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

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

January Books


My Sweet Girl by Amanda Jayatissa -- I started this near the end of December, and then Zach and Sophie came to visit so I didn't read much as we were too busy riding the carousel and visiting the arboretum's little play area (so fun). Paloma was adopted from a Sri Lankan orphanage at age 12, and 18 years later, she is being blackmailed by her roommate who claims to know her secret. This story alternates between Paloma of today, living in California, to when she was getting ready for her adoption. I kept reading this book because I wanted to see how it ended, but the author uses a lot of off-putting language if you don't like the F word (no kidding) sometimes three times in one sentence. I think it detracts from a book, but I am a fuddy duddy type like that so ... Someone who got this book before me, crossed out nearly all the g--d---s in the book as I guess that particular word offended the reader a lot.

Puppet by Joy Fielding -- Amanda is loving her life as a defense attorney in Florida when she picks up the phone and her ex-husband in Toronto calls saying her mother is accused of murder. Amanda hasn't talked to her mom in eight years, but duty calls and she heads north to see what she can do. This book was OK. A quick read anyway.

Family Trust by Kathy Wang -- A story told from the perspectives of Stanley, the Chinese-America patriarch who is dying from pancreatic cancer; his ex-wife Linda, who is the better investor and also looking for a new love on a dating app; Mary, the much younger second wife; and Fred and Kate, the children of Stanley and Linda. This book was OK; nothing special.

The Marsh Queen by Virginia Hartman -- Loni is working as a bird illustrator for the Smithsonian when she gets a call from her brother urging her to come home because her mom is struggling with a broken wrist and dementia. Loni is reluctant to go back to north Florida, but takes a few weeks to do so. While there she looks for answers about her father's death when she was twelve years old. Pretty good book by this new-to-me author.

The War Librarian by Addison Armstrong -- Two storylines in this book: one with Emmaline, who travels to France to cheer the troops with books during World War I, and the other with Kathleen in 1976 as she begins training at the Naval Academy. This book was a bit ho-hum at times, but later got pretty interesting. Not the best book, but not bad.

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland -- I enjoy this author's books: fast-paced and pretty exciting though they leave me skeptical of some of our intelligence employees. Vivian is a CIA counterintelligence analyst working to uncover Russian sleeper cells. When her algorithm works, she discovers something very close to home that threatens life as she knows it.

The Blame Game by Sandie Jones -- Naomi is a psychotherapist who often allows relationships with clients to blur the line. This time she's helping Jacob leave his abusive wife by allowing him to rent a flat that she and her husband own. Only she didn't tell her husband (yet) as she knows he doesn't like her blurring those lines. Additionally she offers to allow Anna to stay with them for a few days while she sorts out where to live - her husband is abusive after all. Anyway...this was a fast read and pretty interesting though maybe a touch confusing there towards the end.

Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese -- Perhaps a bit too predictable, but I ended up liking this one pretty well. At one point, I thought it was going to be a total yawner, but it got more interesting as the story progressed. Lauren is a first grade teacher who is hoping to adopt a child from China, as a single woman. It's part of the contract that she is single yet the long-term substitute teacher across the hall, Joshua, is making this difficult. A sweet book with some good reminders for me.

The Liar's Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard -- Alison moved to the Netherlands after her freshman year of college ended disastrously. Her boyfriend Will was charged for the murder of five girls who were drowned in the canal. Ten years after Will's incarceration, another college girl is found killed in the same manner. Is this a copycat? Will wants to tell Alison something, but will she come back to Ireland? Pretty good book.

Just the Nicest Couple by Mary Kubica -- Nina and her husband, Jake, had a fight, but she didn't expect him to not come back home. Or show up for work. He loves his job! Meanwhile Lily and Christian are trying to figure out what to do because Lily might have accidentally killed Jake. Huh? Pretty good story if you like these types of books.

Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen -- Rebecca returns home to help her brother John who hasn't been quite right since a childhood fall caused a brain injury. When John suggests she stay at the abbey-turned-hotel because the house is not prepared for her visit, Rebecca becomes embroiled in a bit of a mystery involving an author who is writing a novel while staying at the hotel. A pretty good story though not my favorite from this author.

The Last Invitation by Darby Kane -- This book seems similar to another book I read. I almost thought perhaps I'd read it before, but I guess not. There's the secret organization of powerful women who take justice into their own hands when the system fails (which happens quite often.) This alternates between Gabby and Jessa, two lawyers - one practicing, the other not. Pretty good, but not my favorite of hers.

Monday's Lie by Jamie Mason -- This book was OK; not a favorite, but not awful. Dee's mom is like a superhero government spy or something...it's never very clear for us - or Dee herself. Because her childhood was so extraordinary, Dee marries someone who is perfectly boring. Yet when things start going wrong with Patrick, Dee thinks back to her mom and lessons she learned from her.

