Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands by Linda Ronstadt and Lawrence Downs, Bill Steen


Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands by Linda Ronstadt and Lawrence Downs, Bill Steen (photographer)
Publisher: Heyday
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travel, Memoir, Contemporary, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Linda Ronstadt takes readers on a journey to the place her soul calls home, the Sonoran Desert, in this candid new memoir.

In Feels Like Home, Grammy award-winning singer Linda Ronstadt effortlessly evokes the magical panorama of the high desert, a landscape etched by sunlight and carved by wind, offering a personal tour built around meals and memories of the place where she came of age. Growing up the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants and a descendant of Spanish settlers near northern Sonora, Ronstadt’s intimate new memoir celebrates the marvelous flavors and indomitable people on both sides of what was once a porous border whose denizens were happy to exchange recipes and gather around campfires to sing the ballads that shaped Ronstadt’s musical heritage. Following her bestselling musical memoir, Simple Dreams, this book seamlessly braids together Ronstadt’s recollections of people and their passions in a region little understood in the rest of the United States. This road trip through the desert, written in collaboration with former New York Times writer Lawrence Downes and illustrated throughout with beautiful photographs by Bill Steen, features recipes for traditional Sonoran dishes and a bevy of revelations for Ronstadt’s admirers. If this book were a radio signal, you might first pick it up on an Arizona highway, well south of Phoenix, coming into the glow of Ronstadt’s hometown of Tucson. It would be playing something old and Mexican, from a time when the border was a place not of peril but of possibility.

A picture painted in photos, words and song.

I picked this book up because when I flipped through the pages, the vistas are simply breathtaking. I’ve never been to Arizona and haven’t seen the Sonora, but I want to. If it’s anything as pretty as the photos, then I want to be there.

This is the place Linda Ronstadt grew up. She was surrounded by her American and Mexican roots. To say she’s steeped in both cultures is an understatement. She writes eloquently and it felt like I was really there. The recipes included are fascinating and while I’ll have to order some of the ingredients online (we don’t have some of the specialties around my neck of the woods), I can’t wait to try to make them. I loved every page.

I will say there is a small bit that gets a tad political. Keep in mind, Ronstadt is writing from her own perspective and how she’s been affected by what she’s writing about. I won’t give away spoilers, but the politics are there. They didn’t take anything away from the story for me because it’s part of who she is and part of the culture down there. She’s writing from experience. It might not be for some and that’s okay, but don’t not read this book because of that. You’ll be missing out.

If you’ve ever wondered what this part of the country looks like, tastes like and feels like, then pick this book up and give it a try. You’ll be glad you did.

Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman


Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Genre: Non-Fiction, Recent Historical, Memoir
Rating 5 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Madly, Deeplyis a rare invitation into the mind of Alan Rickman―one of the most magnetic, beloved performers of our time.

From his breakout role in Die Hard to his outstanding, multifaceted performances in the Harry Potter films, Galaxy Quest, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and more, Alan Rickman cemented his legacy as a world-class actor. His air of dignity, his sonorous voice, and the knowing wit he brought to each role continue to captivate audiences today.

But Rickman’s ability to breathe life into projects wasn’t confined to just his performances. As you’ll find, Rickman’s diaries detail the extraordinary and the ordinary, flitting between worldly and witty and gossipy, while remaining utterly candid throughout. He takes us inside his home, on trips with friends across the globe, and on the sets of films and plays ranging from Sense and Sensibility, to Noël Coward’s Private Lives, to the final film he directed, A Little Chaos.

Running from 1993 to his death in 2016, the diaries provide singular insight into Rickman’s public and private life. Reading them is like listening to Rickman chatting to a close companion. Meet Rickman the consummate professional actor, but also the friend, the traveler, the fan, the director, the enthusiast; in short, the man beyond the icon.

Madly, Deeply features a photo insert, a foreword by Emma Thompson, and an afterword by Rima Horton.

A fascinating man in an everyday setting.

I love reading the diaries of famous people. Not because I want to learn something salacious. No, it’s because I want to see the person as a person–not the image on a screen. This book does that. Granted, its Rickman’s diaries and I have no doubt he ever expected them to be made public. That’s kind of what made them fantastic and magical to me. It’s just him. Just his thoughts, his boringness, his sometimes snarly comments…it’s just him. It’s what he does day-to-day. To some, this will not be an explosive read, but a boring one. He goes to fittings, struggles with depression and not feeling well. He talks about friendships and some might think name drops, but how can one name drop when they’re talking about being with the people they work with?

