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

Sunday, December 31, 2023

December Books

Happy last day of the year! Hope next year is a good one for you! 



In the Blood by Lisa Unger -- Lana comes from a troubled family to put it mildly. Her dad is on death row after being convicted of murdering his wife. Lana has spells where she can't remember what happened. As her college studies wind down she takes a job helping a single mother care for her eleven year old son who has ... issues. He's part of a school that specializes in helping troubled children. Pretty good story.

From a Far and Lovely Country by Alexander McCall Smith -- another adventure featuring Precious Ramotswe and the loveable cast of characters that make this series worth reading - even if the plots are rather bland compared to other books. I enjoy these trips to Botswana through these characters!

The End of Her by Shari Lapena -- Stephanie and Patrick are exhausted parents of twin girls with colic. One day a beautiful woman from Patrick's past comes into his workplace under the pretense of applying for a job. Patrick is stunned at the request and claim Erica has, and Erica seeks to tell Stephanie about her husband's past. Is Patrick telling Stephanie the truth? Should she be wary of him?

A Killer in the Family by Gytha Lodge -- I feel like this is part of a series that I walked into, but it was stand-alone enough to be pretty interesting. It takes place in England with a lot of Irish names thrown in. News of the Bonfire Killer spreads and unfortunately the DNA matches someone in Aisling's family. Her dad left the family when she was a child - could he be the killer setting women (and a mare) on fire?

Nineteen Steps by Millie Bobby Brown -- Nellie lives with her close knit family in the East End of London where they use their tube station at Bethnal Green as a shelter when the Nazis bomb their area. The mayor wants to improve the entrance to the station because someone reported how dangerous it could be based on the steep stairs, very low lighting, and other things.

A Twisted Love Story by Samantha Downing -- Ivy and Wes have the weirdest on-and-off relationship, but they seem to thrive in it. Things are ok until Detective Karen decides to look into both of their pasts. OK book.

American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton -- an interesting story about Alice Roosevelt, the oldest child of President Theodore Roosevelt

She Lies In Wait by Gytha Lodge -- I had walked into the midst of a series (see book above by same author) so I decided to start with book one in order to properly "meet" these English detectives, Jonah, Juliette, Ben, and the gang. When bones are found at a campground Jonah remembers three decades ago when Aurora, a fourteen year old, went missing. Soon the team is trying to solve the mystery of her disappearance that night. 

Someone We Know by Shari Lapena -- Olivia is worried about her son who has been a good kid up until he confesses to breaking into houses to look at people's computers. Meanwhile something more troubling happens in the neighborhood when a missing lady is found in a car that was driven into a lake. Fast-paced mystery!

The Night Before by Wendy Walker -- Laura has had a tough time meeting the right guy, and when she finds a promising match on a dating app, her sister is excited for her - but wary, too. When Laura doesn't return from her date, Rosie and her husband Joe and their best friend Greg help retrace Laura's steps.

I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died by Amanda Flower -- This is "an Emily Dickinson mystery" featuring Emily and her family, friends, and peers, but told from the perspective of Willa, the family's maid and a sort of companion to Emily.  Pretty good.

The Other Mothers by Katherine Faulkner -- Tash's son has struggled fitting into playgroup so Tash is happy when Laura and the gang of "perfect" moms invites her to join them. Meanwhile Tash is also investigating the death of a nanny who had ties to the playgroup her son attends. Pretty good. 

Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison -- After her parents are killed, Ash moves from Oxford, England, to attend a private all-girls school in Virginia where bad things still happen to those close to her. Is she part of the problem or does she just have really bad luck?

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena  --  Anne and Marco are at a birthday dinner next door when their daughter disappears. What happened to baby Cora between the time Marco checked on her and they came home for the evening?

Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner -- Helen is attending her prenatal class alone - husband out of town again - when she meets Rachel, a vivacious young lady who drinks and smokes and laughs just a little too loudly. Rachel keeps popping up everywhere so she and Helen hang out. Things are ok, but not great. Then Rachel vanishes.  Pretty good.

The Professor by Lauren Nossett -- Now that she's lost her job as a detective, Marlitt has all the time in the world to help her mother's friend, a professor who is being investigated because her student died under suspicious circumstances. Meanwhile we learn some of the background of the professor, a German-Turkish lady who is teaching German at the University of Georgia.

Watching From the Dark by Gytha Lodge -- Another in the series I started earlier this month. When Aidan is waiting for his Skype call with Zoe, he believes he witnesses her murder.  Though he can't see anything, he hears things. Yet he's reluctant to call the police due to things he wants to keep secret.  A lovely book to read on Christmas Eve, right? 

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena -- Guests are looking forward to a wonderful stay at a quaint hotel, but when a storm turns into an icy mess leaving them without power, they are dismayed. Especially when someone winds up dead - a murder? Maybe!  Another good one to read at Christmas!

Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent -- When Sally's father dies and she quite literally follows his instructions about taking him out to the trash, the town realizes "weird" Sally Diamond is as strange as they thought. This book explores Sally's bluntness, her inability to fit into "normal" life,  her past, and the story of Peter and his father, a dentist in Ireland, who fled with his son to New Zealand when a burglar made quite a discovery. Interesting story and characters!

Thursday, November 30, 2023

November Books


The Leftover Woman by Jean Kwok -- I was ready to put this book aside as it took a bit to get into, but it ended up being pretty good.  Jasmine left her family in China to come to the Beautiful Country where she found a job working in an Asian strip club. She doesn't want to work there, but has an enormous sum to repay. Additionally, she seeks to avoid the husband she fled. Meanwhile Rebecca is trying to land an author for her publishing job while balancing life as a mom and wife. Their live-in nanny from China is there to make their adopted daughter Fifi more in touch with her native culture.

A Million Little Choices by Tamera Alexander -- When Claire's big-wig lawyer husband accepts a partnership in another state, she's angry that their lives will be uprooted without much input from her. Their marriage is already shaky because of a friendship he had that turned a little too chummy.  After they relocate to Atlanta, Claire discovers something in her big, new house that makes her popular among the historical society. She reads about the former owners of this house which was quite interesting.

The Guest Room by Tasha Sylva -- This book was OK. After her sister Rosie was found dead, Tess moves into her flat, and rents out a room as an AirBnB. She has a bad habit of going through her guests' belongings, and when a longer-term guest Arran comes to stay, she starts reading his diary.

Gone Tonight  by Sarah Pekkanen -- Ruth has been on the run since she was a pregnant teenager full of secrets as she ran away from home. Catherine is a few weeks away from her move to the Baltimore area to begin a new job and classes when her mom's diagnosis causes her to put her plans on hold. But then Catherine is puzzled when she realizes her mom's deception: about her possible disease, her upbringing, so many things. Why is her mom lying to her?

The Traitor Beside Her by Mary Anna Evans -- This is one of those books that I think I'd like better if I read the previous books because even though it doesn't say it's part of a series, I noticed another book that seemed like it would explain Justine Byrne and her friends Georgette, Paul, and Jerry. More of the backstory. Instead I was plopped into this event with them all working as spies to varying degrees. Justine is trying to figure out who in her department is selling information to the Axis powers. Decent book.

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin -- Everytime Liv wakes up she forgets things. The last thing she recalls, she was at work when she got a phone call. After that...nothing.  Her best friend and boyfriend aren't at their apartments or answering their phones, apparently she doesn't even live at the apartment she remembers. What happened? 

The Caretaker by Ron Rash -- Blackburn Gant is the caretaker of a cemetery near Blowing Rock, NC. When his best friend Jacob gets drafted and heads to Korea, Jacob asks Blackburn to look after his wife Naomi as she's expecting their first child. Jacob's parents refused since Jacob and Naomi eloped and they were angry about it. Good story.

