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Mini Reviews

I have a huge stack of books sitting on the coffee table. They are books I have read recently and that I keep meaning to review. However, good intentions aren't getting me anywhere so instead of full reviews, I am going to make it short and sweet with a few brief sentences on each book and whether or not I think you should read it. Are you ready?

The Feast by Margaret Kennedy. A cliffside hotel on the Cornish coast is buried when the cliff collapses. You know that from the beginning but then you go back and meet all the hotel guests and find out their stories. Who survives and who doesn't? It is a bit odd. The characters are definitely eccentric and, in some ways, it feels like a quiet story. But, at the same time, you have that cliff looming over you. Read it. I thought it was great.

The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks. I have mixed feelings about this. It is the story of Rebanks and his family farm in the Lake District. His love of the land and his farming heritage is clear and appealing. His descriptions of the countryside made me immediately want to travel there. I learned a lot about sheep farming. But, at times I found myself annoyed with Rebanks as a person. Yes, I understand his farming life is wonderful but it is not the only life. He speaks a bit disparagingly of education but he went to Oxford. He loves the countryside but is annoyed by the walkers and other tourists who are also enjoying it. It all felt a bit disjointed to me. I enjoyed it on a certain level but I don't think I loved it as much as many others have. Read it if you happen to come across it but don't rush out and buy it.

Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport*. This is a very detailed account of the 1917 Russian Revolution as told through the eyes of foreign journalist etc. who were in Russia at the time. This was not an easy read. The events during that time were truly horrifying and disturbing. The book was well-researched and detailed. However, I struggled with it. It sat on my "currently reading" shelf on Goodreads for way too long. I finally finished it and feel like I learned a lot about a time and a place I knew little about but I would not say I enjoyed it. Read it if you have an interest in the time period.

The Spirit of the Age and Other Stories from the Home Front by E. M. Delafield.* I loved this so I am saying right away that you should read it. It is a series of vignettes set during WWII in a little village called Little-Fiddle-on-the-Green. They are charming and funny and full of great characters who make you laugh out loud. If you loved Delafield's Provincial Lady then you will like this. It isn't quite as good, but then, few things are.

Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate.* A woman is on trial for her life. Each member of the jury has their own history that will affect how they decide the case. The reader is introduced to the members of the jury one by one and learns about their past and then is presented with the facts of the case. It made for a very interesting story and I enjoyed it quite a bit. One of the more successful of the British Library Crime Classics.

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley.* I will read pretty much anything about Jane Austen though my favorite book about her is Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin. I didn't feel this offered anything unusual or new but I basically enjoyed it and thought it was written in an engaging manner. I was worried about that since I saw the TV show based on this with Worsley and I had not really enjoyed it. I found her a bit irritating. I think everyone feels their Jane Austen is the real Jane Austen and Worsley is no exception. Her conclusions from things Austen wrote or said are not necessarily my conclusions. Of course, I am not an Austen scholar but still...my Jane Austen is the real Jane Austen, right? Some of it was a bit too speculative for me. Do we really need to debate whether Austen ever had lesbian sex or any sex at all, for that matter? And what was that about the titillating effects of bathing in the sea? Also, I felt Worsley frequently put modern sensibilities on Austen's thoughts and actions. But, all in all, enjoyable though not the best book about Austen that I have ever read.

I am currently reading A Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell. It is an account of life in Britain during WWII. So, in other words, my perfect book. I am about halfway through and highly recommend it. What have you been reading lately?