The most touching part of the book wasn’t even his writing, to be honest. This was a full four star read throughout, but what really tipped it over the edge for me was the afterward by his partner, Rima Horton. She writes about his last days, the decline when the cancer was too great, how he planned his own funeral and insisted on having “Uptown Funk” played that day. It made me love this actor even more. I’d already been a fan, but seeing the human side, really helped.

If you want to learn great new stories about Alan Rickman from his own hand, then this might be the book you’re looking for. I recommend it heartily.

Jane Austen Time Traveler by Rachel Dacus – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Rachel Dacus will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Lonely Regency romance writer travels to the future, meets her fans, dips into a pearly swimming pool, and falls for its owner. Can she ever go home again…

If Jane Austen’s novels had never ever existed, would we have rom-com movies and women’s fiction? But the young writer is discouraged by a publisher’s rejection and ready to give up writing. And an unwelcome marriage proposal she has rashly accepted spells her doom.

Someone must save history and Jane Austen! When a stranger calls and claims to be an interested publisher, a desperate Jane agrees to go with him to his office. That office turns out to be in the future. And it’s not an office, but a bookstore in southern California in 2024 where fans of Jane Austen gather every month to discuss her works.

Jane greets the Jane Austen Superfan Club, only to find that superfans can be super picky. Discouraged by their critiques, Jane wants different adventures. Even deadly, dangerous ones. And oh, yes! Romantic ones.

Her “publisher” had hoped to inspire Jane’s writing by showing her a book club devoted to her writing. But when she meets a tall, handsome superfan, Jane decides to chart her own course. She disappears with her new friend, and history may have to save itself …

Enjoy an exclusive excerpt from the book:

Jane sat up and looked out of the wall of glass. It overlooked the pool they had walked beside last night. Will was swimming with a most peculiar stroke, like a butterfly spreading its wings. He leapt from up the water and then disappeared under again, doing a stroke she had never seen, even at the seaside when the boys played in the ocean.

Jane lay still, contemplating the day and the swimmer.

She should get dressed and join him at the pool, to watch from nearer. Having only her new, silky outfit from last night, Jane wondered if she could wear it for another day. The idea of returning to the hotel and lacing up the layers of her old life returning made her shiver with dread.

Will had left George a message, Ubering their whereabouts, he had said. George would have to rest content with her absence for at least another morning.

Will’s rhythmic swimming mesmerized her as she listened to the sound of his hands and feet slapping the water. He changed to a smoother stroke, swimming quickly back and forth the length of the pool.

Jane dressed and joined him. The day’s warmth was beginning, so she was glad she had left off her jacket.

Will swam over to the side of the pool, dripping like the statues of Attic gods in fountains in Hyde Park.

“Did you sleep well?” he asked. When she nodded, he said, “I made breakfast for us, if you’re ready.”

“Breakfast would be wonderful.”

He swam to the far end of the pool, walked up the steps. Drying off with a blue towel, he wrapped it around his hips, which made Jane look up and around at the sky and gardens, anywhere but at the living statuary that was Will Fleming, a man who had kissed her last night.

RACHEL DACUS writes about history, love, family, and art — with a touch of magic. Rachel is the author of both prose and poetry. When she’s not writing or reading, she listens to music and walks through the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her architect husband and a lively Silky Terrier. She blogs about books and the writing life.

Website: https://racheldacus.net/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rachel_Dacus
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/racheldacusauthor/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RachelDacusAuthor

Buy Link:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jane-Austen-Time-Traveler-Timegathering-ebook/dp/B0BDVXLXC1

Miss Memory Lane: A Memoir by Colton Haynes


Miss Memory Lane: A Memoir by Colton Haynes
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Recent Historical, Contemporary, Non-Fiction, LGBTQ
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

A brutally honest and moving memoir of lust, abuse, addiction, stardom, and redemption from Arrow and Teen Wolf actor Colton Haynes.

Four years ago, Colton Haynes woke up in a hospital. He’d had two seizures, lost the sight in one eye, almost ruptured a kidney, and been put on an involuntary psychiatry hold. Not yet thirty, he knew he had to take stock of his life and make some serious changes if he wanted to see his next birthday.

As he worked towards sobriety, Haynes allowed himself to become vulnerable for the first time in years and with that, discovered profound self-awareness. He had millions of social media followers who constantly told him they loved him. But what would they think if they knew his true story? If they knew where he came from and the things he had done?

Now, Colton bravely pulls back the curtain on his life and career, revealing the incredible highs and devastating lows. From his unorthodox childhood in a small Kansas town, to coming to terms with his sexuality, he keeps nothing back.