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin -- I enjoyed this look at the lives of Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh through the eyes of Anne. The book begins when Anne was a college student visiting Mexico where her father was an ambassador. Charles Lindbergh was a hero to many, and he was visiting her family in Mexico at Christmas! The book follows their courtship and marriage. Interesting people!

The Widow by Fiona Barton -- I read one of her more recent books last year so I decided to get some others from the library. This is her first one and some characters from the other book I read - that fleshed them out more - are in this one. Kate Waters is the reporter sent to get the story from the widow of a man charged with kidnapping a two year old girl. Fast-paced book

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Itchy Boots Intro and Season 1 Notes

 Last year Andrew was watching a couple of his favorite YouTubers (usually fellows who mow or haul dirt and such), when YouTube gave him a suggestion for Itchy Boots which he watched and started following.

Itchy Boots is the YouTube channel for Noraly, a Dutch lady who decided she'd rather travel the world by motorcycle than write travel blogs or work in her former field (she trained in geology). She'd already traveled quite a lot in the world, and - if I remember the story correctly - started riding a motorbike in India and fell in love with this mode of travel.

Anyway, Andrew started watching her videos, and I would hear them while trying to read nearby. Over time, my listening turned into watching with him so that the two of us would bend our necks over his small phone three times a week when he'd get a notification that she's posted a new video.


Noraly was already well into Season 6 by the time I started watching. She was in Colorado or Nevada though Andrew had watched her in parts of Latin America and her crossing into the US. Her final destination this season was Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.  This lovely movie (about 90 minutes) is a summary of her trip that she created once she was home in the Netherlands. Since I only watched the last part of Season 6, I found this a great way to see the parts I missed in South America, Central America, Mexico, and parts of the US. I especially enjoyed seeing the people she met along the way although the scenery and hardships she faced made it more interesting!

That was sometime last summer and we watched her final episode of Season 6 in mid-November, and then decided to start watching some of her earlier seasons.

On November 23, we started Season 1 which began with a short video, perhaps four or five minutes. I wonder if she was just starting out, seeing if people were interested in watching her videos. Over time, her videos became longer with most of them in the 15 to 20 minute range. She records such things as food she eats, places she stays, people she meets, scenery, good and bad roads, border crossings, stuff about her bike.

I just wanted to record my few notes from Season 1 which were mostly ridden on her Royal Enfield Himalayan bike, named Basanti.

November 23, 2022

watched episodes 1-10 which were in India

November 26

 watched episodes 11-25 which were in India, Myanmar, and Thailand 

She met "Roads Up" stars Peter and Claudia from Austria. She later stayed with them when she was in Vienna.

November 27

watched episodes 26-35 which were in  Thailand and Malaysia

-- find review of motorbike after 10K miles; mentioned on episode 34

November 28

watched episodes 36-40 which were in Malaysia and Oman (she took a ferry to Oman)

December 1

watched episodes 41-45 which were in Oman

While waiting for Basanti to arrive in Oman, she used another bike and took off-roading lessons from someone


December 8

watched episodes 46-50 which were in Oman

December 9

watched episodes 51-57 which were in the UAE and Iran

I absolutely loved the hospitality and friendliness of so many people during her travels in this region and in several upcoming episodes.

December 15

watched episodes 58-66 which were in Iran and Turkmenistan


 December 16

watched episodes 67-72 which were in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan

December 22

watched episodes 73-77  which were in Tajikistan and she pointed out the Afghan side across the river, but she didn't go into Afghanistan


December 24

watched episodes 78-80 which were in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan 

December 26

watched episodes 81-84 which were in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan 

December 27

watched episodes 85-88 which were in Kazakhstan and Turkestan


January 2, 2023

watched episodes 89-93 which were in Kazakhstan and Russia

January 3

watched episodes 94-98 which were in Russia, Georgia, and Armenia 

She bought a drone from a hostel-mate Tony from Switzerland, and had Itchy Boots stickers designed by another hostel-mate


January 5

watched episodes 99-104 which were in  Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, Georgia, and Turkey

January 6

watched episodes 105-109 which were in Turkey


January 7

watched episodes 110-114 which were in Turkey, Greece, and Albania


January 13

watched episodes 115-119 which were in Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Croatia


 January 14

watched episodes 120-125 which were in Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands where we saw her mom, dad, and niece meet her; She said she had been gone from home for a year at that point.


Friday, December 30, 2022

December Books


The Other Guest by Helen Cooper -- A suspense type book about Leah who travels to visit her sister's family at their resort in Italy, and then Joanna back home who is dealing with the mystery bar guy who ends up living at her house while recuperating from car injuries. This book alternates between their perspectives with the addition of Amy, Leah's niece who died several months back.

