Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Year in Review: July through September

I made a really big list

I'm slower this time around in getting my year end review in order, so I'm totally thrown off. It's April 2020, but I'm looking back now on July through September 2019. Oh well, guess I'm just going to go with the flow?

I started making these lists because I'm a list kind of person, but they've become so much more. I've found myself returning to them time and again almost like a scrapbook. It's been a nice way to reflect, remember, and reminisce.

The Vanished Bride (Brontë Sisters Mystery #1)The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis
July sped along with the same momentum as June. Happy, warm, sunny mornings filled with wonderful time spent reading in bed. I'm writing this now on the first day of February 2020 when the mornings are still too dark and the days are still too cold, and so it's nice to remember that "this too shall pass" and the rhythm of my mornings will get easier. This book was an unexpected surprise and continued my streak of delightful review books.

Always EmilyAlways Emily by Michaela MacColl
My interest in the Brontes was piqued, but I didn't want to actually read their books (I love Wuthering Heights, but at least for now I don't have much interest in reading the other Bronte offerings, and, yes, that includes Jane Eyre...I know, I know. Someday it will be the right time and I'm sure I'll love it then). Michaela MacColl isn't an author I think of much, but I've enjoyed the two books I've now read of hers. It's funny how some authors, despite enjoying their books, just seem to slip of of my mind. I keep blending these two Bronte books together in my memory, but that's fine. This experience felt like an unexpected, fun, and light way to delve into historical biography of the Brontes. Kind of like a sideways approach. I liked it.

The Mozart Girl
The Mozart Girl by Barbara Nickel
This is such a little book but still managed to pack in so much. It reminded me of the Royal Diaries books, which is a very good thing. I hope Barbara Nickel writes more like this. I felt so much for Nannerl and I liked how the author balanced her love for and jealousy of her younger brother. I'm really glad I decided to read this one.

The Sacred RiverThe Sacred River by Wendy Wallace
I don't remember how I came across this book, but it was definitely an impulse read. For so many books I feel like I need to let them "breathe" and "age" with me as if they were a bottle of wine. I have to keep them on my TBR for years, open their Goodreads pages a million times, see them on my list, consider reading them for months before finally committing. This one I discovered and started reading all in the same day, which is what I consider an "impulse" read. I'm always kind of proud of reading them, which is such a funny thing to say. Anyway, I was hoping for something in the vein of Sally Beauman's The Visitors or Jeanne Mackin's The Last Collection. Something...historical but more modernish, fictional characters but real historical context. Something that felt....I don't know, I want to say "profound" but that's really not the right word at all. Something with impact. I didn't quite get that as fully as in the other books, and I think it might be because this book follows three main characters and that split focus watered each story down a little. Still though, even with that, I did love this book and I'm so glad I "gave in" to my impulse. I also love that cover.   

The Case of the Missing Marquess (Enola Holmes, #1)The Enola Holmes mystery series by Nancy Springer
I "read" the fifth book in the series way back in 2014 as an audiobook, mostly because it was short. I was lukewarm about it. I've since learned the lesson that I cannot read books for the first time as audiobooks. It ruins it for me. Rereads through audio? Fantastic. But not first runs. So, I started this series now not expecting much, and wow was I surprised when I was utterly sucked into the series. I adored Enola and her heartbreak over her mother's abandonment, her tentative heart-melting with her brothers (even if her love for Sherlock sometimes felt a little *too* romantic), her curiosity, and her intrepid spirit. The history was fun, the mysteries engaging, and I really got a kick out of all the costumes. I'm really glad I decided to pick up this series, which had been on my radar for what seems like forever.

A Little Bit of Buddha: An Introduction to Buddhist ThoughtA Little Bit of Buddha by Chad Mercree
I started August with another impulse read. I've been going to a weekly meditation group and my teacher has been dropping in little bits of "wisdom of the Buddha" so when I saw this shortie pop up in my library, I figured why not? The first part was a lot better than the later chapters, but overall this gave me a nice overview of the teachings of the Buddha. I'm learning that there are a lot of interpretations when it comes to Buddhaism, and so I'm taking it all with a grain of salt, picking up the bits that I find inspiring or thought-provoking, and not losing sleep over the rest.

