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

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

October Books

 

Magpie by Elizabeth Day -- Marisa is thrilled when her new boyfriend Jake suggests they get a place together and start trying for a baby!  Marisa's mom left when she was seven years old, taking her baby sister, and leaving Marisa with her father. She never got over that abandonment and just wants someone safe which Jake is. When Jake's business takes a downturn, he suggests renting out a spare room, and Kate moves in. Kate makes herself at home and seems to take over too much personal space. What could go wrong with that scenario? Pretty good book.




Girls of Flight City by Lorraine Heath -- "inspired by true events, a novel of WWII, the Royal Air Force, and Texas;" Pretty interesting story about Jessie and her younger sister Kitty, Texans whose town had members of Britain's Royal Air Force train there before the United States entered the war. I enjoyed this one!



The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith -- After a lot of yard cleanup (I helped Andrew for hours over the weekend) due to Hurricane Ian's remnants, it was wonderful having a string of beautiful fall weather. I sat outside yesterday and read a lot in this book. Greta's parents had an Alaskan cruise scheduled with their four best friends (two couples), but Greta's mom died of a brain aneurysm three months before it could happen. So her father wouldn't be the fifth wheel, Greta's brother talked her into going on the cruise with him. Greta and her father don't get along, but Greta agrees reluctantly to make the trip. This was a decent book. I like that one of the stops was in Haines, Alaska, because within the last year or so, I read a few books by a lady (Heather Lende)  who lives there, and it was neat to read a bit about that place in a novel.



Verity by Colleen Hoover -- A very quick read for me. When Lowen is asked to finish a series of novels for a famous author who was hurt in an accident, she is invited to stay at the family's home for a few days as she sifts through the author's (her name is Verity) office for notes and research. Soon Lowen discovers an autobiography with chilling details about the family. Pretty interesting story with lots of crude language if that's your thing.



The Foundling by Ann Leary -- Pretty interesting story about Mary Engle, a half-orphan who works at an institution for "feebleminded women of childbearing age." Quite a fascinating time in our nation's history when women could be committed to years of imprisonment because they had children out of wedlock or their husbands wanted to send them there. Infuriating!  Sidenote: I was reading this book when I got the most-awful phone call about my little brother dying hours after a same-day surgery. While I took this book with me when I traveled to where his family lives, I didn't open it for a week. I stayed so busy most of the time, and during down times I caught up on emails. I tend to write details in emails to my sister to keep them as kind of a journal.




Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan -- Good story. I enjoyed learning more about bees, honey, and beekeeping as the story of single-mom Olivia unfolded as well as Lily, the new girl at school who dated Olivia's son Asher until her death. Asher is charged with Lily's murder, and well, this book had a major plot twist which introduced me more to people whom I'm not very familiar with. It was good for me to learn more about them. And I'm purposefully trying to be vague here, but, yeah, I enjoyed this one and resonated with the Authors' Notes at the end (which has spoilers, FYI.)




Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson -- I'm not totally sure about the plot in this book. It was all over the place:  Nellie Coker and her London clubs; her children's roles in everything; the librarian-turned-police informant - much about London's 1926 nightlife.




The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward -- I liked her other book that I read better, but this was pretty good. Charlotte is 71 and enters a contest winning a European cruise for herself and her three adult children, Lee, Cord, and Regan. The book alternates between all four voices, and was pretty interesting as each deals with life struggles and such. 





Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward -- This book was beside the book just above so I got it recently on a trip to the library. Maddie, Ian, and Charlie live in Kansas where Maddie grew up and vowed to never return. So boring. While Ian still has his foreign travels with work, Maddie stays home with Charlie and starts seeing a writing therapist. Through her journaling and alternating chapters we learn about her life with Ian, and her life before she and Ian married when Maddie and her friend Joanna lived in Bulgaria and Macedonia - places way more exciting than Kansas! Pretty good story. 