A Small Affair by Flora Collins -- Vera meets a super-rich guy on a dating app only to ditch him after three dates. Then something terrible happens and many blame her. She loses her job and reputation. Later she tries to figure out what exactly happened. An OK book. 

Against the Wind by Amanda Cabot -- book two in the Secrets of Sweetwater Crossing series; Josh is on a quest to improve his grandfather's store based in New York, but he finds himself laid up in Texas for several weeks after his horse throws him. Meanwhile Louisa is back in her home community with hopes of being the next midwife and doctor. 

The Year of Jubilee by Cindy Morgan -- Grace is a young teenager who struggles to fit in school. When her brother Isaac goes away for treatment, her Aunt June stays with Grace and her sister. Good story.

The Book Spy by Alan Hlad -- Maria Alves is a "microfilm expert" working in New York, but she wants to be part of the team sent to Europe to gather Axis publications, microfilm those to be sent back for scrutiny.  Meanwhile Tiago is a Portuguese bookseller who is doing his part to help Jewish refugees. Pretty good.

The Other Princess by Denny S. Bryce -- A novel of Queen Victoria's goddaughter, Aina who was given the name Sarah Forbes Bonnetta. She was a kidnapped African princess given to Captain Forbes as a gift for Queen Victoria. Interesting story!  Here is a YouTube video about her.

Christmas Presents by Lisa Unger -- A novella that I read in an afternoon as I sat outside enjoying the sun. Madeline runs a bookstore and as she wraps a book for someone's Christmas gift, she learns a rather-famous true crimes podcaster is standing at her counter. Only, he's looking for her, and more specifically her side of the story of what happened in high school when Madeline's best friend died, two girls disappeared, and Madeline was left for dead. 

Walking With Sam by Andrew McCarthy -- "A father, a son, and five hundred miles across Spain;" a travel memoir documenting the author and his nineteen year old son as they walk the Camino de Santiago.

Everyone Here Is Lying by Shari Lapena -- When nine-year-old Avery goes missing, the detectives interview neighbors, parents, schoolmates and friends. It seems so many people have things to hide. Pretty good.

A Novel Proposal by Denise Hunter -- Sadie visits South Carolina one summer in order to write a romance novel. Her western series got nixed by her publisher and now she has to write romance -- but she has never had a long-term relationship and is unsure how to write about love. Meanwhile her grumpy neighbor Sam.... well, he is less-than-welcoming at first.

Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry -- I didn't watch Friends when it was a super-popular TV show, but I was alive then so I knew of the characters to varying degrees. I was saddened when Matthew Perry died a few weeks ago at age 54, and decided to check out his memoir and put it on hold at the library. It was my turn a few days ago, and I read most of it around Thanksgiving. It's a bit strange reading a memoir of someone who recently died suddenly, especially as he admits time and again of his struggles with alcohol and drugs, and how often he almost died from his addiction. He admits to checking out of a rehab place in Switzerland "needing" 1,800 milligrams of Oxy every single day...just to stay level, not to get a high, but so he wouldn't be in agony!  When he flew back to LA and told his doctor, she was like, Um no...cancer patients only get 100 milligrams; here's 30.  He immediately flew back to Switzerland on a $175,000 private jet ride so he could get his 1,800 milligrams. (see pg. 86). One thing Matthew struggled with a lot was being accepted and being lonely. He told how he often broke up with someone because the relationship was going so well, and he knew it was too good to be true. So he wanted to break up first, before the other person could break up with him. (He did this to Julia Roberts and others.)   Throughout the book, he was that lost, lonely kid who at five years old was an Unaccompanied Minor flying from his mom's house in Canada to his father's place in Los Angeles.  He hated that feeling.  He was five years old. Someone pick up this child and take him with them, don't send him by himself. (Matthew's thoughts on the subject.) He wrote in one place that he'd spent around $7 million on rehabs, and mentioned, "I've detoxed over sixty-five times in my life - but the first was when I was twenty-six."  He said during the Friends years that he ranged from a weight of 128 pounds to 225 pounds.  "When I'm carrying weight, it's alcohol; when I'm skinny, it's pills. When I have a goatee, it's lots of pills," he stated. "By the end of season three, I was spending most of my time figuring out how to get fifty-five Vicodin a day - I had to have fifty-five every day, otherwise I'd get so sick. It was a full-time job: making calls, seeing doctors, faking migraines, finding crooked nurses who would give me what I needed."  (see pg. 121)  As he stated in the book and which I'd read online before I read his memoir, when he died people would be shocked by the news, but not surprised.  Overall this was such a sad read for me, and I pray that he is at peace now. 

I found out my sister read this memoir a few weeks before Matthew Perry died, and I, of course, read it a few weeks after.  Steph and I talked about it some while looking around Barnes & Noble the other day (Nov. 28, 2023).

Dirty Laundry by Disha Bose -- When Ciara, the Instagram influencer, is found dead, this book takes us back a few days to see what led up to her murder. Featuring Lauren and her longtime boyfriend whom she decides to ask to marry, Ciara and her family, Mishti and her husband who are Indians living in Ireland. This book was OK.

Saved by Benjamin Hall -- "a war reporter's mission to make it home;" Andrew saw this one at the library and read it. He often said, "You'd probably like this one," especially since the author went to Syria at one point, and later Ukraine.  I decided to read it before returning it to the library. Interesting story, especially the mission to get him out of Ukraine after the car he was in was hit by a bomb.

It Ends at Midnight by Harriet Tyce -- Sylvie is up for a big promotion when her best friend Tess decides they need to come clean about a lie they told twenty years ago that sent a classmate to prison. Sylvie doesn't want a black mark to hold her back from a coveted position, but eventually agrees to try to set things right with the woman they harmed. Pretty good.

The Six by Loren Grush -- This book tells the stories of the first six women who were selected by NASA to become astronauts. They include Sally Ride who was the first American woman in space, and Judy Resnik most known to me as one of the astronauts who lost her life in the Challenger explosion.  Plus I learned about four other women who made space history. Really enjoyed this one!

Monday, November 27, 2023

Itchy Boots: Andorra, Croatia, India (Season 7 Break from Africa)


Three months ago, Itchy Boots informed viewers that she was leaving West Africa. If you are interested in her reasons, see the bottom of this post. She also left her motorcycle, Alaska.

In the meantime, she used some other motorcycles and visited a few places in order to improve her riding skills. 

In the episodes we watched on September 3 and 10th, she rode with Charly, Killian, and Roel in Spain and Andorra; they took us through some towns among the Pyrenees.

Later that month on the 17th and 24th, Noraly was in the Dinaric Rally in Croatia. Unfortunately her rally came to an end when she got off course among tall grasses, flipped in a ditch, and broke her hand.

In October, she started a mini-series called Return to India. She was testing a new pre-production Royal Enfield Himalayan motorcycle.  We watched October 11, 15, 18, 23, 26, and 29 as well as November 1, 5, 8, 13, 16, 19, 22, and 26 as she showed us many interesting sights in India! She loves India and has been there several times, but had never done a proper series there. She only did a fraction of this lovely country, high in the Himalayas near the borders of Pakistan and China; along a lake which is partly in China; she attended a wedding; rode quite a while in a military convoy; stayed in a houseboat; showed us the floating market; went to a temple where they worship rats (I really hated this place); visited the blue city; went to a temple where a motorcycle is a deity of sorts; I loved the tour guide Kuki and the people she met while with him; I enjoyed the people she met along the way and the animals she saw. It was really cool seeing elephants and camels and buffalo along the road.

