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

January, February and March 2020 Wrap-Up Part II

Fragonard,_The_Reader

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.

cover176007-medium

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

Fragonard,_The_Reader

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.

IMG_8369.jpeg

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.

x298

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

Fragonard,_The_Reader

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.

IMG_6268.jpeg

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.

IMG_0030.jpeg

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

 

October, November & December 2019 Wrap-Up Part I

Fragonard,_The_Reader

Time for my quarterly wrap-up. It will be in two parts so I don’t bog this post down too much.

Cornered in Conard County by Rachel Lee was pretty good. It’s a book in her Conard County series and I can tell Rachel Lee does a lot of research. The premise of this story is that the heroine is in danger because of an ex who is looking to harm her. To stay safe, she buys a guard dog from the hero who trains police dogs for a living. I don’t know anything about training police dogs, but reading this story made me feel that Rachel Lee did her research. As you would expect, the heroine falls in love with the dog-training hero.

I also read An Unlikely Daddy by Rachel Lee. It was good, but I’m starting to feel like she is recycling old books into newer stories. This one reminded me a little of the second book she wrote back in 1992 called Cherokee Thunder. But as far as romance series go, Conard County is my top favorite. Then I read The Winter Soldier by Diana Palmer.

IXPA8595.jpeg

The Gown by Jennifer Robson was probably the most touching book I read during the last quarter of 2019. The story takes place in two time periods, the present and the past (post-war Britain). I can’t write about this book without getting teary-eyed. It was really touching. It focused on three women who become intertwined with each other and each leaves her mark in the world. If you like strong women, women who have to make their own way in the world (like most of us in real life) and fashion history, then this book is for you. Run, don’t walk, to the library.

y404

Secret Prince’s Christmas Seduction by Carol Marinelli was a fun read. The story takes place during the lead-up to Christmas. It’s a Harlequin Presents and this line never disappoints. Romance, exotic locations, good-looking heroes. (Though, I have to admit, I kept picturing Trevor Noah as the hero. If you stare at the cover long enough, you’ll see it too. Tell me it’s not just me.)

IMG_5862

Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella was just what I expected. Fun, silly and festive. Becky is back and up to her usual hijinks. In this story, she was in so much trouble that I honestly had no idea how it could all possibly end in a good way. I wrote more about it here.

Part II will be up soon, as I’m still finishing up a book. I’m looking forward to a new year and more books. I’m not looking forward to life going by so fast and to growing older, but if life has to go by fast and we must grow older, then at least we can do it with good books and good people around us. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, my friends!

xoxo, Jane

 

July, August & September 2019 Wrap-Up Part II

Fragonard,_The_Reader
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.

th_6b35432aea7a08928823d342568d4f49_SOY2_300.jpg

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.

th_6b35432aea7a08928823d342568d4f49_Honor-Bound_300dpi-500.jpg

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}

July, August & September 2019 Wrap-Up Part I

Fragonard,_The_Reader
I love this painting. I wrote about it here.

It’s time for a (late) quarterly wrap-up. I read way more than I expected to read, which is great for my reading life, but not so great for my writing career.

IMG_4429

Lessons from Madame Chic

This is the first book in a three-part series. I really love this series because it inspires me to organize, clean the house, explore the arts and do some self-care. It’s easy to put self-care on your to-do list, but difficult to execute when you have a full-time job and a household to run, so it’s really nice to read this book for inspiration. My original review is here.

Fortune’s Homecoming by Allison Leigh

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love romance novels best of all. I used to be embarrassed to be caught reading them because people were so judgmental and made rude comments to me. While reading on the metro or in the lunch room at work, I’d hide the cover with something else, like an envelope. But I’m now at an age where I don’t give a fudge what people think. It’s incredibly liberating. So, yes, I read this novel in public, during my commute. It was a perfect read about a nice cowboy and a nice girl who fall in love with each other and live happily ever after. My original review is here.

