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 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

 

October, November & December 2019 Wrap-Up Part I

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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

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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}

July, August & September 2019 Wrap-Up Part I

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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.

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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.

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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 #18

This week’s reading links for your amusement and enjoyment are brought to you by my procrastination, delayed metro commutes and Visa (just kidding on that last one!).

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Have a great weekend! 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.

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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.

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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!

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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

 

January, February & March 2019 Wrap-Up

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It’s time for my reading wrap-up for the first quarter of 2019.

I read romances (of course!) and books on photography and fashion. All in all, a very successful first quarter. This is a long post so get yourself a cup of tea and settle in for a fun read about books.

Coming Home for Christmas – A Christmas anthology by Lindsay McKenna, Delores Fossen and Geri Krotow. This anthology features three stories, all military-themed. If you like military-themed romances, then this anthology of three novellas is for you. It’s perfect to read during the festive season (so make a note of it for Christmas 2019). The stories were well-thought out, with rich plots and fleshed out characters. And there is always something romantic about a hero coming home from war.

Except…truth be told, I didn’t realize I would not find this theme romantic. I’ve had a brother and a husband go to war and it was stressful and scary and anxious. And I’ll always have the gray hair I got while my husband was in Afghanistan for one year. I probably won’t be reading military-themed romances again. You learn by reading and I learned that it’s too soon for me to read these types of stories. Nevertheless, the stories were well-written and penned by female military veteran writers and I was happy to support them by buying this book.

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A Christmas Railway Mystery by Edward Marston. This book was a treat. It’s actually part of a series, but I was able to enjoy this book without having read any of the other books. Set in December 1860 in a small town outside London, a detective is on the hunt for a murderer. I played a game with myself to figure out who the murderer is while reading this book, but I was dead wrong with my conclusion (pun intended)! The murderer was someone I least suspected. I’m not sure what Christmas-time and murders have in common, but nevertheless I loved reading this book and I will seek out more English mystery/detective books next Christmas.

Paris for One by Jojo Moyes. This was a very charming short story. The main character is a young British girl (somewhat depressed) who is stood up by her boyfriend at the train station. This forces her to travel to Paris alone. But this is good because she embarks on an entirely new adventure in the City of Light. By the end of the story, our heroine discovers that she deserves to be treated well and learns how to live more daringly. I won’t say anything else, as I don’t want to spoil the ending for you. But if you have an afternoon to spare, this book is a must-read. Captain PoldarkLooking for Captain Poldark by Rowan Coleman. This is another short story. It starts out sweet and funny, but quickly becomes action-packed and leaves you at the edge of your seat. Our main character Lisa is a withdrawn woman (and easily overwhelmed by life) and doesn’t trust anyone because of something bad that happened to her. We don’t find out what that bad thing is until the end of the story. Most of the story takes place while Lisa is driving to Cornwall with a small group of Poldark fans (who dubbed themselves “Poldarlings”) riding along in her car. As they are driving to Cornwall, chaos ensues which leads to soul-searching and self-discoveries for all the characters. This is another quick afternoon read, perfect for summer. Go for it.

Wild Wyoming Nights by Joanne Rock. This was a very romantic, feel-good Harlequin novel. I wrote about it in a previous blog post

PrettyCityLondon by Siobhan Ferguson. This book is a gorgeous read about London’s most scenic neighborhoods and gives you tips on photography. It inspired me to dust off my old camera. 

Kate: How to Dress like a Style Icon by Caroline Jones. I bought this book because I wanted to learn tips on how to dress more stylish. It has pages and pages of gorgeous photography, fashion tidbits, outfit ideas and acts as a look book. I’m so glad I bought this book. It gave me hours of enjoyment. Do I dress more stylish? The verdict is still out.

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 reading my blog. xoxo, Jane

August & September 2018 Wrap-Up

Time for more list-making!!!

August 2018

August was a pretty mellow month (read: I was very lazy). I didn’t do much reading, but the books I did manage to read were wonderful!Books

Books

The After Room (YA), Secrets of a Wallflower, The Bride’s Baby of Shame.

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Movies

Overboad remake, How to Be A Latin Lover, The Lives of Others, The Shape of Water.

Museums

Hillwood Mansion and Museum – Faberge exhibit

September 2018

September was another lazy month, much to my chagrin. But I did listen to tons of fun and/or educational podcasts, so it wasn’t a total wash-out.

Books

The Royal Diaries: Elisabeth. This book was written for children and it’s the fictional diary of Elizabeth, Empress of Austria (Sisi). It was fun to read since I’m a Sisi fan, but I didn’t learn anything new and some of the diary entries were exaggerated or fabricated. Regardless, the tone was authentic to Sisi, so I recommend it for the young readers in your life or for those die-hard Sisi fans.

TV

Forever, Jack Ryan, Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence 

I can’t write about Forever without giving the plot away so I’ll just say it’s about the nuances of marriage and a must-watch. Amazon’s reboot of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan was pretty awesome. I needed something spectacular and action-ey to take my mind off worries and this show did the trick. Ordeal by Innocence was also wonderful. Agatha Christie at her finest. I was at the edge of my seat through the entire series. Though I heard that it’s much different from the book, but I can’t vouch for that since I didn’t read the book.

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My goal for October is to read more books, which is usually what happens during the fall and winter months.

What are your October goals?