In the final episode she rode back to Delhi to return the bike after giving a review. Her first season she had a Royal Enfield named Basanti so she compared the two.

She said after a short break, we should soon see videos from Africa again!

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

October Books


The Radcliffe Ladies' Reading Club by Julia Bryan Thomas -- College friends and roommates Tess, Caroline, Merritt, and Evie join a reading club hosted by Alice, the town's bookshop owner. Pretty good.

The Last Breath by Kimberly Belle -- After living abroad for sixteen years, Gia returns to Appalachia to care for her father who is dying from cancer. He was convicted of her stepmother's murder, but is coming home to die - or await another trial. An OK book.

The Only One Left by Riley Sager -- Kit takes a job caring for a lady rumored to have killed her parents and sister over fifty years ago. While caring for Lenora Hope, she learns more of the story of what happened back then. Pretty good one.

Hello Stranger by Katherine Center -- Sadie is excited when she's chosen as a finalist in an art competition, but when a medical situation leaves her with face blindness, she struggles with what to do. Because the competition is in her speciality: portraiture.  Meanwhile she meets Joe and the nice veterinarian Oliver Addison, and deals with a father who doesn't care about her very much and her evil stepsister Parker.

Save What's Left by Elizabeth Castellano -- A rather humorous look at one woman's life after she moves from Kansas to a beach town in New Jersey. Pretty cute.

A Traitor in Whitehall by Julia Kelly -- Days after she begins a new job in the war effort, Evelyne discovers a murdered coworker. She teams up with David Poole to investigate who could have killed Jean, and also the two work to uncover a mole.

How Can I Help You by Laura Sims -- Margo is a former nurse who changed her name and started working in a library. Patricia is a trained librarian stuck in a rinky dink library where her work at the reference desk includes people calling to ask her the number for the car part store and how far one town is from another. Yet Patricia finds Margo intriguing...especially since Margo let it slip that she left her nursing job mid-shift due to hospital politics. Who does that?

Ladies of the Lake by Cathy Gohlke -- A good story about four friends who met at a ladies' school in Connecticut around the time of the first world war. Adelaide, Dot, Susannah, and Ruth promised to be there for each other through thick and thin. Alternating between their days at school and then as adults, this book was an enjoyable read. 

Good Bad Girl by Alice Feeney -- Patience is a young care worker in a home for old people, and she sneaks Edith's dog up to her every once in a while. She lives above the art gallery of a guy who wants her to spy for him. Meanwhile Clio is trying to afford the fees for her mother's care while Frankie is looking for her runaway daughter. This book was a bit confusing to get into, but got better as more of the story unfolded. 

Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger -- Selena and her family are dealing with the disappearance of the children's nanny, meanwhile Anna aka Martha aka ____ is perfecting her con. The women meet on the 7:45 train. Pretty good if you like these types of books!

The Grandmother Plot by Caroline B. Cooney -- Freddy is a twenty-six year old who likes making things with glass. He also is the one selected to care for his grandmother who has dementia so he moves to Connecticut for that. He visits her in her memory care home, and meets interesting characters. Oh, someone is murdered. This was an ok book.

Blood Will Tell by Heather Chavez -- Frankie is a single mom who balances life with her son Julian, being a math teacher, and trying to keep track of her younger sister, Izzy. Izzy has issues with drugs and drinking too much, and Frankie often bails her out of her troubles. In this book Frankie investigates what happened five years ago when Rachel died, and also why was her truck involved in an AMBER alert?

The Air Raid Book Club by Annie Lyons -- Gertie is a widow thinking of selling the bookshop she ran with her beloved husband, but then the war happened and her friend Charles approaches her about taking in a German Jewish child. Which she does. Hedy is fifteen and things are rough for a while as the two come to terms with living together. Pretty good story.

The Paris Agent by Kelly Rimmer -- This book is told from the perspectives of Eloise and Josie who were SOE agents in the war. Also, Charlotte is the daughter to an agent, Noah, who in the 1970s tells his daughter about his wartime activities. Whereas she always thought he was a mechanic in the war, she found out he was a spy. Pretty good.

The Favor by Nicci French -- When Jude is contacted by a highschool boyfriend eleven years later, she agrees to Liam's request to meet and do a favor for him. But when he never shows up at their meeting place, Jude questions her agreement to help him.

The Neighbor's Secret by L. Alison Heller -- These book club members are dealing with a lot and more than one neighbor has a secret. Annie has a relationship she wants to keep hidden, and her daughter Laurel is acting out. Jen is scared that she's raising a sociopath, and wants answers for - and a school that will accept - her son Abe. Lena has her own long-held secret about the night a young man died. Whewie! This book was pretty good.

The Wings of Poppy Pendleton by Melanie Dobson -- This book alternates between the voices of Chloe in present times, and Amelia, Birdie and a few other characters in the past. Chloe runs a candy shop on one of the Thousand Islands where Poppy Pendleton disappeared decades ago. She and a reporter named Logan try to solve the mystery. Meanwhile Chloe is watching a young girl who showed up, but refuses to say where she's from.

Dark Corners by Megan Goldin -- Rachel Krall is a podcaster invited to Florida by the FBI because a prisoner they suspect of several murders is getting ready to be released. Using an old Instagram account, Rachel goes undercover at a local convention for social media influencers in order to learn more about a popular influencer Maddison who has gone missing. Pretty good.

She Started It by Sian Gilbert -- Anabel, Tanya, Chloe, and Esther were shocked when someone from their past invited them to her hen weekend, an all-expenses paid trip to a private island in the Bahamas. Why is Poppy wanting these particular women to be part of her wedding? They bullied her in school! Granted, that was ten-plus years ago, but still. 

The Swindler's Daughter by Stephenia H. McGee -- This book was ok, nothing special. Lillian is stunned when her father dies and leaves her his property. Why is she stunned? Well, all her life her mom claimed to be a widow, but it turns out, her parents were never married and Liliian's dad was alive until just recently. She travels to the place her father lives to settle the estate, and meets a family living in her dad's house.

Just Another Missing Person by Gillian McAllister -- Julia is a detective in England investigating another missing person. When someone breaks into her car and forces her to plant evidence or else her big secret will be revealed, Julia struggles. As she should!  Pretty good story.

Friday, September 29, 2023

September Books


The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear -- Following her roles in two world wars, Elinor knows a bit about survival and taking care of business. When she realizes her neighbors are trying to get away from a well-known crime family in London, she makes it her business to learn about what's going on. This book alternates between present (the crime family story) and two world wars that impacted Elinor in her place of birth, Belgium, and in her mom's home country, England. Pretty good.

Canary Girls by Jennifer Chiaverini -- Did you know that during World War I, women in England made ammunition for the troops, and some of them turned yellow because of their work with TNT? This book follows the lives of Lucy, April, Helen, and their friends, families and coworkers during this time. These women also played on football teams in order to raise funds for the war effort and those impacted by it. Pretty interesting novel.

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner -- Emmy is fifteen years old with big dreams of designing bridal gowns. Among her problems is she's a bit too young to have a job, her mum relies on her for watching her little sister, plus there is a war on. When Emmy gets a job at a bridal shop, she's disheartened when her mum insists she and Julia be evacuated to the country.... because the Germans are probably going to bomb London. And thus it goes. Pretty good book, and my third in a row dealing with one of the world wars and taking place in England, huh. 

Is This Normal? by Dr. Jolene Brighten -- I didn't read every bit of this 450+ page book, but I read most of it as some subjects interested me more than others. This is "judgment-free straight talk about your body," with lots of good information.

An American Beauty by Shana Abé -- "a novel of the Gilded Age," this book follows the story of Arabella Yarrington who is the mistress of Collis Huntington, a super-wealthy man. Pretty interesting.

