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

Thursday, November 30, 2023

November Books


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 27, 2023

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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