First line: Lord Ruthven wanted him killed during this tennis match but Darnley said no.
Summary: On the night of March 9, 1566, the personal secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots was murdered by assassins in the Queen’s apartments at Holyrood Palace. David Rizzio was dragged out and stabbed fifty six times while the pregnant queen was restrained by her husband, Lord Darnley.
My Thoughts: I remember the first time I learned about David Rizzio. It was a in a book by Jane Yolen, The Queen’s Own Fool, that I stumbled upon in a book sale. It seems like such a fantastical story but it is actually history. Mina’s book is a quick story about these events, the people involved and the reasons behind them.
Even though I liked the story I found the writing style strange. I didn’t feel like it flowed well. This was my first book by Denise Mina, so maybe this is her normal style but it’s not one that I found appealing.
Mary had such a tragic life. But I think that is why so many people, including myself, find her interesting. She was a woman with power in an age when many women had no power. And she is constantly being compared to her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. If you have never heard about this event in Mary’s life or need a short book (118 pages) to complete your reading challenge then I would recommend picking this one up!
First line: Blood-sodden, the girl staggers into the black.
Summary: A young man is found murdered in his houseboat in Regent’s Canal. As the police look into what happened they focus on three women. The young woman with whom he had a one night stand, the grief stricken aunt and the nosy neighbor. Each one has their own dark pasts with lots of mistakes. And their own reasons to kill.
My Thoughts: This book started great! It felt like it was going to be an exciting story with lots of twists. And it was fun but so much of it seemed to not matter to the whole storyline. Miriam especially seemed like she was just an addition to get the book to a certain page count. Plus there was lots of characters at the beginning. Keeping track of them while listening to the audio version made it hard to keep track of the plot.
I did enjoy the relationship between Irene and Laura. Seeing two women who are lonely and very different be friends and support each other is heartwarming in a murder mystery. I felt bad for both of them throughout the book because of the prejudices against them by society.
I was not surprised by who the killer was. It seemed rather obvious from the beginning as we learn the women’s backstories. With each one we see the connections and can figure out how the story will play out. Especially if you have read other thrillers. But I will say I still had fun reading it and would recommend it.
Music:Spotify playlist: ConfiDANCE(Song spotlight: Not 20 Anymore by Bebe Rexha; Okay Okay by Alessia Cara)
We all have our struggles. Two at the top of my list are mornings, and confidence. In an attempt to kill two birds with one stone, I created a Spotify playlist to start my mornings with a little pep. As soon as I turn off my alarm in the morning, I try to queue up this playlist, and keep it playing during my morning routine & trip to drop my oldest off at school. I sought out about half of the songs, knowing they already help me improve my mood on bad days. The other half Spotify suggested to me! A couple of my *new* favorites include Not 20 Anymore by Bebe Rexha, and Okay Okay by Alessia Cara.
Available on Spotify
Movies: He’s All That
I suppose I’m a shameless millennial. I was scrolling through the Netflix “coming soon” tab when I found this. She’s All That was one of my favorite movies for the years after it came out. I mean, Paul Walker you guys. Even as the jerk bad guy, he’s dreamy. Anyhow, it gave me all the teenage angst lovey-dovey vibes that I wanted. I had such high hopes for this movie. I watched it the day it launched onto Netflix. A little overzealous, I know. Anyway, they did a great job of giving the story line an update and making it current to today’s youth. The characters have the same personalities and attributes of attraction that the original actors did. Matthew Lillard and Rachel Leigh Cook even make an appearance! It didn’t live up to the original’s hype, for me, unfortunately. Perhaps that is just because those were my people, and I suppose that makes these ones my kids’ people. Whatever. Worth the watch—but maybe just once.
Available on Netflix
Television Show: Curious Creations of Christine McConnell
Some might say I’m a bit of an oddball. I would say I just really love Halloween, and spooky stuff, and all things weird. This Netflix series is all of those things and more. Christine is kind of a Martha Stewart of the…spooky variety. She shows the audience how to make beautifully creepy creations like cakes, tea services, and edible tree ornaments. She also has a host of strange Jim Henson-like creature friends who are always getting into mischief while she tries to teach us about her creations. It’s a strange show, but I suppose I’m a strange person.
Available on Netflix
Kid’s Television Show: Dug Days
My son is two, and I stay home with him during the daytime. It’s a fun age riding the line between constantly having to tell him, “no”, and staring at him with a big goofy grin on my face because he’s just SO wonderful. Watching him watch Dug Days does that second one to me. He just loves Dug. I’m not sure what it is—he’s not very verbal just yet—but the grin on his face when I turn it on just melts my heart. There’s only five or six shorts in the series, and they are short, but they are adorable and definitely worth the watch.