The Sisters MortlandThe Sisters Mortland by Sally Beauman
So, I read this book in August 2019 and I'm writing this post in February 2020...nearly seven months later and I've been thinking of this book off and on that whole time. I can't say it was enchanting or delightful or happy or had characters I loved. No, I didn't really like any of the characters and it was dark and sad and upsetting. But so, so evocative and immersive. I've now read this book and The Visitors by Sally Beauman, and you can count me a fan. I think she may be one of those authors where I can't judge the storyline, I just need to trust that she's going to write it in such a way that I will love the book regardless. There's this scene that features one of my all time favorite perfumes (Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue) in a very *ahem* visceral way (it's a sex scene) and I must admit that whenever I wear that perfume now I can't not think of that scene.
The Kiss of the Concubine: A story of Anne BoleynThe Kiss of the Concubine by Judith Arnopp
I can't decide with this book. On one hand I liked how the author portrayed Anne. She was a mix of "good" and "bad" and I like that approach (it feels more realistic)...and on the other hand I can't stop cringing at Anne describing Henry playing with her "duckies" (her breasts). That isn't the best lasting impression. Still, despite this, as far as Anne Boleyn books go, this is one of the better ones.

The Age of Innocence 

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

I feel silly admitting it, but I'm always so impressed and proud of myself when I read a classic. I don't know why. They're books. I can clearly read. Why this is an accomplishment I don't know, but polishing off a classic never fails to leave me with a warm glow. I'd like to say it's because they're good books and it's that enriching experience that makes me feel this way, but this is not true at all. I'm pretty sure it's my inner A-student basking in the glory of smartypantsness.  

Anyway, I read Ethan Frome back in 2009 and ten years later I was still thinking about it. At first I thought I disliked it. The story is so depressing! But it packed a wallop of an impression that wouldn't let go and I've grown to really appreciate what Wharton did with that cautionary tale. I decided to pick up Age of Innocence and I loved every second of it. It's funny how even though I lived in NY at the end of the 20th century and Wharton lived there at the start of that century, everything she wrote felt so New York. The characters, the culture, the lifestyle, it all felt so, so familiar.  

Refining Felicity (The School for Manners, #1)Refining Felicity and Perfecting Fiona by M. C. Beaton
I got the Marion Chesney itch again and decided to go back to her historical romances rather than Agatha Raisin. It's the same formula: sweet but slightly off-beat main character, dashing and manly romantic interest, very off-beat elderly sidekicks, and a surprisingly good amount of historical setting. The familiar pattern does wear as it feels like I'm rereading the same book over and over again...but oh I do love that pattern.

The Trouble with TwinsThe Trouble with Twins by Kathryn Siebel
Okay, September started and I began to feel that surge of motivation that can only be felt by a goal-oriented person closing in on the final quarter of the year. Four more months left meant plenty of time to accomplish things as long as I retained Focus. So, in looking at the goals I had set, I realized I wanted to go through more of the books I've owned physical copies of for a number of years. At four years of ownership, The Trouble with Twins definitely checked that box. It was also illustrated, middle grade, super short chapters, and only 208 pages, which meant that I could feel that thrill of crossing off the list in no time at all. Cherry on top? I actually really enjoyed the book.

Hammer of the Scots (Plantagenet Saga, #7)Hammer of the Scots by Jean Plaidy
There are better covers of this book, but I am just tickled by this cover. The costumes, the posture, combined with the now-made-dirty title and the epic masculinity of Edward I and his swooning brides makes me giggle every time I think of it. After reading Cashelmara the year before I'd been itching for another Edward I book. Surprisingly, there aren't a whole lot of them out there, and even fewer if you're looking for fiction. Edward II? Tons. But his father? Slim pickings. This was a typical Plaidy entry of her "delightful" sort: kind of over the top, but still rooted in good historical writing and it feels like she liked writing this one (as opposed to some of her others that feel a little more phoned in). I had a lot of fun with it. Though I still wish I had more Edward I books to read...

