Friday, December 29, 2017

Happy New Year

Just popping in to wish everyone a very happy new year.  I hope 2018 is filled with love, laughter, and good books.  I am off to a surprise birthday party.  I will post a long account of my holidays...which mostly includes lots of reading.  

I am anxiously looking forward to beginning my challenges.  I am making my lists and checking them twice?  oops  a lapse into the holidays.

Be back soon...

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

First Paragraph Tuesday

First Chapter Tuesday is hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea

"This tale begins, as do many Nantucket tails [sic], with a dog.  A Norwich terrier, the runt of the litter--which made him very small indeed--a stubby, sturdy, tan, pint-sized pup with a face like a fox's, ears like a panda's, and the dark passionate eyes of Antonio Bandaras."

This first paragraph is a little misleading because the story centers on Nicole and her new marriage; however, as the novel progresses the little terrier appears every now and then.  What's up with that? hmm!

From Amazon:Holidays on this Massachusetts island are nothing short of magical, and the season’s wonderful traditions are much loved by Nicole Somerset, new to Nantucket and recently married to a handsome former attorney. Their home is already full of enticing scents of pine, baking spices, and homemade pie.

But the warm, festive mood is soon tempered by Nicole’s chilly stepdaughter, Kennedy, who arrives without a hint of holiday spirit. Determined to keep her stepmother at arm’s length—or, better yet, out of the picture altogether—Kennedy schemes to sabotage Nicole’s holiday preparations. Nicole, however, is not about to let anyone or anything tarnish her first Christmas with her new husband

From me, again:
I am not really a fan of romances but lately I have stumbled upon a few that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Maybe it's the holiday!

Monday, December 18, 2017

It's Monday!

Hosted by Book Date.

Just Finished:   

From Amazon:
August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.
But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…
Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?
Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

From Me:
This was a surprise for me.  I stumbled on it by accident while looking for Christmas books.  Written in a series of letters, this is the story of Evie, Thomas, and their friends during World War I.  I highly recommend this.  It is a quick read.  It is funny, sad, romantic and realistic.  Please read it!

Still Reading:



From Amazon:
In the Cornish coastal village of Mount Polbearne, the Christmas season has arrived. It’s a joyous time for family, friends, and feasting, as decorations sparkle along the town’s winding streets and shop windows glow with festive displays. And in Polly’s Little Beach Street Bakery, the aroma of gingerbread cookies and other treats tempts people in from the cold.
Though Polly is busy keeping up with the demands of the season, she still makes time for her beekeeper boyfriend, Huckle. She’s especially happy to be celebrating the holiday this year with him, and can’t wait to cuddle up in front of the fireplace with a cup of eggnog on Christmas Eve.
But holiday bliss soon gives way to panic when a storm cuts the village off from the mainland. Now it will take all of the villagers to work together in order to ensure everyone has a happy holiday.

From Me:
I read the first book in the series when Polly buys the bakery and the central characters are introduced.  It's cute.  This contains more adventures of the group centered around the holidays.  It is good so far.  There are some predictable ups and downs.  I definitely will finish and I probably will read more books about Polly, the bakery, and her friends.

Up Next:

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg (a reread)
A Nantucket Christmas by Nancy Thayer
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I think I will finish David Copperfield by Christmas!!!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday Firsts

I have finally found a book by Gregory Maguire that I love.  I just finished Hiddensee: The Once and Future Nutcracker.   What an addition to a Holiday bookshelf!  As I said in an earlier post, I have always wanted to love Maguire's works but I found Wicked so hard to get into, that I never went any further.  I am ready to give other titles a try.    Perhaps it helped that I read E. T. A, Hoffman's book The Nutcracker.  That gave me a fresh foundation for Hiddensee.  I will post a full review soon.  Now for my "firsts" and my second Maguire book.

First - "The Little Match-Girl"

I downloaded A Christmas Greeting: A Series of Stories by Hans Christian Anderson.  I used the Project Gutenberg site to find it.  This volume contains 14 holiday themed stories.  Anderson included a kind of dedication in the form of a letter to Charles Dickens.

