Tuesday, December 28, 2021

December Potpourri

Lots to catch up on--I haven't done a potpourri or roundup since RIP!

Anyway, apart from the Classics, here's what I've been reading:

Taste, by Stanley Tucci - I loved his CNN tour of Italy so much I watched it twice and then couldn't wait for Christmas to get his book. I listened to this foodie memoir, read by the author, and then asked for the book for Christmas for the recipes and to reread it. We're contemporaries, he is a few years younger than me, so it was so much fun to remember life in the 60s and 70s and 80s. A thoroughly enjoyable book.

Ribbons of Scarlet: A Novel of the French Revolution's Women, by Kate Quinn, et al - each chapter is authored by a different writer and features the story of a different woman, although the varioius women do show up in each other's stories. There is the wife of a philosopher, a sister of the King of France, a fruit seller who becomes a revolutionary, an artistocratic lady and they are all interesting and each story well written and compelling. It proves the notion that everyone has a story that deserves to be told, and I really enjoyed reading about the Revolution from the female perspective.

A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Ingenious Young Women Whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II, by Simon Parkin - this was a great follow-on to my reading about WWII code-breaking, and was an absolutely fascinating non-fiction. The Birds and Wolves were the German submarines that hunted down Allied ships using the strategy and techniques of a wolf pack (collaborative) and the fleets of submarines were given names of birds. The Wrens and their naval leader devised a game board on which they mapped the movements of the German subs and figured out the wolf-pack strategy and developed techniques for combating it. Riveting stuff! The pictures alone are fascinating. Now I am interested in the Battle of the Atlantic, and to that end have a copy of The Cruel Sea, by Nicholas Monsarrat, published in 1951, that I plan to read in 2022.

Farewell Mr Puffin: A small boat voyage to Iceland, by Paul Heiney - this was a gift from my brother Colin, who knows of my interest in birds, especially puffins, and sailing. Now I am eager to visit Iceland. It was a wonderful adventure, travel non-fiction book, filled with details of doing a passage (from just north of London), up the eastern coast of Britain and on northwest to Iceland. I particularly liked hearing about the various ports he laid up in, his various crews along the way, and the pubs and food eaten therein. Sadly, he only saw one puffin in an area abundant in puffins, but that was just bad luck. Really enjoyed this book and whetted my appetite for travel.

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas (#12 in Jane Austen Mysteries), by Stephanie Barron - I wanted to do a bit of Christmas reading this year and so dived into this wonderful novel after finishing #13 in the series, Jane and the Waterloo Map. It was great fun, despite the killjoys of Jane's brother James and his Mary Musgrove-esque wife, Mary. I particularly enjoyed Jane and Cassandra's gift of a doll with all the trimmings that they gave (over a period of days) to their niece, Caroline, one of James's daughters.

The Best Worst Christmas, by Kate Forster - this was an Audible freebie for members and I was looking for a light, bright Christmasy story that wasn't too treacly, and this was perfect. Loved all the characters, from the world-weary heroine back in England after living in Sydney for years, and her high-school boyfriend, now a doctor, and their parents. Very fun and festive.

The Stolen Lady, by Laura Morelli - this was a birthday gift from my daughter Sarah, who knows I love Morelli's books. As with The Night Portrait, by the same author, this combines the Italian Renaissance with WWII. This time, Anne, a typist working at the Louve, assists the curators in hiding the Mona Lisa and other art treasures from the musuem from the invading Nazis. The other half of the story chronicles the painting of the portrait of Lisa del Giocondo née Gheradini from the perspective of Leonardo da Vinci and Bellina, Lisa's lifelong maid. I absolutely loved visiting Milan and Florence in the early 1500s, as well as tracking the hiding places of the Louve artwork across France in the 1940s. I cannot wait to get back to both countries!

Winter Solstice, by Rosamunde Pilcher - according to GoodReads I read this book about 7 years ago, and I definitely had a copy in my stacks, but I honestly remember nothing about it except the tragedy that provided the catalyst for the bulk of the novel. I absolutely loved (re)reading it. Loved all the characters, the setting, north of Inverness in the winter, and the message of hope and rejuvenation in the bleak midwinter. An excellent Christmas story. I loved it so much I just started rereading The Shell Seekers, which I remember much better though I read it over 30 years ago when it first came out.

That's my roundup. Thankfully I am off work again this week, which means lots of reading and puzzle time. Happy Holidays to my blogging friends around the world. May your 2022 be filled with good health and good books.


  1. Happy holidays, Jane!
    I've heard praises for the Stanley Tucci's, might get my copy soon.
    Ribbons of Scarlet seems a perfect book for my Paris/French list, and Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas sounds fun for my Christmas list.

  2. Farewell Mr. Puffin in one I've got to read...both for the birds and that Icelandic setting! :D Hope you have a very Happy New Year, Jane.

  3. Happy New Year Jane! I also read The Shell Seekers a million years ago. I remember liking it but I couldn't tell you now what it was about!

  4. I enjoyed both those Rosamunde Pilcher books very much too! That was quite a roundup! Hope your New Year of reading is likewise a happy mix of your many interests. I always appreciate reading your concise, insightful summaries. Happy New Year!

  5. That Icelandic voyage would be a dream ... seems like an enjoyable read. Did you think the Ribbons of Scarlet novel seemed well researched? I'm curious about that one - anything with the French Revolution usually grips me. Thx for the recap.

  6. Laura Morelli is new to me and sounds like an author both my mother and I will enjoy.

    Winter Solstice is a great reread, Christmas or any other time. I think it is better than The Shell Seekers, but I suppose I'd have to reread both to be sure!

    1. I am almost done with The Shell Seekers, and it is fabulous. Definitely worth rereading!

      I do like Laura Morelli -- hope you and your mother do as well.