Tag Archives: adventure

2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 6 (Mary Stewart!)

Some authors woo you slowly. Erudite and witty, you don’t fall at first glance, but you eventually come to love them. Other authors never quite win you. The spark should be there but no matter how many of their books you read, it never becomes more. More rarely, but infinitely precious for it, you fall for an author at first glance and, more marvelously still, stay in love with them past the cover or the opening line.

That would be me and Mary Stewart. It was love at first read and 9 books later, I am still obsessed. 7 of her books got 5-stars from me, the remaining 2 got 4-stars. I decided the five-stars deserved their own blog post. Two caveats: Mary Stewart is mostly known for her Arthurian fantasies. I have not read those yet. I have only read her romantic suspense novels. Second, she writes romantic suspense novels primarily aimed at women. They lack mystery, but they make up for it with awesome, Gothic atmosphere and kick-butt females. So, if you read her books, don’t go in expecting a whodunit. 

That said…I present my favorite books from my favorite ‘new’ author! (But also not so new as she wrote these mainly in the 1950s and ’60s.)

 Madam, Will You Talk? 

WW2 widow Charity Selborne decides to take a leisurely vacation in France to pull the pieces of her broken life back together. When she arrives at her hotel, she befriends a terrified boy on the run from his enigmatic, possibly murderous father. The book is full of eerie settings and long, descriptive passages. Character pause constantly to drink cognac or smoke cigarettes. Yet despite the slow, descriptive nature of the book, it is also an adventure novel and abounds with murderers, neo-Nazis, and exciting car chases. And best of all, you can listen to a brilliant audio version for free on YouTube.

This Rough Magic

When failed actress Lucy Waring agrees to join her sister for a vacation on Corfu, the last thing she expects is to get entangled with murder. Complete with communists, scenic beaches, and loads of Shakespeare quotes, this is probably my favorite Mary Stewart novel.

The Ivy Tree

While on vacation in England, Mary Gray gets accosted by a gentleman who says she looks just like his cousin, Annabel Winslow. Annabel disappeared years ago but her grandfather still refuses to leave his wealthy farm to anyone but her. He asks Mary to pretend to be Annabel and convince their grandfather to leave the farm to him instead. But mystery surrounds Annabel’s disappearance and Mary quickly realizes she might be in over her head.

Nine Coaches Waiting

When Linda Martin first accepts a position as an English-speaking governess to the nine-year-old Count Philippe de Valmy, she assumes her ability to speak French won’t matter. But she quickly learns that the Count’s French guardians intentionally advertised for an English speaker and that more is going on than meets the eye. When her young charge nearly dies, she decides it is up to her to save the day.

Airs Above the Ground

Vanessa March quarreled with her husband and now feels dreadful about it. But he’s off on a business trip in Stockholm so there is no use fretting to death…until she sees him in the background of a newsreel at a fire in Austria clutching a very pretty girl. Then all bets are off. And if she happens to get embroiled in the mystery of who set the fire while tracking down her missing husband? Well, that’s just a bonus. 

The Moon-Spinners

Nicola Ferris, secretary at the British Embassy on Crete, decides to take a walking holiday and further explore the beautiful island. But things quickly go awry when she stumbles upon a severely injured man in an abandoned shepherd’s cottage and learns there may be more to the nearby village than meets the eye. 

Touch Not the Cat

Bryony Ashley of Ashley Court has a secret. For as long as she can remember, she has shared a psychic bond with one of her cousins. The problem is, she doesn’t know which one. When her Father dies and leaves her a cryptic warning, she hurries home to find out once and for all who her mysterious ‘lover’ is and what dark secret Ashley Court holds. I particularly enjoyed this one because the whole ‘psychic bond with a stranger’ plot reminded me of Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan which was one of my favorite reads of 2016. 

 

 

(Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BETHANY!!!! ❤ )


A Lovely Weekend

He knew. She knew. I knew. He knew I knew. She knew that I knew that she knew. But I did not know if he knew that I knew that she knew that I knew that she knew.  

It was great. 