Catch Me a ColobusCatch Me a Colobus by Gerry Durrell
I love that Gerry Durrell was such a prolific author. Some are better than others, but they're all light, quick, and amusing. This one was one of the less wonderful ones, but still enjoyable. I enjoyed reading about him describing this novel culinary experience when he visited Mexico in search of a rabbit and tried this unknown treat called a taco. It's funny how things about Mexico that are so familiar to me now as an American in the 21st century were so unfamiliar to the British Gerry Durrell in the early 20th century.

The SwapThe Swap by Megan Shull
I confess, I have a weakness for YA/MG body-swap stories. The Preston Norton book I read in April re-opened this Pandora's box for me and by September I was still hankering for more. I searched for body-swap books and this one came up. A quick download from my library and I was in business. I loved it. This nailed everything I love about body-swap stories and had a super contrived and sweet ending that left me with warm fuzzies. Darn, now I want to read another body-swap story.

Come, Tell Me How You Live: An Archaeological MemoirCome Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie Mallowan
I've been trying to take a much more "go with the flow" approach to my reading and one interesting effect has been that I'm much more likely to stop reading a book midway through if I start to lose interest and then pick it up many months (or years) later and happily finish it off. That's a new level of casual for me that I'm kind of horrified by and kind of impressed with myself. Anyway, I started reading this book in August 2018, put it down in September after reading 23%, picked it up an entire year later and finished it off in September 2019. How's that for go with the flow?


July through September was a wonderful time.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Year in Review: April through June

I made a really big list

It's that time of year again! I started making these lists because I'm a list kind of person, but they've become so much more. I've found myself returning to them time and again almost like a scrapbook. It's been a nice way to reflect, remember, and reminisce.

Sif and the Dwarfs' Treasure by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
April continued my more positive trend and started off with a new installment in a fairly new series from a favorite author duo. While I've almost entirely shifted my reading/reviewing to what I'm interested in reading and reviewing rather than letting publishers or new releases drive my reading and reviewing, Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams' Goddess Girls and Thunder Girls series are books I feel compelled to read and review. They're just so good and I believe in these series so much that I need to share them. They're also straight up delightful to read. 

Flashman by George MacDonald Frasr
The Flashman books have been on my TBR for a really long time but for a variety of reasons I just never seemed to get around to giving them a try. So, I felt pretty good about finally trying out the series. I'm also glad I did because I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's...not a typical book. Flashman is a horrible person. No excuses, no shades of gray, no anti-heroism. He's just straight up mean, immoral, and despicable. Not only does he invariably choose to do the wrong thing, but he doubles down on the badness of it and comes out smelling roses in the end in ways that should infuriate me. I should hate reading about him, but I didn't.There was also a surprising amount of history packed into what is on the surface a swashbuckling adventure tale.

The Decoy Princess by Dawn Cook
I first read this back in 2013 and even though I adored it, and even though I bought a copy of the sequel that same year, and even though it ended on a cliffhanger...I didn't read the sequel. So I've let this story go unfinished for six years, and by this point I had to reread the first book because there were too many details I just didn't remember anymore. So, since rereading was going so well this year, I decided to pick up this old favorite. It's still a favorite. I still preferred one romantic interest over the other. I liked the main character even more than I remembered. It was great...

Princess at Sea by Dawn Cook
...And then. Then I read the sequel, and I don't know what to think. Things took a turn, and I don't think I liked it much. I say that in this hesitating way because in a lot of ways what I wanted to happen did happen. So I should be happy. But the way it all happened was weird, a little unsettling, and not exactly in line with the first book. It was like the first book was written as a straight up fantasy, and in the second book the author's urban fantasy roots starting showing through (Dawn Cook is Kim Harrison). The author also introduced a magic element that then took over the whole plot and it just...wasn't very interesting. The same thing happened in her Truth series, and I couldn't finish that series because of it, even though there was a lot I did love about that series. I guess I just really dislike the way this author deals with magic. It's super descriptive and, well, boring.

