have you seen Inside Out 2? If so, what did you think? 

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

© 2024, 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.