I Didn't Do It by Jaime Lynn Hendricks -- Thriller novelists are meeting in New York City for Murderpalooza, "the premier thrill writers conference," but when a star writer is murdered and Twitter accusations are off the charts, Vicky, Davis, Mike, and Suzanne become allies of sorts as each feel they might be killed next.

What Harms You by Lisa Black -- This seems to be part of a series because there is mention of these people involved in other cases, but in this one Dr. Ellie Carr is starting a new job at the Locard Institute, where they train people in ways forensic science is useful in solving crimes. Then the scientist Ellie is replacing is found dead and other bizarre things are happening. Could a serial killer be taking classes at the institute?

What Never Happened by Rachel Howzell Hall -- Colette aka Coco returns to Catalina Island years after the tragic murders of her parents and brother because her Aunt Gwen has gotten a bit forgetful and needs care. While writing obituaries for the tiny newspaper, she becomes involved in an investigation into why so many older women are dying. Plus, there are threats against her. Pretty good.

Mrs. Porter Calling by AJ Pearce -- This book is better if you read the two previous books and even better if you remember what all happened in those two books. Alas, I've read them both, but couldn't recall everything about them. Still! Emmy Lake continues writing her popular column in Woman's Friend magazine, but when the owner dies and leaves this magazine to his niece, well, Mrs. Porter has a few changes she wants to make in order to make the magazine less "mis" and more glamorous. Pretty good story.

The Paris Assignment by Rhys Bowen -- Madeleine goes to Paris to study abroad for a semester and ends up marrying Giles and having a child named Olivier. When Hitler comes to power, Giles wants his wife and child to go to England where Madeleine is from. Later Madeleine comes back to France to help with the war effort. Meanwhile Olivier somehow ends up in Australia!

Red Flags by Lisa Black -- I read this author earlier this month and was curious about the first book in this Locard Institute series and the introduction of Dr. Rachael Davies and Dr. Ellie Carr. In this book Ellie is on the scene of an infant abduction and realizes it's her cousin Becca's child. There's talk of online games, addiction algorithms and such. Pretty good.

Delicate Condition by Danielle Valentine -- Now that she's nearly forty, Anna is desperate to have a child! By weird coincidence her acting career is taking off right at a time she's bound to home more due to IVF. When weird things start happening, she and her husband Dex escape to a friend's home in the Hamptons where .. weird things still happen. A bit strange, but a rather-interesting book.

The Paris Daughter by Kristin Harmel -- Juliette and Elise are American women married to French men who meet in Paris around the time Hitler is on the march across Europe. When Elise has to flee the area due to things her Communist husband did, she gives her young daughter to Juliette to care for until she returns. After the war Elise returns to look for her daughter, but Juliette has moved without leaving a message for Elise.

The Last Heir to Blackwood Library by Hester Fox -- Ivy inherits an abbey rumored to be haunted. Soon she believes it because weird things happen. Also, her memory is failing. This seems to happen with all the heirs of Blackwood. What's the deal? Different!

In the Shadow of the River by Ann Gabhart -- Jacci grew up on a showboat and after her mom's death when she was five, her grandpa taught her to dance and sing so she could be part of the show. There's some mystery as to why her mom was stabbed and Jacci learns more about that. An OK book.

The Breakaway by Jennifer Weiner -- Abby has mostly come to appreciate her larger size even though she lives in a world that values thinness, and agrees to lead a bicycling tour where she meets a few interesting characters. Unbelievably, she comes face to face with a guy she hooked up with one night two years ago while in NYC at a bachelorette party.  Sebastian often wondered about the lady who left his bed before he woke up that morning. Despite being a serial dater with no long term relationships to his name, he felt different with Abby. Meanwhile Abby's group includes her fat-shaming mother (surprise!) and a daughter trying to keep a secret from her mom. Interesting story!

The Trade Off by Sandie Jones -- This book explores "toxic" tabloid media through the stories of Jess who went to work for The Globe and her immediate boss Stella. Jess found she didn't have the drive to ruin lives whereas Stella wanted a story at all costs. Pretty interesting.

The Hurricane Blonde by Halley Sutton -- Salma Lowe is the daughter of actors, but she left her own brief stint in show business years ago, and is currently running a tour through Los Angeles related to her own sister's fate. Tawney's murder was never solved, but Salma has long suspected Tawney's ex-fiancé, Cal, who is now directing a movie about Tawney.  An OK book.

Still Life by Joy Fielding -- After Casey has an enjoyable outing with her friends, she finds herself hit by a speeding vehicle and left in a coma. Eventually Casey realizes she can hear everything, and friends and family and medical folks reveal her condition, what they really think about her and others, and they wonder why Casey was hit and left for dead. Was it on purpose or an accident?

The First Ladies by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray -- These authors explore the relationship and hard work of Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune. 
Since I'm posting today: H2ndBD, JDF!  <3

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

August Books


Between Two Strangers by Kate White -- Skyler is a struggling artist who gets a life-changing phone call one Friday afternoon. Someone died and left her an amazing inheritance. But who is this guy and why did he select her for this windfall? Pretty good.

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman -- I thought this was a new book since it was on the library catalog, but I quickly realized it wasn't, and it seemed very familiar. Sure enough I read it a few years ago, but since I didn't have another library book on hand, I went ahead and read it since it was an easy read.

Talk of Champions by Kenny Smith -- I heard a short interview with the author on an NPR program so when I saw this book at the library, I read it quickly. Andrew actually checked it out so I read it while he was working. I remember Kenny Smith from his days playing under Coach Dean Smith at UNC-Chapel Hill. He has various chapters about people who shaped him. Fast read.

Beware the Woman by Megan Abbott -- Jacy traveled to visit her father in law and while there has some complications that mean she may have to stay awhile. But this place is increasingly giving her the creeps so she'd really like to go!  An OK book.

The House Guest by Hank Phillippi Ryan -- Alyssa's husband left her so she's in a bar when she meets a woman who looks a bit down on her luck. She buys Bree a drink or two and gives her her phone number. Eventually Bree moves into the guest house, and, honestly, this book was a bit too hard for me to understand sometimes because I am sooo not one to have someone move into my life that easily. Online, perhaps, yes, but physically...no.  An OK book.

The Spectacular by Fiona Davis -- I always enjoy her books about some iconic building or place and event in New York City. This one focused on Radio City Hall during the time a man left pipe bombs around the city for several years. It's told through the eyes of Marion who becomes a Rockette. She meets Dr. Peter Griggs who is based on a person the FBI hired as a criminal profiler. Interesting, easy-to-read book!

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner -- This book alternates between present day Brette who has the Sight (passed down to females in her family though it skips generations sometimes) and Simone from her time in Paris during World War II and later on a war brides' ship the Queen Mary. Also, it deals with Annaliese who is trying to escape an abusive past. Interesting story.

Before She Finds Me by Heather Chavez -- Julia is standing in line to check her daughter Cora into her freshman dorm when the unthinkable happens: shots ring out and Cora's stepmother who was standing nearby is killed!  Meanwhile Ren recognizes this as being her husband's work, but he never ran this hired hit by her - and they plan their hits together. Why this rush? This story alternates between Julia's and Ren's perspectives. Fast-paced book.

The Messy Lives of Book People by Phaedra Patrick -- Really enjoyed this story about a cleaner, Liv Green, who is employed by the novelist Essie Starling. When Essie passes away unexpectedly, Liv is tasked with something besides cleaning the lady's house!