The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer  -- An interesting look at the experiences of some Polish people - Jews and Catholics - during World War II. This book alternated between the voices of Roman who lived in the ghetto, and Emilia who traveled into the ghetto with a social worker named Sara. This book also covers a bit of the Red Army's occupation of Poland after the war ended. When Emilia finds herself living with some nuns for a time and is unable to sleep, she rises to light a candle and pray in the chapel. I loved the part on page 354 when she hears the chapel door open and looks up to see Sister Agnieszka Gracja kneel beside her and light another candle. The Sister rose when Emilia rose, and as she and Emilia walked back to their rooms, Emilia questioned, "'What were you praying about at this strange hour?'" and the Sister smiled and replied, "'I was asking God to ease your torment.'"  That touched me because I really appreciate people praying for me and my family, too!

Friday, September 30, 2022

September Books

Last day of another month and we are getting rain and wind from Hurricane Ian as it moves this way. Thankfully we live a good ways inland so we are getting nothing like other places did.

 

 

The It Girl by Ruth Ware -- Hannah is married to Will, a friend from Oxford who happened to be the boyfriend of her roommate when her roommate died. When her mom calls her at work to let her know a man who was put into prison for murder based on her testimony, has died, Hannah thinks back to the night her roommate and best friend died. This book is told in alternating BEFORE and AFTER chapters as Hannah thinks back to her time at Oxford, and her life now in Edinburgh.  Pretty good.



Daughters of the Occupation by Shelly Sanders -- This book is inspired by true events, and tells of Jews in Latvia first when the Soviets invaded, then the Germans, and then the Soviets again. It alternates between the 1940s with Miriam and her family, and the 1970s when Miriam's granddaughter Sarah travels from Chicago to Riga in order to learn more about her heritage. This trip to Soviet Latvia is also a journey to seek an uncle who was left behind.


The Forgotten Life of Eva Gordon by Linda MacKillop -- Eva struggles with her memory failing so her granddaughter Breezy takes her in. Only Eva wants her quiet home. She doesn't want all these troublesome students plus Mabel, the older lady who rents the upstairs apartment, to come by all the time. It's much too noisy in this new living arrangement!  This book made me more weepy than I expected. I guess the flashbacks of good times and regrets plus Eva and Mabel's challenges just hit me on a day when my uncle's first birthday in heaven already made me a bit prone to tears.



That Night by Chevy Stevens -- After Toni and Ryan serve their prison sentences for murdering Toni's sister over a decade ago, the pair want to figure out what really happened because they were wrongly convicted! Pretty good story.



Where the Sky Begins by Rhys Bowen -- Josie Banks is from the East End of London and when her husband Stan is drafted and her house is bombed, she signs up for a move to the country. There she stays with a lady not known for her warmth and friendliness, but Josie makes the best of it. Good book!



The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin -- Ava is a librarian in Washington, D.C. who agrees to an assignment in Lisbon in order to help the Allied war effort in that neutral country. Meanwhile Elaine is grieving the loss of her husband and joins the Resistance in Lyon. Not the most exciting, but picked up more about midway and was pretty good.




Outside by Ragnar Jónasson -- A very quick read based in the author's home country of Iceland. Four "friends,"  Armann, Gunnlauger, Daniel and Helena get together for a hunting trip. A surprise blizzard has them breaking into an emergency shelter where a surprise awaits them. This book was told from each person's perspective and I didn't really like any of them. I guess Daniel was the best of the bunch.



Beach House Summer by Sarah Morgan -- I can see how this would be a nice beach read, and good for someone into Hallmark movies. I've never watched one of those, but I imagine they are like this book. Not a terrible book, but just not my favorite type. Joanna's celebrity ex-husband dies in a crash and the young lady in the car with him survives. Joanna reaches out to Ashley who really finds her voice the more you read.


Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson -- After Myrna read this book and liked it, I decided to get it from the library. After their mother's death, Byron and Benny meet to listen to a lengthy audio file their mother recorded with the help of her attorney. In it, she tells the story about a girl named Covey who grew up in the Caribbean (or West Indies as it was known back then). Covey was a splendid swimmer who ended up in Britain. Pretty interesting story!



The Lifeguards by Amanda Eyre Ward -- I was browsing the New Books last week and saw this book which I decided to try. Three fifteen year old Austin, Texas, boys have been friends their whole lives. Their moms regularly get together, and one night the boys come home saying that they need to call 911 because a body was found on the greenbelt that runs near their houses. A fast-paced, rather-fun read on these pretty, less-humid days.


Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare -- This was also a New Books find, and I wasn't sure at first if I'd keep reading it. I gave it another few chapters and ended up enjoying this murder mystery which takes place as Lena Aldridge travels from England to New York. She gets seated with a rich family and some weird things start happening - like the family patriarch being poisoned! Pretty good.



The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer -- Pretty good story about Sofie, a German lady who moves to Alabama after World War II because her husband was one of the brillant German rocket scientists who did much for the Nazi war effort...and the US wants that technology for themselves! While in the US, Sofie meets other Germans and deals with Americans not keen on the enemy living among them. The book also shifts back to years in Germany as the Nazis came to power. Another storyline involves Texan Lizzie and her brother Henry who helped liberate one of the extermination camps. Inspired by Operation Paperclip.



Fly Girl by Ann Hood -- A memoir from the author's years as a flight attendant. I enjoyed reading about her experiences in becoming a stewardess (as they were called back then), the application process, interviews, and training plus the flying. Pretty interesting!




Girl, Interrupted by Karin Slaughter -- Decades earlier a pregnant teen was murdered on the night of the senior prom. After her US Marshal training, Andrea is assigned a case in that area, and in her spare time (her assignment is guarding a federal judge), she asks around, hoping to figure out who murdered Emily Vaughn. Pretty good. 


By Her Own Design by Piper Huguley -- "A novel of Ann Lowe, fashion designer to the social register."  I enjoyed this story "told by" Ann. Interesting lady and so funny to see a lady called Tucky in it! I sent a picture of that to Andrew, my own Tucky.



Gilt by Jamie Brenner -- Pretty good story about two sisters, Celeste and Elodie, and the daughter (Gemma) of their other sister (Paulina, now deceased.) This book has to do with jewelry, the family business, and so forth.


The Echo Man by Sam Holland -- If you enjoy reading about a serial killer and the police trying to capture him, this book might be for you. Pretty good if not gruesome at times.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

August Books

 

The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson -- An OK book. I probably won't look for more from this author unless I get bored of others. Kara was nearly 8 years when most of her family is murdered in their mountain cabin. Twenty years later, her brother Jonas is released from prison due to a technicality that his lawyer found. She's reliving a lot of what happened back then and dealing with his sudden release.



I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Year Away by Bill Bryson -- Since I recently read his two books about living in and touring Britain, I decided to read another one, and it happened to be the one he wrote while his family lived in the US. (They are back in Britain now, last I checked. He married an Englishwoman.)  This book was actually a collection of newspaper columns that he wrote for a British audience so it was interesting to see what he wrote about being back in the US. Some parts made me chuckle out loud whereas a few parts were new to me (like some post office customer appreciation day. Maybe that just happened in his part of New Hampshire.) Anyway, a pretty cute book.



Count the Nights by Stars by Michelle Shocklee -- Told from the perspective of Audrey in the 1960s and one of the older tenants at the Maxwell House Hotel where her dad is the manager. Priscilla has lived as a near-recluse at the hotel for twenty years. When she suffers a stroke and Audrey is tasked with going through her belongings, she learns there is more to Miss Nichols' life than she thought. Pretty good.




Carved in Stone by Elizabeth Camden -- I realized I had book 2 on hand and hadn't read book 1 in this series (The Blackstone Legacy) so I ordered book 1 from the library and here it is. Gwen Blackstone Kellerman is a widow at age 29. Her love is the college where researchers were looking for cures for tetanus and botulism, things that disproportionately affected the lower classes. But the college is a money pit according to many in her wealthy family, and there is talk that the uncles want to discontinue funding it. Meanwhile Patrick O'Neill is hired to represent Mick Malone in his scathing memoir of the Blackstone family. Decent book. 



The Disinvited Guest by Carol Goodman -- This book takes place about ten years after the global pandemic that we lived through (are living through) when another virus is causing folks to isolate and all that fun stuff. Instead of living in the city, Reed and Lucy along with a handful of friends and family move to Reed's family's island off the coast of Maine where a lot of creepy stuff takes place.  Pretty good.
 


