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

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March Books

Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson -- pretty good story set in the Netherlands during World War II, and also the modern perspective as told through Ava Drake's eyes.

Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France by Karen Wheeler -- I think my mom found this memoir in a Little Free Library box and I decided to read it before passing it along to others. This London-based author was visiting a friend when an opportunity arose for her to buy a fixer upper in rural France - and she did.  I enjoyed reading of her social life there, meeting interesting characters - both French and English - and the things she did those first couple of years there.

Once a Midwife by Patricia Harman -- my mom recently read this Hope River Novel, and despite not having read any of the prior books (which probably told the stories of Bitsy and a few other characters mentioned in this book), I read this one. Daniel and Patience Hester live in Liberty County, West Virginia, around the time much of the world is at war. Daniel is a respected vet, and Patience delivers babies. Both work on their farm. When America enters the war, the Hesters' lives change. Pretty good story. I'll look for more from this author. 

Devil's Corner by Lisa Scottoline -- One of the earlier books my library has by this author. Vicki is an Assistant US Attorney working on cleaning up the streets of Philadelphia which has a crack cocaine problem. Not my favorite of her books, but pretty good.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald -- some people probably enjoyed this little tale of a young Swedish woman who travels to a small town in Iowa to meet her elderly pen pal. Sadly, the pen pal died before Sara arrived, and Sara has to figure out what to do with herself in the small town she's planned to stay in for her two month holiday. Sounds pretty cute, but I really didn't care for this book much at all. Still, I did read it all, and I liked the Meet the Author section at the back of the book.

Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini -- half the book was about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow around the time of the US Civil War, and the other half was a contemporary story revolving around a music teacher and her accompanist and part of the children's choir at a Catholic church in Boston. Pretty good.

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans -- part memoir, part poetry, just some beautiful reflections on her life and that of the Church.  A lovely book by an author who left the world too soon. I know young people die all the time, but I still have a hard time believing that happened to her!

What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin -- Kelly Lund was convicted of killing a friend's father 25 years before, and now she's out of prison and the book flashes from today (where yet another murder has taken place, and Kelly is suspected) and flashbacks to the story from those years when she was friends with Bellamy and Vee.  Pretty good. 

Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke -- a good story about a teacher whose mother recently died, a mother with whom she'd had a troublesome relationship. When Hannah goes to Germany to meet a grandfather she never knew anything about, she learns more about his dealings during World War II. Alternately we learn of Lieselotte's time during the war, and get clues to why her time in America was so difficult.

Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline -- a recent book by this author; not as much lawyer-based as her earlier works, but this story is about a group of wealthy kids in a development who witnessed a tragic accident that still haunts them twenty years later. As told through the eyes of Allie, Sasha, Julian, Kyle, and David. Pretty good.

The Body by Bill Bryson -- this "guide for occupants" covered bits about the skin, brain, lungs, so on and so forth. An enjoyable, informative read. I was often thinking how "fearfully and wonderfully made" we all are even if the author credits "a happy accident" for most of it.

As Long As We Both Shall Live by Joann Chaney -- A man and his wife go hiking and only he returns. The story is that his wife fell over the cliff and disappeared into the roaring river. Twenty years prior, Matt was married to a woman who died in suspicious circumstances. How do the police detectives connect the two? Pretty good story!

The English American by Alison Larkin -- Pippa Dunn always knew she was adopted, but didn't realize her biological parents were from the United States until she happened upon a box of important papers while looking for (what Americans call) Scotch tape in her parents' room. Years later Pippa finds her birth mother, an artsy type from Georgia, and later is introduced to her bio father. This book was decent, but not a favorite. Parts of it were interesting to me - like the differences in the English and Americans: what we call things, how we react, what emotions are permitted (or not), what words are usually said (or not).  But the storyline itself was not exciting to me though I'm sure others will find it charming. 

Her by Harriet Lane -- The only redeeming thing about this book was that it was relatively short (261 pages). The same day/event is told by two characters, Nina and Emma, who happened to meet and somehow keep crossing paths. One is a devil with a sweet face, and I didn't really enjoy this book all that much, but I did finish it hoping for some resolution that failed to come.

Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke -- This book was just ok, and it felt like it dragged on and on. Granted, I'm reading during Covid-19 Social Distancing times, and am super-distracted by Facebook and news stories, but I just never really got into this story about a young man, Michael, who left England with Owen on the Titanic. Only one of them arrived safely to the U.S., and it just went on from there in a way that did not capture my attention very well. 

