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

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

May Books


The Blackout Book Club by Amy Lynn Green -- I found this while picking up a book the library had on hold for me. When I got home, I noticed it was the same book my mom had recommended to me via text a few days prior. This book followed Avis as she ran the town's private library while her brother shipped out to fight the Germans. Additionally we read the perspectives of Martina, Ginny, and Louise, and how the four women came together in a small town in Maine. A pleasant book after some of those I've read lately. Easy read, too.

After the Shadows by Amanda Cabot -- First in the Sweetwater Crossing trilogy, this book focused on Emily's return to the small town she left when she married the handsome, dashing George. She's greeted harshly by one sister, Louisa, while the other, Joanna, is with her grandmother in Europe. Emily comes back to Sweetwater Crossing only to lose her father in an apparent suicide. Only Emily is not convinced, and seeks to prove this wasn't true.  Meanwhile Craig moves to town with his two-year old son who recently lost his mother in an accident. Craig wanted a new start for Noah, and was hired as the town's teacher. A pretty good, clean, easy read.

The Best Strangers in the World by Ari Shapiro -- NPR is probably where I have gotten most of my news for the last several years, and I've often enjoyed Ari Shapiro's stories and interviews. When I saw he'd written a book, I put it on hold at the library and got it the other day. I enjoyed learning a few stories about his younger years - how he and his brother were the only Jewish kids at their school in Fargo,North Dakota, so they got to share with others about dreidels and menorahs. Later the family moved to Oregon, and I loved the parts about nature hikes - identifying wildflowers and birds, finding mushrooms, and looking in tidepools. I learned how he got started with Pink Martini as well as how he began working with NPR (he was Nina Totenberg's intern first.) He spoke a bit about his time at Yale and meeting his husband Michael, their weddings (yes, plural), and his time with a faerie community in rural Tennessee. I enjoyed reading about his work husband/best friend when he was based out of London, and stories from Ukraine and Turkey. Probably my favorite chapter is the one that is also the title of this book: it dealt with Syrian refugees and especially three men whose lives Ari and his colleagues followed for a few years. 

The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz -- This book took a bit too long to get into as Lady Blythe Hedley went to live at a Scottish "laird's" (Everard Hume) residence while hiding from those against the Jacobite sympathies. Overall it was a decent book in giving some information about this time (1715) in history.

The Librarian of Burned Books by Brianna Labuskes -- This book follows three timelines, but not many years apart. Althea travels to Germany as guests of the Nazis where she meets Hannah and Dev. Later we see Hannah as she is living in Paris, and then there is Viv who is trying to reverse a book ban so she can send books of all types to soldiers serving in World War II.

Wild Maps for Curious Minds: 100 New Ways to See the Natural World by Mike Higgins and Manuel Bortoletti (illustrator) -- A quick read due to it being filled with 100 maps with little text. I enjoyed this!

Homecoming by Kate Morton -- Her books are always long (540+ pages in this one), but I like them!  I enjoyed this look from Jess as she flew from her home in London back home to Australia when her grandmother, Nora, fell as she was attempting the attic stairs. This story is also told from the perspective of Percy Summers who along with his wife Meg, ran the store in 1959. Percy being the one who happened upon Isabel Turner and her three oldest children who looked as if they were asleep, yet all four were dead. The baby - a few weeks old - was missing. Anyway Jess pieces together what happened back then, and thankfully in books, you often get a complete story which often allude you in real life. 

The Orphan Sisters by Shirley Dickson -- The library had one of her books, but none of the others so I put one on my Amazon Wishlist and got it for my birthday. Sisters Esther and Dorothy were dropped off at an orphanage when they were young, and their mom never came back for them. Eventually the girls age out of the orphanage, get jobs, marry and so forth. Pretty good story set against the backdrop of England at war with Germany during World War II.

Where Are the Children Now? by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke -- I saw several weeks ago that this book was On Order at the library so I read the original book (from the 1970s) in anticipation of this one. In it Melissa (Missy) and Mike are grown, and Melissa is getting married to Charlie who has a stepdaughter Riley who is three.  Melissa still has nightmares about what happened to her, and one afternoon when her sleepless nights catch up with her, Riley is taken! It's like her own life revisited, but with some twists.

It's One of Us by J.T. Ellison -- Olivia and Park are desperate for children, but IVF isn't working. Breaking news: a local lady who had been missing is found dead, and the police are knocking on Olivia and Park's door because the DNA matches Park's - well, it's enough to be Park's son. Huh?  Turns out Park was a sperm donor back in graduate school. Anyway, Scarlett is founding member of The Halves - a growing group of young adults and teens who have matched to Park as their donor.

The Only Survivors by Megan Miranda --  Cassidy is one of a few who survived when two van loads of teenagers crashed into a ravine ten years ago. Every year this group of survivors meets for a week-long trip to the Outer Banks, but it's getting weirder and Cassidy isn't sure she wants to continue this tradition. Especially since it seems this group is being targeted as they lost Ian to suicide earlier in the year.  I had a bit of a hard time getting into this book as I read it as we were preparing for, traveling to, enjoying a party for Zach's twelfth birthday. But I did find a pretty afternoon in which I read the bulk of it, and it was OK in the end.

The Golden Doves by Martha Hall Kelly -- Josie and Arlette were friends back during the war and later taken to a concentration camp for a brief time before liberation. In 1952 Josie is working out of Fort Bliss where Nazis have been brought to the US because the United States wants their scientific expertise. Gotta get them or else the Russians will... no justice for these criminals, ya know?!  Meanwhile Arlette is on the hunt for the child who was lost to her and she winds up in French Guiana. Over five hundred pages, but a fast, interesting read!

