The Monday Check-In ~ 6/27/2022

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My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

I’m back! I was away from computers, email, and blogging last week while on a road trip with my husband. The trip was amazing! We traveled up through Northern California, enjoyed the redwoods, spent a couple of days in Ashland, Oregon at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and then came back down through the Lake Shasta area. We visited two national parks (Redwood and Lassen), visited a lavender farm, saw The Tempest in an outdoor Elizabethan-themed theater, did lots of good hiking, and enjoyed the fresh forest and mountain air!

Here’s a little montage of some highlights:

And now I’m back! I spend Sunday doing laundry, putting away my hiking shoes and other outdoorsy stuff, and catching up online. I’m dreading tackling my work email — I was very good about NOT checking it while away, but that means it’ll all be waiting for me bright and early Monday morning.

What did I read during the last week?

Between traveling and my obsession with my new subscription to the New York Times games features, my reading time this past week was pretty meager. Must stop spending so much time on Sudoku!

Book of Night by Holly Black: A dark adult debut from a favorite YA author. My review is here.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry: So much fun! This author never lets me down. I’ll l write up some thoughts later in the week, once I’m feeling a bit more caught up.

Since I was in the car with my husband for the entire past week, I didn’t listen to audiobooks at all. And I missed them! But he could not be convinced to play along. Sigh…

Pop culture & TV:

Being away also meant very little screen time — we didn’t watch or stream anything at all on our trip! So, I have some catching up to do…

I still have 5 or 6 episodes of The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem to watch, plus 2 episodes of The Boys, the season finale of Come Dance With Me, and most of the newest season of Love, Victor. I guess I’ll be busy this week!

Puzzle of the week:

Right before leaving on our trip, I finished this puzzle — super fun! I was a little nervous when I ordered it, since I’d never tried anything from this company before and I’m picky about puzzle quality. It all worked out well — the pieces are sturdy and well-cut, and I really enjoyed all the colors and patterns!

Purchase via Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/a/24793/9781743796672

Fresh Catch:

I took advantage of some Kindle promotions to add to my (ever-growing and unread) Kindle library:

I also decided that, now that I’ve seen The Tempest, I should read it too! I bought myself this cute little paperback, with a “plain English” translation alongside the original text:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

In the Quick by Kate Hope Day: It’s been a long time since I picked up a random book on a whim, but that’s exactly what happened with this one! While browsing in a cute indie bookstore in Ashland, this pink astronaut cover caught my eye. The fact that it’s described as “Jane Eyre in space” helped seal the deal! I’ve only read about 25% so far, but I’m liking it!

Now playing via audiobook:

The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune: I loved this book so much when I first read it, and doing a re-read via audiobook is just as awesome as I’d hoped! The narrator is amazing — he captures the main character’s personality brilliantly. I’m rereading books 1 & 2 before the 3rd in the trilogy comes out in July.

Ongoing reads:

These books will be on my plate for months to come:

  • Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon: Over at Outlander Book Club, we’ve started our group read of BEES, reading and discussing two chapters per week. If anyone wants to join us, just ask me how! All are welcome.
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare: My book group’s current classic read. We’re reading one scene per week — now in the middle of Act IV.
  • Tales From Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb: I bought this paperback to help us prepare for seeing The Tempest, then decided it might be fun to read through all the story summaries. I’m fairly familiar with Shakespeare’s tragedies, a little familiar with the comedies, and not at all familiar with the histories. My plan for now is to read a couple of chapters per week, on and off. We’ll see how it goes!

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 6/13/2022

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My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

I ran errands all weekend, took care of some scheduled car maintenance, and even found time to go to a farmers’ market!

As of next weekend, I’m heading off on a mini-vacation with my husband, doing a Northern California/Oregon road trip for a week. We plan to keep it pretty mellow, with some walks in the Redwoods and a stop at the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.

I will be basically off-line while I’m away, so as of a week from now, you won’t be hearing much from me!

What did I read during the last week?

New reviews:

Tokyo Dreaming by Emiko Jean: I loved it! My review is here.

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan: A heart-warming story of women during wartime. My review is here.

Audiobook rereads:

I listened to audiobook versions of two books I read (and loved) last year, in preparation for their sequels, both arriving this coming week. Check out my original reviews of A Spindle Splintered and The Witness for the Dead.

