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

Friday, January 31, 2020

January Books

Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith -- a good way to end one year and start 2020 is with Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi and the gang in this book from the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. Yes, I'm still reading those!

After Anna by Lisa Scottoline -- Maggie is so excited when her daughter contacts her, wanting a relationship after their years of estrangement. Noah is happy to support his wife, but when Anna moves in things get bizarre. Actually Noah ends up on trial! Pretty good story. 

Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson -- The book starts with Shandi and her son Natty leaving her mother's house to live near her father in Atlanta. On the drive there, they - along with Shandi's BFF Walcott - stop at a gas station where Shandi and Natty are involved in a robbery. Well, they are victims of it, not holding people up. William happens to be there as well, and this book is mostly about their developing friendship.  OK read; nothing great.

 The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald -- Abi is woken from sleeping by a police officer informing her that her daughter had had an accident and was at the hospital. Abi is stunned that her good, rule-keeping daughter wasn't home safely in bed. Oh, and Abi finds out her daughter is pregnant, on life support, and must remain on life support until the baby is able to live on her own. This story was told from Abi and Olivia's perspectives. Pretty good story.

All the Flowers in Paris by Sarah Jio -- The books begins with Caroline riding her bike in Paris when she had a bad accident that took away some memories. It alternates between Caroline in modern times trying to recover her memory as she makes a "new" life, and a story of Occupied Paris when Céline, a widowed mother with a little girl named Cosi, helps her Papa run a florist. Good story. 

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin -- a story that touches on Charlotte Baird, Bay Middleton, and Elisabeth "Sisi" of Austria. Pretty interesting.

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson -- Leia travels to Birchville, Alabama, the town her family founded in order to check on the situation with her grandmother, known as Birchie. Leia travels with her 13 year old niece, Lavender, who discovers Leia's secret. Meanwhile Leia's stepsister Rachel is struggling in her marriage to Leia's former best friend. Pretty good story. Rebekka recommended this as one favorite of hers in 2019. 

Don't Go by Lisa Scottoline -- Dr. Mike Scanlon is serving in Afghanistan when he gets the news that his wife died. He travels home for the funeral and to make arrangements for his infant daughter, Emily. Thankfully his wife's sister and her husband agree to take Emily and provide a good home for her. After Mike returns home, he has to adjust to civilian life as a widow and father. Plus he's dealing with issues relating to pain medication and flashbacks of war. Good story.

The Bungalow by Sarah Jio -- I read one of her books recently so I decided to look for another. This was a pretty good story about Anne's trip to Bora Bora in 1942 as a nurse for American troops. She travels with her best friend Kitty, and they make friends with the nurses and some of the soldiers.

Not Our Kind by Kitty Zeldis -- I saw this book while at Barnes & Noble, and then saw it was available at the library so I checked it out. Eleanor is on her way to a job interview after losing her job at a prestigious school, when the taxi she's in is inolved in a small accident. She meets Patricia Bellamy who takes pity on Eleanor and invites her to her house. Later Eleanor goes to work for Patricia as a tutor for her daughter Margaux who refuses to attend regular school due to her crippled leg (polio). The Bellamy family adults and their friends have a bit of an issue with Eleanor being Jewish, but Margaux loves her new tutor. This book was just OK to me.

Learning to Bow by Bruce Feiler -- This book "inside the heart of Japan" wasn't my favorite by this author (I really enjoy the ones where he "walks" the Bible), but it was a pretty interesting way to learn more about Japan during the year he was there as an English teacher.

The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith -- Mma Ramotswe is startled when she discovers another Mma Ramotswe whom she has never met - she thought she knew all the Ramotswes in her part of the world. Also, the detective agency helps a lady who feels she was wrongfully terminated from her job.

Running From the Law by Lisa Scottoline -- this is one of the author's first books, and not my favorite, but it was OK. Rita is an attorney hired by a federal judge who is charged with sexual harassment and later murder. Oh, the federal judge just happens to be her boyfriend's father. Nice.

The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms -- if you like "chick-lit" types of books, you might enjoy this story of the struggling artist Lily Stewart who is cleaning her junk drawer (because she's being evicted) and sees an official looking form from 10 years prior - you know, back when she married a guy - a stranger - in Las Vegas. The form was for an annulment which she forgot to return. So, yeah, she's been married for 10 years and didn't remember that! Yikes.  This book was OK if you like overly-dramatic books of this sort. It was light reading if not that interesting.