Look Closer by David Ellis -- A new author for me, but I saw this one on the New Books online list and decided to try it. Simon and Vicky are a sweet couple married nearly ten years, but they want different things. Simon wants children; Vicky does not. Vicky plans to divorce him soon after their tenth anniversary. She has to stay married to him at least ten years in order to get money from his trust. Meanwhile Simon has reconnected with a former love, Lauren, who is back in the Chicago area after nineteen years.  Pretty good mystery type book.




Home Before Dark by Riley Sager -- After her father dies, Maggie is surprised to learn that her childhood home - the one her family fled because it was haunted - had never been sold and she'd inherited it. Now a house flipper, Maggie is determined to fix up Baneberry Hall and find out the reason her family fled without any of their belongings. Is it truly a haunted house or is there some other explanation? Pretty good.



Written on the Wind by Elizabeth Camden -- Book 2 in The Blackstone Legacy. I don't love this series as much as I liked other books that I remember from her. I remember really enjoying her books years ago, but these are just ok. Not bad, but not overly-interesting to me. Dmitri is Natalia's Russian contact whom she has a telegram relationship with. Both are mentioned in book 1, and their story is fleshed out in this one. Likeable enough characters really, but maybe not the most interesting story...I don't know.



Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard -- A story about Jackie Bouvier and her friendship with Lem Billings, a good friend to John "Jack" Kennedy. This book is told through the eyes of an older Lem about Jackie's friendship and becoming engaged to Jack. I must admit that I am not a fan of the Kennedy men (especially as they are portrayed in books I've read).  Decent story. It was a quick read.



Wish You Were Gone by Kieran Scott -- Emma deals with the aftermath of her husband's accidental death: he drove into the garage wall while driving drunk, but something about it seems a little off. Emma along with her friends Lizzie and Gray do a bit of investigating. Pretty good.



The Bodyguard by Katherine Center -- A cute, light, quick read about Hannah Brooks, a protection agent who gets assigned to a Hollywood star who has come home to Texas in order to be there for his mom who is undergoing surgery for cancer. To keep her cover, Hannah has to pose as Jack's girlfriend and stay at the family ranch. Pretty cute story. 




More Than You'll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez -- The Spanglish was a bit off-putting to me at times (mostly because I didn't know all the words), but overall I liked this book pretty well. Cassie is a true-crimes blogger who is looking into the story of Lore who was married to two men at once: one in the US and the other in Mexico. As she meets with Lore, she finds out more details about the night her first husband allegedly killed her second husband. The author mentions in the back that she wanted to represent Mexican-Americans and their Spanglish which made me see it more positively because I did wonder why she put so much of it in the book.
 


Out of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins -- Lillie is a nurse-midwife on the Cape who is shocked when her husband takes her to their favorite restaurant only to tell her that he's leaving her for a beautiful, rich widow who moved into town. This was actually a pretty good story sharing Melissa, the rich widow-turned husband stealer, and Lillie's perspectives.



Looking for Leroy by Melody Carlson -- Brynna is a third grade teacher who decides to tag along with the vice principal as VP Jan takes a road trip in Oregon and California over the summer break. As they pass through a certain area, Brynna remembers a summer camp she attended nearly thirty years ago - and a young fellow whom she liked a lot! Whatever happened to Leroy anyway? As they drive through wine country, Jan and their new BFF Mike decide Brynna should reconnect with her lost love, but how do you find a certain vineyard among so many?  Pretty cute, clean book.  I actually liked parts of it better than the ending when Brynna got a little too flip-floppy for my tastes. Easy read.



The Housekeeper by Joy Fielding -- Another easy read for me, and totally different from the one just above. Jodi Bishop is the less-favored daughter who is looking out for her parents when she interviews and hires a live-in housekeeper for them. Her dad is nearly 80 caring for her mom who has had Parkinson's for years so why not? Elyse Woodley is helpful, attractive, attentive - she checks all the boxes and then some. But why does eventually things turn sour?



The Swell by Allie Reynolds -- When Kenna's BFF, now living thousands of miles away in Australia, mentions her upcoming wedding without asking Kenna to attend, Kenna decides to leave her life in London for a month to see how Mikki is doing - and to see about her intended husband. Why the rush of marrying someone anyway?  When Kenna just shows up on Mikki's porch, she's invited inside, but things are awkward between the friends. When Mikki's fiancé gets home, he tells Kenna that they are leaving soon for a place they go to surf, a private location in a national park! Thus follows a Tribe of surfers - Sky, Victor, Ryan, Jake, Clemente, Jack, and Mikki - who try to keep a location in a national park off-limits to everyone else. Lots of talk of surfing, facing your fear, and such in this book, but maybe not in a wholesome way.



