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

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

May Books


Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor -- The author writes from the points of view of the women - Daisy, Jordan, Catherine - from The Great Gatsby. An interesting, entertaining book! I liked it.

Katharine Parr: The Sixth Wife by Alison Weir -- I think this was offered online when it was new, and I put it in my "books to read" list and ordered it recently from the library. It was over 500 pages, but quite interesting so I read it within a couple of days. Now I'm going to have to find more books by this author as I'd like to learn more about wives 1-5. As you'd suspect by the title, this book dealt with King Henry VIII's sixth wife: a bit about her childhood and much about her adult years, and even her short time as the King's wife and beyond. (Spoiler alert: he died while married to her so no more wives for him!) I enjoyed this one!

Nanny Dearest by Flora Collins -- This book alternates between present-day Susanna, age 25, who meets up with her old nanny, and the "old nanny," Anneliese (really forty-something), as things were back when Suzy was nearly 3 years old, and Annie her young nanny. An OK story.

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir -- First in the Six Tudor Queens series that I started with book 6 (above.) This is the first of the six, and it had just over 600 pages. I liked it pretty well, but got a bit tired of the continued chapters about the king's Great Matter. I know it was what consumed Queen Katherine's life at that point, but reading about it made me really sad for her, made me greatly dislike Anne Boleyn, and made me really disappointed in and dislike Henry VIII.  I admire Katherine's conviction and devotion to her faith and being right before God. I was going to say how much I hated her obedience to her husband and how she mostly refused to do anything to displease him (such as visit her own daughter!!!), but then the author made a note at that end about our modern feminist sensibilities not being a thing back then so I was like, eh.

Little Souls by Sandra Dallas -- There were a couple faults I had with this book (an age discrepancy and "salt" was used for "said" one time), but overall it was an easy read. NOT easy in subject matter and that was rather hard, but it was a quick book for me to get through. Helen and Lutie (short for Lucretia) are sisters who moved from Iowa to Colorado. While Helen stays busy nursing people infected by the Spanish flu, Lutie draws ads for an upscale department store. The sisters take in their downstairs tenants' daughter when the mom dies of influenza, and the dad is sent packing for mistreating his family. Pretty good story!

The Other Family by Wendy Corsi Staub -- When Keith gets a job transfer, Nora and the teenaged daughters decide to follow along. The job is only for a year, and how bad can it be in New York City after living in California? Stacey and Piper are adjusting well when the family learns that a triple homicide took place in the house they are renting. Sure, it was decades ago, but still... how spooky! This book is told in the alternating voices of Stacey, Nora, and Jacob.  Pretty good!

As the Wicked Watch by Tamron Hall -- this book is "The First Jordan Manning Novel" which makes me believe they hope to have a series featuring this investigative journalist, a thirty-ish, Black woman from Texas who lives in Chicago, covering - in this book - the disappearance of a teenager, Masey James. Pretty interesting look at the life of a TV journalist. I'm guessing the author speaks from personal experience in several matters in this book.

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult -- This book takes place right when covid was shutting down schools, churches, stores and most everything in the US. Diana and her boyfriend Finn live in New York City where Finn is a resident surgeon at a local hospital. Soon he is coming home with stories about covid cases in the city. The couple were supposed to leave for a bucket list destination, Galápagos, but Finn encourages Diana to go ahead and go while he stays home to care for his patients. A rather weird book for me to start the day that marked 8 months since my uncle died from covid, but it was sort of interesting to read how covid was in the early days and how it affected people (and still does somewhat, I guess.) 

Not In It to Win It: Why Choosing Sides Sidelines the Church by Andy Stanley -- Andrew recently heard a podcast about this book and expressed interest in reading it so I ordered it for his birthday. It was an easy, fast read though the subject matter is rather weighty, I suppose. A good reminder that the greatest among us serves and that we aren't here to win politically, but to show Christ's love and truth by how we act and react to others.

Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession by Alison Weir -- Book 2 in the Six Tudor Queens series. After reading this book and the previous one, I have very little good to say about Anne Boleyn. I don't recall feeling this way after reading other books about Anne, but based on how she's presented in this book and the previous one (above), I just am not a fan. I must say that I did feel a bit sorry for her in the latter weeks of her life because if things happened as written in this book, she was falsely accused and killed for crimes she hadn't committed.

The Maid by Nita Prose -- A pretty good story about Molly Gray, a stickler for cleanliness who doesn't cut corners. When she discovers a dead body in one of the rooms she regularly cleans, she becomes part of the investigation. I enjoyed this one.

The Lost Summers of Newport by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White -- A pretty interesting story alternating between three generations of ladies in Newport, Rhode Island: Andie, the modern-day TV host with a love of old houses; Lucky who finds life difficult with her perpetually-drunk-and-cheating husband Stuy; and Ellen Daniels who is hiding from her old life as the music teacher for Maybelle who is supposed to be ready to charm and marry an Italian prince.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

April Books

I might finish one more book before the end of the month, but I don't think I will as I'm still finishing the one at the bottom of this list and don't plan to read a lot the next couple of days unless our plans fall through. Anyway, I've also been spending time on another Wordle-type game, Sedecordle. Just what I needed! 



