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

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.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

November Books


We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter -- Whenever I read a book about how awful people were to the Jews during World War II, I'm saddened and angered at how terribly evil people can be. This book is based on true events of the author's family so that added an interesting twist knowing that this person and these events are likely true. She confirms some of that in the end. This book follows the Kurc Family, parents Sol and Nechuma, and their children Genek, Mila, Addy, Jakob, and Halina. Addy who later changed his name to Eddy was the author's grandfather.

What You Left Behind by Samantha Hayes -- It took me a few chapters to get into this book, a mystery concerning several teen or early adult suicides, but after I sorted out the names and story line, it got better. Detective Inspector Lorraine Fisher is on a holiday to visit her sister Jo and her son Freddie in the countryside where Lorraine and Jo grew up. Lorraine gets involved in investigating these suicides and also helps locate her nephew who seemingly left home after being bullied. A pretty good story after I got into it.

Three Sisters by Heather Morris -- I think this was my least favorite from this author (something about the writing this time??), but still it was a pretty good book about the true story of three sisters, Cibi, Magda, and Livia, from Slovakia who ended up imprisoned because of their religion. Thankfully they survive the Holocaust and the book follows their journies after the war ended.

She's Not There by Joy Fielding -- This story goes from present day back to Caroline and Hunter's ten-year anniversary week in Mexico when their 2 year old daughter goes missing. Pretty good story.

Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman -- I enjoyed this story about the women in Hawaii who "brought the flyboys safely home."  It featured Daisy and ladies she met there - Fluff, Betty, Lei, and acquaintances from her home, Peg and Thelma. I enjoyed learning more about the impressive Women's Air Raid Defense (WARD).

Arms Wide Open by Patricia Harman -- I've read all of her other books, I believe, and this one tells some of her background as a hippie living in a commune, and later when she was working at the clinic her husband ran. Not my favorite of her books, but pretty good. She's an interesting person! For sure, the hippie lifestyle is not for me.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen -- Rebecca Winter is an older lady who was famous for her photographs. Now she's feeling like a has-been, and money is tight so she rents a cabin in upstate New York so she can rent out her expensive apartment in the City in order to pay various expenses. Living in the forest, she contemplates life; goes into town occasionally and meets the locals. Decent story. I like the bits of humor and even the chapter titles.

Crashing Through by Robert Kurson -- "A true story of risk, adventure, and the man who dared to see." We had read the library books by this author about diving shipwrecks and going to space, but this one wasn't owned by our library system. I got it for Andrew for his birthday or Christmas, and he read it several months ago. This week when I was getting low on library books, I decided to read a couple of books that I'd been saving to read here. This is the story of Mike May who was blinded as a three-year-old child during a chemical explosion. Decades later, while at the eye doctor's office with his wife Jennifer, the optometrist asked to look at Mike's eyes and referred him to Dr. Dan Goodman who told Mike about a corneal transplant that could work for Mike. I enjoyed learning from Mike's experiences, and loved being reminded of how vision works hand in hand with our brain. Fascinating!

The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin -- Grace and her best friend Viv are excited about finally getting to live in London after growing up in a rural area of England, only their reasons for going to London have to do with the war. The girls find jobs - Harrods for Viv who has a letter of recommendation, and Primrose Hill Book Store for Grace whose uncle didn't offer a letter of recommendation. Pretty good book about London during World War II.

The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman -- This book wasn't terrible by any means, but wasn't overly-exciting either. For me, the most exciting part was when I took a look at the author's picture on the flap jacket to see what ol' Viola looked like, and it was a man named Wade who uses his grandmother's name as his pen name! He actually did a decent job writing about four camp friends, Em, Veronica, Liz, and Rachel, three of whom return to camp Birchwood in Michigan in order to pay respects to their departed friend.

Until It's Over by Nicci French -- I realized I had not read the other books by this author that the library had so I ordered this one from one of the branches. It features Astrid Bell, a bike despatch messenger who lives in a big house with several housemates. When Astrid is hurt riding her bike into a neighbor's door, and then this lady winds up dead and later when others are found by Astrid, the police wonder what the connection is between Astrid and the victims.