The Codebreaker's Secret by Sara Ackerman -- Izzy is working in Washington, D.C., but longs to be transferred to Hawaii where her brother died when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She wants to walk where he did, and find out more of what happened to him. When she solves some great code, she gets orders to transfer. This book wasn't my favorite from this author, but pretty good. The other storyline is about 20 years later when Lu is invited to Rockefeller's hotel's grand opening and there is a mystery or two to solve.

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller -- Such an odd book about two 51-year-old twins, Jeanie and Julius, who live with their mom, but when their mom dies suddenly and they lose their home, they can't figure out how to deal with life.

The Herd by Andrea Bartz -- Katie is excited at the prospect of becoming part of the Herd, an exclusive club run by a couple of good friends, Eleanor and Mikki, and represented by her sister Hana. When Eleanor disappears, the ladies look for clues to her whereabouts. Pretty good book.

Keep You Close by Karen Cleveland -- FBI agent Stephanie Maddox works to uncover who is after her family, particularly her son Zachary. Pretty interesting story.

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney -- Amelia and Adam are trying to save their marriage and are headed to a remote chapel converted into a house-turned vacation home (so they think) in the Scottish Highlands. When weird things start happening, they second guess their trip. Meanwhile Robin tells part of the story. Pretty good.

The Sweet Taste of Muscadines by Pamela Terry -- When her mom is found dead by her sister, Lila travels back to Georgia from her new home in Maine. There the family deals with the loss of their mother and the mystery of the buried tin in the muscadine arbor. Decent story.

Shiver by Allie Reynolds -- Milla accepts an invitation to join her snowboarding friends, Dale, Heather, Curtis and Brent from a decade ago, but soon realizes this reunion is majorly-weird because most everyone else says she invited them...and she didn't. The staff all seem to be missing at this ski place, and odd things happen.  Someone seems to think one of them is behind the disappearance of Curtis's sister Saskia, a champion snowboarder who was recently declared legally dead due to her not being found for ten years.

Proving Ground by Kathy Keiman -- This is "the untold story of the six women who programmed the world's first modern computer," called the ENIAC. The author was intrigued by photos she saw where women were in front of this huge computer, and she wanted to know more about them. Were they merely "refrigerator models" as someone told her? She decided to research the story and learned more about Kay, Betty, Fran, Jean, Ruth, and Marlyn. This is a book I chose for Andrew to read and once he was finished with it, I read it.

The Suspect by Fiona Barton -- Kate Waters is desperate to hear from her son who went on a gap year (two years ago!) to Thailand. Jake rarely checks in with his family, and barely gives any details of what he's doing. When a couple of British teenagers go missing in Bangkok, Kate covers the story for her newspaper. When she gets the opportunity to travel to Thailand, she makes plans to also look for her son. Pretty good story.

Good Husbands by Cate Ray -- Three women receive a letter from a dying young woman who claims that her mother was raped by their three husbands thirty years ago and she "fell pregnant" but none of the men would help her out. Three women had fairly good marriages (at least two of them did), but Jess wants to find out the truth so she contacts Priyanka and Stephanie to hear their thoughts on the matter. Different, but pretty good. 
I thought I might read more, but I'm only about halfway finished a book, and I'm having so much fun with Zach and Sophie being in town, that I've not read as much the last few days. I'll include it in my 2023 count.
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

November Books


A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw -- Due to his unusual ability, Travis is often hired by families looking for missing people. While on a search for Maggie St. James five years after she's gone missing, Travis disappears. Meanwhile in a remote mountain community cut off from the rest of the world, Calla, Bee, and Theo put together clues about life in Pastoral. A different kind of book, but pretty good.

Half Life by Jillian Cantor -- This book alternates between the voices of Marya Sklodowska and Marie Curie, the same woman actually, but one part in which Marya stays in Poland, marries a Polish man (she was engaged to for real), and never becomes the famous scientist and Nobel Prize winner. Of course in the other chapters, the author follows more of the real story of Marya's leaving Poland for Paris where it was acceptable for women to get a higher education - and where she becomes Marie. Really interesting story and look at how things could have been if not for Marya's decision to pursue her love of science.

The New Neighbor by Karen Cleveland -- A new-to-me author and a book about Beth who delivers her last child to college, moves from her childrens' childhood homes, separates from her husband of 25 years, and gets transferred to a less-desirable job at the CIA all in the space of a few days. Fun times! Pretty good, fast-paced book.

Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney -- Daisy and her sisters, Rose and Lily, and divorced parents are called to meet Nana at her remote estate. There Nana wants to celebrate her Halloween birthday - on which she will turn 80 - with everyone and reveal the contents of her will. That doesn't make anyone happy. Later that night Trixie, Daisy's niece discovers Nana dead - did she fall off her chair? did someone murder her? A rather weird book, but a pretty good story, I suppose. 

