Inside Jobs by Ben H. Winters

IMG_1937

Description:

Inside Jobs by Ben H. Winters

Three offbeat stories of crime and conundrum, set in the present moment, from The New York Times best-selling, Edgar Award-winning author of Underground Airlines and The Last Policeman.

Inside Jobs: Tales from a Time of Quarantine includes:

The Crimson Parrot
It’s not easy masterminding the crime of the century when your whole gang is working from home. A high-stakes tale of larceny, deception, and teleconferencing.

The Cape House
As the world shifts around them, two estranged brothers end up in their childhood home. But it’s the memories they unearth that will change them forever.

Stop Motion
With endless time on her hands, an apartment-bound young woman gets to all the hobbies she’s neglected—martial arts, playing the sax, photography…and solving a murder?

My thoughts

Normally, I’m not drawn to contemporary crime stories, but this collection of short stories is part of May’s free Audible Originals, so I thought I’d give it a listen.

The stories in Inside Jobs are set during the present-day Covid-19 pandemic. The title itself alludes to crime committed by those closest to you. When this nightmare first began, I told myself I would not read fiction about Covid-19. It’s just too soon for me. How could I possibly enjoy it? I mean, I still don’t read fiction about the September 11 terrorist attacks. I doubt I ever will.  But these three stories aren’t about Covid-19. Rather they are three cleverly constructed stories about people stuck at home. The pandemic acts as the reason for everyone being stuck. It worked well and didn’t cause me any stress.

The Crimson Parrot is a comical heist story. Imagine a gang of criminals attempting to commit a crime while stuck at home and via Zoom. There are arguments and misunderstandings. I laughed a lot.

The second story, The Cape House, is sad and intense. Two brothers reunite after the death of their father at their childhood home. Unfortunately one of the brothers is not mentally stable which causes further heartache. It was a depressing, but thought-provoking, story.

Stop Motion is a brilliant tale about a couple towards the end of their relationship. It had me at the edge of my seat because J.J, the ex-girlfriend, thinks she accidentally witnesses a crime. It was a charming story with very likable and relatable characters. The plot borrowed a little from the classic Hitchcock thriller, Rear Window.

What I love

I’m learning that the narrator can make or break an audiobook. Each short story in this collection has its own narrator, all three are fabulous. The voices and accents were spot on. I was never pulled out of the story, rather I was drawn in so much that I forgot about the boiling water on the stovetop.

What I don’t love

I can’t think of anything. I was really happy with this collection of short stories and I’m normally a tough customer.

What are you reading and what’s next on your TBR?

xoxo, Jane

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

IMG_1934

Description:

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

Written by J.K. Rowling. Read by Sally Mortemore, Warwick Davis, Evanna Lynch, Jason Isaacs, Bonnie Wright, Noma Dumezweni and Jude Law.

Performed by talented actors from across the Wizarding World, this is the first ever audiobook edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which was originally written in 2007 by J.K. Rowling and has raised money for her children’s charity Lumos ever since.

As familiar to Hogwarts students as “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty” are to Muggle children, Beedle’s stories are a collection of popular fairy tales written for young witches and wizards. So, if you’re wondering what’s in store in this brand-new audio edition…well, your ears are in for a treat.

Once you’ve checked this fabulous Hogwarts Library book out, you’ll start by hearing the author’s introduction, read by Sally Mortemore (librarian Madam Pince from the Harry Potter films). Then it’s time for the tales to begin….

My thoughts

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a recent convert to audiobooks. I listened to this book because it was a free download. I’m glad I downloaded it because it was wonderful to listen to five magical tales that got my mind off current worries. J.K. Rowling has a brilliant mind, that’s for sure. She not only created an entire set of fairy tales out of thin air, but she wrote this book to benefit the children’s charity she founded, Lumos.

It appears that this book is free for Audible members through January 7, 2021.

What I love

I enjoyed this book very much. It was really wonderful to return to the land of Harry Potter and it reminded me why I should reread the series. This audiobook has it all: sound effects, music, appropriate background clatter and a very animated Jude Law.

Each tale was clever and a few were funny. I met kings, warlocks, witches and entered an enchanted forest.  One story, The Warlock’s Hairy Heart, was particularly good. It tells the story of a young warlock who wants to avoid falling in love and turns to dark magic to make sure it never happens.