Rewind by Catherine Ryan Howard -- Natalie O'Connor is an Irish Instagram star who follows a mysterious credit card bill to an out-of-the-way place with little cell service and strange cottages along a not-so-pretty beach area. Audrey is a reporter trying to get out of the dreary gossip pages into better stories and when Natalie is reported missing, she heads to Shanamore hoping to find out what happened to Natalie. A pretty good mystery type book.

The Road to Station X by Sarah Baring -- I've read a couple of fiction books about those who worked at Bletchley Park so either this book was referenced in one of those or Amazon noticed my viewing habits and suggested this one. I got it for Christmas, I believe, and decided to read it now. It's subtitled: "from debutante ball to fighter-plane factory to Bletchley Park" and "a memoir of one woman's journey through World War Two." Not the most interesting book I've ever read, but I enjoyed reading about her experiences in that time in history.

What Happened to the Bennetts by Lisa Scottoline -- I've read all of her other fiction books so I put this one on hold awhile back and it was at the library when I went to pick up a few others. The Bennett family are victims of a carjacking gone wrong. So wrong that one of them is killed. When the FBI wants to put them into a witness protection program because the criminals involved are part of a drug family they've been trying to put away, the Bennetts find out how extremely hard it is to cut yourself off from your friends, neighbors, family, and so forth. Pretty interesting if not a bit far-fetched. But fiction often is so...

Lying Room by Nicci French -- The last of their books at my library...now I've read them all, I believe. Neve Connally gets a text from her lover Saul about meeting him at his flat, but when she arrives, she finds him murdered. She then tries to erase the fact that she had ever been involved with him, but later wonders if messing with a crime scene was a good idea.

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth -- Tully and Rachel are invited to dinner with their father and his new girlfriend. This despite the fact their parents are still married, their mom is in a care place for people with dementia. Ughhh....Heather is a much-younger woman, even a couple of years younger than they. A pretty good book about abuse in families and coping with it in possibly unhealthy ways.

The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck -- Rinker decided to ride the Oregon Trail, and lucky him, his brother Nick joins him. I enjoyed learning more about mules, wagons, the "rugged individualism" of the West and how Rinker says the West (well, Wyoming) actually gets a lot of government money per capita so not so much individualism as government (taxpayer) help...what else? The hospitality of the vast majority that they met along the way. There were many interesting bits that I wish I could remember now that I am writing this.  I was made aware of this book from Suzanne's blog post.

Just My Luck by Adele Parks -- Ever wonder how your life could change if you were to win over ten million dollars? Well, Lexi and Jake won over 17 million pounds, and the family faces some difficulty when their long-time best friends, whom they've recently had a falling out with, come forward to claim part of the winnings. Pretty interesting story.

The Living and the Lost by Ellen Feldman -- Millie and her brother David, both German Jews who were able to escape to the United States before Kristallnacht, are back in Berlin working for the Allies, rooting out Nazis from publishing and such. Being back in her hometown is hard because they left behind their parents and little sister for whom Millie is searching, hoping they somehow escaped Hitler's evil. A pretty good story. I might enjoy reading more from this author.

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz -- Emily and Kristen have been best friends for over ten years, and each year they try to take a trip to some exotic locale. The only thing: the last two trips, someone winds up dead. Now Kristen moves from Australia back to Emily's hometown, and Emily is feeling out of sorts about why exactly Kristin is back in the States. Pretty good thriller-type book.

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel -- After Patty gets out of prison, she is overjoyed that her daughter, Rose Gold, allows her to live with her until she gets on her feet. After all, Patty was imprisoned because she supposedly poisoned and starved her daughter all those years. Although Rose Gold seems welcoming, the rest of the community does not. Pretty interesting story.

Where Shadows Meet by Colleen Coble -- Zach and Sophie were in town for several days over spring break and Andrew and I went to the mountains so I decided to read this book since I finished my library books just before the kids' arrival. I was so busy with them that it took me days to read this book about a former Amish woman who married outside her faith. Unfortunately her husband whisked her away from her family and state, and was abusive. Years later she is lured back to her former home to solve the mysteries of her parents' murders - and possibly to see if the little girl she was told died at birth was really still alive!

Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb -- I have had this book for awhile (got it for Christmas or my anniversary or ??), and just now read it when I didn't have any library books here. Interesting story of the lady who became Napoleon's wife. Made me want to look up some of these people and read what happened next. 

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner -- When Pauline and Tom decide to leave their hometown for Philadelphia, they leave behind the grave of their infant son who was born with a bad heart. They and their three daughters go to live with Tom's Uncle Fred who owns a funeral home. Later with the Spanish flu hitting the city, the family is inundated with corpses and a need for pine boxes. (If you didn't watch them, the caskets were stolen off the stoop!)  But more than just that happens...flu hits the family and schoolmates and neighbors. This book made me cry as it brought back memories of loved ones and acquaintances lost from our own recent pandemic. I had to look back at when it was written because it was so covid-pandemic-like with talk of churches and schools shutting down, of people wearing masks, even a bit about vaccines that were rapidly developed that I thought it had been written since 2020, but it was published in 2018. Good book.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

March Books

 I can hardly believe it's time for March books already! Let's see, this year I started playing Wordle, Quordle, and Octordle daily (well, since mid-to-late January). Andrew often enjoys helping me. 