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

A Leather Journal

A few weeks ago we went to Barnes and Noble because my son wanted to buy some expansions for his board game. He is very into board games at the moment and ropes anyone even semi-willing into playing with him. Many of them are more fun than I would have thought. Though I must admit, I didn't know there were so many Star Wars board games. I think he is determined to own all of them. We are trying to convince him to expand his collection beyond Star Wars. He says it sounds like a good idea and then he gets pulled in by the expansion sets and decides he just has to have Chewbacca or whatever. Anyway, he was taking an endless amount of time to decide exactly what he was going to buy and I was entertaining myself by browsing all the sections of Barnes and Noble I don't usually have time to investigate. This led me to the journal section and I discovered the wonders of leather journals. It was love at first sight. They were so pretty and they smelled so good and just imagine the wonders of writing in one. They were also about $40.00. I just couldn't. Not for a journal that I would fill up and then be done with. So I reluctantly walked away, towing a Star Wars laden son behind me, and regretted it as soon as I was home. Well, kind of regretted it. I wanted a leather journal but I decided the dream was a refillable one. I emerged from the depths of an internet search later that evening having discovered Portland Leather Goods. They actually have an Etsy shop as well and they were having a sale.

An endless amount of dithering later (maybe this is where my son gets it) I ordered a journal. There were quite a few decisions and I am not good at decisions. You can choose from a variety of leather colors and there are approximately 50 different brands you can choose to put on the front. I chose the compass but there were also mountains and sayings and even Calvin and Hobbes. You can add your name or initials which I chose not to do. Also, you have to decide about the stone on the wrap. Do you want one? What color? Maybe a bit of wood instead? Then do you want lined or unlined paper? So many choices and all of them appealing.

portland leather wrap journal

The notebook is held in by a sturdy elastic band. I messaged the company asking if it was possible to add a second elastic so I could have two notebooks inside the leather cover. They answered very quickly and said they were willing to do it but they did not recommend it because they felt it might make the cover not fit as well. The wrap wouldn't go around as well and the brand might be in the wrong place. I said, in that case, just stick with the one notebook. I do regret that decision now though. There is plenty of room for a second elastic and the leather cover would easily fit around. It is unfortunate, but I will probably just look for a thicker notebook when I replace the one that came with it.

This is in no way a sponsored post I just really, really love this journal. Do you know how sometimes you buy something that just makes you happy? Well, this journal is making me happy. And, because it is refillable, I can enjoy it for years to come.

Portland Leather Goods also makes gorgeous tote bags. So tempting. They are more expensive than  I would usually buy (because I am...frugal. Let's go with frugal.) but they are beautiful, probably would get better with age, and they would last forever. I really want one. Maybe one day.

Local Discoveries--Old Furnace State Park

Celia had a half day of school last Friday and it is common knowledge that half days are wasted unless they are spent in the company of your best friend. The original plan involved an entire afternoon and evening spent at our house complete with secret plans, pizza for dinner, and ending with pleadings for a sleepover. However, one ill father later and we had to come up with an alternative. They settled for a hike at the nearby state park and a trip for frozen yoghurt. Thank goodness they are still at the age to be easily pleased.

This is a walk we have done regularly over the years we have lived in the area. We first started doing it when Celia was almost four and I have clear memories of struggling up the last steep section towing an overtired small child after me. I also have clear memories of temporarily losing my son in these woods when he was younger. I freaked out and when we eventually found him he could not comprehend why I was upset. He had stayed on the path and waited at the top. What more could we ask for? Kids will be the death of me.

The girls giggled their way through the entire hike. There were endless discussions about the best breed of dog and where they should travel for the post-high-school trip they are dreaming of. The current contenders are Paris and Greece though I am sure that will change five million times in the next few years.

We did take a wrong turn at one point and ended up across the pond instead of on the cliffs at the top. You can see them in the trees in the photo above. They don't look particularly impressive here but they do feel high when you are standing on the edge.  They aren't massive but they are tall enough that rock climbers use them for practice.

Celia took one look at the bench in the photo above and asked me if I had a book in my backpack. She thought it would make a great photo opportunity for Instagram. She was right but unfortunately, I took my book out so my bag wouldn't be too heavy. We will just have to go back with the appropriate props.

It was a good day. We ended it with coffee-and-dark-chocolate frozen yoghurt. What more can you ask for? Well, except for a sleepover with your best friend....