I loved listening to Mr. Dumbledore (aka Jude Law) and the other fabulous characters who acted as narrators. Everything was so imaginative and I pictured a young Ron Weasley reading the tales. The book is only 1 hour and 36 minutes long, but I wish it could have kept going.

J.K. Rowling found ways to tie each tale into her Harry Potter novels. I should mention this book was written in 2007. I know, I’m really behind, but as they say: better late than never.

What I don’t love

That it ended.

xoxo, Jane

The Queen of Paris by Pamela Binnings Ewen

cover176007-medium.png

 

The Dress: 100 Iconic Moments in Fashion by Megan Hess

IMG_0573.jpeg

My recent finished read is a fashion illustration book. Megan Hess illustrated (with permission) 100 of the most iconic dresses in fashion history in her book, The Dress. The book is organized in six sections: Designers, Icons, Weddings, Music, Film and Oscars.

It’s more than just a book filled with nice illustrations. Every dress Megan Hess illustrates comes complete with historical tidbits or background about the history of the dress. Page after page, gorgeous dresses jump out at you. It’s truly a delight to pour through this book.

IMG_0569.jpeg

One of my favorite dresses is this gown worn by Grace Kelly at the Oscars. I admit that I rewatch Grace Kelly movies (especially To Catch a Thief) over and over again simply for Grace Kelly’s sumptuous wardrobe.

IMG_0565.jpeg

I adore this dress by Carolina Herrera. The floral ballgown was created in 2013 and Actress Lucy Liu wore it to the 2013 Golden Globes.

I also think the most touching part of the book is the author’s dedication: “For Gwyn. All the dresses I’ve drawn, and all the dresses I own, will one day be yours.”

Now on to the criticism. While each dress gets a double page feature (as shown above), I wish there was additional content devoted to each dress. The information was skimpy at best and could have used much more historical detail.

If you like the combination of history, fashion and illustrations, then this book might be for you. Now if only I can figure out how to make the dresses jump out of the book and into my wardrobe…

xoxo, Jane

 

The Prince’s Waitress Wife by Sarah Morgan

9780373127986_p0_v1_s260x420.jpgDescription:

Bedded for the prince’s pleasure

When waitress Holly is thrown into the playboy prince’s arms, he lives up to his wicked reputation by bedding her—then casting her aside!

Expecting the prince’s love-child

Holly is pregnant! Casper is furious; Holly’s just a scheming gold digger, but royal protocol demands he make her his bride!

Wedded by royal command

Innocent Holly has the wedding of her dreams—and Casper knows her first duty as his convenient wife will be on their wedding night….

The Prince’s Waitress Wife by Sarah Morgan is a Harlequin Presents story that puts a new twist on the age-old Cinderella trope. It’s a fast-paced, romantic novel set in a fictional European kingdom.

Holly is at a sports event (rugby) where she works as a waitress in the VIP box. The day before, her fiancé broke up with her and now she is just trying to get through the day without crying. Enter Prince Casper. They meet and feel a connection with each other which leads to an interlude, which leads to a pregnancy, which leads to a marriage. I do love this trope.

What I love

Holly is a very kind heroine. She doesn’t play dating games and is honest and open with everyone she meets. Before her marriage to Casper, she lived in a world where honesty and good behavior is the norm (except for the ex-fiancé who is a major jerk). She feels befuddled by Casper’s cynicism, who believes she got pregnant on purpose. Holly doesn’t understand that in the past women used Casper for his title and wealth. I love that her kindness and open heart eventually break down Casper’s barriers.

I love the witty, sparkling dialogue between Holly and Casper. I truly enjoy reading any novel by Sarah Morgan. I love that love conquers all.

What I don’t love

There were so many misunderstandings between Casper and Holly that a simple heart-to-heart could have cleared up any misconceptions. But I suppose then we wouldn’t have an angsty and emotional love story.

xoxo, Jane

To Sin with a Viking by Michelle Willingham

x298.jpg

Description:

To Sin with a Viking
by Michelle Willingham

Caragh Ó Brannon defended herself bravely when the enemy landed—only, now she finds herself alone with one very angry Viking….

Styr Hardrata sailed to Ireland intending to trade, never expecting to find himself held captive in chains by a beautiful Irish maiden.

The fiercely handsome warrior both terrifies and allures Caragh, but he is forbidden territory. He is the enemy…and he is married. Yet Styr harbors a secret that just might set them both free….

