Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 8:02 pm
Hello my blog-reading friends. I hope you’ve all had a good summer and transition into fall. Just when I thought life couldn’t get any busier, it did! We’ve had several delightful house guests over the last few weeks, as well as some memorable events. Our granddaughter’s wedding on August 12 was absolutely beautiful, especially the bride. It was so much fun - no one wanted to go home! She had seven attendants, and a great DJ from Rochester, New York. It was in a lovely rustic restored barn with wonderful accommodations for the wedding party and guests in Frewsburg, NY, near Jamestown. My son and his wife certainly did a great job raising their three daughters; her two younger sisters were beautiful co-maids-of-honor. We were so happy and proud to share that special day with them and all the extended family and friends who attended.
The next day was our annual McCauley Family Reunion at the McCauley Farm in Clarion County, PA. It’s such a feeling of peace and belonging to sit under the shade trees, reminiscing and laughing with cousins and their spouses who after all these years feel like cousins too. We only have one elderly uncle left and two aunties. We used to have grandparents and seven sets of aunts and uncles… We were tired as we drove home but it was such a good weekend, worth all the effort.
We hosted my husband’s much smaller family reunion at our home over Labor Day weekend. It was also fun with many trips down memory lane. Everyone helped with food preparations and clean-up. One of our guests was from Basel, Switzerland and was keen to learn to drive a lawn tractor and cut grass. He caught on quickly and ended up mowing the entire lawn for us during the days of his visit. It saved me from mowing during my birthday week. This reunion was followed by my birthday with lots more family gatherings. These were mostly in restaurants, with me treated like a queen for a few days.
Of course, as usual we had several doc and dentist visits during the last few weeks. And I spend at least 6 hours a week cutting grass. Maybe that’s why I love fall so much. I’ll be trimming back my gardens for winter soon. The perennial and annual flowers are all beginning to show end of the season starkness. And I’ll only mow maybe one or at the most two more times before winter. Woo-hoo! The leaves are already changing to the beautiful reds, orange and gold of fall. Plus cooler nights and days, what’s not to like? I love the change of seasons, but fall is always my favorite.
Our granddaughter who just started her career as a professional registered nurse, on the Intensive Care Unit in a large hospital, had the misfortune of passing out during her twelve hour shift last Friday night, she fell backwards and fractured her skull, was rushed to ER and after many tests, was sent back to Intensive Care as a patient. Not the way she planned her shift that night! The tests cleared her of all the bad things that could have caused her to pass out. She will see her neurologist this week for a follow-up. She says she feels okay, except her head and neck hurt. She takes only Tylenol for the discomfort. Thank goodness. Her eight-year-old son’s bedtime prayer on Saturday night: “Thank you Jesus for not letting my mom die today. Amen.” Amen.
Life has come full circle for me in a way. I have joined a Bible Study where I’m learning so much. Fifty seven years ago I had my first child, a beautiful daughter. I cherished her and raised her the best I could, which included teaching her about the Bible and taking her to church and Sunday School regularly. Now she is the leader of the Bible Study I’m attending. She is such a good teacher and my faith is growing again.
I’ve read several books during my absent weeks from blogging. I reviewed The Sheriff’s Daughter for Story Circle, it was a fun and interesting read. I highly recommend it. Memoir. You can read my review by clicking:
Home Front by Kristin Hannah. 2012. Fiction. This was our book club choice for August. It’s a fantastic story, one of Hannah’s best. It generated one of our best book discussions ever. The protagonist had a very unhappy and unstable childhood, her alcoholic mother died while she was a senior in high school, she manged to graduate living alone the last few months of her senior year. She joined the army and eventually became a helicopter pilot. Later she married had two daughters and a handsome successful husband who resented her army life - she stayed on in the National Guard, playing soldier one weekend a month. The tension builds with every page, the characters are well developed and believable. Several of our members have or had sons or grandsons in the military so it was a poignant read for us.
Pay Dirt Road by Samantha Jayne Allen. 2022. Fiction - Murder/Mystery. Pay Dirt Road is her debut novel. It is Book One in a three-part Annie McIntyre Mystery Series. It was awarded the Best Mystery - Thriller - Suspense last year. The protagonist, Annie McIntyre has a love/hate relationship with her hometown, Garnett, Texas. She just graduated from college and is back home waitressing. Her grandfather is a private investigator. Annie is ambitious but has no idea how to jump-start her future. The complicated plot is tricky; the characters are well developed. This is an excellent coming of age novel, even for those of us who are already ‘of age!’
Girls Like Us by Christina Alger. 2019. Fiction - Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Suspense. FBI agent, Nell Flynn hasn’t been home in ten years. She and her dad, Homicide Detective Martin Flynn never had much of a relationship. When her father dies in a motorcycle accident, Nell returns to the house she grew up in to scatter his ashes and close his estate. Worlds collide when she investigates a string of grisly murders on Long Island that raise impossible questions. But she doesn’t like the answers she finds and narrowly escapes with her own life. An excellent book, I want to read more of this author’s books. (*Based on the Gilgo Beach murders that took place in Long Island, NY in 2010.)
The Lost Ticket by Freya Sampson. 2022. Fiction. Protagonist Libby is a brokenhearted young woman who feels her life is in tatters; she boards a bus in London and meets elderly Frank. He tells her about the time in 1962 when he met a girl on the 88 bus, with beautiful red hair like hers.They’d made plans for a date at the National Gallery art museum, but Frank lost the bus ticket with her number on it. For the past 60 years he’s ridden the same bus, trying to find her, but with no luck. Libby is inspired to help Frank find his love just one more time, though it’s a race against time with his dementia progressing daily. This is a beautifully written uplifting novel about how a shared common experience among strangers can transform lives. The quirky characters and poignant plot kept me turning the pages.
The Weekend by Charlotte Wood. 2020. Fiction. ( Ms. Woods is an Australian author.) My sister gave me this book to read. It certainly did not grab me early on. But she encouraged me to stay with it. I did and it’s a book I will never forget. Three women in their seventies reunite one last, life-changing weekend in the beach house of their late friend. Can their friendship survive without her? Another powerfully poignant novel.
Civil Blood by Ann McMillan. 2001. Historical Fiction. A few pages into this novel and I realized I’d read it many years ago, but I kept reading because it was very good and I couldn’t remember how it would end. It’s well-researched and the characters are well-developed. A complicated detective story, full of interesting insights into the divided loyalties and conflicting beliefs of the times. Takes place in Richmond in 1862, dealing with germ warfare of a smallpox semi-epidemic.
We are currently streaming Three Pines on Netflix. Based on Louise Penny ’s Three Pines mystery series. The characters are almost as good as in her books. It’s light fun and almost cozy to watch.
We watched two excellent movies this month:
First: Painkillers, a 6 part mini series on Netflix, it’s so powerful and important that we ended up binging on the on all six shows in one evening. It deals with the opiod epidemic, oxycodone and Purdue Pharmaceuticals. Mathew Broderick is one of the actors. I highly recommend it.
The second powerful movie we watched, at the local theater was Sound of Freedom. It deals with the kidnapping and sex trafficking of young girls and boys. It ’s a very important and disturbing film but should be seen by all. I have always wondered why in police busts, etc. over the years for prostitution that only the sex workers were arrested. What about all their customers? Weren’t they as guilty of the crime as the sex workers? And when adult males are involved with underage sex workers… WHO is the real law-breaker?
Well, that’s all for now. Till next time, please stay safe and keep reading, my friends.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 10:44 pm
Gosh, I wish I could figure out where time goes. All I know is - it seems to slip through my hands even faster than money. And believe me - with the ever increasing price of gas and groceries, these days money goes very fast… We’ve had another super busy month, lots of appointments. And thankfully lots of visits with adult children and grandchildren, as well as other family members and friends. It’s hard to keep up with them all but its fun trying to.
