Monthly Archives: February 2018

Wigs on the Green – Nancy Mitford

Wigs on the Green

Wigs on the Green by Nancy Mitford

  • Source: – My copy, bookstore purchase
  • Genre – Fiction, 1930’s, England, High Society, Humorous Fiction

Written in 1934, well into Hitler’s rise to power and popularity, Nancy’s Mitford’s novel takes a skewering and sarcastic look at the lives of the elite. Two friends escape to the countryside in search of wealthy heiresses to marry to sustain their luxurious lifestyle. At the same hotel, there is Lady Marjorie, hiding as a commoner, trying to flee from the Duke she left at the alter. At her side is her friend Poppy, who is trying to decide if she should divorce her rich husband or not. Along this troupe is a ditzy and over-the-top teen heiress living with her overly conservative and easily shocked grandparents. All of this adds up to almost a parody of the high society world of The Great Gatsby.

This was book funny, and quite shocking as well. Its understandably controversial, given Mitford’s take on Hitler. I had to keep reminding myself that this novel was written before his reign of terror and horror over Europe really took hold. Although there is humor and exaggeration in the characters Mitford gives us, it does fall flat in many areas. All in all…its very tongue-in-cheek, but much of it is based on people actually in Mitford’s life (Eugenia is based on her sister Unity Mitford). Which makes me wonder how much she was actually able to separate her sarcasm from the truth. Its no wonder Mitford worked so hard to suppress the publication of this novel for so long. Its definitely not flattering. It reminded me of Voltaire’s Candide, and some of the dialog was as fast-paced and witty as a Dashiell Hammet novel. I would definitely give the author’s other books a try, but I don’t think I’ll be revisiting this one anytime soon.

Mailbox Monday 2/26/2018

I’m a little late today, but this book came this afternoon. IMG_E8510[1]

Ten years ago, Rachael gave up the love of her life. Now, he’s marrying someone else. In Paris. Would you go?

The Paris Wedding by Charlotte Nash

  • ARC via William Morrow Publishing
  • June 2018 Publication


The Year of Less – Cait Flanders

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

  • Source: Library – Hoopla Digital Audiobook
  • Genre: Nonfiction – Memoir, shopping, self-help

In her late 20’s, Cait finds herself in debt, stuck in a consumerism cycle that is becoming more and more demanding. Despite having paid off nearly $30,000 in debt, her old habits keeping reappearing, taking over the progress she’s been making. Fed up one day, Cait begins a year of less, a year of decluttering all of the toxins in her life and starting a new page in her book. In this book, she chronicles her progress, but really focuses on what brought her to this stage of having less in the first place.

* * * * * * * * * *

I found this book when I was at an impasse in my reading habits. I didn’t like any of the audiobooks I had downloaded and there wasn’t any genre in particular I wanted to find. I came across this title just browsing through my library’s Hoopla collection. I always enjoy books about decluttering so I gave it a try. It was completely not what I was expecting and it was completely refreshing, depressing and engaging. So many titles of the same topic include the after-effects of getting rid of our stuff. So many of those titles are about the wealthy who have the option to declutter and do it more for an aesthetic than a life-changing experience.

Cait spends very little of the book actually talking about her experience of having less. All of that she chronicled on her blog Blonde on a Budget prior to the book’s release. In this book, she delves into what led her into her unhealthy lifestyle and how she slowly crept her way out of debt, out of alcoholism, out of consumerism habits that were bringing her down emotionally, physically and mentally. Her story is very raw and very real and I really appreciated her honesty. Progress and change aren’t easy and they don’t happen overnight. She found that keeping a blog and reporting to the wide world kept her accountable, most of the time. Its really a book about prioritizing our values and the value of experiences versus the value of things. She personalized it to her needs and without setting particularly restrictive limits, she found herself spending less, attempting to DIY or repair when possible. But also admitting that those things are really more effort than their worth. Which is so refreshing to hear. Yes, we can all make our own candles…but do we really want to, and should we feel like we have to when we don’t want?

Secrets of a Charmed Life – Susan Meissner

Secrets of a Charmed Life

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

  • Source: Library – Friend’s of the Library Bookstore
  • Genre: Fiction – Historical, WW2, England,

Growing up in the East End of London during the start of WW2, Emmy Downtree took more responsibilities than a typical 15-year-old. Acting as a mother to her half-sister Julia all the while dreaming of becoming a wedding dress designer. Emmy had just taken on a part-time job at the local wedding dress store when events were speeding up in the war. Children were being evacuated from their homes and being transported to the countryside to live with foster families as the war raged on in London. After receiving a letter from her former employer, Emmy returns to London with Julia in tow. Not knowing that their return would be the day of the infamous blitz. Divided and alone, Emmy must take her own future into her own hands. But who will she be? Emmy Downtree or Isabel Crofton?