Also, I've lost two great-uncles (grand uncles, if you prefer) this year on my dad's side. I went to the funeral for one yesterday. The other was mid-January.  


The Lady's Mine by Francine Rivers -- When Kathryn's stepfather handed her a one-way ticket from Boston to Calveda, California, Kathryn decided to make the best of this mine town filled with saloons, brothels, and many many men. As she learns more about her uncle City Walsh's life there, Kathryn decides to do things women aren't supposed to do: like start a newspaper and run a mine. Decent book. I like several of her others better.

Those Who Forget by GĂ©raldine Schwarz -- The subtitle pretty much says it all "my family's story in Nazi Europe -- a memoir, a history, a warning."  I saw this when I was in Asheville a couple months ago, and decided to check it out. Pretty interesting look at her family (both German and French sides) and various European nations and even the U.S. in the age of Donald Trump.

The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell -- After his wife Maya dies in a bus accident, a mysterious lady - Jane - visits Adrian which prompts him to search for answers concerning Maya's death. Was it just an accident or was Maya led to take her own life? Pretty interesting story.

Find Me by Alafair Burke -- When Lindsay can't get ahold of her best friend, Hope, after Hope's recent move to another city, she travels to her last location in an effort to find her.  Pretty good mystery type book.

This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel -- Natalie hasn't heard from her sister in more than six months. Kit went to some remote camp in Maine where no one is allowed to contact the outside world. Yet when Natalie receives an alarming email from someone in the camp, she goes to Wisewood to see what she can find out about her sister. Pretty good, if not a strange story.

Woman Last Seen by Adele Parks -- Detective Clements is called to the houses of two men with missing wives. Leigh left for her job, and the family never heard from her. Mark didn't report it until later because they had had a row, and he thought she was just sulking. Meanwhile Daan, the handsome Dutch husband, wonders where his wife, Kai, is. What's with these missing women? Is there a connection?

The Other Side of the Door by Nicci French -- Bonnie is a music teacher out for summer break, and agreed to play in a wedding in mid-September. She meets Hayden who agrees to play in the band made up of a ragtag group of people - a former student and his dad; her ex-lover of years; her best friend from her work; a guy who is interested in her. When someone in the band is murdered, Bonnie's days and nights get complicated. I'm almost finished reading all the books my library has by these authors.

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard -- Ciara and Oliver meet in a small grocery store in Dublin, and go out for drinks just before Ireland and much of the world go on "lockdown" due to the covid-19 pandemic. Since the rules state that you cannot visit with other households, Oliver invites Ciara to move into his flat as it's much bigger and nicer. Both are trying to keep secrets which is hard when you are with someone nearly 24/7 - someone you barely knew before moving in together. Pretty interesting story.

Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy by Edward Ball -- I saw this on Suzanne's post about the books she read last year. She had several that I noted to possibly read as I need to do more reading of nonfiction books occasionally. I found this at my library, and read it over a few days. I broke it up with a couple of the fiction books listed above. Read about white supremacy and then enjoy a bit of a mystery because real life is not pleasant. This book taught me quite a bit about New Orleans and Louisiana since the Lecorgne family (the author's great-something grandparents) entered the US there. Mostly the author followed the man named Constant Lecorgne (Polycarp Constant Lecorgne born 1832). This family - the Le Corgnes came from Brittany, France around 1814. I got bogged down at times with all the fighting in the streets, but mostly I "enjoyed" this book.

Send For Me by Lauren Fox -- A Jewish family leaves Germany for the US, but they have to leave their families behind. This alternates between Annalise working at her parents' bakery and later raising her child in Wisconsin. The author based this story on her own family history.

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki -- don't be like Andrew and misread her name and say MAJORITY Post. Ha. This is the story of the Post Cereals/General Foods heiress. Pretty interesting lady and life - or lives!  Really, it's more interesting than just cereals and frozen foods. (See her mentioned again below.)

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott -- Diane and Kit were friends for a few months their senior year of high school, but their friendship ended after Diane admitted her darkest secret which was too much for Kit to handle. Now, Kit is working in a lab, and the lab is granted funds for a study and Diane is brought on as part of the team. This book was OK.

The Accomplice by Lisa Lutz -- Owen and Luna have been best friends since college, and now they live a couple streets apart. When Owen's wife goes missing and Luna finds her murdered in a cemetery where they sometimes jog, everyone wonders who shot Irene, and why. An OK story, pretty good.

Agent Sonya: Moscow's Most Daring Wartime Spy by Ben Macintyre -- This is a book both Andrew and I noticed in our look around Barnes & Noble earlier this year, and independently of each other, we wrote this one down to get from our library. What an interesting lady this Ursula Kuczynski Hamburger Beurton turned out to be!  A German Jew who was anti-fascist and loved communism, Ursula worked for the Russians as a spy in China, Poland, Switzerland, England, and I may have missed a place or two. (See her mentioned again below.)