I read this series a couple of years ago and truly enjoyed it. I must have talked about it quite a bit, because when my husband decided to start an audiobook series (and the book he was hoping to read was checked out), he started listening to this series. I became very excited to enjoy the story with him—a tiny book club for two. The story was just as good the second time around! I’m not a huge fan of the narration of this series, but I am glad they got the same narrator for all of the books (so far); it made it a consistent read. I’m a sucker for a few specific things in stories, and this series seems to check all of those boxes.*sigh*
Are you a fan of free and inexpensive? I am a fan of free and inexpensive. Chirp is an audiobook application I learned about through their sister (e-book) company Bookbub (which you should also check out if you haven’t heard of them). After creating your account, you can select favorite genres, authors, and narrators. Based on these favorites, you will receive a daily e-mail with a list of books you can purchase at discounted prices! The only disadvantage is you have to listen to it through their app. It’s a free app and subscription, though, so I’d call that a win! All books suggested to me so far are $5 or less. You can also put audiobooks on a wish list, and the app will alert you if they ever go on sale! I, um, I’ve purchased more $5 audiobooks than I care to admit so far.
About two years ago we moved into a new place to make room for a new little addition to our family. It had everything we were searching for, if it was a little higher in the price range than we were hoping for. Anyhow, the basement was unfinished. This might be daunting for some (read me), but the benefit was worth it. I aspire to write– and when I’m not writing, I’m usually reading—so, one of the unfinished rooms in the basement has been reserved as an office/writing space for me sometime in the distant future. I guess I decided I wanted less distance, because I moved all my books back into storage and started working.
Man I underestimated the work that goes into a project like this. I was excited to paint, but forgot about the dry walling and mudding that had to occur first. I did a decent amount before deciding a garage sale to fund a professional to finish the work was probably the best idea. Now that is done, and I’m in the painting process. I love the gothic library look I’ve chosen, and I’m excited to decorate now. Again, I forgot how much work has to occur before that step can be taken, though. Baseboards, crown molding, door trim, window trim, carpeting, and installation of shelves ALL have to occur before I can decorate. Picking those items out is enjoyable, and the installation isn’t unenjoyable—but the bill that accompanies it? That’s is for the birds. So, my project is somewhere in the in-between now. Not exactly the distant future anymore, but further away from the now I was eager for. These things take time, I suppose.
ON MY RADAR: books on my “TBR” shelf, movies and television shows on my “Queue”, podcasts I’ve been eyeing but haven’t had the time to listen to yet. Things I haven’t bit the bullet and purchased, but really hope to sometime soon.
Summary: Belmont Academy is the best school in town. It churns out smart and well connected students to Ivy League universities. Teddy Crutcher, an English teacher, has just won Teacher of the Year. It is a high honor, especially for someone who did not attend Belmont as a student. And as a teacher he has high hopes for his students. He wants the ones who deserve to do well to achieve great things but he must teach the students who are entitled to learn a lesson. For their own good of course. When a parent dies at a school function the Belmont community is thrown into chaos. But then another murder happens. What is going on in this prestigious school?
My Thoughts: This is fine. I liked it. The characters were mostly terrible people. They each had such strong opinions about everyone else around them and were not afraid to act on their urges. Teddy was definitely scary in a calm methodical way. He could always justify his actions. But he also seemed to make sense in some of the things he thought which is even scarier.
I felt like the book was aimed more for young adult readers. And this may be because several of the main characters were teenagers. It felt like it was missing something that her other novels had which led me to give them a higher rating.
There were plenty of little twists but the reader knows from the very beginning who is killing. It was fun to read. And the ending was satisfying. Perfect for the story and the characters involved.
Summary: No surprise given the title, this is a love story. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say, it’s a story about love. The book follows the lives of three women, Aoife, Rosaleen, and Kate. Their stories span decades and take us from Ireland to England, back and forth in time and place. We see how their lives are linked and how the choices they make have consequences inherited by the next generation. Pages are devoted to showing the daily, tender scenes of mother-daughter bonds. But we also see how these women make seemingly small decisions to keep the peace with their husbands and lose their daughters as a result, suffering in silence. Or in another case, how women unwittingly lose their daughters, pushed by impossible situations and lacking options. Although it can be a tearful read, there is enough redemption in the final pages that you don’t feel you or the characters suffered in vain.
My thoughts: I’ve read a lot of reviews that describe this book as quiet and tender, which it is. Although a lot happens, it is not dramatic. Freud does such a good job of writing it the way real life feels—how we don’t know we’re making a decision that will change the course of our lives and the lives of the ones we love; we’re just doing what seems best in the moment. I like books that feel true to life such as this one, and I was also attracted to it because of its setting in Ireland. There’s just something about that place. My mother was raised in a large, Irish-Catholic family and experienced something similar to one of the women in this book. It isn’t something we speak about, so it was a way for me to try and understand what led her to make the choices she did and imagine how she felt.