Also this week:

Himawari House by Harmony Becker: This is a graphic novel that I grabbed on a whim while at the library. I liked a lot about it, but the art style was often confusing. Still, worth checking out!

Heroic Hearts edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes: Another library book — I grabbed this new fantasy anthology specifically to read its stories by Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs, and once I’d done that, I returned the book. The stories were entertaining enough, fitting into the authors’ established fictional worlds without being super dramatic. A nice afternoon’s read.

On Rotation by Shirlene Obuobi : DNFd at 25%. The story seemed promising, but the author uses footnotes constantly, and at least in e-book format, it’s incredibly disruptive and made it impossible to establish a reading flow. I didn’t care enough to force my way through it, although based on the premise, it could be a good read. Maybe if I come across a print version at some point down the road…

Pop culture & TV:

I’ve just started watching The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem on Netflix:

I’ve only seen two episodes, but I like it so far. (Watching with my husband, who does not like to binge, so it make take a while to get through all 10 episodes.) I read the book several years ago and really liked it. I’m not sure why the trailer is set to Scarborough Fair, though…

Coming up this week, I plan to start watching Becoming Elizabeth on Starz. Looks like they’re releasing one episode per week, which can be frustrating in this age of binges. Still, it looks really good! Has anyone tried it yet?

Fresh Catch:

Three new books this week:

Classics Club Spin!

It’s time for a new Classics Club Spin! This is my 2nd time participating, and while it’s a fun challenge, at the moment I’m not entirely thrilled about my selection: Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. See here for my list; I’ll let y’all know how the book goes!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Book of Night by Holly Black: I bought this book as soon as it was released (early May), and I’m just now sitting down to read it. I’ve only gotten about 20% into it so far, but I’m certainly intrigued to see where the story goes. Very dark and grim!

Now playing via audiobook:

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur: I was looking for a light romance for my next audiobook, and this one seemed like a good choice for Pride-month listening! Plus, it’s a spin on Pride and Prejudice (I didn’t know that when I started it), and that’s always fun.

Ongoing reads:

These books will be on my plate for months to come:

  • Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon: Over at Outlander Book Club, we’ve started our group read of BEES, reading and discussing two chapters per week. If anyone wants to join us, just ask me how! All are welcome.
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare: My book group’s current classic read. We’re reading one scene per week — now in the middle of Act III.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 6/6/2022

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My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

I’ve been playing catch-up all week, but finally got time over the weekend to pause, take a deep breath, and even relax a bit!

What did I read during the last week?

Two of these are books I finished last week — but now I’ve found time to write reviews, so I’m including them again:

A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong: A time-traveling detective! I liked this book a lot — my review is here.

The House on Tradd Street by Karen White: This ghost story/mystery was my book group’s May book. Just an okay read, in my opinion. My review is here.

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall: A spur-of-the-moment borrow from the library — such adorable fun! My review is here.

Tokyo Dreaming by Emiko Jean: Such a happy follow-up to Tokyo Ever After (which I loved). I’ll be posting a review later this week as part of the blog tour for this book’s release — stay tuned!

Pop culture & TV:

My son and I finished Moon Knight , which was consistently fun but also consistently confusing. I finally got around to watching the final batch of Grace & Frankie episodes. It’s been a fun show to watch, but it felt like it was time for it to end.

And, oh boy, The Boys is back, crazy and out-of-line as ever.

Puzzle of the week:

It’s another fun “world of” puzzle from Laurence King Publishing:

This one is The World of Charles Dickens — as with the other puzzles in the series, it has a ton of tiny details, including people and places from his novels. There’s a poster included that identifies who’s who, which is super helpful to refer to once the puzzle is done. This one was a bit more challenging than some of the others. All those roofs and windows!!

In case you’re interested, here’s the product image and purchase link:

Fresh Catch:

This hardcover (which I preordered ages ago) arrived this week:

(Yes, I already finished the audiobook… but I really needed a hard copy too!)

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jenny Ryan: I’d planned to start this a week ago… better late than never!

Now playing via audiobook:

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow: The second Fractured Fables book (A Mirror Mended) will be out mid-June, so this felt like the right time for a re-read of book #1. I read the print edition when it was released last year, and I’m enjoying the audiobook so far!