Westering Women by Sandra Dallas -- a pretty interesting account of a group of ladies who traveled from Chicago to California in 1852; good story

Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict -- a story about Winston Churchill's wife; pretty good if you like political happenings.

The Whispers of War by Julia Kelly -- three best friends - Nora, Marie (from Germany, but who lived in England for several years), and Hazel - deal with life just before the outbreak of World War II. As Hitler rises to power, more Britons are wanting Germans sent home and interred. How can Marie avoid this fate? Good story!

Her Mother's Daughter by Daniela Petrova -- At first I wasn't sure I'd like this book. A lady who was unable to have children, who'd had several unsuccessful IVF treatments is looking for an egg donor, and finally finds the right one: she's from Bulgaria just as Lana wanted (since her own mother is Bulgarian.) But things get weird when Lana happens to see her egg donor on a nearly-empty sub, and follows her - and they become friends for about a week. I enjoyed this book! 

Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin -- this book begins with an NPR- affiliate podcaster Quentin who is looking for a lady whom he believes was reported dead in 1976 after a fire at a compound in Arizona. The girl in question, April Cooper, was just a young teen when she went on a murdering spree with her boyfriend. Both were said to perish in that fire (and a good riddance), but now there is chance she escaped and has been living a good life on the East Coast all these years. Meanwhile Robin is checking things out from her angle. Pretty interesting story!

The Secret Guests by Benjamin Black -- A rather hush-hush operation as two young girls (well, 14 and 10) are moved from London to a house in Ireland during World War, II.  Some say they are the future Queen and her little sister!  This book was just OK for me.

The Bridge to Belle Island by Julie Klassen -- Not my favorite from this author by far, but it was a fairly good story about a young lawyer who travels to Belle Island after a partner in his law firm is murdered in London. Could the murderer be the lady who folks say hasn't left the island in ten years?

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain -- Anna Dale won a government contest and gets to paint a mural for a post office! She didn't win first place so instead of painting in her native New Jersey, she is traveling to a small town in North Carolina - Edenton. There she meets some friendly folks, and also some who aren't quite sure about this northern girl who has come south to paint. This book also follows Morgan Christopher in modern times as she gets out of prison and is tasked to restore the mural on a tight deadline. Good book!

The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester -- I read most of this one while traveling to and from the beach and while we were there. It was OK, not a favorite, but not terrible. Estella Bisette sets sail from France during World War II after her mom tells her that she has an American father and thus papers so she can be safe in New York City rather than staying in Paris. Estella takes her love of fashion and sketching and teams up with Sam and Janie to produce a line of clothing American women will love - they hope!

Sunday, January 19, 2020

50 Questions

Saw this from a Facebook friend (former teacher) and decided to do it since I finished my "free" Shutterfly book today and had a few minutes.  :)

50 Questions You May Have Never Been Asked:

1. First thing you wash in the shower? arms

2. What color is your favorite hoodie? gray

3. Do you plan outfits? not usually

4. How are you feeling right now? pretty well

5. What's the closest thing to you that's red? a small composition book

6. Tell me about the last dream you remember having? can't recall one (the details are fuzzy)

7. Did someone disappoint you today? no

8. What are you craving right now? a hike in the mountains and warmer weather

9. What comes to mind when you think of cabbage? pretty good

10. Have you ever counted to 1,000?  I guess

11. Do you bite into your ice cream or just lick?  bite

12. Do you like your hair?  no

13. Do you like yourself?  usually

14. Would you go out to eat with George W. Bush?  I'm an introvert so I'd probably just stay home and read instead

15. What are you listening to right now?  nothing

16. Were your parents strict?  somewhat

17. Would you go sky diving? probably not

18. Do you like cottage cheese?  sometimes

19. Have you ever met a celebrity?  no

20. Do you rent movies often?  never

21. Is there anything sparkly in the room you're in?  the thumbtacks sparkle some

22. Have you made a prank phone call? years ago

23. Ever been on a train?  yes

24. Brown or white eggs? white

25. Do you use chap stick? yes

26. Can you use chop sticks? never tried

27. Are you too forgiving? average

28. Ever been in love? yes

29. Last time you cried? earlier today

30. What was the last question you asked? "Anyway...do I sound old talking about aches and pains? :)" -- (to my sister via email)

