I’m a big fan of discounted books.  I subscribe to several e-reader deal sites, get emails every day providing free or heavily discounted books.  A majority of those on my Kindle are discounted or free.  I like to discover new genres, new authors, and sometimes just to have a quick read.  It’s my own little expedition.  A book expedition.  No bug spray needed.

It was in one of these book explorations that I found a discounted book called  Jungleland  by Chris Stewart


I’m in the midst of reading it right now.  I love these type of books on exploration.  I know for a fact that I would never go into the jungles of the Amazon or into a rain forest in Honduras, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to read about them!  The author takes us on a journey tracing the route of Theodore Morde on this quest for the mystical White City deep in the jungles of Honduras.  The book alternates between the journey of the author, and Morde’s journey in the 40’s.  It’s a nice juxtaposition….to see the modern travel versus the travel of past explorers.  While we think (especially as Americans) that there is not much left to explore and learn, these jungles in Central and South America show just how vast the planet is.  My main problem with exploration?  The bugs.  This book goes in deep on the bugs.  Ick.

I’ve read a few other books about famous expeditions, and I do recommend a lot of them.  The best one in recent memory is:

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon61XTEvhHoEL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_

This book got me into an exploration phase and was an exciting read.  Also a story alternating between time periods, and also whilst looking for an ancient “lost” city.

Several other books on exploration that I enjoyed:

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey

Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone

Another recommendation, while not explicitly about exploration:

Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II

This book is about a military plane crash during WWII in the South Pacific.  It traces the survival of several passengers in an inhospitable place.  Also, another Kindle deal so definitely worth the read.

At least this way I don’t have to worry about bugs or snakes.

Nicole’s Book Nook

Used bookstores are my happy place.  I love them so much.  I remember my Grandpa Asselin taking me to Annie’s Book Stop on Cape Cod so many times and coming out with a store credit and a bunch of new books.  It was like a book exchange!  My Grandpa would get his Western’s, my Grandma would get some mysteries, and I would get whatever I could grab.

My dream has always been to open my own used bookstore.  I would move to a quaint New England town (unnamed at this time….but I really enjoyed Vermont), open up a store in an old house on some main street, and become a part of the local scene.  I even have a name for it, Nicole’s Book Nook.  Corny, I know.  But it’s been that way for ever in my head.  There would be a cat named Pages, that walks around and mingles with searchers and readers alike.  My model of the ideal store really took shape when my Dad was stationed with the Navy in Mechanicsburg, PA.  I never fit into the whole PA lifestyle, but one day I stumbled upon Pomfret Street Books in Carlisle.  Now this was my happy place:


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Pomfret Street Books

I know I’ll be trying to take a quick visit when I spend my HS reunion weekend in the good ol’ Mech-burg.

This is how I imagine my bookstore to be.  Of course I would live above/next to the bookstore too.  It’s just how it is.

So, here’s to the day when I become independently wealthy and can afford to open my little bookstore.  Lord knows I have enough books to fill one up.

Talking ’bout a revolution…

The American Revolution that is.

I live in Boston.  Birthplace of American Independence.  (I mean, I guess you could say Philly has that distinction too, but whatevs.)  Home of the REAL Tea Party (not those political lunatics around now).  I’ll be honest….I know the big stories from years of school history, but I never really thought about it too much.  This past winter/spring, I was introduced to a show on A&E called “Turn”.  The show is about the first American Intelligence group (spies if you will) and how they were used in the initial part of the American Revolution.

Okay, I know that sounds sort of boring.  I mean, Yay America!  But Intelligence operations during that time period?  Well, the show convinced me it was interesting.  So then I turned my attention to reading more about the Revolution itself and how people lived during that time.  I started with a series of fiction books by Christine Blevins involving a widow during the New York occupation by the British.  The first book, The Tory Widow, centers on Ann Merrick, a woman married off to a British citizen, but fascinated by a young man with decidedly rebel tendencies.  The story follows their journey both in and around New York City.  The story continues in The Turning of Anne Merrick.  Now it follows Anne embedded in the British march, but sending coded messages to Jack and the American forces.  This ramps up the action quite a bit, but at it’s heart is a romance story.