Between Two Worlds by Suleika Jaouad -- An American woman born to a Tunisian father and a Swiss mother, the author tells about how her cancer diagnosis began with an itch and how she fought hard with chemo and all the rest of that stuff. Later, she traveled around the country to meet people she met through her blog. Pretty good memoir.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides -- I think this was a Staff Favorite at the library so I decided to read it. Theo is a psychotherapist approved for a job transfer to a hospital housing people who would have been in prison except for their diagnoses. He is especially interested in Alicia Berenson, the lady who killed her husband Gabriel and then slit her wrists. Ever since the murder, Alicia hasn't spoken, and Theo is determined to help Alicia find her voice and tell her side of the story. A pretty good book.

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin -- An interesting look at the friendship of Mary Pickford and Frances Marion told in alternating perspectives. Mary was the darling star of Hollywood when it was just becoming a big deal and Frances was a talented screenwriter. I am not super-interested in Hollywood-type stories, but if I'm going to read a book about such things, this author is a favorite!

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen -- This book was a bit hard to follow a couple of times, but mostly it was fine. Nellie describes life with her husband Richard, who is generous with his wealth and affection, but also controlling in ways. Later she seeks to reach out to Emma and Kate. Decent story.

All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss -- This book is told in the alternate voices of Nancy-Drew-loving, 13 year old Lucy Brown who lives in the eastern part of the state of North Carolina, and her friend Allie Bert Tucker (who likes to be called Bert) who arrives on a bus from the North Carolina mountains. Lucy's family has bee hives, and the government wants all the beeswax they can get for the war effort. The girls try to solve local mysteries when a few men go missing.  Cute story.

The Hare by Melanie Finn -- The book begins with Rosie hooking up with a much older man whom she meets at a local art gallery. Rosie is in school for Art, and this guy - Bennett - seemingly appreciates her views on what is hung at the gallery. Later, though, Rosie isn't quite sure of this man she's had a child with, especially when he orders her to pack and they leave for a wild place in Vermont where Rosie becomes friends with Billy. Billy being short for Wilhelmina who helps Rosie and her daughter Miranda survive since Bennett comes and goes. An OK story.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

October Books


The Riviera House by Natasha Lester -- A book mixing World War II in France where a group of Parisians work to catalog artwork stolen from Jewish families by the Nazis. Also in contemporary times Remy meets Adam and his family while Remy is trying to recover from grief after the loss of her husband and daughter. A pretty good story. 

The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones -- Rachel, Jack, Paige, Noah, and Ali are headed to Portugal from the UK for Ali and Will's destination wedding. Will is there waiting already. There is a lot of drama between the bride-to-be and the ladies, and even Jack who used to employ Ali is not a fan of his upcoming sister in law. A pretty good story. Took a bit for me to get into, and I was stunned to see the word "y'all" used by an English guy (pg. 42) as I tend to think of that as a Southern USA thing. 

If It Rains by Jennifer L. Wright -- A rather cute book taking place in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl, told by alternative perspectives of Melissa who married a Mayfield, the rich family in town, and her younger sister Kathryn who lives with her dad and stepmother in a dugout. At times this might have seen a bit fanciful, but most novels are to some degree or another, and  I liked this one!

Where the Grass Is Green and the Girls Are Pretty by Lauren Weisberger -- Peyton is a popular TV host known by millions around the country, but when a financial scandal involving someone putting in a good word for her daughter to get into Princeton all the for the price of a check to a education charity surfaces, her family seems to fall apart. Meanwhile her daughter Max (short for Mackensie) is trying to figure out what to do now that her future seems ruined. An ok story. 

When I Was You by Amber Garza -- Kelly Medina answers the phone and her pediatrician's office is confirming her well-baby check. Only her "baby" is 19 years old. She realizes there is another Kelly Medina in her area, and she becomes obsessed with this. She finagles a way to meet the younger Kelly and her young son, Sullivan, and the story goes from there. Pretty good even if older Kelly M isn't the nicest of main characters.

