"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, February 28, 2019

February Books

The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent -- A somewhat interesting book, but not what I consider an easy read in that it was written in a more old-fashioned way, or, rather, with older phrases and such. Martha Allen is sent to stay with her cousin's family as her cousin gets ready to have her third child. Martha assists Patience around the house while two hired men - Thomas and John - help around the farm while Patience's husband travels for work. Pretty good story.

Round Robin by Jennifer Chiaverini -- This is book 2 in the Elm Creek Quilts series which I decided to start from the beginning (as I mentioned in last month's books post). This book delves into more of the stories of the ladies making up the quilt club - introducing their families, past conflicts, and current ones. A decent, easy read.

Live to Tell by Lisa Gardner -- another D.D. Warren novel featuring the Boston Police Department trying to solve crimes where whole families were killed. They were staged as if the fathers killed the mothers and children before they killed themselves, but is that what happened? This was an interesting look into children's psych wards and into families who deal with mentally ill children.

When Light Breaks by Patti Callahan Hentry -- an easy read for museums and parks while Sophie is in town; Kara is engaged to a PGA star, but thinks back to her old childhood friend Jack Sullivan and wonders whatever happened to him; an OK book

The Lost Man by Jane Harper -- as the book jacket states: "Three brothers, One death, No answers..." ; this book takes place in the Australian Outback, and while reading it, I'm amazed at the planning these people must make in order to survive. When the river floods without it raining (due to rain hundreds of miles north), you may be trapped in your house for a couple of weeks. When you need supplies, you better think what you want for your meals for a few months. When the cooler room needs fixing, the repairman won't come unless he has a few other people's properties to be serviced because it costs a hundred in fuel to drive there and back. When you see someone stranded, you better stop to help as it may be a death sentence for the stranded person. It's the code of that part of the land. When Cam - the clever, well-liked middle brother - is found dead several kilometers from his well-equipped and supplied vehicle, people wonder. Was this Cam's way of killing himself?  I discovered this author last year, and enjoyed her mysteries from Australia so I was glad to see this on the new books list at the library. 

Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner -- Adeline was born with a genetic condition which allows her to feel no pain. She can feel the pressure of scissors or a razor blade, but she won't flinch or scream from the pain of cutting. She's the daughter of a serial killer who died decades ago, but her father's murders are back in the headlines after a couple of murders in Boston which have similar aspects to her father's MO. This book also deals with Shana, Adeline's older sister who was incarcerated at age 14 after being accused of murdering a neighborhood boy while she was in foster care. This was another good book in the D.D. Warren series by this author.

The Patchwork Bride by Sandra Dallas -- a rather cute, easy read on the New Books shelf; Ellen tells her granddaughter about a friend of her's - Nell - who worked as a hired hand on a ranch, as a waitress, and as a teacher - and she also broke off 3 engagements  of marriage.  What a gal!

Saints at the River by Ron Rash -- Which side would you be on? A 12 year old girl vacationing in a SC mountain area is stuck under the water, caught behind a rock in a hydraulic. This river is designated Wild & Scenic and protected by federal law. Yet, the parents from Illinois understandably want a temporary dam built so they can retrieve their daughter's body for burial! Yet, the local environmental types argue for the sake of the river: it cannot be altered since this sets a precedent for future alteration, for developers to come in and ruin the river. That's essentially what this book dealt with from the point of view of Maggie, native of this area who now is a photographer based out of Columbia.

The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich -- "an oral history of women in World War II" -- this book was highly recommended by Bridget, and her mom spoke highly of it, too. So I got it for Christmas from my Amazon Wishlist; a great look at the tasks women performed, the unique hardships they faced as women fighting for the Motherland (Russia) during the war shared through interviews with dozens of women

The Hope Jar by Wanda E. Brunstetter -- I saw this online as a new book and put it on hold; book one in The Prayer Jars series; an easy read; Michelle, a former foster child on the run, is mistaken by an Amish couple as their just-discovered (by letter) granddaughter, Sara. Michelle decides to pretend to be Sara and spends weeks with the Lapps. What could go wrong?

The Cross-Country Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini -- This is book 3 in the Elm Creek Quilts series; it follows the lives of a group of mostly-strangers (the actress Julia; the quilt historian Grace; Megan and Donna, who are already online friends; and Vinnie, a camp regular)  who meet at the quilt camp. They leave that week with promises to overcome challenges and to work on a quilt that they will complete together the following year.