What I love

To Sin with a Viking by Michelle Willingham is a historical romance set in Viking-era Ireland. This book is the first audiobook I’ve ever listened to and I’m so glad I started with this one. To Sin with a Viking is also my first Viking romance novel. I don’t know much about the Viking-era, but this story felt very authentic and I think the author did a lot of research to get the facts right.

The best part of this book was the narrator, Deirdre O’Connell. She has a lyrical voice and was lovely to listen to. She was appropriately animated and energetic when the scenes called for it. She did such a great job portraying the various characters that I felt as if the narrator wanted to be nowhere else in the world except right there in the studio recording this book.

The heroine, Caragh, has to be one of the nicest, kindest, most thoughtful heroines I’ve ever read. Even when she is starving, she gives what little food she has to her younger brother. She also shares food with Styr, even though he is her captive. She is warm and kind without ever being a doormat. And that was nice to read.

The premise of the story is that they are all living through a famine, so Caragh’s brothers leave for a raid which ends up being a mistake, since they interfere with Styr’s group and end up taking him hostage. Caragh has to keep Styr captive while her brothers are out doing the raiding. Caragh is never completely comfortable with any of this, especially the part about keeping Styr captive and keeping him away from his wife, Elena. Elena was taken captive by another group and Styr’s mission is to find her.

The conflict in this story is that Styr and Caragh begin to fall in love. It’s begrudgingly on Styr’s part since he feels duty-bound to stay with Elena, even though it’s clear early on in the story they are not in a happy marriage.

I let myself fall in love with a man I can’t have. – Caragh

What I don’t love

Sometimes the internal monologues were too long. But that’s the only teeny tiny criticism I have because I loved reading (listening) this story. I plan to read (or listen) to the sequel, To Tempt a Viking, which explores Elena’s story.

Are you reading anything right now, Viking or otherwise?

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #46

IMG_0357.jpeg

Today’s links are not plentiful, but you know what they say: quality over quantity.

I pass the time on the metro by reading. Sometimes I read on Kindle, sometimes I read the physical books, sometimes I simply cruise the world wide web. I often get comments from strangers, such as “Oh, I never read ebooks. Real books are so much better.” Or “Oh good, you’re reading a real book. No one does that anymore,” as if an e-book is not a real book. It’s a strange world we live in where strangers judge us by our reading format. Simone at Simone and Her Books writes about this very topic and I could not have said it better myself. Never Judge a Reader by their Reading Format.

This week’s drink pairing is for Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl. I love, love, love this book and will never part with it. In fact, my husband suggested I purchase a new copy to replace my beat-up copy and I can’t even do that. I love this first copy. It’s what inspired my love of everything French and my very first trip to Paris, which was also a solo-trip where I had the time of my life.

‘Ideas of Home’ by Lorna Goodison.

A wonderful review by Random Jottings of The Words I Never Wrote by Jane Thynne, which is on my TBR pile. Honestly, reading this review gave me the chills. Jane Thynne is such a fine writer.

xoxo, Jane

 

Inside The Royal Wardrobe by Kate Strasdin

IMG_6034.jpeg

Description:

Inside the Royal Wardrobe: A Dress History of Queen Alexandra by Kate Strasdin

Queen Alexandra used clothes to fashion images of herself as a wife, a mother and a royal: a woman who both led Britain alongside her husband Edward VII and lived her life through fashion. Inside the Royal Wardrobeoverturns the popular portrait of a vapid and neglected queen, examining the surviving garments of Alexandra, Princess of Wales – who later became Queen Consort – to unlock a rich tapestry of royal dress and society in the second half of the 19th century.

More than 130 extraordinary garments from Alexandra’s wardrobe survive, from sumptuous court dress and politicised fancy dress to mourning attire and elegant coronation gowns, and can be found in various collections around the world, from London, Oslo and Denmark to New York, Toronto and Tokyo. Curator and fashion scholar Kate Strasdin places these garments at the heart of this in-depth study, examining their relationships to issues such as body politics, power, celebrity, social identity and performance, and interpreting Alexandra’s world from the objects out.

Adopting an object-based methodology, the book features a range of original sources from letters, travel journals and newspaper editorials, to wardrobe accounts, memoirs, tailors’ ledgers and business records. Revealing a shrewd and socially aware woman attuned to the popular power of royal dress, the work will appeal to students and scholars of costume, fashion and dress history, as well as of material culture and 19th century history.

I love reading about historic women. The woman featured in Inside the Royal Wardrobe was Alexandra, Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra), a Danish princess who married into the British Royal Family. She was married to Edward VII and was the great-grandmother of Elizabeth II. 