First line: I am in the spare room, which doubles as my office, and I have just finished my day’s work.
Summary: Caitlin Moran, the humorist feminist writer, is back with a new book that takes a look at life for a middle aged woman. She delves into questions like; can a feminist get Botox? And why isn’t there a thing called “Mum Bod”? She gets real with her life and shows us that it is okay be fine with our bodies but still have fun.
My Thoughts: I laughed so hard when reading her first book, How To Be a Woman. I laughed while reading this one as well. Even though this one had humor it also delved into some very serious subjects. I love reading her insight into important topics like eating disorders, body image and men’s rights. She brings up topics I have never considered but now it is something I am very aware of. Her voice is very much her own. She has been compared to Tina Fey and Chelsea Handler. I feel this is accurate but she does so much more. I would highly recommend that anyone who wants a strong feminist icon with a great sense of humor pick up Moran’s books.
FYI: Some language and naughty bits but lots of fun and thought provoking!
Audiobook:The Duke and I (Bridgerton #1) by Julia Quinn
After seeing this series become popular on Netflix, I decided to give a shot at listening to the books. I am currently enjoying listening to the first book of the Bridgerton series on Libby. Although regency/romance isn’t typically my top choice for books, I find that Julia Quinn has done a great job at adding humor and suspense to the story. Despite the melodrama undertone of the whole thing, I find myself absorbed in the fictional world of 1800s high class.
Book:Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette by Anna & Lizzie Post
As my October wedding approaches, I have found myself studying how a wedding should be conducted. On top of everything else to buy, send, or make, there are also certain behaviors expected at a wedding ceremony and reception. Honestly, I have never been married before, so this whole wedding planning business is all new to me. I found this book extremely helpful in deciding how to plan my reception and have an easy flow to the evening!
Podcast: RELAX! with Colleen Ballinger & Erik Stocklin
I have been a fan of Colleen Ballinger for quite some time now. Her typical content is on YouTube as a family lifestyle video blogger. However, this year she and her husband, Erik, started a podcast to talk about life and current events. I typically turn this on when I am doing chores around the house. It is such a fun and lighthearted podcast, which makes it very easy to listen to. Both Colleen and Erik are famous actors, and they even met on set of Colleen’s Netflix series. They talk about what life is like in their careers, with their two-year-old son, Colleen’s current pregnancy with twins, and so much more. They also post their podcast video recording on YouTube, so you can sit down and watch it like a talk show.
Recently, the up-and-coming rock band, Greta Van Fleet, has been all over my social media. This album has been on repeat for me for at least a week now. My favorite song, which constantly gets stuck in my head, is “Heat Above”. They are a group whose sound is reminiscent of the 1970s band Led Zeppelin. Battle at Garden’s Gate is their most recent album and is available here at the DPL!
My fiancé and I are not avid TV watchers, so to have a show we both enjoy is rare. This week we started watching the series Manifest on Netflix. From the start, it had us both a little mind blown and confused. Essentially, it is about a group of people on a plane that supposedly had been missing for five years. However, for the passengers, it was only a few hours. We are finding that there is a Christian story line in the series. I am excited to see where the plot goes and to see if it keeps both of us entertained.
First line: This is not a book about mental health, but about how it can be used as a weapon.
Summary: Elizabeth Packard, a wife and mother of six, has displeased her husband with her differing views on religion and politics. According to the laws of the land he is within his rights to commit her to an insane asylum. And this is exactly what he does. However, Elizabeth will not go quietly. For three years she lives inside the walls of the institution, writing her story and about the abuses of the staff and the superintendent. Finally, when she is released her problems are not over. There is still a battle to be won and no one is going to silence her until it is finished.
My Thoughts: If you are looking for a non-fiction book that reads like fiction then this is it. The story is very easy to follow, the flow is consistent throughout and the plot is compelling. Elizabeth’s story is probably more common than anybody realizes. A husband, father, or brother has become disgruntled with a woman and sends them away. It is sad and fascinating all at the same time.
I listened and read this at the same time. Both were very enjoyable ways to consume this book. The reader did a great job and kept my attention while I was doing other things as I listened.
I did get a little frustrated at times with Elizabeth. Even though she knew that certain men were the ones that put her in the asylum she continued to try and persuade them to change their minds. I liked to see that she was smart enough to manipulate the situations she was in or make the best of her times in the asylum. She kept her wits about her which many other women would not be able to do.