By sixteen, he had been signed by the world’s top modeling agency and his face appeared on billboards. But he was still a broke, lonely, confused teenager, surrounded by people telling him he could be a star as long as he never let anyone see his true self. As his career in television took off, the stress of wearing so many masks and trying to please so many different people turned his use of drugs and alcohol into full-blown addiction.

A lyrical and intimate confession, apology, and cautionary tale, Miss Memory Lane is an unforgettable story of dreams deferred and dreams fulfilled; of a family torn apart and rebuilt; and of a man stepping into the light as no one but himself.

At times, this is a run-of-the-mill autobiography, but at others, it’s heart-rendering and poetic.

I’ve never seen Colton Haynes on television. I guess I don’t watch the shows he’s been on and that’s okay. I didn’t pick this book up because of the star quality. I wanted an autobiography that would make me think and feel. This is one of those books. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t agree with everything that happened and there were times I cringed, but that’s life. It’s not always perfect or sweet. People can be mean to each other, can use each other and it’s up to those people to pick themselves up afterward.

Colton Haynes is a mess, it’s true. He grew up in a bad situation, was treated awfully and went into a profession that tends to chew people up and spit them out. Yet, he’s still here. There are moments of gut-wrenching seriousness and some of humor. I hated the way the author was treated, but I can see how it made him the man who wrote the book today. It made him stronger and appreciate what he has. At least that’s how it seemed in the book.

If you’re looking for something lurid, then this might be it. There’s underage sex, abuse and the like. It’s not an easy read. But if you’re looking for something to make you think and realize your life isn’t so bad, then this might be the one to read. Check it out.

Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner


Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner
Publisher: Hachette Books
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Discover untold secrets with this extraordinary memoir of drama and tragedy by Anne Glenconner—a close member of the royal circle and lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret.

Anne Glenconner has been at the center of the royal circle from childhood, when she met and befriended the future Queen Elizabeth II and her sister, the Princess Margaret. Though the firstborn child of the 5th Earl of Leicester, who controlled one of the largest estates in England, as a daughter she was deemed “the greatest disappointment” and unable to inherit. Since then she has needed all her resilience to survive court life with her sense of humor intact.

A unique witness to landmark moments in royal history, Maid of Honor at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, and a lady in waiting to Princess Margaret until her death in 2002, Anne’s life has encompassed extraordinary drama and tragedy. In Lady in Waiting, she will share many intimate royal stories from her time as Princess Margaret’s closest confidante as well as her own battle for survival: her broken-off first engagement on the basis of her “mad blood”; her 54-year marriage to the volatile, unfaithful Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner, who left his fortune to a former servant; the death in adulthood of two of her sons; a third son she nursed back from a six-month coma following a horrific motorcycle accident. Through it all, Anne has carried on, traveling the world with the royal family, including visiting the White House, and developing the Caribbean island of Mustique as a safe harbor for the rich and famous-hosting Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Raquel Welch, and many other politicians, aristocrats, and celebrities.

With unprecedented insight into the royal family, Lady in Waiting is a witty, candid, dramatic, at times heart-breaking personal story capturing life in a golden cage for a woman with no inheritance.

This lady had one heck of a ride.

I’ve been on a kick, reading books about the royals and those connected to the crown. Not the current big names, but the former ones. The ones I’d not heard or read much about. This is one of those stories.

Some of the books by those connected to the royals can come off a bit stilted or fantastical. Some don’t really show much royal, but more of their lives. This book is a good mix of both. Lady Anne had one heck of a life as Princess Margaret’s Lady in Waiting. I can’t imagine the stress of her job, let along raising five children and being married through it all.

I liked the book. She has a certain resiliency that’s not always evident these days. She really did grin and bear it often. Her children could be walking trainwrecks and her husband had so many faults. Where this was interesting, it was also a bit of a distraction. I can’t imagine how she brushed so much off and looked the other way. Sometimes she came across so strong, but other times…I can’t imagine how she put up with her lot in life or why she thought she should.

There are sneak peeks of her life with the princess, like the trips to Mustique and royal engagements. It wasn’t nearly so much full of tabloid fodder as it was everyday life. I liked that part.

If you’re looking for a book that’s about the royals, but more of a slice of life, then give this one a try.

Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships by Nina Totenberg


Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships by Nina Totenberg
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Historical, Contemporary, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Celebrated NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg delivers an extraordinary memoir of her personal successes, struggles, and life-affirming relationships, including her beautiful friendship of nearly fifty years with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Four years before Nina Totenberg was hired at NPR, where she cemented her legacy as a prizewinning reporter, and nearly twenty-two years before Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court, Nina called Ruth. A reporter for The National Observer, Nina was curious about Ruth’s legal brief, asking the Supreme Court to do something revolutionary: declare a law that discriminated “on the basis of sex” to be unconstitutional. In a time when women were fired for becoming pregnant, often could not apply for credit cards or get a mortgage in their own names, Ruth patiently explained her argument. That call launched a remarkable, nearly fifty-year friendship.

