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

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)

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Itchy Boots Season 5 Notes


Season 7 started earlier this year, but since those videos only come out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Andrew and I have continued to catch up on past seasons.

Season 5 starts off with Noraly in the Netherlands as she prepares to relocate due to covid keeping things restricted in Europe. Instead of taking her bike, Rhonin, which she bought at home, she decides to buy a second-hand motorcycle once she gets to Johannesburg, South Africa. Although the official name of this series is Destination Unknown, I believe many refer to it as the Southern Africa season since that's where she went.  (started these notes here on March 12, 2023)

March 2, 2023

watched episodes 1-6 which take place in the Netherlands and South Africa

Noraly bike shops at a place she already researched online, and buys a Honda which she names Savannah

March 3

watched episodes 7-9 which take place in South Africa

March 5

watched episodes 10-13 which take place in South Africa

Of special interest, she went to a wild cats reserve, a place special to Nelson Mandela's life, and went horse riding

March 7

watched episodes 14-16 which take place in South Africa

The Sani Pass ride is just - wow!

March 9

watched episodes 17-18 which take place in South Africa

Noraly spends quite a bit of time with the Xhosa people, and we meet an herbalist/healer.

March 10

watched episodes 19-21 which take place in South Africa

After these were posted, she took a couple weeks break with a friend who lives in S.A. whom she met in India many years ago.

March 12

watched episodes 22-24 which take place in South Africa

We enjoy seeing ostriches and meerkats. Also, Noraly shops and buys an ostrich egg which amuses us as she attempts to cook it. She was told 1 ostrich egg is equivalent to 24 chicken eggs!

The caves she explored were really cool!

Later in the day

March 12

watched episodes 25-27 which take place in South Africa

Cape Town (right on the water) is beautiful!

March 14

watched episodes 28-29 which take place in South Africa

Her visit to the place with fossils was pretty neat.

March 16

watched episodes 30-31  which take place in South Africa

March 17

watched episodes 32-35 which take place in South Africa

Noraly was in Diamond Territory, and spoke of fracking in one video. Also, she tried to visit an active diamond mine near the border of SA and Namibia. Cool video of her tagging along with the security team - wow.

March 18

watched episodes 36-38 which take place in South Africa and Namibia

March 24

watched episodes 39-41 which take place in Namibia

March 25

watched episodes 42-44  which take place in Namibia

I enjoyed seeing Noraly herding cattle - and seeing the farm there. Also, there was a neat geological day trip.

March 26

watched episodes 45-47 which take place in Namibia

The Namib Desert is so pretty, and I loved seeing the wildlife! How cool to see an ostrich running by, giraffes eating by the side of the road, and a few other animals - wow!

March 28

watched episodes 48-49 which take place in Namibia

Those dunes!!

March 31

watched episodes 50-52 which take place in Namibia

Really enjoyed Noraly tagging along with the guys from the Ocean Conservation group, freeing seals from plastics.  Also, I really enjoyed the minerals market and seeing topaz, aquamarine, and so forth.

April 1

watched episodes 53-55 which take place in Namibia

Lots of cool geological stuff like rock paintings and engravings.

April 6

watched the Live Chat from Africa as well as episodes 56-57 which take place in Namibia

What is neat about watching these videos now is that I just started a book from Susan Bauer who worked at a Lutheran Seminary in Namibia with her husband back in the 1990s and early 2000s. She speaks of cities and the desert and even the seal colony and nature preserves that I've seen in Noraly's videos. I really enjoy the timing of reading this book - which my mom read and recommended to me months ago - now while watching Season 5.

April 7

watched episodes 58; 60-64 which take place in Namibia

It's a super-rainy Good Friday so Andrew and I started watching some more videos. We saw the Namibia and Angola border as well as some tribal ladies on the road that I'd just looked up the night before based on the book I mentioned above. We hadn't planned to watch so many episodes, but she went to a nature preserve and got to ride along with Esso whose job it is to ride his motorbike to check the level of the watering holes and the fences. So we were able to see zebras, elephants, lions, antelope, giraffes, and black and white rhinos - fascinating!!

April 8

watched episodes 59; 65-67 which take place in Namibia and Botswana

Somehow we skipped episode 59 yesterday so I'm glad that one showed up as Noraly took some food and visited the Himba tribe. They showed her how to get the red ochre that they put on their skin, and she gave it a try.

I enjoyed seeing her cross into Botswana because the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency takes place in this country so I keep thinking I might eventually see Mma Ramotswe and her family and friends! Wouldn't that be awesome? ;)

Later that day because it was a dreary couple of days ...