The 2% Way by Myron L. Rolle, MD, MSc --"How a Philosophy of Small Improvements Took Me to Oxford, the NFL, and Neurosurgery" ; The author was a small child when he moved from the Bahamas to New Jersey with his parents and four older brothers. In this book he talks some about his heritage and childhood, and then devotes chapters to his time playing college football at Florida State, his applying for a Rhodes scholarship, his months in England, his experience with the NFL, and furthering his education and helping out in the Bahamas after a hurricane devastated the region and his experience working in Massachusetts General Hospital during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Andrew read this book and told me I'd probably like it so I decided to read it before returning it to the library. Interesting story! A quick read, too.



Black Widows by Cate Quinn -- I wasn't sure I was going to like this book about Blake and his three wives, Rachel, Emily, and Tina. When Blake is found dead, the wives are suspected in his murder. Chapters alternate from each woman's point of view as they search for clues about what happened.



The Challenge by Danielle Steel -- I don't usually read this author, but this book seemed different from ones I used to associate with her. Wow...I got to the place where I was like, this is amusing because it's got so much going on. Like Tom moved to Fishtail, Montana, from New York City because he's tired of the big-city rat race. His wife said no way and files for divorce. Their daughter visits her dad his first summer in Montana and befriends a group of guys and they all hang out together and get lost on a mountain. I actually thought this was what most of the book was about, but that happened about 1/4 of the way in and was resolved fairly quickly.  Then it just meanders on about how these families deal with things: like one dad has pancreatic cancer and one of the boys has an insulin pump due to juvenile diabetes. It was an easy, relatively-short book, but not what I had in mind when I put it on hold at the library. Definitely not a good thriller.




The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell -- When a mudlarker finds a bag of bones on the shore of the Thames, the London police move to identify the body and then figure out how this person's bones came to wash up over two decades later. Meanwhile Lucy and her children are house hunting, Rachel is dealing with the aftermath of a disastrous quickie marriage and Henry travels to Chicago searching for Phin. An OK story.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

July Books

 

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor -- When her dad is put in a memory care home, Katie decides to have his stamp collection appraised and meets Benjamin. Benjamin finds one stamp of interest and the two follow the story to Wales and later Germany soon after the wall is removed. This book alternates between 1989 Katie and Benjamin, and Austria in 1939 when Kristoff is commissioned by the Nazis to make stamps. Good story! 



The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager -- A new book from the library that I had on my Holds list for awhile because it was On Order. A fast read, good suspense novel. I liked it although I liked it slightly less when it took a bizarre twist. Still, I enjoy this book about the mid-thirties, widowed actress Casey Fletcher, who is hiding out at her family's lake house in Vermont after her drinking gets out of control. Casey drinks and drinks and drinks, but also watches the family across the lake because their house is all glass on one side. Oh, also she rescues a lady Katherine from drowning. I enjoyed this one!



The Second Husband by Kate White -- After Emma's husband is murdered, she remarries a kind, thoughtful man who is unlike her first huband. Truth be told, Emma wasn't that sad that her first husband died, but she never would have killed him - or paid someone else to do it. But when the case is reopened, Emma and her second husband, Tom, are looked at - how did they meet? how soon after the first husband was killed? Is there anything strange about this? Pretty good story if you like these types of books.



Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson -- I've had this book in my garage for a couple of years now. Seems I got it from a little free library, but it smelled musty and smoky so I left it out there. I don't like reading books with strong smells, especially must and smoke. Thankfully when I noticed it a couple of weeks ago, it smelled fine so airing it out in my garage for two years worked!  Back in the 1990s, Bill Bryson went on a tour of several areas in England, Wales, and Scotland. He walked quite a bit of the time, though he took public transportation to various places that were too far to walk to. I think he has an updated book from a more recent trip back to Great Britain. I should get it to compare the two tales especially since this one is fresh on my mind. 