A Tangled Web by L. M. Montgomery
I made a list of all the authors that make me happy and decided I wanted to make an effort to read more of their books. L. M. Montgomery has a solid place on that list due to her Anne books (I've only read the first three so far), but The Blue Castle eclipses everything and I absolutely adore it. It's described as one of two of L. M. Montgomery's books written for adults, so I decided to try her other adult book: A Tangled Web. Well, it was okay. I liked it, but it's no Blue Castle, or even Anne, that's for sure. I'm glad I read it, especially since I've been wanting to read it ever since I got a copy in 2017, but I don't know that this is one I'll reread often.  

A Pearl Among Princes by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
I first read this book in 2010 and while I didn't love it, there were elements that I did like a lot and wanted to revisit. This was another case where the initial read was less enjoyable because of expectations, but the second read, with expectations appropriately calibrated, actually made for a much more enjoyable experience. I'm glad I reread this one.

Royal Flash by George MacDonald Fraser
I wasn't ready to let Flashman go, and this second book was almost even better than the first. Flashman is still an awful person, but something about him felt a little less reprehensible and the story was a rip-roaring adventure. Flashman is set up, blackmailed, and then forced to stand in as a replacement for a prince with whom he shares an uncanny resemblance ala Prince and the Pauper. Of course this is filled with humor, intrigue, danger, castles, and adventure. I was surprised to find that much of the historical events were also true, and so I got a nice history lesson again.

Amphitrite the Bubbly by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
I ended up liking this one a lot more than I thought I would. I had read the first few pages a while ago, didn't click with the main character and put it aside. I'm glad I picked it up again, because this was another delightful addition to the Goddess Girls series.

The Far Side of the World by Patrick O'Brian
I really do like this series, though I read it so slowly. Some books really click with me, whereas others feel slower and are harder to get through. This one was the latter and I don't really remember much beyond that at this point.

Let's Mooove! by Courtney Sheinmel and Bianca Turetsky
This came unexpectedly as a review book. It's cute, short, has a sweet but forgettable story, and fun bits about the featured US state. Overall nice, but not particularly standout. 

The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin
I was curious enough about this one to download it from NetGalley, but I wasn't actually convinced I wanted to read it. I loaded it up on my e-reader and grudgingly read the first few pages...and then couldn't stop. I'm so glad I read this book. The fashion, perfume, history, and art have stuck with me all year.

One Hundred and Four Horses by Mandy Retzlaff
I picked this up as an impulse. I think someone might have been reading it on Goodreads. The idea of the horses and the African setting sounded exotic and I was hoping for something uplifting like a Gerry Durrell book. I know it was about exile and the turmoil in Africa, but the historical aspects of this were also intriguing. What I got was both what and not what I had hoped for. Following the family and getting to know the horses was at turns nice, exciting, and terrifying. The history and the bad things that happened were enraging and horrifying. The ending was happy, but in a brittle way that doesn't feel like it will last. I'm glad I read it, but it wasn't an easy read.

Where I End and You BeginWhere I End and You Begin by Preston Norton
When I get a book for review, outside my genre, and over 400 pages, that shouldn't bode well. But this is Preston Norton, and for some reason none of the usual rules apply. I felt excited every morning to wake up and read this book...and I am decidedly not a morning person. I felt joyful. Things really felt brighter in June.

The King's Secret Matter (Tudor Saga, #4)The King's Secret Matter by Jean Plaidy
Plaidy, Tudors, check, check. I read her Anne Boleyn book and her Mary I book, both of which covered this time period, and so it was nice to round things out with Katherine's perspective. It's not a happy book, that's for sure, but I was happy while reading it. 