We’ve had 25 dead ash trees cut from the field directly above and behind our home this month. We’re hoping the tree cutter keeps his promise to finish the job soon, there are still 5 more to cut down. My son cut 3 trees down in front of the our house, near the rock garden on Memorial Day. Seems there is always something happening. I do lots of lawn mowing and weeding with all my flower gardens. Summer days start early and end late at our home. I also sanded and painted a cute and very heavy wooden patio table and two chairs. I learned to use an electric sander, moving up in the wolrd!
Last week we went to a program at the Bradford Public Library featuring author David Poyer who spoke about his new book, Writing in the Age of AI. It was very interesting and a bit frightening to consider the ways AI can and will assist and threaten writers. I’m anxious to start this book. I’ll keep you posted in my August Blog. It was also good to see David again, he’s an old friend from my Creative Writing days at Wilkes University.
Four books to tell you about this month:
The best one is The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry. 2023. Historical Fiction. The novel is about two sisters, Hazel, age 14 and Flora, age 5, who were part of England’s Operation Pied Piper in 1939. Can you imagine 800,000 children evacuated from the cities to rural England carrying only small backpacks with identity and contact information inside as well as a change of clothes - within four days of the decree. Train loads of children headed to safety to escape the German bombs. Many were taken into lovely safe country homes. ( Three and a half million children were moved to safety.) The sisters landed with a kind woman and her teenage son. A few months later, Flora was playing near the river that flowed through the fields near their caretaker’s home and she disappeared. Flora was pronounced dead from drowning a few weeks later. Hazel was tormented by guilt for twenty years, blaming herself for not watching her sister more closely. She’s working in a cozy rare bookstore in London when she opens a mysterious children’s book that contained long-held secrets from her and Flora’s childhood spent in the English countryside during WWII. I don’t want my review comments to be spoilers…I will close by sharing with you: this was the best book I’ve read in a very long time and I will definitely read more of P.C. Henry’s books.
Bluebird by Sharon Cameron. 2021. Historical Fiction. I read this book a few months ago and missed sharing it with you. The story is set in 1946 with Eva, a young German girl crossing the Atlantic under the pretense of starting a new life. There are flashbacks to bad times during the war. Her purpose is to find the escaped Nazi and bring an end to Project Bluebird. She finds a temporary room in a group home for displaced people. She is befriended by a kind young man who volunteers at the home. this book is exceptionally well-researched and the character development is is extraordinary. I highly recommend this book too, its an unforgettable story.
Identity by Nora Roberts. 2023. Fiction. This was my book club’s choice for July, it is also the first Nora Roberts book our group has ever chosen. Amazon lists it as one of the best books of 2023… I dare to disagree with such platitudes for this book. I expected more about Identity theft and less about serial killers. I felt it was predictable and the characters could have used more depth. But it was interesting and if you are Nora Roberts fan, this might be something you’d enjoy.
I also reviewed Acts of Atonement, you can read the review by clicking the following link:
I also read a memoir of a famous author, I picked it up at a garage sale for 50 cents. I’m glad I didn’t pay any more than that for it and only sorry I wasted several hours of my life reading it. No, I won’t mention the title or author.
We watched two good movies on Netflix this month: The Highwaymen, starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson. It’s an older movie but was well done with lots of food for thought.
The Identicals, Loosely based on what if Elvis’s twin brother had not died at birth and instead was adopted by a minister and his wife? Its an entertaining movie with good actors and singers.
Till next time, please stay safe and keep reading my friends.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 11:22 am
Be careful what you wish for - summer is here and so far its been a ride, we’ve gone from drought with brown dying grass to days of heavy rain with high grass that’s begging to be mowed. Now we are shut inside with the windows closed under air quality red alert due to the massive Canadian forest fires. And so it goes, we’re all in the same boat and it feels like no one has a paddle!
We’ve had grad parties, family picnics and time with friends and family. I’ve also been able to squeeze in time to reorganize my office… 4 large garbage bags have gone out the door. I am not quite finished, hopefully before July 1, the last bag will go out the door! It’s the first REAL cleaning of files, drawers, stacks and stacks of books since I began seriously writing in 2005. I also mailed books to a few friends and gave some to Goodwill. It is a process I find necessary preparation to finally finish my new novel.
I’ve also read several books this month:
A Secret Kept by Tatiana De Rosnay. 2011. Historical Fiction. This novel is about family secrets. (Spoiler note: It’s not the same level of suspense and intrigue as the author’s blockbuster bestseller - Sarah’s Key.) But it is a good story that pulls the reader into a web of distrust and misunderstandings. Characters are varied, original and well developed. The transformation of Antoine, one of the protagonists, was especially remarkable. The plot twists are surprising and it has a satisfactory conclusion. It made me feel like I’d spent some time in France, without the hassle of travel or the worry of learning French.
Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan. 2022. Fiction. This was our book club’s choice for June. It has a complicated plot, which of course, the reader expects given the depth of the two co-writers experiences and impressive lists of published novels. It was an in-depth look at transgender issues, a surprise to most of our group and it promoted a lively and long discussion of the issues. The characters were well-developed and the issues well-researched. We learned more about bee keeping than we ever wanted to know…and perhaps the same is true about transgender issues. Two mothers from different parts of the USA escape abusive relationships and start over in a small New England town. They each have one child who meet as adolescents in high school and fall in love. Both are estranged from their fathers. One dies and a trial follows. It’s very well-written. I recommend it to anyone who is even a bit curious about the transgender buzz that’s so much in the news these days.
Hang the Moon by Jeanette Walls. 2023. Historical Fiction. Set in a small Virginia town near the Blue Ridge Mountains during Prohibition, the characters are well-developed and the era is well-researched. The story starts with Sallie Kincaid, age 8, wanting to be the fastest girl in the world as she races her wagon down the family’s long curving driveway. She’s the apple of her daddy’s eye, he’s the biggest and richest man in their small town. All that changes suddenly when she attempts teaching her 3 year-old brother how to steer the wagon down the hill. Miscalculating a curve, he upsets and loses consciousness. Her stepmother blames Sallie and her father is forced to send her away for ‘a while‘ which tuned into 9 years until her stepmother’s unexpected funeral. The novel is layered with complicated relationships, clan fighting, government corruption, unexpected plot twists and Sallie’s steadfast fearless leadership, loyalty and empathy. The reader can’t help loving our gal Sal. I highly recommend this novel.(J Walls’ first novel was the NYT’s Bestselling The Glass Castle, made into a great movie.)
The Trackers by Charles Frazier. 2023. Historical Fiction. This well researched Depression-era novel has wonderfully well-developed characters, and enough suspense threaded through the twisting plot to keep the reader turning pages. The descriptions of the land and mountains are amazing, describing a clear sunny day with a “bland blue sky.” The protagonist, Val, is a recent art school graduate who’s personally not been affected by the Depression, except for lack of opportunities after graduation. His former art professor connects him with a post office in a small Wyoming town to paint a western themed mural on the wall. Val meets a wealthy rancher, his ranch staff and and his lovely young wife. Master storyteller Frazier takes these facts and creates another classic. Layers of tension between the haves and have nots add another dimension to this novel. (Frazer also wrote NYT bestselling Cold Mountain, also made into a great movie.)
And one more, I will not mention the author’s name or book title. But I browsed through Walmart’s book section a few days ago and there were 29 titles on the various shelves by this writer! 29!! She is very successful but sadly our young people who read and love these books are becoming addicted to trashy fiction. I will say no more.
We’ve also watched a couple movies on Prime and Netflix but I forgot to write them down. Sorry! if I remember them, I will write them down to share with you next month.
Till then please stay well and keep reading, my friends.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 2:59 pm
It feels like summer is already here in northwest Pennsylvania. I’m still potting plants, I hope you’re enjoying this early burst of warm weather, even though we still had a few serious frosts last week. I’ve also been hustling trying to clean windows, move furniture and doing some heavy duty cleaning. The days continue to slip by, evaporating like spilled water under the hot sun. But we are healthy and our glass is mostly at least half full, what more can we an expect?
