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Pens and Feathers

Notes about reading

Line of Duty

Protecting What's His (A Line of Duty Novel) - Tessa Bailey His Risk to Take - Tessa Bailey Officer off Limits - Tessa Bailey

This is another group review, because I read these books back-to-back so fast.  And I loved them so much!  These are loosely connected, so there's no problem with reading them out of order.  


We start off with Ginger in Protecting What's His.  She's just moved to Chicago with her sister, hoping to make a fresh start.  Her new neighbor is Derek, and he's a gorgeous cop.  Ginger has always avoided the police because her past often had her doing things she shouldn't just to get by.  But Derek takes one look at Ginger and knows he's got to have her.  (For the record, I don't know any guys like this in real life.  They are never this determined or persistent.  Or this hot.  Guys like this may exist, I just don't know any.)  Derek delights in getting Ginger all riled up by telling her - in detail - what he'd like to do to her.  Yup, I pretty much loved Derek.  So there's some conflict with Ginger's past, but the best parts are where Derek and Ginger figure out their relationship together.  


His Risk to Take has Troy who's a cop falling for Ruby who is a pool hustler.  He's immediately into her, but she is hesitant to trust him.  Ruby has past ties to a criminal group that Troy is investigating.  When he finds out how close she is to his case, he wants to protect her.  Again, there's the conflict with the criminals, but the reward is the way the relationship grows.  


Officer Off Limits is about Story, who's just come to New York after hearing that her father has had a heart attack.  Her father is a hostage negotiator, and he asks his protegee Daniel, to help Story settle in.  Story has just had a break-up and she's not looking to jump into a relationship, but her connection to Daniel is electric - she's definitely willing to have a rebound fling.  And fling they do.  The question then becomes whether they make their fling last, and whether they can make her father accept the relationship.  


I think I have 2 left in this series, and I'm sort of saving them.   Like my hidden chocolate stash, I know I'll be craving one soon!

Spindle Cove

A Night to Surrender - Tessa Dare A Week to Be Wicked - Tessa Dare Once Upon a Winter's Eve - Tessa Dare Beauty and the Blacksmith (Spindle Cove, #3.5) - Tessa Dare A Lady by Midnight - Tessa Dare

Brace yourselves: this is a rave review for the Spindle Cove series by Tessa Dare.  I actually read them out of order because I got A Week to Be Wicked when it was on sale.  And from there, I knew I'd have to read all the rest.  It's not that they don't stand alone, but there are enough hints at the other stories, that I was dying to know what happened.


One of my favorite things was that I felt like the characters were fresh and interesting.  There weren't any stereotypical characters - each had a little something to make them unique.  Minerva, from A Week... is a paleontologist.  While her gender definitely plays a role in the conflict, her occupation is not her defining trait.  She's also a sister and a daughter, and she's protective and sometimes insecure.  And her hero is Colin, a rake that has been almost written off as a lost cause.  He's come to Spindle Cove because he's out of money and has to wait until his birthday to inherit.  He's totally fine with society's perception of him - he even believes it too.  But he's just so charming and likable.  And Minerva sees there's more to him, and in the end, it's all about how they manage to bring out the best in each other.  


I also loved Kate and Thorne from A Lady by Midnight.  Their romance was just hinted at in book 3, but I took the bait.  I had to read this one the very next day!  And it was just as delightful.  I've since read the first book A Night to Surrender and both the novellas.  Now with the novellas, there was one that I did not find quite as satisfying because of a minor plot point.  But the writing and romance were just as good, so I did enjoy it.  This series has romance that is both sweet and hot.  The love scenes were "modern" in their tone, but not in a way that seemed unrealistic.  I still have one book left in this series, and I know I'll enjoy it!

Body and Soul

Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul: How to Create a New You - Deepak Chopra


Back when my town actually had a bookstore, I used to browse regularly for new books.  Many times I picked up books that I might not have considered if had I not had a chance to flip through the pages.  I don’t remember at this point what made me pick up this book.  Perhaps I read about it on Oprah.com, or something.  I often browsed the cookbook aisle, and I think this was just across the way in the health department.  Even flipping through it, I had no idea what it was about (and I’m not sure I can even describe it now, having read it!).   I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.