The Ghost TreeThe Ghost Tree by Barbara Erskine
This book = goals achieved. It was a doorstop and a review book and an author I've been meaning to check out. I didn't love the book, but I did really enjoy the experience. June felt so filled with light and possibilities. Thinking back on what was actually happening then, that doesn't entirely fit with my feelings now, but perhaps it's important to remember that the little stresses of life (even if they feel big at the time) blow over and things have a way of working out, so focus less on those stresses of the moment and more on the joys of the moment because they're the things that remain with you.

The Poison ThreadThe Poison Thread by Laura Purcell
June was a good month for review books, and really, reading in general. My memories again are of waking up and diving into this book and totally losing myself in happy reading. I really threw myself into these stories, and I'm reminded now that this is something I should do more often: throw myself fully into the story I'm reading.

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes, #1)A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
Ah, I had forgotten about the story-within-a-story aspect of this one. It's almost like getting two stories in one. Now that I've spent more time in the Utah-Nevada region, the flashback story took on a whole new feel and relevance for me. It's interesting how our life experiences color our reading so much. This reminds me again how important it is to not worry about forcing books at any particular time. Maybe it's not the right time, but maybe in a few years with a few more life experiences the book will suddenly fit. Which isn't the case here since I loved this the first time, but I gained more upon the reread. Which, perhaps is another lesson learned (reinforced?) on the value of rereading.

Hestia the Invisible (Goddess Girls #18)Hestia the Invisible by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Another wonderful entry in this series. Hestia's introverted homebody personality was a real winner for me and I loved getting to see Pheme again (who is the complete opposite, but just a joyful character to read). June ended on a high note.


April through June really turned things around for me, and keeping close track of my reading helped me keep focus and momentum on turning around my mindset. I don't know that life was any less stressful, but my approach to it was much healthier and happier.

The fact that it was getting sunnier and warmer outside certainly didn't hurt, either. Now that I'm back living in an area with seasons and more dramatic daylight changes makes me realize how much I thrive in an area with more consistent warmth and sunlight and how much I struggle with the seasons changing. Since I can't control the weather or sunlight, it's good to recognize how much I am affected by it at least and try to take some proactive measures and keep in mind how I'll react to these things (and that my reaction isn't actually rooted in any real stress or sadness).

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Book Review: The Girl in White Gloves by Kerri Maher

The Girl in White GlovesThe Girl in White Gloves by Kerri Maher

I was curious to learn about old Hollywood, but beyond that I wasn't sure what to expect. What I got was both more and less than what I was hoping for.

As far as characters go, this was not a big win for me. I'm not sure if it was the way things were written (third person, lots of telling) or Grace herself. She came across as too perfectly good, naive, meek, insecure, and depressed. I felt distant from her, and I'm not sure if it was the writing style or because Grace Kelly was a distant, naive, depressed, meek, goody two shoes (which rings true from what little I know of her). I think the answer is "both." The end result was that Grace wasn't a particularly fun or interesting person to follow, but over time I did develop a fondness for her even if I never shook a constant mild irritation.

What I did gain was insight into all sorts of interesting things. Grace's life allowed us to flit around learning tid bits here and there about acting styles, approaches, and training and how these differed on TV versus movies versus the stage. We got little bits of information about a ton of starlets of the era from Grace's fascinating insider/outsider perspective. We got to learn about Monaco and little bits of history (the book spans several decades). There's a lot here, and for me this was the highlight of the book and why I kept reading.

Overall, I'm glad I read this book and I'd check out what Kerri Maher puts out next. It's easy to read, steadily paced, and mild but interesting throughout. Kinda like Grace Kelly, I suppose.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Year in Review: January through March

I made a really big list

It's that time of year again! I started making these lists because I'm a list kind of person, but they've become so much more. I've found myself returning to them time and again almost like a scrapbook. It's been a nice way to reflect, remember, and reminisce.