We had two granddaughters graduating from college on the same day this month, one from Mansfield University in north central Pennsylvania - an elementary teaching degree. (She actually graduated last December and started teaching the next week but wanted to participate in the BIG walk. She’s also coaching pole vaulting, being a former champ when in high school, and a pole vaulting scholarship for college…) We had time for a nice lunch and she had to hurry off to coach a track meet. The other granddaughter is married with children and graduated from Penn State 13 years ago. She just finished her Nursing A.D. and will take her RN state boards next week. I didn’t make it to hers, she gave me a pass since it was a pinning ceremony. I do remember the importance of the pinning ceremony when I finished nursing; I felt sad I wasn’t able to get there on time. It was in Dubois, about five hours away from Mansfield.
I haven’t reviewed any books for awhile, but I did order two books to review from Story Circle today. It’s not that I haven’t been reading though…
Night Came With Many Stars by Simon Van Booy. Fiction. 2021. This was our book club choice for May and it generated a very good discussion. I copied this from the book’s back cover, because I couldn’t possibly have said it any better myself: “In rural Kentucky in 1933, Carol’s daddy lost his 13-year-old daughter in a game of cards. The author’s spellbinding novel spans decades as he tells the story of Carol and the people in her life across three generations. Incidents intersect and lives unexpectedly change course in this masterfully interwoven story of chance and choice that leads home again to a night blessed with light.” It’s a great book, much food for thought.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towels. Fiction. 2021. This novel has been on my stack of to-read books for several months. It’s a fascinating story that starts out with a bang and maintains the pace throughout the entire book. It’s set in middle America in June 1954, the entire story takes place in a span of ten days. Quirky characters are well-developed with wit and varying degrees of intellect. Back-stories weave skillfully through the book as these boys from vastly different backgrounds end up trusting and relying on each other through their many misadventures….until the fateful ending. I highly recommend this novel.
Libbie by Judy Alter. Historical Fiction. 1994. A novel of the life of Elizabeth Bacon Custer. The author won the prestigious Golden Spur and Western Heritage Awards for this novel. Judy Alter is a long-time member of Story Circle, I’ve met her ‘online’ only. I admire her work and found this paper back novel at a used book store in Maryland. It’s well written, with great character development, page-turning pacing and is obviously incredibly well-researched. It shows the devotion of George Custer’s wife and many sides to the flamboyant Custer’s self-involved personality. Definitely worth reading! From the back cover: “Set against the vivid back drop of the American frontier, Libbie is a rich and unforgettable story filled with passion and suspense, danger and heartbreak…a story that breaths life into an extraordinary woman–a rare and remarkable love.”
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys. Historical Fiction. 2019. The story begins in Madrid, Spain in 1957 under the oppressive dictatorship of Francisco Franco. It was the first book I’ve read by this author but it certainly won’t be my last. Inspired by the true post-war struggles of Spain, the author sheds light on a dark secret of recent Spanish history. The heart-wrenching story about the repercussions of war, unforgettable love, self-identity and the hidden violence of silence as she describes the anguish of the ‘lost babies’ between 1939 through the 1980’s. I also highly recommend this novel.
Too Late by Colleen Hoover. Fiction. 2016. A couple of my granddaughters have been raving about this writer for the last year or two. Finally one shared a copy of this book with me. I’ve noticed that Hoover’s books are consistently near the top of the best selling lists. And I was curious. I was shocked at first, then realized that some of the characters were well-developed and the plot had a few good twists. It reminded me of ‘50 Shades of Grey’. Now my granddaughter is telling me I read the worst one first and is telling me to read another one. Hoover has written many. Guess it proves sex sells!
We still haven’t been to a movie for awhile. We wanted to see a couple that came and went before we had time to go. Now we await them on Netflix or Prime.
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 4:38 pm
I’s a good day to write my blog as April showers continue to turn our world a lush green; even though last week we had snow flurries on two different days. We are so ready for the season’s change here in western Pennsylvania. I didn’t find a new blog platform yet. But I did copy and paste my entire blog to a permanent file on my hard drive. (200 pages with small font. I wanted access to it as a resource for my writing - just in case I needed it some day.)
My husband and I have both been ill this month with bad cold symptoms of congestion, severe coughing and fatique. It hung on for three weeks. I finally called our doctors after ten days and prescriptions were ordered which after a few days made a difference. I even ended up having a chest x-ray and thankfully my lungs were clear. We’re blessed with family who visit often enough to make us feel part of their lives. And because there are so many of them, no one has to come too often. Our phone helps us stay in touch with our immediate family who now lives in several distant places: Rapid City, South Dakota; Summerville, South Carolina; Mobile, Alabama; York, PA; and Basel, Switzerland.
I’ve read four books this month:
Up Island by Anne Rivers Siddons. 2009. Fiction. Readers laugh and cry while reading Up Island by this wonderful writer. The protagonist Molly Bell Redwine’s domineering and often cruel mother taught her that family is everything. Then Molly’s life unravels - her husband leaves her for a pushy younger woman who not only wants Molly’s husband but her home and money as well. Her mother dies, her friends prove to be shallow and false. Yet Molly proves to be resilient –a truly great novel.
Into the Planet by Jill Heinerth. 2019. Memoir. This is a mind-numbing and often frightening story. But I’m glad I read it since I never read anything remotely like it before. A good friend loaned it to me and highly recommended it. Jill was the first person in history to dive deep into an Antartica iceberg. This book is a blend of science, adventure and Jill’s memoir. Did you know: More people have died exploring underwater caves than have died on Mt. Everest? We know more about deep space than we do about the depths of our oceans? This was a great book which I highly recommend.
The Lighthouse by P.D James. 2006. Fiction/Mystery. From the novels jacket: “A secure and secluded retreat for the rich and powerful becomes the setting for an unsettling series of murders. Combe Island off the Cornish coast, is a restful haven for the elite. But when one of the distinguished visitors is found hanging from the island’s famous lighthouse in what appears to have been a murder, the peace is shattered…” An insidious virus has taken hold and everyone fells threatened by the the deadly virus and the fear of an unknown murderer among them. It is a Commander Adam Dalgliesh novel. If you haven’t read a PD James novel, you really should. She was another master story-teller.
Irene Deep In Texas Trouble by Judy Alter. 2023. Fiction/Mystery. The prolific writer, Judy Alter’s fourth novel in the Chicago Culinary Mysteries. You don’t have to read the first three to enjoy this one, though it would be best if you did. This is one of those novels that make you laugh out-loud while reading. I have a love/hate relationship with Irene and find myself wanting to shake her at times as she says and does the most outrageous things. Ignore what I just said about Irene, the other characters are people readers want to be their friends. The Irene series is a real hoot. I highly recommend this book, too. Bonus: In the back of the book are some great recipes.
We streamed a three year Netflix series: Designated Survivor this month. It was a good show starring Kiefer Sutherland. Guess when we are sick we have more time to watch television.
Till next month, stay well and keep reading my friends.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 5:21 pm
Technical difficulties on my end. My blog site was down and I had to use a ‘chat room’ to consult with the 24/7 technical support. But let me be clear, there was NO chatting at all, only typing. I’m a slow typist and struggled to keep up the so-called dialogue. After 20 minutes the first chat person passed me on to a Level 2 chat person, who soon passed me onto a Level 3 chat person. I was promised a resolution to my problem within 48 hours. It took 72 hours. They recommend I find a new web hosting site since my current blog platform is almost obsolete. I’m hoping this blog will find its way to my readers, as I attempt to navigate the online world of blog sites, etc. Yikes!