"I am again in my quiet Danish home, but my thoughts are daily in dear England, where, a few months ago, my many friends transformed for me reality into a charming story.

Whilst occupied with a greater work, there sprung forth--as the flowers spring forth in the forest seven short stories."  I feel a desire, a longing, to transplant in England the first produce of my poetic garden, as a Christmas greeting: and I send it to you, my dear, noble, Charles Dickens, who by your works had been previously dear to me, and since our meeting have taken root for ever in my heart.

Your hand was the last that pressed mine on England's coast:  it was you who from her shores wafted me the last farewell.  It is therefore natural that I should send to you, from Denmark, my first greeting again, as sincerely as an affectionate heart can convey it.

Hans Christian Anderson

Copenhagen, 6th December, 1847" 

Well, considering my recent attachments to Dickens, I thought that most fitting!

I chose to read "The Little Match-Girl".

"Most terribly cold it was; it snowed, and was nearly quite dark, and evening--the last evening of the year."  This is the first sentence of the story.  There is no page 56.

I am pairing this story with Matchless by Gregory Maguire.

"On an island so far north that it snowed from September to April, a boy named Frederik kept himself warm by keeping a secret." (1)

"In a lane off the main square a small girl shivered in her threadbare shawl."  This is not page 56.  I fudged.  This is the first sentence of Part Two.  It makes the connection to "The Little Match-Girl."

Rose City Reader  says "Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name."

She goes on to include the Friday 56 from Freda's Voice"The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice."

Matchless: An Illumination of Hans Christian Andersen's Classic "The Little Match Girl" by Gregory Maguire

From Amazon:

With Matchless, Gregory Maguire has reinvented the Hans Christian Andersen classic The Little Match Girl for a new time and new audiences. Originally asked by National Public Radio to write an original story with a Christmas theme, the New York Times bestselling author of Wicked and A Lion Among Men was once again inspired by the fairy tales we all loved in childhood—and he composed a poignant and enchanting tale of transcendence. ...Matchless places Andersen’s pitiful waif in the august company of Maguire’s previously re-imagined Snow White (Mirror, Mirror), Cinderella (Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister), and, of course, the Wicked Witch and other denizens of Oz. 

I'm definitely going to keep reading!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

First Chapter Tuesday

First Chapter Tuesday is hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea

"Once there was a boy who lived in a cabin in the deep woods with no one for company but an old woman and an old man.

In the goat shed one day, the old woman said, 'Watch and you'll see where life comes from.' "

Hiddensee:  A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker. Gregory Maguire. 2017

From Amazon:  Gregory Maguire returns with an inventive novel inspired by a timeless holiday legend, intertwining the story of the famous Nutcracker with the life of the mysterious toy maker named Drosselmeier who carves him.

I had to include the first two paragraphs because as you can see each is only one sentence.  They give the feel of an old legend and seem to authenticate the connection to the legend of the Nutcracker.

I have tried to read other Maguire books to no avail but I was easily drawn into this one with renewed hopes of finally connecting with the others.

I did some research on the legend and read the book by E. T. A. Hoffman which seems most closely aligned with the ballet.  I also did a quick look at the Brothers Grimm who are alluded to in Hiddensee.  They traveled the country side gathering the legends and fairy tales.

I am enjoying so far!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday - Book Date

Hosted by Book Date.

Just Finished:   

What a sweet book.  I have read recently The Man Who Invented Christmas which is a more historically accurate book that Mr. Dickens and His Carol, but the latter is much more touching and enjoyable.  Both are fantastic reads leading into A Christmas Carol.  I will reread that next week.

Still Reading:

I decided to read David Copperfield in the installments as Dickens released them originally.  That amounts to about three chapters a night.  I should finish by Christmas Eve.  I tried once before to plug through this 700+ page book and that didn't work but these smaller chunks are manageable and much easier to "digest."