The Florence Legacy by Lauraine Snelling -- After her friend dies, Bree is stunned when her late friend's husband sends her enough money for Bree to take a trip to Italy. This book is half The Italian Trip while the other half deals with things at home: a new relationship with a widower, her daughter's continual financial struggles, Pierre's desire to open a coffee shop to help veterans.  Decent book.

The Favor by Nora Murphy -- Leah and McKenna live close to one another though they have never met. Their lives are similar in several ways, and one evening Leah witnesses something happen to McKenna and she intervenes in a life-altering way. Pretty good book. 

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan -- An enjoyable tale from a small English village during World War II. This one featured the points of view of Grace, the vicar's daughter who is engaged to marry a man of the church; Violet, a rather spoiled young lady with marriage-to-a-duke on her mind; and Cressida, Violet's aunt who has to leave her fashion business in London and ends up back home in the small village.

All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers -- Margot comes back to small town Indiana to help care for her uncle Luke who has some early-onset memory problems. As an investigative reporter, Margot starts looking into the disappearance of a little girl in a nearby town and noticed similarities to her own childhood friend's murder twenty-five years ago. Pretty good story though a difficult subject matter.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager -- Emma returns to a camp where fifteen years ago, her three roommates disappeared. This time she's not a thirteen year old, but hired to teach art to the campers. Pretty interesting story.

The Vicious Circle by Katherine St. John -- When Sveta's wealthy uncle Paul dies, she is informed that she is his sole beneficiary much to her shock! Why wouldn't Paul have left most of his assets to his wife, Kali, who runs their remote healing center in a Mexican state?  Soon Sveta is on her way to Mexico where her uncle's lawyer Lucas advocates for her whereas Paul's wife Kali presents an updated will where she (Kali) is left much of the estate. This book is really about more than contested wills. In fact it's about a cult where Sveta and Lucas are trapped and such things. Kind of a weird book, but ok.

What Lies Beneath  by J.G. Hetherton -- When I noticed this was A Laura Chambers Mystery, according to the front cover, I realized I was reading book two in a series so there was some backstory going on with a few characters that I didn't know. But this book deals with Laura who lives in nearby Hillsborough, NC, who is investigating the death of a lady about her age whose final phone calls were to Laura. Due to the nature of the lady's death, Laura wasn't able to positively identify her, but she thinks it might be a childhood friend who left the area after the friend's parents were murdered. A pretty good book although I got lost a time or two on certain characters.

The Last Housewife by Ashley Windstead -- I know the author had a good, empowering message in this book and some people may love it. I was not one of those people and I wish I hadn't kept reading this book. Shay went to college in New York, and when she hears her childhood friend's True Crimes podcast, she decides to surprise him in NY so she leaves her wealthy husband in Texas while he's away on a business trip. Shay and Jamie try to solve the mystery surrounding Shay's college roommate Laurel's apparent suicide. Only they aren't convinced that the police were correct in labeling it a suicide. What if it were a murder?  This book has several Content Warnings before it begins, FYI.

A Song of Comfortable Chairs by Alexander McCall Smith -- Someone reading this book without already knowing the fantastic characters of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels would probably think this book was so absurd. I mean, a book about chairs in Botswana? Come on. Yet I've read all of the series, and this was a (pardon the pun) comfortable tale, especially after a couple of disturbing books I've read recently. It was good to read about Charlie and Fanwell, Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi, and all the others!

Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger -- One of those thriller/suspense type books that I tend to like. Quick read. Hannah and Bruce along with her brother and his wife (Mako and Liza) plus Hannah's best friend and her new boyfriend (Cricket and Joshua) go on a weekend trip where everything goes berserk. Pretty good.

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan -- Four women in Fenley compete to become the woman's voice on the BBC show about how to make delicious dishes during wartime rationing. Audrey is a single mother of three boys. Her husband was shot down over Germany, and she dreams of winning because she needs the extra funds in order to keep her house! Gwendoline is her sister who desires to win because she and Audrey don't get along. Plus it would make her husband admire her more...perhaps. Zelda is an evacuee from London who wants to be the head chef, but cannot seem to achieve that rank due to her not being male. Finally Nell, a cook from the big house. Anyway...this was a pretty good book.

I Cried to Dream Again: Trafficking, Murder, and Delieverance by Sara Kruzan -- Recently Andrew finished his library book so I told him I'd pick out something for him. I got three books on the New Books shelves that I thought might interest him, and this one he read quickly and suggested I would like it too. "Like" it in the fact that it's interesting, but not in the fact of what had been done to this lady, of course. The author spent many years in prison because she killed the man who groomed, raped, and trafficked her to men in California looking for a good time with a prostitute. She deals with that aspect and that of her deplorable home life, and also some about her time in prison.  (Note to me: her mom's family (Kruzan) is from Indiana, and the Cruzan I know personally, came to NC from Illinois.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

October Books


Magpie by Elizabeth Day -- Marisa is thrilled when her new boyfriend Jake suggests they get a place together and start trying for a baby!  Marisa's mom left when she was seven years old, taking her baby sister, and leaving Marisa with her father. She never got over that abandonment and just wants someone safe which Jake is. When Jake's business takes a downturn, he suggests renting out a spare room, and Kate moves in. Kate makes herself at home and seems to take over too much personal space. What could go wrong with that scenario? Pretty good book.