Save Me by Lisa Scottoline -- Rose is one of the two volunteer lunch moms when a small explosion in the cafeteria causes a deadly fire. Rose doesn't know whether to rush three girls in her charge out the door to the playground or go back for her own daughter Melly who had fled to the bathroom after one of the girls bullied her. As Rose tries to clear things up, she takes it upon herself to figure out what caused this explosion in the first place.

Home Front by Kristin Hannah -- A family in Washington - Jolene, the Black Hawk helicopter pilot, her attorney husband, Michael; preteen daughter Betsy and four year old Lulu.  Life is already a struggle, but then when Jolene is called up to go to Balad as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Michael has to learn how to be there for his daughters. Jolene has to decide how much to tell the family back home. And the girls have to adjust to their mom being overseas, in a war zone.

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa -- A look at the passengers of the St. Louis, desperate German Jews, who thought they would have a place to stay in Cuba. But the Cuban President passed an order that allowed a fraction of them to disembark. That story told through the eyes of Hannah, the German girl.  A touching story.

The Decision by Wanda E. Brunstetter -- I often like having a soft-cover, easy read when the kids are in town, and while I mostly read this one after Sophie was back home, it was an OK story about Prairie State Friends (book 1). It takes place among the Illinois Amish, and talked about Elaine who was struggling with her forgetful grandmother, and about Jonah who was getting over a failed marriage attempt. Maybe a predictable story, and at times a bit too ... simplistically annoying, but, eh, I might find book 2 just to read more about these folks.

The Next Accident by Lisa Gardner -- this was not a D.D. Warren novel, and, frankly, probably one of my least favorite books by this author. It was OK, but the story of Rainie and the FBI profiler Pierce Quincy wasn't that great to me. Maybe if I'd read the previous books featuring these two, I'd like them more, but the library didn't have those so I had to start with this one. Pierce's oldest daughter and ex-wife are murdered by someone targeting those close to him, and so it's off to looking for this person.

Searching for You by Jody Hedlund -- Final book in the Orphan Train series; this one focused on the youngest Neumann sister, Sophie, who had run away from her older sisters when she thought she would have to give up the care of the two little children, Olivia and Nicholas, whom she had cared for after their mom abandoned them. Sophie is struggling to provide for them, and decides to join the orphan train as an orphan. They head west to a farm in Illinois where they come across a couple of familiar faces. 

The Runaway Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini -- This is another in the Elm Creek Quilt series and combines modern-day Sylvia and her friends who run the quilting retreat with glimpses of Sylvia's ancestors who lived around the time of the US Civil War. I got many more glimpses of the people familiar to me from the first book I read in this series which happened to be way later in the series if I were going in order. It was nice reading more about Anneke and Hans Bergstrom and Gerda, Han's older sister who lived with them. Sylvia found Gerda's memoir which revealed some family secrets and kind of created more.  Good story!

Death Books a Return by Marion Moore Hill -- this book from the Scrappy Librarian Mystery series was displayed at my local library so I decided to give it a try. It was decent and an easy read while I was at the beach and riding home from the beach today (2/26.)  Juanita, the public librarian, is trying to write a history of the town and is tracking down people who might know something about an unsolved murder involving some high schoolers back in the late 1950s. A black teenager was killed and his murderers were never arrested.  A decent book.

Maid by Stephanie Land -- "hard work, low pay, and a mother's will to survive"; I saw this offered online in the new books section of the library's website so I put it on hold a few weeks back. It was an interesting look at the author's life as a single mother working hard to provide for herself and her daughter.  I admire her hard work, but not her life choices.

A Desperate Hope by Elizabeth Camden -- Eloise returns to the valley near where she grew up as part of New York City's accounting department. She's there on official business as the City plans to buy out the folks in Duval Springs so they can dismantle the town and flood it. NYC needs drinking water, ya know! This book wasn't my favorite of this author's, but it was a decent, easy read.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

January Books

Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff -- I read a couple of her books last year and enjoyed them. My library only had the 2 so I put a couple more on my Amazon Wishlist, and I got those for Christmas. Jenni is a ghostwriter and she especially enjoys delving into people's lives as they write their memoirs. When asked to write for a client's upcoming 80th birthday, Jenni returns to a place in Cornwall where she went on holiday as a child. Something terrible happened and she never went back. As Klara tells her story of growing up in Java as part of the Dutch colonials who worked as planters on rubber plantations - and the terrible thing that happened to her family during World War II (the Japanese took over and imprisoned them), Jenni confronts her past. This was a good way for me to learn more about the civilians who were interred in camps during World War II as evil reigned in the earth.