No Book but the World by Leah Hager Cohen -- The book begins with Ava heading out of town with hopes of visiting her brother who was recently jailed and charged with the murder of a twelve-year-old boy. Her brother is different, though her parents rejected testing and labels so they never took him to anyone to tell them Fred was autistic or whatever. In fact, her parents subscribed to unschool schooling although Ava rejected that and was allowed to attend public school after awhile. This book also has perspectives from Ava's husband, best friend, and Fred himself. Pretty good story.

Daddy's Girl by Lisa Scottoline -- an exciting adventure with law professor Natalie who is asked to teach at a local prison. While there a riot occurs and Nat witnesses the last words of a fallen correctional officer. As she puzzles out what this man means in an effort to help his wife, Nat finds herself charged with murder and running from the law!  Fast-paced book!

Women's Work: A Reckoning with Work and Home by Megan K. Stack -- The books begins with the author doing one last assignment as a reporter for the LA Times before quitting to write books and have a baby. She and her husband are living in Beijing, and Megan is encouraged to do what every expat does: hire a nanny and housekeeper because they are so cheap. Later, Megan and her family move to India where she repeats the process. Only later does her husband suggest she write about this experience. Parts of this writing irritated me, but mostly I enjoyed her recounting of three nannies/housekeepers (certainly don't call them "maids" as her husband did!). This was an interesting way to learn more about the ladies who take jobs for richer women and women who leave their own children behind to be raised by grandparents. Good book.

Goodnight June by Sarah Jio -- a rather cute book pretending to be the inspiration behind the hugely-popular children's book of a similar name. June travels to Seattle after she inherits her beloved aunt's bookstore. There she is sent on a book scavenger hunt to find out more of her Aunt Ruby's secrets.

Two Steps Forward by Suzanne Woods Fisher -- (this book title makes me want to ask if you say FOR werd or FOE werd (or something else) for the word 'forward'?)  -- I somehow skipped book 2 in this series (The Deacon's Family), but went ahead and read the third one since I was quickly gathering books before my library closed.  Jimmy Fisher is back in town, and he offers to help the recently-widowed Sylvie around the farm. Also, Izzy and Luke want to help mothers who think they must abort their babies by opening a baby box for no-questions-asked surrender at the fire station.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

February Books

The House of Brides by Jane Cockram -- a pretty fast-paced book with somewhat of a mystery. Miranda was recently disgraced at home in Australia so she escapes to her mother's home country and estate in the west country of England. There she lives at Barnsley House as the children's nanny as she tries to learn more about her mother who died when she was a child. An OK story. I'd read more from this author.

African Nights by Kuki Gallmann -- I think my mom picked this up from one of those Little Free Library boxes awhile back, and I read it. It has some good stories about Kuki's family and life in Kenya. I enjoyed reading about encounters with elephants and lions, and the interesting people that are part of her life.

The Colors of All the Cattle by Alexander McCall Smith -- I'm nearing the end of this series! I may have to try some of the stand-alone novels and other series since my local library seems to get all his books!  In this book Mma Potokwane, the lady who oversees the Orphan Farm, suggests (in that way that Mma Potokwane suggests things) that Mma Ramotswe should run for the open seat on the council. Mma Ramotswe does not want to get involved in politics at all, but the pressure is strong because the only other candidate is Violet Sephotho...and ugh. Cute story!

The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper -- I enjoy this author's historical fiction novels, and this one is about Charlotte Bill aka Mrs. Lala or just Lala, the nanny to the six children of George (later King George V) and May of Teck (later Queen Mary).   Good "faction" story!

The Body Lies by Jo Baker -- "A young writer" (this is how the book jacket describes her because she's telling this story, and I don't think she's ever named..ugh) accepts a job in another part of England taking her three year old and leaving behind her husband who wants to keep his job. They try to make things work by his visits every other weekend, and visits during holidays. Meanwhile the young writer is teaching creative writing classes and keeping her life together while struggling with the aftermath of being attacked while walking home one day (which is one reason she wanted to move away from London.)  Anyway...this book was decent if not creepy, and it kept my attention pretty well and I finished it fast.

Hill Women by Cassie Chambers -- This memoir by a young (born in 1986) lady from Kentucky is "finding family and a way forward in the Appalachian mountains." It was pretty interesting. I've read more fascinating memoirs, but I liked reading about Cassie's life especially her mom, grandmother, and Aunt Ruth.

The Better Liar by Tanen Jones -- This book is told from the perspectives of Robin, her sister Leslie, and Mary, the young lady who takes the place of Robin so that Leslie can get her $50,000 inheritance. Quite the elaborate scheme to satisfy her (Leslie's) father's will. Pretty good story!