Alexandra was known for being under the thumb of Queen Victoria, but Inside the Royal Wardrobe disproves this theory and showcases the subtle sartorial ways Alexandra may have rebelled. This fascinating read is a character study as opposed to a history lesson and all aspects of Alexandra’s wardrobe were analyzed.

What I love

The book features illustrations and color fashion plates which allowed me to better visualize Alexandra’s wardrobe. There is also a chart that details which colors Alexandra preferred to wear.

Between 1870 and 1890, Alexandra wore black 24 times and white 31 times. Her least favorite color appears to be pink as she only wore that color four times.

Kate Strasdin was able to find concrete proof that Alexandra rebelled quietly against Queen Victoria. One story is that King Leopold of the Belgians gave Alexandra some Brussels lace as a wedding present. Alexandra had plans to use it for her wedding dress but this was vetoed by Queen Victoria. The Queen felt that English silk was more appropriate. Alexandra didn’t have a choice in the matter and did as she was told. However, unbeknownst to the Queen, Alexandra sewed some of the Belgian lace inside the skirt of her wedding gown.

Interesting tidbits

Alexandra wasn’t a vain woman. She dressed the part as Princess of Wales and later Queen because she understood the importance of how the public perceived her. She viewed it as playing a role.

Privileged women and aristocrats were expected to attend fancy dress balls (fancy dress = costume). Fancy dress balls were a major aspect of the season. This means they had to buy their fancy-dress outfits far in advance for those last minute invitations. Families on the upper-end of the social ladder were able to use their ancestral garments as fancy dress. (!!!) I admit I had heart palpitations at the thought of actually touching an antique dress of historical significance.

When Edward VII and Alexandra stayed at the grand houses of the aristocracy, the aristocratic families were under stress to spend a lot of money on renovating the rooms the royal couple would use. This included new furniture. I read somewhere else that such Dukes went bankrupt trying to entertain Edward VII. I can’t imagine what a renovation must have done to their finances. (When I have guests, I normally buy sparkling water, some flowers and call it a day.)

Alexandra’s clothing survive in museums around the world because through the years she gave her clothes as gifts to her dressers. The dressers left the clothing to their descendants and so on until eventually families donated or sold the pieces to museums. Kate Strasdin tracked down clothing to reconstruct Alexandra’s dress history.

DSC06528.jpeg

What I don’t love

The paperback binding fell apart. The hardcover was too expensive so I bought the somewhat affordable paperback, but the pages began coming loose. This is not the author’s fault. Bloomsbury, if you are reading this, maybe try to keep your voracious readers in mind for your next book binding session?

Thanks for reading! xoxo, Jane

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

IMG_5828.jpeg

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson is a historical fiction set in Canada and England. This is the first novel I’ve read by this author. The story centers around three women, two from the past and one in our present day.

Description:

London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.

All three main characters are lovely, but I connected the most with Frenchwoman Miriam. Miriam is a survivor of Ravensbrueck, a concentration camp for women. (If you want to learn more about this concentration camp, then visit this page on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website.) It is clearly obvious the author did her research and she did it very well. Miriam reminded me of my mother who also survived the Nazis (though unlike Miriam, my mother was not sent to a concentration camp).

Even though Miriam was kind, well-spoken, a diligent seamstress and never gave anything away about her past (at least initially) I could sense her sadness and despair. I really bonded with Miriam as a character. This is what makes Jennifer Robson such a good author.

beautiful blooming bouquet bridal

What I love

I love the history and background about the Queen’s wedding dress. We (the reader) are literally in the sewing studio, watching the seamstresses hard at work. I was able to visualize every stitch. The author got everything right because she interviewed one of the four seamstresses who worked on the actual royal wedding dress. Again and again, it becomes obvious that serious research went into this story. But in a seamless way, which made this book so enjoyable to read.

There is one scene, where Heather, the modern-day character, spends an afternoon shopping at Fortnum & Mason. This really made me smile as I love Fortnums and was happy it played a small part in the novel.

What I don’t love

There is a rape scene. It’s not graphic or detailed, but it’s a major reason why one of the characters ends up on a different path in life. Had I known there was a rape scene in this book, I probably would not have read it. I’m really sensitive to scenes where women and children get hurt. In the end, I’m glad I didn’t know about it, because I’m happy I read The Gown. It was heartwarming and touching and I will be thinking of the characters for months to come.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but all three women have their happy ending. I guess I just want to throw that out there in case you think the subject matter is too sad. It was a phenomenal book and the months-long library hold was worth it.