Naturally Tan by Tan France

Tan France is such a cutie. He seems to be a geniounly nice guy. This memoir recounts his early life in England, how he got into his line of work, how he met his husband and how he ended up on the hit show Queer Eye. I finished it in record time because I was enjoying myself so much. My more in-depth review is here.

IMG_5482

Dave Barry Does Japan by Dave Barry

This was a silly, fun read. Dave Barry is a good writer and a great columnist based in Miami. He wrote this book after traveling in Japan for three weeks. The book is from 1993, but it doesn’t feel dated at all. It’s a laugh-out-loud book. My original review is here.

Hopefully you’ve been reading a great stack of books too!

xoxo, Jane

 

Thursday Reading Links #26

beautiful bloom blooming blossom

Five Places to Travel This Fall. It’s a nice list because it doesn’t mention the usual suspects.

This historical romance by Anne Harrington sounds wonderful.

Wow, if you are in the Denver area: there will be a Monet exhibition this October. You lucky Denver ducks!

Speaking of Denver, there is also the Molly Brown House Museum to see and the house is steeped in history. Molly Brown was a Titanic survivor.

Did you read any of the Sweet Valley High books as a kid? I think I read them all. This Book Riot article pairs Sweet Valley High characters to their Saved by the Bell doppelgängers. So funny!

A really great review of the novel The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls.

The Ribbed Bodice sells book-themed tea now, but I don’t think it’s available for online orders just yet. If you go in and buy some, please let this tea-lover know what you think of it!

photo of pink flowers

A bed canopy made of plants. So romantic!

Signs The Book You’re Reading is Great. Haha, this is me for sure!

Fragrance sensitivity: why perfumed products can cause profound health problems. I love wearing perfume and own a number of different bottles (I should do a blog post on perfume so we can talk about it together), but I am extremely mindful of other people and wear perfume very lightly.

Have a great day and a wonderful weekend!!!

xoxo, Jane

Images via Pexels.com

National Read A Book Day

red heart on a old opened book ii
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Apparently today is National Read A Book Day. I’m always a day late and a dollar short when it comes to these fun, unofficial holidays.

My current read is a romance novel by Rachel Lee, Her Hero in Hiding. The plot is much darker than I expected.

The heroine of the novel, Kay, is on the run from an abusive ex. While running away (literally running), she runs into the hero of the story, the elusive, sexy Clint, who takes her to his cabin and proceeds to protect her from the bad guy. I know it sounds cheesy and maybe awful, but it’s kind of not. The dialogue sparkles with wit and romance. Clint is thoughtful and sweet (and tall and handsome and muscular) and Kay gains back her confidence as they begin to fall in love while stuck in the cabin during a blizzard (oh yes, there is a blizzard). Also, I am having serious cabin envy from the author’s vivid descriptions of the house.

I haven’t finished reading it yet, but as this is a Harlequin I know I’m guaranteed my happily ever after!!

What are you reading right now?

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. Thank you for supporting my book-loving blog. xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight)

AgnesMoorjpg.jpg

This week’s tea and book pairing is for a very sweet story, Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight by Alyssa Cole. It’s a short love story featuring Agnes Moor, a black woman who has a position at the court of King James IV (Scotland) as the “favorite.” The King and Queen consider her their “exotic.” But Agnes is so much more than just something to show off. She is extremely intelligent, brave, beautiful and poised. She also speaks Gaelic.

This story has it all. There is a jousting tournament, a knight in shining armor (known as “The Wild Knight”) and a happily ever after. This is an interracial romance set in the Scottish Highlands and it’s really a must-read because I don’t know of any other story like it, plus the character Agnes Moor is inspired by a real woman.

BreakfastBlendTea
Tea image via Fortnum & Mason.

It was fun to decide which tea to pair with this book. I think Fortnum’s Breakfast Blend goes well with this story because Breakfast Tea was first blended in Edinburgh* and the story is set in Scotland.

Happy Reading!

xoxo, Jane

*Queen Victoria enjoyed drinking this blend during her trips to Scotland and it soon became popular in England.

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. Thank you for supporting my book-loving blog. xoxo, Jane