31. Favorite time of the year?  summer

32. Do you have any tattoos?  nope

33. Are you sarcastic?  occasionally

34. Ever walked into a wall?  yes

35. Favorite color?   blue

36. Have you ever slapped someone?   yes

37. Is your hair curly?  yes

38. What physical characteristics do you first notice about someone?  face especially smile (or lack of one)

39. What was your first vehicle?  Ford Crown Vic

40. What kind of vehicle do you drive?  Toyota Camry

41. Do you sleep with the TV on? no (a fan!)

42. Can you handle the truth?  I think so

43. Do you have good vision?  not without corrective lenses

44. What is your favorite vacation destination?  I love our weekend trips to the mountains, but as far as best places I've been: Syria and Austria/southern Germany were among the best! I enjoyed Belgium, too.

45. Do you have any pets? no

46. How many pillows do you sleep with? 2

47. Do you enjoy roller coasters?  they scare me, but yes

48. Do you believe in miracles? yes

49. What is your favorite drink?  water

50. What color is the shirt you are wearing?  gray

Play along!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

2019 Meme

I did these for a few years and then stopped. But I decided to give it a go this year...

1. What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before?

hiked to Mt. LeConte in eastern Tennessee and found a new grandparent through Ancestry

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

n/a and no, I did not

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

no, but my school friend is fostering a baby whom she got as a newborn! They are hoping to adopt. She has 4 children already, ages 17 to 9, I think.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes, Joni
Speaking of, her husband compiled a lot of posts about Joni and the family since her death and shared this one on January 3rd, the anniversary of her death. Precious (and sad) memories.

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2020?

a trip to the NOC (since I didn't go to the Nantahala Outdoor Center once last year!)

7. What date from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

January 3rd, my online group had a toast to Joni and a couple hours later she died. I knew it was imminent, and I went to bed and found out the next morning that she had died sometime after midnight on January 4th my time. She lived in the PNW so it was January 3rd there.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

hiking to Mt. LeConte -- it wasn't a planned hike, but I did it!

9. What was your biggest failure?

complaining and being unthankful

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I got the flu for the first time in memory!  Well, I didn't bother getting an official diagnosis, but Zach, Sophie, my parents, and I all got the same thing around Easter!

11. What was the best thing you bought?

a membership to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham - lots of great memories with the kids and my dad

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Andrew, I guess. He's almost always a cheery, helpful, kind fellow!

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

the goofball in the White House

14. Where did most of your money go?

insurances of various types

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I'm not a really x3-excited type of person, but I enjoyed the SkyBridge in Gatlinburg in the summer!

16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2019?
nothing comes to mind

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. Happier or sadder?

ii. sadder at the moment because of Stella

iii. Thinner of fatter?

iv. fatter

v. richer or poorer?

vi. same, I guess

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?


19. What do you wish you’d done less of? 

worrying and complaining

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

I spent it with my inlaws for lunch, and my family in the afternoon at my sister's house.

21. How many one-night stands?

why this question??? it's still stupid

22. What was your favorite TV program?

nothing really stands out as a favorite any more. I guess NCIS.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I really try not to hate though I strongly dislike certain people at times (see #13)

24. What was the best book you read?
This is always a tough one for me because how can I pick the best out of dozens of books?  I recently read this one recommended by Niki and liked it a lot so I'll use it
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Liquid Pleasure Band played a concert in town around Veteran's Day; I liked them

Also, Sophie singing the Sponge Bob Squarepants theme song with me and Andrew. Although the video is from yesterday (so 2020), we practiced in the car on previous trips. And by practiced I don't mean I learned the lyrics. I flubbed them yesterday (note to self: "Absorbent and yellow and porous is he.")

26. What did you want and get?

membership to the museum

27. What was your favorite film of this year?

I don't think I watched anything, but I like that the Mr. Rogers film came out

28. What did you do on your birthday?

helped at my work's yearly spring banquet

29. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?

practical, comfortable, totally out-of-style

30. What kept you sane?
several short trips just to get away and enjoy nature; reading; prayer

31. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

some of those who testified in the impeachment inquiry (Alexander Vindman, Fiona Hill, etc.)

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
evangelical support for Trump makes me lose my religion

33. Who did you miss?  
Joni (so much!)

34. Who was the best new person you met?
a lady whose daughter Sophie played with at the Durham museum back in May.  They live in Pittsburgh, but were in the area because the lady works for a group that does special events at museums throughout the country (or parts of it). The girl Sophie played with was Caroline, and her mom was Yu-ling (I had to check my phone); she was nice to talk with that day.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019.

enjoy every day moments and keep trusting God in the hard times. He is faithful.