April 8

watched episodes 68-70  which take place in Botswana

Loved seeing hippos, elephants, giraffes, and zebra; and a giraffe darted across the street not too far in front of her in the same way deer do here!

April 13

watched episode 71  which take place in Botswana

She rode with James Alexander and some of his friends. He, of Dakar racing fame so ...

April 14

watched episodes 72-74  which take place in Botswana

I loved her chat with the two ladies selling traditional food on the side of the road. I love their fencing around their pots of food.

April 15

watched episodes 75-78  which take place in Botswana and Zimbabwe

Really enjoyed the kind man who went ahead to get petrol for Noraly when she was running low in her last kilometers in Botswana.

Loved seeing Victoria Falls, the warthogs, and Noraly buying, cooking, and trying mopane worms in Zimbabwe!

April 16

watched episodes 79-81 which take place in Zimbabwe

Saw caves and blue water, mountains. Noraly was in the capital looking for US dollars.

April 21

watched episodes 82-84  which take place in Zimbabwe

Extremely muddy roads, a lovely waterfall, banana and tea plants. The Zimbabweans were so friendly, and we saw many of them along the road as she traveled.

April 27

watched episodes 86-87 which take place in Zimbabwe and South Africa

Saw some impressive ruins in Zimbabwe and then Noraly headed back to South Africa as she ran out of countries she could visit aside from Mozambique which had ISIS activity in the north of the country. After meeting with James Alexander a few weeks back, she looked into rally racing, and decided to be part of that although not the formal racing part.

So, she headed back into South Africa, had her friend Mandy help drive her and Savannah (her motorcycle) to the starting point.

We watched the video where she recapped her ride through southern Africa, and then the first three videos of that Kalahari Rally series (there are 9 of those). We saw her getting ready for it (driving there with Mandy; getting her bike inspected; she showed us other bikes and some cars racing there). Then we saw the Super Special and Stage 1 legs of the race which are across a part of South Africa that borders Namibia and Botswana. I liked seeing people along the route watching the race.

April 28

watched Stages 2 and 3 of her Kalahari Rally series which take place in South Africa

April 29

watched Stages 4-6 of her Kalahari Rally series plus her Season Finale which take place in South Africa and the Netherlands

In real life, this series ended in October 2021, I believe, and I noticed Noraly started posting videos from Season 6 a few weeks later. Season 6 is where I was first introduced to Noraly so I've watched most of her videos from her times in the US and Canada, but there are many I missed from where she started Season 6 in South America and traveled towards the US. I look forward to seeing those soon.

In the meantime, as I type this on April 30, 2023, Noraly has been absent from her YouTube channel for nearly two weeks as she was taking a break, getting work done on Alaska, figuring logistics and so forth for the next leg of her Africa adventure. In Season 7 so far, she's taken us through parts of Morocco, the Western Sahara/Morocco, Mauritania, and over the border into Senegal. Last we heard from her, she was in Dakar.

April Books


The Perfect Daughter by DJ Palmer -- Grace is stunned when her teenage daughter is arrested for murdering her birth mother. Penny is hospitalized due to her dissociative identity disorder (DID), and Dr. Mitch does his best to figure out if Penny - or one of her alters - is guilty. Pretty interesting and informative since I wasn't very familiar with DID.

Where are the Children? by Mary Higgins Clark -- I saw on the online catalog that the library would soon be getting a book with a similar title and it mentioned this book which I decided to read. It was kind of interesting reading a book where those leaving the US for Canada in order to avoid the Vietnam war was a current event. Nancy's children are missing and the Cape Cod town that she fled is finding out that this happened to her before. Did she create a new family only to murder her children again?

Survive the Night by Riley Sager -- After the murder of her best friend, Charlie is ready to go home mid-semester, and amazingly (stupidly??) accepts a ride through a university ride-share option with a strange man. Because she quickly sized him up and thought he looked trustworthy and not like a murderer. While on their trip from New Jersey to Ohio, Charlie finds out things about Josh that make her suspect he's lying about his connection to the university, and makes her suspect she won't get out of this alive - unless she can kill him first.

Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid -- This book starts with Hannah Martin on her way from New York City to Los Angeles where she grew up and is returning because all the other places she lived so far just haven't felt quite right. Early on Hannah has the choice of staying with Ethan, her long, lost love, or going back to her best friend Gabby's house. Then the book has alternate chapters about her choosing Ethan over Gabby and vice versa. I've read another book or two that had this design and it is pretty entertaining and different.