Spring is officially here and I’ve been prepping my lawn and gardens. I removed the burlap wraps from around all our bushes and shrubbery, and each burlap wrap was placed in separate labeled bags for next winter. I’m also trying to do some spring house cleaning which, of course, includes trips to the Goodwill Store with donations. Then I’ve prepared a large box of plastic eggs - each one with a small prize inside for our annual Grandchildren Easter Egg hunt on Sunday afternoon.
On the Saturday before Easter family and friends will be gathering for a Bridal Shower for our Mechanical Engineer granddaughter who will be married next August. It’s a happy exciting time for them and all of us!
On Sunday we will host a traditional Easter family dinner, expecting only18 this year as some are unable to attend. It will be a good time, though a bit of work with all the preparations. Thank goodness everyone brings something to contribute to the meal.
I’ve read only four books this month.
(And I’ve had no time to write. But trust me, stories are percolating in my brain.)
The Spirit of the Horse by William Shatner. 2017. Nonfiction. Autobiography. Surprisingly the author is now in his 90s and very articulate. His lifelong love of horses is documented on every page. It’s a well-researched book with lots of history woven into his tales. If you like horses, this would be a good book for you to consider reading.
Wish You Well by David Baldacci. Fiction. 2000. (Inspired by the author’s mother.) This is Baldacci’s 6th novel. He and his wife started a foundation for adult literacy after it was published, named Wish You Well Foundation. He’s written dozens more best-selling novels since then. In this novel the protagonist is a 12 year old New York city girl. Her distracted father crashes the family car and dies, Louisa and her brother were protected by their mother, she’s been in a ‘wide awake coma state’ ever since. Virtually leaving the children orphans. All three are sent to live with their great grandmother, their only relative, on a mountain in western Virginia, the same grandmother who had raised their father. The children’s adjustment to rural life is engaging and beautifully written. It’s one of my all-time favorite books. Wish You Well was our book club’s choice for March and it generated a very good discussion. It was a strong factor in the club voting to read another book about the women of Appalachia.
Heartburn by Nora Ephron. 1996. Fiction - based on autobiography of her life with her husband, Carl Bernstein. Her wit and heartache ripple through the pages. The protagonist is a young mother with a two year old son and seven months pregnant. It covers a six week period of her life from the time her husband tells her he’s in love with someone else until a few weeks after her baby is born. She’s an excellent and acclaimed writer. I found the book to be more sad than funny.
The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Women. Edited by Kami Ahrens. 2023. Nonfiction. Oral History. This anthology includes the stories of 21 women of varying in ages from their 20s to their 90s. But it’s almost like the mountains are a constant second character in each of their stories. These women are strong in their convictions and work ethics. Most came from very large families. However, these women had only about half as many children as their mothers had birthed. They all had a strong sense of community too. It was our book club choice for April and I look forward to the discussion later this month. It’s an excellent book. I’d never heard of the Foxfire series before, it’s all in the women’s own words as they were interviewed and taped by high school students starting in 1966 in the southern Appalachia mountains of Georgia and South Carolina. It’s a worthwhile enlightening read.
We became hooked on Michael Connolly’s Bosch series on Prime. There are six seasons and then two additional seasons, called Bosch Legacy. Only season one of Bosch Legacy is currently available for streaming. They are so well written and acted. The author is one of the show’s executive producers and also a frequent writer of the weekly scripts. We also streamed the mini-series, George and Tammy. I was never a big fan of George Jones and Tammy Wynette but after watching that I became one. I cried after watching Elvis as I did after watching George and Tammy. It’s horrific how managers drug up people to stand out on a stage and make them earn every last dollar they can.
Till next time, stay well and keep reading my friends.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 4:06 pm
February is quickly passing… I hope my readers had a nice Valentines Day, and that you all realize how much I appreciate you reading my blog. As well as a reminder that many others around you also appreciate you in their lives too. I like Valentine’s holiday because it’s a chance to share our appreciation to those who are special to us.
I just finished sweeping a couple inches of soft fresh snow off our sidewalks and front steps. The fresh snow cover is beautifully pristine, so much better than the barren trees and slush of the last week when temps were far above normal. The daffodils are already sprouting a few inches; I hope they’ll be hardy enough to survive the next two months! We’ve had strange weather patterns this winter in PA.
My daughter’s health is much improved; we are hopeful and expecting a full recovery. And our granddaughter ’s heart rate is almost within normal range, they’re thinking it may have been caused by Covid. She had the vaccination but also had Covid a couple times. Thank you all for your prayers.
We drove to Hilton Head, S.C. and were away almost three weeks. We spent three nights with my sister in Md. and three nights with our granddaughter who moved to Summerville, SC, (near Charleston). It was wonderful spending time with family we rarely see. Summerville is an amazing bustling ‘city’ in itself, the new Boeing facility is huge with dozens of finished ’sample’ planes parked in their secure lot with brightly painted international and USA airline company’s logos. The employees of that giant factory must surely use golf carts to get from one place to another- it’s that BIG! Our granddaughter is a mechanical engineer, and works for Curtis Wright. It’s also a very large facility, though not nearly as large as the Boeing building. We had lunch with some recently retired hometown friends who moved to Summerville last fall. It was so good to see them again too.
Our two weeks in Hilton Head were relaxing and wonderful. We spent a good amount of time with our hometown friends who live there for several months each winter. We always enjoy spending time with them, they are witty, wise and great company. Not to mention great cooks and gracious hosts. We miss them and are anxious for them to return north for the summer months.
The last two weeks I’ve been busy prepping for our tax man. My husband has done this for the last 32 years. Now it’s my turn, such tedious business it is. I’ll finish the tax preparations as soon as I complete this blog. Whew!
I read several books while on vacation. Brief descriptions follow:
Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner. 2021. Fiction/Thriller/Mystery. Dutton Publishing. This is a Franky Elkin series, but okay to read as a free standing novel. Frankie is a complicated though likable character, a middle aged recovering alcoholic with too many regrets. She’s made it her life’s work to search for cold case missing people. She’s street smart and refuses to give up, even when it seems she may become the next missing person. It’s a real page- turner. It was our book club’s choice for February and it generated a good discussion.
A World of Curiosities. by Louise Penny. 2022. MacMillan Publishing. Fiction. Mystery. This is her 18th novel with Inspector Armand Gamache, etc. The characters are part of a series but it’s possible to enjoy her novels as a stand alone. The plot is tricky and winds the reader through several suspicions before the puzzle is revealed at the end of the book. Her quirky characters are lovable and Three Pines is a wonderful little Canadian village most of her readers want to visit for themselves, albeit - can only be done through her mystery novels. This was a Christmas gift from my dear cousin, Maureen.
The Forgotten Affairs of Youth by Alexander McCall Smith. 2011. Fiction. Little Brown Book Group. This is another series novel that can stand alone. Isabel Dalhousieis a likable character, she is a middle-aged wealthy, (by inheritance), with a toddler son whom she adores and a much younger fiance who is the father of her baby. She’s the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics.
She’s surprised to find her feelings regarding parenthood grow more tender with each day. Complications arise when she searches for the Scottish roots of an academic who was adopted in Scotland and raised in Australia. Quirky plot twists and memorable characters make this another fascinating read by this author. This was another Christmas gift.
Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani. 2009. Fiction. Harper Publishing. Again this was the first in a trilogy and yet was a strong stand alone novel. An inside look into the lives of the colorful Roncalli and Angelini clans, with hilarious touching plots and characters. 33 year old Valentine Roncalli’s efforts to save the century old Angelini Shoe Company as she apprentice’s with her grandmother are valiant and entertaining. The family drama takes us from
Brooklyn to Greenwich Village to the Isle of Capri. Trigiani delivers as always with her wit, page-turning pacing and memorable family dynamics.