The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani -- My mom liked this book so I decided to read it. It's about a Toscan family "Now," but also about certain family members a generation or two before, in the time during World War II.  Matelda has grown old, and is telling her story. The story really of her mom Domenica, and her Scottish father whom she never knew. Pretty good book.



Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner -- Vivien, Grace, and the new worker Evie work at a bookshop in England with a handful of men who dominate the positions of power in the workplace. Shocking, I know. This was an OK book. I liked parts of it quite a bit (some subtle humor especially with the rules starting each chapter) while other parts were rather wordy and not that interesting. 





The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz -- The mystery was pretty good, but I really didn't enjoy much of this book due to the language, partying lifestyle. I'm so glad I missed out on all that by my sheltered upbringing. Lindsay can't remember the details surrounding her friend Edie's death. It was ruled a suicide, but some of the gang think it was a homicide. Lindsay realizes she was so drunk that she can't recall her whereabouts that night ten years ago. Thus, she tries to figure out what happened.


When We Fell Apart by Soon Wiley -- Min is an American with Korean ancestry on his mother's side. After living in both California and New York City, he decides to travel to Seoul where he meets Yu-jin eager to escape her small town for a school in Seoul. The book alternates between Min in the "now" vs. what led up to Yu-jin's death, reading her side of the story. Pretty good.



Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout -- This is a book about Lucy Barton, a writer introduced to readers in a previous book which I have not read yet. I remembered liking this author pretty well so when I saw this book on the New Books shelf, I decided to read it. Lucy tries to help her former husband, the father of her two daughters, as he goes through a rough couple of years. Cute in a folksy kind of way.




The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen -- Avery is no longer a therapist as she lost her license due to her unconventional ways, however, as a consultant, she gets results and earns a hefty fee. When Marissa and Matthew come to her, she finds that they came under false pretenses, and she has a bit of a struggle figuring these two out. Are they being forthright or still telling lies and keeping secrets? Fast-paced, pretty good story.


Freud's Mistress by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman -- A story mostly from the perspective of Minna Bernays, the sister of Anna Freud. When Minna loses yet another job, she comes to live with her sister, her sister's husband (the scientist/doctor Sigmund Freud) and their six children. Although she resists for a while, she and Sigmund have a growing attraction and he's not the least bit bothered by such things as guilt. An OK book.



A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham -- The twenty-year anniversary of her father's conviction in the disappearances and murders of teenage girls is coming up, and Chloe Davis experiences some terrible flashbacks when it starts happening again. A pretty good mystery/thriller-type book.



My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout -- This book is the intro book to the one I read a few days ago about Lucy Barton. She referred to some of this stuff in her second book so it was good to read the fuller picture though her story isn't that exciting to me. Still, I did put book 3 on hold as it was listed as one the library has On Order. These books are easy to read quickly.



The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson -- Since I recently read his first book about his travels in Britain, I decided to read this updated version from his trip through Britain about twenty years later. He revisits some places as well as going to new places. I enjoyed some of the commentary and learned some things. I may try to read more of his books in the coming months. I looked Bill Bryson up online and Wikipedia said that he retired from writing books in October 2020.



The Club by Ellery Lloyd -- This book was just ok. I finished it because I wanted to see what happened at the end, but it felt a bit too much like other books I've read. Celebrity guests at an exclusive, invitation-only island and not-very-nice, entitled personalities. It's like an island full of Trumps! Told in alternating voices of Jess who was just made Head of Housekeeping; Nikki, the long-time personal assistant to the boss, Ned Grooms; Annie, the fixer and schmoozer; among others.



Katheryn Howard: The Scandalous Queen by Alison Weir -- Finally finished this series about the wives of Henry VIII! I didn't know much about this queen and her story was pretty interesting.



A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley -- A few weeks ago, Andrew came home with a couple of library books, but this one was put second or third to a couple of others. But when Andrew finally read it, he read it quickly and stated that I'd like this book so I decided to read it before returning it to the library. Saroo tells the story of living his first few years in India, and how he got left at a train station, fell asleep, and terrifyingly ended up in the bustling city of Calcutta. He was five years old, in a dangerous city, and couldn't figure out how to get home!  Eventually Saroo was adopted by Australian parents and grew up in Tasmania. When he was a young adult, he discovered Google Earth, and it became a goal for him to figure out where he came from. Could he find his home village? Could he find the mother and siblings he lost that day?