Roots of Wood and Stone by Amanda Wen -- first in the Sedgwick County Chronicles; a pretty good, clean book about contemporary life of Sloane, adopted at birth and now historical museum curator, and her friendship with Garrett and Lauren who are finding old diaries in their grandmother's house. This book also follows the life of Annabelle, the writer of those diaries.

Another Woman's Husband by Gill Paul -- Around last Christmas or my birthday, I received several books by this author and read all of them except this one. I think I started getting a bunch of library books and took a break from reading my own stash of unread books. Anyway, this one is about Wallis Simpson with a more contemporary twist of a couple from England who happened to be in Paris the night Princess Diana had her fatal car crash. It was interesting to learn more about Wallis's life as she's been a minor character in a few books I've read. This book focused a lot on her best friend Mary Kirk and her perspective of Bessie Wallis Warfield. 

Cul-De-Sac by Joy Fielding -- An interesting story about the families who live near one another, and the secrets they have behind closed doors. I enjoyed this one!

Seven Perfect Things by Catherine Ryan Hyde -- When Abby witnesses a man throw a bag into the river, she dives to rescue the things moving inside the bag, and finds seven adorable puppies. She decides to keep them at the shed outside a seemingly-abandoned cabin where later she meets Elliot who is getting over the death of his wife. Pretty cute story.

All the Children Are Home by Patry Francis -- A sweet story about the Moscatelli family, Louie and Dahlia, and their foster children, Jimmy, Zaidie, Anges, and Jon. I admire good families who take in children and treat them well. 

The Pact by Jodi Picoult -- Although this book was published in the era of beepers instead of cell phones (1998), I either have never read it, or read it so long ago, I forgot what it was about. I saw it listed on a Staff's Favorite list on the library's website so I put it on hold. Emily and Chris were friends as long as either could remember, and as teenagers they began dating. Yet when they are both taken to the emergency room one night, Emily is dead while Chris has a head injury. Later Chris is put in jail for Emily's murder despite the fact he told a detective about a suicide pact.  Pretty interesting story.

Any Given Day: the Life and Times of Jessie Lee Brown Foveaux by Jessie Lee Brown Foveaux -- This is "A Memoir of Twentieth-Century America" about a lady born in 1899.  My mom read this in May 2020, and I wrote it down to read eventually. She liked it so I figured I'd read it at some point. It was ok...nothing great, but a decent story about a lady's reflections of her life mostly in Kansas. When she was about 18 years old, and working at Ft. Riley during World War I, she mentioned that if they wanted to keep their jobs, they had to get vaccinated for smallpox. I found that apropos to current events with people taking the covid vaccine in order to keep their jobs.  This book seemed a bit preachy at times, especially towards the end as she talked to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but I agree with most of what she had to say.   I looked her up and she died at age 100 after selling her memoir at age 98 for $1 million. 

All the Wrong Places by Joy Fielding -- I read this author recently and decided to get another one from her. This one is about Paige who is looking for a job while living with her mother. Paige recently lost her live-in boyfriend to her cousin Heather so that's fun. She is signed up on several dating apps, and is in touch with Mr. Right Now, a very handsome guy. Pretty good book. 

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover -- Sometimes I read a book and wonder what the title had to do with the content of the book, but this book spoke of breaking patterns - whether it is not falling into the steps of your father and grandfather in being abusive, or not drinking or using drugs like your mom - not that those were necessarily the themes of this book. Must say: I really didn't like this book all that well in the beginning. I almost stopped reading it in favor of another few books that I recently checked out of the library, but the story of Lily as a teenager and her friendship with the homeless boy Atlas kept me reading. The other story line (with the neurosurgeon Ryle) initially stunk, in my opinion, and that's the part that nearly made me put this book down. However, this book redeemed itself rather nicely and I found tears in my eyes as I read the Author's Note of how this book was loosely based on her own family story.

The Shadow Box by Luanne Rice -- I enjoyed this mystery about Claire who is on the run from her ambitious husband, Griffin, who is running for governor of Connecticut. Pretty good story.