Countdown 1945 by Chris Wallace -- This is "the extraordinary story of the atomic bomb and the 116 days that changed the world" that Andrew got from the library and thought I'd enjoy. And I did. Wow, what a fascinating few months. This book begins with Harry S Truman becoming the President of the United States after FDR died in office and it follows him through some of the tedious dealings with Stalin and Churchill and later the new Prime Minister in Potsdam, Germany. Meanwhile in the US, we read about some happenings at Los Alamos, and even meet a young lady from Tennessee who got a job which she later found out helped create the atomic bomb. This is told in a very readable, fast-paced way, and I read it in about a day.  I admired the way each person on the mission did his job, and reading their reactions to what they did over Japan was super-interesting. I read this just after reading Agent Sonya, and as I read the Sonya book, I realized the atomic bomb was part of her spy story. (Klaus Fuchs is mentioned in both books with a lot more info about him in the Agent Sonya book.)  Also, interestingly enough, the book about Marjorie Post dealt with her time living in Moscow with her third husband, Joseph Davies, who was an ambassador for the US. He was mentioned in this book as he went to Potsdam as a special advisor to the President so that was a neat tie-in to yet another book I read this month. Sidenote:  I wonder what Paul Tibbets' mom thought about her son naming the first plane to drop an atomic bomb after her?

Death of a Showman by Mariah Fredericks -- I started reading this Jane Prescott series a few years ago, and I wish I remembered some of the other stories better as I read the newer books. Jane is a lady's maid for Louise Tyler, and when Mrs. Tyler is asked to invest in Leo Hirschfeld's new Broadway musical, Jane comes along to keep an eye on things. When the show's producer is found murdered, Jane goes through the clues in order to figure out who wanted him dead. Decent book. I'd like it better if I could remember the cast better. Oh, memory...!

Monday, February 28, 2022

February Books


Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover -- Kenna comes back to her late boyfriend's hometown in order to meet the daughter that she signed away while she served a five-year prison term. She hooks up with the local bartender, Ledger, who happens to live across the street from her daughter!  Eh, not a favorite.

Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II by Robert Matzen -- Are you curious what it was like to live in the Netherlands during the war years, and what it was like at the end when the Nazis were trying their best to hold off the British so Dutch neighborhoods became battlegrounds of sorts? This wasn't the most interesting book to me, but it wasn't bad. I think my mom read it last year, and she liked it so I read it. Maybe if I were a huge Hepburn fan I'd appreciate it more.

Facing the Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti -- This book was very clean compared to the first book on this list which was filled with the F-word and lots of immorality (if you grew up like me and are conditioned to believe sex outside of marriage is immoral.) This book was the anti-that book. It was ok. Not the greatest story, but decent and a good message about dealing with grief and reminders of God. Mara's husband left her and their three children to go on a trip digging wells for people in Africa for FOUR years. Mara struggles with resentment at Liam because she feels overwhelmed, and their children miss their dad. A few tragedies happen abroad and at home. Thankfully Mara has a good friend or two to help through the hard times. 


Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History by Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio -- Andrew read this book and kept telling me interesting bits about it so I decided to read it before I returned it to the library. Pretty good story about the way the CIA, the Canadian diplomats and so forth worked together to bring home some Americans from Iran.

A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight -- Lizzie is contacted by a former friend after Zach ends up in jail after his wife is murdered. This mystery alternates between the voices of Lizzie as she seeks to find out the truth, and Amanda, the murdered woman.  Pretty good if you like this type of book. 

Her Hidden Genius by Marie Benedict -- A good way to learn more about Rosalind Franklin and her work with DNA and the RNA of viruses. Pretty interesting story about this British scientist.

The Good Son by Jacquelyn Mitchard -- When Stefan is released from prison after being convicted in the death of his girlfriend, he finds it hard to fit into society. Understandably his former girlfriend's mom doesn't want Stefan to enjoy life while she grieves Belinda's death. This book was told from the perspective of Thea, Stefan's mom. It was pretty good.

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont -- Told from the perspective of Nan O'Dea, the mistress of Archie Christie, this was an interesting story about where Agatha Christie went during those days she was missing. I enjoyed this one! 

The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis -- An interesting story about the Frick House, and Henry and Helen Frick (father and daughter). Some of this is true such as the house and people I just mentioned, but there is a storyline about a muse, or artist used by sculpturers of that era. In this book her name is Lillian Carter known professionally as Angelica. A good story!

Cold Mountain Path by Tom Kizzia -- I saw Heather Lende recommend this book on her Facebook page and got this book for Christmas. It's about "the Ghost Town Decades of McCarthy-Kennecott, Alaska," and had some interesting characters, ways of life, and interesting facts about life in that area. Pretty interesting book.

The Violence by Delilah S. Dawson -- I wasn't sure I wanted to commit to this almost 500-page book, but once I got into the story, it was pretty interesting and fast-paced. The year is 2025, and a new pandemic has hit mostly southern states and other places that deal with lots of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are how this new virus - called The Violence - is spread. This book is a bit bizarre in the whole new pandemic thing, but I enjoyed seeing how Chelsea, her daughters, and her mom dealt with it. There is a huge plot about domestic violence as well.

