Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Make Me Instantly Want To Read a Book

This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is "things that make me instantly want to read a book." When I first saw this topic I thought it would be more about the actual words on the page in a book. But the more I pondered my reasons I realized I often want to read a book for the strangest or silliest reasons. This was surprising to think about but we are often drawn to books in all kinds of ways. Here are the ten ways I decide whether or not to give a book a go. 

1. The cover 

This has fooled me many times....a beautiful cover with a gorgeous setting and a colorful display can really suck me in. I have to watch out for this and remember that often the cover is the end for me if the book is not great.

2. The author 

I am a huge fan of sequels...maybe it's just comforting to know that I already enjoyed the other books and I know what I'm getting. So if it's one of my favorite authors like Anne Perry or Diana Gabaldon, I am going to want to read the book instantly.

3. Good reviews

I definitely will read a book if a trusted reviewer recommends it. Some of my fellow bloggers are the ones I go to first for this but Amazon and Goodreads are always a great place to start too.

4. Subtitles

I didn't realize this would be on my list until I started thinking about my answers. A well written, succinct subtitle draws me in and gives me that added "extra" within the main title to make me want to open the book and give it a try.

5. Historical fiction 

If a book is historical fiction or history set in certain time periods with certain historical figures I'm almost certain to give it a try or at least read the summary.

6. Real people 

This sort of goes along with number 5. I'm not a huge fan of fictional characters. I only enjoy them if they appear alongside real historical characters and then I get drawn into their fictional lives as they relate to those real people.

7. Length 

I enjoy longer books, those with some depth to them. If a book is 350 plus pages I'm more likely to spend my time on it. Sometimes mysteries are the exception but I love to get into an epic long book when I can.

8. Kings, Queens, Royalty of any kind

Yes this is a lot like number 5 but for me it is its own category! I am obsessed with books featuring royal persons especially if it is a narrative style biography of them.

9. Cozy mysteries set in the 1920's

This one may have more to do with the cover thing  again (see number 1) but I have discovered I am drawn to this genre in this time period. They are just fun and light hearted and good for the soul.

10. Anything set in historical Scotland 

This is such a favorite setting with me that I will give most stories a try if they take place during this time and place. 

What are your top reasons for reading a certain book? What makes you want to give it a try?


Sunday, May 21, 2023

Stacking the Shelves #4

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Reality. It's a place to showcase any books I have purchased, borrowed, or been lucky enough to have been given an advance copy of. Here are this week's new to me books! 

It's time for the next book in my favorite 1920's cozy mystery series! Lady Eleanor, her butler, and her bulldog are going to the fair and I can't wait to see what trouble she will find there. I absolutely love these and look forward to buying the next one each time I am ready to continue. I try to read them "in season" as the authors write one for each time of the year. June is the perfect time to begin book six.

The only book I've seen that really delves into the life of Katherine Swynford is Anya Seton's Katherine and that one is historical fiction. I love Alison Weir so this book is sure to be thorough and engaging. I might have to wait a bit to dive into it though. I'm tired and not feeling able to concentrate on it just yet. But it does look like a good history book when I'm ready.

I am usually not a fan of audiobooks but I caved and decided to listen to this one. David Suchet from Poirot does the voice of Hercule Poirot and that sounds like a lot of fun! I found out it is the Read Christie choice for July so I guess I'll be ahead of the game too.

What "new to you" books have you gotten your hands on this week? 

Friday, May 19, 2023

The Mummy Case (Amelia Peabody Book Three ) by Elizabeth Peters


Publication Date: 1985

Length: 313 pages

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐☆☆

This is the third installment in a very entertaining series. I'd also say informative because I have learned a lot about pyramids and archaeology from these books! The author held a Ph.D. in Egyptology so even though these books are fiction and meant for fun, she really knows her stuff and it shines through as authentic. The main characters, Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson Radcliffe, as well as their precocious tyke Ramses are witty and sarcastic and all the things I love about good historical fiction heroes and heroines. 

When this story begins, Amelia and Emerson are in England, trying to adjust to domestic life. They dream of working in Egypt again and Emerson longs to go to a place called Dahshoor for their next adventure. When another archaeologist is given the permission to excavate the site they are disheartened and even more so when the only place they are able to go is Mazghunah, not their first choice as there is nothing interesting or romantic there. It is in a desolate part of the pyramids and embarrassing for Emerson, who feels it is far beneath his standing to take it on in a meaningful way. With no other choice available they decide to make the effort anyway, and end up bringing son Ramses along with a grateful, yet naive minded servant, John.

