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

Monday, September 30, 2019

September Books

Almost October already... and it's still hot where  I live! I'm glad I prefer warmth to coldness though I wouldn't mind a little bit of highs in the 70s or 80s because fall!

The Governess of Penwythe Hall by Sarah E. Ladd -- first in The Cornwall Novels; a decent book, nothing special. After her husband dies, Delia Greythorne becomes a governess. When her employer dies unexpectedly after a riding accident, she is asked to take care of the children. This necessitates a trip back to where she came from, not a great place if she wants to stay out of the eye of her inlaws.

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight -- good story if not a disappointing ending; not because the author was bad, but I was just sad at someone in the story not living his best life.  Molly usually covers the arts for her local paper, but when a coworker is sick and another is out of town, she's asked to cover a story about a body found at the edge of a local college. This book really kept my attention.

Only Ever Her by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen -- Annie is missing and it's only a few days before her wedding! This story is told in the voices of many -- Annie's aunt Faye, cousin Clary, the reporter Laurel, and a high school friend Kenny.  Pretty good book.

Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin -- inspired by a true story, the author fleshes out the possibilities behind Claude and Blanche Auzello's life in Paris during the Nazi occupation.  A pretty interesting book!  And I found this write-up with pictures about some of the history of the Ritz that was good. Here is something else I found, though it has spoilers.

Courting Trouble by Lisa Scottoline -- Anne Murphy is a new-ish associate who travels to the Jersey Shore for a work weekend, and buys a newspaper seeing her name and picture under the headline about a murdered lawyer! That's a shock! Bennie, Judy, and Mary are featured prominently in this book dealing with Rosato & Associates. 

Careful What You Wish For by Hallie Ephron -- this was on the New Books list online and I decided to give this author a try; Emily and her friend Becca started a decluttering service after a video of Emily organizing her sock drawer went viral. The two are called to a potential client's house when a widowed lady is ready to get rid of her husband's collection. She didn't know about a storage building he rented until a bill arrived in the mail. Emily heads over to see what is there, and finds some books and maps as well as library cards. Were these items stolen from libraries? A quick Google check reveals a map like this could be worth thousands of dollars! Well, the book got more suspenseful when Quinn calls for some help with her own stuff...and then there's that body that was found in the storage building.

The Miracle of Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith -- more adventures with Mma Ramotswe and her lovable family and coworkers.

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams -- a decent book about English and American characters during World War II, set in the Bahamas - and also London, Florida, and Switzerland; it was all over the place, but a fairly interesting story.

Dead Ringer by Lisa Scottoline -- This book has Bennie Rosato on the lookout for her evil twin sister, Alice, who has been going around posing as Bennie and buying things with her ID. Also, the firm is looking to take on a class-action lawsuit - their first! Pretty good with the same great group of characters!

Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide by Tony Horwitz -- Not long after I heard the author interviewed on NPR (the show 1A ; see some pictures at the link), I was stunned to read the news that he died suddenly in Washington, D.C. while in the midst of a book tour! He was a few days shy of 61 when he died. I've read two or three of his other books, and although we are quite different (he being secular, Jewish, liberal, New Englander (kind of), man, and me...not so much those things), I always enjoyed his books. He mixed history with current events with humor with commentary that wasn't always humorous, but often thought-provoking. I really appreciated the way he listened to people and told their stories and tried to understand where people were coming from, and show that two "opposite" sides could get along even if they disagree.

So, I ordered this book from the library, and only recently picked it up. I read it knowing  that this was Tony's last book, the story he chased during his final years.  He mentioned the whole journey taking just over 2 years although part of that time he was home with his family in New England (you'll have to read the book to see why he went home for a few months.)  

Tony was following the path of Frederick Law Olmsted - one of Olmsted's southern journeys that took him along the Ohio River, a little in West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, and a long time in Texas.   I was amused several times as Tony tried to be true to Olmsted's modes of travel and ended up on a towboat (towing a huge barge of coal along the Ohio River: chapter 3)), riding the American Queen down the Mississippi, and later riding a mule named Hatcher while in Texas.  (That chapter (19) was quite funny though also painful to read.)