With her limited resources she improved the lives of many of the women trapped in the asylum with her. And when she left she did not forget the ones that were still imprisoned. She was an intelligent woman who knew how to get her points heard. Because of her campaigning she brought about changes for married women and patients in the asylums.
First line: final girl (n.) – the last and sole survivor of a horror movie
Summary: Lynnette is a final girl. She has spent years keeping herself safe from the monsters that are out in the world. Part of her recovery and routine is the Final Girl Support Group. Once a month she has been meeting with a therapist and other final girls to try to deal with the trauma that has defined their lives. But one day things change and it seems the monsters are back and coming for all the final girls. Lynnette goes on the run. She is determined to survive but also keep her final girl sisters alive too. With each passing moment she sees that they are in more danger than ever before.
My Thoughts: I tried reading a Grady Hendrix book years ago and was just not impressed. I did not finish it even though it seemed to have everything I liked. So when my friend told was telling me about his most recent book I decided to give him another try. I am very glad I did. It was a wild ride. It reminded me of Riley Sager, another author who brings eighties horror movie tropes to his readers in thrilling stories that will keep you reading deep into the night.
Even though I really liked this book, I really did not like the main character. She was so depressing, whiney and crazy. I was constantly rolling my eyes at her thoughts and actions. It is like when you watch a horror movie and the dumb teenager goes into the dark basement rather than the running car. However, this is supposed to be like those campy horror movies making it perfect for the story. One of the best parts were the little additions like police reports, newspaper articles and interviews after each chapter that shows us the pasts of these women or people’s views on them.
There were lots of crazy twists and turns. Characters that seem reliable aren’t and vice versa. I was always expecting a “monster” to jump out at any moment like in the movies. And even when they are “dead” the bad guy comes back for one last scare. But the ending was wonderful. I did not see it coming. It was a great way to wrap up the novel.
I guess I will have to go back and try to read other Grady Hendrix novels now.
Podcast: Not Just the Tudors with Suzannah Lipscomb
I am a huge history nerd. I love to read, see, watch and listen to anything historical especially if it pertains to the Tudors. Recently one of my favorite historians started her own podcast called, Not Just the Tudors, which covers all sorts of history during the sixteenth century. I have learned a lot while listening, such as about the teenage werewolf, the story of beards, and the witches of Lorraine. Most episodes are 30-60 minutes which make for a quick little dip into the sixteenth century from the comfort of your home.
Find it here or where you normally download your podcasts.
2. Television show:Expedition Unknown with Josh Gates
As I said above, I love to learn about history. This adventure show looks into some of the world’s most fascinating and enduring legends and mysteries. The host, Josh Gates, travels the world meeting with experts and locals to uncover why these legends still fascinate people today. His corny “dad jokes” and willingness to do just about anything makes for a fun watch. I recently binge watched it while babysitting my nephew. And now my parents and I are addicted to the show and watch it together every week.
I have been to England 3 times (in 2006, 2007 and 2011). Each time has been wonderful! I love the country, the history and even the food. Even with all three trips there is still so much I have not seen in this gorgeous country. My cousin and I have been planning to travel to London and Edinburgh but it had to be pushed back due to COVID. But we are hopeful that this next spring we will finally be able to travel. This magazine has been helping feed my wanderlust. It features different sites to see, events to attend and some of the history around Britain. If you miss traveling as much as I do then I would recommend you check it out plus many other travel magazines available on Libby.
This summer I was able to have my dachshund puppy, Dudley, come live with me. As with many dachshunds they are stubborn little barkers. And Dudley is no different. But in the future I would like to be able to take him on road trips or visit friends without having to deal with too many behavioral problems. Thus, I signed him up for training classes at Derby Petco with Riley H. The first class was very scary for him but he has already made tons of progress. He has learned lot of new tricks like sit, lay down, stay and leave it. Riley has been very patient with him. I would highly recommend her and the classes. There are different levels. Dudley is nearly done with session one and will start session two this fall!
Recently I found a new tool to help organize and plan my trip to the UK. It is called OneNote. It is a Microsoft program that allows a person to divide up things into different sections and pages. I have broken my trip into different categories like location, flights, hotels, and budgets. But then under each category I can have more pages with more individualized information. I put links, photos, and charts that give me a more detailed view of my trip. I like to show people that this is my “beautiful mind”. I have several itineraries, places we should visit, and restaurants to try. Plus, it has been a life saver during COVID. I have felt like I am doing something to plan my trip even though I cannot plan my trip yet. If you have access to OneNote I would recommend checking it out. It seems like a very useful tool for many different things.
Find out more about OneNote by checking out our database, Learning Express, where you can watch tutorials on using the application.