Mightier Than the Sword by Jeffrey Archer. 2015. Fiction. St. Martin’s Press. This was part of the Clifton series but was a strong stand alone novel. Though this book was written 8 years ago, it’s international drama is not far from the mark today. The plot goes from New York to London to Siberia and Moscow and all the way back again. It deals with the inner workings of Parliament, the British elections, to the intrigue of British society. Every member of the Clifton family is accomplished in their own right. They rely on each other and as the plot twists this way and that, it is impossible not to admire the adept writing style of the author. I hated to see the story end!
And now my most favorite book in a few years:
In a Field of Blue by Gemma Leviero. 2020. Historical Fiction. Lake Union Publishing. This is a complicated story beginning in England in 1922, it had been four years since Rudy’s older brother went missing in war-torn France. Rudy and his mother were still deep in mourning and grappling with unanswered questions when enigmatic Mariette arrived suddenly at the family manor claiming to be Edgar’s widow and with Edgar’s child, Samuel in tow. Rudy hoped they’d shed light on Edgar’s mystery. The characters were so richly described they almost walk off the pages. As the plot goes back to the earlier part of the 20th century pre-WW1 and then during the Great War. I learned things about the war that no other historical novel had brought to light. This was a book I bought in B&N a year ago while at Hilton Head because I liked the cover and the blurbs on the back cover! It was a wonderful book, one I will never forget.
We saw one movie worthy of sharing with you, A Man Called Otto. It’s based on the Swedish book, A Man Called Ove, that I read a few years ago.It was a wonderful movie.
Till next month, keep reading. Stay safe and well, my friends.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 8:09 pm
We have finally finished packing away all our many, maybe too many?, Christmas decorations. But it was so pretty and such fun for the holiday season. Now we’re down to the brass knuckle work of cleaning closets and garage spaces that have too long been neglected. The garbage man might get the idea we’re moving; our garbage has been stacked high each week for several weeks now. Spoiler alert: we’re not moving!
My daughter has been quite ill with a condition known as a Thyroid Storm. She’s finally being treated with the right medicine and we’re hoping for a complete recovery… And our 21 year old granddaughter is wearing a cardiac monitor this week to help the doc get a handle on why her pulse has been consistently high. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.
I’ve read a few books since Christmas. My favorite is Horse by Geraldine Brooks. 2022. Historical Fiction. It’s my book club’s choice for this month and a good choice it is. From the book’s jacket: “A discarded painting in a junk pile, a skeleton in an attic, and the greatest racehorse in American history: from these strands, a Pulitzer Prize winner braids a story of spirit, obsession, and injustice.” Brooks is a master, she weaves the well-researched history with a bit of fiction to create an unforgettable page-turner. (I rode my horse nearly everyday as a teen and love horses.)
Before You Knew My Name by Jacgueline Bublitz. 2021. Fiction. Criminal mystery. This was a most unusual book, I bought it to see how a writer could create a story with a murdered girl as the protagonist. J. Bublitz did it in spades! The slogan on the back cover grabbed me: “She may be dead. That doesn’t mean her story is over.” If you like criminal mysteries with a major twist, this would be a good book for you. The author lives between New Zealand and Melbourne, Australia. This is her debut novel and it’s a knock out.
I can’t remember the names of a couple other books I read and I’ve already loaned them to friends. I will write about them next month.
I have sad news; my Facebook page has been hacked and messed with again. My photos and who knows what else have been copied and stolen — at least two more times. I’ll be taking it down for a while and probably try Facebook again in a month or two. I really only used it to promote my writing. I prefer real time with friends to Facebook any day. BUT this feels like a terrible violation of my space and property.
Till next month, stay safe,well, and keep reading my friends.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 6:37 pm
December has been a wild ride with the blizzards, many being sick, plus the joy, love and pressure of Christmas. We both had mild cases of Covid earlier in December and sadly had to miss several planned social events. We recovered enough to host our annual family Christmas Eve celebration. They all braved the roads which were still quite snowy with icy patches, and everyone made it here and home again without incident. We extend our dining room table plus added two others, cover them all with festive red tablecloths and Christmas dishes to seat 26 family members. All the grands were here, (except Steph, she arrived home form Mobile, AL a few days later.) All the great grands were here, ages 2, 4, 5 ,7, two 9s and 11 - all were super-excited for Christmas! Our 15 year old Maddie, is bright and beautiful as well as a big help with meal preparations. Everyone pitches in where needed, so necessary with large families. As I sat and looked down the stretched-out table, I couldn’t help wonder when and if we’d all ever be together like this again. Ethan who serves in the US Air Force, here with his wife and darling 2 year old son, from S.D. Hayley and her fiance with help from her family, spent Dec. 24 packing a U-Haul truck.They left Dec. 26 for Charleston S.C. where they both start new positions in early January.
We also celebrated college graduations. Mauley earned a degree in elementary education and started teaching the next week. Anthony, THE fiance, earned a Cyber Security degree and looks forward to his new and first position in his field. Anyone who’s ever been hacked knows we need more like him! We’re all so proud of our Allie, she works 30 hours a week and is a full-time college student. She’ll graduate in April with an RN degree. She’s the mother of the 5, 7 and 9 year olds and she has a wonderful husband. He’s the kind of father who realizes taking care of his own children is parenting and could never be considered babysitting. (Trust me, there are lots of Dad’s who never figured that out!)
Also a big event happened in our lives: We finally found THE right puppy for us, after a few near misses. He is super adorable, half poodle and half shiatsu, all black and a non-shedder. He’s sweet, cuddly and really smart. My daughter picked him up for us the week we had Covid and kept him for the first week. She named him Georgie, it seems to be the perfect name for this cagey little fellow. It was a rescue situation. It will be two weeks tomorrow since he’s been with us.
Reading has taken more of an effort on my part since Georgie came to live with us. But I’ve managed to read a few books this month.
An Irish Country Yuletide by Patrick Taylor. Fiction. 2021. (An early Christmas gift from a dear friend.) This was a cozy read with familiar characters in a new adventure. I love Taylor’s books and have read many of them, though not all. You can read them in a series or as stand alone novels. If you’ve got a bit of Irish blood in your veins, you really should read a bit of Irish literature. It will warm your heart.
A Plain and Simple Christmas by Amy Clipston. 2010. Fiction. This is a small novel I picked up at Ollie’s. It’s set in Lancaster, PA. about an Amish girl who falls in love with an Englisher, (anyone who is not Amish). Though he is a kind, hard working young man, and a devout Christian - her father cannot forgive her for leaving the fold. It’s a lovely story and helps us outsiders understand the Amish a bit more.
1225 Christmas Lane by Debbie Macomber. 2011. Fiction. If you are not a Macomber fan, you should still read this book. It’ll help you understand why she’s such an amazing success.This story’s about a family and a litter of puppies left on dog rescuer’s porch a week before Christmas. The heroine also happens to have a thriving Christmas Tree farm, and a host of wonderful local characters. It’s beautifully written and if it doesn’t put you in a Christmas spirit…even in the weeks after Christmas, I don’t know what could. It might even nudge you to get a puppy!
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoudrels by India Holton. 2021. Fantasy/Fiction. The writer is a New Zealander with an awesome imagination. This is one of the most unusual books I’ve ever read. It’s a Christmas gift. There’s a long list of characters at the front of the book that I referred back to many times while reading. It reminded of contraries’ as her characters are consistently opposite what we consider normal. If you’re interested in flying houses unconventional women and charming rogues–this could be a great book for you. *It was A Notable Book of the Year by the NYTimes, 2022.
We also watched many Christmas movies, The most memorable for us: A Storm for Christmas, we streamed it on Netflix. It is a whole season, about 6 or 7 episodes of groups of people stranded at a large airport over the holidays due to a massive winter storm. We were really tired one night about 10 p.m. and decided to watch just one show, but soon forgot we were tired, ended up watching the entire season and going to bed about1:30 in the morning! It’s especially pertinent now given the huge numbers of people who really were stranded for days at airports over Christmas holidays.
