What’s been on my bookshelf in late August and early September? Sadly, nothing.

In August, I was madly scrambling to prepare for our September Camino in Portugal and to squeeze in the last bits of summer activities on Vancouver Island. (If you missed that post, you can find more details here.)

In early September, I was madly scrambling to undo the above-mentioned Camino planning (details here).

As I am still kind of scrambling (having a husband with a broken dominant arm can do that to a gal), my bookshelf may have remained completely empty a while longer if it was not for Philly.

While preparing for Portugal, I received an Advanced Readers Copy of “Philly Barker is on the Case” by Jo Tracey. This is the second book in the Philly Barker Cozy Crime Series. I absolutely loved the first book, “Philly Barker Investigates,” so I tried hard to resist this second book until I truly had time to relax and enjoy every word. Although I am not great at reading on planes, I took a quick peek at the copy I had on my phone, thinking I would read just a wee bit.

I’d seen a dead body before; several, in fact. Over the course of twenty years on the police force – with most of those years spent in London – the occasional corpse was, sadly, part of the job. Poor Bally, however, had not….

With just one glance at the above prologue, I was once again drawn into the delightful world of Philomena Barker. I didn’t resurface until I had devoured every last word. Every aspect of the book, from Philly herself to the meticulously crafted characters who felt like old friends, the tantalizing recipes tucked away at the end, the skillful research, and the witty prose, had me utterly captivated. Honestly, I couldn’t help but feel a tad envious—how does Jo do this?

If you haven’t yet read the first book in this series, I highly recommend it. You can check it out here. That being said, another plus of this second book is that it works perfectly as either a standalone or a series continuation, giving the readers both choices.

Philly Barker is on the Case
Author: Joanne Tracey
Genre: Cozy Crime
Publication Date: October 26, 2023
Available for presale: September 18, 2023 (Amazon)
Books Blurb: When Chipwell antique dealer Philomena Barker is asked by Detective Inspector Robbie Dawkins to assist with identifying some stolen antiques, she’s only too happy to help. It’s not long before Philly and Robbie identify a pattern – someone is breaking into the homes of elderly farmers in North Yorkshire and stealing their treasured antiques. The investigation takes a deadly turn when their prime suspect is murdered, and Philly and Robbie will need all the help they can get if they’re to solve this puzzle. With Robbie due to retire, this case will be his last, but with the murderer one step ahead, can Philly solve the case before it’s also her last?
Rating: *****


Now on a roll, and with more airplane/airport time ahead of me, I listened to the 1937 classic “Out of Africa” by Karen Blixen (pseudonym: Isak Dinesen). More than 35 years ago, and in my late 20’s (seriously, how can that be?), I saw the 1985 movie adaptation with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. I don’t remember much about the film except for a vague image of the magnificence of the African landscape and its absolutely stunning vistas.

In line with the above, my biggest takeaway from the audiobook was also the magnificence of the African landscape. While listening, I was instantly captivated by the sheer beauty of Blixen’s prose. Her lyrical descriptions repeatedly painted vivid, evocative pictures of Africa from long ago.
As much as I appreciated the elegance of Blixen’s writing, I somehow felt a sense of detachment from her. While Blixen painted a brilliant portrait of the Africa around her, I yearned for a deeper connection with her as a person and wanted to know more about her (as well as her barely mentioned husband).

I also had to continually remind myself that this book was written over 90 years ago, in a very different time. Still, the colonial perspective was often hard to swallow.

In conclusion, despite its shortcomings, this compact book is a worthy read (or reread) on numerous levels. The pride and melancholy conveyed in its opening line alone are bound to captivate your mind and soul:

“I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills….”

Out of Africa
Author: Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen_
Original Publication Date: 1937
Genre: Memoir
Books Blurb: In 1914, Karen Blixen arrived in Kenya with her husband to run a coffee farm. Instantly drawn to the land, she spent her happiest years there until the plantation failed…. Written with astonishing clarity and unsentimental intelligence, Out of Africa portrays a way of life that has disappeared forever.
Rating: ****

This post concludes my September blogging break. But with things still being somewhat crazy here, my reading may remain interrupted for a while longer. I hope to get into routine again soon. I look forward to seeing fellow bloggers on their sites shortly.

So, how’s your reading going? What’s been on your bookshelf lately?


Published by Retirement Reflections

Prior to retirement, I lived and worked in Beijing China for fourteen years (Middle School Principal/Deputy Director at The Western Academy of Beijing). Leaving international life behind, my husband and I retired to Vancouver Island in June 2015. To document both this transition and our new adventures, ‘Retirement Reflections’ was born. I hope that you enjoy reading these reflections, and will be willing to share your own.
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