The Tea Planter’s Wife — You’ll want to drink alot of tea!

Where is Melissa and what have you done with her?  Hello, my name is Melissa and I may be addicted to reading. Seriously.  I was listening to a podcast recently and they shared a great site called Blogging for Books for bloggers who like to read.  They give out review copies to bloggers, retailers, librarians and media outlets in exchange for an honest review. It’s fun to receive my free book in the mail. As long as you follow up in a timely manner with a review, they keep sending books. After you register, you can go through the list to see what books are available for review.  It’s not an extensive list and limited to Penguin Random House and Crown Publishing Group but there are a variety of categories from lifestyle, cooking, fiction and non-fiction, business and faith.

This month’s review was The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies.  Set in 1920’s Ceylon, about a young Englishwoman who marries a charming tea plantation owner and widower, only to discover he’s keeping terrible secrets about his past, including what happened to his first wife, that lead to devastating consequences.

I am usually not attracted to historical non-fiction or “period” books.  I thought the description of the book was intriguing and I am glad I took a chance on this book.

The author is very descriptive and I found myself transported to a 1920’s tea plantation.  It literally made me crave tea — so I enjoyed several pots of PG Tips during this read.

It’s easy to read and once I started, I couldn’t put it down.  It takes a little while to get past the set up of relationships, but once that was done, it was a quick read.

I loved the character development and toward the end I was in tears after all the secrets were revealed.  There were tons of secrets!  I wanted to shake people and say, “Snap out of it!  Why didn’t you say something!” So, it was tedious at times.

The back of the book includes the author’s explanation of how she came to write the book, Q&A conversations with the author, and a reader’s guide — so it’s perfect for book clubs.  I gave it 4 out of five stars.

Now, I am on to our book club selection this month which you can read about here.

White Fur — Book Review: Love/Hate This Book

I just finished White Fur by Jardine Libaire.  This book sent to me for review by Blogging for Books.  Amazon has it rated be reviewers with 4 out of 5 stars.  I gave it 2 stars.

This book was frustrating.  It was hard to get into, but also hard to put down.  I felt like half the book was filled with too many descriptive words, unnecessary conversations with random groups of people and sex. What the author did do that was positive is allow the characters love for each other to evolve where you were actually rooting for them, but then it fell flat.  So many questions at the end!  Why didn’t Elise urge the police and family to pursue charges against Valentina? Where did they get the money to end up in New Delhi and why there? First book I’ve ever started, didn’t want to finish because it was pointless, but I am glad I did finish it only to be irritated at the ending. Was it supposed to leave me feeling as messed up as Jamey and Elise?  Or are they messed up and finally have grown into people they were supposed to be at last?  So many questions left unanswered.  But, apparently, there are a lot of people out there that liked it.  What do I know?

Mrs. Twist Reads This: Camino Island by John Grisham

We wrapped up The Book of Polly last night with an engaging phone call into our meeting by the author, Kathy Hepinstall.  She was lovely and funny and insightful.  We learned so much about the book publishing industry, and that The Book of Polly has already been optioned as a movie! We gave her all sorts of ideas on who should star in the movie and that our book club should be invited to walk the red carpet with her!  We already have our stylist Holley putting together our outfits for the big day. It was an amazing experience and I am so grateful to Kathy that she accepted our invitation to talk with us last night.  The last thing she asked for in our call was a group photo holding Polly’s favorite drink — Margaritas!

So, moving on to July.  We will be reading Camino Island by John Grisham.

“A gang of thieves stage a daring heist from a secure vault deep below Princeton University’s Firestone Library. Their loot is priceless, but Princeton has insured it for twenty-five million dollars.
     Bruce Cable owns a popular bookstore in the sleepy resort town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island in Florida. He makes his real money, though, as a prominent dealer in rare books. Very few people know that he occasionally dabbles in the black market of stolen books and manuscripts.
     Mercer Mann is a young novelist with a severe case of writer’s block who has recently been laid off from her teaching position. She is approached by an elegant, mysterious woman working for an even more mysterious company. A generous offer of money convinces Mercer to go undercover and infiltrate Bruce Cable’s circle of literary friends, ideally getting close enough to him to learn his secrets.
     But eventually Mercer learns far too much, and there’s trouble in paradise as only John Grisham can deliver it.”