Things appear to be mundane and uneventful until a local man is found hanging in his antiquities shop, and the case is presented as an unfortunate case of suicide. As Amelia and Emerson do some investigating they are convinced it is something more sinister.

Meanwhile, two religious groups appear to be clashing, the local Coptic Egyptian Christians and another band of American missionaries. Each is determined to stake out their claim to the lost souls of the area and neither is very understanding of the other groups' ways. Amelia and Emerson, being of no particular religious persuasion, do not care to be involved but things seem to move in such a way that they are slowly pulled into the animosity and are forced to conclude that there are things going on under the surface that may be connected to other, darker happenings. 

Ramses becomes attached to his own dig site run by none other than Emerson's nemesis (who he sees as the thief of the place that should rightfully have been his) one Jacques de Morgan, an actual historical figure that Peters inserted into her fictional story. He is arrogant, yet knowledgeable and although Ramses is allowed to tag along on some adventures, it is clear that his father is not thrilled. Things come to a climax as the Radcliffes start to seem to be targeted by a thief who breaks into their residence and as they feel more threatened they realize all the clues between the death of the shop owner, the religious sects, and a fire all are related in some way. For their safety and well being they have to figure out how. 

I always enjoy the author's use of unique vocabulary, setting, and history. She does a great job of weaving humor into the story, often at Emerson's expense, as Amelia loves to challenge him and assert her womanly independence whenever possible. They have a clearly defined romantic attachment underneath their sparring that shines through and although Amelia does not appear to love all things motherhood, she tempers what is Emerson's sometimes overly sentimental feelings toward Ramses and his antics. 

The mystery part of the story was a bit confusing and felt disjointed. I didn't think the plot was very strong and was kind of pieced together without a real plan. This is because I kept waiting for it all to come together at the end and honestly, I didn't find the resolution very believable. It didn't matter though because I still enjoyed the other things. Normally with a cozy mystery you'd want the mystery part to be stronger but if the characters are drawn well and are interesting enough, they can carry a mediocre story line. I'd still recommend not skipping this one if you are reading the books in order. And I give a lot of grace in series books....it's hard to make every one of them stand out.

My only other problems with it were that yes, Ramses could get a bit annoying with his overly, unlikely genius vocabulary and as in book two, I didn't relate to Amelia's lack of motherly affection. But probably the biggest annoyance for me is that the author seems to have a subtle, yet marked disdain for Christians and their beliefs. Being one myself it can get old when she makes a habit of repeatedly letting us know through her protagonist just how ridiculous she finds us. But again, it is not strong enough to make me shun the books....just a bit disheartening and personal. One has to weigh the pros and cons of any book and this is an area for me to consider. 

I will definitely continue with book four at some point. This series is unique and historically accurate enough that I want to know what happens next. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Things Getting in the Way of Reading

This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is "things getting in the way of reading." Boy do I need this one because it feels like when you are a teacher and a mother there is no way to read in the month of May! This post should really be "what isn't getting in the way of my reading? But for me, June is coming and hopefully a lot of reading time for summer! Here is my list of things sucking up all my reading time right now though. If you identify with some of these let me know....it's nice to know I'm not the only one!

1. School-  When you are a teacher, April is testing month and May is all the things month....field trips, wrapping up the end of the year, etc. I'm tired and out of schedule as the days get a little unpredictable. There is barely time to eat lunch much less take a few minutes to catch up on a chapter or two in my latest book.

2. Baseball- Well this one might as well be labeled year round for my house. My son has been playing since he was 3 and now that he is almost 15 it is serious business. I am gone a lot and that will continue in June but at least I'll have my days free. And always bring that Kindle to the ballpark in case I get time between games!

3. Blogging- Oh the irony....blogging about books often keeps me from actually reading them. Any of my fellow bloggers agree? I absolutely love blogging, reading all my fellow bloggers latest posts, but am realizing all that time could be spent reading the books...it's a real problem.

4. Chores- this one is kind of boring but it's a daily issue. I am a neat freak and I have a really hard time sitting down to read a book when there are dishes in the sink and laundry in a chair. I feel guilty and can't concentrate. I want to ignore it all but it feels impossible. Unless the book is really, really good :)

5. Family time- I do not live in a house full of readers. At all. My boys are very good at school required reading, have never ever struggled in this area but with all the technology in today's world neither they nor my husband ever pick up a book. It kinda makes me sad....but they don't identify with me in this area. So they aren't exactly understanding that I might want to skip togetherness sometimes to see how my chapter ends.

6. Technology- This is one I'm trying so hard to work on! I do it to myself. Facebook, Twitter, etc. can suck away all your time and concentration if you aren't careful. Sometimes I just have to silence my phone and put it away or I'd never finish a book.