My Remarkable Journey by Katherine Johnson with Joylette Hylick and Katherine Moore (her daughters) -- This is a memoir about the Black mathematician, one of whom inspired the book and movie Hidden Figures. What an interesting lady! I read Hidden Figures and watched the movie last year, and enjoyed both so I was happy to find this on the New Books shelf at the library, and read the book within a day. Andrew enjoyed this one as well.

Beyond the Mapped Stars by Rosalyn Eves -- When Bridget wrote that this was one of her unexpectedly favorite books last year, I looked to see if my library had it, and I finally put it on hold and read it. What a great story to read while I was also reading the book by Katherine Johnson. Though this book is fictitious, both ladies enjoyed STEM fields and had to overcome obstacles to follow what some might say God called them to do. I appreciated the bit towards the end where Elizabeth realized you could be a woman of faith and science. Too often today I see people acting like we who believe in God are stupid because we don't believe in science because how can you possibly believe in God and the Bible and all that religious stuff when there is science to prove how things really are? That annoys me so much. Good book! 

One Step Too Far by Lisa Gardner -- This was an exciting read as I read a couple other books which were good, but just not the type I read super-quickly. Frankie tries to locate missing persons, and she joins a search team trying to find out whatever happened to a young man, Tom, when he was on a trip with his best friends. Probably a bit far-fetched at times, but overall a pretty good mystery!

Travels with George: In Search of Washington and His Legacy by Nathaniel Philbrick -- I saw this last month while in Asheville, and wrote it down as a possible read. I saw it on the library's New Books shelf, and read it. Nat and his wife Melissa and their dog, Dora, retrace George Washington's travels after he became President of the US. They go through parts of the Northeast, and later a trip to the South. Pretty interesting. Reminded me a bit of Tony Horwitz's books and made me miss that guy! 

The Windsor Diaries 1940-45: My Childhood with the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret by Alathea Fitzalan Howard -- After Alathea died, her nephew's wife read through Alathea's diaries which she wrote in every day for decades. The author decided to focus on the war years when Alathea and the princesses were in Windsor during their teen and young adult years. (Alathea was a couple of years older than "PE" as she often wrote for Princess Elizabeth, now the Queen.)  There is the usual (for some (most?) teens/young adults) focus on clothes - what she wore, what others wore, parties, dances, looks, and young men who were present at events. The oft common problem with parents and other family elders (a prickly mother and a grandfather who insisted on the family being present every night for Rosary), and then the War. Overall this was an interesting look at that period in history. I could totally relate to Alathea's not enjoying silly films - things that made others ``shriek with laughter," didn't amuse her. I am often that way!

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley -- Benjamin is waiting in his Paris apartment for his sister to arrive from London. It's not a great time, but what's he going to do? Tell her not to come? But when Jess arrives, Ben is nowhere to be found. And asking around the house - to others who live in this magnificent place - it just seems odd that no one knows where Ben is. Thus, Jess gets to work trying to find her brother.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

January Books


The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse -- This book was OK, but I didn't like the main character, an English detective-on-leave Elin who was at a remote Swiss hotel with her boyfriend. A murder (or more) happens, and Elin tries to help out since the local police can't make it to the hotel (which was an old sanatorium) due to an avalanche.

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder -- Andrew read this book before the new year, and told me that I'd enjoy the history and story. Although I've read books about the genocide in Rwanda, this story focused on the conflict from Deogratias's, a Burundian who came to the United States, perspective. It told of Deo's first days in New York and had flashbacks to his story of growing up in Burundi, and the awful things he experienced when the Hutus and Tutsis fought. Pretty interesting book. It made me thankful for people like the Wolfs, a family who took in a refugee and believed in him, and for Deo's heart for his people in wanting to better their lives - whether they were Hutu or Tutsi.

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb -- My library has other books by these authors so I looked to see if anything else was available and got this from my Amazon Wishlist. It's a "Novel of Grace Kelly's Royal Wedding" told from the perspectives of Sophie, a French perfume maker, and James Henderson, a British photographer. Pretty good story.

The Postmistress of Paris by Meg Waite Clayton -- Some parts of this book were interesting, while others were hard for me to follow, but mostly I liked this book okay. My favorite part was when 5 year old Luki was in a greenhouse of sorts, and a nice man gave her and her stuffed kangaroo an orange! Luki then pulled Joey (baby kangaroo, of course) from Pemmy (short for Professor Ellie-Mouse)'s pouch, the man grinned and gave her another orange! A delicious luxury in France during World War II.

Do I Know You? by Sarah Strohmeyer -- Jane blows her cover as a "super recognizer" with the NHS when she spots a young lady connected to her sister's disappearance over a decade ago. Jane is determined to find out what happened to her sister, and finagles her way to a vacation at Cape Cod where her boyfriend's prospective PhD advisor and his family crash their vacation. Fast-paced, pretty fun book!

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery by Amanda Cox -- Sarah is back living with her parents in Tennessee after her husband's untimely death. Meanwhile her mom, Rosemary, and grandma, "Glory Nan" are arguing about keeping the old grocery store running. A decent, clean book.