Will you be reading The Gown?

xoxo, Jane

First image of the novel and a peek of my own wedding dress by me. Second image via Pexels.com

 

The Home Edit by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin

Thehomeeditreview.jpeg

I borrowed The Home Edit from my local library. I had to wait for it as it had a months-long wait list. Once I had the book, I was allowed to keep it for only two weeks due to the high demand. That said, I don’t understand the big deal about this book. It was fun to read and esthetically pleasing, but the concepts were nothing new. Nothing I didn’t know about before.

The book is divided in three sections: The Edit, The Assembly and The Upkeep. Each concept is clearly explained, down to giving step-by-step instructions.

The photography is truly gorgeous. We even get a peek inside Gwyneth Paltrow’s children’s uber-organized play room.

If you love to own decor-type books, then this book will look very good on your coffee table because each and every page is glossy and chic. But if you are like me, (a bit mystified) you may want to borrow it from the library first.

I’m not sure why I didn’t fall in love with this book, but please don’t let my opinion hinder you because I’m pretty sure my opinion is in the minority.

Thanks for stopping by!

xoxo, Jane

Wild Wyoming Nights by Joanne Rock

WildWyomingNights.jpgWild Wyoming Nights by Joanne Rock is Book # 8 in the nine-book series, The McNeill Magnates. I haven’t read any of the other books in this series, but I was able to enjoy this story without reading the earlier books.

Emma Layton is hiding out in Wyoming. Her abusive ex-boyfriend was released from prison and is looking for her. Emma took a job as a stunt double for a movie being filmed on the McNeill ranch in Wyoming to hide out from her ex-boyfriend. Emma is great at the fight scenes, but isn’t an experienced horse-back rider. The owner of the ranch, Carson McNeill, notices Emma’s lack of horse training and decides to work with her so she can become a better horsewoman. Carson’s decision comes under the guise of making sure the horses aren’t mistreated because of her lack of training. But it’s obvious that Carson is attracted to Emma and he conjures up an excuse to be closer to her on a daily basis.

As they get to know each other, they soon discover their secrets. Emma learns that a blackmailer is threatening the McNeill family. Carson finds out about her abusive ex-boyfriend and decides the best way to protect her is to move Emma into his house (I’m not going to lie. I love this trope!!).

Carson is supposed to be the “fun” McNeill brother. He dates to date and doesn’t think highly of matrimony. Except, I didn’t get this sense from him at all. He seemed quite responsible, thoughtful and kind. His protective instincts kicked in when it came to Emma. But it’s possible this “wilder” side of him was fleshed out in earlier books.

Without spoiling anything, while Emma and Carson’s romance was blossoming, a McNeill family mystery was unfolding that threatened their future together.

Though the book came to a satisfactory conclusion, the mystery was actually not solved! I presume this mystery shadows over the entire series and will be solved in the final book. Either way, it was an enjoyable read and now I need to read the next one in this series.

Reading this story gave me all the feels. This book is what Harlequin Desire is all about. A++

If you love Harlequin novels and strong heroes, this book is for you.

Happy Reading!

xoxo, Jane

Polish Your Poise With Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott

Time for a little book review.  Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic: Lessons in Everyday Elegance is the third in the Madame Chic series by Jennifer L. Scott. I’ve read the earlier books so I knew I’d really enjoy the newest book in this series.

Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic

Besides writing her books, Jennifer has a blog and youtube channel where she talks about the themes in her books and how to live a graceful and chic life.

I don’t usually gravitate towards “self-help” books, but this series is different. The series focuses on your personal style, making do with less and choosing quality over quantity.

All good lessons.

Polish Your Poise

About:

In Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic, the reader is introduced to the five characteristics of poise: Confidence, Composure, Compassion, Presentation, Present. To delve deep into the characteristics of poise, the book is divided into three parts, The Power of Poise, Presentation and Practicing Poise.

Why I enjoyed this book:

It’s a fun, fast read. The illustrations are lovely. It’s a fashionable little hardback that fits in my purse and looks good on my bookshelf. Most importantly though, it reiterates the themes of the life that I strive to have: happy, poised and meaningful.

Have you read this book or any of the others in the Madame Chic series?

Do you have any similar recommendations? xoxo, Jane