Tony did anything from visiting the creation museum in Kentucky, to spending a few days at a café that doubled as GOP headquarters in Crockett, Texas, to muddin' in Louisiana. Part of the trip he had an Australian buddy, Andrew, join him, and it was funny reading Andrew's commentary on his experience.

In Kentucky, he learned about Cassius Clay - not Muhammad Ali or his father - but the guy they were probably named for.  I smiled when I read that people visited Clay's home, saw his picture, and said, "you mean he's white?"  Clearly they thought they were visiting Muhammad Ali's home. (Chapter 4)

In the latter part of the book, I enjoyed learning about the Kickapoo Indian Tribe (pg. 373), and chapter 20 dealt with life along the US/Mexico border which I found interesting.  He even talked to Mexicans about Trump's border wall (pg. 382).  (He was finishing the book just as Trump won the 2016 election.)

I read parts of it to Andrew as we traveled to the mountains a few days ago (9/15), and we discussed some attitudes of people who can't be reasoned with, can't admit they might be wrong, can't be told the facts because they have their own facts and they are always right! This discussion from the group in one part of Texas whom Tony met with a few times. Those who insisted a Muslim compound was being built just over the county line (chapter 14.)

Good book! I enjoyed traveling with and learning from Tony's adventure. I'm just sad that he is no longer alive to write any more. I think I'll look up some of his other books and read the ones I haven't read yet.  I think my local library system has one about John Brown that I've not yet read...

The Chocolate Maker's Wife by Karen Brooks -- Rosamund Tompkins is a dirty, smelly innkeeper's stepdaughter, and while she's a lovely person underneath all that dirt, she's found running from her evil stepbrothers, Fear God and Glory, straight into the path of a Sir from London. Sir Everard Blithman, noticing her resemblance to his dear daughter who died, offers to buy her, but Rosamund's mom (who is not a very good mom) says no way.  He must marry her and hand over lots of money for that opportunity.  This is how Rosamund comes to live in London as the chocolate maker's wife. But, whew boy, what an adventure. This book was pretty good; it was long and not one I adored, but it had enough interesting twists to keep me reading. 

Never Tell A Lie by Hallie Ephron -- another suspenseful book; Ivy and David are expecting their first child to be born in a few weeks, and want to get rid of the stuff a former owner left in their attic. A strange woman attends their yard sale - actually she's not strange in that they knew her from high school, but she seems to know things about them that Ivy hadn't expected her to know. But then this Melinda White is reported missing and no one recalls her leaving Ivy and David's house that day and they are suspected in her disappearance!  Pretty good story; kept my attention!

The Spice King by Elizabeth Camden -- first in the Hope and Glory series; Annabelle Larkin and her sister Elaine leave their home in Kansas for new opportunities in Washington, D.C. As part of her job with the Smithsonian Institute - a trial period of only about 6 months - Annabelle meets Gray Delacroix, a man who has sailed around the world finding out about spices and plants. This book is also about the fight for properly labeling food and features Good Housekeeping and their test kitchens. Do you know the two most expensive spices? I asked this on Facebook today (9/23) and a few people guessed correctly - or knew!

The Woman in Our House by Andrew Hart -- good book and somewhat suspenseful; Anna decides being a SAHM is not as fulfilling anymore, and wants to return to work for a few hours a day so she and her husband look into hiring a live-in nanny. They are rich. Oaklynn Durst comes highly-recommended from a nanny agency in Utah, and within days of her arrival, the family enjoys the helpfulness she brings. But then a few weird things happen which cause Anna to lose some goodwill and become suspicious of Oaklynn, which is not what you want when your little girls are in the care of someone!

The Letters by Suzanne Wood Fisher -- I've read several of her Amish books in the past, but somehow skipped this series (The Inn at Eagle Hill) so I decided to finally get the first one. Rose is widowed, a single mom of several, and living with her mother in law. Bills are plentiful so she looks for a way to make money. Why not turn her mother in law's basement into a place for guests?

