July, August & September 2020 Wrap-Up Part II

In case you missed it, Part I.

I normally only read biographies of historic royals. But I had to read Finding Freedom: Harry & Meghan by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand because I am a huge fan of the Duchess of Sussex. I was horrified at the awful and biased treatment she received from the British press. I’m sad that she and Harry left royal life behind (at least for now) because I was looking forward to seeing her perform royal duties. Anyway, I digress. This is a great biography. The book takes you from Meghan’s early years to her acting days in Toronto. It talks about her impeccable work ethic and her ambition for an independent life. It talks about how Harry and Meghan met, about their joined values and the life they want to live together. It’s almost like you’re gossiping with a very good friend, who is filling you in on Harry and Meghan.

It’s interesting that the book begins with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson about making your own path in life, almost like a foreshadow of what’s to come. I’ve learned that when it comes to women, few people like or approve of a woman who goes her own way in life. That’s probably why so many are mad at Meghan and Harry. They dared to go their own way. I think what we have to understand is that we don’t own Harry and Meghan. They are not our friends and don’t owe us anything. They are humans who are entitled to live the life they want to live. If you are a Meghan super fan, this book is for you. If you are angry that they are living a private life, you should probably pass.

The Real Sherlock by Lucinda Hawksley is an Audible Original about the life of Arthur Conan Doyle. It features the usual narration, but also interviews and interesting tidbits. If you’re a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, then this audiobook may be too elementary for you. I didn’t know Arthur Conan Doyle very well and it was fun to learn about him and how he created his most famous character.

Girl in Dior by Annie Goetzinger is a graphic novel about the life of French fashion designer Christian Dior. If you like fashion and graphic novels, it might be a fun read for you. This link takes you to my earlier review.

The Secret Garden retold by Elizabeth Goodnight is a young child’s version of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I borrowed the audiobook from the library not realizing it was the shorter, condensed and retold version. Now that I listened to this version, I can tell you that it’s the perfect audiobook for children’s bedtime. The narrator’s voice is soothing and charming. Perfect for young children.

The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan is the sequel to The Royal We. If you enjoy royal fiction, then this is a great series. But you should start with The Royal We. The Heir Affair begins where The Royal We left off, with Bex and Nick married and in self-imposed exile. But when they’re discovered at their secret location, they return to Kensington Palace to face the music. The plot is almost slow and uneventful, until Bex discovers a huge royal secret with serious consequences. Bex and Nick try to figure out what to do with this earth-shattering secret. I won’t give it away, otherwise I’ll spoil it for you.

I hope you’re reading lots of fun books right now. I’ll post Part III at the end of September.

xoxo, Jane

Photo via Pexels.com

July, August & September 2020 Wrap-Up Part I

Hello, there!

It’s time for the quarterly wrap-up. I began the third quarter of the worst year of our lives with romance novels.

I began by reading Honor Bound by B.J. Daniels, which is the last book in her romance series, The Montana Hamiltons, set in Montana. I didn’t read any of the prior books which may be the reason why I felt pretty lost within the various story arcs happening in this particular novel. There were too many mentions of earlier characters I hadn’t met yet. When I wasn’t feeling lost, this was a decent story about the love and trials of the daughter of a man about to be elected president. The president-elect in the series is a Republican and normally I wouldn’t care, but because of the turbulent times we live in, the mention of a Republican left a bitter taste in my mouth. The Grand Ole Party (founded by Abraham Lincoln) is no more and no amount of sexy romance novel heroes can convince me otherwise.

Diamond in the Rough by Diana Palmer is a modern-day Cinderella story. The plot follows the 19-year old heroine and the hard life she leads. She falls in love with a very rich rancher who keeps his wealth hidden from her to make sure she really likes him for him and not his money. While it has a compelling plot, I wasn’t fond of the heroine. She kept complaining how she was a poor, stupid girl and that she’d rather knit than go out and that her nicest dress is two years old. I have clothes older than two years old so I can’t fathom how this is supposed to demonstrate to the reader that she is very poor indeed. I think the author implies that rich women buy new dresses daily. This book wasn’t a winner for me, mostly because I prefer to read about women who don’t think ill of themselves. However, I finished this book because for the life of me I can’t not finish a book. It’s an awful habit that must stop so I can reclaim my reading time.