Ongoing reads:

These books will be on my plate for months to come:

  • Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon: Over at Outlander Book Club, we’ve started our group read of BEES, reading and discussing two chapters per week. If anyone wants to join us, just ask me how! All are welcome.
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare: My book group’s current classic read. We’re reading one scene per week — now in the middle of Act III.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 5/30/2022

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My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

It’s been a busy, jam-packed week. I did not finish reading a single book!! But I’m not complaining, since it’s also been pretty fun.

My family attended two different weddings this weekend — in both cases, the brides are the daughters of old friends, and had originally planned weddings for over a year ago before COVID changed everything. The brides both grew up with my daughter, and she came to town for the long weekend so she could attend, so that was an extra bonus for me!

What did I read during the last week?

So yeah, no books finished this past week! Too much going on, not enough time to read or go for walks (which is when I do most of my audiobook listening). So… I’m *this close* to finishing both of these (one e-book, one audiobook) — I hope to finish today or tomorrow.

Pop culture & TV:

An excellent wrap-up to This Is Us. I’m going to miss spending time with those characters!

Beyond that, my son and I have been watching Moon Knight — it’s fun, but confusing. And having now watched two episodes of The Time Traveler’s Wife, I’m mostly liking it. It’s not nearly as bad as some of the reviews have described it, but the fact that I loved the book and can already accept the weirder elements probably helps.

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

(These are my next-up books… haven’t started yet!)

Currently in my hands:

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jenny Ryan: This book releases tomorrow, and I’m excited to start it! Jenny Ryan’s books are always terrific.

Now playing via audiobook:

Tokyo Dreaming by Emiko Jean: I’m excited for this audiobook too! This is the sequel to Tokyo Ever After, which I loved.

Ongoing reads:

These books will be on my plate for months to come:

  • Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon: Over at Outlander Book Club, we’ve started our group read of BEES, reading and discussing two chapters per week. If anyone wants to join us, just ask me how! All are welcome.
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare: My book group’s current classic read. We’re reading one scene per week — now in the middle of Act III.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 5/23/2022

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My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

It’s been another busy workweek, so I was happy to spend the weekend basically doing nothing but reading and getting outside to enjoy the sunshine as often as possible.

I went to my very first Zumba class this week! I decided I needed more cardio in my routine (I basically was doing none), and I know I tend to like dance-based workouts more than other types of group exercise classes. It was fun! Hard, but fun. I’m going to keep going! (And since I’m putting in writing and sharing it, I guess I’ll have to stick with it!)

What did I read during the last week?

Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel: Ew. Creepy, but not in a good way. My review is here.

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker: A sweet, fun YA graphic novel featuring witches, werewolves, and lots of really positive and diverse representation.

In audiobooks, I finished books 3 and 4 in the lovely Mure series by Jenny Colgan. I wrote a wrap-up post (here), and now I’m just eagerly awaiting the release of book #5 in June!

Puzzle of the week:

Another good one from Laurence King (1000 pieces):

This one is called The World of the Tudors. It wasn’t particularly hard, but all the little details made it really fun to do. Here’s the product image:

Pop culture & TV:

Another movie! That’s two weeks in a row of seeing movies in an actual movie theater! I saw The Northman with a friend. It was so well done, but very gory and violent.

This last batch of This Is Us episodes are bringing on the waterworks! Can’t believe the series finale is coming up this week.

Fresh Catch:

I’ve won two Goodreads giveaway this month, when I haven’t won a single one in years!

I’d forgotten that I entered the giveaway for The Lioness! I’ve already read an ARC via NetGalley (and loved it), but it’s nice to have the actual Kindle edition now too. And this week, I found out that I’ve won a print edition of The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker, which is super exciting! It hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m thrilled to have won!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong: I’ve only read the first two chapters, but it seems interesting! I’m just a little bummed to see this book listed on Goodreads as the first in a series — when I requested it on NetGalley, I expected it to be a stand-alone.

Now playing via audiobook:

The House on Tradd Street by Karen White: My book group’s book for May — I’m a little behind. I’ve only listened to about 20% so far. I’m loving the Charleston setting (I lived there for a few years, ages ago), but despite being published in 2008, the book feels a little dated somehow. My book group friends all seem to really like the story, so I’m feeling hopeful overall.