Madam by Phoebe Wynn -- Rose gets recruited to teach at an elite boarding school in Scotland, but soon finds this school isn't as rigorous in academics as she'd hoped. In fact, they seem to value preparing girls for marriage to Britain's elite rather than preparing them to take care of themselves. Women shouldn't have to be rescued by men in this day and age. But when Rose tries to fight the patriarchy, the tradition, she finds it's a really huge deal.

E.R. Nurses by James Patterson and Matt Eversmann -- Snippets from about 30 or so nurses from around the United States, some with more complete stories than others Some make you want more details and/or a completion. Pretty interesting!

You Never Forget Your First: a Biography of George Washington by Alexis Coe -- Not long ago Andrew and I were in the Asheville Mall, and it closed at 6 (it was a Sunday) so we walked next door to Barnes & Noble to look around. I often jot down books that I want to look up later to see if my library has them: it had them all. The author realized that most all biographies of George Washington were by men, and really stressed what a man's man our nation's first President was. She wanted to write from a woman historian's perspective, and her focus wasn't so much what a great general he was or what great thighs Washington had, but on other things. It's a much less-flattering, but probably more-realistic look at Washington using letters and such circulating way back then.

Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens -- New to me author; I saw this book among the New Books, and got it. After her father dies, Hailey lives with her aunt and cousin, and her aunt's new husband who happens to be the local police chief in a small town. He's authoritative, watchful, bullying, and creepy, and Hailey uncovers something that makes her want to flee. Meanwhile Beth moves to this area in order to look for answers after her sister Amber is murdered. More than a few times I was like, "wow, these young ladies are brave/incredible/impressive" because of their mad hiking and survival skills. I am super-wimpy and fearful by contrast.

River Road by Carol Goodman -- Nan is driving home from a holiday party when she hits a deer, but the next day when one of her students is found dead on that road, the police and community question whether she truly hit a deer. Was she driving under the influence and did she hit and kill her student? A pretty good suspenseful/mystery type book.

Of Bears and Ballots: An Alaskan Adventure in Small-Town Politics by Heather Lende -- This is the last of Heather's books that the library has, and this was probably my least favorite due to the subject. Not that I dislike politics; I just have gotten tired of the divisiveness, and I'm sorry it is the same way in Haines. I do enjoy reading about her life there, though.

Catch Me When I Fall by Nicci French -- This book drove me a little bit bonkers because the first part is so fast-paced following Holly's lifestyle. The second half of the book was better as Holly's best friend, Meg, took over the narration. An OK book. Not my favorite of these authors, but I'm trying to finish the rest of their books that my library has so ...  Only a couple left!

Don't Try to Find Me by Holly Brown -- Marley is just fourteen when she leaves her mom a note on the whiteboard in the kitchen asking her parents to not try to find her as she's leaving home. Told in alternatiing story lines of Marley and how her days post-leaving home are going, and her mom, Rachel's, days are going. Pretty good story.

Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins -- A murder mystery set on the rather creepy Meroe Island, a few-days boat ride from Hawaii. When Lux's boyfriend, Nico, is hired by two well-to-do young women who want to go somewhere off the grid, Lux is dubious, but agrees to join them for their two week trip. Instead of having the island to themselves, the girls find Jake and Eliza already there, and the six of them enjoy some boozy good times until things start to change. Fast-paced, pretty good story if you like these sorts of murder mysteries.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane -- This book follows the stories of Francis Gleeson and his daughter Kate as well as the neighbors next door, the Stanhopes. Kate was best friends since babyhood to Peter, son of a fellow police officer Brian Stanhope.  A pretty interesting tale about Irish police officers, their families, and their lives in and around New York City.

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain -- An interesting story about Ellie who worked with SCOPE, an organization that canvassed black neighborhoods in order to register more black voters in the mid-1960s. This book alternated between the 1960s as Ellie volunteered to more present times when Kayla and her husband build a house in the wooded area near where Ellie grew up. A good story especially since so many Republican legislators seem to want to make voting harder for many folks.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

2021 in Review

 I used to do this most years, but got out of the habit. Niki's post reminded me and since I had time, I did it! 

1. What did you do in 2021 that you’d never done before?

got a bike as an adult
2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
didn't make any

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

sister-in-law had a baby boy in September


4. Did anyone close to you die?

my uncle died from covid, and his daughter died three months later (not from covid)


Miss y'all

5. What countries did you visit?


6. What would you like to have in 2022 that you lacked in 2021?

a visit to somewhere new, or somewhere I've not been in awhile

7. What date from 2021 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

September 19 - the day my uncle died

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

staying covid-free, I reckon



Pfizer #2


9. What was your biggest failure?

not maintaining friendships

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

nothing aside from small injuries like when I ran into a wall or the dishwasher door

11. What was the best thing you bought?

my bike

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Sophie; she was determined to learn to swim and she did

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Many politicians and their followers

14. Where did most of your money go?

bills and the dehumidifier put under the house

15. What did you get excited about?

swimming with Zach, Sophie, and my sister because in 2020, we were swimless!

16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2021?

"Scars In Heaven" -- it was played during a lot of video tributes to people who died last year

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

i. Happier or sadder?