Dinners with Ruth is an extraordinary account of two women who paved the way for future generations by tearing down professional and legal barriers. It is also an intimate memoir of the power of friendships as women began to pry open career doors and transform the workplace. At the story’s heart is one, special relationship: Ruth and Nina saw each other not only through personal joys, but also illness, loss, and widowhood. During the devastating illness and eventual death of Nina’s first husband, Ruth drew her out of grief; twelve years later, Nina would reciprocate when Ruth’s beloved husband died. They shared not only a love of opera, but also of shopping, as they instinctively understood that clothes were armor for women who wanted to be taken seriously in a workplace dominated by men. During Ruth’s last year, they shared so many small dinners that Saturdays were “reserved for Ruth” in Nina’s house.

Dinners with Ruth also weaves together compelling, personal portraits of other fascinating women and men from Nina’s life, including her cherished NPR colleagues Cokie Roberts and Linda Wertheimer; her beloved husbands; her friendships with multiple Supreme Court Justices, including Lewis Powell, William Brennan, and Antonin Scalia, and Nina’s own family—her father, the legendary violinist Roman Totenberg, and her “best friends,” her sisters. Inspiring and revelatory, Dinners with Ruth is a moving story of the joy and true meaning of friendship.

Two people and a remarkable friendship. Everyone should be so lucky.

When seeing the title of this book, one might think it’s political, but it’s not. Truly. This is the story of two friends and their times together. There’s quite a bit about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but also a lot about the author, too. Through the author’s writing, the luck of having a good friend shines right through.

This isn’t just about dinners, as the title might suggest. It shows the strength of women and how we can be together–strong and supportive. I liked how Ginsburg was shown, not only as a judge, but as a person. The reader gets to know her on a more personal level–her love of opera, her need for the collars and her stubbornness to stand up for what she saw was right. It also showed her struggle with cancer and the inevitability of old age.

The author shows the same struggle–not with old age per se, but with seeing her friends and loved ones go ahead of her. The author writes about her first husband dying and his many mishaps, then about Ginsburg’s passing and it did bring a tear to the eye. I felt like I was there with them.

If you’re looking for a biography that’s not just another bland story, give this one a try.

Do Let’s Have Another Drink!: The Dry Wit and Fizzy Life of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother by Gareth Russell


Do Let’s Have Another Drink!: The Dry Wit and Fizzy Life of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother by Gareth Russell
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

During her lifetime, the Queen Mother was as famous for her clever quips, pointed observations, and dry-as-a-martini delivery style as she was for being a beloved royal. Now, Do Let’s Have Another Drink recounts 101 (one for each year of her remarkable life) amusing and astonishing vignettes from across her long life, including her coming of age during World War I, the abdication of her brother-in-law and her unexpected ascendance to the throne, and her half century of widowhood as her daughter reigned over the United Kingdom. Featuring new revelations and colorful anecdotes about the woman Cecil Beaton, the high society photographer, once summarized as “a marshmallow made on a welding machine,” Do Let’s Have Another Drink is a delightful celebration of one of the most consistently popular members of the royal family.

A woman made of steel wearing a crown and holding her own.

I didn’t know much about the Queen Mother when I picked up this book. I saw the title and thought it’d be a rollicking good time kind of book. It’s so much more, just like the Queen Mother. Sure, she had her faults, but she went through a lot in a long lifetime.

The writing flows along well and kept me entertained. Honestly, the fascination of the woman was plenty. She lived through two wars, bombings, the death of her husband, his rise to the throne and seeing her daughter do the same. She had a lot to handle and seemed to do it with grace. She might have spent a lot of cash along the way and loved her racehorses, but honestly, she was very much of her time. This book showed me that in so many ways.

If you’re looking for a book about the Queen Mother that’s not a run-of-the-mill biography, give this one a try. It’s worth the read.

*Their Marchioness by Jess Michaels


*Their Marchioness by Jess Michaels
Publisher: The Passionate Pen LLC
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

After nearly a decade of marriage, the Marquess and Marchioness of Egerton are going strong. A power couple with an intense physical connection. Only Elliot knows a secret about his wife. He knows that Merritt was torn away from her first love, Peter Reid when they were very young, hurtling her into their arranged marriage instead. So as her birthday approaches and they head to a secluded retreat for a week of pleasure, he has a very special gift in mind.

