Giving Thanks

Sunset A  2.22.17by Mary Jo

Thanksgiving is a justly popular holiday because it involves family, friends, food, and no need to shop for presents. <G>  As you probably know, the holiday is a form of harvest festival so the origins are lost in the mists of time.  The difference between a good harvest or a bad one was literally life or death, so it made great sense to celebrate the bounty of the earth. 

I love Thanksgiving because it's secular and can be–and is!–celebrated by everyone, of all religious and ethnicities.  It's a time for families, but also for inviting friends, particularly those who might not have someone else to celebrate with.  Roast turkey is not mandatory. 


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Giving Thanks

By Mary Jo IMG_2944

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday because of the warmth of friends and family gathering together around my table.  People fill my kitchen, good naturedly dodging each other, cats lurk in hope of a bit of turkey, and there's a bounty of goodwill.

That's not happening this year because of the pandemic.  2020 is a lost year in so many ways. So many events, so many gatherings, so many concerts and vacations, have been cancelled.

To the left is my country oak table, bought from a consignment shop. It has about five different leaves that can be inserted, and I bought it specially for Thanksgiving since I usually host here.  Not this year so no extra leaves, but I do love the table!


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Blue2Hi, Jo here doing a brief post at this time, when many Americans are celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. It's a pleasant idea for us all to be thankful for blessings great and small, no matter where we live. I'm a believer in noticing things that make us smile day by day, because it's easy to begin to take them for granted. We might smile at a neighbour, the light reflecting on a window, a cute display in  shop, a very satisfying cup of tea — or some days we might enjoy a delightful surprise.

So please, share something that made you smile in the last 24 hours, ordinary or unexpected. Salt lamp

I'll share two things. (I wrote this on Tuesday evening.) One is my salt lamp. It's a cold day here for Devon and the night comes early and I switched it on for its warm, golden glow. They're supposed to give off negative ions, which are the good ones, and perhaps they do, but I love that glow. 

The other pleasure is a book called Mrs. Hurst Dancing, which is a collection of pictures drawn in the early 19th century by a young lady showing the everyday life of a gentry family in the countryside. I pulled it off the shelf because I remembered it had an illustration of the family enjoying an electricy machine and I wanted to remind myself of how they were doing it.


 You'll see that they're holding hands while a man fiddles with the machine. It says, "Henry Van electrifying Mrs. Van, Diana, Henry, and Isabella — Mum and HGS." It doesn't matter about the full names, but I note that electrifying is already in use, and she calls her mother Mum, as many do today.


 Then, of course, I spent a pleasant hour going through the pictures. There are days out, walking or riding — and the ladies ride on donkeys, not horses; alarming moments when out in a carriage; and a rather precarious clearing of flies off a window. 

Hursnf"Mrs. Sperling murdering flies, assisted by her maid, who receives the dead and wounded." It doesn't say how they stayed up there! 

You can find more pictures on the web, and the book is available, used at least.

So now,  please share "a smile of the day", and if you're celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, I hope it involves many smiles.

And always remember that the simple act of smiling sends makes us feel happier (it's true!), and creates happiness around us, so whatever's around you at the moment, smile. 🙂


More Thanksgiving What We’re Reading

Joanna, back again with more What Wenches are Reading for November.

Who was it who said, "I hold the buying of more books than one can peradventure read, as nothing less than the soul's reaching towards infinity; which is the only thing that raises us above the beasts that perish?" Whoever it was, I agree with him.  

A. Edward Newton


Anne here.Wench kearsley

I've had three stand-out reads this month — Susanna Kearsley's The Firebird, Deborah Smith's Crossroads Cafe, and a new-to-me Irish writer called Ciara Geraghty, of which more to come.

Susanna Kearsley's stories weave the past and present together in a magical, intriguing way that I always enjoy and admire. The Firebird was a wonderful read, about a young woman with a gift she's been taught to keep hidden, and a man who shares her abilities. It starts in England, with a small Russian firebird, and the journey takes us to St Petersburg, past and present. It's romantic, but it's also an adventure. Highly recommended.

Deborah Smith is a writer I've mentioned here before — I discovered her books this year and have been slowly reading my way Lifesaving-for-beginnersthrough her backlist — slowly because I want to savor the treat. The Crossroads Cafe is another excellent story, set mainly in a small Appalachian village. The tale of an actress who has everything, then loses it—or so she thinks. A story full of heart and pain, rediscovery and joy.

I read Ciara Geraghty on the recommendation of a friend, starting with Becoming Scarlett, which I really enjoyed. Then I read Lifesaving for Beginners and was blown away.  Told from the point of view of two characters, one a ten-year-old boy, one a woman hiding from her own history, it's funny, dark, romantic and honest. Fabulous book. I'm so pleased to have discovered a new, wonderful writer. I've ordered the rest of her backlist.


And Mary Jo brings us:

Wench shinn mystic riderI began November reading Sharon Shinn's new book, Royal Airs, second in her Elemental Blessings fantasy series.  As always, I loved her voice so much that I had to read more.  So I reread the first book in that series, Troubled Waters.

Then I started in on a great wallowing re-read of Shinn's wonderful earlier series, The Twelve Houses.  Sharon is a terrific world-builder, and great storyteller, and she does very romantic romances.  Her country of Gillengaria has "mystics"–people with different magical abilities, like controlling fire or shapeshifting or healing.  The bad guy forces of greed and hate are whipping up lethal animosity toward mystics so they can grab power for themselves, and the first four books of the series are set against that arc of action.