Pretty Things by Janelle Brown -- Nina is a con artist who works with Lachlan. She wants to get out of the business, but her mom's cancer treatments make it necessary for lots of cash. When Nina is eager to get out of LA (because the police have come around), she heads for Lake Tahoe where she and her mom spent a year when Nina was a sophomore in high school. There she singles out Vanessa,  of the fabulously wealthy Liebling family. Pretty interesting, entertaining book!

The Vanishing at Castle Moreau by Jaime Jo Wright -- DNF; I really tried with this one, but after 158 pages, I cannot get into this story nor keep the characters straight. It's just not that appealing to me.

Summer Secrets by Jane Green -- Cat is an English journalist who struggles with sobriety. Well, first she struggled with realizing her alcohol problem, but once she faces that, she struggles with staying on the wagon. When her American mom tells her a story about her trip to Nantucket before Cat was born, Cat decides to visit for herself. Pretty good story.

The Block Party by Jamie Day -- Every year on Memorial Day, the folks of Alton Street have a block party. Here you are introduced to these rich, complicated people such as Alex who might have a drinking problem; Ken who has been forgiven for an affair years ago, but his wife Emily suspects things; the new neighbors Samir and Mandy with their troubled son, Jay. There are Lettie and Riley and Dylan, and more. Pretty good.

The Senator's Wife by Liv Constantine -- After Sloane's husband is killed, she marries her husband's friend Whit, and things are going pretty well until her hip replacement surgery. This causes her lupus to flare and suddenly she's taking a turn for the worse. Does this have anything to do with her new assistant Athena? What has she been putting into Sloane's food and drinks? Fast read.

Prom Mom by Laura Lippman -- Amber went to her high school prom with the rich boy she was tutoring in French. They weren't a couple that anyone could tell, but he agreed to take her to prom. When she left early due to a terrible stomach ache, well, who knew that she really was having a baby? Years have past, and Amber has distanced herself from her hometown and the "prom mom" label that described her back then. But when she's back in Baltimore to settle her stepfather's estate, she decides perhaps it is time to move home - and see if she has shed that label once and for all.  OK to pretty good.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick -- I read another of her books recently and decided to try another. I enjoyed this story of Arthur Pepper who is coming upon the one year mark of when his wife of forty years died after a sudden illness. Arthur is finally cleaning out her things when he comes upon a charm bracelet placed in a boot. He never saw his wife wear this bracelet, and wonders about the history of these charms. Thus, his finally leaving the house for more than a trip to the store and finding out more about his wife - and himself.

The Secretary by Renée Knight -- Christine Butcher is the long-time secretary for the supermarket heiress Mina Appleton. Christine's role isn't just her sorting Mina's worklife, but doing much much more. And Mina requires loyalty and time like you wouldn't believe. When Mina is written about in a newspaper and sues due to the unflattering portrayal, Christine finds herself on trial. Pretty good story.

Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B.Tyson -- I found this in a Little Free Library awhile back and had it on a shelf. Recently I was between library books, and decided to start this one. The subject is tough so I didn't read it quickly as I alternated between it and light fiction instead. The author speaks of his upbringing in eastern North Carolina with an emphasis on the murder of a young black man in Oxford - what led up to it, who did it, and what happened to those who killed this man. This book started off as a thesis for university work, and ended up being fleshed out into this book. It helped me realize the necessity of sometimes destroying property, the reasons behind it, and such.

No Bad Deed by Heather Chavez -- Cassie is driving home from her clinic one night when she stops to help a lady who is being abused by a man. This leads to a host of issues like her husband going missing while trick or treating with her daughter the next night! What gives? Pretty good if you like suspenseful mystery types.

Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan -- When Lily was 7 years old, her college-aged sister disappeared. Later Lily is a celebrity journalist with the "perfect life," and she's confronted with what happened to her sister all those years ago. With the help of her producer, Greer, and a mysterious informant, Smith, Lily has to make a decision about what to do about Cassie.

None of This Is True by Lisa Jewell -- While eating out for her 45th birthday, Josie notices another lady celebrating her 45th birthday: what are the odds that they are birthday twins at the same restaurant? After looking up this lady - she'd heard her name mentioned - she realizes Alix Summer is a podcaster telling stories of women brave enough to make changes in their lives. Josie contacts Alix about her own story: one where she plans to make big changes.  Pretty good story.

It.Goes.So.Fast. by Mary Louise Kelly -- I've been listening to this author on NPR for several years now, and this book explored "The Year of No Do-Overs" as Mary Louise wanted to make time to see more of her sons' soccer games since the oldest one was getting ready to leave for college soon. The news program she co-hosts begins at 4, the same time her sons' games begin...it's a problem. This book touches on her struggle to hear (a big problem when you work in radio), aging as she wrote much of it the year she turned fifty, her parents, her children, some stories from Ukraine and about her interview with Mike Pompeo, even a curveball towards the end that saddened me. I read this book quickly - within a half day - as it was relatively short, but also fast-paced and interesting.

In A Far-Off Land by Stephanie Landsem -- A good story about Minerva aka Minnie or Mina who travels from South Dakota to Hollywood where she hopes to make enough money to save the family farm! She stole the rent money in order to make the trip, but she has every intention of paying it back - and then some - once she lands a part in a movie.  Meanwhile Oscar and Max, Lupita, Roman, and Angel play their parts in this Depression-era story. Pretty interesting!
Tom Lake by Ann Patchett -- During the global lockdown in 2020, Joe and Lara's three daughters return to Northern Michigan in order to hang out at the family's cherry orchard. While working the fruit, the girls ask their mom about her time as an actress, and her relationship with a famous actor one summer at Tom Lake. I enjoyed this one! 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Itchy Boots Season 7: Sierra Leone to Benin; Time to leave West Africa for now


Yesterday, August 27, Itchy Boots announced that she was finishing her West Africa adventure - for now - due to three reasons so I wanted to record the episodes from Season 7 since I last wrote about them.  In my last post about this season, I went from February 15 through June 21 videos.  Here are the rest.

June 28

We watched episode 43 which was in Sierra Leone

July 2, 7, 9, 13, 17, 21, 23, 26, 30

We watched episodes 44-52 which were in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast

In Sierra Leone, I enjoyed the episode on blood diamonds. When Noraly got to Liberia, the main road was so deep in mud that huge trucks were stuck there for weeks. A local guy rode Alaska through some of the mud, but the process was so tough that it burned her clutch plates so she was unable to change gears. She tried to make it to a new town, but Alaska was having none of it so a nice guy named Prince towed her bike with his own smaller bike (ep. 50). Soon after Noraly had her bike towed to the border with Ivory Coast, and then loaded her motorcycle on a truck to be taken to Abidjan where mechanics worked on Alaska's issues. Riding in Africa was tough on her bike!  Sadly, Noraly didn't explore Ivory Coast much due to these issues so I was a bit disappointed in that. Also, she had a bad experience with an official there demanding bribes.

August 3, 7, 10, 13, 18, 20, 23, 27

We watched episodes 53-60 which were in the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, and Benin

I really enjoyed seeing Ghana as I have friends who have lived in this country. There we saw a stilt village, tree bridges, gold mines, a lake, and lovely mountain views!  In creepier news, she was called Sweet Angel by a boat captain who then talked about his wife. She did an episode about scarification, meeting a king in Benin (she took him some whiskey and had to bow many many times). The final episode included a local showing her their palm oil production and a lady making pots to sell at the market.  Then, of course, she told us why she was taking a break from West Africa.

1. She needs to get her visa for Nigeria, the next country, which is tougher to get for some reason. She thought she would have an easier time in Europe.

2. The rains had become heavier and she needed to wait until some of that was over as the roads were tough when they became muddy.