Coronation Year by Jennifer Robson -- It's a few months before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, and Edie is hoping her struggling hotel will earn enough money so she can keep it in the family. Meanwhile Jamie is commissioned to paint the procession, and  Stella is a photographer from Italy, both of whom take a room at the Blue Lion Hotel. Quick, interesting read!

My Travels with Mrs. Kennedy by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin Hill -- I really enjoyed this look at Jacqueline Kennedy from the perspective of her secret service agent who co-wrote this book in his latter 80s. Lots of great pictures about these interesting years.

Are you there God? It's me, Margaret by Judy Blume -- For some reason there wasn't a comma used any time Margaret addressed God although I thought it was a basic grammar rule. Besides that, this was a super-quick read. Like maybe an hour or two after I finished the Mrs. Kennedy book above. I've heard some interviews on various NPR shows about this book due to the movie of the same name. I can't remember if I read this book as a youngster though I recognize many of the other books. Pretty cute.

The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth -- Pippa and Gabe live in a place with lovely views. Unfortunately their house is where The Drop, a place people come to end their lives, is located. Gabe has had the opportunity to save many lives, but one night Gabe is not able to save a lady. When it comes out that the person is someone Gabe and Pippa know, a former boss's wife, things take a tricky turn. This book is told from the perspectives of Pippa then and now as well as Amanda (the one who died at The Drop) then and now. Pretty good.

The Boy from Block 66 by Limor Regev -- While attending her son's best friend's bar mitzvah, the author meets his grandfather who was just thirteen years old when the Jews of his city were rounded up and sent to a camp. The Allies were winning, but the Germans with the help of Hungarians were ruthless in their desire to get rid of Jews. Moshe Kessler's family was part of this, and the author recorded his story here. He was born in Czechoslovakia in a region that was annexed by Hungary. Now it's part of Ukraine.  This book tells his story. 

Here is a bit I shared with some folks (we met in a baby name group about 20 years ago) about Moshe's names:
He was born in Czechoslavakia in a region called Carpathia-Russia. It was located near the border with Hungary, Romania, and Poland, and until the end of World War I in 1919, this region had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He said "in less than thirty years our city was part of four different countries and its name was changed several times." (pg. 17)

About his own name ... At home he was called "Moishi," which he said was his favorite, but at school they called him Ludwig which was his "secular name. Every Jewish child has both a Hebrew and a secular name, which we use in school and in non-Jewish public life." He said his Czech passport had Ludwig written on it so when he arrived in Israel, "the Aliyah people who picked us up wrote that name," so in his official papers, "in addition to my Hebrew name Moshe, the name Ludwig appears, just as it had accompanied me in younger days." (pg. 32)

BUT WAIT... in 1939 Hungary annexed his region so the new Hungarian government required all the children who had attended Czech schools to learn Hungarian. Moshe/Ludwig was given a Hungarian name at school: Leyush. He dropped that name as quickly as he could after the war. (pg. 48)

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Itchy Boots Season 5 Notes


Season 7 started earlier this year, but since those videos only come out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Andrew and I have continued to catch up on past seasons.

Season 5 starts off with Noraly in the Netherlands as she prepares to relocate due to covid keeping things restricted in Europe. Instead of taking her bike, Rhonin, which she bought at home, she decides to buy a second-hand motorcycle once she gets to Johannesburg, South Africa. Although the official name of this series is Destination Unknown, I believe many refer to it as the Southern Africa season since that's where she went.  (started these notes here on March 12, 2023)

March 2, 2023

watched episodes 1-6 which take place in the Netherlands and South Africa

Noraly bike shops at a place she already researched online, and buys a Honda which she names Savannah

March 3

watched episodes 7-9 which take place in South Africa

March 5

watched episodes 10-13 which take place in South Africa

Of special interest, she went to a wild cats reserve, a place special to Nelson Mandela's life, and went horse riding

March 7

watched episodes 14-16 which take place in South Africa

The Sani Pass ride is just - wow!

March 9

watched episodes 17-18 which take place in South Africa

Noraly spends quite a bit of time with the Xhosa people, and we meet an herbalist/healer.

March 10

watched episodes 19-21 which take place in South Africa

After these were posted, she took a couple weeks break with a friend who lives in S.A. whom she met in India many years ago.

March 12

watched episodes 22-24 which take place in South Africa

We enjoy seeing ostriches and meerkats. Also, Noraly shops and buys an ostrich egg which amuses us as she attempts to cook it. She was told 1 ostrich egg is equivalent to 24 chicken eggs!

The caves she explored were really cool!

Later in the day

March 12

watched episodes 25-27 which take place in South Africa

Cape Town (right on the water) is beautiful!

March 14

watched episodes 28-29 which take place in South Africa

Her visit to the place with fossils was pretty neat.

March 16

watched episodes 30-31  which take place in South Africa

March 17

watched episodes 32-35 which take place in South Africa

Noraly was in Diamond Territory, and spoke of fracking in one video. Also, she tried to visit an active diamond mine near the border of SA and Namibia. Cool video of her tagging along with the security team - wow.

March 18

watched episodes 36-38 which take place in South Africa and Namibia

March 24

watched episodes 39-41 which take place in Namibia

March 25

watched episodes 42-44  which take place in Namibia

I enjoyed seeing Noraly herding cattle - and seeing the farm there. Also, there was a neat geological day trip.

March 26

watched episodes 45-47 which take place in Namibia

The Namib Desert is so pretty, and I loved seeing the wildlife! How cool to see an ostrich running by, giraffes eating by the side of the road, and a few other animals - wow!

March 28

watched episodes 48-49 which take place in Namibia

Those dunes!!