This is the story on which the Nutcracker Suite Ballet is based (loosely).  I wanted to familiarize myself with the Ballet's story but also I want to read Hiddensee:  A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire.  I am not sure what grabbed me about this book because I had a very difficult time with Wicked. I loved the music but I even had a hard time following the musical.  I want to like Maguire's works so I will give Wicked another try especially if I enjoy Hiddensee.  I will keep you posted!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Weekly Wrap-up

Books Read:
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
  • The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
  • The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman
  • A New York Christmas by Anne Perry
  • The Angel Court Affair by Anne Perry
  • A Christmas Message by Anne Perry
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Books To Be Read:
  • Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva
  • A Christmas Return by Anne Perry
With the exception of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, it seems my December reading is centered on Dickens and Perry.  For some reason I associate Christmas with Victorian England.

I have chosen to read Copperfield in the original installments from Dickens' magazine.  It will take me until December 24.  In the meantime, I will include other holiday fare.

I hope to post some reviews or reactions to these works.  I owe a decent review of The Old Curiosity Shop.  That is what I am working on now.  I will post it upon its completion.  

Friday, December 8, 2017

Book Beginnings

Rose City Reader  says "Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name."

She goes on to include the Friday 56 from Freda's Voice"The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice."

My Read:    

The Angel Court Affair by Anne Perry published in 2015 is number 30 in the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series with a 3.33 star rating on Fictfact.

"Pitt stared at the Home Office minister with disbelief.  He was standing in the quiet, sunlit room in Whitehall, the traffic outside inaudible.   'A Spanish saint?' "  (1)

"It was nothing to do with reconciliation, Ramon agreed quietly."  (56)

Granted neither of these sentences is very "grabbing" but as a fan of the series, I was willing to go a little further.  The Spanish saint is a young woman who ran away from her London home to marry a Spaniard.  Now she returns preaching a new interpretation of Christianity to the consternation of her British family and the Anglican Church.  With treats on her life, Pitt and the Special Branch are called in to provide protection.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


It's Thursday and time to look back.  As the year draws to a close, I have been looking at what I have read in 2017 and trying to find a favorite (or two).  

In 2017 I discovered Fredrik Backman.  I don't know much about him except that he is Swedish, a blogger, a columnist, and now a novelist.  For this, I am most grateful.  

A trusted reading friend recommended A Man Called Ove by Backman.  I picked it up several times on my trips through Barnes and Noble and always ended up laying it aside.  When my friend took me on my birthday jaunt to the bookstore, she picked it up and added to the haul her gift card provided.

From Booklist:

At 59, Ove is a grumble Gus of the first degree. Rules are made to be followed, signs are meant to be obeyed, and don’t even get him started about computers and mobile phones. In truth, Ove has been this way his whole life, but he’s gotten worse in the last four years since his wife, Sonia, died, taking with her all the color in a world Ove sees as black-and-white. Ove has decided life without Sonia is not worth living and plans to join her in the next world. But a young couple and their two children (a third is on the way) move in next door, his oldest friend and most feared enemy is about to be forcibly removed to a nursing home, and a street-scarred cat insinuates itself into his life. Suddenly, Ove’s suicide plans get delayed as he helps solve neighborly crises large and small. Though Ove’s dark mission mitigates any treacly upstaging by animals and small children, readers seeking feel-good tales with a message will rave about the rantings of this solitary old man with a singular outlook. . --Carol Haggas

I sat on my balcony with a cup of coffee and the book.  There had been several occasions that caused me to laugh.  Neighbors walking by with their dogs looked up, smiled, and waved.  But by the time they were on the way back home, I was sobbing. (quite loudly).  I called my friend and could barely catch my breath as I begged her to tell me it would end happily ever after.   I had a good deal left to read.  She hung up chuckling.  I will only say "I love that book."  I love Ove.  I want to live in his neighborhood.  I want to share his friends.  I love that book.

I vowed to read all Backman's books.  They are now downloaded on my kindle.  Yesterday as I browsed the "Books Recommended for You" section, I found "The Deal of a Lifetime."  Wow!  A Christmas book.  A mere 96 pages, this is the story of a man who has sacrificed his family for money and success.  Now, he has a chance to make it right, but it is a drastic plan.  The story moves from present to past and back.  This is not a religious Christmas story, nor is it a pop culture look at the holiday, but readers will walk away with a feeling of redemption and the true meaning of love.