Wench shinn royal airsBut each book is a strong story in its own right, with a powerful romance at the core.  In the first, Mystic and Rider, six people are sent by the benevolent king to learn how much danger there is to the kingdom, and we follow the group through the four books.  Each of the main characters falls in love with the most improbable, impossible person imaginable.  It's great fun. <G>  Wenches lucky dog

 I've finish rereading Mystic and Rider, The Thirteenth House, and I'm halfway through the third book, Dark Moon DefenderThe fourth book, Reader and Raelynx, is my very favorite of the series, and there's a fifth book, Fortune and Fate, which is set in the aftermath of the war.  Sigh.  Then I'll have to wait a while before I can reread them. 

I've also been enjoying light, humorous women's fiction, including Beth Kendrick's The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service and Trisha Ashley's Magic of Christmas.  I'll probably reread her Twelve Days of Christmas as well.  Ashley's books are English chicklit set in villages in Lancashire, and they feature slightly frazzled heroines who are food writers, or gardeners or wedding cake makers or some such.  They are surrounded by charming eccentrics, and in the course of the books, they fall in love.  Works for me. <G>


Several Futuristic and Paranormal reads this month.  Is this something you enjoy?  Who are you reading in this field?

What We’re Reading, Thanksgiving Week

Joanna here, on this day after Thanksgiving, thinking about what I'm grateful for. 

Good books come near the top on the list. 


"I cannot live without books."   Thomas Jefferson 

"When I have a little money, I buy books. If I have any left over, I buy food and clothing." Erasmus,

"Good books.  Nom nom nom."  Me


So here's what the Wenches are reading in November.  Today . . .  Susan, Cara, and Nicola.   Tomorrow we'll hear from Anne and Mary Jo.


Wench brysonWhat Susan Is Reading:  
Reading time has been hard to find this month, but I'm currently working my way through some very interesting books as quiet opportunity rises. First up is a book I was reading earlier and was determined to pick up again, and I'm so glad I did. Bill Bryson's At Home is his very thorough, very entertaining exploration of the history of his own home, a former rectory in Norfolk, England. Going room by room, space by space through the old house and property, Bryson delves deeply and with fascinating detail into every aspect of the history of the house and the region–and life, too. He expands well beyond the garden or the scullery or the parlor to bring in the long tail of accumulated history, social, cultural, medical, scientific, that supported the evolution of some part of the house. He comments on gardening, cleaning, servants, house parties, medicine and illness, even the physics of climbing stairs; his remarks about the Victorians, the Georgians and whatever and whoever crosses his meandering path are insightful, erudite and often amusing. 
I've read a good bit of his work – A Walk in the Woods is one of my favorite nonfiction books – and At Home is pure Bryson – clever, witty, funny and fascinating. "Nothing–really nothing–says more about Victorian Britain and its capacity for brilliance than that the century's most daring and iconic building was entrusted to a gardener," he writes in examining Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace, which touches tangentially on some aspect of his EnglishWenches elizabeth gilber the signature home. 
I've also started Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things. Her Eat, Pray, Love is another of my favorite books (I've read it twice), and I was very keen on reading more of her stuff. Historical fiction is a new direction for Gilbert, and she brings her own distinctive, soft and honest voice to the story of Alma Whittaker, an amateur botanist in early 19th century America, a book based on an actual family of remarkable botanists. Written with exquisite detail–I'm learning so much about plants and early botanical discovery–and with great character depth, so far it's a very interesting read. I'm not deep into the book as yet, but the characters and story and historical revelations are bringing me along. I always find Gilbert's style refreshing, frank and full of unexpected and enjoyable insights into every aspect of life, and she brings that to this hefty novel as well. 

Wench mark of athenaCara/Andrea here,

Between madly working on promo material for my upcoming January/February/March releases, as well as polishing up a new proposal, I’ve been a bit of a slacker in reading this month. However, have been having great fun catching up on Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series. I loved his first Percy Jackson series, and this continuation of the teenage demigods is equally fabulous. I’ve just finished Book Three, “The Mark of Athena” and can’t wait to move on to the next one.

Basing his story concepts on a hip modern-day interpretation of the classic Greek myths, Riordan crafts a wonderfully imaginative world of monsters, high tech gizmos, cranky and quarrelsome Gods who need their half-human kids to step in and help save the day. I find his characters are beautifully draw, with each teen cleverly reflecting the attributes of his/her Olympian parent. There’s rollicking humor and action. But what I think gives the books great appeal to readers of all ages is how well he captures the very human emotions of self-doubt, inner fears, friendships and how we make moral choices.


I will just mention that the Wenches have been backchannel chatting about Riordan.  Those of us not recommending him are planning to Wench an officer and a spyread him.


Nicola here.
Last month I gave my husband a copy of An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris as a birthday present. That meant I had to wait my turn to read it but fortunately he enjoyed it so much he finished it in record time. I love Robert Harris's books and find them compulsive page-turners. I am swept away by his versatility in writing a varie Wench sarah morganty of historical periods from the Roman era to the Second World War. An Officer and a Spy is a fictionalised account of the Dreyfus Affair of 1894 when a French army officer was convicted of treason for giving military secrets to Germany. The case became one of the most famous examples of a miscarriage of justice and Robert Harris writes it as a thriller that totally drew me in. Brilliant characterisation and a story that kept me turning the pages when I should have been writing!
My other fabulous read this month is Sleighbells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan. I't's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Sarah's books and I snapped this up the moment it was available. I have a confession to make here – I don't usually read Christmas stories but this one totally got me in the mood for fairy lights and family celebrations. It's funny, poignant and very romantic with a wonderful cast of characters and a gorgeous snowy setting in Vermont.
So … What book did you read this Thanksgiving … Or what book fills you with gladness because someone wrote it?