March 31

watched episodes 50-52 which take place in Namibia

Really enjoyed Noraly tagging along with the guys from the Ocean Conservation group, freeing seals from plastics.  Also, I really enjoyed the minerals market and seeing topaz, aquamarine, and so forth.

April 1

watched episodes 53-55 which take place in Namibia

Lots of cool geological stuff like rock paintings and engravings.

April 6

watched the Live Chat from Africa as well as episodes 56-57 which take place in Namibia

What is neat about watching these videos now is that I just started a book from Susan Bauer who worked at a Lutheran Seminary in Namibia with her husband back in the 1990s and early 2000s. She speaks of cities and the desert and even the seal colony and nature preserves that I've seen in Noraly's videos. I really enjoy the timing of reading this book - which my mom read and recommended to me months ago - now while watching Season 5.

April 7

watched episodes 58; 60-64 which take place in Namibia

It's a super-rainy Good Friday so Andrew and I started watching some more videos. We saw the Namibia and Angola border as well as some tribal ladies on the road that I'd just looked up the night before based on the book I mentioned above. We hadn't planned to watch so many episodes, but she went to a nature preserve and got to ride along with Esso whose job it is to ride his motorbike to check the level of the watering holes and the fences. So we were able to see zebras, elephants, lions, antelope, giraffes, and black and white rhinos - fascinating!!

April 8

watched episodes 59; 65-67 which take place in Namibia and Botswana

Somehow we skipped episode 59 yesterday so I'm glad that one showed up as Noraly took some food and visited the Himba tribe. They showed her how to get the red ochre that they put on their skin, and she gave it a try.

I enjoyed seeing her cross into Botswana because the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency takes place in this country so I keep thinking I might eventually see Mma Ramotswe and her family and friends! Wouldn't that be awesome? ;)

Later that day because it was a dreary couple of days ...

April 8

watched episodes 68-70  which take place in Botswana

Loved seeing hippos, elephants, giraffes, and zebra; and a giraffe darted across the street not too far in front of her in the same way deer do here!

April 13

watched episode 71  which take place in Botswana

She rode with James Alexander and some of his friends. He, of Dakar racing fame so ...

April 14

watched episodes 72-74  which take place in Botswana

I loved her chat with the two ladies selling traditional food on the side of the road. I love their fencing around their pots of food.

April 15

watched episodes 75-78  which take place in Botswana and Zimbabwe

Really enjoyed the kind man who went ahead to get petrol for Noraly when she was running low in her last kilometers in Botswana.

Loved seeing Victoria Falls, the warthogs, and Noraly buying, cooking, and trying mopane worms in Zimbabwe!

April 16

watched episodes 79-81 which take place in Zimbabwe

Saw caves and blue water, mountains. Noraly was in the capital looking for US dollars.

April 21

watched episodes 82-84  which take place in Zimbabwe

Extremely muddy roads, a lovely waterfall, banana and tea plants. The Zimbabweans were so friendly, and we saw many of them along the road as she traveled.

April 27

watched episodes 86-87 which take place in Zimbabwe and South Africa

Saw some impressive ruins in Zimbabwe and then Noraly headed back to South Africa as she ran out of countries she could visit aside from Mozambique which had ISIS activity in the north of the country. After meeting with James Alexander a few weeks back, she looked into rally racing, and decided to be part of that although not the formal racing part.

So, she headed back into South Africa, had her friend Mandy help drive her and Savannah (her motorcycle) to the starting point.

We watched the video where she recapped her ride through southern Africa, and then the first three videos of that Kalahari Rally series (there are 9 of those). We saw her getting ready for it (driving there with Mandy; getting her bike inspected; she showed us other bikes and some cars racing there). Then we saw the Super Special and Stage 1 legs of the race which are across a part of South Africa that borders Namibia and Botswana. I liked seeing people along the route watching the race.

April 28

watched Stages 2 and 3 of her Kalahari Rally series which take place in South Africa

April 29

watched Stages 4-6 of her Kalahari Rally series plus her Season Finale which take place in South Africa and the Netherlands

In real life, this series ended in October 2021, I believe, and I noticed Noraly started posting videos from Season 6 a few weeks later. Season 6 is where I was first introduced to Noraly so I've watched most of her videos from her times in the US and Canada, but there are many I missed from where she started Season 6 in South America and traveled towards the US. I look forward to seeing those soon.

In the meantime, as I type this on April 30, 2023, Noraly has been absent from her YouTube channel for nearly two weeks as she was taking a break, getting work done on Alaska, figuring logistics and so forth for the next leg of her Africa adventure. In Season 7 so far, she's taken us through parts of Morocco, the Western Sahara/Morocco, Mauritania, and over the border into Senegal. Last we heard from her, she was in Dakar.

April Books


The Perfect Daughter by DJ Palmer -- Grace is stunned when her teenage daughter is arrested for murdering her birth mother. Penny is hospitalized due to her dissociative identity disorder (DID), and Dr. Mitch does his best to figure out if Penny - or one of her alters - is guilty. Pretty interesting and informative since I wasn't very familiar with DID.

Where are the Children? by Mary Higgins Clark -- I saw on the online catalog that the library would soon be getting a book with a similar title and it mentioned this book which I decided to read. It was kind of interesting reading a book where those leaving the US for Canada in order to avoid the Vietnam war was a current event. Nancy's children are missing and the Cape Cod town that she fled is finding out that this happened to her before. Did she create a new family only to murder her children again?

Survive the Night by Riley Sager -- After the murder of her best friend, Charlie is ready to go home mid-semester, and amazingly (stupidly??) accepts a ride through a university ride-share option with a strange man. Because she quickly sized him up and thought he looked trustworthy and not like a murderer. While on their trip from New Jersey to Ohio, Charlie finds out things about Josh that make her suspect he's lying about his connection to the university, and makes her suspect she won't get out of this alive - unless she can kill him first.

Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid -- This book starts with Hannah Martin on her way from New York City to Los Angeles where she grew up and is returning because all the other places she lived so far just haven't felt quite right. Early on Hannah has the choice of staying with Ethan, her long, lost love, or going back to her best friend Gabby's house. Then the book has alternate chapters about her choosing Ethan over Gabby and vice versa. I've read another book or two that had this design and it is pretty entertaining and different.

Any Other Family by Eleanor Brown -- Imagine a couple who had four children - a single girl, boy-and-girl twins, another single girl, and because this couple can't keep their children, they have kept the children together by having the three families who adopted their children get together regularly as if they are one big extended family. Did you follow that?!  Tabitha (mom to the twins) hopes to create what she didn't have growing up - a family who do adventures together, sisters to enjoy while Ginger (mom to the oldest girl and an introvert) finds it oh so overwhelming at times. Elizabeth (mom to the youngest) who struggles with her infertility, realizes she's not really loving being a mother after all. Maybe the universe was trying to tell her something all those times IVF failed and she miscarried!  A different book, but pretty interesting.

Choosing Africa: A Midlife Journey From Mission to Meaning by B. Susan Bauer -- After serving in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for eleven years, the author and her husband, a Lutheran pastor, decide to take a sabbatical and serve at a Lutheran seminary in Africa. They are sent to Namibia which has a high concentration of Lutherans due to past German and Finnish missionaries. The Bauers enjoyed their three months there, and later decide to do a longer-term stint.  My mom read this awhile back (November 2021) and enjoyed it so I had it on my "to read" list. I love when I saw that they were in Namibia because Andrew and I are currently watching Season 5 of Itchy Boots when she went to southern Africa after the covid lockdowns were lifted in some of those countries. Anyway, she is currently in Namibia - and has been for several episodes - so as I read about the Bauers' adventures, I was like, "yeah, I've heard of this city or this feature of the desert, or that animal" or "I can totally picture that desolation that you mention because I saw it in Noraly's videos just last week!" 

Three Days Missing by Kimberly Belle -- Kat's son is on an overnight camping trip with his classmates when a police officer shows up at her door informing her that Ethan is missing! Meanwhile Stef, the mayor's wife, gets a phone call about her son, the intended kidnapping victim.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen -- After her father dies, Joanna is cleaning out his home when she finds some curious things from, she suspects, his time in Italy during the war. She knew he'd been a pilot who was shot down, but didn't know the details. While in Italy, she meets people whom she hopes have answers for her. This book alternates between Joanna's story and her father, Hugo's, time in Italy and back in England.

The Stranger Inside by Laura Benedict -- When Kimber returns home from a lake retreat, she is stunned to find that all of her locks have been replaced and someone is living in her house. He says she signed a lease for him to rent it for six months, and has a copy to show the police. As Kimber tries to figure out what has happened, she enlists the help of her ex boyfriend who is a lawyer, Gabriel, as well as some other people in her life. Pretty good.

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz -- Jacob Finch Bonner had one successful novel, but when he finds writing another good book is, well, difficult, he takes a job where he meets aspiring writers. In comes Evan Parker who has a fantastic plot twist, and years later Jacob looks for Evan's book, but instead finds that his former student died a couple of months after they met. Jacob decides to use Evan's plot for his own novel and it is a runaway success! But...then he starts getting messages about knowing this story was stolen. I rather liked this book.

Little Paula by V.C. Andrews -- Faith and Trevor were adopted from foster care. Though they weren't biological siblings, they became a family and were raised as siblings. Their Mama was very influential in controlling them while she was alive, and even after she was dead because Trevor thought Mama talked to him. Anyway...this book was different. Little Paula is their daughter who was sold to a rich couple in town. Faith and Trevor make plans to get her back.

Think of Me by Frances Liardet -- I read this book while alternating with a bigger Bill Bryson book so this took longer to read than it should have. James is a vicar who served as a pilot in World War II. While in Egypt, he met Yvette, an Alexandrian, whom he later married. This book alternates between Yvette's story - that which she journaled before her death from leukemia when she was in her late thirties - and James in current times (actually the mid-1970s.) Pretty good story.

Made In America by Bill Bryson -- This is dubbed "an informal history of the English language in the United States" and was a nice mixture of U.S. history and how different aspects like our founding, place names, military, sports, radio, TV and such contributed to the language we speak today. This book was amusing in spots because it was published in 1994 and a few things have changed since then. Like the author concludes the book with something about how much the average American household has now. Included were two telephones (landlines, no doubt) and a VCR! Also he discusses shopping malls in a way that malls were back then: as in, still existing with anchor stores.  I don't know about you, but in my experience, most of those malls are not thriving. And something not mentioned: online shopping which is likely one reason malls and even stand-alone department stores have faltered in the last decade or so. I enjoyed much of this book and even shared some of it with Andrew. Also I took a picture of one paragraph to send to an American friend who lives in the Netherlands. She had recently commented on a Facebook post about her getting marked down for using "tidbit" instead of "titbit." She (and I) had never heard of titbit, but this book mentioned that, and Sarah said it was "fascinating" to learn.

The Hidden Man by David Ellis -- Jason is a lawyer asked to defend a childhood friend who is up for murder. One problem is, Sammy's trial is in a few short weeks, and the person who hired Jason said he couldn't ask for a delay of trial. This person - who goes by Smith - also has very strict instructions and how everything should go down. Decent book. Not a favorite, but not terrible.