For a more factual take (but still labeled as Fiction) I started Jeff Shaara’s Rise to Rebellion.  This book laid out the facts and how contentious the decision to declare Independence really was.  I started the second book in this series, but haven’t had a chance to finish it yet.  The second book is basically a war story from both the American and British perspectives.

Reading these stories after learning a sanitized version in old History classes provides a level of detail that I never knew before.  Even while reading fiction, one can find a level of truth.  The show and the books showed me that Benedict Arnold, while a traitor, was still human.  His choices not withstanding, he believed in the cause before becoming disillusioned by leadership.  That happens to this day.  You can believe in what you’re fighting for without believing in those who lead you.  Granted, most don’t abandon their principles, but the revolution was a different time.  When you grow up surrounded by British people and considering yourself a British citizen, it can be hard to turn the switch.

This type of work fascinates me, and I enjoy reading things that help put a human face on the distant past.  I have a few non-fiction books about the revolution that I want to start, because I don’t think it’s a bad thing to learn about our (American) history.


Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Okay, I admit it…..I’m a PBS junkie.  Downton Abbey?  Yup.  Sherlock?  Yup.  The Crimson Fields?  Yup.  Poldark?  hmmm…*swoon*…yup!  One thing I never really got into where the British Mystery shows.  Which is weird….because that is definitely my wheelhouse.  I love the Brits and I love mysteries.

So one morning, after reading the groupthink.jezebel.com page (my daily morning read), I found a mention of a show that mystery lovers would love.  “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”  I guess it’s now in Season 3, but the next time I have a snow day, I’m going to Netflix the first two series.  So then, I dug a bit more, and found that the show is based on a series of Phryne Fisher novels by Kerry Greenwood.

The Phryne Fisher Books

So, while I’m now watching the TV show, I’m also going back to start from the beginning with the books.  So, um, the books.  They’re good.  Very entertaining.  Also, VERY sexual.  The Phryne of the show is a very provocative character, but we never really see the promiscuity that the book portrays.  Maybe it was different in the first few seasons, but this season had only one instance of her being shown as a sexy sexy woman.  The books go into great depths about her sexual encounters with a variety of men, to include dancers, gypsies, clowns, college students, etc.

Set in Australia in the 1920’s, Phryne Fisher is a lady detective who assists the police (sometimes against their will) with crimes.  The first book, Cocaine Blues (#1), introduces the character of Phyrne and her delightful group of friends.  There are the cab drivers, Bert and Cec who provide an assist whenever she calls.  Dorothy Williams, a girl who becomes Phryne’s assistant after a traumatic event.  Her butler, the aptly named Mr. Butler.  Then there is Detective Inspector Jack Robinson who is Phryne’s police foil.  The show does a good job of fleshing out the character….and I’m still early in the books, so I’m keeping an eye on him.  Metaphorically of course.   Here is Jack from the show:


By watching the show first, I have an idea in my head of what the characters look like and how they talk….so it’s nice to be able to imagine the stories with the characters.  I’m just finishing book 6, Blood and Circuses (#6), out of 20…..so I’ve got quite a ways to go.  Fans of mysteries would like these.  They are quick reads (just over 200 pages a piece) and I don’t think you necessarily have to start from the beginning.  I just like to read things in order.  If you don’t start from the beginning, there are a few things you should probably know about Phyrne:

1.  Money is now object.  Her family is rich, she’s rich.  She can afford anything and everything.

2.  She can do anything.  And I mean ANYTHING.  In just the first 6 books I’ve read she’s flown a plane, stood on horesback, worked with communists, and competed in a dance contest.  She fits in everywhere and can pretty much do anything.  So, suspension of disbelief is needed.

3.  She’s a swinging, single lady.  As I mentioned before, the books do have a tendency to get very graphic on her affairs.  So, know that going into it and things are fine.   (Which is what she tells the people that come to work for her too).


So as far as my criteria….I’m in it to win it on this series.  Beautiful people, beautiful scenery, and mysteries!  The show is also create for costume porn….the 20’s had such great dresses!