I didn’t blog about it earlier but my college roommate’s boyfriend proposed to her this weekend and as part of the surprise (or non-surprise, if you can decipher my ramble above) he flew me out to Norfolk, Virginia. I didn’t blog about it beforehand because I wasn’t sure if she read my blog. (Hello? Rina?) 

It was a truly delightful visit. They were the ones getting engaged but somehow I feel like I was the one thoroughly spoiled. We visited Fort Monroe and the USS Wisconsin. We played at the beach and chatted about little nothings. And we ate tons of great seafood! 

I was supposed to fly back Saturday but they actually payed for my flight so I could stay till Sunday! 

It is hard to get back into the swing of life after that weekend. Pics to come if they ever upload any. And if they don’t? Well, take my word for it. It was delightful. 


Further Adventures With Kathy

Besides the adventure at Barnes and Noble, Kathy and I ran into an inordinate number of adventures on Wednesday. Perhaps I need to take the occasional half day from work more often. Or hang out with Kathy more. 

It started with the ice cream truck. I have not seen an ice cream truck since maybe grade school. But all of a sudden we heard the tinkling of music and the truck not only pulled into my apartment complex parking lot, it put on the breaks and turned off the engine as though it intended to stay for a while. Obviously, we needed to go buy some ice cream! ‘How handy,’ I thought. ‘A blog post for tomorrow! Only think, they still have ice cream trucks.’  

Then we went and painted pottery. A group of inner-city high schoolers, chaperoned by several weary looking adults, apparently rented the party room that day. They liked Very Loud Music. The owner of the pottery store kept walking around tut-tutting and asking if anyone very much minded the music. She would tell to turn it off immediately if we did. But it made them so happy…

So of course we said we did not mind. 

The students left and a very skinny man with a very large Adam’s apple came in. He was working on a coaster. A very, very detailed coaster. Apparently he came to the shop semi-regularly to work on it. A woman joined him a few minutes later. She walked around, decided nothing caught her fancy, and started cutting up square for a quilt. 

Minus the music, it quickly became painfully impossible not to listen to our neighbors’ conversation. And was there much to listen to! The woman carefully asked the man about his job (he nearly lost it recently and now one mistake could get him fired), his mental health (determined not to commit suicide, meeting with his counselor weekly, getting a new counselor, in fact, because old one retiring), and his social life outside of work (nil). We learned a great deal about him. It was almost embarrassing. Every now and then Kathy would say something to me so we could have our own murmured conversation and hopefully remind them of our existence. It did not work. 

We then had our Barnes and Noble excursion. But the adventures did not end. Going back, we got turned around and the GPS sent us on back roads. 

Now, I must blame the atmospheric thriller I am currently reading. It created a spooky atmosphere in my imagination. Madison did the rest. I thought I knew Madison fairly well. Turns out, I do not. We passed cemeteries and accidentally drove into a spooky arboretum and got turned into fancy subdivisions that looked like they belonged in rural, suburban neighborhoods. At one point, the hard, bright lights of a car shone behind us and instead of feeling glad we were not alone, I felt my nerves kick into gear. “This is the point,” I told Kathy, “where our car breaks down and that person murders us.”

But we did not. In fact, we made it to my apartment without much hassle. We then decided on a movie and went to the local Pick N Save for a Redbox movie. 

Even this did not go quite normally. Mind you, it is 9:30 pm at night and pitch black out. A lady with a sleeping child sat outside the store singing loudly as if to drown out the pop music. She smiled and by the time we left had gathered a small crowd. (Actually, they might have been with her and had no choice but to listen. Hard to say.)

The store smelled like dog food. We got Isn’t It Romantic because, duh, that’s my new favorite movie and if you haven’t seen it yet I will make you watch it. 

And so we did. 


The Most Interesting Part of Today

‘Oh, I didn’t blog yet,’ I think right as I am about to head to bed. ‘It sure is hard to think of things to blog about when I don’t live in a foreign country.’

So I ask myself, what was the best part of today? What interesting thing happened? Here is what I came up with:

I saw a 300+ pound man on a tiny little motorbike zipping down the back-roads looking like he just won the lottery. Pure bliss. It totally made my day. 