The Grimaldis of Monaco by Anne Edwards is one of my favorite reads of this quarter. It’s quite the gossipy and entertaining read. The book begins with an interesting tale of Princess Caroline in the 1980s. Just when the reader is sucked in to the drama of her divorce with Philippe Junot, the reader time-travels back to the very beginning of Monaco and to the very first Grimaldi. (Otto Canella, born in 1133, is the father of Grimaldo Canella, born in 1162, who in turn becomes the father of Oberto Grimaldi, born in 1188). It’s a very entertaining and highly recommended book if you are interested in Grimaldi history. The book was published in 1992, so obviously it does not cover the current Grimaldis. It is a good stepping stone into the early history of the Grimaldis. 

Paris to the Moon is a collection of short stories by essayist Adam Gopnik. They are witty, entertaining stories about living in Paris as an American. I’m a proud Francophile and loved reading this book very much. If you are interested, this link will take you to my earlier review.

Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown is a biography of Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister. It’s a non-traditional biography in the sense that the reader peeks into glimpses of Princess Margaret’s life, most of the time not in chronological order. Each glimpse equals a short chapter. The chapters are so short that it makes for a fast read. I enjoyed this unique style of biography very much. Hint: Princess Margaret was an awful, selfish person. I’m sure she had some good qualities but it sounds like she was born in an era where royals were treated like God and didn’t have to earn respect. I think she’d hate being born a royal today because you can’t actually get away with being awful (or can you?).

Have you read any of these books?

I’m still reading. Part II here.

xoxo, Jane

April, May & June 2020 Wrap-Up Part II

Hello, there. Welcome to the second portion of my quarterly wrap-up. You can read the first part here.

I listened to To Tempt a Sheikh by Olivia Gates. This was my first time reading Olivia Gates and what I liked the best is that the hero (sheikh) wasn’t an archaic caveman. I plan to read/listen to more of her books.

In a previous post, I wrote about Square Haunting by Francesca Wade. The story of the five women covered in this non-fiction book made an impact on me. If you’re searching for a book about women, feminism and London between the two world wars, then this book is for you. I wrote about my thoughts in a previous blog post. Please consider reading it if you are curious about Square Haunting.

Faberge Treasures from the Kremlin is a small museum guide book I bought at my local library sale for $1.00. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas hosted an exhibit titled “Faberge: Treasures from the Kremlin.” The treasures traveled to Las Vegas from the Kremlin and were (mostly) Faberge creations of royal provenance. They were discovered in 1990 during the renovation of a house in Moscow. Though the book features exquisite photography of the jewels and decorative art pieces, what piqued my curiosity is the person who hid them. Did they plan to sell the treasures once the revolution was over? But since freedom never really came, did it dawn on that person that a sale would never be possible? Was the hiding spot forgotten after the jewel-taker’s death? I’ll never know the truth, but I have already concocted a story in my writer’s mind which I will share with you someday soon.

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey is a novella easily read over a weekend. The story takes place during the course of a wedding day and focuses on the bride. Unfortunately the bride is not marrying the man she loves (not a spoiler). I found it poignant and somewhat funny. The insightful dialogue kept me gripped from the first page to the last. Admittedly, the story left me feeling sad.

Waiting by Jane Odiwe is a short story inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion. In a previous blog post I described it like eating chocolate, short and sweet. The story takes place right after the end of Persuasion where we find a nervous Captain Wentworth and Anne awaiting permission for their marriage from Anne’s father.

The other Harlequin book I read was The Billionaire’s Housekeeper Mistress by Emma Darcy. Give me a Harlequin with the word billionaire on the cover and it’s an auto-read.

A Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte by Alexandra Deutsch and Betsy Bonaparte by Helen Jean Burn are two well-researched, well-written biographies of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte. Madame Bonaparte of Baltimore was the spouse of Jerome Bonaparte, youngest brother to Napoleon Bonaparte. Unfortunately for the young couple, who were madly in love with each other, Napoleon had their marriage annulled. Jerome, being accustomed to the finer things in life, didn’t want to be cut off by his brother so he caved and married Princess Catherine of Württemberg. Napoleon made Jerome the King of Westphalia. Elizabeth Bonaparte spent the rest of her life seeking recognization and a title for their son, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte. Fascinating woman, fascinating story, sad ending depending on who you are or whose side you are on.