The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine -- a fairly interesting suspenseful book from a couple of sisters I've never read before; Dr. Kate English is living the good life until her mother is murdered and suddenly she is getting threatening text messages and disturbing things left around her house. Who can she trust? Is her husband (whom she suspects is having an affair with a coworker) to blame? Thankfully BFF, actually former BFF, Blaire came back to town for her mom's funeral, and the two have picked up where they left off (minus that whole wedding-day fiasco where Blaire was uninvited due to her criticism of the groom), and Blaire is ready to help solve this murder/threat mystery!

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas -- eh, this was only ok; I mean it was sweet, I guess, but nothing exciting. Margaret and her little sister Mayfair live together in a little cottage and Margaret helps out on her elderly neighbor's farm.

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier -- Violet is eager to leave her mom's controlling ways so she gets a job 12 miles away working as a typist. She still travels home every Sunday to take her mom to church, but Violet creates a new life for herself in her new village by joining with the embroidery class at the cathedral, and later learning about ringing of the bells by her enchanting friend, Arthur.  A decent book; I usually like this author.

Killer Smile by Lisa Scottoline -- another Rosato & Associates book featuring Mary as she works on behalf of the Estate of Amadeo Brandolini who was interned by the US government during World War II. His crime? Being Italian. Pretty interesting story!

The Third Victim by Lisa Gardner -- an older book that the library just got; this is a book about Officer Rainie Conner of the Bakersville, Oregon, police department when a school shooting occurs. Uggggh! FBI agent Pierce Quincy comes to lend his expertise.  Pretty good story.  I've read other books featuring Rainie and Quincy, but this is the book where they actually meet.  Not sure why my library finally decided to get this one since it's...oh, nearly 20 years old, but it's fine.

Walking the Appalachian Trail by Larry Luxenberg -- We bought this book at the Clingman's Dome gift shop because I like supporting the parks by buying things that are useful...and books are more useful to me than a stuffed bear (though I think they are cute). Instead of being one person's recollection of the trail, this book had historical characters of people important to the trail plus profiles of interesting characters who have hiked the trail. One lady hiked the trail while pregnant and named her daughter Georgia Maine - ha!  Although there are many ways to hike the trail, the traditional thru-hiker is north bound from Georgia to Maine if they complete the whole thing.  A boy would have the A.T. initials (Anthony Thomas).

Monday, September 2, 2019

August Books

Rough Justice by Lisa Scottoline -- this book introduces a new lawyer,Marta, who is this close to getting a "not guilty" verdict for her client - who just admitted to her that he did murder the homeless black man in question. Bennie, Mary, and Judy from  Rosato & Associates are featured in this book as well.

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith -- another book featuring Mma Ramotswe and her friends and family, including Mma Ramotswe's tiny white van breaking down as she sought out her former husband's family, and Mma Makutsi heading to dancing lessons. Cute story.

Death of a New American by Mariah Fredericks -- this is a follow-up book to one I read earlier in the year; it's a murder mystery as told by the servant Jane Prescott.  A young Italian nanny is murdered in the room where her young charge - a baby - is nearly kidnapped (or so it's suspected). A pretty good story. 

Mistaken Identity by Lisa Scottoline -- This book introduces Lou Jacobs to the firm as Bennie Rosato is called to represent a murder suspect who claims to be her twin! Mary and Judy help Bennie in her defense. Lots going on in this book; good one.

Torrent Falls by Jan Watson -- more in the life of Copper Brown (see previous books) as she moves back to her father's cabin on Troublesome Creek

The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White -- Book 1 in the Codebreakers series; Takes place in London during World War II. This book is about Margot a refugee from Belgium who is a codebreaker. It was OK. Kind of interesting, but nothing special to me.

Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith -- another cute story featuring some great characters and observations about life in Botswana. 

Moment of Truth by Lisa Scottoline -- Jack Newlin confesses to a murder that he doesn't commit. He hires Mary DiNunzio to represent him - and wants her to back off on defending him. Interesting story!