I really hope he remembers to wear a helmet next time.


Wrapping up Thailand

“How was Thailand? Amazing?” people who do not read my blog regularly always ask. 

I’ve yet to come up with a good answer.

Usually I smile, or at least, I try to smile. It might come across more as a grimace. And I say, “Oh, it was an experience.” 

And then I tell them about the elephants or the beaches or Karen refugees. The exciting stuff. But because I can’t help myself, because I feel like it represents more of my semester, I add honestly:

“The school part was really hard.”

Sometimes I add more. Usually they do not want more. Not that I blame them. Who cares about school administrators who don’t send finals or taxi drivers that charge a few extra dollars

I mean, elephants.

Those of you who read my blog understand, and I appreciate it immensely. You get what I am talking about when I call Thailand a mixed bag. But I do love talking with everyone. I love talking about the good parts of Thailand. I love being home. I love my job. I love my new glasses. Really, I sometimes wonder if I dramatize Thailand because home feels so nice. Almost three weeks absence from Bangkok has not made my heart grow fonder. 

But really, what should I expect from three weeks? 

I have a few more posts about Thailand to go. Posts about goodbyes and cool hostels and final memories. Happy things I want to remember. 

But the final, happy memories come from a foundation of homesickness, loneliness, and anxiety. The bitter and sweet, ever mixed together. I guess that was Thailand for me. Good and bad. Amazing and painful. Even if it does not come to the surface, it hangs in the background of every conversation about my trip. I want to be happy, to only focus on the amazing.

Yet if I want to continue growing from the experience, I think I must hold on to the balance. I cannot lose sight of one or the other. So, yeah, Thailand had elephants and they were amazing. But gosh darn it, those taxi drivers were also a pain in the neck too!


A Really Nice Korean Hostel

As you might notice by how late this post is winging its way to your inbox, I’m all caught up on my pre-written posts! But I’m not quite finished with Korea so I plan to spend a few more days wrapping Korea up, then wrapping up my final days in Thailand, and then catching you up on life back stateside! So much catching up to do! I’ve missed you all!

I’ve had some weird hostel experiences in my day. No, really. There was that one time in Bath England where I thought I was going to get mugged and that other time in Slovakia where the guy above me was French and refused to wear pant. Crazy times.

Thankfully, K 79 Guesthouse in Busan, South Korea was nothing but delightful! I highly recommend the place. For one, amazing decorations…

Image may contain: 2 people (for those of you not obsessed with Korean dramas, those are pictures from the Korean Drama Goblin)

For two, awesome, private, big, comfortable beds.

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For three, they spoke decent English and provided helpful directions, tips for places to visit, and maps of the area.

For four, no naked Frenchmen. 

For five…did I mention they knew how to decorate?

Image may contain: 1 person Books and Park Bo Gum ❤ I’m amazed I left.


Fangirling in Korea

My friend picked me up at the bus terminal, we ate delicious Korean food, and Friday rolled around. Now, Jasmine intended to take off work but ended up with a bad head cold that turned it into an actual sick day. She also had quite a few errands to run so my first full day in Korea mainly involved running errands. And you know what? It was AWESOME. 

Why?

Because I was in Korean drama fangirl heaven. Literally, everything got me excited. A trip to the bank? IT WAS A KOREAN BANK. JUST LIKE IN A KOREAN DRAMA. A walk in the park? LOOK. ACTUAL EXERCISE EQUIPMENT FOR ADULTS. JUST LIKE IN A KOREAN DRAMA. 

Image may contain: tree, shoes and outdoor

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing, tree, basketball court, sky and outdoor

A trip to the hospital? (Which is really the doctor’s but apparently all under one roof here?) JUST LIKE A KOREAN DRAMA. (Except no one had amnesia or a fever from being in the rain – common drama tropes.) 

With Jasmine’s head cold and mediocre air quality, we both opted for face masks. And I discovered another wonderful thing about face masks. They keep your nose warm in the cold!

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I decided to pack all of my unused face masks for below zero weather this coming winter.