3. Health reasons: she is taking anti-malaria medicine that isn't good to take for long periods of time.

She said she had some other adventures planned so the channel should have some content so we'll see about that.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Itchy Boots Season 6 Notes So Far (Ecuador to Mexico)


I decided to post these notes even though we are still watching Season 6.

I was first introduced to Itchy Boots when she was well into Season 6. Andrew started watching Noraly's adventures a few weeks before I started getting interested, but I didn't see her until she was already in the United States.

After Season 6 wrapped up, we started watching past seasons which I've blogged about in recent months. Eventually we got to Season 6 which is where Noraly attempts to complete her journey from Season 2 which was interrupted by the pandemic.

When last we saw her in the Americas, she was stuck in Peru and finally repatriated to the Netherlands. Unfortunately when she started this new adventure, Peru was still closed (though it opened about the time she came back to South America), so she made plans to begin her Season 6 adventure in Ecuador.

April 30, 2023

watched episodes 1-4 which take place in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Ecuador

Itchy Boots shows us her buying Alaska (her new Honda motorcycle), a tour of the Revit place, how her helmet was designed in the Netherlands. She went to the UK to ship her bike, and then she's in Ecuador on her way to pick up Alaska from customs. Getting her bike out of customs took seven hours with a helper. 

May 11

watched episodes 5-7 which take place in Ecuador

May 13

watched episodes 8-11 which take place in Ecuador

I enjoyed seeing the people in the small towns, markets, and the Inca ruins.

May 14

watched episodes 12-13 which take place in Ecuador

May 19

watched episodes 14-17 which take place in Ecuador

She stayed with an Amazonian family and crossed a cable car over the Amazon River

May 26

watched episodes 18-21 which take place in Ecuador and Colombia

More great adventures

May 30

watched episodes 22-24 which take place in Colombia

June 2

watched episodes 25-27 which take place in Colombia and Panama

Due to the season of rough-water crossing, Noraly decides to leave Colombia though she has much more she could explore there. Instead she takes a three-day border crossing which includes a long boat ride around the Darien Gap. She said she hiked through this region about ten years ago, but the interior doesn't have roads for Alaska so she chose to take herself and Alaska around much of this region by boat.

June 4

watched episodes 28-29 which take place in Panama

After Noraly just makes it in time to get her temporary import permit in a city she doesn't want to stay in overnight, she arrives in Panama City where she does want to stay. I really enjoyed watching a couple of ships go through the Panama Canal plus learning some of the history about the place and seeing the Old Town and the modern side.

June 6

watched episodes 30-32 which take place in Panama

I have loved the views and people while Noraly travels through Panama!

June 7

watched episodes 33-34 which take place in Panama

Mountains and beach views!

June 9

watched episodes 35-37 which take place in Panama and Costa Rica

I really enjoyed the river travel and visit with the Naso people. I love the humor of the people in these Central American countries. Noraly gets a tour of a local "milking farm" in such a beautiful volcanic region!

June 11

watched episode 38 which takes place in Costa Rica

Lovely view of a crater with toxic water.

June 12

watched episodes 39-40 which take place in Costa Rica

Noraly broke one of her cameras and laptop during a fall.

June 15

watched episodes 41-42 which take place in Costa Rica and Nicaragua

Lots of travel by boat!

June 16

watched episodes 43-45 which take place in Nicaragua

I enjoyed her showing us the variety of fruit growing on the property of the guest house. Her travels on the river were great. We were amazed how the men caught supper (iguanas from high in the tree!) and laughed when Noraly mentioned someone walking their pig "as one does."  Also it was funny when she was waiting to load Alaska on a boat, and a couple of pigs laid down under the motorcycle to enjoy the shade.

June 18

watched episodes 46-47 which take place in Nicaragua

I enjoyed her visit with the native people and their hike in the jungle.

June 19

watched episodes 48-50 which take place in Nicaragua

An interesting tour of a gold mine and a fun trip with Noraly who went boarding down a volcano -- wheeeee!

June 20

watched her Live from Central America video which was from March 23, 2022

June 21

watched episodes 51-52 which take place in Nicaragua and Honduras

Beautiful scenery!

June 24

watched episodes 53-54 which take place in Honduras

cave exploration

June 27

watched episodes 55-56 which take place in Honduras

snorkeling and visiting small islands

June 30

watched episodes 57-59 which take place in Honduras and El Salvador

July 1

watched episodes 60-63 which take place in El Salvador and Guatemala

Her friend Charly Sinewan joins her and they ride through a lava field.

July 2

watched episodes 64-65 which take place in Guatemala

I enjoyed seeing places in Antigua (churches and ruins). Noraly had a police escort her through one area that is prone to bandit attacks.

July 14

watched episodes 66-68 which take place in Guatemala

Noraly stayed with an Ixil family and the cute children were following her everywhere. She found the school she attended ten years ago when she was learning Spanish. She tried to find her host family from then, but found out that they had moved to the US.

July 15

watched episodes 69-71 which take place in Guatemala

She went through a really muddy jungle and also went to a thermal waterfall.

July 18

watched episodes 72-73 which take place in Guatemala and Belize

Noraly told about Mennonite communities in Belize; she visited some Mayan temples and pyramids.

July 22

watched episodes 74-76 which take place in Belize and Mexico

July 23

watched episodes 77-78 which take place in Mexico

Lovely waterfalls and she met modern-day Mayans

July 29

watched episodes 79-80 which take place in Mexico

July 30

watched episodes 81-83 which take place in  Mexico

Details about a group trying to save sea turtles along the Pacific coast; Noraly trying some interesting native dishes, and a long detour to avoid men on the road with guns.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

July Books


All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown -- Janice is excited when her husband's new pill is a Wall Street success and their fortune is made! She's less thrilled, understandably, when she can't get him on the phone and later gets a message that he's filing for divorce. Meanwhile older daughter Margaret is running from credit card companies wanting to get paid plus younger daughter Lizzie is dealing with her own issues at school. Pretty good story.

Spare by Prince Harry -- I saw this available online at our local library so I put it on hold and started reading it on July 1 (Princess Diana's birthday). In it, Harry tells his point of view on several things. Part 1 is more of his growing up, schooling and such. Part 2 talks a lot about his military life. Part 3 is more about Meghan.  I would enjoy reading Prince William's take on all of this if he ever wrote a memoir...ha.  (Andrew is reading this book now.)

The Lindbergh Nanny by Mariah Fredericks -- A book told from the perspective of Betty Gow, the young Scottish woman who cared for Charlie Lindbergh until his disappearance. Interesting perspective!

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon -- I wasn't familiar with this story, but since I've read other books by this author, I decided to read this one as well. It delves into the story of what happened to New York Supreme Court Judge Joseph Crater who disappeared in August 1930. This is told from the viewpoints of Stella the wife, Maria the maid, and Ritzi the mistress. 

The Last Ride of the Pony Express by Will Grant -- "My 2,000-mile horseback journey into the Old West;" the author and his two horses, Badger and Chicken Fry, travel the Pony Express from western Missouri to Old Sacramento, California. Pretty good.

A Most Intriguing Lady by Sarah Ferguson -- This definitely wasn't the most intriguing story, but it was OK. Lady Mary met Colonel Walter Trefusis who quickly became Tre to her. While many women of her era desire to be wives and mothers, Mary wants more.

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs -- Georgia Walker is a single mom raising a preteen named Dakota. When her ex, Dakota's father, returns from France out of the blue, he adds a huge wrinkle to their lives. Also, this book deals with others in this Manhattan-based knitting club. Pretty good.

The Housemaid by Freida McFadden -- I was first introduced to Millie last month, and then I realized the library has another book about her which is where she works for Nina and Andrew who is drop-dead gorgeous. Really, Andrew could have had any woman he wanted as Nina is just...not as pretty and put together as she could be. This alternates between Millie's first months on the job, and later when Nina tells how this situation came to be. Fast-paced book.