The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society by Beth Patillo -- When Eugenie, the head librarian, finds Hannah has torn out pages from a book, she punishes her by having her help clean the library and join the handful of town ladies who meet monthly for their knitting/book club. Esther, Ruthie, Merry, and Camille aren't quite sure about this troubled teen being part of their group. This was a sweet, easy read. One my mom recommended.

Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo -- A couple of Army guys along with a runaway wife, a teenager who lost her family, and a militia man somehow come together and make their way to Lagos where adventure awaits as they try to survive in this Nigerian city.  A bit confusing at times, but interesting in learning a bit more about this African country.

The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz -- Alex is thrilled when she earns the opportunity to go to a four week retreat hosted by her favorite author, Roza Vallo. Unfortunately her former best friend is also there, but Alex is determined to enjoy the retreat anyway. She enjoys getting to know the other ladies, but then it gets weird when one of them goes missing and the others find her identification - and she's not who she says she is.What is going on?

Saturday, April 1, 2023

March Books


The Retreat by Sarah Pearse -- I read about this English detective, Elin, in this author's debut novel. This time Elin is called to an island that the locals avoid due to its sketchy past. Elin is investigating a murder, but while she's there another murder takes place. Meanwhile travel influencer Jo is traveling to this retreat with her sister, cousin, and a couple of their boyfriends.

The Dressmakers of Prospect Heights by Kitty Zeldis -- Bea uproots her life to move from New Orleans to Brooklyn, New York, after a detective is certain that he's traced the daughter she gave up for adoption over twenty years before. Alice, the girl she's raised for years, is puzzled why they have to move so suddenly. Meanwhile Catherine and Stephen are hoping for a baby, but that dream eludes them. Pretty good story.

The Sisters of Sea View by Julie Klassen -- The first in the "On Devonshire Shores" series. When their father dies without a male heir - and you know how those entailed estates go with hereditary requirements - Mrs. Summers and her four daughters have little choice but to open their house as a guesthouse for those wishing to visit Sidmouth. This alternates between the sisters, mostly Sarah, Emily and Viola and their houseguests. I like these types of books if I can keep all the characters straight so I enjoyed this book.

Shadow Creek by Joy Fielding -- Val is ready to spend some time with her friends in New York City while her teenage daughter Brianne heads to the Adirondack mountains for a camping trip with her father and his fiancée, Jennifer. Only Evan doesn't show up on time and somehow Val and her friends end up in the mountains with Brianne and Jennifer. Weird, I know. Well, then some folks are murdered and people go missing and, yeah, it was quite a mystery.

Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard -- Adele is a former Irish soap star who escaped her country due to some humiliating work-related things. She is in Los Angeles auditioning for commercials when someone from Ireland calls asking her to have a lead role in a horror film. This book alternates between the set in a heavily-wooded area, and the script... why are there so many similarities between the two anyway?

Code Name Sapphire by Pam Jenoff -- After Hannah flees Germany for Cuba, but is denied entry, she makes her way to Belgium where her cousin Lily takes her in. Eventually Hannah helps the Resistance despite the risk of involving her cousin and her small family. This book also is about Micheline and her brother Matteo. Pretty good.

The Couple at the Table by Sophie Hannah -- A whodunit mystery surrounding a lovely, couples-only resort in England. Lucy is there with her fiancé Peter, but also in attendance is her ex-husband and his new wife, the latter couple being on their honeymoon. Awkward! But when the new wife winds up dead, yet everyone seems to have an alibi or are excused due to forensics ... what in the world happened to Jane?

The Family Game by Catherine Steadman -- Harriet Reed is an English novelist engaged to an American from a super-rich family in New York. When she's finally invited to meet the Holbeck family, Harry (as she's called) is dismayed at her soon-to-be father in law giving her a cassette tape that sounds like a confession of murders. Pretty interesting story.

The Curator's Daughter by Melanie Dobson -- Hanna is a museum curator tasked by the Nazis to record what has been collected so that it can be hidden and protected before the Allies bomb Germany. Years later her daughter, Lilly, is up in years, living in Massachusetts, and wondering about these flashbacks and nightmares she has from her childhood. Ember is on a quest of her own, and travels to Nuremberg to hopefully find some answers.

You Will Never Know by S.A. Prentiss -- Jessica wants to improve her chances for advancement, but is the worst bank teller at up-sells. Meanwhile her husband Ted's real estate business is struggling. What else could go wrong? How about her former sister in law having her investigated in her first husband's death plus...oh yeah, her daughter Emma and stepson Craig disappeared for a few hours the night one of their classmates was murdered. Huh.

The Transformation of Things by Jillian Cantor -- I usually don't care for books that have a lot of dreams, but this one was pretty good. Jennifer is at the salon getting her hair washed when news breaks that her husband, a judge, was indicted for bribery. She had no idea he was in trouble, and thus begins a book about how her country club friends react to her new status, especially when she refuses to leave her husband. Meanwhile she visits her herbalist and, whew, those new herbs are relaxing, but sure do cause vivid dreams - that seem to predict the future.

Our Last Goodbye by Shirley Dickson -- May Robinson lost her mom in a tragic accident while they were out in the dark one night during World War II. I could relate to some of the pangs of grief throughout this book, especially perhaps in chapter two. Even the part about someone being gone just about five months and how you avoid people offering compassion sometimes and all. Well, I just related to some of that. Anyway, May decided to train as a nurse, and I enjoyed her time with the other nurses and the patients. A few times I lost the train of thought, but overall, I enjoyed this book. I was even looking up the Geordie accent because of it.