The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner -- I'm continuing my crime thriller books this year so far, it seems. This one also features detective D.D. Warren of the Boston police department. In this book, newspaper reporter Jason Jones comes home one night and finds his young wife and middle school teacher, Sandra, missing. Their 4 year old daughter, Ree, is asleep in her bed, but Jason swears his wife would never leave their child alone like that. Of course, Jason is person of interest #1 in his wife's disappearance, but there is also that neighbor who proactively introduces himself to Jason knowing he, too, will be suspect. Who really is to blame here?

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy -- Have you ever wondered about Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, the siblings made famous by author Lucy Maud Montgomery in her Anne of Green Gables series?  This author takes us back to when Marilla was a young teen growing up in Avonlea, her friendship with Rachel and John Blythe, her relationships with her parents and the community. A rather cute book.

Find Her by Lisa Gardner -- I believe the first book I read by this author featured vigilante Flora Dane. This book tells her story; of how she was kidnapped and held for over 400 days, and how later this influenced her to find other lost women. This book also features Sergeant Detective D.D. Warren as she and her Boston PD look for a couple of missing girls in the area. 

The Girl I Used to Be by Mary Torjussen -- A good find on the New Books shelf at the local library; Gemma owns her own real estate agency somewhere in England, and happens to meet up with a client at a conference several miles away. She drinks too much and ends up forgetting what exactly happened to her while there. A few weeks later, she starts receiving photos and messages and videos which frighten her. Tied into this are issues from 15 years ago when she was at a graduation party, got drunk, and fell asleep on her hostess's bed while waiting for her friend. A good book, and one that made me thankful that I don't drink alcohol or use mind-controlling substances.

The Romantic by Barbara Gowdy -- After her mom leaves, Louise is attracted to the Richter family. More specifically she wants to be part of it, and have Mrs. Richter love her. Later her attention shifts to Abel, the adopted son who is about her age. This book is part present day, part way back, and part what happened to her and Abel's friendship over the last years. An OK book.

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce -- I found this on the New Books shelf the other day, and wasn't sure when I first started reading it because I found the Random Capitalized Words throughout the sentences to be a bit Distracting. But I soon got (mostly) used to that, and started enjoying the story of Emmeline (Em or Emmy) and her flatmate Marigold (who goes by Bunty) in London during World War II. Emmy has dreams of being a war correspondent, and thinks she is on her way there when she answers an ad for what she believes is a local newspaper. Ends up being the Woman's Friend magazine division and she's tasked with screening letters for the advice column. This was a rather cute book.

River Bodies by Karen Katchur -- This "thriller" was on the New Books shelf so I decided to give it a try. It was just OK; nothing terrible, but not great either. Becca notices suspicious activity from a relative of sorts as she jogs along the river trail one day. When she returns home (across the Delaware River to the Pennsylvania side), she learns of a body in the river. Not only had the man been shot, but he was gutted like a hunter does to animals.  A bit of a mystery, but nothing too thrilling.

Love You More Lisa Gardner -- Since I've read most of these books out of order, I was glad to finally read the story of Tessa Leoni since it was mentioned in other books I've read. Now I know why she was accused of murdering her own husband, and the story behind her six-year-old daughter going missing.

Our Little Secret by Roz Nay -- This book was a fast read, and pretty good although I didn't really like the main character ... which was probably the point. Angela is picked up and questioned for the disappearance of her high school boyfriend's wife, an Australian named Saskia. HP - the former boyfriend whose name is Hamish Parker if you wondered what the HP stood for - and Saskia had invited Angela to stay with them for a few weeks at one point. Such a weird relationship. But anyway, Angela is telling her story to the Detective throughout this book. It was ..different.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

On my November books post I noted this:

Note to self: put Becoming on hold -- 16th in line as of November 14, 2018; I want to see how long it takes me to get it from the library

And on January 14, 2019, I got the email that it was my turn to pick up this book from the library. I had noted just a day or two before that I was 4th in line, and wondered how I had jumped to ON HOLD status so quickly. Turns out my library system has 7 copies of Mrs. Obama's book. That's how!

Kind of neat to be reading Mrs. Obama's memoir on the day she turned 55. We were on our way to the beach on January 16th, and I was curious how old she was and Google informed me that her birthday was January 17th - the next day. I read her book while sitting on the beach and in the car on the way and back from the beach, and both nights when we were in our room. I did other stuff at the beach, of course, but it's darker earlier this time of year so while Andrew enjoyed cable TV channels, I read.  And I read parts of it to Andrew.  We were both amazed and interested about many aspects of her story.  I'm not really a proposal-of-marriage person, but I really liked theirs! Made me smile. I also liked how Mrs.Obama was there for her dad as he was hospitalized, and later how she tried to speak at graduations for colleges and universities that wouldn't normally get a FLOTUS there. Her outreach to children and women and people of color, her encouragement to others...I loved all that. Even her epilogue and acknowledgements were good.

and how weird is it that when I picked up the above book...there was this other 'becoming' story on the New Books shelf . . .