The Deadly Dance by M.C. Beaton
I started out the year by continuing with Agatha Raisin. This year continued on with the depression and stress that crept into the end of 2018 as a result of all the tumult at work. I ended up in physical therapy because I was carrying so much stress in my body that I was actually physically injuring myself by clenching my muscles so tightly. Agatha Raisin was a cathartic escape with her indulgent behaviors and ornery nature. 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
I ended 2018 by starting a reread of the Harry Potter series. I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue with it, but when 2019 rolled around and the stress continued to pile up, I clung to Harry Potter like a lifeline. 

Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon by M. C. Beaton
Much as I wanted the escape into an easy, mindless read, these were starting to wear on me. I don't love the introduction of the agency and the characters Agatha has employed to help her solve mysteries. It's fine, there's nothing bad about it, but making everything an official job takes some of the joy out of it.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
This has long been one of my favorite books in the series and I enjoyed it very much again. Though, the first time I read the series I had definite stronger and weaker books, but this time rereading through them all they all sort of smoothed out into one larger story.

Yvonne Goes to York by M. C. Beaton
I was a little worn on Agatha but still craving the comfort of Marion Chesney (M.C. Beaton) and so I decided to pick up this final book in her traveling matchmaker series. The romance that was slowly building across the series finally came to its lovely conclusion. I don't know if it was because I let a gap go by between the rest of the series and this final book or because I was just so darn depressed, but this book only managed to get a glimmer of response from me emotionally, even though I did enjoy it. Sorry book, it's not you, it's me.  

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
I struggled with this book when I read it the first time. Umbridge was so awful and I spent pretty much all of the 870 pages raging in frustration with Harry (while also being frustrated with Harry for acting like a jerk). It didn't help that my memories of this book are strongly connected with waiting in an interminable line at the DMV, which is where I read a good chunk of the book. Fast forward to my re-read this year, and things were a lot better. Despite being pretty down myself, that surprisingly didn't make this book worse. By this time I knew Harry's story would work out well in the end. I knew there were a lot of great things to come in the book (the Room of Requirement!). Basically, I had perspective, and that gave me a light at the end of the tunnel which made the entire journey much more enjoyable. Hm, perhaps I could have used some of that perspective for what was happening in my life during this time.

Dream More by Dolly Parton
Short, informative, motivational, inspirational. And funny. I like Dolly Parton and her no-nonsense approach. This was a quick read but packed a punch and helped move me in a better direction. 

Rotten Rulers by Terry Deary
I feel like I somehow missed a key childhood memory by having missed these books and the TV show. I've caught up on much of the TV show thanks to youtube (the wife swap episode is the best) and this book was a quick and fun toe-dip into the series. Sometimes the humor felt too forced, most of the time it was just mildly amusing, and every once in a while it was spot on hilarious. I wasn't super impressed and I didn't run out and read anymore books in the series, but I'll probably make my way through a few more of them.

Love, Lies, and Liquor by M.C. Beaton
I liked the location in this one. It's set in a dreary sea-side resort that isn't very vacationy. The mystery kept my interest and overall this one felt a little more like earlier Agatha Raisin books.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
This has always been one of my favorite books in the series. I love the diving into past memories, slowing unraveling the mystery of Voldemort's past, understanding how past experiences shaped the people of the present, and going on a quest to find the locket. A little part of me wondered how I would feel about the book on reread. My experiences rereading the other books in the series was that I definitely did have a different impression, and it was actually an even better one. But what about for this book, my favorite? It's funny how rereading can be fraught with so much worry. Well, I loved it just as much as I did the first time, though it felt like it flew by. 

The Medieval Anarchy by Kaye Jones
I love the idea of this series: bite-sized books you can read in an hour and gain a surface-level understanding of a major event or person in history. I know a good bit about the Anarchy by this point, so nothing in the book was new. But it was still nice, accurate, and definitely did give a good overview. I'm not sure if these should "count" as part of my reading challenge, but I also don't know that I need to care that much either since the point of the challenge, for me, isn't to read a certain number of books, but rather to keep me on track in doing something I love and that makes me happy.