Girls of Flight City by Lorraine Heath -- "inspired by true events, a novel of WWII, the Royal Air Force, and Texas;" Pretty interesting story about Jessie and her younger sister Kitty, Texans whose town had members of Britain's Royal Air Force train there before the United States entered the war. I enjoyed this one!

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith -- After a lot of yard cleanup (I helped Andrew for hours over the weekend) due to Hurricane Ian's remnants, it was wonderful having a string of beautiful fall weather. I sat outside yesterday and read a lot in this book. Greta's parents had an Alaskan cruise scheduled with their four best friends (two couples), but Greta's mom died of a brain aneurysm three months before it could happen. So her father wouldn't be the fifth wheel, Greta's brother talked her into going on the cruise with him. Greta and her father don't get along, but Greta agrees reluctantly to make the trip. This was a decent book. I like that one of the stops was in Haines, Alaska, because within the last year or so, I read a few books by a lady (Heather Lende)  who lives there, and it was neat to read a bit about that place in a novel.

Verity by Colleen Hoover -- A very quick read for me. When Lowen is asked to finish a series of novels for a famous author who was hurt in an accident, she is invited to stay at the family's home for a few days as she sifts through the author's (her name is Verity) office for notes and research. Soon Lowen discovers an autobiography with chilling details about the family. Pretty interesting story with lots of crude language if that's your thing.

The Foundling by Ann Leary -- Pretty interesting story about Mary Engle, a half-orphan who works at an institution for "feebleminded women of childbearing age." Quite a fascinating time in our nation's history when women could be committed to years of imprisonment because they had children out of wedlock or their husbands wanted to send them there. Infuriating!  Sidenote: I was reading this book when I got the most-awful phone call about my little brother dying hours after a same-day surgery. While I took this book with me when I traveled to where his family lives, I didn't open it for a week. I stayed so busy most of the time, and during down times I caught up on emails. I tend to write details in emails to my sister to keep them as kind of a journal.

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan -- Good story. I enjoyed learning more about bees, honey, and beekeeping as the story of single-mom Olivia unfolded as well as Lily, the new girl at school who dated Olivia's son Asher until her death. Asher is charged with Lily's murder, and well, this book had a major plot twist which introduced me more to people whom I'm not very familiar with. It was good for me to learn more about them. And I'm purposefully trying to be vague here, but, yeah, I enjoyed this one and resonated with the Authors' Notes at the end (which has spoilers, FYI.)

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson -- I'm not totally sure about the plot in this book. It was all over the place:  Nellie Coker and her London clubs; her children's roles in everything; the librarian-turned-police informant - much about London's 1926 nightlife.

The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward -- I liked her other book that I read better, but this was pretty good. Charlotte is 71 and enters a contest winning a European cruise for herself and her three adult children, Lee, Cord, and Regan. The book alternates between all four voices, and was pretty interesting as each deals with life struggles and such. 

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward -- This book was beside the book just above so I got it recently on a trip to the library. Maddie, Ian, and Charlie live in Kansas where Maddie grew up and vowed to never return. So boring. While Ian still has his foreign travels with work, Maddie stays home with Charlie and starts seeing a writing therapist. Through her journaling and alternating chapters we learn about her life with Ian, and her life before she and Ian married when Maddie and her friend Joanna lived in Bulgaria and Macedonia - places way more exciting than Kansas! Pretty good story. 

The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer  -- An interesting look at the experiences of some Polish people - Jews and Catholics - during World War II. This book alternated between the voices of Roman who lived in the ghetto, and Emilia who traveled into the ghetto with a social worker named Sara. This book also covers a bit of the Red Army's occupation of Poland after the war ended. When Emilia finds herself living with some nuns for a time and is unable to sleep, she rises to light a candle and pray in the chapel. I loved the part on page 354 when she hears the chapel door open and looks up to see Sister Agnieszka Gracja kneel beside her and light another candle. The Sister rose when Emilia rose, and as she and Emilia walked back to their rooms, Emilia questioned, "'What were you praying about at this strange hour?'" and the Sister smiled and replied, "'I was asking God to ease your torment.'"  That touched me because I really appreciate people praying for me and my family, too!