7. Looking for new books- I think this one is kind of funny. I can kill an evening surfing for new books. And I wasn't as much this way before I started blogging. It is so relaxing to just scroll through Amazon, Net Galley, or the Goodreads shelves looking at all the books I have yet to read. But it keeps me from actually reading them. So weird. 

8. Falling asleep- This one is a real problem during the week. I will be excited to finally have a few minutes at the end of the day to read and the next thing I know, I'm out. Like a light. And the next day I have to start over because I literally can't remember anything I've read. So annoying!

9. Texting friends- While it probably belongs with number 6, this is actually its own category. I might be able to shut off apps but I have a hard time shutting off my friends. I feel the need to respond to everything and have to remember they'd want me to take me time. So I'm trying to ignore and just enjoy my book some days.

10. The gym- I am not one of those people that hates to workout. It's totally the opposite in fact. I love going to the gym. But let's face it, it is time consuming and I've never been someone who can read while on the elliptical bouncing up and down. I'm sweating, out of breath, and trying to follow a plot line....it doesn't work for me. I end up watching Brit Box mysteries and that's fun...but it doesn't get my book read!

Usually when I finish a top ten list I'm running out of books or ideas. Not so with this post! I have a million things that take up my blissful reading time. When I was single in my nice, quiet apartment with only a cat to care for, I'd spend whole Saturdays plowing through books. I still love to read just as much but my life takes over now. I'm trying to remember to enjoy it all because my boys will be leaving me in the next 3-5 years, I'll retire from teaching, and I'll have lots of time to read....but then I'll be lonely for all the crazy!! And hey, I could be reading right now....so I think I'll stop this list and get to it. 


Sunday, May 14, 2023

Stacking the Shelves #3

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Reality. It's a place to showcase any books I have purchased, borrowed, or been lucky enough to have been given an advance copy of. Here are this week's new to me books! 

This has been on my Classics Club list for awhile and I've always intended to read it. I loved Rebecca so I'm hoping this one is just as good. 

The current choice for Read Christie May is one I just couldn't get my hands on....digitally or otherwise. So I'm tackling this one with the same theme of betrayal.

The third in a series I love....hoping this one is good. It continues the story of Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson as they spend their days in 19th century Egypt, pyramid hunting and getting into trouble. 

What new reads are you adding to your shelves this week? Are they new books, yet to be published books, or old classics?

Friday, May 12, 2023

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander Book 2) by Diana Gabaldon

Publication Date: July 1, 1992

Length: 752 pages

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

One of my goals for my blog is to eventually review all of Gabaldon's books. I know it's been done by so many blogs but they are my favorite series of books and having read them all years ago before I started my book blog, I am behind on the review part. I always have a re-read going of one of them and am currently on my third re-read of book 3, Voyager. I finished my third re-read of Dragonfly in Amber last year so I thought it was time to get going on the review. Since I'm only halfway through the book I originally planned to review this week, it's a perfect time to turn to this goal. And FYI.....it's hard to review this book without a few spoilers if you haven't read book one...you've been warned!

Always reviewing with the assumption that one hasn't read the previous book, it's a good idea to explain where we are when this one begins. Time traveler Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser at the end of book one has committed herself to her new husband Jamie and their life together in 18th century Scotland. She is pregnant with their first child and looking forward to staying in the past with the man she loves. Having left behind her first husband Frank, through no fault of her own, she realizes she is making a difficult choice, but since she and Frank had barely gotten to know each other in the present day and due to wild circumstances beyond her control, she feels there is no contest when it comes to following her heart with Jamie. 

When book two begins it is a bit confusing because we expect to continue the saga we left behind. But it begins in the year 1968 in Inverness with a completely new character, Roger Wakefield, who is going through his late father's belongings and attempting to make sense of the many books and scraps of information he left behind. He is visited by Claire and her daughter Brianna who have come to pay their respects to his late father and while they are visiting, details come to light which begin to see Roger caught up in the past and Claire's personal, fantastic story. As we settle in to hear her tale, we are taken back to 1744, to Le Havre, France, where the first Outlander book left off. From there we do not return to 1968 until the very end of the book. But there is an amazing story in between those years.

Claire and Jamie have gone to France to try to stop the Jacobite rebellion and therefore change the outcome of the Battle of Culloden. They plan to infiltrate Bonnie Prince Charlie's circle of conspirators, acting as if they are on board for the battle to see his father, James Stuart, restored to the throne of England. Jamie and Claire want Charles to fail in gaining financial and military support because they know the current outcome is devastating and tragic for Scotland and all those dear to them. Staying at Jamie's Uncle Jared's opulent Parisian home, the Frasers attend high society gatherings and in Jamie's case, brothels, to seek out any information they can gather and gain the trust of Prince Charlie and his compatriots. Their optimism in their endeavor begins to fade slowly as each experience brings them closer to the seemingly inevitable outcome. They find themselves caught up in the historical inevitability of the facts they know are true while hoping that any small thing they do will change the course they are on.

