April, May & June 2020 Wrap-Up Part I

Fragonard,_The_Reader

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.

IMG_2192

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

April, May & June 2019 Wrap-Up

July is almost behind us and I’m only now posting my quarterly wrap-up. I hope you will forgive my tardiness. I was busy reading and writing…

The second quarter of 2019 fun-reading consisted of one short story by George Orwell, one romantic fiction by Meg Cabot (love her!), one classic (Mary Stewart), one royal history book and two illustrated books that I loved so, so much!

(The links below take you to my earlier reviews, except for Orwell’s short story and Inside the Royal Wardrobe.)

The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot.

This was a very sweet read. I think it had a touch of Jane Austen’s Persuasion because the hero and heroine were forced to let go of each other many years earlier.

You and the Atom Bomb by George Orwell. “It is a commonplace that the history of civilisation is largely the history of weapons.” 

This short story was written during a time when everyone was terrified of being obliterated. It’s always interesting to read serious pieces from the actual era they were written in. I also learned that I should read short stories more often. It was an enjoyable (if not sobering), quick read.

IMG_4236

Paris: Through A Fashion Eye by Megan Hess.

I don’t know why I’ve never heard of Megan Hess before. She is a wonderful illustrator and this book is a fun walk through Paree.

Chanelreview.peg

Coco Chanel by Megan Hess.

This was an illustrated novel of Coco Chanel’s life. I really love this book. It is so beautiful and fun. I’ve already picked it up several times to reread. I need another Megan Hess book pronto!

poeniesandwind

The Wind off the Small Isles by Mary Stewart.

This novella was so charming and romantic. The only complaint I had was that it ended too abruptly.

Inside the Royal Wardrobe: A Dress History of Queen Alexandra (affiliate link) by Kate Strasdin.

This newish biography is a fascinating study of Queen Alexandra through her wardrobe. She was not who I thought she was, a timid woman who cowered under Queen Victoria. No! She was a strong woman who knew her own mind and tried to live life on her terms. She was a very caring Princess of Wales and became a good queen. This book warrants its own review, coming soon.

xoxo, Jane

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. xoxo, Jane

 

Pairing books with tea (Nine Coaches Waiting)

white book beside white mug
Photo by Ekrulila on Pexels.com

Time for our weekly game of matching a good cup of tea to a good book!

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart is a riveting suspense novel that had me at the edge of my seat. I was never relaxed during the reading of this book because I was scared something bad was about to happen. Mary Stewart is the master of romantic suspense!

The book’s heroine, Linda Martin, travels to France to work for a French family, the Valmy Family. Except she discovers the family may be hiding a sinister secret. Oh, and there is a strong, tall, sexy hero. His name is Raoul.

IMG_4277.jpeg

So which tea do we pair with a book set in France, has plenty of suspense and a handsome love interest?? How about Mariage Freres’ Earl Grey D’or? Obviously we have to sip a cup of dark, French tea for this suspenseful romance novel. Do you agree? xoxo, Jane

The Wind Off The Small Isles by Mary Stewart

poeniesandwind

The Wind Off The Small Isles by Mary Stewart is a long-lost novella, recently republished.

Description:

In 1879, a wealthy young woman elopes with an impoverished fisherman, leaving her family, who live on the volcanic island of Lanzarote, distraught. In 1968, 23-year-old Perdita West, secretary to the famous author Cora Gresham, visits Lanzarote, the strangest and most wild of the Canary Isles, on a research trip. They meet Cora’s estranged son, Mike, and fall in love with the unusual, beautiful little island.

While snorkeling, a landslide traps Perdita in an underwater cave. No one knows where she is, so she can’t count on a rescue. And her efforts to save herself will reveal the solution to a century-old mystery.

Before the story begins, Mary Stewart’s loving niece, Jennifer Ogden, gives a loving tribute. “As her niece and also her constant companion for the last twelve years of her life, I came to know Mary Stewart (Aunty Mary) extremely well and also to realize how lucky we have been as a family to have had within it this extraordinary and fascinating woman.”

After the tribute, the story begins with a prelude which takes place in 1879 in Lanzarote, a Spanish island off the coast of West Africa. Mary Stewart visited the island with her professor husband during one of his research trips. It’s during the prelude we learn about the mystery that will be solved almost a century later by Perdita West. Fast forward to present day and Perdita discovers the mystery by accident while she gets stuck in a cave during snorkeling.

Thewindoffthesmallisles
The Wind off the Small Isles made for perfect in-flight reading!

What I love

Everything! It’s a charming short story (it’s categorized as a novella but actually I’d categorize it as a short story) with a sweet romance and a mystery.

Mary Stewart’s scenes are written so vividly that I felt I was right there. For example, the scene where Perdita gets stuck in the cave is described in such a vivid manner that I began to feel claustrophobia while reading. {My fear is being stuck under water or inside a cave.} During these scenes I felt as if I was right there with Perdita. Let’s just say that if I knew how vivid these scenes were described, I might not have read this novella. That’s how much I suffer from claustrophobia.

But this is what makes Mary Stewart so magical. Her beautifully descriptive writing is what she is known for. Even though this story was very short it did not lack in anything including character development. She writes in a way that pulls you (the reader) into the scenes.

I love the description of Lanzarote and now I want to visit it. The reader gets to know the island really well via the various conversations the characters have and the drive that Perdita takes with her boss, Cora.

I also love that the book is an actual hardcover, even though it’s only 80 pages long.

What I don’t love

It’s a Mary Stewart book, so there isn’t anything that I don’t love. We are lucky that this long-lost story has been republished for us. But if I’m allowed to give a teeny tiny criticism of the book, then I’d say that the book ended too abruptly. The mystery was solved and story over, just like that. It could have gone on for at least another page or so, just to end on a softer note. Either way, this was a charming read and I hope there are hundreds more long-lost Mary Stewart stories waiting to be rediscovered.

Have you read The Wind Off The Small Isles? xoxo, Jane

Amazon US Amazon UK

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links, but it’s also ok if you don’t use the links. I’m just grateful you are here and reading my blog. xoxo, Jane