The basic premise is that every person is essentially made up of energy - the body and the soul are made manifest by energy.  Understanding that statement is the key to how you relate to the world around you, how you approach your health and emotions, and so on.  Chopra shares many anecdotes throughout the book.  One of the more memorable ones involved a study about compassion and Buddhist monks.  The monks were asked to meditate about compassion while their brains were being monitored by scientists.  After several minutes of meditating, the portion of the brain that corresponds with compassion showed a sharp increase in activity.  So just by meditating on compassion, the monks were triggering the compassionate response of their brains.  The message here was that whatever you meditate upon, you can bring more fully into your life.  My guess is that monks are rather good at meditating already, and also probably compassionate, too.  However, the idea is interesting to me - that you can cue your brain to experience positive emotion.  

So there’s a lot of vague theory but not a lot of concrete advice. But it didn’t matter.  Reading this book is like feeling you’re on the cusp of a great new understanding.  What understanding?  I’m not sure, but it could be understanding life.  Remember reading “Our Town” in high school?  At the end Emily is realizing why death is so much different than being alive.  She can see what she never knew while living her day-to-day life.  This book feels like that: a glimpse at what you are trying to know, but is so easy to lose sight of.  Maybe it’s possible, though, to live life consciously and with awareness.  It just takes practice.

Ten Most Influential Books

What are the 10 most influential books you've ever read?  I've been seeing this question on Facebook and Goodreads, and I couldn't resist making my own list.  The following books were the most influential to my reading life.


1. Harry Potter and the . . . by JK Rowling

Right off the bat I am cheating by choosing a series.  I have a huge soft spot for Harry - how could I choose just 1?  Finishing the last book felt like saying goodbye to friends. 

2. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. 

Sublime - reading this was pure pleasure.  The politics and manipulations of Henry VIII's court were surprisingly interesting and suspenseful. 

3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This book hits all the bases: interesting characters, great writing, important themes.  Besides that, it's just a flat-out good story.

4. The Midwife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

I read this for a college US History class.  It was my first taste of really good non-fiction and a portrayal of history at a personal level.  One of the only classes where I completed - and enjoyed - all of the assigned reading.

5. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Oh how I cried at the end of this book.  I can't actually recall another book that impacted me like that.

6. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

I'd call this book spiritually soothing.  When I was burnt out on thrillers and mysteries, this cleansed my palate in a very good way. 

7. Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

The writing style took some getting used to, but I really fell for it.  After traveling to Africa, I could not express the wonder and intensity of my experience.  This book showed me that describing Africa can in fact be done.

8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

The many film adaptations led me back to this book, and gave me new eyes to look at it.  I appreciate the moral dilemmas so much more now than when I first read it years ago. 

9. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

Probably my most re-read book.  All about finding your place in the world - in a place you never would have expected.  Plus there's a little bit of romance and it's delightful.

10. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

This is the story of one man's attempt to escape from society and the tragedy that followed.  In our high-tech world, where everything seems to be at our civilized fingertips, it's easy to forget that sometime nature will have its way. 




The World's Strongest Librarian

The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family - Josh Hanagarne

This book is kind of my jam.  I worked at a library for 7 years while in high school and college.  It was a super great job and I have some very funny memories of certain library patrons and their idiosyncrasies.   I split my time between desk shifts and working in book processing.  I got to see all the new books that came in.  The perfect job for a book-lover.


In The World's Strongest Librarian, Josh Hanagarne is the librarian of the title.  He discovered his love of books and reading early in life.  Then as a teenager he was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome.  Add to this the regular growing-up challenges of struggling with his faith (Mormonism), relationships, school, and so on.  Sometimes he can cope well, and sometimes the Tourettes overwhelms him.  But he goes on to become a librarian for the Salt Lake City library and the reader can't help but cheer.