According to this review from the NY Times — “Grisham has said that he and his wife dreamed up “Camino Island” during a long car ride to Florida, and the book provides the pleasure of a leisurely jaunt periodically jolted into high gear, just for the fun and speed of it.”

If you haven’t been able to read along with us the past few months, jump in any time.  Here is the link to Book Movement where you can sign up for free to be in Mrs. Twist Reads This book club.  You can see what’s in our queue, write reviews, read and share group discussion questions and be on the list to review emails from me about meetings and happenings in our club.  Our next gathering will be Thursday, July 27 at 7 p.m. to discuss Camino Island.

Have a fab Friday!

 

Mrs. Twist Reads This: Book Club Meeting this Thursday with Kathy Hepinstall

Kathy Hepinstall, author

After I started reading The Book of Polly I had so many questions in my mind about the author and the beautiful, funny story she wrote.  I found Kathy Hepinstall on social media, in particular Instagram, and shared with her that our book club had been given her book to read for the month of June.  I went further and direct messaged her with “if you are ever in Fort Worth, we would love for you to attend our book club meeting.”  She answered me back and said she currently lived in Oregon, but would love to call into our meeting on Thursday to discuss the book with our members!  Oh, my gosh!  It never hurts to ask.  In this case she said yes!

Mrs. Twist Reads This Book Club is through BookMovement – a terrific on-line site that connects people all over the world who love to read and want to be apart of a community – We know that not all great books are great book club books. Book club books spark great discussions. By talking about ideas, perspectives, and the experience of reading a book, we learn more about the book, ourselves and other club members.”

We will be reading just for the summer months through August.  On Thursday, I will be revealing our July book (hint:  It’s a mystery.  A new release.  By a very well-known author).

And, since Polly loved Margaritas, for sure we will have some to sip!  So,  I will see you Thursday, either in-person or virtually through our bookclub page where I will post the discussion questions after our meeting.

Mrs. Twist Reads This Summer Book Club: The Book of Polly

We finished Into the Water by Paula Hawkins as our May book selection. It was so interesting to hear everyone’s opinions on the characters and the ending (which if you have not read it, stick with it until the very last page!).

We are switching gears entirely to The Book of Polly by Kathy Hipenstall. I knew this was the book for me the first page in when she pleads with her mother “Please don’t take the falcon to the parent/teacher conference!”

Here’s the description:

Willow Havens is ten years old and obsessed with the fear that her mother will die. Her mother, Polly, is a cantankerous, take-no-prisoners Southern woman who lives to chase varmints, drink margaritas, and antagonize the neighbors—and she sticks out like a sore thumb among the young modern mothers of their small conventional Texas town. She was in her late fifties when Willow was born, so Willow knows she’s here by accident, a late-life afterthought. Willow’s father died before she was born, her much older brother and sister are long grown and gone and failing elsewhere. It’s just her and bigger-than-life Polly. 

Willow is desperately hungry for clues to the family life that preceded her, and especially Polly’s life pre-Willow. Why did she leave her hometown of Bethel, Louisiana, fifty years ago and vow never to return? Who is Garland Jones, her long-ago suitor who possibly killed a man? And will Polly be able to outrun the Bear, the illness that finally puts her on a collision course with her past?

The Book of Polly has a great blend of humor and sadness, pathos and hilarity. This is a bittersweet novel about the grip of love in a truly quirky family and you’ll come to know one of the most unforgettable mother-daughter duos you’ve ever met.

Want to follow along and read it with us?  Visit our Mrs. Twist Reads This bookclub page on BookMovement and sign up for a free membership.  You can see what books are coming up as possible selections for the summer, when our club meetings will be held to RSVP, and post discussion questions, review and comments.  This site is how I also send you emails of our upcoming meetings.  You can invite friends to join our group, too. Don’t worry if you are not local, you can read along with us regardless of where you live in the world.

I have already enjoyed the first few chapters (so has Hazel). It’s the perfect light, pool-side read. As I shared with our members on Wednesday, I want to be a reader, but I allow technology to keep me from setting aside the undisturbed time to read.  Once, I’m into a book I really enjoy it. Being in a book club helps me stay accountable and I have appreciated that.  Plus, I get to spend time with my friends — old and new!

Happy reading!

Mrs. Twist’s Book Club: Are You Joining Us?