Ongoing reads:

These books will be on my plate for months to come:

  • Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon: Over at Outlander Book Club, we’ve started our group read of BEES, reading and discussing two chapters per week. If anyone wants to join us, just ask me how! All are welcome.
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare: My book group’s current classic read. We’re reading one scene per week — starting Act III this week.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Mure series by Jenny Colgan: The story so far (books 1 – 4)

Jenny Colgan is an absolute favorite go-to author. Her books have heart and depth, but even at their saddest, never leave you feeling down for long. Her best, in my opinion, are the stories set in small communities, where an outsider can make a big difference, or where someone returning home realizes all over again where they truly belong.

Which brings me to the Mure series — books set on the fictional island of Mure, located off the mainland of northern Scotland. Mure is a small, close-knit farming community, where everyone knows everyone else, and their parent and grandparents and all the preceding generations…

I originally read the first book in the series, The Cafe by the Sea, back in 2017. This year, I’ve picked the series back up, revisiting book #1 via audio, then continuing onward through the series. With the 5th book due for release in mid-June 2022, I thought I’d share my thoughts and reactions to the story so far:

Title: The Cafe by the Sea
Published: 2017
Length: 416 pages
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Years ago, Flora fled the quiet Scottish island where she grew up — and she hasn’t looked back. What would she have done on Mure? It’s a place where everyone has known her all her life, where no one will let her forget the past. In bright, bustling London, she can be anonymous, ambitious… and hopelessly in love with her boss.

But when fate brings Flora back to the island, she’s suddenly swept once more into life with her brothers — all strapping, loud, and seemingly incapable of basic housework — and her father. Yet even amid the chaos of their reunion, Flora discovers a passion for cooking — and find herself restoring dusty little pink-fronted shop on the harbour: a café by the sea.

But with the seasons changing, Flora must come to terms with past mistakes — and work out exactly where her future lies…

The Cafe by the Sea introduces us to Flora McKenzie, a hard-working but not particularly happy young woman slaving away in a London office, with a hopeless mad crush on her gorgeous boss and too much sadness associated with her home back in Mure to even consider returning there… until a business deal her firm is engaged to handle forces her back to Mure anyway, in company with her unattainable boss Joel. There, Flora must confront the family she fled years earlier in the wake of shared sorrow that she just couldn’t bear.

The more time she spends on Mure, the more she starts to realize how much she lost by leaving, and that perhaps the only way for her family to heal is to be together.

I love the depiction of life on this Scottish island, the big, loud family Flora reconnects with, and the million small details the author uses to show the personalities and quirks of this tight-knit community. It’s all lovely, and although I had some doubts about the central romance, I still got completely caught up in the sunshine and joy of this sweet story. (Plus! So much good food. And there are even recipes — in this book and each one in the series).

Title: The Endless Beach
Published: 2018
Length: 416 pages
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

When Flora MacKenzie traded her glum career in London for the remote Scottish island of Mure, she never dreamed that Joel—her difficult, adorable boss—would follow. Yet now, not only has Flora been reunited with her family and opened a charming café by the sea, but she and Joel are taking their first faltering steps into romance.

With Joel away on business in New York, Flora is preparing for the next stage in her life. And that would be…? Love? She’s feeling it. Security? In Joel’s arms, sure. Marriage? Not open to discussion.

In the meanwhile, Flora is finding pleasure in a magnificent sight: whales breaking waves off the beaches of Mure. But it also signals something less joyful. According to local superstition, it’s an omen—and a warning that Flora’s future could be as fleeting as the sea-spray… 

Here in book #2, the storytelling and perspectives open up beyond just Flora’s story, and that’s a very, very good thing. Not that Flora’s piece of the tale isn’t interesting or enjoyable! But now, in The Endless Beach, we get to spend more time with the people who’d only existed as background or secondary characters in The Cafe by the Sea, and this helps the overall story feel more encompassing and lived in.

Beyond seeing Flora and Joel’s story progress, as they deal with his emotional fallout from childhood trauma and try to find a way forward together, we also have Flora’s brother Fintan’s romance with the billionaire who’s bought key property on the island and wants to make it his forever home; Saif, the Syrian refugee doctor who’s granted asylum by the UK in exchange for his placement at the clinic in Mure, who yearns for news of his missing boys and wife, yet is also drawn to the island’s kind schoolteacher Lorna; and one of the most adorable characters ever, Flora’s 4-year-old niece Agot (who might, in other author’s hands, come across as annoying, but here is just utterly delightful).