Each chapter begins with a Dewey Decimal reference to how that chapter would be shelved.  There are many bookish bits and quotes, along with anecdotes from the library.  The writing is genuine and heartfelt.   I was intrigued by his references to using gym workouts to help control his disease.  It was mentioned here and there but mostly discussed near the end, which seemed a little uneven especially given the title.  That's a minor detail, really.  This is overall a great book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  And my copy came from the library!

Reblogged from Olivia Smith... and her BookWorld:

Last Bus to Woodstock

Last Bus to Woodstock - Colin Dexter

I’m a fan of Masterpiece Classics on PBS and I’ve been enjoying the Inspector Lewis series on Masterpiece Mystery as well.  I googled it the other day, just to see if the series would continue this summer, and found that this is expected to be the final season.  Bummer!  But I’ve never tried the Inspector Morse series (which Lewis was based on), and I thought I’d give the books a go before I borrowed the TV series from the library.  I found the first book, Last Bus to Oxford by Colin Dexter, to have many of the things that I like about the TV series: interesting setting in the area of Oxford, engaging characters, and plenty of suspects. 


The case is introduced with a scene written from a witness’s point of view.  Two girls are waiting for the last bus to Woodstock, anxious and in a hurry to get there.  The witness overhears the girls decide to hitch a ride.  The body of one girl is later found in a courtyard outside a pub, and Inspector Morse is called out to the scene.  Lewis – I think he's a sergeant at this point – is brought in to help with the legwork on the investigation.  When the witness comes forward, the Inspector has even more questions.  Who was the other girl?  Why doesn’t she want to be found?  And who picked them up?


There are certainly secrets to uncover.  The atmosphere of the writing is very similar to what the TV series portrays.  It was overall an entertaining read, even though I guessed the ending, and I especially enjoyed seeing the young Lewis.  It looks like there are 13 books in the series.  I’m not much of a series reader, but I’ll be dipping into this one again.

Meat Eater

Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter - Steven Rinella

Browsing the “New Books” shelf at the library led me to pick up Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter by Steven Rinella.  I flipped through the pages and saw that at the end of each chapter, there was a section called “Tasting Notes” and one that caught my eye was all about squirrel.  I checked it out, but I fully expected I’d read a few bits and return it.   Though I do eat meat, I’m not much of a hunter.  Luckily, I read the first few pages because I was hooked right away. 



Rinella grew up in Michigan, hunting the woods around his house with his dad and brothers.  For a while in his teens, he planned to be a professional fur trapper but the fur economy was not so cooperative.  Hunting remained an important part of his life and helped him build strong bonds with his brothers.  The reader is brought along on several hunting trips seeking various preys, some successful and some not so much.  Along the way there are details about the history and culture of hunting, and anecdotes about Daniel Boone and other early hunters in America.



The first sentence is: “This book has a hell of a lot going for it, simply because it’s a hunting story.”  And this is true – it is a great book of hunting stories.  The writing is descriptive and elegant, and though hunting itself is gritty and elemental, not once did I feel squeamish.  In the first chapter, the author approaches the question of why he hunts.  He includes two stories – one about a turkey hunt, and one about caribou in Alaska – that he feels answer the question.  The book follows a similar format, with stories to illustrate the tactful arguments.  But the stories always take center-stage.



The author does not shy away from considering the ethics of hunting and its place in today’s world.  This is not a book about trophy hunting.  There’s careful consideration of what it means to ‘harvest’ meat, and how to get the best use and least waste possible.  I think the overall portrayal is one of a thoughtful hunter that clearly respects the environment, the wildlife, and the way of life that hunting provides.



I'm guessing that there are about 100 times a day that I think about books: what I'm reading now, what I'd like to read, when I can read next, why I like the books I like, and so on.  Now I'd like to try writing about books, too. 


My reading varies a lot, from the genre to the regularity.  I usually have at least 5 books going at any given time.  Some I set aside for weeks or months before they get back into the rotation.  I read non-fiction, mostly history, current events, or biography/memoir, but some science and self-help is in the mix.  Fiction choices can be anything - mystery/suspense, historical, romance, fantasy, YA,  or classics.  Favorites include Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller, and Manhunt by James L. Swanson.



Can't wait to get started!