In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead -- It took me a while to get into this book about Jessica Miller returning to Duquette University in Winston-Salem, NC, for her ten year college reunion. There she had plans to wow everyone with how beautiful and successful she had become. The story follows the Now timeline as well as college days with her group - Heather, Mint (Mark Mintner), Coop (Brandon Cooper), Caro, Francis, Jack, and Courtney. An OK book.

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell -- Three storylines going on in this book: Libby, adopted as a baby, inherits a big house in Chelsea at the age of 25; Henry, who lived in this big house as a preteen and teen with his parents and sister, and then a bunch of others who ended up living there in something like a commune; and thirdly, Lucy and her children trying to make their way from France back to London. Pretty good story.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

September Books


The Last Flight by Julie Clark -- Claire is making plans to leave her abusive, well-known husband, but at the last minute a flight change has her frightened. Her carefully-orchestrated plans are ruined. When Eva approaches her at the airport and the two women decide to switch flights, Claire heads to California as Eva, and Eva takes Claire's place. Interesting, good story! 

Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb -- When Violet invites her granddaughters to lunch, Clara and Madeleine haven't spoken in the year since their father's funeral. But for the sake of their dying grandmother, the sisters agree to travel to three cities in Europe (Paris, Venice, and Vienna) on the brink of a world war. Good story! 

The Fiancée by Kate White -- Pretty good mystery type book although the main character, Summer, was a bit too much for me. Too suspicious or self-absorbed or something. But she is part of a family of brothers who traveled each summer to their inlaws' lovely vacation property, but instead of the usual fun times, some tragic events occur. Summer suspects the new addition to the family, Nick's fiancée! 

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly -- Snippets from three generations of women - around 1907 with Venetia who created the garden; 1944 with Diana, Beth, and Stella; and 2021 with Emma as she is tasked with recreating the garden. A pretty good story. 

The Butterfly House by Katrine Engberg -- Apparently this is book 2 in a Copenhagen crime series because when I looked up the author, I saw book 1 in this series at my library. Jeppe and his team of detectives are looking for a serial killer while his usual partner Anette is at home on maternity leave, bored out of her mind caring for her little girl. Anette decides to do some online sleuthing. A decent story. I'm planning to read book 1 so I can be properly introduced to these Danish characters. 

The Photographer by Mary Dixie Carter -- Delta is a photographer who likes to pretend she's part of the families she photographs. Especially when the family is as rich and seemingly perfect as Fritz, Amelia, and Natalie. A pretty good mystery type book.

Mrs.March by Virginia Feito -- A rather weird book, but I read it pretty quickly. Mrs. March is very self-absorbed, but maybe this just reflects how many of us are. Who knows? When she finds a newspaper clipping in her husband's office, she suspects him in the disappearance of a woman in Maine. 

The Turnout by Megan Abbott -- Sisters Marie and Dara run a dance studio with Charlie, a former dance student who lived with the family for several years and whom Dara ended up marrying. When the studio needs construction work due to a fire, Derek is recommended to oversee the project. But he never seems to get ahead on the job, and seems to be everywhere making remarks and making folks uncomfortable. This book was just ok for me.

The Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng -- One minute Kelly is at her friend's showing at an art gallery in Chicago and the next minute she's back home in Michigan, married to a guy she was barely friends with back in high school. Two totally different lives yet she has long memories of both. What gives? This book was a bit weird because it involves a bit of time travel, but overall I enjoyed it.

We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange -- If you want to read an Irish Catholic-style drama, this book might be for you. It was decent. Sunday returns home from Los Angeles after a DUI, and starts helping out with the family-owned pub. Of course there are questions about why she even left rather suddenly five years ago, and all that good sort of family stuff.

Mrs. Rochester's Ghost by Lindsay Marcott -- A pretty good thriller-type book. After Jane loses her job in New York, she sends out an email blast to see if her friends have any leads on a cheaper place to live. She didn't expect Otis's offer of a cottage across the country in California where she could live rent-free as long as she did a few jobs around the property of Otis's cousin, a soon-to-be-very-very-rich Evan Rochester. Jane agrees to a three-month stint there, and deals with the ghost of Evan's wife.