What’s on your reading list?

xoxo, Jane

April, May & June 2020 Wrap-Up Part I

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Hello, there. How are you? I hope you had a great weekend! If today is a holiday for you, then I hope it’s a day filled with relaxation, books and some barbecue.

Here is what I’ve been reading since April, but I’m still reading and part two is coming in late June.

Cowboy’s Reckoning by B.J. Daniels is a romance novella set in Montana. The heroine, Billie Dee Rhodes, flees her mysterious past in Texas to a small town in Montana, where she finds a job as a cook. When her past catches up with her, retired rancher Henry Larson helps her to safety. Of course they fall in love. I find the idea of cooking for a bunch of people stressful and not fun, but otherwise this was a lovely romantic story, short and sweet.

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman is a children’s poetry book about nocturnal creatures. It’s a fun way for children to learn about nature. But it’s also a fun diversion for us grown-ups too.

I listened to Emily Dickinson: Poems and Letters. The audiobook is a collection of letters, 75 poems and biographical sketches. The last time I read poetry by Emily Dickinson was in high school.

I learned two things from listening to her poetry:

1. I enjoy listening to poems much more than reading them.

2. I wish I’d known more about Emily’s biography in high school. It would have made me understand and appreciate her work so much better. The biography tidbits sprinkled throughout the audiobook helped me see her in a clearer light.

To Tempt a Viking by Michelle Willingham is the sequel in her Forbidden Vikings series, but can be read as a stand-alone. I liked being immersed in the world the story is set in. I barely know anything about the Viking era and this was a great way to jump in because I love a good romance. Like the first novel in the series, my favorite part of listening to this book was the narrator.

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Emma by Jane Austen is an interesting read for me. I love the storyline, but I sure didn’t love the heroine, Emma. However, the reader not liking Emma was Jane Austen’s intention. So, Jane Austen wins here. I briefly wrote about Emma in an earlier post.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling is a must-read if you are a Harry Potter fan. I’m only sorry it took me years to get to it. I wrote about the book in a previous post.

Inside Jobs by Ben H. Winters is a collection of short stories set during the current pandemic. “Planning a heist while working from home has its challenges.” I wrote about these stories in an earlier post. I don’t know how the author was able to write a collection of timely stories with fully fleshed out characters during a relatively short amount of time. #Talent. They were brilliantly done. Zoom calls are included (which was hilarious). If you are an Audible member, this story collection is free during the month of May. I highly recommend it if you like crime tales.

This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart is a romantic suspense novel, but it just didn’t jive with me. Normally I enjoy reading Mary Stewart. I was looking forward to this book because it’s set in beautiful Greece. But the story has more suspense than romance. I found myself not caring much about the murder or finding out who did it. I would have preferred if the romance aspect of the story was at least 30% of the book, but it was more like two percent. It might have just been the wrong time for me to read this novel since I am more of a moody reader. I have another one of her novels, Rose Cottage, sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I’ll save it for summertime reading.

What have you been reading lately?

xoxo, Jane

January, February and March 2020 Wrap-Up Part III

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Read more about this lovely painting.

I read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen for the very first time. It was so good! Of course, I kept picturing Hugh Grant and Professor Snape. I’m sure you know the plot so I won’t rehash it here, but I felt the anguish the two older Dashwood sisters and their mother must have had to relocate from the only home they’ve known to a small cottage, further away. Jane Austen must have keenly felt the unfairness of the inheriting system. I also really loved John’s awful wife. There is something to be said for mean characters. They are so entertaining. And laughable. You can read it for free here.

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The Little(r) Museums of Paris by Emma Jacobs is just what it says it is. A book about the smaller, lesser-known museums of Paris, plus it comes with illustrations. It’s really cute. One of the museums it mentions is Musée de Cluny – Musée National du Moyan Âge (National Museum of the Middle Ages). I have visited this museum before. It was part of a pass we bought from our hotel, but I’d never heard of it. When we stepped into the museum, I almost lost my mind from joy. This is the museum where the long lost unicorn tapestries are housed. This museum is a must-visit if you are in Paris. The author also gives the histories of the buildings the museums are housed in. This being Paris, you can imagine how fascinating those stories are.