Friday, September 30, 2022

September Books

Last day of another month and we are getting rain and wind from Hurricane Ian as it moves this way. Thankfully we live a good ways inland so we are getting nothing like other places did.



The It Girl by Ruth Ware -- Hannah is married to Will, a friend from Oxford who happened to be the boyfriend of her roommate when her roommate died. When her mom calls her at work to let her know a man who was put into prison for murder based on her testimony, has died, Hannah thinks back to the night her roommate and best friend died. This book is told in alternating BEFORE and AFTER chapters as Hannah thinks back to her time at Oxford, and her life now in Edinburgh.  Pretty good.

Daughters of the Occupation by Shelly Sanders -- This book is inspired by true events, and tells of Jews in Latvia first when the Soviets invaded, then the Germans, and then the Soviets again. It alternates between the 1940s with Miriam and her family, and the 1970s when Miriam's granddaughter Sarah travels from Chicago to Riga in order to learn more about her heritage. This trip to Soviet Latvia is also a journey to seek an uncle who was left behind.

The Forgotten Life of Eva Gordon by Linda MacKillop -- Eva struggles with her memory failing so her granddaughter Breezy takes her in. Only Eva wants her quiet home. She doesn't want all these troublesome students plus Mabel, the older lady who rents the upstairs apartment, to come by all the time. It's much too noisy in this new living arrangement!  This book made me more weepy than I expected. I guess the flashbacks of good times and regrets plus Eva and Mabel's challenges just hit me on a day when my uncle's first birthday in heaven already made me a bit prone to tears.

That Night by Chevy Stevens -- After Toni and Ryan serve their prison sentences for murdering Toni's sister over a decade ago, the pair want to figure out what really happened because they were wrongly convicted! Pretty good story.

Where the Sky Begins by Rhys Bowen -- Josie Banks is from the East End of London and when her husband Stan is drafted and her house is bombed, she signs up for a move to the country. There she stays with a lady not known for her warmth and friendliness, but Josie makes the best of it. Good book!

The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin -- Ava is a librarian in Washington, D.C. who agrees to an assignment in Lisbon in order to help the Allied war effort in that neutral country. Meanwhile Elaine is grieving the loss of her husband and joins the Resistance in Lyon. Not the most exciting, but picked up more about midway and was pretty good.

Outside by Ragnar J√≥nasson -- A very quick read based in the author's home country of Iceland. Four "friends,"  Armann, Gunnlauger, Daniel and Helena get together for a hunting trip. A surprise blizzard has them breaking into an emergency shelter where a surprise awaits them. This book was told from each person's perspective and I didn't really like any of them. I guess Daniel was the best of the bunch.

Beach House Summer by Sarah Morgan -- I can see how this would be a nice beach read, and good for someone into Hallmark movies. I've never watched one of those, but I imagine they are like this book. Not a terrible book, but just not my favorite type. Joanna's celebrity ex-husband dies in a crash and the young lady in the car with him survives. Joanna reaches out to Ashley who really finds her voice the more you read.

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson -- After Myrna read this book and liked it, I decided to get it from the library. After their mother's death, Byron and Benny meet to listen to a lengthy audio file their mother recorded with the help of her attorney. In it, she tells the story about a girl named Covey who grew up in the Caribbean (or West Indies as it was known back then). Covey was a splendid swimmer who ended up in Britain. Pretty interesting story!

The Lifeguards by Amanda Eyre Ward -- I was browsing the New Books last week and saw this book which I decided to try. Three fifteen year old Austin, Texas, boys have been friends their whole lives. Their moms regularly get together, and one night the boys come home saying that they need to call 911 because a body was found on the greenbelt that runs near their houses. A fast-paced, rather-fun read on these pretty, less-humid days.

Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare -- This was also a New Books find, and I wasn't sure at first if I'd keep reading it. I gave it another few chapters and ended up enjoying this murder mystery which takes place as Lena Aldridge travels from England to New York. She gets seated with a rich family and some weird things start happening - like the family patriarch being poisoned! Pretty good.

The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer -- Pretty good story about Sofie, a German lady who moves to Alabama after World War II because her husband was one of the brillant German rocket scientists who did much for the Nazi war effort...and the US wants that technology for themselves! While in the US, Sofie meets other Germans and deals with Americans not keen on the enemy living among them. The book also shifts back to years in Germany as the Nazis came to power. Another storyline involves Texan Lizzie and her brother Henry who helped liberate one of the extermination camps. Inspired by Operation Paperclip.

Fly Girl by Ann Hood -- A memoir from the author's years as a flight attendant. I enjoyed reading about her experiences in becoming a stewardess (as they were called back then), the application process, interviews, and training plus the flying. Pretty interesting!