The Picture Bride by Lee Geum-yi -- this book was translated from Korean by An Seonjae, and the note at the end of the book explained the translation and something I puzzled about for a page or two.I was trying to keep characters straight and it started talking about Willow, the main character, meeting Julie's mom. So I thought maybe I daydreamed during the part about Julie and missed who that was. Looked back. Nothing about Julie, But then I realized it was one of those things people did in some cultures. Kind of like Arabs who are Abu Samer and so forth, I guess. Though it was translated as "Julie's mom" or "Dusun's dad" occasionally. This book was about a few Korean teenagers who became picture brides for Korean men who had moved to Hawaii around the early 1900s. The book focused on Willow and her new husband though a couple other picture brides made multiple appearances. Pretty good book overall.

An Elegant Woman by Martha McPhee -- A pretty good book though at times I lost who was telling the story. Isadora is with her sisters looking through her grandma Katherine's (also known as Thelma (her real name) or Tommy (her childhood nickname)) belongings after her grandma's death. Tommy and her sister's upbringing was difficult with a mother who went to teach in remote areas, but left her little girls to fend for themselves. Tommy did her best raising her sister Katherine. Oh, yeah, when The Original Katherine graduated from school, she changed her name to Pat and went to Hollywood while Thelma (better known as Tommy) used Katherine's school records to win a spot in New York to begin nursing school. So that's how Thelma/Tommy became Katherine. Whew.

The Widow by Kaira Rouda -- Jody is a Congressman's wife who loves all the happenings in D.C. and the perks related to her position. Yet when her husband doesn't toe the line, she's not totally sad about his demise. Meanwhile Mimi, their mutual friend from law school, has her own say in things. Quick read, and pretty good read on a lovely day!

The Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle -- Alex is a social media influencer, but when one awful post goes viral, she's trying to control the damage to her image. Except her assistant AC is missing. Is the lady in trouble or is she behind this damaging post? Pretty good book from a new-to-me author.

East Winds by Rachel Rueckert -- "A Global Quest to Reckon With Marriage" ; I saw this book on Myrna's blog last year, and decided to put it on my Amazon Wishlist. The author grew up in a Mormon household where her parents were divorced. I used to think divorced Mormons were rare, but she claims it's not that much below the national average so I guess there are more of them than I expected. Possibly due to her upbringing in a split household with a mom who badmouthed her when she decided to live with her father due to his home being closer to her work (and she was fifteen and unable to drive at the time), Rachel has major issues with the thought of marriage (especially since Mormons believe marriages that have been sealed are forever) and what will be expected of her (homemaking, babies, no traveling on a whim.) But when she meets a guy, Austin, who seems okay with her thinking and her fears - and who loves her, they marry and take a trip that she'd saved for. And this is no ordinary trip: it's practically a year of honeymooning while traveling to a bit of South America, parts of Asia, and along one path of the Camino de Santiago. While in these places, she talks to people about marriage in their cultures and constantly questions her own thoughts of marriage and if she'll change her mind about being married to Austin (which that part was a bit tiresome to me after about 200 pages.) Otherwise, this was a pretty interesting story. I especially enjoyed reading about the people she met on the European pilgrimage and her experiences - like wearing sandals while hiking in the snow! Also, jeans. On a thirty-something day hike. Maybe I'm just weird, but I rarely see people hike in jeans, but maybe this is a southern oddity.

What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall -- Naomi returns to her hometown where as an eleven year old, she was attacked in the woods. Pretty good.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

February Books


Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister -- While waiting up for her son to get home one night, Jen witnesses a murder: her son knifes a guy in their yard! What a nightmare. Somehow Jen sleeps that night, and wakes up upstairs in her bed though she doesn't recall going up there. (She remembers last sitting on the couch.) Turns out, she wakes up the day before she saw her son knife a guy to death. Then, it happens again. Each day she gets to relive what happened before, though this time, she pays closer attention to details that she was too busy to see before. Pretty interesting and different.

When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica -- Jessie is waiting for her mom, Eden, to die from cancer and the insomnia has her mind playing tricks on her. After her mom dies, Jessie is still unable to sleep so she tracks down clues to her identity and why her social security number belongs to a child who died when she was three. Parts of this book were annoying and I skimmed a page or two towards the end because the insomnia-induced hallucinations were getting old, but overall this was an OK book.

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins -- When Emily reconnects with her childhood friend, she agrees to spend the summer with Chess in Italy! Chess is a best-selling author of self-help books while Emily writes cozy murders for a decent living. While in the villa, Emily reads about a murder that took place in the mid-1970s and is inspired to write about it and solve a mystery. Pretty good story.

My Name is Selma by Selma van de Perre -- this is "The remarkable memoir of a Jewish resistance fighter and Ravensbrück survivor." Andrew got this book at the library and thought I'd like it so I read it. Interesting story by this Dutch lady.

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama -- a pretty fast read with some encouraging words about how to go higher and such. I enjoyed reading about her parents and daughters (the latter of whom were living together in Los Angeles when the book was written.)

This next bit is long so I'll note where the next book starts in case you want to skip all this China talk. 

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang -- This is one of the longest books I've read in quite a while and it has so many interesting things. I just decided to jot down a few things that stood out to me so far. A blogger friend Danielle mentioned that this was a book she and her mom enjoyed reading and discussing.  Her post about that is rather touching.

Sorry these notes are in such a disjointed way...I am doing them mainly to remind myself of things that were fairly shocking.  I suppose since Danielle and her mom enjoyed this book so much, I wanted to make a special effort to record some things. Note:  I started this on February 8th and finished on the 12th. I alternated with the Obama book while reading this one since that one is a library book.

Part of this book takes place as Japan is in control of China and World War II is in the background. In fact, the Chinese of her region cheered when the American bombs were dropped on the Japanese.