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan -- the story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis, who became dear friends through letters and later met several times; These two ended up marrying which I guess the title gave away, and this book is fiction but based upon historical records and the author's interest in both of Joy and "Jack."

The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos -- A story that takes place during the time when Romania joined forces with the Nazis to get rid of Jewish people. A little girl was left alone and sent to an orphanage where she was adopted by a rich, young couple. This story was based on the author's mom's story. Her mom was the little girl left behind though she doesn't know the story about her blood relatives. However Anton and Despina from the book are her (true) adopted grandparents. And what an interesting story about their lives during this time and after when the Communists took over Romania. What a life!  This book was a little disjointed (for me) at times, but overall it was interesting especially learning more about Romania during this time in world history.

The Bride of Ivy Green by Julie Klassen -- book 3 in the Tales from Ivy Hill series; this book focused more on Mercy, who was forced to close her in-house school when her brother takes a bride and they come to live - and essentially control - life in the house Mercy grew up in and had her school in. Mercy takes a governess job, educating her former in-house pupil Alice, the daughter of James Drake who owns the area's large hotel.

The Union Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini -- I probably wouldn't have read this book at this time except that I brought it home from my mom's house the other day so I could return it to the library for her. I finished my other library book so I figured I'd read this one, too. This is part of a long series (Elm Creek Quilts) and towards the back end of it so there were a lot of characters and history there that I got in a very summarized form. This book focused on a group of ladies and their spouses in Pennsylvania as the men - except for Hans the pacifist - prepared to fight for the Union army and the women did their parts at home.

The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel -- Hope runs the family bakery on Cape Cod; her preteen daughter helps her as Hope did for her own mother and grandmother.  Mamie (Hope's French-born grandmother) has Alzheimer's, but on one "good day," Mamie instructs Hope to go to Paris to find out what happened to certain people on a list. Hope finds out Mamie's family was Jewish and most or all of them did not survive the Nazis. A good story.

The First Love by Beverly Lewis -- Maggie deals with the pain of rheumatoid arthritis and prays for her healing. An easy read from the New Books shelf.

Catch Me by Lisa Gardner -- Sergeant Detective D.D. Warren is called to a crime scene where a pedophile has been murdered. While heading back to her car, she sees a note on the windshield and a person fleeing - Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant aka Charlie. Charlie, a 911 operator outside of Boston, tells D.D. that she wanted to see the detective in action because in a few days, on January 21, she expects to be murdered just as her childhood BFFs had been murdered the last two years on that date. This was an exciting, good read if you enjoy detective/mystery books. I liked reading more about Charlie's job as well. 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris -- "based on the powerful true story of love and survival;" The story of Lale and Gita, Slovakians who met while imprisoned by the Nazis. Lale got a job as a tattooist, and he used that position to help others survive.  Here is a short (9 minute) interview from their son Gary Sokolov. They took the last name of Lale's sister's husband, a Russian soldier surnamed Sokolov, in order to fit in better with the Russians who took over their country after the war. The family went to Australia after some conflicts arose with the Soviet authorities. BTW, in the interview, the lady says Lale like "la lee" unlike how I was saying it "layl."

The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini -- So I decided to find the first book in this Elm Creek Quilt series and try out the series from the beginning. Since the last book I read (mentioned above) covered the Civil War, I expected this to go way, way back. I was surprised when it was a fairly modern (mid-1990s) story although I later found some familiar characters as Mrs. Compson told the backstory of her home, Elm Creek Manor. Mrs. Compson being the former Sylvia Bergstrom because some of them (Hans and Anneke Bergstrom) were mentioned in The Union Quilter's which I read a few days ago. Sarah and her husband Matt move to a small Pennsylvania town so that Matt can work as a landscaper. He lands a job restoring the gardens and orchards of Elm Creek Manor, and he invites Sarah along for the initial meet. The elderly Mrs. Compson soon offers Sarah a job helping her ready the inside of the manor so she can put it up for sale. Not super-exciting, but a decent, "sweet" book.