The first time I read this book I sped through it. I wanted to make sense of what on earth was going on. Why did the story start in 1968? Who is Roger and why do I care? Why is Claire in the modern time and not with Jamie in the 1700's? It was a bewildering beginning and Gabaldon even wrote a preface to reassure the reader to keep going....it will all make sense! Even when I had finished the book I was still confused with dates, timelines, back stories.....it is an intricate, detailed story and if you are a true Outlander fan, a re-read is a must. By the third go around I'd finally understood everything and all the parts fit together. But even now there are things I have forgotten. At almost 800 pages it is impossible to memorize it all.

In order of enjoyment I rank this book second. Voyager, the third book is my absolute favorite, the first Outlander my third favorite. Dragonfly covers the slow build to Culloden in a thorough way, weaving in fictional characters we've grown to hate, like Black Jack Randall and adding historical ones like Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, the sneaky head of Clan Fraser and a relative of Jamie's. We meet Master Raymond, Claire's friend from the apothecary shop and Mother Hildegarde, her mentor at the Paris hospital where Claire spends her days helping the sick and injured. The major battles of the Jacobites, Prestonpans and Falkirk, are covered in realistic detail, as well as the march toward the biggest battle, Culloden. And we are joined by the Highlanders, who become near and dear to us as their story progresses. Every time I have read it, I notice little details I'd missed before and marvel at how attached I become to the place and time. 

Many people I've talked to or read reviews from about these books complain that they are too long. I get it. The first time I plowed through her books, especially this one, I thought, "this could be shortened by a lot and still tell the same story." I have totally changed my opinion. Later Outlander books I feel this is somewhat true, but after reading Dragonfly three times I've decided that every page has great significance if you are going to understand the rest of the series. So take your time, take notes, and don't rush it. You will be rewarded in the end and even more so if you continue with book three.


Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Recommend To Others the Most


If you've read any reviews on this blog or any of my top ten lists, then you probably already know some of the books I'm going to list here. I'm honestly not someone who "recommends" books to others. I find reading is so personal that what I like is often not for others and those who read my reviews on my blog are usually either already looking for the genres I prefer or are open to anything. 

But I will list the ones I'd recommend if someone asked me, "What should I read?" Some are non-fiction, some serious fiction, and some are for pure enjoyment. Hopefully you find one you'd like to try and be sure to share some of yours with me in the comments. Happy Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) and happy reading!

1. William Monk Mysteries by Anne Perry- my favorite Victorian mystery series. Perry passed away last month and now her books will be even more special. I had hoped there would be more but sadly the series has come to an end. 

2. Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon- everyone's favorite Scottish based series about time traveling Claire and her husband Jamie Fraser.

3. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis- the timeless classic case for Christ by an exceptionally wise man.

4. Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie- the most thorough, engaging story of the last Tsar and Tsarina of Russia that I've read. I learned so much about the causes and outcome of the Russian Revolution.

5. Shattered Crowns series by Christina Croft- a great narrative way to learn about the beginnings and subsequent political intrigues surrounding World War I. It centers around all the major aristocratic players and family drama of those involved. 

6. Queens of England series by Jean Plaidy- simple yet informative, Plaidy covers the major queens from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Elizabeth Tudor.

7. Plantagenet series by Sharon Kay Penman- the best historical fiction series covering the Anarchy period to the death of Richard the Lionheart.

8. Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters- starring everyone's favorite crime solving medieval Monk, Brother Cadfael.....each one is unique and intricate with some history thrown in.

9. Animal Farm by George Orwell- I feel everyone should read this satirical take on the dangers of Communism. It is a timeless classic about human nature and the dangers of following the wrong ideas.

10. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer- I included this one because it has always stuck with me through the years....a young man embarks on a journey of self discovery and finds himself in over his head. His story is heartbreaking and you can't help but feel it all right along with him.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Stacking the Shelves #2


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Reality. It's a place to showcase any books I have purchased, borrowed, or been lucky enough to have been given an advance copy of. Hope you find something that looks interesting to you or that jogs your memory of something you want to read. Enjoy your reading this week :)

This is book three in the Lottie Sprigg cozy mystery series. I haven't read books one or two yet but the "Cairo" hooked me. I love books set in this time period in that location. I have waaayyyy too many types of these books already but I just love them. With all the drama in the world today it's nice to read something charming, simple, and with a mystery thrown in.