Have you signed up for Mrs. Twist Reads This summer book club?  You can read all about it and sign up here.  The best part if you are local to Fort Worth you can join me for a “Books and Bites” party on Wednesday, May 31 at 7 p.m. (be sure to RSVP on our book club page here).

If you have started the book Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, you might have noticed there are alot of characters to keep straight.  I made myself a tip sheet to keep everyone straight. But as promised by most of the reviews out there on the book, once you get all the players identified, the book is easier to read and the good stuff starts happening.  So, stick with it!

Mrs. Twist Reads This: Summer BookClub

Every summer, my mother would have me write down my “Summer Bucket List” — a list of things I wanted to do that, to me, screamed summer.  Among things like go to the pool, travel to Red River, New Mexico, and Galveston beach, checking out books at the library was always on the list.  I love the smell of libraries and how quiet they are.

Summer is the perfect time to pick out those “beach reads” — you know the book you just can’t put down?  Years ago, for me, that was the DaVinci Code.  I took it with me when we traveled to England to visit Mr. Bee’s family. I couldn’t put it down.  It was the perfect airplane read.

Today, announces the release of Into the Water the newest book from New York Times best selling author Paula Hawkins  From the same author that brought us The Girl on the Train, Ms. Hawkins returns with more psycho-fun!

Here’s the description:

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
 
Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return. Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

Order your copy today, read it along with me during the month of May, and then join me for a “Books and Bites” party on May 31, at 7 p.m. (location details to come). You can sign up to read it along with me through BookMovement here. All you have to do is set up a free account on their site and it will take you directly to our club page.  If you sign up and join me for the party in May, I’ll have a special book tote as your party favor!

I’ll be posting discussion questions along the way both on the blog and on our Mrs. Twist Reads This bookclub site at BookMovement, a cool source I stumbled upon. Founded by Pauline Hubert, when she was just 25 years old, so that book clubs could have an online curated recommendation network. 43,000 book clubs have joined their site since their launch in 2004.  It has fun features like discussion boards, 20,000 reading guides, top book club recommendations, a direct link to Amazon for ordering new books, email reminders of our upcoming gatherings, and it allows me to put books in my queue for the future.

And, don’t worry if you miss this month’s book — I’ll be offering a new book every month from May through August.  Even if you are not local, I would love to have you be a part of our club!

Turn the Page: Three Magazines for Inspiration

I am so smitten with a beautiful magazine cover.  Isn’t it funny how the art on the cover can pull you in before you even see the content shared inside of the issue?  It just goes to show you how important high quality, artistic photography can be to the consumer.

First — is my Spring 2017 issue of the Magnolia Journal.  Each issue focuses on a specific inspiring topic — this one is simplicity.

Three highlights from this issue:

  • A Girlfriend Gathering learning something new — hosting a floral workshop.
  • Blended Health — restorative smoothie recipes whole fruits and vegetables
  • Joanna’s Favorite Lemon Pie

Second is Taste of Home:  The Complete Brunch Cookbook.  108 recipes for unforgettable gatherings.  It features everything from appetizers and beverages, baked entrees, pancakes and waffles, oatmeal, cereal and fruit, quick breads and yeast breads.  So pretty much anything!

Three takeaways:

Taste of Home

I think it’s always nice to have a bite and a sip for your guests when they arrive for a party.

  • Bacon and Eggs Pizza a perfect alternative to the traditional egg casserole.
  • Decadent Dark Chocolate Granola I have fallen in love with granola.  I love it on top of my Trader Joe’s vanilla bean Greek yogurt.  Recently, when I visited Bird Bakery, my favorite bakery, they had jars of their granola for purchase and it inspired me what a great gift that would be!  Similar French canning jars are here from The Container Store.  For your brunch gathering you could put out several yogurt flavor choices, assorted berries, honey and a jar of granola.  Add a batch of muffins, hot coffee and mimosas and your girlfriends will be thrilled!

Third is Mingle:  Creative Ideas for Unique Gatherings.  If you want to host a party and need ideas for something new and creative, this magazine is a perfect reference.  All the ideas are submitted from bloggers, party planners and enthusiasts and creative people.