I'm  always sadder when I lose more family

ii. richer or poorer?

about the same

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

gone to more of the outdoor community concerts in Graham

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

worrying about the world and weather

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

We ate lunch next door with Andrew's parents, brother, his wife, and her dad. Later we went to my sister's house to hang out with my family.

Christmas 2021

21. What was your favorite TV program?

NCIS, I suppose

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

I don't think so

23. What was the best book you read?

I read over 200 books so it's hard to remember what all I read. I just skimmed through about five or six months of my books and remembered I liked these quite well. But there are others that were really good, too!

Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

An Unlikely Spy by Rebecca Starford

The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Our local meteorologist Christian Morgan posted this video of himself singing, and I really enjoyed it. His band is called Bantum Rooster.

25. What did you want and get?

 a bike

26. What was your favorite film of this year?

I think I watched one: Hidden Figures, and I enjoyed it! Great story!

27. What did you do on your birthday?

I looked at my calendar, and it must not have been anything out of the ordinary though my dad brought me some cheesecake or something like that.
28. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2021? 

29. What kept you sane?

prayer; family

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

I made contact with Heather Lende after reading two of her books. I didn't especially "fancy" her, but I enjoyed her writings.

31. What political issue stirred you the most?

probably the January 6th stuff; all of the "Big Lie" talk

32. Who did you miss?

after my uncle died, I really missed seeing his comments on Facebook

33. Who was the best new person you met?


34. Tell a valuable life lesson you learned in 2021.

Not all who claim to be pro-life want to inconvenience themselves enough to protect vulnerable lives, and not all who are pro-choice want to "follow the science" when it comes to abortion. There's a lot of hypocrisy and room for improvement among most all of us, but this topic just stood out to me in 2021.





Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021 Ends and December Books

I don't think I'll finish another book before this month - this year - ends so I'll go ahead and post this today. 

 2021 has been quite the year with a lot of good times, but also some losses in recent months.  August and September were terrible for covid losses. At one time I counted about ten or twelve people I either knew, knew of, or there was just one degree of separation between me and them (meaning, for instance, a cousin's friend who died in South Carolina.)  By far the greatest, most personal loss for us was my mom's middle brother in September. He spent his 65th birthday in the ICU, and died fifteen days later. Some days it's hard knowing that he's no longer here (though the thought of him in heaven with Mema and Pop and his cousin Shayne, who died earlier in the year from his heart, makes us joyful.)   In early December this same uncle's daughter died, not from covid, but related to issues she had had for a couple of decades. She was only 35.


In much better news, I got a new nephew, Jonathan, just days after my uncle died. He's a real sweetie!


And now for the December books...


The Words I Never Wrote by Jane Thynne -- An interesting look at World War II through the eyes of two English sisters: Irene, who marries a German man and member of the Nazi party, and Cordelia who travels to Paris and later helps the Allies. Pretty good story.

Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda -- After Harper's former roommate is let out of prison after serving just 14 months of a 20-year term for murdering two neighbors, Ruby shows up unnannouced ready to live in Harper's house again. Harper and her neighbors aren't so sure about that, and vow to keep watch on Ruby's whereabouts. A pretty good mystery/suspense-type book from an author I've not read before.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah -- An interesting look at life in Texas during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression through the eyes of Elsa who lives with her husband, Rafe, and his parents, and their children, Loreda and Anthony. Later some of them travel to California for a better life...only that's not so great either.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides -- This author really likes psychotherapists. I think the last book I read by him - which was his first book - also featured a psychotherapist as the one telling the story. Only last time it was a man, and this time, a woman. Anyway Mariana travels to Cambridge to visit her niece Zoe at a tough time. Her best friend Tara was found murdered. This author also likes to throw in a lot of Greek references.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell -- This book reminded me of a Liane Moriarty-type book with the eccentric mother and four children: Megan, Bethan, Rory, and Rhys. Mom (Lorelei) recently died, and some of the family returns to clear out her house which is so cluttered with stuff that there is only a narrow tunnel through it to the place where Lorelei actually lived her latter days. Pretty interesting story.

Friends Like These by Kimberly McCreight -- Several college friends travel to the Catskills Mountains for a supposed bachelor party which is really an intervention to get one of their own,Keith, into rehab. Unfortunately Finch, who wants to be in this group of friends, tags along with Derrick which makes the intervention that much harder. Then some locals come around demanding money for work done on the house, and it winds up that one of their own is possibly murdered (or was it an accident?), and another is missing. Pretty good story.

Lost by Joy Fielding -- I wasn't a big fan of the main character, Cindy, whose twenty-one-year-old daughter just disappeared one afternoon. The book was about their search for Julia. A pretty good book. Not my favorite by this author.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley -- Jules and Will are the perfect power couple, and their destination wedding is on a small, mostly-abandoned island off the coast of Ireland. What could go wrong?   Alternating timelines and the telling of events between the voices of Hannah (the plus-one to Julia's best friend, Charlie), Olivia (Julia's half sister), Will, Jules, Johnno (a mate from school), and Aoife (the wedding planner), this mystery was pretty good.

Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs: Family, Friendships, and Faith in Small-Town Alaska by Heather Lende -- I read her first book earlier this year, and had her name on my To Read Later list because I saw she had a couple more books. While I was ordering a few books last week from the library, I decided to read her second book which was published in 2010. I enjoyed learning more about her life in Alaska, including the terrible event that happened to her in early April one year (bike accident). In this book she talks about that plus her mom's death (the title of the book is a quote from her mom), and other incidents. This book has a more spiritual feel to it, and some of her writing challenged me (in a good way.) I was telling Andrew about her life, and now I've ordered the first book for him to read. Hopefully, he will enjoy her tales from Alaska, too! (He did.) And I just followed her on Facebook so I can see pictures from that lovely area - Haines, Alaska.

The Children's Train by Viola Ardone -- When he was just 7 years old, Amerigo Speranza was sent from his home in Naples "to the north" although rumors were flying that the Communists were taking these children from poor families to Russia, and might cut off their tongues and feed their hands to their fires. Thankfully, the northern Italians did no such thing, and most of Amerigo's peers found loving families to feed and clothe and care for them for several months. When Amerigo returns to his single mother (his father was unknown to him though Amerigo made up stories about his father seeking a better life in America), he finds his hometown wanting. His shoes no longer fit again, and the usual meal of stale bread and milk seems dire after all the good stuff he had in the north. Pretty good story translated from Italian by Clarissa Botsford.

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams -- Bridget liked this book so I decided to get it for some light reading. Gavin and Thea's marriage is on the rocks so Gavin's friends come to the rescue in the form of a book club. Because why not get tips from romance novels, right?  I didn't like this book well enough to continue the series.

Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas -- Jess is a reporter for a twice-weekly paper in a small town in England, and when a double murder happens, she is not totally surprised, but saddened to learn that her former best friend, Heather, is the main suspect. The book alternates between the voices of Jess; Heather's mom, Margot; Heather; and going back a couple decades to when Heather's sister Flora disappeared. Pretty good book. 

Beneath the Skin by Nicci French -- Zoe, Jennifer, and Nadia are all targeted by the same person: a creepy guy who writes letters to them, acting as if he's in love with them, but also promising them death. Pretty good thriller type of book. I'm trying to read the rest of the books by this author that my library has so this was next on the list.

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda -- As a year-round resident of Littleport, Maine, Avery is the property manager for Loman Properties, and best friend to Sadie, the daughter who goes missing from the Plus-One Party. When Sadie's body washes ashore, the police are quick to call it a suicide, but Avery is not convinced, and she's determined to solve the mystery.

Find the Good by Heather Lende -- "Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer" ; I decided I needed to finish her books so this was next in line. This was about 2/3 or smaller the size of the first two books, and had easy-to-read chapters full of tidbits and lessons from Heather's life in Haines, Alaska.  (Oh, since I wrote the book review above, I sent Heather a note via her website's contact page, and she sent me an email a couple of days later! It was nice to hear from her!  In her second book which was published in 2010, her one daughter (second born) was just getting married. Then I saw somewhere she had 8 grandchildren now. When I mentioned feeling so far behind in my message to Heather, she wrote back that she actually had 9 now and one on the way in April. She even told me their names which, being a name nerd, I loved!)

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley -- This book had the same vibe as the earlier book of hers that I read, but I didn't mind. A group of friends from Oxford get together every New Year's Eve and spend a holiday together. This year it's a remote lodge in the Scottish Highlands, and someone winds up missing. This book is told with alternating timelines, and through the voices of the caretaker, the huntsman, and three of the ladies on the trip. Pretty good book.

The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray -- My goal was to finish this book before Monday the 27th, and I finished it the evening of the 23rd so I did well. This was a heavy book, or awkward to read since it was well over 500 pages (565 to be exact; my wrists got tired sometimes). I've read longer books before, but most of the books here lately are between 250 and 325 pages. Anyway, this book dealt with Gilbert and Adrienne Lafayette, he of fame in the US for helping us in the American Revolution despite being a Frenchman. I've never heard anything about his wife so this was an interesting story looking from her perspective.  This book had three storylines with the Lafayettes in the 1770s and beyond, and more recently: Beatrice Chanler's work during World War I, and the more fictitious character Marthe in the World War II era. Interesting book and a nice break from the thriller/suspense books I've read more recently.

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave -- After a twelve-year-old girl delivers a message from her husband and then he disappears, Hannah, and her stepdaughter Bailey, travel from their house boat in California to Austin, Texas, searching for clues about what happened to him - and who he really is. Pretty good book.

Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri -- I saw Myrna mention this book earlier this year so I put it on my To Read list, but never ordered it from the library until a few days ago. It was at another branch so I couldn't as easily just get it off the shelf. Anyway...what an interesting story told from the perspective of the author as a young refugee who landed in Oklahoma after living a nice life in Iran. His mom and sister came with him, but his dad stayed behind. I enjoyed his comparisons about food and accents and hospitality and such. The reason his family left Iran was super-interesting to me as well.

Finding Freedom by Erin French -- I believe my mom read this book earlier in the year and recommended it. It's a memoir of a cook in Maine. I admire how she worked hard to redeem her life after going through some big problems. I was often amazed at how she got in there and just did things. And also I admired her vision for how things could be. I don't have that dreamer quality about me so it's interesting to see that in others.