Friday, January 4, 2019


Three and a half years ago, our friend Joni told us she was in such pain that she went to the emergency room. Sadly, her diagnosis was stage 4 ovarian cancer. She took chemo, underwent surgery, and then had more treatments. At one time, she was in remission. Sadly, it was short lived.  Yet, she fought on, tried different treatments, kept a terrific attitude, inspired us all. She had these Cancer Conversations on Facebook.  I just looked for her last one. It was November 30.

Cancer Conversations #???
“How can I help?” 

This is such a great question to ask! Sometimes my answer though is going to be that I don’t have anything right now. Sometimes there are tasks that I only feel comfortable letting certain people do. That’s no reflection on you, it’s just I need to do what is easiest and most comfortable to me. Yeah, there maybe laundry that needs doing, but when my knickers are involved I don’t really feel like parceling that out to anyone who asks, you know?

So my exhortation is don’t be offended if I don’t have a task for you - your offer of help IS valued and I do keep it in my mind as future things come up.  <3 span="">

I also found this one from September 24, 2018

Cancer Conversations #24
The Club

There is so much about cancer that is different between the types of cancer - liver vs ovarian vs breast vs lymphoma, etc. But one thing is the same: when you get that cancer diagnosis you are inducted, unwillingly, into the Cancer Club. It's a fraternity (sorority?) most of us never think we will join, and that no one wants to join. 

Before cancer, I always thought that cancer was something that happened to other people, not to me and not to my family. Cancer was a "them over there" problem. I mean, I would have said that yes, cancer could happen to me, but when it comes down to what I believed, I believed it wouldn't happen to me. 

But now I am in the club. When a friend is diagnosed with cancer, I can relate. I know the fear, the questions, the unknown, the hope, the side effects, the grace extended. I had friends who were, for me, the 'trail guides" - having been through cancer, even if it wasn't the same kind, and were the example of what living with (and after) cancer looked like. They showed that hope and joy are still possible, even with the Big C. Now, three years into my own journey, I am able to be that same "trail guide" for others.

We knew Joni was doing poorly. She'd had fluid build up and drained from her abdomen and lungs back in October. She told us in November that the chemo wasn't working. She was weaker, and tireder, and not around as much.

She was admitted to the hospital on Christmas day, the doctors were not able to place the G tube as the family wished (too many tumors in her stomach), and just the day before her death, her husband had let me know via Messenger that Joni was home, the hospice nurse had just left, and they were worried about her oxygen levels dropping.  What they hoped would be weeks, turned into an estimated 72 hours.

Sunset; Bryson City, NC

While recovering from chemo, Joni sometimes enjoyed painting. I posted the above picture on Facebook after a late June 2018 trip to Bryson City, North Carolina.   A few days later she told me she had used my picture as an inspiration and painted something that I could have if I wanted. Of course I did!

I am thrilled to own it!

a gift from Joni

I met Joni over 15 years ago. Although I chose not to have children, I always enjoyed baby names. When my first nephew was expected, I went on Babycenter.com, and made a name poll. I don't think I met Joni there, but eventually several of us who commented on the name polls formed a private group at Yahoo Groups. Later we had another group at Yahoo, and later still we switched over to a private Facebook group. We've discussed about everything over the years. Even those things "polite society" says is not good to discuss with friends.

Although I never had the opportunity to meet Joni - she lived near Seattle and I never traveled to the West Coast, nor she to the South where I live - she was a dear, precious friend. There are about 12 or 15 of us that met on those Babycenter name polls and have gotten close over the years. A few are in NC (I've met them), Maryland (met one), Georgia, New York, South Dakota, Ohio (met her twice when she lived in the NC mountains years ago), California, Massachusetts - even one in Ottawa.

Last night, about ten of us were chatting on a Messenger thread.  It was like we were on this vigil - so sad about Joni, yet still laughing at memories and conversation. JLNL in Ohio suggested at 10:00 PM EST we each drink a beverage of our choice as a toast to Joni. She was having wine.  Sassy (a fellow NC gal) posted soon after that she was at Food Lion picking out her drink (a pineapple margarita).  Taff in NY decided to eat ice cream. Cey (one of our Marylanders) was out with her daughter at volleyball practice in D.C., but she picked up some donut holes  - "munchkins" - and iced coffee. Sommer (our Californian) had ghost pepper tequila. Carmen (in Georgia) had hard cider. V (in Massachusetts) had cookies and a raspberry peach smoothie. Elsa (in South Dakota) had beer. Niki (also in NC) drank water and fresh-from-the-oven Pillsbury hot chocolate rolls. (Read her blog post here.)  I got up, opened a box of chocolate covered cherries, and ate one followed by a swig of 2% milk straight out of the carton.   (I rarely eat so late, but I had to do it in solidarity with the girls. Also Sommer told me a few minutes ago that she ate a chocolate covered cherry last night because I did!)