Girl, Interrupted by Karin Slaughter -- Decades earlier a pregnant teen was murdered on the night of the senior prom. After her US Marshal training, Andrea is assigned a case in that area, and in her spare time (her assignment is guarding a federal judge), she asks around, hoping to figure out who murdered Emily Vaughn. Pretty good. 

By Her Own Design by Piper Huguley -- "A novel of Ann Lowe, fashion designer to the social register."  I enjoyed this story "told by" Ann. Interesting lady and so funny to see a lady called Tucky in it! I sent a picture of that to Andrew, my own Tucky.

Gilt by Jamie Brenner -- Pretty good story about two sisters, Celeste and Elodie, and the daughter (Gemma) of their other sister (Paulina, now deceased.) This book has to do with jewelry, the family business, and so forth.

The Echo Man by Sam Holland -- If you enjoy reading about a serial killer and the police trying to capture him, this book might be for you. Pretty good if not gruesome at times.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

August Books


The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson -- An OK book. I probably won't look for more from this author unless I get bored of others. Kara was nearly 8 years when most of her family is murdered in their mountain cabin. Twenty years later, her brother Jonas is released from prison due to a technicality that his lawyer found. She's reliving a lot of what happened back then and dealing with his sudden release.

I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Year Away by Bill Bryson -- Since I recently read his two books about living in and touring Britain, I decided to read another one, and it happened to be the one he wrote while his family lived in the US. (They are back in Britain now, last I checked. He married an Englishwoman.)  This book was actually a collection of newspaper columns that he wrote for a British audience so it was interesting to see what he wrote about being back in the US. Some parts made me chuckle out loud whereas a few parts were new to me (like some post office customer appreciation day. Maybe that just happened in his part of New Hampshire.) Anyway, a pretty cute book.

Count the Nights by Stars by Michelle Shocklee -- Told from the perspective of Audrey in the 1960s and one of the older tenants at the Maxwell House Hotel where her dad is the manager. Priscilla has lived as a near-recluse at the hotel for twenty years. When she suffers a stroke and Audrey is tasked with going through her belongings, she learns there is more to Miss Nichols' life than she thought. Pretty good.

Carved in Stone by Elizabeth Camden -- I realized I had book 2 on hand and hadn't read book 1 in this series (The Blackstone Legacy) so I ordered book 1 from the library and here it is. Gwen Blackstone Kellerman is a widow at age 29. Her love is the college where researchers were looking for cures for tetanus and botulism, things that disproportionately affected the lower classes. But the college is a money pit according to many in her wealthy family, and there is talk that the uncles want to discontinue funding it. Meanwhile Patrick O'Neill is hired to represent Mick Malone in his scathing memoir of the Blackstone family. Decent book. 

The Disinvited Guest by Carol Goodman -- This book takes place about ten years after the global pandemic that we lived through (are living through) when another virus is causing folks to isolate and all that fun stuff. Instead of living in the city, Reed and Lucy along with a handful of friends and family move to Reed's family's island off the coast of Maine where a lot of creepy stuff takes place.  Pretty good.

Look Closer by David Ellis -- A new author for me, but I saw this one on the New Books online list and decided to try it. Simon and Vicky are a sweet couple married nearly ten years, but they want different things. Simon wants children; Vicky does not. Vicky plans to divorce him soon after their tenth anniversary. She has to stay married to him at least ten years in order to get money from his trust. Meanwhile Simon has reconnected with a former love, Lauren, who is back in the Chicago area after nineteen years.  Pretty good mystery type book.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager -- After her father dies, Maggie is surprised to learn that her childhood home - the one her family fled because it was haunted - had never been sold and she'd inherited it. Now a house flipper, Maggie is determined to fix up Baneberry Hall and find out the reason her family fled without any of their belongings. Is it truly a haunted house or is there some other explanation? Pretty good.

Written on the Wind by Elizabeth Camden -- Book 2 in The Blackstone Legacy. I don't love this series as much as I liked other books that I remember from her. I remember really enjoying her books years ago, but these are just ok. Not bad, but not overly-interesting to me. Dmitri is Natalia's Russian contact whom she has a telegram relationship with. Both are mentioned in book 1, and their story is fleshed out in this one. Likeable enough characters really, but maybe not the most interesting story...I don't know.

Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard -- A story about Jackie Bouvier and her friendship with Lem Billings, a good friend to John "Jack" Kennedy. This book is told through the eyes of an older Lem about Jackie's friendship and becoming engaged to Jack. I must admit that I am not a fan of the Kennedy men (especially as they are portrayed in books I've read).  Decent story. It was a quick read.

Wish You Were Gone by Kieran Scott -- Emma deals with the aftermath of her husband's accidental death: he drove into the garage wall while driving drunk, but something about it seems a little off. Emma along with her friends Lizzie and Gray do a bit of investigating. Pretty good.