Tea with Mr. Rochester by Frances Towers is a collection of short stories initially published in 1949, after the author passed away. The book I own is a loving re-issue by Persephone Books. The stories are not intertwined with each other, but they do have one thing in common: love. The stories featured are about unrequited love, young love, and happy-we-found-each-other love. For those who love a good cry, there is a love story about a soldier departing for World War I (and this being England, not coming back alive) and leaving a girl broken-hearted for the rest of her life. That story still haunts me.

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Not a book, but I also read the most recent issue of The Persephone Biannually. The magazine features articles about the books they publish, the history behind their famous endpapers and essays about their authors. I normally do not enjoy literary magazines, but this one is the exception.

And if you’re in the mood, here is Part I and Part II.

xoxo, Jane

January, February and March 2020 Wrap-Up Part II

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I hope you and your loved ones are well. I also hope you are keeping very busy with arm-chair traveling to wonderful locations.

I arm-chair traveled to some exotic fictional locations thanks to Harlequin Presents. But I also traveled to Nazi-occupied Paris, viewing historic events through Coco Chanel’s point of view.

I read Sold to the Enemy and The Prince’s Waitress Wife (second link takes you to my review) by Sarah Morgan. Sarah Morgan is such a talented writer. I’ve never read a book by her that didn’t leave me feeling happy.

I very much enjoyed reading The Dress: 100 Iconic Moments In Fashion (link takes you to my review) by Megan Hess. This was a beautifully illustrated book and it’s a nice way to get lost in other worlds.

Continuing my Harlequin Presents adventures, I also read Passion and the Prince by Penny Jordan. Penny Jordan will always have a special place in my heart because the very first romance book I ever read was one of her Mills & Boon books.

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The last book for today’s list is The Queen of Paris: A Novel of Coco Chanel by Pamela Binnings Ewen. Initially I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy reading a book where the antagonist featured as the protagonist, but the author proved me wrong. The story takes you from Coco Chanel’s humble beginnings and leaves you in Paris, with her successful career and beyond. It was insightful, well-written and a little sad. Highly recommended. Link above will take you to my earlier review.

Find Part I here.

Find Part III here.

Be well, friends!

xoxo, Jane

 

January, February and March 2020 Wrap-Up Part I

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Life is hard right now. We are all worried for our elderly loved ones, we can’t leave the house, the news makes us anxious and stressed and I don’t know about you but I cannot find hand sanitizer anywhere!! So let’s focus on something light-hearted, shall we?

What have I been reading for the first quarter of 2020?

I read and enjoyed Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon, a romance novel. The love story centers on a busy single mother/doctor and her male nanny. Loved it!

I also read Words of Silk and Prime Time by Sandra Brown because my obsession with old skool Sandra Brown shall never ever end.

Alexandra Feodorovna: A Life From Beginning to End by Hourly Histories is a biography of the last Tsarina of Russia. It’s concise and very short. I didn’t learn anything new, but that’s not what I was looking for. I just felt like reading something royalty-related without the time commitment needed for a larger volume.

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A Scandal in Bohemia is my first Sherlock Holmes story. This is the first story featuring Sherlock Holmes in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which you can read for free at Gutenberg.

I enjoyed reading it and plan to read the rest of the stories in this volume. I was shocked to learn that Sherlock was a cocaine user. Did I understand that correctly? I also love the fictional royals Arthur Conan Doyle invented for the mystery that Sherlock solves in this story. Which leads me to Irene Adler. I’ve always heard about her and how she is the only female who ever bested Sherlock Holmes. It was a pleasure to meet her and she sounds like my kind of woman. I’d love to have a cup of tea with her. All she ever wanted was to live happily ever after with her guy. Yet modern adaptations turn her into a cunning or sly person who is out to get Sherlock. That’s not the case at all.

Edge of Obsession and Edge of Temptation by Megan Crane are my first dystopian romance novel reads. They are a little bit on the darker side, but they have a satisfying happily ever after.

The Navy SEAL Affair by Carol Ericson is a free online read on Harlequin’s website. It’s very short, but the story line is pretty solid.