It was a sweet time. My first online "vigil" that I recall. I think Joni would be happy that we all spent time together, thinking of her, shedding a few tears, joking around, remembering things - celebrating friendship.

December 1974 - January 2019

Her husband posted about an hour after I went to sleep that she was gone (12:44 AM EST). I was sad to wake up to the news of my friend's death, and I've been crying off and on all day. But I have faith that Joni is healed and happy and one day I will meet her in person, for the first time ever.

Until then, I will think of you whenever I hike at Max Patch. I remember you told me one time that this was your favorite of the places where I went.

We won't forget you. Love you, Friend.

Monday, December 31, 2018

December Books

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn -- a great book and a fun way to learn about female spies; Charlotte St. Clair is in Europe with her mom; they are headed to Switzerland to take care of Charlie's "Little Problem," but before they make it out of England, Charlie abandons her mom to look for a person whose name she has in connection with her beloved missing cousin. Evelyn Gardiner is an old, drunk, crotchety woman with secrets. She and Charlie and Eve's handyman Finn head to France in search of Rose and RenĂ©, a terrible sort from Evelyn's spying past (World War I).  Anyway, I enjoyed this book. It's funny and historical and gruesome altogether.

Together Forever by Jody Hedlund -- book 2 in the Orphan Train series; This book focused more on the middle Neumann sister, Marianne, as she goes on an orphan train as an agent who helps find families for the children along with her co-agent Andrew Brady.  Decent book. 

The Dry by Jane Harper -- Another good story by this Australian author!  I read her second book first, and knew there was an earlier book since the main character, Falk, had an issue with his hand that made me believe it was injured in book 1.  In this story Aaron Falk returns to his hometown for the funeral of a friend. Well, he would have skipped it since he and Luke hadn't been good friends in years, and he hated the memories associated with home, but Luke's father sent a cryptic message demanding Aaron be there. Aaron joins the local police in looking for a possible other reason that Luke, his wife, and their 6 year old son were brutally killed. Was it a murder suicide or something else?

A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas -- Book 2 in The Lady Sherlock Series; Charlotte Holmes and Mrs. Watson look for clues in the disappearance of Lady Ingram's first love, who happens to be Charlotte's illegitimate half-brother, Myron Finch. A cute book.

Crash & Burn by Lisa Gardner -- The library has a lot of her books so I'll probably read more of them soon. This one dealt with a lady, Nicole Frank, driving over a steep ravine in the mountains of New Hampshire. She survived, but is looking for her missing girl, Vero.  Nicky has had three concussions in the last 6 months and with these brain injuries, memories have surfaced on her time at "the dollhouse" where she lived in a house that catered to wealthy men.  A mystery; pretty good story.

The Risen by Ron Rash -- Two teenage brothers met a girl from Florida swimming near their fishing hole one summer years ago.  After falling under her spell (so to speak), they begin supplying her with samples from their grandfather's medicine cabinet (he's a doctor) and alcohol.  Years later, Eugene reads a news article about Ligeia's remains being found buried along a creek, and he is stunned since Ligeia supposedly left on a bus for Miami all those years ago. The story goes between then and now times; a decent book.

The Ballad of Tom Dooley by Sharyn McCrumb -- a great way to learn more about the rascal Tom Dula and the women of Wilkes and Watauga counties: the Foster cousins, Ann Melton, Pauline Foster, and Laura Foster who was murdered. A pretty good story.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman -- A pretty good story about Elsa and her Granny who leaves Elsa clues for a treasure hunt when she dies. I didn't always appreciate the fairy-tale aspect of half the book, but started enjoying it better when I realized who the characters stood for. 

The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney -- Told in the voices of the four ladies making up the close-knit group "Saving Graces," Isabel, Emma, Rudy, and Lee introduce themselves and their struggles.  I admit that one aspect of this book hit a bit hard as I have a dear friend struggling with quite likely the last stages of ovarian cancer (today - December 17 - is her birthday, in fact). A pretty good book.

Alone by Lisa Gardner -- I've been enjoying these crime thrillers and hope to get more. This one deals a lot with Trooper Bobby Dodge who also is a sniper. When he kills a man who appears to be threatening his wife and child, his life gets turned upside down. I read most of this book while we took Sophie back to Spring Creek today (12-19). It's a fast-paced, easy read.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight -- Kate is distraught when her daughter supposedly committed suicide by jumping off the roof of her elite school, but an anonymous text gets her looking into her daughter's life. This was an interesting book, but left me sad that teenagers are treating each other in such ways. A good book, though.