Margot by Jillian Cantor -- Margie Franklin works as a secretary at a law firm owned by Jews. She, however, is not living "out loud" as a Jew due to her past. Unbeknownst to, well, everyone else, Margie is actually the older sister of Anne Frank. Yes, this is a tale imagining Margot somehow escaping and making her way to the United States during the era when her sister's diary was published by her father and made into a movie! 




I'll Be Seeing You by Robin Lee Hatcher -- A story alternating between Brianna of modern times who is getting information about her great-grandmother's life during World War II. Parts of the story are Daisy (the great-grandmother) sharing her story, and parts are Brianna going out with friends. Pretty good.


The Shadow House by Anna Downes -- This book was OK-decent, but I didn't like that the mother and teenaged son cursed at each other. I mean, I guess that's reality for many perhaps most, but still. Single mom Alex flees her second baby's father to live in an ecovillage in Australia. There she meets a mostly-welcoming community, but then weird stuff starts happening and there's talk of a witch in the woods.



Someone Is Watching by Joy Fielding --  Bailey is a young, confident private investigator when one night changed everything. Soon Bailey is housebound, showering often, and walking around her house looking for someone hiding. Also, she's peeking out her apartment window watching the man across the way as he does bizarre things. Luckily, her half sister Claire comes around to help out, bringing her sixteen year old daughter, Jade.  Pretty good story.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

June Books

 

The Last Dance of the Debutante by Julia Kelly -- Lily Nicholls is one of the last groups of ladies presented to the Queen. Rumor is that this might be the last Season for such outdated practices, and Lily's mom and grandmother want her to drop out of school in order to be presented. Think of the possibilities of finding a good match:a rich husband and then the babies! Only is this the life Lily wants? As she makes friends with other debs, attends parties and balls, Lily discovers more about her past. Pretty good story.


Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir -- Third in the Six Tudor Queens series; this book has just over 550 pages so another long read, but pretty good. I know a lot of this is made up because the author wasn't there to hear the dialogue and see what truly happened, but it was good to learn more about this wife of Henry VIII. I have two more books left in this series since I started with book 6 (Katharine Parr) and have now read books one through three. Oh, the reason I think she said Jane was "the haunted queen" was due to how Anne Boleyn met her demise. Andrew kept seeing the title and asked me about this haunted lady.



The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid -- Monique is shocked when her boss tells her that the famous Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo wants only her to interview her for an upcoming piece for their magazine. When Monique meets with Evelyn, Evelyn wants to share her whole story in a biography and agrees that Monique can write this tell-all, but only after Evelyn dies. Pretty good story.


The Replacement Wife by Darby Kane -- A thriller-type book; pretty easy read. Elisa is convinced that her brother in law, Josh, is a killer. Why else would he have a wife who died "accidentally" and now his fiancée is missing and he doesn't seem all that upset about it? Enter Rachel...the new girlfriend. Can Elisa protect Rachel from her brother in law? Meanwhile, why is Josh gaslighting her, making her feel off-balance? Pretty good, fast read.


Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger -- At the urging of her friend Jax, Wren makes a profile on Torch, a dating app. She has a type, and it's not the men posing shirtless in front of sports cars. She meets Adam in a bar, and they quickly become inseparable until the evening they were supposed to meet and he doesn't show. Instead she gets a text about his having to leave and he's sorry. Wren thought they were a good match, and wants answers. Later when she looks for his Torch profile and social media pages, they are gone. What happened to Adam? Pretty good book except she makes some really stupid decisions. And this book makes me so happy that I never had to rely on apps for finding a love match.



Things Past Telling by Sheila Williams -- A nice break from the thriller-type books, this tale of Maryam starts with her as a young girl some place in Africa where she is taken by slave traders and journeys across the ocean. It follows her few years working for a pirate in the Caribbean and later as an enslaved young woman in the South. Interesting story.