Any Other Family by Eleanor Brown -- Imagine a couple who had four children - a single girl, boy-and-girl twins, another single girl, and because this couple can't keep their children, they have kept the children together by having the three families who adopted their children get together regularly as if they are one big extended family. Did you follow that?!  Tabitha (mom to the twins) hopes to create what she didn't have growing up - a family who do adventures together, sisters to enjoy while Ginger (mom to the oldest girl and an introvert) finds it oh so overwhelming at times. Elizabeth (mom to the youngest) who struggles with her infertility, realizes she's not really loving being a mother after all. Maybe the universe was trying to tell her something all those times IVF failed and she miscarried!  A different book, but pretty interesting.

Choosing Africa: A Midlife Journey From Mission to Meaning by B. Susan Bauer -- After serving in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for eleven years, the author and her husband, a Lutheran pastor, decide to take a sabbatical and serve at a Lutheran seminary in Africa. They are sent to Namibia which has a high concentration of Lutherans due to past German and Finnish missionaries. The Bauers enjoyed their three months there, and later decide to do a longer-term stint.  My mom read this awhile back (November 2021) and enjoyed it so I had it on my "to read" list. I love when I saw that they were in Namibia because Andrew and I are currently watching Season 5 of Itchy Boots when she went to southern Africa after the covid lockdowns were lifted in some of those countries. Anyway, she is currently in Namibia - and has been for several episodes - so as I read about the Bauers' adventures, I was like, "yeah, I've heard of this city or this feature of the desert, or that animal" or "I can totally picture that desolation that you mention because I saw it in Noraly's videos just last week!" 

Three Days Missing by Kimberly Belle -- Kat's son is on an overnight camping trip with his classmates when a police officer shows up at her door informing her that Ethan is missing! Meanwhile Stef, the mayor's wife, gets a phone call about her son, the intended kidnapping victim.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen -- After her father dies, Joanna is cleaning out his home when she finds some curious things from, she suspects, his time in Italy during the war. She knew he'd been a pilot who was shot down, but didn't know the details. While in Italy, she meets people whom she hopes have answers for her. This book alternates between Joanna's story and her father, Hugo's, time in Italy and back in England.

The Stranger Inside by Laura Benedict -- When Kimber returns home from a lake retreat, she is stunned to find that all of her locks have been replaced and someone is living in her house. He says she signed a lease for him to rent it for six months, and has a copy to show the police. As Kimber tries to figure out what has happened, she enlists the help of her ex boyfriend who is a lawyer, Gabriel, as well as some other people in her life. Pretty good.

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz -- Jacob Finch Bonner had one successful novel, but when he finds writing another good book is, well, difficult, he takes a job where he meets aspiring writers. In comes Evan Parker who has a fantastic plot twist, and years later Jacob looks for Evan's book, but instead finds that his former student died a couple of months after they met. Jacob decides to use Evan's plot for his own novel and it is a runaway success! But...then he starts getting messages about knowing this story was stolen. I rather liked this book.

Little Paula by V.C. Andrews -- Faith and Trevor were adopted from foster care. Though they weren't biological siblings, they became a family and were raised as siblings. Their Mama was very influential in controlling them while she was alive, and even after she was dead because Trevor thought Mama talked to him. Anyway...this book was different. Little Paula is their daughter who was sold to a rich couple in town. Faith and Trevor make plans to get her back.

Think of Me by Frances Liardet -- I read this book while alternating with a bigger Bill Bryson book so this took longer to read than it should have. James is a vicar who served as a pilot in World War II. While in Egypt, he met Yvette, an Alexandrian, whom he later married. This book alternates between Yvette's story - that which she journaled before her death from leukemia when she was in her late thirties - and James in current times (actually the mid-1970s.) Pretty good story.

Made In America by Bill Bryson -- This is dubbed "an informal history of the English language in the United States" and was a nice mixture of U.S. history and how different aspects like our founding, place names, military, sports, radio, TV and such contributed to the language we speak today. This book was amusing in spots because it was published in 1994 and a few things have changed since then. Like the author concludes the book with something about how much the average American household has now. Included were two telephones (landlines, no doubt) and a VCR! Also he discusses shopping malls in a way that malls were back then: as in, still existing with anchor stores.  I don't know about you, but in my experience, most of those malls are not thriving. And something not mentioned: online shopping which is likely one reason malls and even stand-alone department stores have faltered in the last decade or so. I enjoyed much of this book and even shared some of it with Andrew. Also I took a picture of one paragraph to send to an American friend who lives in the Netherlands. She had recently commented on a Facebook post about her getting marked down for using "tidbit" instead of "titbit." She (and I) had never heard of titbit, but this book mentioned that, and Sarah said it was "fascinating" to learn.