Three fun ideas:

  • Backyard Wine Tasting from One Stylish Party.  Look at these adorable sugar cookies she served!
One Stylish Party
      Celebrating Friendship from Kathy Colby and The Vintage Industry (you can find them on Facebook).  Look at how they are using vintage furniture! Reminds me of how we styled my nephew’s candy bar station with my grandmother’s vintage French-Provincial dresser.

  • And an “Under the Stars” Celebration from Twinkle Twinkle Little Party. Toss some cute pillows on the lawn, gaze up at the stars, and…

meet me at S’more Station…look how clever!  We will be hosting our Sunday School class this spring for a cookout…I am thinking I may have to copy this idea.  How fun!

So, that’s the word on my three favorite spring magazines.  I subscribe to Magnolia Journal, but I know they carry it at Barnes and Noble along with the other two magazines.  I hope you’re inspired, I know I am!

What’s On the Stack: My February Books

Three books on my library cart this month…

 

I like to seek out books that offer support and encouragement and I saw this book floating around social media Craving Connection — 30 Challenges for real life engagement. “Embrace the desire God has given each of us for connection.  Invest in meaningful relationships, right where God has you and become the friend you wish you had.”

 

Chasing Slow — Written by viral sensation and HGTV.com star Erin Loechner.   Erin turns away from fast, fame and frenzy to blaze the trail toward a new-fashioned lifestyle—one that will refresh your perspective, renew your priorities and shift your focus to the journey that matters most. Through a series of steep climbs—her husband’s brain tumor, bankruptcy, family loss, and public criticism—Erin learns just how much strength it takes to surrender it all, and to veer right into grace.

And, thanks to a lovely HWT reader, Carol, I get to jump into deliciousness with Helen Corbitt Cooks for Company (you can read about how Carol knew I wanted this book here).  A few days after I posted the story, this book arrived in the mail along with a lovely handwritten note.  Carol said the book was from her mother’s cookbook library adding “I think you and my mother might have been the same person!”  It totally warms my heart to know I will be cooking from Joan’s cookbook. I tucked the note inside as a reminder of her kindness.

Have a fab Friday!

What’s on the Stack: January’s Reading List

Three books I’m perusing this month (I use the term peruse because it’s a bit of a challenge for me to focus on reading).  There’s a theme here — two books are about slowing down, and one for slow cooking.

First, a book I had on my Christmas wish list…Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth.  Here’s a brief description of her book:

“Have you ever stopped to think, Maybe the Amish are on to something? Look around. We tweet while we drive, we talk while we text, and we surf the Internet until we fall asleep. We are essentially plugged in and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  It’s time to simplify our lives, make faith and family the focal point, and recapture the lost art of simple living. Building on the basic principles of Amish life, Nancy Sleeth shows readers how making conscious choices to limit (and in some cases eliminate) technology’s hold on our lives and getting back to basics can help us lead calmer, more focused, less harried lives that result in stronger, deeper relationships with our families, friends, and God.”  Added bonus is the cover art — look at her apron!

Second, no coincidence, the next book was written by her husband Dr. Matthew Sleeth.  I absolutely love his book 24:6 A prescription for a healthier, happier life.

“In 24/6, Dr. Matthew Sleeth describes our symptoms, clarifies the signs, diagnoses the illness, and lays out a simple plan for living a healthier, more God-centered life in a digitally-dazed, always-on world. Sleeth shares how his own family was dramatically transformed when it adopted Sabbath practices and helps readers better understand how their own lives can be transformed – physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually – by adopting the 24/6 lifestyle.”

We did a brief study of this book in my United Methodist Women’s group. I truly found myself craving that one day of the week where I could focus on just being quiet.  My church small group has decided to study it for the next few months so I am looking forward to a more in-depth look at his advice.

Third, one of my favorite cookbook authors Gina Homolka and her Skinnytaste Fast and Slow: Knockout Quick-fix and Slow Cooker Recipes.  I have her first book Skinnytaste Cookbook: Light on Calories, Big on Flavor. I have to say every recipe I have tried has been yummy and well received by my picky teen.  All her recipes include nutritional information and Weight Watcher points.

Follow Gina on Pinterest where she posts recipes.  In fact, she also has a Skinnytaste Meal Planner a 52-week journal to help you organize and plan your meals…something I really want to try to do in the new year.

Check out my Books Worth Reading on Pinterest.  What’s on your stack this month?  I always love good read suggestions.