Merritt cannot believe it when Peter Reid arrives at the cottage her husband has let. Believes it less when Elliot suggests that for this week she could have every fantasy she ever imagined…with both men. It’s a suggestion impossible to refuse and she surrenders to pleasure more powerful than anything she’s ever experienced.

Peter is not the same man he was when he lost Merritt. Now a celebrated playwright, his patron none other than the Marquess, himself, he has more confidence in himself and what he wants. He wants Merritt. And he wants Elliot.

The question remains if the three can take a week of intense passion and allow it to become a lifetime of love.

If you are looking for an intense and passionate historical romance, you don’t want to miss this one. Their Marchioness immediately captured my attention, and I enjoyed the quaint setting and the three main characters.

This is an entertaining story about three people spending time together and exploring their feelings. I enjoyed reading about all the encounters between Elliott, Merritt and Peter. They are all vulnerable but willing to open their hearts to discover what might be.

I enjoyed every minute of this short and steamy romance.

In The Shadow of The Apennines by Kimberly Sullivan


In The Shadow of The Apennines by Kimberly Sullivan
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Womens Fiction
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

An American divorcée. An Italian shepherdess.
Separated by a century, united by common dreams

The sleepy little Abruzzo mountain town of Marsicano seems about as far as Samantha can flee from her failed marriage and disastrous university career. Eager for a fresh start, Samantha begins to set down roots in her Italian mountain hideaway.

At first, the mountain retreat appears idyllic, but an outsider’s clumsy attempts at breaking into the closed mountain community are quickly thwarted when the residents discover Samantha’s snarky blog ridiculing the town and its inhabitants.

Increasingly isolated in her mountain cottage, Samantha discovers the letters and diaries of Elena, a past tenant and a survivor of the 1915 Pescina earthquake. Despite the century that separates the two women, Samantha feels increasingly drawn into Elena’s life, and discovers startling parallels with her own.

What a beautifully written story! I absolutely love both the main characters – Samantha in the present and Elena in the past via the journals Samantha discovers in her new home.

I love the fact that Samantha takes back control of her life after her husband divorces her by completely moving away and trying to create a new life near the Apennines. What a beautiful area! The author’s descriptions make me want to go there myself.

Samantha, although wanting to fit in to the close-knit community, sabotages herself through her writing and finds herself completely isolated during the harsh winter- with only the journals of Elena for company.

The juxtaposition of Samantha and Elena’s lives make for fascinating reading. And I think this book would make a wonderful movie as well. Kudos, Ms. Sullivan! I’ll be on the lookout for more books by this author.

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Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown


Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction, Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

A witty and profound portrait of the most talked-about English royal

She made John Lennon blush and Marlon Brando tongue-tied. She iced out Princess Diana and humiliated Elizabeth Taylor. Andy Warhol photographed her. Jack Nicholson offered her cocaine. Gore Vidal revered her. Francis Bacon heckled her. Peter Sellers was madly in love with her. For Pablo Picasso, she was the object of sexual fantasy.

Princess Margaret aroused passion and indignation in equal measures. To her friends, she was witty and regal. To her enemies, she was rude and demanding. In her 1950s heyday, she was seen as one of the most glamorous and desirable women in the world. By the time of her death in 2002, she had come to personify disappointment. One friend said he had never known an unhappier woman. The tale of Princess Margaret is Cinderella in reverse: hope dashed, happiness mislaid, life mishandled.

Such an enigmatic and divisive figure demands a reckoning that is far from the usual fare. Combining interviews, parodies, dreams, parallel lives, diaries, announcements, lists, catalogues, and essays, Craig Brown’s Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret is a kaleidoscopic experiment in biography and a witty meditation on fame and art, snobbery and deference, bohemia and high society.

Full of quips and whimsy.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. I thought it would be more of a biography, but it’s a bit more like a love story written for the Princess. Really. There were moments of whimsy – fictitious spots where the author takes liberties about whom she’s married and quips – she could be quite funny, but at other times downright mean. This gave an interesting view into her life, but it’s not complete.

If one is wanting to read a proper biography on the Princess, then this isn’t it. Like I’ve mentioned, there are bits of fiction in there and some conversations recorded that probably didn’t happen that way. There are lots of bits and pieces of Margaret being quite rotten to people, too.

I liked that she could be quite snide and quick-witted. She knew how to take people down. But she also showed she wasn’t exactly a person of the people. She liked her lavish things and had little to do. She truly was the spare and she felt it. In that respect, I felt sorry for her. She had little to do and no one really gave her much direction.

If one goes into this book with the notion that it’s not all fact, then it’s a fun book. Why not give it a try? There truly are glimpses of the Princess, but it’s not always what you might think.