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To Sin with a Viking by Michelle Willingham is my first time reading a Viking-era romance novel. It is a well-researched and well-written historical romance. I loved, loved, loved it. The link above will take you to my review.

I’m still reading! Stay tuned for Part II and Part III later in March and early April.

Make sure you read lots and lots of fun books and articles to get through these trying times. Be well!

xoxo, Jane

 

October, November & December 2019 Wrap-Up Part II

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Happy New Year! Happy 2020!

My obsession with old skool Sandra Brown hasn’t ended. I read (and loved) Above and Beyond, Hawk O’Toole’s Hostage, The Devil’s Own (the plot for The Devil’s Own was really unbelievable and crazy because the heroine kidnapped the hero so she could force him to help her smuggle orphans out of a war-ravaged country. Yes, human trafficking was the premise here!!), Send No FlowersFat Tuesday and Seduction by Design.

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Just in time for Christmas, I read Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory. The heroine is a single mother in her early 50s who travels to London with her daughter for Christmas. There she meets and falls in love with the Queen’s private secretary. I love that the main characters were in their 50s, divorced, and had a backstory. But my favorite part about the story was that London was a character and not just background for the setting. I was zipping along for the ride, paying visits to important London landmarks. It’s a cute story with a very happy ending.

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My final read of the previous decade was The Tea House Detective by Baroness Orczy. Baroness Orczy also wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel series. This book is composed of short detective stories. Each story ties in to the next story and should be read in order. The main character, Polly Burton, spends most of her time sitting in a cafe listening to an old man solve mysteries that even the police could not solve. This perplexes Polly, but it’s not until the very last story that we find out how each story is a piece of the puzzle. Polly also figures out that each crime was committed by the same person. I don’t want to give away who it is because this would be a major plot spoiler, but the unexpected twist left me floored. Crime fiction at its best!

My first read of 2020 is a Sherlock Holmes story, my first one ever. What about your first read?

xoxo, Jane

 

July, August & September 2019 Wrap-Up Part II

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Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

I didn’t realize that the majority of my reading for this last quarter were romance novels until I reviewed this list. Sometimes I feel like I need to read something else on purpose, but the truth is that I love romance novels the bestest.

Rachel Lee made a career out of writing a book series set in fictional Conard County, Wyoming and the series is addictive. Rugged country, rugged men, sweet heroines, good neighbors… and she always, always writes these really dreamy heroes who make you swoon. Who doesn’t like swooning when reading romance novels?

But Rachel Lee’s Conard County series became so formulaic that you know exactly what to expect: woman in grave danger, abusive ex-husband, special forces hero who kills or puts ex-husband behind bars. And this was exactly the premise for Her Hero in Hiding but I truly did enjoy reading it. I wrote about it here.

Another Rachel Lee book I read was What She Saw. I didn’t enjoy reading this one at all. It was almost as if someone else wrote it. Rachel Lee’s novels are usually packed with emotion and action. The action scenes seemed to be written in a stilted manner and there was zero chemistry between the hero and heroine, Buck and Haley. It took everything I had to keep reading this book.

A Conard County Homecoming by Rachel Lee contains two stories, Miss Emmaline and the Archangel and Ironheart. I enjoyed reading them both very much. They were written in the early days of Rachel Lee’s writing career and it’s these early stories that made me fall in love with her Conard County series.

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Then I read a bunch of early books (from the 1980s) by Sandra Brown. Shadows of Yesterday is one of my favorites from the bunch. The hero, Chad Dillon, was super nice and romantic and practically perfect. In other words, he was not even one tiny bit a jerk (because they usually are in the 80s romance novels). But the story is not realistic at all. The premise is that Chad finds Leigh, the heroine, stranded on the highway, about to give birth to her child. So he delivers her baby, then they fall in love and then they marry. It’s pure fantasy, although that’s not a bad thing. We all pick up a book to escape reality.

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The other two books I read by Sandra Brown are Honor Bound and Led Astray. Really romantic and well-written. I think Sandra Brown doesn’t write romance anymore. She is strictly thrillers/suspense now, but I love those earlier novels best of all.

And this wraps up my third quarter reading. Feel free to share what you’ve been reading too. 🙂

xoxo, Jane

{Also, July, August & September 2019 Wrap-Up Part I}