The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas -- book 3 in The Lady Sherlock Series; a rather cute series, and definitely better if you can read the books in quick succession since, otherwise, I have trouble remembering aspects from previous books.

Touch & Go by Lisa Gardner -- another crime thriller; Part of the book is Libby narrating the story of her family's kidnapping after date night with her husband (who is trying to "do better" after being confronted for cheating); a good book on this Christmas Eve

Family Pictures by Jane Green -- Sylvie has a great marriage - when her husband is in town.  Those two or so weeks per month when he's traveling for work, it's actually really hard to get in touch with him. Sylvie tries not to think about it too much, but there is sometimes that niggling fear that he is with some other woman.   Maggie lives on the East Coast - in Connecticut, in a nice house. Her husband, too, travels quite a bit. One day these two women meet and, well, this is a rather good book. I may look for others by this author at some point.

Helpless by Barbara Gowdy -- A very pretty nine year old girl disappears during a city-wide blackout. Pretty good book

Girl Unbroken by Regina Calcaterra and Rosie Maloney -- "A Sister's Harrowing Story of Survival from the Streets of Long Island to the Farms of Idaho."  My mom and I both read Regina Calcaterra's memoir a couple of years ago, and what a story! There have been hints since then that her youngest sibling, Rosie, would write her story. Rosie and her brother Norm - the two youngest children of Cookie (mom) - were the only children taken to Idaho by Cookie and her then boyfriend. The older girls had left the hellhole home at this point, but Norm and Rosie were still rather young (12 and 9, respectively.)  Rosie's story is worth reading as well. Makes you appreciate good family and friends, school and church workers and neighbors who look around, take notice, encourage, LOVE, feed, clothe you.  And it makes you appreciate good foster families of which I know several. 

Hide by Lisa Gardner -- An underground chamber is discovered on the grounds of the former Boston State Mental Hospital. In it, are the wet mummified remains of four girls who died decades earlier. Another D.D. Warren, Bobby Dodge crime thriller.

And with that, another year of reading ends. May the stories continue. 

Happy 2019!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Christmas Pics

The kids' Christmas pictures taken today. Aren't they sweet?

When Sophie came for a visit recently (post-hair cut), I made a big deal about her looking so good with her shorter hairdo.  She was hoping people would notice - and like it!  She does.

She's wanted bangs like Nana for awhile. She made me chuckle when she pointed to the part that drapes her forehead now, and said with some emphasis: 

"And...I have a bang."

Her long hair was pretty, but got so tangly and she would cry when you'd try to comb it out. Quite frankly, I couldn't comb the tangles out; they were terrible. And listening to her cry was even worse.

Zach is 7; Sophie is 4 (and over a half for each of them since they have spring birthdays.)

Thursday, November 29, 2018

November Books

Mina by Jonatha Ceely -- I read book 2 before book 1 (this book) so I knew how the story ended with Mina in America, but I didn't know the backstory except for what was alluded to in book 2. Which was actually quite a lot of it, but still it was good reading this one. I enjoyed this book.

With You Always by Jody Hedlund -- Sisters Elise, Marianne, and Sophie are struggling to survive in New York City and gain employment at a mission house. When economic problems arise, they lose their livelihood. As the eldest, Elise travels to central Illinois to work in a new town that Thornton Quincy is trying to establish along the railroad line.  This is book 1 in the Orphan Train series.  Mostly predictable, but an easy read, and an OK, decent story.

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack -- Amber is the Rage of the (London) Season until a health issue brings humiliation and a change in address: she's pretty much banished to her family's small cottage in northern England.  As she and her loyal maid-turned-friend Suzanne live so far from London, they learn to survive without a household of staff and the life of privilege.  A pretty good story.

Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer -- I read two of her books previously and wrote that they were merely ok, but this one I rather liked.  It wasn't super by any means, but I liked it better than the others for some reason.  Grace and Amos are telegraph operators who talk after hours over the wire. When Grace is threatened, Amos travels to her town and they meet face-to-face for the first time.  Pretty good book.

Walking to Listen by Andrew Forsthoefel --  "4,000 miles across America, one story at a time" ; Andrew leaves his home in Pennsylvania with a sign on his backpack "Walking to Listen." He heads south and I love some of the stories he shares especially from Virginia and later from Alabama.  Also good was when he was on the Navajo and Hopi reservations out west and the people were so kind to him. 