That’s all for this year. Stay safe and well, my friends. And keep reading.
Happy New Year!
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 10:50 pm
Tis the season… a reminder IF any of you have not read my Christmas novel, Pressure Cooker Christmas, this might be the year to read it. It will give your holiday spirit a boost, a few laughs and help your get back to the true meaning of the season which is sometimes lost in the hustle of the season preparations.
We’ve had another super busy month. (Our tech problems have continued. More about that later.) We’ve enjoyed the comings and goings of family and friends in and out of our home. Thanksgiving was special this year; we hosted 17 around our dining room table for Thanksgiving dinner this year, six of those were great grandchildren between the ages of 4 and 12. So much energy and fun! Our youngest son came with his family of five more after dinner for desserts - and even brought dessert with them. Can’t beat that! We are blessed.
The family hunters have had a productive year, there will plenty of venison for any of us who want it. We’ve completed our Christmas decorating inside and out. Whew, what a marathon that always is. Most of our shopping is done, I shop for bargains all year since we have such a large family. And of course, I save each week in a Christmas Club at the bank, the interest is pathetic but it is still nice to get a check for extra shopping each November. However, most of the wrapping is NOT done, that will be my next project. I covered all my rhododendron plants with burlap this year to try to save them from the deer during the winter. Last year they nearly destroyed them. In fact, I planted four new bushes last summer.
My Facebook page was hacked early in November. It was a terrible shock to see my photo and the Facebook banner of my books being misrepresented as me trying to scam some of my readers to sign up for a fake grant. I’m so appreciative of the young woman who contacted me to see if I was writing those out- of-character messages… she contacted Facebook, and I did too. Within a couple days the fake page was closed.
Our house alarm malfunctioned big time the weekend before Thanksgiving.To make a long story short, our very loud alarm started to blast the neighborhood for hours in the middle of the night, the police made a midnight visit - shining flashlights in our windows. (One of our neighbors called the police, worried that something must be very wrong at our house.) After the police finally quieted the monster, they told me if it started again to call 911 to let them know it was a malfunctioning alarm. At 6:30 in the morning it started again. I called 911, and they asked, “Is this Ann?” (Small towns, you gotta love them!) I called the alarm company several times during the fiasco and finally several hours later with the help of a skilled technician, we got it stopped. We owe some mighty big apologies to the neighbors, it was so embarrassing.
I’ve read only three novels this month:
The Music Box by Mary Bryan Stafford. Historical Fiction. 2022. High River Publishing. This is an unusual Civil War story about two women who are married to brothers. They struggle to keep their Texas farm going while both their husbands fight in the Civil War. One fights for the north and the other for the south. Neither woman has a real sister, and they’re opposites in personalities, dispositions and backgrounds. Their relationship with each other evolves to one of true sisterhood and mutual respect as the plot unfolds in many surprising paths. It was an unforgettable story. StoryCircle.org sent me this novel to review. You can read the review by clicking: https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/the-music-box/
The Messy Lives of Book People by Phaedra Patrick. Fiction. 2022. Park Row Books - Canada. I enjoyed reading this novel, though it was not at all what I expected; it was much better. The plot twists and great character development kept me turning the pages. From the back cover: “The house cleaner of a famous author must carry out her employer’s shocking last wish…” if you are a book lover, this one might be just your cup of tea.
A New York Christmas by Anne Perry. Historical Fiction. 2014. Ballantine Books. I can’t help it, I always have to read a Christmas novel or two each holiday season. I read this novel in one evening and enjoyed it immensely. It is set in 1904, a well planned wedding between two of the wealthiest families in the world is to take place in New York City’s high society. A beautiful young British bride-to-be is enthralled with her fiance, as she travels across the Atlantic with her chaperone; she expects to live happily ever after with her beloved. This story is a great example of life happening while we’re busy making other plans. This prolific author has written dozens of crime and mystery novels; 24 of them happen to be Christmas mysteries. I definitely plan to read more of her work.
We’ve watched a few okay but not worth mentioning movies. We finished watching the Madam Secretary series, loved the charters and the story line.
Till next time. Stay safe, enjoy the holiday season, and keep reading my friends
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 11:00 am
I wanted you all to know my Facebook page has been hacked/copied. Someone has copied my name, the Facebook banner photo of my books and even several of my family photos. This vile person or persons have only one goal and it is to cheat you out of your money. Starts out friendly and then wants your private info to send you a grant. THIS IS A SCAM!
I have alerted Facebook, as have a couple of my friends. I also have posted two BEWARE messages on Facebook. If it’s not about books on Facebook then people should realize its NOT me. It feels like such an invasion of my life. so sorry to bother you with this but felt it was necessary. PLEASE BEWARE!
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 3:52 pm
The lawn mowers have been retired to the shed until next spring; the trees are mostly barren - after a spectacular month of vibrant fall colors. We’ve had our first snow of the season, followed by several days of Indian Summer with temps in the low 70s. I’ve completed my garden winterizing, my winter clothes are back in my closet and my summer things packed away for the next 6 months. I cherish this time of the year as it allows me a bit more time to pursue my writing.
We’ve had an exceptionally busy but good month. Our beautiful granddaughters are frequent visitors and for that we are ever so thankful. One granddaughter will graduate from Mansfield U. in December with a teaching degree in Elementary Education. She was hired last week for a full time second grade teaching position at an area school, beginning in January. She’s happy and excited; all the family shares her joy! Another granddaughter started her first professional position in Occupational Therapy last week in Olean, NY. She’s also excited and loves it.
We visited our youngest granddaughter who is a freshman at U of Pittsburgh, main campus for dinner on October 19th. She’s premed, loves her classes and the whole college experience. It was wonderful to see her again. We also spent cherished time with our newly widowed friend in Pittsburgh while there.
My Nurse Practitioner sister and I attended the Johns Hopkins’ A Woman’s Journey last Saturday. It was inspiring and educational as always, we’ve attended these for several years. This was the first in-person one since the pandemic. It was fun to get away for the weekend and good to return home again.
I hosted our October book club meeting. We had a lively discussion about Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. Everyone liked the book and enjoyed the twisted humor, as well as the provocative gender and sexual discrimination. Several shared their frustrating experiences of discrimination during their work lives. I definitely recommend this novel, it’s a fun and interesting read.
I also read three books sent to me for review by Story Circle. You can read the reviews at the following Story Circle links:
https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/the-sharp-edge-of-mercy/ The Sharp Edge of Mercy, by Connie Hertzberg Mayo, is an historical fiction about a young woman in NYC in 1890; who wants to be a nurse almost more than anything. The characters are well developed and the plot weaves a page-turning story that the reader hates to see end.
https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/midstream/ Midstream by Lynn Sloan, set in 1974 with reflections back to the early1960s, the protagonist, Polly, is in constant turmoil as she strives to keep her job and get some respect in her work life. As her maturity evolves, so does the respect of her peers. It’s an interesting and inspiring novel.
https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/the-land-between-us/ The Land Between Us is the first book in the Wonderful West Virginia series by Bonnie O’Bannion. I loved this novel and plan to read each one as they are released. The characters are well developed and the plot intriguing as the characters evolve and their lives intertwine. It was an excellent read.
We watched a good movie on Prime, The World’s Fastest Indian, starring Anthony Hopkins. It’s definitely a 5 star movie. A friend recommended it to us; and what a fun movie it is. It’s the true story of Burt Munro, a New Zealander who bought a 1920 Indian cycle and tweaked it for years before winning New Zealand and Australian motorcycle races. Then worked his way across the Pacific on a cargo ship to challenge the Americans. The movie was released in 2006. (I admit my interest was likely piqued since my father had an Indian motorcycle before WW2, we have photos of him standing proudly beside his blue cycle.) It is really a good way to pass an evening and truly a feel good movie.