The Bodyguard by Katherine Center -- A cute, light, quick read about Hannah Brooks, a protection agent who gets assigned to a Hollywood star who has come home to Texas in order to be there for his mom who is undergoing surgery for cancer. To keep her cover, Hannah has to pose as Jack's girlfriend and stay at the family ranch. Pretty cute story. 

More Than You'll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez -- The Spanglish was a bit off-putting to me at times (mostly because I didn't know all the words), but overall I liked this book pretty well. Cassie is a true-crimes blogger who is looking into the story of Lore who was married to two men at once: one in the US and the other in Mexico. As she meets with Lore, she finds out more details about the night her first husband allegedly killed her second husband. The author mentions in the back that she wanted to represent Mexican-Americans and their Spanglish which made me see it more positively because I did wonder why she put so much of it in the book.

Out of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins -- Lillie is a nurse-midwife on the Cape who is shocked when her husband takes her to their favorite restaurant only to tell her that he's leaving her for a beautiful, rich widow who moved into town. This was actually a pretty good story sharing Melissa, the rich widow-turned husband stealer, and Lillie's perspectives.

Looking for Leroy by Melody Carlson -- Brynna is a third grade teacher who decides to tag along with the vice principal as VP Jan takes a road trip in Oregon and California over the summer break. As they pass through a certain area, Brynna remembers a summer camp she attended nearly thirty years ago - and a young fellow whom she liked a lot! Whatever happened to Leroy anyway? As they drive through wine country, Jan and their new BFF Mike decide Brynna should reconnect with her lost love, but how do you find a certain vineyard among so many?  Pretty cute, clean book.  I actually liked parts of it better than the ending when Brynna got a little too flip-floppy for my tastes. Easy read.

The Housekeeper by Joy Fielding -- Another easy read for me, and totally different from the one just above. Jodi Bishop is the less-favored daughter who is looking out for her parents when she interviews and hires a live-in housekeeper for them. Her dad is nearly 80 caring for her mom who has had Parkinson's for years so why not? Elyse Woodley is helpful, attractive, attentive - she checks all the boxes and then some. But why does eventually things turn sour?

The Swell by Allie Reynolds -- When Kenna's BFF, now living thousands of miles away in Australia, mentions her upcoming wedding without asking Kenna to attend, Kenna decides to leave her life in London for a month to see how Mikki is doing - and to see about her intended husband. Why the rush of marrying someone anyway?  When Kenna just shows up on Mikki's porch, she's invited inside, but things are awkward between the friends. When Mikki's fianc√© gets home, he tells Kenna that they are leaving soon for a place they go to surf, a private location in a national park! Thus follows a Tribe of surfers - Sky, Victor, Ryan, Jake, Clemente, Jack, and Mikki - who try to keep a location in a national park off-limits to everyone else. Lots of talk of surfing, facing your fear, and such in this book, but maybe not in a wholesome way.

The 2% Way by Myron L. Rolle, MD, MSc --"How a Philosophy of Small Improvements Took Me to Oxford, the NFL, and Neurosurgery" ; The author was a small child when he moved from the Bahamas to New Jersey with his parents and four older brothers. In this book he talks some about his heritage and childhood, and then devotes chapters to his time playing college football at Florida State, his applying for a Rhodes scholarship, his months in England, his experience with the NFL, and furthering his education and helping out in the Bahamas after a hurricane devastated the region and his experience working in Massachusetts General Hospital during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Andrew read this book and told me I'd probably like it so I decided to read it before returning it to the library. Interesting story! A quick read, too.

Black Widows by Cate Quinn -- I wasn't sure I was going to like this book about Blake and his three wives, Rachel, Emily, and Tina. When Blake is found dead, the wives are suspected in his murder. Chapters alternate from each woman's point of view as they search for clues about what happened.

The Challenge by Danielle Steel -- I don't usually read this author, but this book seemed different from ones I used to associate with her. Wow...I got to the place where I was like, this is amusing because it's got so much going on. Like Tom moved to Fishtail, Montana, from New York City because he's tired of the big-city rat race. His wife said no way and files for divorce. Their daughter visits her dad his first summer in Montana and befriends a group of guys and they all hang out together and get lost on a mountain. I actually thought this was what most of the book was about, but that happened about 1/4 of the way in and was resolved fairly quickly.  Then it just meanders on about how these families deal with things: like one dad has pancreatic cancer and one of the boys has an insulin pump due to juvenile diabetes. It was an easy, relatively-short book, but not what I had in mind when I put it on hold at the library. Definitely not a good thriller.

The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell -- When a mudlarker finds a bag of bones on the shore of the Thames, the London police move to identify the body and then figure out how this person's bones came to wash up over two decades later. Meanwhile Lucy and her children are house hunting, Rachel is dealing with the aftermath of a disastrous quickie marriage and Henry travels to Chicago searching for Phin. An OK story.