Yours Cheerfully by AJ Pearce -- a follow-up to the book Dear Mrs. Bird, this book follows Emmy in her job with a new editor, her meeting with Anne and other ladies who worked for the war effort, her boyfriend Charles (who is halfbrother to her boss) and so forth. A rather good, somewhat light-hearted book.

False Witness by Karin Slaughter -- This book took me a couple extra days to read because (one) it was a bit longer than some books I've read recently and (two) I was really distracted a couple days because my uncle was seriously ill in the hospital with covid since late August and I finished this book today, September 20, which is one day after he died. So yesterday I was more into grieving and reading sweet Facebook posts and crying at them because I am definitely one of those who cries easily when people offer me sympathy and post sweet pictures and I think of someone I will miss (so basically normal, I reckon?). What's really really weird and cool in a way is that this is the FIRST book I've ever read that is a novel set in covid times. Like, I've read several new books this year where the authors mention quarantine and the pandemic in the Acknowledgements or Author's Note, but this is the first book that has covid as a player in the background during the whole book. The main characters caught covid and one had been seriously ill, and still has lingering issues with her lungs; they regularly masked up, social-distanced; stuff like that. So that was kind of weirdly neat to read while my mom's brother was suffering the sad effects of this horrible virus.  This story was pretty good, but if you have a hard time reading about drug addicts and, in my opinion, maybe too much detail relating to shooting up drugs then you probably won't like this book. It was nearly too much for me. Also, the language is pretty awful. I nearly decided not to read it, but the story line got to me so I continued.  Leigh is a defense attorney in Atlanta, and she is introduced to her latest client who knows her from her teen years. He was a boy she and her sister babysat for. He knows a terrible, secret thing that Leigh and Callie did, and is threatening to reveal it if Leigh doesn't play by his rules. Pretty good story other than the things I mentioned. 

The Tenant by Katrine Engberg -- since I read book 2 in this series a couple weeks ago, I figured I'd read book one. It introduced me to the police team there in Denmark and a few additional characters present in book two. In this book Esther has a tenant who is murdered and Jeppe and Anette and the gang are looking for who would murder sweet young Julie.

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty -- A good book about Stan and Joy Delaney, and their four adult children: Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke, avid tennis player all. When Joy is missing, the children eventually go to the police, and the book is back and forth to present time and a few months leading up to Joy being missing. An enjoyable book about tennis, sibling rivalry, and such things.

Where I Left Her by Amber Garza -- When Whitney doesn't hear from her daughter, Amelia, after dropping her off at Lauren's house for a sleepover, she drives by there to make sure everything's ok. Only, the old couple who answer the door have no idea what Whitney is talking about: no Amelia has been there, and Lauren doesn't live there. What has happened to her daughter? Pretty good thriller type book.

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel -- When she was only two Inge was stolen from her home by Jerusza who raised the toddler, renamed Yona, in the vast forests in (then) Poland. Jerusza had a sixth sense about things, and taught Yona how to survive and thrive and kill in the woods. She kept her away from civilization for the most part, and the only person Yona ever knew for many years was Jerusza. Sometime after Jerusza died at age 102, Yona came across a little girl in the woods, and helps her and tracks down her family, Jews who escaped from people trying to kill then. And thus the story continues. A good book about people struggling to stay alive while Germans hunted them down.

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell -- A good thriller/mystery book set in London and a country area not too far away. Sophie joins her partner as he takes over the headmaster role at a school for rich-but-troubled youth. While there she gets involved in a missing persons' case involving Zach and Tallulah, who had left for a date night at a pub, but never returned. (I found it amusing that Zach, Sophie, and even Susie and Megs were names of characters in this book.)  Pretty interesting story! 
And thus ends another month of 2021.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

August Books


Dark Horses by Susan Mihalic -- Roan Montgomery's life revolves around horses and her Olympic gold-medalist father, Monty. Roan likes that her father is training her to be a winner as he was, but his control is, well, complete. After her mom leaves the family fully knowing the awful secrets of what exactly Roan and Monty's relationship is like, Roan welcomes the friendship of Will Howard, a schoolmate. Pretty good story, but very troubling (read: ick!)  relationship issues.