This morning my dad went out to feed his dog, Stella, and she was dead. She had been sick for a couple months now, and Mama and I recently discussed our wishes about Stella dying peacefully in her sleep - which it appears that she did.  I'm not a huge animal-loving person like some people are, but she was a sweet dog. Just recently I was talking to her and despite her ailment which made it harder for her to get around, she was wagging her little tail. 

I like to think of her now running freely without pain, getting those belly rubs and pets that she enjoyed (especially from Michael), basking in the sun on a favorite cushion, and eating all her favorite treats - chicken, and eggs, and even peanut butter toast.

Here are a couple pictures of Stella from September 2011.

And one from October of last year.

Here she is with Michael, who was one of her favorite people.

I saw her recently and told her that we loved her. 

Monday, December 30, 2019

December Books

Blessing by Deborah Bedford -- a book I found in Damascus, Virginia, at a Little Free Library a few months ago. I had it on hand to possibly eventually read when I didn't have a library book checked out, and last week was that time! The kids were in town visiting for Thanksgiving and I just decided to read this one instead of browsing the library shelves for better selections. I say all that because this book was sweet, but nothing special. Uley foils the plot of a would-be murderer (so she thinks) and Aaron Brown is sent to jail to await his trial and probable hanging.

Come and Find Me by Hallie Ephron -- I like these novels of suspense by this author, and this one was good even though part of it took place in a virtual reality world. Diana deals with panic attacks and rarely leaves her house so she meets people through her online "game" and office as Nadia. She does eventually leave her house when her sister goes missing. A pretty good story!

The It Girls by Karen Harper -- a story featuring the Sutherland sisters, Elinor Glyn, a novelist, and Lucile Duff Gordon, a fashion designer. Pretty interesting!

The Dressmaker's Gift by Fiona Valpy -- an interesting story about three seamstresses in Paris, Claire, Mireille, and Vivienne, who meet where they work during World War II. Two generations later, Claire's granddaughter Harriet is in Paris trying to find out more about her grandmother and the two ladies pictured with her in an old photograph Harriet finds.  Pretty good story.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman -- the other day I asked my Facebook friends about favorite books they read in 2019, and Niki recommended this one which I saw was available at my local library. I enjoyed this story about Eleanor and her coworker Raymond especially seeing life situations and people through Eleanor's eyes. Cute story.

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith -- Mma Ramotswe is reluctantly persuaded to take a holiday, but she finds herself drawn into the detective business.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn -- Anna Fox is scared to go outside, but has built a community for herself online in the Agora platform and with a few professionals. Also she loves using the zoom on her camera to spy on the neighbors. When a new family comes to town Anna gets to know Ethan, the slightly-awkward but seemingly kind teenager, who has a controlling father, Alistair. A suspenseful book.

Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug -- this graphic memoir (Andrew saw me reading this and asked if I were reading a comic book) was an interesting way to learn more about the author's German family and more about the Nazis and Jews

Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline -- I've read many of this author's books from the DiNunzio series, but this is a stand-alone novel about a dad and his sixteen year old son who make a fatal mistake when Jake allows Ryan to drive a short distance home one night.  A pretty good story.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah -- I've had this on my TO READ list for a couple years now as my friend Niki highly-recommended it. When I asked FB for favorite books, she mentioned it again so I decided to finally order it from the library.  Two sisters - Vianne and Isabelle - struggle in France during the German occupation and rule of their country. Vianne stays at the family farm with her daughter Sophie where they await their husband/father.  A German solider billets at their house - fun times. Isabelle, meanwhile, heads to Paris where she gets involved in secretive missions.  Great story!

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra -- "a contemporary retelling of Little Women;" if you like modern versions of classic literature then you might enjoy this book. It was just OK to me.

You'll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron -- Lis and her mother, Miss Sorrel, work to solve a family mystery after a very-damaged portrait doll looking like Lis's long lost sister is brought to Miss Sorrel's doll-repair shop in answer to an ad Miss Sorrel runs in the paper every year on the anniversary of her daughter's disappearance.  A pretty good book.

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok -- Amy travels to the Netherlands to search for her older sister who went to visit their grandmother before her death. Now Sylvie Lee is nowhere to be found. Pretty good story!