If Only by Richard Paul Evans -- an easy read, and a sweet book about Eric, a ninth grader who recently moved from California to Utah. While at work one night, Eric finds a girl looking in the Dumpster for food.  He takes her to the clubhouse on his family's property where she hides out for several weeks.  A cute story. 

The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center -- This, I believe, is the fourth book I've read by this author, and I could tell within the first bit what would happen as far as men go.  Not that other books and authors aren't predictable, but hers really stand out.  Main Character is living with a guy who turns out to be a loser (or Looozah as Sophie would say) so she ends up with some other guy who comes on the scene who for real is Mr. Perfect. But how each Main Character gets to that point in each of her books is pretty good.  In this book Jenny is pregnant and when Looozah FiancĂ© leaves her, she does the whole single parenting thing alone. And it is tough.  A decent book; not my favorite of hers.

Circle of Three by Patricia Gaffney -- One of those three-generations-of-women books.  Grandma Dana (70ish), Mom Carrie (42), and Daughter Ruth (15) who struggle through life's changes.  A decent book.

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai -- I got this at a Little Free Library, and I really do not know what all it was about. Indians and other nationalities in India?  And Indian young men in the US?  I didn't like it.

The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent -- I'd read one other book by this author so I figured why not read this one? It alternates between Lucinda's story as an epileptic whore escaping the brothel with a mission to locate information about gold on a small island somewhere in Texas and Nate's story as a Texas lawman who teams up with a couple of Rangers to locate an outlaw.  Despite how it sounds here, it was a halfway decent book, I guess. 

Note to self: put Becoming on hold -- 16th in line as of November 14, 2018; I want to see how long it takes me to get it from the library  Edited on January 18, 2019, to add: 2 months. See January 2019 books post when it's posted.

The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier -- After holding herself aloof from relationships most all of her forty eight years, Joy leaves her professorship in NYC for one in Amherst, Massachusetts. There she makes friends and helps people out, and learns more about herself in the process.  An OK book.

The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund -- Elizabeth works for Pastor John Costin's family as a housekeeper after the death of his first wife. Vicious rumors are spread about her and the reverend. Should he marry her or another in this Puritan community in order to squelch the talk? This was an OK book.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper -- A corporation chose 5 men and 5 women for a bonding retreat in the Australian bushland. The two teams head out with their supplies and a map, but the women fail to make it to camp the second night.  Tempers flare, injuries abound, and when the group finally emerges hours after the scheduled time, only 4 of the women walk out of the woods. Alice is missing, but what happened to her?  I found this book by chance at a local library (but not the one nearest me) and I enjoyed this mystery and have put the author's other book on hold.

Life's a Beach by Claire Cook -- A light, easy read for when the kids were visiting. Ginger Walsh is 41 and living in the apartment above her parents' garage when her mom decides to put the house on the market. Ginger tries to figure out her life: a job, take a higher commitment with her boyfriend and all that stuff. An OK book. Cute, but nothing special.

Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund -- Massachusetts while the US was still a colony of England. Susanna Smith's loyalty to her king is tested when a British soldier oversteps his authority. An OK book. 

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain -- the library got another book by this author, and this one was different, but interesting especially if you don't mind a little time travel between 1970 and the 2000s.  Hunter shows up in 1970 with a broken ankle after falling from the roof of a building. Some say he is suicidal, but in reality, he just landed in 1970 after being part of 2018, and he fell off the building he landed on! Weird. But the book is pretty good.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

Sophie is visiting the area now, and today she was at my house for a couple of hours.  She had a great time playing with Tucky, and when he left to help with youth group at church, Sophie and I went to the park which is near my house.

When we first got there, Sophie and I had the whole place to ourselves so we entertained ourselves by doing the scavenger hunt.

We have to locate the apple, frog, star, clock, carrot, and so forth. Ten items in all. Or "awwb jects" as Sophie drawls it.  Objects, if you don't understand Southern.

She loves when she finds the objects first.  

About twenty minutes after we got to the park, people started arriving and - yippee! - Sophie had not one, but TWO little girls just a bit older than her to play with.

I had been walking up and down a hill in order to redeem the time and get a little exercise. It's a favorite hill to roll down - or, at least, both Sophie and Zach have rolled down this hill in times gone by.

Sophie asked if they could, and I said I could not give permission for Jillian and Carla since I'm not their guardian/parent. But eventually all three girls rolled down the hill.

Here are a few pictures I took of Sophie in the process.

And finally I had her stop so I could show her her leafy hair!

She loved it!