The Endless Beach has an interwoven plot that includes plenty of joy, but also true moments of tragedy and sorrow. We go deeper into the characters’ lives, and Saif’s family’s struggles are particularly sad and emotional.

I won’t say why, but the ending absolutely knocked me sideways with an emotional blow that I did not see coming. While many of the storylines are left with hopeful loose ends by the close of The Endless Beach, there’s one main storyline that can only end with tragedy, and it really upset me (which just shows how invested I’ve become in these characters).

I should add a note there that the audiobooks are a treat to listen to — so highly recommended!

Title: Christmas on the Island
Published: 2018
Length: 352 pages
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Christmas on the remote Scottish island of Mure is bleak, stark — and incredibly beautiful.

It’s a time for hunkering down, getting cosy in front of whisky barrel wood fires, and enjoying a dram with the people you love — unless, of course, you’re accidentally pregnant to your ex-boss, and don’t know how to tell him. In what should be the season of peace and goodwill on earth, will Joel think Flora is a bearer of glad tidings?

Meanwhile Saif, the doctor and refugee from war-torn Syria is trying to enjoy his first western Christmas with his sons — but without his missing wife. Can the little family possibly find comfort and joy?

Travel to the beautiful northern edge of the world and join the welcoming community of Mure for an unforgettable Christmas

The 3rd book in the series picks up just a few months after book #2, with Christmas on its way, but not everyone particularly up for the celebration.

As the synopsis reveals, Flora is pregnant and isn’t sure how the news will go over. Joel isn’t just any man about to hear about an unexpected baby — he’s a damaged soul who grew up in foster care and has a very hard time with emotions and with the concept of family. He loves Flora, but the idea of parenthood is terrifying, and Flora knows there’s a good chance he’ll bolt rather than face the reality of their new lives.

Flora’s brother Fintan married the man of his dreams in the 3rd book, but now faces a huge, devastating loss. To make matters worse, his husband’s long-estranged (and pretty awful) American brother shows up on Mure to make sure the family gets their hands on Colton’s money.

And as Saif settles more into island life with his two boys, the ongoing question of whether his wife survived the terrors of war haunts him deeply. His loyalties are torn, and while the boys seem to finally be adapting to their new home, he wonders if they might not be better off moving to Glasgow and starting over yet again.

The conflicts and crises in Christmas on the Island continue to be deeply emotional, and there are tragedies in store for at least some of the characters. Fortunately, Jenny Colgan’s light touch with her characters means that there are joyful moments as well, and she sprinkles in humor and silliness just often enough to keep the overall tone from becoming completely morose.

I don’t typically read Christmas-themed books, but when it comes to this series, I simply couldn’t not continue. Christmas on the Island is a lovely, engaging read, and at this point, I’m so invested in these characters’ lives that there was zero chance I wouldn’t pick this one up. Given the Christmas title, it’s clear from the start that the holiday spirit will prevail. Not everyone gets a completely happy ending, but they do all get peace and some measure of hope.

Title: Christmas at the Island Hotel
Published: 2020
Length: 352 pages
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Another heartfelt and delightful Christmas tale from the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Bookshop on the Corner and Christmas on the Island.

New York Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan returns to the setting of Christmas on the Island and Endless Beach for a heartwarming new novel celebrating the season, and Scotland.

On the tiny, beautiful, and remote island of Mure, halfway between Scotland and Norway, a new hotel opening is a big event. New mother Flora MacKenzie and her brother Fintan are working themselves half to death to get it ready in time for Christmas. 

The new hotel’s impressive kitchens throw together two unlikely new friends: Isla Gregor is the hardworking young girl who has been a waitress in the island’s cafe, dreaming of a bigger, better life now that she’s at a proper fancy hotel. Konstantin Pederson is working his way up in the hotel’s kitchens too…but he is also, secretly, the only son of the Duke of Utsire. Konstantin has been sent to learn what it is to work hard for a living, before receiving his inheritance. Although he’s initially resentful, the place grows on him; he has never met anyone quite like Isla and her fellow Murians before. 

As the island’s residents and special VIP guests gather for the hotel’s grand opening gala, Christmas is in the air. But so are more than a few small-town secrets…

Well… by the 4th book of this series, it’s clear that the reason to read it is to spend more time with beloved characters in this cozy, lovely setting.