Home for Erring and Outcast Girls by Julie Kibler -- an interesting look at Berachah Industrial Home for the Redemption of Erring Girls in Arlington, Texas, through the eyes of Lizzie and Mattie who were girls who stayed there. Also, in modern times, Cate and Laurel read accounts of the Home in order to learn more about the ladies who lived there.  Pretty good book. 

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens -- Kya is abandoned by her family to live in the North Carolina marsh. She survives with the help of her wits and a couple of friends. She even learns to read though she only attended school one day in her life. An interesting story. I saw a Facebook friend post about this so I put it on hold. I was 76th in line when I put it on hold in mid-June. It took just under 2 months to get it...not bad.  I enjoyed learning about the marsh and its importance. And Kya's story is pretty cool, too.

The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis -- an interesting way to look at the Red Scare after World War II through the eyes of two friends, an actress and a playwright/director.  Good story!

The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller -- Caroline's young husband succumbs to his injuries during the battle at Chancellorsville, and she brings his body home to Gettysburg for burial. Not many days later, a battle takes place nearby and wounded soldiers are brought to her property. This book was OK. I liked it somewhat at first, but didn't really care for how the story went.

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner -- an interesting look at the last year of World War II and some afterward from the perspective of a young German girl, Elise, who was interred with her family. A good story!

The Pages of Her Life by James L. Rubart -- Allison Moore is gifted a beautiful journal, and she writes about the frustrations of her life as she ends a partnership with her best friend in order to become partner with a friend who fails to keep promises. The journal is rather special in that it talks back to her in a supernatural way.  An ok book. 

The Abolitionist's Daughter by Diane C. McPhail -- a book about life in Greensboro, Mississippi, around the time of the Civil War. Emily Matthews' father - a judge - seeks to free his slaves in a place where that's not allowed. This book was a bit disjointed for me, and was just ok.

Thriving in Babylon by Larry Osborne -- Andrew got this book for his birthday, I think, so I decided to read it. It's an easy read with some good challenges and reminders based on Daniel's life in Babylon. 

Better Than the Best Plan by Lauren Morrill -- When Maritza's mom decides to leave for a job-training opportunity in Mexico, she leaves a note for her 17-year-old daughter to find after school. Ritzy is suddenly without a guardian as she enters the summer before her senior year in high school. Somehow a social worker is informed and Ritzy has to move to a foster home. A pretty cute YA book. An easy read.

King's Shadow by Angela Hunt -- part of The Silent Years series, this "novel of King Herod's Court" was an interesting look at Salome and her brother Herod.

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff -- Adelia is put on a ship by her mom in order to escape Italy during World War II. She ends up in a south Philadelphia neighborhood where she frequently visits the Connally family, a mom and dad with four boys whom she grows to love. This book explores Addie's relationship with the family before and after a tragedy.  Pretty good story.  One I got for my birthday from a friend who purchased it from my Amazon Wishlist. This is one Pam Jenoff book my library didn't have. 

The Vendetta Defense by Lisa Scottoline -- When Pigeon Tony is charged with murdering an old rival from back home in Italy, Judy is asked to defend him.  An OK book, but not my favorite from this series.

The Dead Ex by Jane Corry  -- A good book about Vicki who suffers from epilepsy which affects her memory, or so the doctors tell her. But now she is being questioned by police about her ex-husband's disappearance. Did she do something and just can't remember? Also happening, Zelda is sent to prison while her daughter Scarlet is sent to foster care. How do these two plot lines come together? In a pretty interesting way!

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith -- such a cute story; I laughed out loud a couple of times especially when the ladies figured out who would be in control of making sure the tea supply never ran out. (pg. 172).

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler -- great book! Have you ever been forbidden to date or marry someone you loved...because he or she was different from you?  Well, this book explores this issue - in this case, a black man and white woman - in the story of Isabelle and Robert as told by Isabelle as an almost 90 year old woman.