* * * * * * * * * * *

I could not put down this book. It was written so beautifully. The rage, resentment and anger Emmy felt towards her mother influenced so many of her decisions. Her love-hate relationship with being Julia’s guardian. Loving and taking her of her much younger sister, all the while wanting to spread her own wings and fly away from the life their mother had provided for them in the East End. During her journey, Emmy learned so much about her own history through accidental meetings and occurrences. The characters felt so real. We never learned in school that children where separated from their families all throughout the war. Children sent to England from other countries, children sent from London the countryside, all hoping to find safer land and shelter from the war above their heads. This is a book about the war, but moreso about one family’s experiences, losses and discoveries as a result of the war.

Into the Water – Paula Hawkins

Into the Water

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

  • Source: Library – Overdrive Audiobook
  • Genre: Fiction – Mystery, Murders, Rivers

A small English town is rocked when the body of Nel is pulled out of the infamous Drowning Pool. Some say she jumped, some think she was killed due to her on-going investigations into the history of the Drowning Pool and the numerous females lives taken by the water. Long-lost memories resurface for Nel’s sister Jules as she steps in to care for Nel’s teenage daughter. Told through a series of voices, the puzzle behind her death is slowly put together as the reader uncovers the truth.

For one thing, I’m really glad I listened to the audiobook. There are so many different voices and characters to keep track of. Each chapter is a new person. The audiobook, with an ensemble cast, really helped me keep up with the story and the slow reveals as different character reveal different clues. Overall, I thought it was wonderfully creepy and well done. I loved the ensemble cast narrating the story. Although it was slower paced than Girl on the Train, I didn’t find it dull at all. All of the characters were layered, interesting, deceitful. confused, sympathetic, and neurotic. I feel bad for all of the children, all of the miscommunication, misogyny, and willful ignorance in that one small town. So many lost lives over petty grievances and unfaithful spouses.

The Music Shop – Rachel Joyce

The Music ShopThe Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

  • Source: Library – Overdrive Audiobook
  • Genre: Fiction – Music; Love Stories

Rachel Joyce is one of my favorite authors, but this book hit a flat note with me (har har). It started off really well, with a diverse and eccentric community living on Unity Street. Most of the story takes place in The Music Shop on the street, run by Frank. Set during the late 1980’s, Frank only seels vinyl. Not CDs, only vinyl.  His love for music and its stories are contagious and endearing. He has a knack for selecting the right music for each person’s needs. He’s a bit socially awkward, particularly around one Ilse Brauchmann, a woman who visits his shop and who he falls for, despite his efforts to the contrary. One day, Ilsa faints outside his shop. In all of the hoopla of getting her help, she leaves behind her purse at the shop. From that fateful day, Frank and Ilsa form an interesting relationship, hinting at their adoration for each other, without being able to say the words. Frank is unable to handle the feelings of love that bubble up for him. Ilsa is engaged to another man.

The tug of war of “will they or won’t they” is endless in the novel. Frank is just unable to let love into his world, particularly after the death of Peg, his eccentric mother who planted the seed that grew into his love and knowledge of music history. This book is ultimately an ode to music than a romance or love story. Its quirky, its contemporary, despite being set in the 1980s. The characters are diverse and have their own nuances and eccentricities. Despite all of this, somewhere towards the last third of the story, I started losing interest. Maybe I just picked up this book at the wrong time. The narrator didn’t appeal to me all that much either. He was very gruff, the way I would expect Frank to sound like, but I still didn’t feel a big urge to return to the book after a break.

PS. If you like this book, try: High Fidelity

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

The European Reading Challenge

January 1, 2018 to January 31, 2019

This looks like fun! I already read plenty of books set in France and England. Hopefully now I can expand my reading travels to other countries in Europe. Is anyone else doing this challenge?

From the Rose City Reader


  • Read all books between January 1, 2018 and January 31, 2019. I like having 13 months so there is extra time to finish after the holidays. However, if you participated in the 2017 European Reading Challenge, you can only count books read in January 2018 for one year — either the end of the 2017 challenge or the start of the 2018 challenge — you don’t get to count one book for both challenges.

THE GIST: The idea is to read books by European authors or books set in European countries (no matter where the author comes from). The books can be anything – novels, short stories, memoirs, travel guides, cookbooks, biography, poetry, or any other genre. You can participate at different levels, but each book must be by a different author and set in a different country – it’s supposed to be a tour. (See note about the UK, below)

THE LIST: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vatican City.

