Indonesia Etc. by Elizabeth Pisani -- a great way to learn more about this collection of islands, the people and cultures that make up this country, and that they actually produce asphalt naturally there (like dig it out of the ground; pg. 178)! Who knew?A Hopeful Heart by Kim Vogel Sawyer -- This story follows Aunt Hattie's school for young women of the East who have come to the Kansas prairie in order to learn how to become good rancher wives. Apparently the author met a lady on an Alaskan cruise who had come to such a school (!) thus the inspiration for this book.
A Sister's Test by Wanda E. Brunstetter -- This is book 2 in the Sisters of Holmes County series, and follows the second sister Ruth although the rest of the family is mentioned as well. It's actually more of a continuation of book one where some family issues weren't resolved.
A Sister's Hope by Wanda E. Brunstetter -- The final book in the above-mentioned series. This book continues the story, but follows more of Martha's story as she continues her business and the family finally gets some answers about the person who has been vandalizing their properties for years.
A Home in Drayton Valley by Kim Vogel Sawyer -- New York City is too big and dirty for ailing Mary and her family. Tarsie has a plan to help the family move to the wide open spaces in Kansas. Will Joss be willing to leave his home and work for the sake of his wife? Will Mary survive the journey? And how will befriending former slaves impact the family?
What Once Was Lost by Kim Vogel Sawyer -- When the Brambleville Asylum for the Poor is damaged by fire, Christina has to place her charges in homes throughout the community until the "poor farm" can be repaired. This story deals with her struggles in doing this, and how the residents change as they are out in the community.
The Storekeeper's Daughter by Wanda Brunstetter -- the first in the Daughters of Lancaster County series. A good read while I was on my way to the beach and some while I was there and riding home. It's about a young Amish woman who has to take over the household chores, raising her younger siblings, and working at her parents' store after her mom is struck by a car and dies on the way to the hospital.
To a Mountain in Tibet by Colin Thubron -- a look at British man's journey to Kailas and his description of the journey, and pilgrims, and things they do along the way. I found the topic of burying the dead interesting: burial being for those who died by plagues or those who were criminals,"to seal them underground is to prevent their reincarnation and to eliminate their kind for ever." For the destitute, "corpses tipped into Tibet's rivers." "Embalmment is granted to the highest lamas alone, while the less grand are cremated and their ashes encased in stupas." Sky burial is for the others. Among many things described in the process is this: "Then the corpse's back is broken and it is folded into a foetal bundle. ... As the corpse approaches, the sky master blows his horn and a fire of juniper twigs summons the vultures. The master and his rogyapa corpse-dissectors then open the body from the back. They remove the organs, amputate the limbs and cut the flesh into small pieces, which they lay nearby. The bones are pulverised with a rock. The master mixes their dust with yak butter or tsampa, roasted barley, and then rolls it into balls. Finally the skull too is smashed and becomes a morsel with its brains. One by one these are tossed on to a platform - the bones first, for they are the least appetising - and the vultures crowd in." (pg. 151) They want the vultures to accept it all!
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult -- the story of thirteen-year-old Anna, life-long donor to her sister Kate who was diagnosed with leukemia at age 2. Such a touching, sad story. Ugh...cancer. Just ugh.