An Unlikely Spy by Rebecca Starford -- as a quote from the front of the book says, "'An exceptional novel about World War II, bringing 1940s England to life.'"  I enjoyed this book about Evelyn, Julia, Nina, and Sally. Focusing on Evelyn. Good story.

Palace of the Drowned by Christine Morgan -- An OK story about a novelist, Frances or Frankie to most people, who escapes to her friend's place in Venice after a scathing review and "an incident" in a bar back in England. When she meets - or is reunited with - Gilly (hard g), things change.

The Stranger Behind You by Carol Goodman -- After Joan's article about a prominent publisher accused of sexual harassment puts her in danger, she looks to the Refuge for a secure place to live. Prominent publisher, Caspar's wife, Melissa, is looking for information on what Joan has for her book deal. Good story by a new-to-me author.

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson -- After Bree's son is kidnapped, she's instructed by a deranged woman to follow her instructions or else she'll never get her baby back. In the meantime, Bree's friend Marshall, a former police officer, tries to help. A good suspenseful book with an important message about college parties that go too far.

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica -- Mia is abducted by Colin, but instead of turning her over to Dalmar, he decides to hide out in the woods of Minnesota. This story is told from the perspectives of Colin, the detective, Gabe; and Eve, Mia's mom. Pretty good story.

Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman -- At age 11 two white girls took a black baby that they found on the porch of her (black baby's) home in Baltimore. The girls ended up serving time for their crime and then 7 years later after their release, they are suspects in a missing child case. An OK book. I thought some of the descriptions of people in this book were a bit much. Quite a lot of fat-shaming and stuff that just struck me wrong. I like this author most of the time, but this book (nearly 20 years old) wasn't my favorite.

A Special Place for Women by Laura Hankin -- Jillian is a NYC-based journalist whose job just dissolved and she's looking for a great story to pitch to her former editor who now has a good job at a reputable news agency. Jillian wants to infiltrate the secret lady's club, Nevertheless, and expose what they did to a promising female mayor whom Jillian had hoped would one day run for president! This book was pretty good for the most part although the ending  and the very -inner circle dealing were a bit much. Of course Jillian thought the same way at first so...!

The Sea of Lost Girls by Carol Goodman -- Tess is at a loss when she believes her husband and son are suspects in the murder of a student, Lila, who had been hanging out at their house in recent months. This book explores Tess's own experience at the school, and how things have carried over in the school's history now that she's a high school teacher. Pretty good story.

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth -- Rose and Fern are fraternal twins. Fern has sensory-processing issues, and Rose looks out for her by dimming lights, turning down radios, and telling people to stop touching her. Fern is a librarian and meets an American guy whom she calls Wally due to his choice of clothes. When Fern discovers that her sister is unable to get pregnant, she decides the logical thing to do is to have a baby for her sister. A good story.

Sustaining Faith by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan -- Book 2 in the When Hope Calls series. Since I read the first book in this series, I figured I'd read the second one. Ben helps lead orphans from England to Canada where they await new homes. In this case he smuggles aboard a little girl who wasn't on the list, and helps her reach a house where Grace and Lillian keep children who haven't been placed in a family. An OK story.  I might like it better if I remembered more of the backstory from previous books.

An Ambush of Widows by Jeff Abbott -- I've never read this author before, but decided to try this one. It was a pretty good mystery concerning two ladies brought together when their husbands were murdered in Austin. As Kirsten leaves New Orleans to see where her husband died in Austin (when he was supposed to have been in New York), she meets up with Flora whose husband died as well. And thus the mystery of why these two men were together, and why they were killed.