This is another book on my Classics Club list that I have needed to add to my shelves. I've only read Pride and Prejudice so I need to get started on this one stat.

I received an ARC of this from NetGalley. It is book three in the Joubert Family Chronicles series. It looks unique and is based on the historical period of the French Huguenots in the 16th Century. 

What are your shelves stacked with this week?

Friday, May 5, 2023

The Sun in Splendour (Plantagenet Saga Book 14) by Jean Plaidy


Publication Date: October 5, 1983

Length: 365 pages

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆

I have been trying to read this book for years. After plowing through Sharon Kay Penman's 1,200 page version, also titled The Sunne in Splendour, I wanted to get Plaidy's take on the Wars of the Roses and the life of King Edward IV and his wife Elizabeth Woodville. Penman's version focuses on younger brother Richard's point of view while Plaidy sticks with a multitude of viewpoints, mostly that of Edward and Elizabeth. Of course I knew going in this was the YA version of the story and nothing in the realm of a huge historical fiction work like Penman's but I don't care. I enjoy Plaidy's simple style. She has a way of taking the complex and simplifying it and adding her own personal touches. That's why I continue to read and review her books even though I realize they are really for a younger audience just starting out with the subject of the book.

The story begins with the viewpoint of the Woodville family, specifically Jacquetta Woodville. Her beautiful daughter Elizabeth Grey, recently widowed, is determined to confront the new Yorkist King, Edward IV to try to regain her sons' inheritance lost when their father died fighting for the Lancastrians in the second Battle of St. Albans. Their famous meeting in Whittlebury Forest sets off a romantic chain of events culminating in the marriage of Edward and Elizabeth and propels the Woodville family to the highest standing in the country, allowing for numerous appointments of family members to important positions. The Woodvilles become more powerful than most of the reigning nobles of the land and create widespread resentment for years to come. 

As the story shifts from the initial meeting of Edward and Elizabeth and their betrothal to their reign as King and Queen of England, Plaidy's narrative viewpoint also shifts, to that of Richard Neville, called the Kingmaker due to his role in seating Edward on the throne, and Edward and his brothers, George, Duke of Clarence, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester. We see the unfolding of the Wars of the Roses through the lens of Neville and the King and the many twists and turns of loyalty and betrayal between them all. 

The three main parts of the book are divided into: Sunrise, High Noon, and Sunset. This correlates to the rise of Edward IV and his glory days of rule, followed by his death and the period of instability when his very young son and heir, Edward V is proclaimed King only to be dethroned by his Uncle and ultimately the disappearance of Edward and his brother. I found that Plaidy covers all the relevant players thoroughly and leaves no one out, from the many friends and admirers of Edward IV to Anne of Neville, to Buckingham and Henry Tudor. Her research is solid and detailed and she includes personal stories for each. 

If you know the story of the Wars of the Roses you won't learn a lot of new information with this book. But somehow that didn't bother me at all. I knew what was going to happen pretty much throughout the whole book but it was like getting a refresher course. I It doesn’t delve into battles or detailed politics of the day but focuses more on relationships and betrayals. If you are new to the story you will come away with everything you need to grasp the major players and the historic timeline.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: The First 10 Books I Randomly Grabbed From My Shelf


Sometimes I feel like I have the same authors all the time on my shelf! Probably because I do :) I also read so many books on Kindle that my bookshelf is kind of bare these days. But here are the ten random books I picked out to share. Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

1. Alexandra by Carolly Erickson (wonderful biography written in a narrative style about the last Tsarina of Russia)

2. The Road To Compiegne by Jean Plaidy (Book Two in her series on the French Revolution)

3. Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George (The title says it all....I need to read this!)

4. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (truly a prized possession....I've read it four times and here is my review https://www.shellielovesbooks.com/2022/04/gone-with-wind-by-margaret-mitchell.html

5. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (a children's classic about a boy from Boston who experiences the American Revolution first hand...a fantastic book for adults too) 

6. The Highland Clearances by John Prebble (can be a bit dry in certain parts if you are used to historical fiction, but this is the gold standard for non-fiction information about this time period, I am lucky to have a copy!)

7. The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon (Book 5 in the Outlander series....I have all of her books so honestly, I could close my eyes and point and I'd probably have a good chance of getting one of them)

8. When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman (Book One in her fantastic Plantagenet series; I want to read it again one day but it's a beast to get through!)

9. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (a satirical take on the Christian life by a man I have read and admired for many years)

10. Fall of Giants by Ken Follett (I really need to finish this series....a great way to learn about the politics, wars, and drama of the early 20th century).