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin -- I enjoyed this book; very clever story about a team-building activity in an escape room. Only it's not really what they thought it was. Jules, Sylvie, Vincent, and Sam realize this escape-room elevator is really an opportunity for them to reflect on what they have done in their climbs to the top of the financial world. Meanwhile Sara Hall, a former teammate, has her say.

On Wings of Devotion by Roseanna M. White -- since I read the first in The Codebreakers series, I figured I'd go ahead and read book 2 when I saw it on the New Books list at the library. In it, Arabelle works as a nurse and meets Major Phillip Camden who has been ridiculed in society and the press as the Black Heart due to his fellow pilots being killed. An OK book; nothing special

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson -- a good suspenseful book by an author I've never read before; Hen and Lloyd attend a neighborhood party and meet the only other childless couple and they happen to live right next door! When Matthew and Mira give Hen and Lloyd a tour of their house, Hen is shocked when she notices an old fencing trophy that reminds her of a murder that was never solved.

The Poppy Wife by Caroline Scott -- I nearly gave up on reading this one towards the first fifth, but kept on. It switches back and forth a lot which was a bit confusing, but I gradually got used to it, and wanted to see what happened as Harry searched for his brother - or his brother's grave - as he traveled around France after the first World War photographing graves or battle areas for people back home in England. His sister in law Edie joined him for awhile during the search.

When You See Me by Lisa Gardner -- A good new book from this author! I read a bunch of her books that my library had already so I was familiar with D.D. Warren from the Boston Police Department, Kimberly from the FBI, and Flora Dane, the vigilante. In this book the three ladies are called together to help with a case in the mountains of Georgia. A skeleton was discovered in the woods, and the police are wondering if this is connected to Flora's kidnapper, Jacob Ness. I enjoyed this mystery!

The Winemaker's Wife by Kristin Harmel -- This is the story about Michel and his wife, Inès, along with Theo and Céline who run a winemaking operation during World War II. It's also about Olivia and her Grandma Edith who go back to that region in France to learn more about a time when the winemakers were forced to grow grapes and create great bottles of wine for the Nazis. Good story!

To the Land of Long Lost Friends by Alexander McCall Smith -- I've finally read all the books in the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. This one came out late last year and coincided with my reading through these books after I was given the first one by Amber for my birthday. It's been fun reading these the last several months. In this book Mma Ramotswe helps friends in her detecting and Charlie, the apprentice-mechanic-turned-part-time-assistant detective, meets Queenie Queenie's hotshot brother and wealthy father. 

Mercy House by Alena Dillon -- a rather cute book about 3 nuns who run a house in a Brooklyn neighborhood where they offer help and hope for abused women. When an evil bishop wants to close the house - because they don't always do things the (ahem) proper Catholic way, Sister Evelyn fights back. She's a hoot, by the way. Great character. 

When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser -- When a novelist is shot by a man desperate to get funds for his son's heart surgery, the family comes together trying to figure out why their mother/wife was targeted. Meanwhile Henry - who was unable to complete the kill - starts reading the novelist's books. A decent story; not a favorite. 

Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline -- A good, fast-paced story about Christine leaving her job as a teacher so she can concentrate on her pregnancy after having a difficult time conceiving. Only her parents and best friend know their secret (they used a sperm donor) and then Christine is dismayed when the blond-haired, blue-eyed young man arrested as a serial killer looks almost exactly like their donor!

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson -- I read a book by this new-to-me author recently which I liked a lot. This one wasn't as great. It was decent, but several times I rolled my eyes. Maybe it's because the main character was a man - George - and I just didn't relate to some things he did. Anyway...when an old college girlfriend comes back into town years after her disappearance from his life, George agrees to help her with returning nearly half a million dollars that she stole from her former employer. What could go wrong with that?

The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas -- good story about Gracy who was a midwife in a Colorado mining community in 1880. When she is charged with murdering an infant in her care, the town prepares for her trial. Meanwhile Gracy continues doing what she can to help the women and babies in her community. Enjoyed this!

Vintage by Susan Gloss -- For some reason I tend to like these books about ladies' stories as they buy or sell articles from vintage clothing shops. This one is located in Madison, Wisconsin, and is from the points of view of Violet the shopkeeper and a couple customers. Pretty good story.

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict -- a pretty good story about Hedwig Kiesler of Austria and her role as an actress and later wife to Friedrich Mandl an arms dealer who hosted many important people at his houses. Later Hedy fled to London and later to Hollywood and became Hedy Lamarr, an actress, but also a lady who invented and patented an idea to improve torpedoes.