Kissing Christmas Goodbye by M. C. Beaton
Ugh, I don't remember much about this book in particular, but I do remember wishing Agatha would stop caring about stupid James Lacey. I loathe James Lacey. If I ever need a reminder to stop being an annoying broken record harping on something that isn't important and isn't good for me, then Agatha and James Lacey are the perfect example.

Remembrance by Jude Devraux
This book is crazy! I picked it up because I adored her book A Knight in Shining Armor and I wanted something like that. I didn't quite get that. I'm not even sure what I got. It had time travel, reincarnation, a story-within-a-story, a blip in another time period, treachery, evil step-mothers, and so much more. It was crazy, ridiculous, annoying, and awesome. I kept wondering if I wanted to DNF it and then getting sucked in again. It felt like a guilty pleasure, but not in a guilty way. It was like taking a break from life, drawing a hot bubble bath, eating chocolate, and having a "me moment." I should do this more often.

A Spoonful of Poison by M. C. Beaton
The thing with these books is that they're not bad. I was getting annoyed with the same old, same old, but also still comforted by it.

The Kings and Queens of England by Jane Murray
March started out with a trip to my local used bookstore and this was one of my finds. I was so proud of myself that I started reading this book the same day I bought it rather than let it sit on my shelves for a few years before I read it, as if used books need to age like wine (my traditional approach, and why I have so many unread books sitting on my shelves for years). I started breaking out of bad patterns around this time, and my reading reflects this. March saw a turning point in my reading away from comfort reads and toward new horizons and achieving things I'd been wanting to do, but hadn't done (like reading newly purchased books right away). As far as the book goes, it was a great old find. I love those history books from the early through mid 20th century. They have a narrative approach that is charming, exciting, and the authors clearly love history.

There Goes the Bride by M. C. Beaton
Ah, James does not look good in this book, and I loved it. He comes across as stupid and tone deaf and I love it when James Lacey is called out for what he is, and when Agatha sees it. It's funny how satisfying it can be to have a person you dislike be seen for what they are by other people.

The Life and Times of Henry VIII by Robert Lacey
This was another book I got at the used bookstore, bringing me up to two books that I read immediately after purchasing. Success! I was definitely proud. I've enjoyed Robert Lacey's style when reading his History of England books and while this wasn't quite as fantastic, it was still very enjoyable. This was more like a coffee table book with big color pictures that I could spend time looking at and enjoying along with his substantial text.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
I might have been moving in a more positive direction, but that didn't mean I wasn't dreading finishing this series. I can't believe it had been thirteen years since I had last read these books and I thoroughly enjoyed rereading them. Rereading this final installment wasn't as tense and horrifying because I knew what was going to happen, but it was more bittersweet...because I knew what was going to happen. I knew everything would be okay in the end, but that innocence would be lost and there would be battle scars.

Productivity Hacks by Emily Price
I went into this book hoping for some tips and tricks that I could implement. Instead I got a lot of confirmation that apparently I'm already pretty productive and I do a lot of the things the book suggests. So, not exactly life-changing, but maybe a little affirming? 

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
I feel like I woke up one day and thought, "I want to revisit this book," and so I did. It's nice to feel free to reread books. I used to feel guilty rereading, but I set myself a challenge each year to reread around ten or so books, and I've been enjoying it a lot. It's nice to go back and revisit. Yes, there are plenty of new books out there, but if I want to spend my time with a story I've already experienced, then why should that be a problem?

Busy Body by M. C. Beaton
This one was nice. I like the Christmas stories where I get to experience snow, decorations, holiday cooking, crackling fires, and fuzzy holiday cheer. Plus, you know, murder and mystery. This was my last Agatha Raisin for a while, and while I will read the rest and while I did enjoy this book, it was a good time to part ways for a little while.


January through March was filled with a lot of numbing to try to combat a lot of stress. I read a lot of comfort reads, and it was totally the result of that numbing, hiding response. March started to see some peeking out from under the covers. 

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