NOTE: Even after Brexit, the United Kingdom is still one country, in Europe, that includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. So one book from any one of these four counts as your one book for the United Kingdom. I’m not going to be a stickler about it because challenges should be about fun not about rules. However, when it comes to winning the Jet Setter prize, only one book from one of the UK countries will count.


FIVE STAR (DELUXE ENTOURAGE): Read at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.

FOUR STAR (HONEYMOONER): Read four qualifying books.

THREE STAR (BUSINESS TRAVELER): Read three qualifying books.

TWO STAR (ADVENTURER): Read two qualifying books.

ONE STAR (PENSIONE WEEKENDER): Read just one qualifying book.

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.



I can finally start participating in this meme!

  • Brixton Beach by Roma Tearne came from HarperPress via Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
  • Black Sugar by Miguel Bonnefoy came from Gallic via Meryl Zegarek Public Relations

I also had a couple of audiobooks become available on Overdrive this week. Too bad I can’t double up on audiobooks the way I can with tangible books.

Cover image for George and Lizzie Cover image for Uncommon Type

January 2018 – Reviews

True to my word, I’m going to attempt to update this blog on a regular basis again this year.

I’ll start with a summary of what I read in January.

There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge)

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Akeson McGurk

  • Source: Library
  • Genre: Parenting

I adored this look into the Scandinavian style of parenting. It was an encouraging reminder that it is OK to let my kid play outside in non-sunny weather. McGurk was not preachy nor demeaning towards American parenting styles, as most international parenting books tend to be. This was just an account of her life in US, then in Sweden. Each chapter ends with a book recommendation as well as a few ideas or things to keep in mind when letting kids play in inclement weather. I quote from this book a lot at work and to the preschool teachers and parents that I work with.

PS. If you want more titles like this, try: Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life  &   The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World

  1. Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life by Richard Louv
  2. The Hidden Lives of Trees by Peter Wohlleben


Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian's Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks by Annie Spence

  • Source: Library – Hoopla Digital Audiobook
  • Genre: Books about Books

A book about books by a librarian carefully weeding (getting rid of) books from the bookshelf. Some books I had read and loved, other’s I knew nothing about, other’s I immediately added to my To-Read list. I loved Annie’s take this part of the library-world. I loved her wry humor and all of her stories about conversations with library patrons that I too have had in the course of my career.

P.S. If you want more titles like this, try: The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1)   &   Quiet, Please: Dispatches From A Public Librarian

  1. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  2. Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas


What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories

What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food that Tells Their Stories

  • Source: Library – Overdrive Audio
  • Genre: Biography – Food

A culinary historian takes a look at the lives of 6 women through the food they ate, served to others or otherwise made up their lives. It was an interesting book and I learned something about each of the women in the book. Although pretty much all of the women in this book are white, European, with upper or middle class status. I was hoping for more diversity. Eva Peron or Frida Kahlo would have had amazing stories. Shapiro choose 3 women from England, 2 from the US and 1 from Germany. Although the book spans the century from Dorothy Wordsworth to Helen Gurley Brown, I didn’t find anything particular fascinating about this book. Somewhere during the Barbara Pym chapter I started zoning out of the audiobook. When I restarted the chapter after a break, I honestly had no idea which woman she was talking about, all of their food issues began to sound the same. I found the Eleanor Roosevelt chapter the most interesting because of how horribly the food was served at the White House. Shapiro delves in the history and events of the era each women lived in, adding context and perspective to the foods in their lives. I found those portions far more interesting than the actual food or the women themselves discussed in the book.

P.S. If you want more like this, try: The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu

  1.  The Language of Food by Dan Jurafsky

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1)

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1) by Brittany Cavallaro

  • Source: Library (Overdrive Audiobook)
  • Genre: YA – Mystery

The great, great, great descendants of the amazing (and very real) private detective duo of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson find themselves sent to the same New England prep school in their freshman year. Charlotte Holmes and James (Jaime) Watson are linked by a string of murders and attacks on the school as they dig through the clues to solve the mystery.

This book was incredibly fun to listen to. The characters were true to their origins (stoic Holmes and the observant Watson), but also had the hallmark drama and insecurities of being teenagers dealing with identity issues, peer pressure and homework. The narrator did an amazing job and really kept the story going. The plot was well-paced with interesting twists. Much of it was predictable, but it didn’t make it any less entertaining. I could see this turning in an incredibly fun TV series.

P.S. If you want more like this, try: Heist Society (Heist Society, #1)

  1. Heist Society by Ally Carter