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs by Caitlin Doughty -- "big questions from tiny mortals about death;" this was a pretty interesting way to learn more about death by hearing what children have asked the author. So, do you think your cat would eat your eyeballs?

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline -- While bringing in her mail, Ellen is startled by how much her son looks like a young child on one of those "Have you seen this child?" inserts, and she can't get it out of her head. The reporter in her wants to follow up, but what if her legally-adopted child was kidnapped?

The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko -- Andrew requested this book so I ordered it off Amazon since the library didn't have it. It's "the epic story of the fastest ride in history through the heart of the Grand Canyon," and Andrew, having formerly been a white water rafting guide in West Virginia, really appreciated this more than I. But I still was amazed by much of it even if some aspects were over my non-river-rafting-lingo head. Also, Andrew wants to raft down this river (the Colorado) one day, and after reading this, I'm like "why?" and "are you nuts?"

From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty -- I got this book for Christmas from Amber, and in it, the author is "traveling the world to find the good death." I enjoyed her tales from other countries such as Bolivia and Mexico and Japan as well as a few stops in the US like Cullowhee, North Carolina!  A good book to end the year, right?

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Old Family Pictures

I was sorting a few things at my parents' house today and saw these old pictures from an album. I thought I'd post them here.

My grandfather with five of his children: Ann, Henry, David, Jean, and Dorothy. The date on the picture says January 1957.

My dad and his brothers around 1961:  (I wish it were easy for me to rotate pictures here as it is on Facebook):

David, Henry, and Tom

Saturday, November 30, 2019

November Books

The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas -- book 4 in The Lady Sherlock Series; nice book featuring these clever characters! I just wish I could always remember what happened in previous books so I could enjoy the story more, but that's my fault for not retaining the information as well as I should. Charlotte, her sister Olivia, and Mrs. Watson along with a crew of men agree to help recover letters being used to blackmail Mrs. Watson's old friend, a maharani ( Definition of maharani. 1 : the wife of a maharaja. 2 : a Hindu princess ranking above a rani.)

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith -- Maybe it was because this book was a few pages longer than the previous books, but I had more causes to chuckle out loud (which I rarely do when reading). Mma Makutsi and Mma Ramotswe's discussion about airplanes and the government's control of the air was humorous especially when Mma M said pilots could see each other well enough to control the air by themselves and they would not fly through clouds, but drive around them. Cute conversation! Also, Chlorine...I mean Clovis Andersen visits the detective agency, Fanwell gets arrested, Charlie pulls a pretty good stunt (though it is criminal, but funny), the lady at the orphan farm fights for her job, and Phuti Radiphuti builds a house. Lots happening in this book!

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict -- an interesting story about  Mileva Marić, who studied alongside Albert Einstein and a handful of male students in Switzerland and eventually married Albert. If he's anything like the book portrays him, he is not an admirable man IMO.

The Christmas Boutique by Jennifer Chiaverini -- Elm Creek Quilts novel; I recently read all of these books, but they were written over the course of 20 years (!), and the author had been contacted by readers missing the Elm Creek quilters. So...she wrote one for Christmas! Much of this book was a summary of the stories of the ladies - Sylvia, Gwen, Diane, Sarah, and so forth, but there were little bits of new things and it was a comfortable read. Like visiting old friends. 

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith -- Mma Ramotswe had to do some detecting on her own because Mma Makutsi (the new Mma Radiphuti) had a baby boy which they named Itumelang Clovis Radiphuti in case you were wondering.

The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar -- pretty interesting story about American women doing their parts during World War II as they flew planes to bases; I enjoyed the characters Audrey Coltrane and her fellow pilots - Ruby, Nola, Carol Ann, and so forth.

All the Forgivenesses by Elizabeth Hardinger -- the story of life first in Kentucky then Missouri (I think) and Kansas as told from the perspective of Albertina "Bertie" Winslow, the oldest daughter and keeper-of-the-children after her mom just sort of gave up on life and her father was a mostly useless drunk. A good story.

No Ocean Too Wide by Carrie Turansky -- I've read a few novels about orphan trains where US children in the east were taken west to families who either desired children for work on farms or other business, or to welcome as loved family members. This book is similar, only the poor and/or orphaned children were sent from England to Canada with varying degrees of success. This book followed Katie, Garth, and Grace as their mom was sick and they were sent to a children's home - and somehow ended up in Canada although their mom recovered from her hospitalization. Their older sister Laura, who heard about their departure too late, heads to Canada to find her siblings.

