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

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

January Books


My Sweet Girl by Amanda Jayatissa -- I started this near the end of December, and then Zach and Sophie came to visit so I didn't read much as we were too busy riding the carousel and visiting the arboretum's little play area (so fun). Paloma was adopted from a Sri Lankan orphanage at age 12, and 18 years later, she is being blackmailed by her roommate who claims to know her secret. This story alternates between Paloma of today, living in California, to when she was getting ready for her adoption. I kept reading this book because I wanted to see how it ended, but the author uses a lot of off-putting language if you don't like the F word (no kidding) sometimes three times in one sentence. I think it detracts from a book, but I am a fuddy duddy type like that so ... Someone who got this book before me, crossed out nearly all the g--d---s in the book as I guess that particular word offended the reader a lot.

Puppet by Joy Fielding -- Amanda is loving her life as a defense attorney in Florida when she picks up the phone and her ex-husband in Toronto calls saying her mother is accused of murder. Amanda hasn't talked to her mom in eight years, but duty calls and she heads north to see what she can do. This book was OK. A quick read anyway.

Family Trust by Kathy Wang -- A story told from the perspectives of Stanley, the Chinese-America patriarch who is dying from pancreatic cancer; his ex-wife Linda, who is the better investor and also looking for a new love on a dating app; Mary, the much younger second wife; and Fred and Kate, the children of Stanley and Linda. This book was OK; nothing special.

The Marsh Queen by Virginia Hartman -- Loni is working as a bird illustrator for the Smithsonian when she gets a call from her brother urging her to come home because her mom is struggling with a broken wrist and dementia. Loni is reluctant to go back to north Florida, but takes a few weeks to do so. While there she looks for answers about her father's death when she was twelve years old. Pretty good book by this new-to-me author.

The War Librarian by Addison Armstrong -- Two storylines in this book: one with Emmaline, who travels to France to cheer the troops with books during World War I, and the other with Kathleen in 1976 as she begins training at the Naval Academy. This book was a bit ho-hum at times, but later got pretty interesting. Not the best book, but not bad.

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland -- I enjoy this author's books: fast-paced and pretty exciting though they leave me skeptical of some of our intelligence employees. Vivian is a CIA counterintelligence analyst working to uncover Russian sleeper cells. When her algorithm works, she discovers something very close to home that threatens life as she knows it.

The Blame Game by Sandie Jones -- Naomi is a psychotherapist who often allows relationships with clients to blur the line. This time she's helping Jacob leave his abusive wife by allowing him to rent a flat that she and her husband own. Only she didn't tell her husband (yet) as she knows he doesn't like her blurring those lines. Additionally she offers to allow Anna to stay with them for a few days while she sorts out where to live - her husband is abusive after all. Anyway...this was a fast read and pretty interesting though maybe a touch confusing there towards the end.

Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese -- Perhaps a bit too predictable, but I ended up liking this one pretty well. At one point, I thought it was going to be a total yawner, but it got more interesting as the story progressed. Lauren is a first grade teacher who is hoping to adopt a child from China, as a single woman. It's part of the contract that she is single yet the long-term substitute teacher across the hall, Joshua, is making this difficult. A sweet book with some good reminders for me.

The Liar's Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard -- Alison moved to the Netherlands after her freshman year of college ended disastrously. Her boyfriend Will was charged for the murder of five girls who were drowned in the canal. Ten years after Will's incarceration, another college girl is found killed in the same manner. Is this a copycat? Will wants to tell Alison something, but will she come back to Ireland? Pretty good book.

Just the Nicest Couple by Mary Kubica -- Nina and her husband, Jake, had a fight, but she didn't expect him to not come back home. Or show up for work. He loves his job! Meanwhile Lily and Christian are trying to figure out what to do because Lily might have accidentally killed Jake. Huh? Pretty good story if you like these types of books.

Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen -- Rebecca returns home to help her brother John who hasn't been quite right since a childhood fall caused a brain injury. When John suggests she stay at the abbey-turned-hotel because the house is not prepared for her visit, Rebecca becomes embroiled in a bit of a mystery involving an author who is writing a novel while staying at the hotel. A pretty good story though not my favorite from this author.

The Last Invitation by Darby Kane -- This book seems similar to another book I read. I almost thought perhaps I'd read it before, but I guess not. There's the secret organization of powerful women who take justice into their own hands when the system fails (which happens quite often.) This alternates between Gabby and Jessa, two lawyers - one practicing, the other not. Pretty good, but not my favorite of hers.

Monday's Lie by Jamie Mason -- This book was OK; not a favorite, but not awful. Dee's mom is like a superhero government spy or something...it's never very clear for us - or Dee herself. Because her childhood was so extraordinary, Dee marries someone who is perfectly boring. Yet when things start going wrong with Patrick, Dee thinks back to her mom and lessons she learned from her.