We’re still enjoying Madam Secretary on Netflix. It is exciting and well done, excellent cast with fast paced plots - almost all based on real events over the years, handled by fictional characters.
Till next time, stay safe and keep reading my friends. And maybe watch a movie or stream a series or two.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 10:48 am
The leaves are beginning to turn to spectacular colors already; reminding me why I love fall best of all. Though I truly welcome all four seasons. We had a frost warning for last night but there was no frost. The night temperatures have been hovering in the low-mid 30s, yet the summer flowers are still glorious. I won’t be covering them when the first frost dose come; it’s time to say good-by.
What a month it has been! Our WiFi, television and email service were taken over by Breezeline several months ago. We were promised we would not have to change our email address, and nothing would change except every thing would be faster and better. (That quickly proved NOT to be true!) On Sept.7th they had a major upgrade and I have not had email service since then. Our computer guy told me some of my emails still go out. But I don’t receive any. So I’ll try to send my blog out this afternoon. Who knows, you might receive this blog; OR I may have to resend it in October when this problem is finally repaired. (Positive thinking, huh?) I’m hoping all these problems will soon be resolved. I’ve spent hours on
the phone with Breezeline techs. The cause has been identified as their
mistake and you’d think they’d just fix their typo…but nothing seems
to be simple these days. We also had trouble with our television, no service at all for a week until we called our TV guy and he got us back on track with that. And then the doorbell malfunctioned and we had to get a new one, beautiful loud chimes that we both can easily hear. Only problem is the back door’s bell rings We Wish You a Merry Christmas, loudly - every time someone rings that one! The electrician is supposed to be stopping by to fix the back door bell ringer… Oh, and I forgot to mention both our riding lawn mowers are broken down, the repairman is coming this afternoon and I hope he will be able to keep them going a couple more years. Frustrating!!
We spent a wonderful week with my sisters, Linda- who is also an RN, and Sue. Linda and I helped Sue, who had a bad stroke in April. She’s in a wheel chair and needs assistance with most everything. We shared many laughs and memories. It was a really special time. We took her to see the elk in the reserve in Benezette, shopping, hair salon and lunches out. We all enjoyed watching movies on tv: Elvis, Being the Ricardos and Desi and Lucy. Her husband needed surgery and has been caring for her at home, it’s not an easy situation. I was able to attend a high school class reunion picnic at an old friends home, thanks to my sister, Linda. It was a nice evening and always good to see old friends.
I’ve read only four books this month:
*Two I won’t mention till next month since they’re review books for Story Circle and I haven’t finished the reviews yet to send to Story Circle.
The Second Life of Mirielle West by Amanda Skenandore. Fiction. 2021. Kensington Publishing. Mirielle West is a wealthy Hollywood socialite, a hands-off mother of three who relies on nannies to care for her young children. Her husband is a successful silent film actor. After the accidental drowning of their young son during one of their lavish parties, Mirielle turns to alcohol more each day. Her husband insists she see a doctor about a small skin sore on her neck and within a few hours she finds herself on a train to Louisiana to a leprosy hospital. And that’s when the real story begins. Her character slowly evolves from an unlikable selfish woman to one of a nurturing kindness. The plot twists and wonderful characters keep the readers interest, and it is also educational about this horrible disease that disrupted thousands, if not millions of lives throughout history. (My only critique is that the font was too small and made reading a bit difficult.) This was our book club choice for this month that generated one of our best ever book discussions. It was a wonderful, well written book that we all truly loved.
Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt. Fiction. 2022. Ecco - Harper Collins. The two protagonists in this wonderful book is Tova, a seventy year old widow who is the cleaning lady in an aquarium and Marcellus, an elderly giant Pacific octopus. That sounds a bit far fetched but this debut novel is well written, educational as well as witty and charming. The entire cast of characters are likeable, the plot twists kept me turning pages and wondering how these seemingly far flung characters were going to come together. I was nearly to the end before it all made sense, though Marcellus kept dropping great hints throughout the book. I loved this novel too. It is a Read with Jenna Book Club Choice. It was a birthday gift from my cousin, Maureen.
Till next time, stay well and keep reading my friends.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 2:48 pm
If the days slipped by any faster, I swear I’d be a time traveler! I only have a few hours to make my deadline of completing a blog every month before the last day of the month, so here goes. And I’ve been writing my blog for more than 22 years. IF any of you have saved my early blogs, I’d be very happy if you could copy and send them to me. I only have copies dating back to 2010 as part of this new blog format.
We’ve had an unusually warm, often hot summer, and less rain than usual. The last couple of days have been raining and it’s freshened up the perennial flowers, the forests as well as the lawns. So beautiful and green again.
We traveled to Pittsburgh for the funeral of a dear friend, my husband’s first and closest American friend passed after fighting cancer for several years. He left behind a bereaved widow, beautiful and sad adult children and grandchildren. He was one of a kind, seems they broke the mold after he was born, no one else like him - anywhere!
My husband just told me today, he wants another dog; he says there is an emptiness in his heart and he needs another dog. We’ve been without a dog since March when our Lucas died. So, starting tomorrow we’ll check the animal shelter and see what’s available. I’m not totally enthusiastic about this, I love dogs BUT they are so much work, however if it will make him happier…
Our granddaughter who graduated with an Occupational Therapy degree in May passed her State boards last week. Woohoo! Her sister started her student teaching this week and is set to graduate with an elementary teaching degree in December. Our youngest granddaughter is in her first week of classes at U of Pittsburgh, main campus. She is in premed tract with a goal of becoming a psychiatrist like her grandpa. And the best thing about them, and their cousins as well, is they come to visit us and seem to enjoy us almost as much as we do them!
I’ve read four books this month:
What Happened to the Bennetts by Lisa Scottoline. 2022. G.P. Putnam’s Sons publisher. Fiction/Suspense/Mystery. The tension permeates from page one until the end of the book, amazing story about a typical suburban American family driving home form their daughter’s field hockey game one night. A pickup is tailgating, passes them and then blocks the road. Two men jump out, pull guns on the family… and all their lives are forever changed. I definitely do not recommend this one for reading before going to bed. I lost a couple nights sleep because the story is so anxiety provoking and exciting. But I do recommend this book for anyone who enjoys mystery and suspense with great characters and plot twists, this one is for you. WOW! Scottoline is truly a master story-teller. This was the most exciting book I’ve read in a long time.
Finding Florence by Judy Alter. 2022. Alter Ego Press. Fiction/Mystery. This is a totally fun book, witty and charming. Great characters, with surprising plot twists. It’s third in Irene in Chicago Culinary Mysteries, after Saving Irene and Irene in Danger. Each book could be a stand alone read but they are even better when read as a series. Judy Alter has written more than seventeen mysteries and many historical biographies. She’s a wonderful writer whose books and characters stay with the reader long after the last page.
The Ex-Suicide by Katherine Clark. 2017. University of South Carolina Press. Fiction. I bought this book while visiting the Pat Conroy Museum and Book Store in Beaufort, S.C. last winter and finally read it. It started out slow for me and I almost laid it aside, but I’m glad I continued reading because it became a very interesting novel. It’s sort of a coming of age story about a young man of privilege who at age 37 finally begins to find his wings. The protagonist is very self absorbed and immature at the beginning and evolves into a more likable character as the story unfolds, takes place in present day Birmingham Ala. The author is a skilled writer and was chosen to write Pat Conroy’s oral biography. Recommended reading for insight into upper class southern thinking.