Have I told you how much I love Fredrik Backman?

Monday, December 4, 2017

It is Monday and I am still reading The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens.

Amazon says:

"The Old Curiosity Shop is the mesmerizing and heart-breaking tale about Little Nell, who is orphaned and living with her loving Granddad in the shop. In his attempts to secure Nell’s future, Granddad starts gambling. He keeps his nocturnal games a secret, but borrows heavily from the evil Daniel Quilp, a malicious, grotesquely deformed, hunchbacked dwarf moneylender. In the end, he gambles away what little money they have, and Quilp seizes the opportunity to take possession of the shop and evict Nell and her grandfather. Her grandfather suffers a breakdown that leaves him bereft of his wits, and Nell takes him away to the Midlands of England, to live as beggars. The book enjoyed enormous success when it was first published as a serial and has never been out of print since. It is one of the most familiar and well-loved works by Dickens and has been adapted into numerous films, TV-series and plays."

Because this was originally published in installments, I find that Dickens jumps around covering all the main characters which means we go for many chapters without seeing Little Nell and her grandfather.  

Another criticism I have is that rather than seeing Quilp as a malicious villain, I find him farcical, unintentionally humorous.  To make matters worse I see Tyrion Lannister who is anything but malicious and grotesque.  So for me, Quilp is a failed villain.

Finally, I have very little sympathy for the grandfather.  He falls victim to Quilp because of his own weaknesses not because Quilp is so evil. 

If I were writing a final review I would cite evidence to support my issues but for now this is a cursory glance at the book.  I have slightly more that 25% of the book left to read.  I am sure Dickens is prolonging the drama to keep the serial readership up.  I will plug on.

This meme is hosted by Book Date

Friday, December 1, 2017

Shock Wave

From the back cover...

Tasman Sea, 1856.  A British clipper ship bound for Australia's penal colony is crushed in a raging typhoon.  A few pitiful survivors wash up on a deserted island.  Among these are Betsy Fletcher and Jess Dorsett, who discover an immense supply of exquisite diamonds..

Seymour Island, Antarctica 2000.  Dirk Pitt rescues Maeve Fletcher, a descendant of Betsy and Jess, after an unknown cataclysm kills thousands of marine animals plus nearly two hindered people aboard a cruise ship.  Pitt traces the carnage to the global diamond operations of Maeve's father Arthur Dorsett, and her callous sisters.

Dirk Pitt is a member of the NUMA crew a government sponsored team to study marine life.  Perhaps he can be described as a kind of American James Bond or Indiana Jones.  This entry in the Pitt series is a thriller than moves from Antarctica to Canada to DC.  He must fight a ruthless diamond hunter as well as dangerous environmental threats.
I've only read a few Cussler thrillers but so far they are exciting satisfying adventures, so I see no reason not to continue.  I haven't read them in order and don't feel I have missed anything which is unusual for me because I prefer to go in order.

Friday Books

Rose City Reader  says "Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name."

She goes on to include the Friday 56 from Freda's Voice"The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice."

My read:  

"Night is generally my time for walking.  In the summer I often leave home early in the morning, and roam about fields and lanes all day, or even escape for days or weeks together;but, saving in the country, I seldom go out until after dark, though, Heaven be thanked, I love its light and feel the cheerfulness it sheds upon the earth, as much as any living creature.  (1)

"Some people by prudent management and leaving it off piece by piece like a flannel waistcoat in warm weather, even contrive, in time, to dispense with it altogether; but there be others who can assume the garment and throw it off at pleasure; and this, being the greatest and most convenient improvement, is the one most in vogue."  (56)

From The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens.  This novel was published in book format in 1841.  Prior to that it was released in serial form.  Dickens knew how to play an audience!  I was drawn to this novel when I came across a quote by Oscar Wilde 'One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears...of laughter.'  That sucked me in.  Is this going to be the height of Victorian melodrama?  I can't wait to see.