Pack Up the Moon by Kristan Higgins -- A good book; quite the tearjerker though it had lots of funny bits, too. Lauren is dying from a terminal lung illness. During her last few weeks she writes letters for her husband to have at monthly intervals for the first year after her death. Her best friend Sarah delivers these missives to him each month. I did a fair deal of crying at times during this reading. Knowing young people are dying these days from covid...I know of a 33 year old mother, Clair, who died a few days after giving birth to her son, well, this book just hit hard at times.

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles -- A good book about librarians and subscribers at the American Library in Paris and an alternate storyline featuring Lily who befriends the mysterious French lady, Odile, who is a librarian from the ALP during World War II. I enjoyed this one.

I Don't Forgive You by Aggie Blum Thompson -- A pretty good mystery/thriller book. Allie lives in an upscale D.C. neighborhood, but has trouble fitting in with the moms of suburbia. After a few minutes of harmless flirting ends with a guy assaulting her, Allie is shocked the next day when she finds out this guy was murdered overnight. This book involves fake social media profiles and hackers and has quite a lot of bad stuff going on for one person to handle (so a bit overwhelming!), but it was pretty good.

The Boy in the Photo by Nicole Trope -- Six years after her young son was taken by his father, Megan is thrilled to have her boy home again. Only it's more difficult to adjust to this preteen boy as Megan remembers the loving six year who was taken. Pretty good story.

The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine -- Addison Hope is preparing for her wedding to Gabriel, but she wishes she had memories beyond the two years she's lived with Gigi and Ed. Ed found her roaming the street and she had no memories of who she was or where she lived. Meanwhile Julian is looking for the wife he lost two years ago so he can bring her back to their family, especially their daughter Valentina. When Julian chances upon a gallery in Philadelphia, he believes he found his missing wife. Pretty good mystery-type book.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

July Books


A Most English Princess by Clare McHugh -- At times this book got a bit much with all the Prussian politics, but for the most part, I enjoyed learning more about this time in world history through the eyes of Queen Victoria's daughter, Vicky. This book begins as Vicky is around age 6, but focuses more on her early adult life and years of marriage when Germany was becoming a stronger European power. Pretty good story.

The Girl in His Shadows by Audrey Blake -- After her family dies from cholera, the attending doctor makes Nora his ward. Raised by this eccentric doctor and his housekeeper, Nora has practical medical knowledge and more. Yet, English law prohibits women as surgeons. Pretty good book written by two authors writing under one name.

The Lies You Told by Harriet Tyce -- After Andrew hisses that he wants her and Robin to leave the U.S. for home, Sadie finds herself back in London in her mom's former house and her daughter attending her former school...which she hated thirty years ago. Thus follows a suspenseful book as Sadie gets back into legal work, and as Robin has a tough time at school until suddenly the mean PTA lady decides to befriend Sadie. Pretty good story.

Miss Cecily's Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman -- Pretty good story about Kate as she approaches her fortieth birthday, still working at the grocery store, and still figuring out men... well, one man who asks her to move in with him one week, and then has a "Wobble" while on holiday in France the next week. Meanwhile Kate meets Mrs. Finn, or Cecily, at a place for aging people, and they get to chatting about life and cookbooks!

The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan -- Based on the true story of ethnic Germans whose families had lived in Ukraine's fertile valley since Catherine the Great of Russia invited them there because they were good farmers. Imagine now it's a choice of living under Stalin after World War II, or escaping west with the disgusting Nazis. I'd never read this guy's books before, but the subject matter was interesting, and I did enjoy the family stories. It's a novel because the author made up parts of the dialog and happenings as historical novelists do, but I think much of this story is true, and it's rather fascinating especially as you get further into the book!  I like at the end that he included updates on the family since their finding that "last green valley."

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan -- The library started a Staff's Favorites section to the online catalog, and I found this book recommended there. It was a good story about sisters Nora and Theresa's journey from Ireland to Massachusetts around the mid-1950s, and their following years here. The book alternates from their first several years in the US to 2009 when a family tragedy brings the family together for a funeral.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins -- After Jane ages out of a foster situation, she winds up walking dogs in an upscale neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama. There she's lucky enough to meet a charming, young widower, Eddie, who gets a dog just so he can see Jane more often. As Eddie and Jane become more involved, Jane can't help but wonder about Eddie's wife's death. Pretty good mystery-type book.