Greatgrandma -- Wu "Er-ya-tou"  (born 1888)
Grandma -- Yu-fang  (born 1909)
Mom -- Bao Qin/De-hong  (born 1931)
Dad -- Wang Yu (born 1921)
Author --  Er-hong/Jung  (born 1952)

So many interesting cultural things to me:

The author's grandma -- feet broken and bound which was extremely painful for her her whole life; married as a concubine to a general who left her soon after the wedding and didn't return for six years; she was threatened with having her child taken from her to be raised as the official wife's child, but she escaped. Married a Manchu doctor who was much older; his children strongly rejected to this marriage as they were older than she was and thought she was after his money; they didn't want to honor her as their new mother. In protest, the eldest son shot himself to make a point, and instead killed himself. Re: her great-grandfather who was fourteen and married to a 20 year old:  the author made the comment that "it was considered one of the duties of the wife to help bring up her husband." (pg. 22) 

Author's great-grandma was named Er-ya-tou, basically "Number Two Girl." (pg. 22)

There was a lot of other rather-interesting things, but then I started jotting down notes of the author's mom as she related them. She was against Japanese rule, and initially was fine with the Kuomintang officials, but later she was enamored by what she'd learned about Communism. In its more ideal form, it does sound pretty good when you are thinking you can get rid of some of these ridiculous and harmful traditions. So the author's mom ended up marrying a Communist with a pretty high position. Her husband wasn't the loving caring person she hoped for and some of that struggle is outlined. Such as when they were leaving her hometown for his (which was actually not done much), he was able to ride in a vehicle whereas she had to walk and carry her bedroll. She saw another woman being carried across rivers by her husband, yet her own husband wouldn't even take her bedroll in his jeep. He said he had earned this position and she had not, and for him to ease her burden would be unfair to the others. Later, when she had stabbing pains in her abdomen and asked her husband to take her home, he saw the driver was enjoying the movie or music and didn't want to disturb him. (Which is actually kind of thoughtful except for the fact that the lady was having a miscarriage and had to have a blood transfusion and hospital stay so... legit abdominal pain there. She hobbled home by herself since her husband wouldn't leave.) At times she was criticized for crying. People said she had "behaved like 'a precious lady from the exploiting classes.'" (pg. 144) Side note: I cry a lot so I suppose I'm a "precious lady," too??

When her mom traveled two months to see her daughter in her new home, word got around that she was cooking (not allowed) and making clothes for the upcoming baby (how dare the baby need new clothes? just use old ones). So the mother who'd traveled two months to get to her daughter's new home was forced to leave after only staying a month. The husband wouldn't make an exception for his family. Oh, also the author's mom was criticized for putting family first (pg. 164).

She was also criticized for wanting to wash too much (peasants rarely wash, why should you?) and since her husband was a higher-up person, he could wash with hot water. She would use his leftover water...how dare she?

Clearly these criticisms caught my eye!

Also, they had to get permission to marry - from the Party! The author notes that the Community Party was the new patriarch. (pg. 127)

Pages 240-307
In my reading today (February 9th), I learned about the author's parents mellowing in their beliefs, especially her father who always put Party over his family. The author tells of her privileged upbringing since her dad was a higher-up official, yet how she would shrink down in the car so no one would see her, and how her father applauded her doing this as it showed she didn't like having privileges.  Her dad said that they worked so that one day all people could have the privileges her family had.  Her parents got along better during this time and her mom wasn't as resentful of her father.

I smiled at the part where Chinese parents would tell their children to eat their food or whatever because the poor capitalist kids were starving.  One day her friend had a raincoat and Jung was envious, but later criticized herself for this "'bourgeois' tendency" thinking of "'all the children in the capitalist world - they can't even think of owning an umbrella!'"  (pg. 246)

The author admitted that her brother loved science and became enamored with the United States which caused her father to be "at a loss about how to respond." ""What can we do? This child is going to grow up to become a rightist!'" (pg. 248)

Jung talks about how Mao eventually declared grass, flowers, and pets as "bourgeois" so the children had to go around school pulling up blades of grass and destroying flowers. (pg. 270).  Pulling up grass was a common method of punishment and since the grass was stubborn, there was usually a ready supply of it to be pulled!

Though she joined the Red Guards, she relates how things they did didn't sit well with her including closing tea shops. One old man told her that he went there because he shared a room with two grandsons.  "I come up here for quiet," and Jung was ashamed. She didn't realize people lived like this and had to share a small space in this way. (pg. 291)

I didn't note much about the remaining pages though they were interesting as Mao had his various campaigns, and her loyal parents were denounced, tormented, detained, and sent to various parts of the country, separately. The family of 6, at one time, was in five different places throughout the country. Really interesting look at Jung's family, and how her parents changed in many ways over the years, and how her own views of Mao changed. It's hard to change your mind about someone revered like a god.

Towards the end of the book, the author wrote this which I shared on Facebook:

"In the days after Mao's death, I did a lot of thinking. I knew he was considered a philosopher, and I tried to think of what his 'philosophy' really was. It seemed to me that its central principle was the need - or the desire? - for perpetual conflict. The core of his thinking seemed to be that human struggles were the motivating force of history, and that in order to make history 'class enemies' had to be continuously created en masse. ...

But Mao's theory might just be the extension of his personality. He was, it seemed to me, really a restless fight promoter by nature, and good at it. He understood ugly human instincts such as envy and resentment, and knew how to mobilize them for his ends. He ruled by getting people to hate each other. In doing so, he got ordinary Chinese to carry out many of the tasks undertaken in other dictatorships by professional elites. Mao had managed to turn the people into the ultimate weapons of dictatorship. That was why under him there was no real equivalent of the KGB in China. There was no need. In bringing out and nourishing the worst in people, Mao had created a moral wasteland and a land of hatred."  (pg. 495-6)

Hahaha...seems I read this book in September 2012 as I blogged about it. Well, it was a good reread ten years later. I kept thinking the lady looked familiar, but I also read a book by her in 2018.


