FOR THE LOVE OF THE BARD by Jessica Martin: A Review

a second chance at romance after goofing up the first time

Miranda Barnes, literary agent and secret writer is conned by her mother, professor of literature and head of the annual Shakespeare festival in Bard’s Rest, a small town in New England, into directing Twelfth Night on one of the stages featuring The Bard’s plays. She is avoiding “the guy who broke her heart on prom night,” Adam, son of the local veterinarian, who is standing in for his father who has had heart surgery.

Since Miranda is directing and Adam is in charge of set design, they are unavoidably “thrown together” as they navigate the plans for the festival.Shakespeare’s observation that “The course of true love never runs smooth” is proven as miscommunications that cause plot twists and turns occur. Family relationships including Miranda with her parents, Amanda with her younger sister, and family secrets from the past are revealed as the reader quickly turns the pages in this 2022 publication.

I had to wait weeks to get this book from my local library, but the wait was worth it. There is one fairly graphic sex scene, but it is not offensive, nor does it use “bad” words; instead, it carries the element of attraction, and ultimately love between the main characters.

I would label this novel a good, fast, “sweet” read.

This was one of the three books I finished in my Labor Day Readathon.

Friday Firstliner for 4/28/22

I finished this Book about Books today.

First Line Fridays, hosted by Reading Is My Superpower asks participants to copy the first line or two of a book they want to read, are reading, or have read in order to tempt someone into reading the book also. Here are the first couple of lines from…

My copy from our local library looks a bit different because it is the large print version.

As the subtitle states, “A Bookshop Keeps Many Secrets.” Indeed, this is a book filled with secrets, and the unveiling and solving of them provides many twists and turns for the reader as the author tweaks the formula of the stand-offish, girl who works in the bookshop. This girl, Loveday Cardew mostly sorts and seeks book “finds” from the boxes of donated or purchased books for the bookshop she works at. The tattoos of the first lines of books which decorate her body brands her as a girl with secrets in her past. Into this murky background comes Nathan, poet and gentleman. Foiled against Rob, the discarded, surly previous lover, who seems bent on revenge, Nathan is every girl’s dream-come-true.

Three suspicious boxes are delivered for Loveday to sort through, which slam her back into her foster care past and the horrible act which alienated her from her mother. Secrets abound, are revealed, and misinterpreted, swirling around Loveday until the action-packed, hold-your-breath conclusion.

Here are the first lines:

“A book is a match in the smoking second between strike and flame.

Archie says books are our best lovers and our most provoking friends. He’s right, but I’m right too. Books can really hurt you.”

FRIDAY FIRSTLINERS

TODAY’S Friday Firstliner is from a book I have just finished, The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles.

Based on true events, featuring real people, this novel caught my attention when I saw it reviewed on two blogging friends’ reviews. I purchased it from Amazon. One of those bloggers said the parts set during WW II were excellent, but the parts set in 1983 detracted from the novel. I concur, for the story of Odile and the Paris Library made an wonderful stand-alone novel. Here is it’s first line:

“Odile/ Paris, February 1939/ Numbers floated round my head like stars. 823. The numbers were the key to a new life. 822. Constellations of hope. 841. In my bedroom late at night, in the morning on the way to get croissants, series after series–810, 840, 890–formed in front of my eyes. They represented freedom, the future. Along with the numbers, I’d studied the history of libraries…”

On this first page, the reader meets the heroine, Odile, preparing for her job interview with the Directress of the Paris Library. She has no idea what she will be asked, but knows she really wants the job.

I enjoyed this book a great deal, especially marveling at the wonderful job the employees of the Paris Library did to keep the library open and functioning, even in occupied Paris.

THE MONK DOWNSTAIRS by Tim Farrington: A Review

Another library book returned this month

Rebecca, a thirty-eight-year old single mom, trying to hold her life together and raise her six-year-old daughter, Mary Margaret, decides to rent her basement apartment (the “in-law apartment”) to earn some much needed cash. And, who should apply but a monk, who has left the monastery after twenty years of contemplation and solitude.

A delightfully light, but insightful at times, romance

The book intersperses among the chapters that carry the narrative, Mike Christopher’s (the monk’s) letters to a monk/friend still at the monastery, chronicling his new life in the “outside world.” Most interesting are his musings on his new-found relationship with his landlady. Their relationship has its ups and downs, which keeps things interesting, and is refreshing and unique to the reader.