Not all that much actually happens in Christmas at the Island Hotel. A year has past since the sad events that ended book #3. Flora now has a baby and is supposedly on maternity leave, but she’s actually itching for work and a project. Meanwhile, her boyfriend Joel, initially so reluctant to become a father, is totally besotted by their infant son, and it’s quite adorable.

Other stories progress, and new characters are introduced. As the synopsis indicates, a spoiled Norwegian aristocrat is being punished by this father by being sent off to Mure to learn what it means to actually work and not rely on servants. Konstantin is a petulant brat as the story opens, but of course, his experiences on Mure transform him, especially once he falls for a shy island girl and starts to see the beauty of this strange place he’s landed.

Additionally, the brash French chef who takes on the hotel’s restaurant is arrogant, demanding, and absolutely does not fit in on the island, and yet he ends up being just what they need. Meanwhile, the slow burn love story of Saif and Lorna continues to simmer, with some new developments adding tension and confusion to their already shaky relationship.

I enjoyed the book, but it did feel a little diluted — too much time spent on the new characters and the kitchen shenanigans, not enough on the characters we already know and love. Still, it’s always wonderful to spend time on Mure!

An audiobook note: After loving the narrator of the first three audiobooks (Sarah Barron), it was a little disconcerting to switch to a new narrator for book #4 (Eilidh Beaton). I did get used to her after a while, and ended up liking her narration too — but at the start, it was quite a jolt!

Wrapping it all up…

Jenny Colgan’s books are always a delight. What I love about this series is how completely immersed we become in the life of the island. While Flora is the center of the series, over the course of these books we become involved with her big family as well as her various neighbors, friends, and sometime-rivals.

The island is filled with quirky people whose seemingly simple lives offer entertainment as well as complications. While the 4th book feels more light-weight than the others, with fewer deep emotional moments, it’s still lovely.

Book #5, An Island Wedding, will be released next month (publication date June 21, 2022. And while I have an ARC already, I think I may hold off until the release date so I can listen to the audiobook!

I highly recommend this wonderful, feel-good series. There are laughs and tears… and even recipes!

The Monday Check-In ~ 5/16/2022

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My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

What a week! For the first time since 2020, I took a little vacation that was purely for fun, and loved it! My husband and I spent three days in the Palm Springs area (Southern California), and lucked into some great weather while we were there.

I’d originally thought we’d be mostly exploring Palm Springs itself, but we ended up spending most of our time outdoors, hiking and enjoying the gorgeous settings. We spent one day at Joshua Tree National Park, then did some other trails at a state park and a local canyon. Bliss!

A Joshua tree, at Joshua Tree National Park

It didn’t hurt that we stayed at a hotel with a lovely pool and some interesting spa/relaxation options, including a Himalayan salt room. I’m not sure that it was actually therapeutic, but it felt luxurious to lie there all the same!

And now, back to reality…

What did I read during the last week?

Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire: This story about living embodiments of Summer and Winter kept my attention, despite how confusing it all gets. My review is here.

Something Wilder by Christina Lauren: This author duo’s romances are always fun, but this one was less to my taste than some of their others because of the focus on an adventure story with a dangerous/criminal element. My review is here.

By the Book (Meant to Be, #2) by Jasmine Guillory: This retelling of Disney’s Beauty & the Beast for grown-ups is just as sweet and enchanting as you’d expect. My review is here.

The Emma Project (Rajes, #4) by Sonali Dev: This modern-day interpretation of Jane Austen’s Emma is a quick read, but I found some of the emotional entanglements overwrought. The main fun is figuring out how these characters relate to the Austen characters — it’s not always obvious! My review is here.

Pop culture & TV:

First time in a movie theater in a year! My son and I went to see the new Doctor Strange movie and it was… okay. I’m not a big fan of the character anyway, and I really didn’t like who they chose to be the villain of the piece. It felt like very unfair treatment of a great character. But, there’s plenty of fun, some good actions sequences, and a few surprising cameos, so overall, still an enjoyable experience.

I think I’m going to start watching the new HBO adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife… but with severe trepidation. The reviews have been awful!! Still, at one point, it was a favorite book, so I’m curious enough to want to check it out.