The Last Exiles by Ann Shin -- Jin and Suja meet while studying at the same university in Pyongyang where Jin, from a poor region in the north, goes to school on scholarship. Suja is from a privileged Party background, but they fall in love. When Jin is thrown into prison for a minor crime - well, NOT minor in North Korea - Suja seeks to find out information about him. Pretty good story.

The Last Night in London by Karen White -- for the most part, I really enjoyed this book, especially the part that took place in London during World War II. The contemporary part in London was pretty good, too, but I didn't care for the multitude of silly Southernisms because it was just a bit much. I've lived here my whole life, and have never heard some of those, and those I have heard, aren't used except occasionally as a joke. That part got a little off-putting, but overall, I really liked this story of Jeanne "Precious" Dubose and her friend Eva Harlow who were models around the time England went to war with Germany.

Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce -- Alison is a barrister in London with a cute little daughter and a husband who does a lot for the family, but Alison drinks too much and is having an affair with a colleague. A pretty good story if you like thriller type books.

Secret Smile by Nicci French -- When that creepy former boyfriend ends up back in your life because he is dating your sister...and later they end up moving into your apartment while they are house hunting... that's what happens to Miranda. Pretty good thriller type.

Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig -- This book took me awhile to get into, and maybe wasn't quite as interesting as some of her other books, but when you consider the fact that "the Women of Smith College [Went] to War" in France in the summer of 1917, it's quite impressive! In the note at the end of the book, the author states how very many of these incidents are true events that were told in letters these women wrote home and are part of historical record. Thinking of that, this book is quite fascinating, really. But as for a can't-put-this-down type of book...this wasn't that for me. Still, impressive women for sure!

Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen -- After her husband has a come-back-from-the-dead experience, Julia is stunned by her husband's desire to quit his multi-million dollar job, sell their gorgeous house, and do things way differently. Pretty good story.

The Seeds of Change by Lauraine Snelling and Kiersti Giron -- first book in the Leah's Garden series; an easy, wholesome read if not terribly interesting. Actually it wasn't too bad, but just not that exciting. Lark and her sisters leave home suddenly, heading west. They meet up with a wagon train and have exciting adventures as they travel.

Friends Like Us by Lauren Fox -- I didn't really love any of the characters in this book, especially the one telling the story. Willa lives with her best friend Jane, and when Willa reconnects with her former BFF from high school, Ben and Jane hook up. Suddenly Willa feels...weird with her two best friends living together with her. Eh, ok story.

What To Do When Someone Dies by Nicci French -- Ellie investigates after her husband is found dead in a car with an unknown (to her) female passenger. Was her husband not devoted to her as she thought? Pretty good story.

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner -- A good story about Taryn whose life was deeply affected by the terrorist events of 2001 in New York City, and of Clara who lived in New York one hundred years prior. Clara worked as a nurse at the Ellis Island hospital so it was interesting reading about things from that perspective.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin -- A pretty interesting tale told from the perspective of Alice Liddell, the girl who grew up at Oxford where her dad was a Dean, and where she became a muse for a mathematics professor who wrote Alice in Wonderland.

The Best Man by Kristian Higgans -- I like several of her newer books, but this older (I think) one was very "meh." After several years living across the country, Faith returns home and hooks up with the police chief who seemed to hate her all through school. It was pretty lame over all, and very juvenile.

Goodbye to Budapest by Margarita Morris -- This "novel of the Hungarian uprising" was a fairly interesting way to learn more about this part of history. It followed the lives of a father and his daughter and many of their acquaintances. Somehow it ended up on my Amazon Wishlist and I got it for Christmas or my birthday. Decent story.

Chasing Shadows by Lynn Austin --  Good story following three women in the Netherlands during World War II. Lena and her family decide to resist the Nazis by hiding people and feeding those in need. Miriam and her family have to hide, and Ans, Lena's daughter, works in various ways through the Nazi occupation.