Mike volunteers to grow pumpkins (in December!) for Mary Margaret in the back yard, which he miraculously pulls off. Completing the cast of characters is Rebecca’s mom, Phoebe, who precipitates a catastrophic event which turns all the character’s lives upside down. Dealing with life in general and hard times specifically brings out the characters’ inner selves in a way that endears each to the reader in an unforgettable way. One will be thinking about these people long after finishing the novel.

HAPPY READING THIS WEEK!

Rae

TUESDAY TEASER

THIS MEME ASKS YOU TO COPY A COUPLE OF SENTENCES TO “TEASE” SOMEONE INTO READING THE SAME BOOK.

HERE is the choice for Tuesday, January 25th.

A philosophical romance (if there is such a thing!)

Rebecca is talking to her ex, about her new tenant in her “in-law apartment” off the garage,

” ‘Our new tenant downstairs, ‘ Rebecca said. ‘I finally got the in-law apartment in shape.’

‘He’s a monk’ , Mary Martha (Rebecca’s daughter) announced.

‘Wow, a monk, no kidding. Does he wear a robe and sandals?’

She (Mary Martha) giggled, ‘No, silly’…

‘He’s very nice,’ Rebecca said, before this got out of hand. ‘Very ordinary. Just a guy. Makes his own coffee, keeps to himself.”

And so the unusual relationship begins…

THE RULES OF LOVE AND GRAMMAR by Mary Simses: A Review

If there is such a thing as a cozy romance novel, this is one.

In her 2016 publication, Simses has created a Grammar Nazi in her protagonist. Grace Hammond corrects poor grammar usage wherever she encounters it. As the story opens, Grace has lost her job, her boyfriend, her apartment, and is forced to return to her parents’ home in Connecticut. Tragedy took her older sister years ago, and her parents have never gotten over or spoke of it since. It is a romance, one I would christen a “cozy romance,” and three different love interests are present: Peter, a high school boyfriend, now a renowned filmmaker who has returned to town to shoot a movie; Sean, an actor who recently was proclaimed The Sexiest Man Alive, also in town; and Mitch, the bike guy. Cluny, her best friend and sidekick since elementary school rounds out the cast of supporting characters.

Each chapter features a rule of grammar, followed by an example sentence which often foreshadows what will happen in the chapter. Here is an example from the beginning of Chapter 19: “Collective nouns are singular and are typically paired with singular verbs. A film crewe often works very long hours.” In this pleasurable novel, Grace, the main character ” finds love and closure, and rediscovers herself. ” The book is a darned good read.

Cats and books–add people, and you have my three favorite things!

WHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND BRAVE by Hazel Gaynor: A Review

I love historical novels set in WWII.

As the cover on the large print copy of this book advertised, it is “a story of courage and strength.” If anyone is courageous and strong, it is a Girl Scout, or Girl Guide as they were called in England. Their motto was “Be prepared,” which the teachers and students at the China Inland Mission School were not. Unprepared as they were for Japanese occupation after the attack on Pearl Harbor, both teachers and students made the best of a bad situation.

Alternating chapters from the point of view of Nancy, an eight year old student, and her teacher, Miss Elspeth, Gaynor describes the take-over of the school housing and teaching children of missionaries, ambassadors, and other workers in China, then their march to and confinement in an internment camp for six years. It is a story of the hardships the children and teachers faced and their relationships with their captors, some kindly like “Home Run,” and others vengeful and sadistic like” Trouble.” It is the story of the friendship between Nancy (“Plum”) and Joan (“Mouse”), as they become young women while under the watchful eyes of the Japanese soldiers. One of the girls’ many chores was to deliver and pick up books to readers who borrowed them from the “lending library” set up by Ms. Trevellyan, a woman of questionable reputation in the camp. The following highlights the girls’ love of books:

“We sometimes found corners of the pages turned down, and passages marked and underlined. Mrs. Trevellyan didn’t seem to mind, although I thought it spoiled the books.

‘I’d never write in a book,’ I said. ‘It makes the pages look messy.’

‘It does if you look at it one way,’ she clucked as she put some books on the shelves we couldn’t reach. ‘But it also makes them look loved. It means that someone stopped and thought about that sentence, or that paragraph. Books aren’t museum pieces to be admired from a distance. They’re meant to be lived in; messed up a little.’ “

This is a very well-written page-turner that should make us appreciate what we have today and the struggles our relatives went through during WWII. It’s a darned good read!