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson -- When the new-lady-in-the-hood Roux shows up at the neighborhood bookclub, she takes over the house, the drinks, the conversation, and eventually starts a game where each person reveals the worst thing she did that day, the previous day, week, month, and so on. If you lose, you drink. Roux collects secrets and Amy is on to her rather quickly. And then the blackmail begins. An interesting story; enjoyed it!

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms -- Three years go Amy's husband left for a business trip to Hong Kong and stayed gone. Now he's back asking for a week with the children, and Amy reluctantly agrees. She sees that there is a library conference in New York City, a place she loved as a young adult, so she texts an old friend about staying with her.  Talia is part of a fashion magazine and Amy gets sucked into a story about #momspringa, and finds out what all she'd been missing since being a single mom (and having children since that really limited her nights out as well.) 

Diamond in the Rough by Jen Turano -- second in the American Heiresses series; eh, not the best book I've read; Poppy is just too accident-waiting-to-happen (unrealistically) for my taste and the whole story was just OK.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty -- I wasn't sure if I wanted to read stories about a young adult working the Cremulator at her first job at a funeral home in California. The author shares her story as well as interesting tidbits about the funeral home industry, her wishes for Americans to not look away from death quite so much, some interesting stuff from other cultures, and why she became preoccupied with death at age 8.  I'll quote one bit here:

"What is most surprising about this story is not that an eight-year-old witnessed a death, but that it took her eight whole years to do so. A child who had never seen a death would have been unheard-of only a hundred years ago.

North America is built on death. When the first European settlers arrived, all they did was die.If it wasn't starvation, the freezing cold, or battles with the Native people, it was influenza, diphtheria, dysentery, or smallpox that did them in. At the end of the first three years of the Jamestown settlement in Virginia, 440 of the original 500 settlers were dead. Children, especially, died all the time. If you were a mother with five children, you were lucky to have two of them live past the age of ten." (pg. 30)

Also, do you know when embalming became a big thing here in the United States?  during the Civil War ; families wanted their soldiers' bodies brought home and folks would "perform a new preservative procedure called embalming - right there on the battlefield." Also they placed "advertisements in local papers reading, 'Bodies Embalmed by Us NEVER TURN BLACK.'" (pg. 78)

The Handsome Man's De Luxe Café by Alexander McCall Smith -- Mma Makutsi is thrilled when the building she wants to rent comes through, and she makes plans to open a unique café. Meanwhile Charlie is fired from his job due to lack of funds so Mma Ramotswe finds some funds so she can hire him as an assistant detective or ... assistant secretary. Hmm.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett -- A riches-to-rags story of sorts as told through Danny's point of view. Danny is young when his mother leaves the family, yet he has a loving, nurturing older sister, Maeve, whom he loves. When the siblings' father remarries, and then he dies, and the house and his company go to their father's new wife, they are stunned to find themselves homeless and mostly penniless, except for a educational trust. Maeve urges Danny to go to medical school despite the fact he doesn't want to be a doctor. Later he follows his dream (doing pretty much what his father did to get rich) and the siblings visit the Dutch House (well, they sit in the car and look at it from the street) to relive their childhood there.  A pretty good story. 

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry -- Alison and Kitty are half-sisters with a complicated relationship. Alison ends up teaching art at a community college and later gets a job in a prison system where she meets interesting characters (of course). Kitty meanwhile is in a home for people with traumatic brain injuries. A pretty good story.

My Ex-Best Friend's Wedding by Wendy Wax -- Lauren and Bree were BFFs from the time they were little girls. Only the forever part of BFF didn't last past Bree's change of mind when the two planned to travel together to New York City to live. Lauren went on her own while Bree stayed in her safe place on the Outer Banks. Years pass, both women are turning 40, and Lauren returns home because of her recent engagement and she figures her fiancé ought to meet her mother. Pretty cute story, and easy read, and I often find it interesting to learn more about the publishing world through this author (as I recall her books often touch on her characters writing novels and trying to get published.)

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner -- a cute, light book to read over the Thanksgiving holiday; Cadie works in the accounting department at an all-sports network, and she is dating Will. Dating, and dating, and dating for years because the man won't propose marriage. So, she decides to break up with him since the relationship is going nowhere.