The Education of Dixie Dupree by Donna Everhart -- I don't think I read the jacket to see what this book was about, but having read this author before, I decided to read it when I was at the library recently looking for a few books to check out. This book made me cry more than once. Dixie is eleven years old, and had to recently hand over her diary because it contained some evidence. This story tells some of what Dixie experienced as her mom and dad's marriage faltered, and as her mom became more distant and wanted to leave in order to go home to New Hampshire. Meanwhile Dixie is concerned about her father and their lives in Alabama. Then when something happens to her father, Uncle Ed joins the family from New Hampshire.  Though this book made me cry, it also made me laugh a bit. First when Dixie calls her grandma, "Granny Ham" as in Hampshire. Secondly when the family is driving to visit NH, and they are driving on the Appalachian Trail! (see page 216) Hahahahaha....even more funny is when an 18-wheeler is riding their bumper up and down the mountains. Right. On the Appalachian Trail?  Too bad the book's fact checker didn't realize that it is a hiking trail that reaches from Georgia to Maine. Can't imagine seeing a car on it, much less an eighteen wheeler! Haha!   (Also, cool fact since this book dealt with diaries somewhat...this month I was rereading some diaries I kept when I was young, and some things are quite funny while the details pertaining to my senior year in high school are quite embarrassing at times. Ha!)

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner -- This is the second book in a row with a main character from Alabama. Unlike the previous book, this book takes place in California as Violet has left her hometown in Alabama in order to be in the secretarial pool for the movie industry. She meets Audrey Duvall who is trying to be rediscovered for parts in movies, and the two roommates have some interesting adventures. This takes place during the filming of Gone With the Wind and thereabouts. Pretty interesting story.

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell -- Grace and Pip are the new kids in an area in central London. Their flat opens into a three acre private park where they meet new families and make new friends, of sorts. There is the girl named Tyler along with the Howes - who homeschool their three girls: Catkin, Fern, and Willow. When something happens to one of the girls on the night of her thirteenth birthday, the police ask questions about what is going on in this private park. Pretty good. 

A Little Ray of Sunshine by Kristan Higgins -- Nearly 18 years ago, Harlow was a pregnant college freshman who gave her baby to a loving couple. Today she runs her family's bookstore on Cape Cod when she recognizes a man who walks into her store, and - oh my! - the teenager with him. It's her son whom she had named Matthew. Unbeknownst to his family, Matthew found his birth mother and decided the family's summer-long vacation would be to Cape Cod so he could meet his birth mother..and maybe hang out with her. How complicated is that?

A Tender Hope by Amanda Cabot -- The last book in the Cimarron Creek Trilogy; I just figured I'd read this one since I've read the other two. In it Thea leaves her home to be the new midwife in Cimarron Creek. Her friend Aimee joins her for the adventure. There they meet Texas Ranger Jackon Guthrie who is looking for the Gang of Four. Decent, in a low-key way.

The Locked Door by Freida McFadden -- Nora Davis has created a good life for herself. After being removed from her family as an eleven year old - well, her parents were jailed so perhaps they removed themselves in a way. Now she is a surgeon who enjoys an Old Fashioned at her local bar, and reconnects with an old friend. When some bizarre things happen that parallel her serial-killer dad's MO, she finds herself a suspect simply because of her dad. A fast-paced thriller.

Yesterday's Tides by Roseanna M. White -- I know I would have enjoyed this so much more if I'd remembered all the characters from past books - plus maybe I've missed a few books in her various series?? She mentions in the Author's Note how she had interwoven so many people from different books, and, well, I had a tough time recalling the details. That detracted from this book for me, but otherwise the story was fine enough. It takes place with two timelines - during the first World War and then the second. Most of the story takes place on North Carolina's Ocracoke Island though parts take place in Maryland and Europe.

How I'll Kill You by Ren DeStefano -- Have I ever mentioned how Andrew often makes fun of books that I read? I mean, the titles? He often makes a sentence about it, and this title: whoa! So, yeah, these triplets have this pact where they make men fall in love with them, and then take turns murdering them. Nice book, eh? At least it was a fast read.

Zero Days by Ruth Ware -- When Jacintha "Jack" Cross gets home in the wee morning hours from her penetration security mission and finds her husband murdered, she is alarmed to realize the police suspect her. Instead of sticking around for the interview, she does what she does best: escapes and runs from the law. She has to find answers about who is framing her. Fast read. 



Since it's only the 30th, I might finish one more book, but I can add that here if I do. For now, I'll go ahead and post this list! Can't believe it's almost the eighth month of 2023!  

Aha! here's another one to add:

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert -- My mom read this and said it started a little slowly, but that she liked it so I decided to read it as well. An interesting look at integrating schools in a more modern day. When one inner-city school district receives a failing grade, parents are allowed to transfer their children to schools outside their districts. Schools that are richer and much whiter. This book explores this happening in one Missouri school. Good story.

Friday, June 30, 2023

June Books


Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline -- While I appreciated learning some Sicilian history, the fast pace due to short-ish chapters, and bits of humor, this book was chaotic and not a favorite. I wasn't sure how all these storylines tied in, and they did in the end somewhat, but I much prefer this author's contemporary books. Eventually I'd like to watch these videos from the author's trip to Sicily. I find the history kind of interesting, but the book just wasn't as great.

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham -- I got this from a Little Free Library at Southport over a year ago, and started reading it recently when I had finished all my library books and it was closed for Memorial Day. Three law school students realize they are so far in debt and their degrees from a bottom-tier school hold no guarantees of lucrative jobs - shoot, just over half of Foggy Bottom Law School students even pass the bar! So Mark, Todd, and Zola decide to just practice law without finishing all that.  Bizarre!

With My Little Eye by Joshilyn Jackson -- In order to avoid a stalker who has been harassing her, Meribel Mills and her daughter Honor move from Los Angeles to Atlanta where Meribel can continue her acting career in her home state. She broke up with her boyfriend before leaving LA, but finds out he is open to moving to Georgia to be with her.  Meanwhile, she meets her neighbor Cooper, and Honor makes her first friends in Georgia, Sheila and Xena. Pretty good.

Code Name Edelweiss by Stephanie Landsem -- This book follows Liesl Weiss who loses her job with MGM. In desperation to provide for her mother and children, she takes a job with the Jewish lawyer Leon Lewis who has watched Adolph Hitler's rise to power and influence spread to the California German community. Pretty interesting story.

Only the Beautiful by Susan Meissner -- An interesting look at eugenics in the United States, specifically California. Rosie is left orphaned and later finds she is pregnant which means she is sent to live in an institution where women are sterilized. Meanwhile Helen is in Austria as a nanny to a little girl born with deformities. Yet the Nazis don't want crippled people to be a burden on society.

Where Coyotes Howl by Sandra Dallas -- I really enjoyed this story of Ellen who answered an ad for a needed teacher so she left Iowa for Wyoming. She was thinking lovely mountain views would greet her, but instead she arrived in the prairie part of the state. Nevertheless, she's determined to stick it out, and meets Charlie, a cowboy who is infatuated with Ellen from the get go. This book follows their life together as they marry and seek to become ranchers.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown -- I liked this in some ways. Rose, Bean, and Cordy (ok, ok, Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia) grew up in a small college town where their father taught ... something Shakespearean. The family constantly quotes lines from Shakespeare to each other. Anyway, the girls are adults who find themselves back home, living together once again. Rose is trying to decide what to do about her wedding and where to live afterward; Bianca is wondering how her life in New York City led her back to this place, and Cordelia is wondering whether her days of living on the road are over. An OK book.