The Hidden Man by David Ellis -- Jason is a lawyer asked to defend a childhood friend who is up for murder. One problem is, Sammy's trial is in a few short weeks, and the person who hired Jason said he couldn't ask for a delay of trial. This person - who goes by Smith - also has very strict instructions and how everything should go down. Decent book. Not a favorite, but not terrible.

The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society by Beth Patillo -- When Eugenie, the head librarian, finds Hannah has torn out pages from a book, she punishes her by having her help clean the library and join the handful of town ladies who meet monthly for their knitting/book club. Esther, Ruthie, Merry, and Camille aren't quite sure about this troubled teen being part of their group. This was a sweet, easy read. One my mom recommended.

Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo -- A couple of Army guys along with a runaway wife, a teenager who lost her family, and a militia man somehow come together and make their way to Lagos where adventure awaits as they try to survive in this Nigerian city.  A bit confusing at times, but interesting in learning a bit more about this African country.

The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz -- Alex is thrilled when she earns the opportunity to go to a four week retreat hosted by her favorite author, Roza Vallo. Unfortunately her former best friend is also there, but Alex is determined to enjoy the retreat anyway. She enjoys getting to know the other ladies, but then it gets weird when one of them goes missing and the others find her identification - and she's not who she says she is.What is going on?

Saturday, April 1, 2023

March Books


The Retreat by Sarah Pearse -- I read about this English detective, Elin, in this author's debut novel. This time Elin is called to an island that the locals avoid due to its sketchy past. Elin is investigating a murder, but while she's there another murder takes place. Meanwhile travel influencer Jo is traveling to this retreat with her sister, cousin, and a couple of their boyfriends.

The Dressmakers of Prospect Heights by Kitty Zeldis -- Bea uproots her life to move from New Orleans to Brooklyn, New York, after a detective is certain that he's traced the daughter she gave up for adoption over twenty years before. Alice, the girl she's raised for years, is puzzled why they have to move so suddenly. Meanwhile Catherine and Stephen are hoping for a baby, but that dream eludes them. Pretty good story.

The Sisters of Sea View by Julie Klassen -- The first in the "On Devonshire Shores" series. When their father dies without a male heir - and you know how those entailed estates go with hereditary requirements - Mrs. Summers and her four daughters have little choice but to open their house as a guesthouse for those wishing to visit Sidmouth. This alternates between the sisters, mostly Sarah, Emily and Viola and their houseguests. I like these types of books if I can keep all the characters straight so I enjoyed this book.

Shadow Creek by Joy Fielding -- Val is ready to spend some time with her friends in New York City while her teenage daughter Brianne heads to the Adirondack mountains for a camping trip with her father and his fiancée, Jennifer. Only Evan doesn't show up on time and somehow Val and her friends end up in the mountains with Brianne and Jennifer. Weird, I know. Well, then some folks are murdered and people go missing and, yeah, it was quite a mystery.

Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard -- Adele is a former Irish soap star who escaped her country due to some humiliating work-related things. She is in Los Angeles auditioning for commercials when someone from Ireland calls asking her to have a lead role in a horror film. This book alternates between the set in a heavily-wooded area, and the script... why are there so many similarities between the two anyway?

Code Name Sapphire by Pam Jenoff -- After Hannah flees Germany for Cuba, but is denied entry, she makes her way to Belgium where her cousin Lily takes her in. Eventually Hannah helps the Resistance despite the risk of involving her cousin and her small family. This book also is about Micheline and her brother Matteo. Pretty good.

The Couple at the Table by Sophie Hannah -- A whodunit mystery surrounding a lovely, couples-only resort in England. Lucy is there with her fiancé Peter, but also in attendance is her ex-husband and his new wife, the latter couple being on their honeymoon. Awkward! But when the new wife winds up dead, yet everyone seems to have an alibi or are excused due to forensics ... what in the world happened to Jane?

The Family Game by Catherine Steadman -- Harriet Reed is an English novelist engaged to an American from a super-rich family in New York. When she's finally invited to meet the Holbeck family, Harry (as she's called) is dismayed at her soon-to-be father in law giving her a cassette tape that sounds like a confession of murders. Pretty interesting story.

The Curator's Daughter by Melanie Dobson -- Hanna is a museum curator tasked by the Nazis to record what has been collected so that it can be hidden and protected before the Allies bomb Germany. Years later her daughter, Lilly, is up in years, living in Massachusetts, and wondering about these flashbacks and nightmares she has from her childhood. Ember is on a quest of her own, and travels to Nuremberg to hopefully find some answers.

You Will Never Know by S.A. Prentiss -- Jessica wants to improve her chances for advancement, but is the worst bank teller at up-sells. Meanwhile her husband Ted's real estate business is struggling. What else could go wrong? How about her former sister in law having her investigated in her first husband's death plus...oh yeah, her daughter Emma and stepson Craig disappeared for a few hours the night one of their classmates was murdered. Huh.