ATONEMENT, TENNESSEE by Teagan Riordain Geneviene: A Review

by blogger friend Teagan Geneviene

My personal “Book of the Month,” this novel by blogger friend, Teagan, is set in Atonement, Tennessee, a “quaint” town full of interesting characters. When Esmerelda Lawton, “Ralda” to her friends, suffers from “big city blues,” she finds an old foreclosed-upon mansion in Atonement at a price too good to be true. And when something is too good to be true…well, you know the rest of the saying. She buys the house sight-unseen, and only when she arrives in town does she discover the old mansion comes complete with an ancient cemetery.

Gwydion, the local florist from Fae’s Flowers, and conveniently a handyman, is the first to visit. Cael, the foreign-accented, dark, and very handsome neighbor, who hangs around the cemetery, rounds out the love interests in this tiny town .

The story is a mix of urban fantasy and Celtic mythology, emanating a “feeling” of mystery and paranormal romance. The book ends with a cliffhanger that definitely requires a sequel, for which I can hardly wait.

BOOKS “E” and “F” of the 2020 ALPHABET SOUP CHALLENGE, Author’s edition

Thank you Dollycas for such a great challenge. Here are books “E” and “F”ALPHABET-SOUP-2020-AUTHOR-EDITION-BE-820.jpg

BOOK “E”– Tony Evans, author of The Last Promise, set this 2002 romance at a Tuscan vineyard complete with Italian villa, resident artist, and asthmatic son. I had read Evan’s The Christmas Box years ago as a Third Tuesday December book club selection. When Promise showed up as a donation for my Little Free Library,A98244D5-A015-438B-BB9D-688C2EFD5E36.jpeg I set it aside where it sat on my TBR shelf for over a year.

The author is a great storyteller who makes the reader care about the characters. Eliana, an artist married to a womanizing, rich husband lives in one part of the villa. She meets another resident of the huge villa, Ross, an American turned tour guide at the Uffizi (an art museum) who is harboring a secret. The two fall in love, of course, but the path of true love is often rocky. What results is beautiful descriptions of Italy, intrigue and mystery, and heart-tugs galore. It is a darned good read.thumbnail_20200308_105121.jpg

BOOK “F”–This 2012 adventure novel by the mysterious author, Magnus Flyte (What a pseudonym!) is also a blog recommendation from a fellow blogger, thus killing two book objectives with one read: The Alphabet Challenge and to read 20 books recommended by blogging friends in 2020. The novel includes science, magic, history, and art in all of its forms.

Sarah Watson (a play on Sherlock Holmes’ assistant) is the strong, female protagonist. She has been invited to Prague, City of Dark Magic, by her old professor Dr. Sherbatsky, offering her a job as a musicologist specializing in Beethoven at the Lobkowicz Palace there. When she arrives, she is shocked that Professor Sherbatsky had died under mysterious circumstances that has been classified as a suicide. Sarah knows in her heart this is impossible and sets out to find out the truth of his demise.

“This deliciously madcap novel has it all: murder in Prague, time travel [in the most original, unique way I’ve ever seen it done] a misanthropic Beethoven, tantric sex [plenty of it–all in good fun] and a dwarf with an attitude” Connan O’ Brien.

This novel is a hilarious, page-turning romp with an especially exciting ending.

 

These two have me ready to go back to Gilbert’s City of Girls next for the “G” novel of The 2020 Alphabet Challenge.city of g

 

MORE BOOKS ABOUT BOOKS

What better than a book set in a small library n a small town, whose main character is a librarian? The Library of Lost and Found, a 2019 novel by Phaedra Patrick, her debut novel, is, as critics claim, “Eccentric, charming and wise.” The “local” librarian, Martha Storm has lost her chance at finding true love since she cared for her elderly parents (while working at the town library) until their deaths, and until she is firmly established as everyone’s favorite “old maid”. Everyone agrees she is the person to ask if you need help or a favor, for she has “all the time in the world” and “nothing better to do.” Martha still lives in her parents’ home, which looks like something out of a hoarder’s nightmare because she does not have the time or energy to go through her parents’ things; plus, her living and dining room are cluttered with “projects” she has taken on for other people: pants to hem for her sister’s son since the sister doesn’t have time, a paper mâché dragon’s head to repair for the theater department of the local high school, and on and on.

Actually, this is not just the story of things that get lost in Martha’s house, but of how she has lost herself and finds herself, as well as a second chance at love. Library has been called “…a hymn to books and how they can bring love even miracles into your life.” And they do just that in Martha’s life. The thing I like best about Martha’s development and reformation is how she “writes her own happy ending.” I highly recommend The Library of Lost and Found.