Puzzle of the week:

It’s been a few weeks since I last did a jigsaw puzzle, but over the weekend, I indulged. This one was really fun! Another great puzzle from the Laurence King literary-themed puzzle collection — The World of Dracula. So many terrific details to pore over and enjoy! Here’s what my finished version looked like (excuse the shoddy lighting and photography…):

And here’s the product image:

Fresh Catch:

Haha, my new book makes me laugh just by looking at it! This is a graphic novel by Julia Quinn, bringing to life a story that her Regency characters read in various books. It looks incredibly silly… and who doesn’t need some silliness in their reading every now and then?

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel: I’ve only just gotten started, so all I know so far is that it has to do with girls who grew up in a cult. And that it has a creepy cover!

Now playing via audiobook:

Christmas on the Island (Mure, #3) by Jenny Colgan: I don’t typically read Christmas-themed books, but I make an exception for author Jenny Colgan, especially when the book fits into a series that I love! This is the 3rd book in her lovely Mure series, and I’m so happy to be back with these terrific characters!

Ongoing reads:

These books will be on my plate for months to come:

  • Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon: Over at Outlander Book Club, we’ve started our group read of BEES, reading and discussing two chapters per week. If anyone wants to join us, just ask me how! All are welcome.
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare: My book group’s current classic read. We’re reading one scene per week — in the middle of Act II this week.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 5/9/2022

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My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

By the time you read this post, I’ll be on vacation! It’s just a mini-trip to spend a few days in the sun in Southern California, but as I write this post (Saturday), it’s making me happy just to think about it! This will be my first time traveling other than for family reasons in 2 years.

I’ll be away for three nights only, but in a shocking development, I’m planning to be offline for those days! I’ve never not traveled with a laptop, but this time, that baby is staying home without me.

Meanwhile, since we’re headed out of town on Mother’s Day, my husband and kids took me out for an early Mother’s Day dinner on Friday, which was lovely.

And now, all that I still need to do is pack and choose my books! (Kidding… I may still need to pack, but I’ve had my books picked out for weeks!)

What did I read during the last week?

It’s actually been a fairly slow reading week, with long hours at work and lots of busy-ness at home. Plus, I happened to have started longer books this week… so, I only managed to finish one book!

The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner: I love how this author captures family dynamics so well — the good and the bad, the funny and the tragic. The Summer Place was a great read! My review is here.

Pop culture & TV:

This Is Us brought on the waterworks last week with its Miguel episode! Can’t believe the show is ending so soon — only three episodes to go!

I’ve started watching the final batch of Grace & Frankie episodes, but for whatever reason, they’re not loading on my TV… which left me sitting on my couch watching on my phone, definitely not ideal. I still have a bunch to go.

Fresh Catch:

Three new books this week! The first is one I preordered ages ago; the other two were spur-of-the-moment buys when I stumbled across a buy one, get one 50% off deal on Amazon.

I also made a last-minute impulse purchase of a jigsaw puzzle that caught my eye… but I’ll share that one once I actually get it done!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire: I started this as an audiobook, and as much as I liked hearing Amber Benson as the narrator, the story was just too complicated for me to be able to follow it by listening. After a day, I switched to print, and I’m having a much better experience! This book is long (over 500 pages), and I haven’t had very much time to really devote to it… but I hope to wrap it up shortly.

In related news, I attended an online author event with Seanan McGuire over the weekend, which was awesome! Her cat even made an appearance:

Now playing via audiobook:

By the Book by Jasmine Guillory: The 2nd book in Disney’s adult fiction Meant To Be series is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, featuring a 20-something editorial assistant trying to get an ill-tempered celebrity author to finish his memoir… by moving in with him in his gorgeous Santa Barbara mansion. It’s cute so far!

Ongoing reads:

These books will be on my plate for months to come:

  • Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon: Over at Outlander Book Club, we’ve started our group read of BEES, reading and discussing two chapters per week. If anyone wants to join us, just ask me how! All are welcome.
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare: My book group’s newest classic read. We’ll be going at a pace of one scene per week — now underway.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 5/2/2022

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My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Oof. I got my second booster on Thursday, and it knocked me out for about a day and a half. I’m not sorry I got it — but I definitely did not feel okay the next day. I mean, my head was so fuzzy and achy that I couldn’t even read!

Other than that, it’s been another intense work week, and this coming week should be more of the same. Fortunately, I have a couple of days away next week to look forward to!

What did I read during the last week?