The Collective by Alison Gaylin -- Camille's daughter died after a frat boy left her outside in the cold after he raped her. Five years have passed and Camille is still so, so angry. After she becomes a bit of a local sensation, she's invited to join a group of angry mothers bent on revenge. They meet on the dark web and fantasize about how to bring their children's killers to their ends. A pretty good - if rather dark - story!



The Next Ship Home by Heather Webb -- I got this book for my birthday and decided to read a few of the books I have already at home. Francesca and her sister Maria are recent immigrants from Sicily who meet Alma, a German-heritage American, who works at Ellis Island.  Alma befriends the sisters and looks out for them. Other stuff happens. Pretty good book.



A Short History of Humanity by Johannes Krause and Thomas Trappe -- I saw this book while we were at Barnes & Noble earlier this year, and I got it for my birthday. This was an interesting look at how people moved from one place to another and brought their ways of life (farming, for instance) and how eventually DNA changed so we could process grains and other carbohydrates rather than the meat from the hunters and gatherers who just as easily ate grubs and snails. I liked the part about dogs (pg. 67), different grains (p. 70), the meaning of "blue eyes" (pg. 76), "very, very old relatives" re: Europeans and those in what is now the Americas (pg. 101), immune systems as pertaining to vaccines (pg. 181). I stopped jotting down page numbers after that as the rest of the book dealt with interesting things like diseases and pandemics somewhat. I like the authors' conclusion: "One thing that seems clear is that - pandemic and social distancing aside - dogmatically insisting on social, cultural, and physical isolation within our nations is a dead end. The world has never been that way. The journey of humankind will carry on. We will find our limits - and we will not accept them. Through the journey of our genes, we know that humans are born travelers; we are made to wander." (pg. 237)


The Runaway Jury by John Grisham -- I found this paperback at Southport when we were there in late April, and I finished my library books recently and figured I'd read some books I have here at the house. This book is about a Big Tobacco lawsuit where the industry is sued for the early death of a long-time smoker. There is wheeling and dealing and following and downright wrong stuff happening behind the scenes with the jury. Whew! Pretty interesting story if you like legal cases and jury drama.



Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi -- I got this book from a little free library at Southport, I believe, and it was OK. Anthony is 7 years old when his Aunt Floria and her twin daughters move into their house because Floria's husband has to spend time in prison and she can't afford to live in her old place. One of the twins, Bianca, wears her Superman cape, and thinks she can fly. Belinda, the other twin, has issues with her sinuses. The book deals with Anthony, his mom Leonora, Aunt Floria and devotes a chapter or two to each, in various decades. Not a favorite.




Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait by Alison Weir -- I'm continuing this series about King Henry, VIII's wives. This was an interesting look at his German wife and their brief marriage. I only have one book left since I started with book 6. Except for Author's Notes, these books end with these ladies' deaths so it was interesting learning a bit more of the story since Anna was the last of Henry's wives to die. Even still, she was in her early forties.



Fully You: Unlocking the Power of All You Really Are by Joël Malm -- Andrew mentioned this book a good while back, and I decided to get it for his birthday. He read it recently, and I put it in my stack of books to eventually read and did so this week. It's kind of a spiritual self-help book, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. There are lots of challenging things especially the community parts: meeting in person with folks, confessing your weaknesses, being open and honest. I found the solitude part more in line with my temperament (meditating on God's goodness and what he says about me and my situation.)   I may reread this book in the near future because I think I can learn a lot from it. There was an interesting chapter on anger as well.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

May Books

 

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


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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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


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


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



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

Thursday, April 28, 2022

April Books

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

 

 

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


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



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



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



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


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


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



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



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



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



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



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



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

Thursday, March 31, 2022

March Books

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

 

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



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


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



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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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




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



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


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



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



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



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

Monday, February 28, 2022

February Books

 

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



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



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

 

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




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



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


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


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



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



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



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


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



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



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



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



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



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

Sunday, January 30, 2022

January Books

 

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


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


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



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



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



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


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


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



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



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


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


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



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



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



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



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



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

Sunday, January 16, 2022

2021 in Review

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



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

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

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

sister-in-law had a baby boy in September

 


4. Did anyone close to you die?

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

 

Miss y'all


5. What countries did you visit?

zero

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? 
 
comfortable

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?

Jonathan






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.