Life on the Mississippi by Rinker Buck -- This is one that Suzanne mentioned on her blog that she read in 2022. Last year I read another book by this guy at her recommendation (when he traveled the Oregon Trail by mule) so I decided to read this one. He had a flat bottom boat built which he and a variety of folks who joined him along the way sailed from the Ohio River down the Mississippi to New Orleans.  Some of the stuff was a bit boring to me, but mostly it was pretty good. I like when he pulled into river towns and locals would join him in the evenings. He went to a Pentecostal church's picnic while in New Madrid, Missouri, and such fun things. He met an interesting bunch of people along the way. I enjoyed the history of the rivers, and how it contributed to America's growth in good and bad ways.

Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb -- I've read most of her books by now, I think. This was one I got for Christmas that I'd had on my Amazon Wishlist. An ok book about Camille Claudel a French sculptor who learned under Auguste Rodin.

The Mitford Affair by Marie Benedict -- An interesting look at World War II's beginnings from the viewpoints of Unity, Diana, and Nancy Mitford, the first two big-time fans and friends of Hitler. Pretty good book.

Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton -- When a neighborhood favorite Charlie goes missing. detective Elise King investigates. Only she's on medical leave so her investigation is a bit on the sly...until her department reinstates her. Pretty interesting story.

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney -- As Amber lies in a coma, she hears voices: her husband and sister, the nurses, and a voice from her past. This book alternates between Amber being in the coma, as well as the days leading up to her hospitalization, plus a diary written twenty-some years ago. Pretty good, twisty tale.

My Wife Is Missing by D.J. Palmer -- When Michael gets back to the hotel room in New York City with the pizza his family is hungry for, he is startled to discover his wife and children aren't there. Especially when he sees that their suitcases are missing as well. Eventually Michael realizes his family left him - but why? 
Note to self as I post this on 2/28:  H36BD, DBF,III. I <3 U! 

Monday, February 27, 2023

Itchy Boots Season 4 Notes


In Season 4 Noraly is home for the winter so she decides to investigate the Dutch Moto Scene by riding on three Ducati bikes, training at race tracks for motocross and flat track and a Dutch police department, and such things. Sounds kind of dreadful if you aren't into motorcycles, but she made it entertaining and it was a neat thing for her to do while stuck in The Netherlands in late 2020 as the pandemic still had many borders shut.

She mentioned in a Live Chat that she really wanted to go to a place where she could overland with Rhonin, but with some countries open and others not, she was having trouble figuring out where to go next.  In the meantime . . .

Note: all of these take place in The Netherlands except for the last episode in this series.

February 23

watched episodes 1-2, plus a Live Chat from back then ; I enjoyed seeing her talk to the children at the race track where they train

February 24

watched episodes 3-5 which included training on trial bikes, motocross, and a race with twelve year old Jayson

February 25

watched episodes 6-7 which included training and races at a flat track (mud flying onto her face) and a ride on an electric motorcycle as she followed a park ranger through the natural preserve; I enjoyed seeing the cows, sheep, trees, and views here

We also watched the Christmas Special which doesn't have an episode designation, but was enjoyable as Noraly shopped at the Dutch version of a dollar store and bought and wrapped many presents which she passed out as she drove around on her motorcycle while wearing a Santa suit. She also dropped off 140 Christmas cards for residents of an elderly-care place. Though she didn't show us a close-up of what she wrote, it was more than a signature of "Merry Christmas! From, Noraly"!

February 26

watched episodes 8-10 which included two episodes where Noraly trained with Dutch police who ride motorcycles. That was pretty neat, and Andrew and I thought how weird it was to have a civilian, YouTube star train with police. Wonder if this were a recruitment tool for the Dutch PD!

Episode 10 is the only one in this series to take place outside of The Netherlands. Noraly traveled two and a half hours to Belgium to train with a couple of guys who do Enduro races. That was tough!

From looking at the caption on this video, it seems she had more planned for this series, but more covid lockdowns made further episodes impossible at this time. Thus ends Season 4.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Itchy Boots Season 3 Notes


In previous posts, I've mentioned Itchy Boots, and I wanted to continue recording our viewing history and my notes here.

Season 3 began with Noraly back in The Netherlands (I never know whether or not to capitalize the "The," so bear with my inconsistencies. I see it both ways.) due to the pandemic. Before the season officially begins, she has a couple of specials where she talks about buying herself a new bike, a Honda which she named Rhonin.  In this season, Noraly travels to some Northern European countries which had opened up. Actually it was quite tricky because as she started the adventure, Norway closed their borders, but later when she gets rejected by Finland, she learned Norway will accept her since she's arriving by a northern Swedish border crossing. So, yeah, covid lockdowns and border closings were a reality for her then.

In order to stay more isolated, Noraly planned to camp instead of staying in a lot of hotels, and she did do some camping, but not as much as she wished. For one thing, parts of Sweden and Norway were just too cold - and at one time it rained for days, so...

I really enjoyed seeing these parts of Europe and experiencing camping and riding with her during these 33 episodes. Also some of the food bits were funny, especially in Sweden as she tried this fermented canned fish that smelled horribly.

February 13, 2023

started with a couple of pre-episodes explaining her decision to buy a new bike, and the name she chose for it

watched episodes 1-3 which were in The Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark

February 14

watched episodes 4-7 which were in Denmark and Iceland

February 16

watched episodes 8-13 which were in Iceland

February 17

watched episodes 14-23 which were in Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden

February 18

watched episodes 24-29 which were in Sweden, Lapland, and Norway

February 21

watched episodes 30-33 which were in Norway, Denmark, Germany, and The Netherlands