The Transformation of Things by Jillian Cantor -- I usually don't care for books that have a lot of dreams, but this one was pretty good. Jennifer is at the salon getting her hair washed when news breaks that her husband, a judge, was indicted for bribery. She had no idea he was in trouble, and thus begins a book about how her country club friends react to her new status, especially when she refuses to leave her husband. Meanwhile she visits her herbalist and, whew, those new herbs are relaxing, but sure do cause vivid dreams - that seem to predict the future.

Our Last Goodbye by Shirley Dickson -- May Robinson lost her mom in a tragic accident while they were out in the dark one night during World War II. I could relate to some of the pangs of grief throughout this book, especially perhaps in chapter two. Even the part about someone being gone just about five months and how you avoid people offering compassion sometimes and all. Well, I just related to some of that. Anyway, May decided to train as a nurse, and I enjoyed her time with the other nurses and the patients. A few times I lost the train of thought, but overall, I enjoyed this book. I was even looking up the Geordie accent because of it.

The Picture Bride by Lee Geum-yi -- this book was translated from Korean by An Seonjae, and the note at the end of the book explained the translation and something I puzzled about for a page or two.I was trying to keep characters straight and it started talking about Willow, the main character, meeting Julie's mom. So I thought maybe I daydreamed during the part about Julie and missed who that was. Looked back. Nothing about Julie, But then I realized it was one of those things people did in some cultures. Kind of like Arabs who are Abu Samer and so forth, I guess. Though it was translated as "Julie's mom" or "Dusun's dad" occasionally. This book was about a few Korean teenagers who became picture brides for Korean men who had moved to Hawaii around the early 1900s. The book focused on Willow and her new husband though a couple other picture brides made multiple appearances. Pretty good book overall.

An Elegant Woman by Martha McPhee -- A pretty good book though at times I lost who was telling the story. Isadora is with her sisters looking through her grandma Katherine's (also known as Thelma (her real name) or Tommy (her childhood nickname)) belongings after her grandma's death. Tommy and her sister's upbringing was difficult with a mother who went to teach in remote areas, but left her little girls to fend for themselves. Tommy did her best raising her sister Katherine. Oh, yeah, when The Original Katherine graduated from school, she changed her name to Pat and went to Hollywood while Thelma (better known as Tommy) used Katherine's school records to win a spot in New York to begin nursing school. So that's how Thelma/Tommy became Katherine. Whew.

The Widow by Kaira Rouda -- Jody is a Congressman's wife who loves all the happenings in D.C. and the perks related to her position. Yet when her husband doesn't toe the line, she's not totally sad about his demise. Meanwhile Mimi, their mutual friend from law school, has her own say in things. Quick read, and pretty good read on a lovely day!

The Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle -- Alex is a social media influencer, but when one awful post goes viral, she's trying to control the damage to her image. Except her assistant AC is missing. Is the lady in trouble or is she behind this damaging post? Pretty good book from a new-to-me author.

East Winds by Rachel Rueckert -- "A Global Quest to Reckon With Marriage" ; I saw this book on Myrna's blog last year, and decided to put it on my Amazon Wishlist. The author grew up in a Mormon household where her parents were divorced. I used to think divorced Mormons were rare, but she claims it's not that much below the national average so I guess there are more of them than I expected. Possibly due to her upbringing in a split household with a mom who badmouthed her when she decided to live with her father due to his home being closer to her work (and she was fifteen and unable to drive at the time), Rachel has major issues with the thought of marriage (especially since Mormons believe marriages that have been sealed are forever) and what will be expected of her (homemaking, babies, no traveling on a whim.) But when she meets a guy, Austin, who seems okay with her thinking and her fears - and who loves her, they marry and take a trip that she'd saved for. And this is no ordinary trip: it's practically a year of honeymooning while traveling to a bit of South America, parts of Asia, and along one path of the Camino de Santiago. While in these places, she talks to people about marriage in their cultures and constantly questions her own thoughts of marriage and if she'll change her mind about being married to Austin (which that part was a bit tiresome to me after about 200 pages.) Otherwise, this was a pretty interesting story. I especially enjoyed reading about the people she met on the European pilgrimage and her experiences - like wearing sandals while hiking in the snow! Also, jeans. On a thirty-something day hike. Maybe I'm just weird, but I rarely see people hike in jeans, but maybe this is a southern oddity.

What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall -- Naomi returns to her hometown where as an eleven year old, she was attacked in the woods. Pretty good.