True Biz by Sara Novic: I absolutely loved this book set in a school for the deaf. Five stars! My review is here.

The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson: This follow-up to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is interesting, but lacks the emotional connection of the first book. My review is here.

The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian: Wow, talk about a page-turner! I couldn’t put this book down, despite how anxious it made me feel throughout the reading process. My review is here.

In audiobooks, I finished a re-read of The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan, the first book in the Mure series, and immediately started book #2, The Endless Beach, which I finished over the weekend. Not surprisingly, I’m loving this series. Jenny Colgan’s books are always a ray of sunshine! I can’t wait to start book #3.

Outlander!!

The 6th season of Outlander has now come to an end, after last night’s agonizing season finale. This episode covers a section of book #6 that I absolutely loathe — it feels like such needless torture for our belove characters. And on top of everything, the episode (and thus the season) ends without finishing this segment of the plot… which means we’ll be picking up this storyline again in season 7. Ugh! Make it go away so we can move on!

Pop culture & TV:

Drop everything and watch Heartstopper on Netflix! This series is short and so, so sweet! I was just a big pile of FEELINGS after watching it. It’s eight 30-minute episodes, adapted from Alice Oseman’s graphic novels and webcomics. Just loved it.

And of course, if you haven’t read the comics, why not start now? Check out the webcomic, or the four graphic novels (with the 5th and final due out in 2023).

Fresh Catch:

I bought myself a present! This is a “miniature” library of Jane Austen’s novels, and it’s adorable! (The photo of Persuasion with the Four Aunties book is included as a size comparison…)

(For sale from The Jane Austen Online Gift Shop)

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner: After reading this author’s most recent novel, That Summer, last year, I was eager to get my hands on an ARC for her upcoming new release. This one comes out later in May — I’ve only just started, but I like it so far.

Now playing via audiobook:

Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire: I’m actually just starting this audiobook today, with some hesitation, because I’m afraid it’s going to be more complicated than I can absorb via audiobook. That’s okay — I have both e-book and audiobook ARCs, so I can switch if needed… but Amber Benson is the narrator, which motivates me to at least give it a try! (Unfortunately, I barely remember the details of Middlegame, which this is the sequel to… I’m hoping I don’t find myself too lost.)

Ongoing reads:

These books will be on my plate for months to come:

  • Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon: Over at Outlander Book Club, we’ve started our group read of BEES, reading and discussing two chapters per week. If anyone wants to join us, just ask me how! All are welcome.
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare: My book group’s newest classic read. We’ll be going at a pace of one scene per week — now underway.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 4/25/2022

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My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Getting back to normal… After a house full of guests the previous week, this past week has been relatively quiet, although work has been intense. It’s been lovely to have NO plans over the weekend! And especially lovely that the weather complied and gave me beautiful blue skies to enjoy.

What did I read during the last week?

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan: A weird thriller that kept my interest despite not making a ton of sense. My review is here.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig: This was a re-read for me (in preparation for my book group’s discussion), and I loved it just as much the second time around! (My review from my first read is here.)

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher: A wonderful fairy tale adventure. My review is here.

Outlander!!

Wow, this season has sped by! Another powerful episode this week… but sadly, only one more left in the season.

Pop culture & TV:

There are times when I’m a complete sucker for sappy, plucking-on-the-heartstrings entertainment… so what better to watch than a dance competition show where talented kids invite their non-dancer parents to be their partners? Come Dance With Me is a little cheesy, but I’ve gotta admit it — I teared up a few times.

Fresh Catch:

No new physical books this week, but I did treat myself to a bunch of Kindle books that had price drops this week:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

True Biz by Sara Novic: This book is so good! I’m at about 75% — I had to force myself to put the book down and get some sleep last night, when what I really wanted to do was power through to the end.

Now playing via audiobook:

The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan: I read the print version of this book several years ago, but decided to revisit via audiobook, and plan to continue with the remaining books in the series, which I haven’t read before. It’s a sweet and refreshing story, and the narration is terrific.

Ongoing reads:

These books will be on my plate for months to come:

  • Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon: Over at Outlander Book Club, we’ve started our group read of BEES, reading and discussing two chapters per week. If anyone wants to join us, just ask me how! All are welcome.
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare: My book group’s newest classic read. We’ll be going at a pace of one scene per week — now underway.

So many books, so little time…

boy1