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin -- I enjoyed this look at the lives of Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh through the eyes of Anne. The book begins when Anne was a college student visiting Mexico where her father was an ambassador. Charles Lindbergh was a hero to many, and he was visiting her family in Mexico at Christmas! The book follows their courtship and marriage. Interesting people!

The Widow by Fiona Barton -- I read one of her more recent books last year so I decided to get some others from the library. This is her first one and some characters from the other book I read - that fleshed them out more - are in this one. Kate Waters is the reporter sent to get the story from the widow of a man charged with kidnapping a two year old girl. Fast-paced book

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Itchy Boots Intro and Season 1 Notes

 Last year Andrew was watching a couple of his favorite YouTubers (usually fellows who mow or haul dirt and such), when YouTube gave him a suggestion for Itchy Boots which he watched and started following.

Itchy Boots is the YouTube channel for Noraly, a Dutch lady who decided she'd rather travel the world by motorcycle than write travel blogs or work in her former field (she trained in geology). She'd already traveled quite a lot in the world, and - if I remember the story correctly - started riding a motorbike in India and fell in love with this mode of travel.

Anyway, Andrew started watching her videos, and I would hear them while trying to read nearby. Over time, my listening turned into watching with him so that the two of us would bend our necks over his small phone three times a week when he'd get a notification that she's posted a new video.


Noraly was already well into Season 6 by the time I started watching. She was in Colorado or Nevada though Andrew had watched her in parts of Latin America and her crossing into the US. Her final destination this season was Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.  This lovely movie (about 90 minutes) is a summary of her trip that she created once she was home in the Netherlands. Since I only watched the last part of Season 6, I found this a great way to see the parts I missed in South America, Central America, Mexico, and parts of the US. I especially enjoyed seeing the people she met along the way although the scenery and hardships she faced made it more interesting! 

ETA: I thought I recorded this somewhere, but can't find it so I just looked it up on November 30, 2023....at the end of the movie, Noraly mentions that she started her journey on October 1, 2019 and ended it on August 11, 2022 when she reached the Arctic Ocean. (Remember that her journey was interrupted due to the covid-19 pandemic). She traveled 65,000 kilometers and went through 18 countries.

That was sometime last summer and we watched her final episode of Season 6 in mid-November, and then decided to start watching some of her earlier seasons.

On November 23, we started Season 1 which began with a short video, perhaps four or five minutes. I wonder if she was just starting out, seeing if people were interested in watching her videos. Over time, her videos became longer with most of them in the 15 to 20 minute range. She records such things as food she eats, places she stays, people she meets, scenery, good and bad roads, border crossings, stuff about her bike.

I just wanted to record my few notes from Season 1 which were mostly ridden on her Royal Enfield Himalayan bike, named Basanti.

November 23, 2022

watched episodes 1-10 which were in India

November 26

 watched episodes 11-25 which were in India, Myanmar, and Thailand 

She met "Roads Up" stars Peter and Claudia from Austria. She later stayed with them when she was in Vienna.

November 27

watched episodes 26-35 which were in  Thailand and Malaysia

-- find review of motorbike after 10K miles; mentioned on episode 34

November 28

watched episodes 36-40 which were in Malaysia and Oman (she took a ferry to Oman)

December 1

watched episodes 41-45 which were in Oman

While waiting for Basanti to arrive in Oman, she used another bike and took off-roading lessons from someone


December 8

watched episodes 46-50 which were in Oman

December 9

watched episodes 51-57 which were in the UAE and Iran

I absolutely loved the hospitality and friendliness of so many people during her travels in this region and in several upcoming episodes.

December 15

watched episodes 58-66 which were in Iran and Turkmenistan


 December 16

watched episodes 67-72 which were in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan

December 22

watched episodes 73-77  which were in Tajikistan and she pointed out the Afghan side across the river, but she didn't go into Afghanistan


December 24

watched episodes 78-80 which were in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan 

December 26

watched episodes 81-84 which were in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan 

December 27

watched episodes 85-88 which were in Kazakhstan and Turkestan


January 2, 2023

watched episodes 89-93 which were in Kazakhstan and Russia

January 3

watched episodes 94-98 which were in Russia, Georgia, and Armenia 

She bought a drone from a hostel-mate Tony from Switzerland, and had Itchy Boots stickers designed by another hostel-mate


January 5

watched episodes 99-104 which were in  Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, Georgia, and Turkey

January 6

watched episodes 105-109 which were in Turkey


January 7

watched episodes 110-114 which were in Turkey, Greece, and Albania


January 13

watched episodes 115-119 which were in Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Croatia


 January 14

watched episodes 120-125 which were in Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands where we saw her mom, dad, and niece meet her; She said she had been gone from home for a year at that point.