A Borrowed Dream by Amanda Cabot -- book two in the Cimarron Creek Trilogy; until last month, I'd last read a book by this author in 2017 and when the book last month mentioned Cimarron Creek and some backstory, I realized I had only read book one of this trilogy - and that was nearly 6 years ago. Because of this, I had forgotten most of the characters' stories, but this was still an easy read and a decent book. Catherine is a school teacher trying to help the new girl Hannah who arrived in town recently with her father Austin. Meanwhile Austin is trying to keep his past a secret as he and his little girl flee from some unsavory characters.

I'll Be You by Janelle Brown -- Sam and Elli are twins who acted in a few shows as teenagers, but have struggled some post-stardom. Sam wanted to keep acting, but found being an adult twin actor without the twin, a difficult transition. Elli never enjoyed acting and wanted to go her own way. The girls each tell her side of the story. Pretty good.

Two Wars and a Wedding by Lauren Willig -- Betsy is such a great character. I love how she stands up for herself in a world that thinks women should be librarians rather than out on an archaeological dig. Why not both?  This book is based on two women during the time of the Spanish-American War. You'll find Betsy in Greece, Cuba, and on a ship en route to New York. Pretty good story.

The Housemaid's Secret by Freida McFadden -- A fast-paced story about Millie who was hired by the Garrick family - the husband actually since his wife is always locked inside the guest bedroom supposedly because she's got a chronic illness. When Millie believes Wendy is being hurt by her husband, she tries to help.

One Last Secret by Adele Parks -- A pretty interesting mystery-type book told from the perspective of Dora, an escort/sex worker in London. When one of her clients asks her to pose as his girlfriend during a trip to southern France, Dora feels she can do this one final job before she quits the business to marry her best friend, Evan.

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon -- Anna Anderson reveals her current status and tells her story - flashbacks to when her family was taken as prisoners in Russia and later when she made her way out of her country. Oh, and yeah, she's trying to prove that she truly is Anastasia Romanov.  Is she?

Red Letter Days by Sarah-Jane Stratford -- After Phoebe is subpoenaed for her supposed-Communist ties, she travels to London where she meets Hannah and writes scripts for a new television show written and produced by people blacklisted in Hollywood. A pretty interesting look at this shameful time in US history.

Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls -- After her involvement in a coaster wagon accident that knocked out her little half-brother, eight year old Sallie Kincaid is sent to live with an aunt "for a little while" that turned out to be until her stepmother died nine years later. Then the Duke (her father) sends for Sallie to take care of her younger brother Eddie. What follows is a host of complicated family things alongside the era of Prohibition in the US. Decent story.

Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio -- When Seattle gets a rare May snow, Claire, a features reporter, is assigned a story based on an old May snow which she finds involved the case of a missing three year old. Alternating between Vera and Daniel of 1933 and Claire of today, this book was a fast, easy read.

The Saints of Swallow Hill by Donna Everhart -- I learned a bit about turpentine farms in this book featuring Del who has a harrowing time with a bunch of corn and Rae Lynn who leaves her home after her husband's untimely death. Pretty good book. 

Don't Wake Up by Liz Lawler -- Dr. Alex Taylor had a horrible thing happen to her at her own hospital, but when she makes her claim, no one believes her! And why would they? The things she says happen: there is no physical proof on her body. Is it all in her head? Pretty good thriller/mystery type book.

The Lost English Girl by Julia Kelly -- Really enjoyed this book about Viv Byrne, single mom to a little girl, who has to be evacuated during World War II and her struggles due to unforgiving and often cruel parents. Also Joshua is the husband who abandoned his pregnant wife soon after they married because he wanted to pursue his career opportunities as a musician. After a few years of living in New York, he returns to England to fight for his country.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Itchy Boots Season 7 - The Beginning through her UK Trip

 Although this season hasn't ended, I decided to post about it.

Season 7 is the first Itchy Boots season that I've watched from the beginning as she posted videos to her YouTube channel. For that reason, this is not like past seasons where we were able to watch more than one video each time - unless, of course, we saved up videos which we did not do.

Between the time Noraly finished her journey to Alaska and the start of Season 7, her bike was being upgraded and later shipped to an unknown destination. Finally on February 15, she posted her first video of Season 7. She was at a port city in Spain where she left on a ferry for Morocco. Thus, her season in Morocco and West Africa began.

February 15, 2023

Episode 1 was in Spain and Morocco

February 17, 20, 23, 24, 27

We watched episodes 2-6 which were in Morocco

She rode through the Rif Mountains, the Blue Pearl city, through Saharan dunes, and met some lovely people.

March 1, 3, 6, 9, 10, 14, 16, 17, 20, 22, 24, 27, 29, 31

We watched episodes 7-20 which were in Morocco, Western Sahara, and Mauritania

We saw water in the oasis, the high Atlas mountains, incredible, desolate desert views; a mechanic in Morocco fixed the chain guard and two holes in Alaska's airbox.  Some of these rides through Mauritania (episodes 18-23) were with Ahmed who drove a supply truck because her journey was just too remote for her to carry enough fuel and food. He was able to carry her luggage which lightened her bike in order to make it through thick sand.

April 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 17

We watched episodes 21-27 which were in Mauritania and Senegal

A few more rides with Ahmed in the desert with some incredible views. The drone footage looked like another planet at times.  Noraly was headed towards Dakar to have some maintenance done on her motorcycle and she needed a logistics break to plan her next moves, get visas, and so forth. She announced this was the end of Leg 1 and took a couple of weeks off posting videos in order to accomplish these things.


LEG 2 -- Noraly mentioned in an email that her new posting schedule would be Wednesday and Sundays instead of her usual Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. She said it was just too difficult to post three times a week in this part of the world.  Not only did she often not have good internet, many places still don't have electricity.

May 3, 7, 10, 14, 17, 22, 24, 28

We watched episodes 28-35 which were in Senegal and The Gambia

She showed what maintenance had been done on Alaska, took us to shell island and the delta.

June 1, 4, 7, 11, 14, 18, 21

We watched episodes 36-42 which were in Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, and Sierra Leone

I really enjoyed her ride through the Highlands of Guinea which she said was the water tower of West Africa. I loved seeing the people react to seeing their town on Noraly's GPS and her interaction with the children and other locals.  She announced that she had wanted to do more in Guinea but due to issues with Alaska, she was headed to Freetown in Sierra Leone rather quickly. She was hoping to find a Honda mechanic who could diagnose why Alaska was making a strange noise. Unfortunately the mechanic didn't show up for work, his coworkers didn't know why, and she never received a phone call of his arrival back there. . . .

Noraly has mentioned the coming rainy season which started early and how that might impact her travel especially since so many countries have dirt roads. She loves riding on dirt, but knows with layers of mud and roads turning into rivers in some cases, it will be more difficult.

On June 22, 2023, Noraly announced that she was in the UK for an Adventure Bike Rider event, and would be back with Alaska in Africa soon. The Adventure Bike Rider Festival had just announced her as their Mystery Guest earlier in the day which a couple people on the Itchy Boots fan page had noted. So, no Sunday video this week. 

Also, I saw in the comments of episode 42  (posted to her channel on June 21) that the famous Cotton Tree in Freetown which Noraly featured had been destroyed by a storm in late May. We know Noraly has a built-in delay of when she visits a place and when she posts a video, so we know she was in Freetown sometime before May 24th.

About the tree,

Google says:

Date felled: May 24, 2023 (aged 231 years, 2 months and 2 weeks)
Date seeded: March 10, 1792
Season 7 Morocco and West Africa: to be continued...

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

May Books


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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