The Girl Who Smiled Beads, A Story of War & What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya. 2019. Memoir. Penquin Random House LLC. This is one girl’s story about the horrific 100 days Rwandan Genocide in 1994. Clemantine spent her first six years in happy home with servants, her father had a successful business and life was good until suddenly everything changed. Civil war was brewing, her parents sent her and her thirteen year old sister by train to live with their Grandmother, thinking things would be safer there. Other female cousins were also sent to live with the grandmother. But things began to change quickly there too and soon the grandmother had to send them all away before the soldiers captured them; telling them, “Run, run for your lives!” Most of the memoir focuses on the short and long term accounts of horrific tragedy, struggles with a sense of belonging, not only as refugees but the rest of their lives, often compared to Holocaust victims. They were refugees in several different African countries before they were able to find refuge in the USA. For seven years she and her sister were separated from their parents until they were invited to be on Oprah and were reunited with their family on live national television. Upon meeting her two new much younger sisters, she couldn’t help feel remorse at her parents creating two replacement daughters for the ones they’d lost. It is not an easy read with all the the tragedy and hardship, but perhaps an important read.
We went the Bradford Movie House to see Where the Crawdads Sing. It was a wonderful movie closely following the book by the same name by Delia Owens. it was so well done. Beautiful! You could easily enjoy the movie without having read the book, although the book is better, of course.
We watched Ladies in Lavender, a Netflix movie starring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. It was a touching and poignant movie about two elderly sisters and their community, living on the coast of England. Set in early1900s.
We also watched all three seasons of Virgin River and grew quite interested in it. We plan to watch season four when it starts later this fall. And, of course, we’re anticipating the new season of Heartland.
Till next month, stay healthy, well and keep reading my friends.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 11:04 am
The summer days are flying by, July has been a good and busy month. We’ve had good times with friends and family visiting from Maryland, Texas, California and North Carolina, plus a big graduation party for our youngest granddaughter July 23. And with our large family, it seems it’s always someone’s birthday. I also spent a lovely afternoon with my two best writing pals in St. Marys on July 16. All good times. The weather has been hot and mostly dry, so we’ve had a reprieve from weekly lawn mowing - can now stretch it to nearly two weeks between mowing. Woohoo!
I’ve read five books this month, however the last one listed was an audio book:
The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michelle Richardson. 2022. Historical fiction. Sourcebook Publishers. It started out a bit slow for me but one of my best friends mailed it to me and I knew she would not have if it wasn’t worthwhile. It is book 2 after The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, which we all loved. An Appalachian story that takes place in the Kentucky hollers and mountains about a horseback visiting librarian. Great character development with plot twists that keep readers turning pages. The author is a Kentucky mountain girl, and the mountains are almost like a secondary constant character. I loved this book, even bought a copy for myself.
The Kennedy Heirs by J. Randy Taraborrelli. 2019. Nonfiction, biography. St. Martin’s Press. This 547 page book almost read like a novel, so many twists and turns in this large tribe of cousins with so much heartache, drug and alcohol addictions with it’s resulting dramas. My sister gave me this book to read, she said it was interesting and she thought I’d like it. That’s a bit of an understatement. It was provocative, eye opening and totally engrossing. Their grandfather had been the richest man in America in his day. His trust funds set the stage for a generation of entitled heirs whose parents were often less than honorable role models. An eye-opening and well-researched group biography.
The 36-Hour Day, A Family Guide for Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease and Other Dementias by Nancy L Mace, MA and Peter V. Rabins, MD, MPH. Nonfiction. First edition - 1981, currently in 7th edition - 2021. Recommended by our neighbor and friend, Deb, an occupational therapist. I’m actually in the middle of this book, it is not light reading but it is a wonderful book. This is obviously an important book for anyone who loves someone with serious degenerative memory problems. It’s designed to help educate caregivers and help them with dialogue between the individual and their physician.
Irene in Danger by Judy Alter. 2021. Fiction/Suspense. Park Place Press. I love Judy Alter’s books! Her characters are well developed and likeable, well, except for Irene who is absolutely a hoot and unlikable as the day is long! The plot is fast paced with many twists and turns. It was a great little book, only 152 pages, not counting the great recipes at the end, a fast read and good escape. I recommend reading her first book in the series, Saving Irene, before reading this one.
Songteller by Dolly Parton. Memoir. 2020. I love to hear Dolly talk, so listening to this book was a real treat. It was 5 hours and 55 minutes long and went by almost too quickly as I listened while doing housework for a few days. A male interviewer asked questions and Dolly answered each one in depth. It almost seemed like she was sitting in my kitchen just talking to me! Each chapter ends with a song she wrote and discussed before it plays. I definitely encourage anyone who likes Dolly Parton, (and who doesn’t it??), to listen to this book rather than read it!
We went to see the Elvis movie, it was wonderful, though I left the theater in tears, the ending was so sad. We’re going to see it again this week. It is well done. The music is great and the actor who plays Elvis is awesome. We also finished watching the Longmire season for the second time. We’ve been searching for another series but haven’t found one we liked enough to watch yet. We also watched Wild Rose movie on Netflick; it was recommended by a friend and we both liked it, about a Scottish country singer who wants to go to Nashville. The actress had a great voice and it was a good movie.
Till next time, keep reading, my friends. And may you all stay safe and well.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 2:30 pm
Wow! Another month has slipped by; it seems like we were celebrating Memorial Day just a few days ago, and already it’s June 30. We’ve had some lovely summer weather, a few very hot days but mostly mild temps, with just the right amount of rain to keep everything green and lush- I love Pennsylvania’s green beauty. We’ve been busy with lots of picnics and family time, also lawn care and gardening. Thanks to my young neighbor/helper all our small and medium size flower beds are ready for summer and looking quite pretty
We attended our youngest grandchild’s high school graduation in St. Marys, PA. She’s lovely, bright, and a very nice girl - with plans to attend the U. of Pittsburgh, Main Campus, (she loves cities), majoring in premed. She took dance classes for 15 years and is an exceptionally talented dancer, ballet to hip-hop to tap. It’s been fun to watch her dance recitals over the years.
My computer was down for almost a week, I almost felt like a part of me had been amputated to not be able to use it at all. Finally got it back up today. 100s of emails to sort and mostly delete. My printer is still not working, I hope to get it back on track today. I never thought I’d see the day that technology would be such an important part of my life!
I’ve read some interesting books this month, finding read-time has been a challenge, I’ve forced myself to exist with less sleep - the books have been so worth it!
Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand, 2021. Fiction. This was my book club’s choice for June and it was a perfect summer read. There were many plot twists and layer upon layer of interpersonal family drama. Plus the guardian angel, Martha, helping the newly deceased protagonist use her three nudges, (i.e. like wishes), wisely. The wit and wisdom along with the character development kept the pages turning. The themes of this novel will stay with readers long after the last page.
Run, Rose, Run by Dolly Parton and and James Patterson. 2022. Fiction. I’ve loved Dolly Parton’s music and song writing for many years. When I discovered Dolly was one of the readers on Audible, it was a no-brainer. The characters were well developed and the plot kept the story moving: a young country singer and her harrowing struggles to survive. It was fun to listen to Dolly read, her speaking voice is not reminiscent of her singing voice. She sounds more like a regular person than a singer. And that fits perfectly for the story. When I read a book that’s co-written, I always try to figure out who wrote which part. With this one it was quite obvious and it was another fun book.
Eternal by Lisa Scottoline. 2021. Historical Fiction.This was a much more serious novel by this prolific author than any of her other books I’ve read. It was well researched; the characters were extremely well developed. There were many layers of tension threaded throughout the 463 pages of the novel. Takes place in Rome, beginning in 1937, follows three best friends and classmates, Elisabetta, Marco and Sandro from high school and the next twenty years. The exceptional plot twists through the streets of Rome and as Sondra, a young male Jewish Math wizard, Marco a handsome charming athletic man who can’t read and drops out of school. He rises quickly through the highest echelons of Mussolini’s officers. Both are in love with beautiful Elisabetta who is reeling in despair as her mother abandons her and her alcoholic father. Intrigue and suspense keep the pages turning as fast as a reader can read. It is a great book!
Wherever the Road Leads, A Memoir of Love, Travel and a Van, by K. Lang-Slattery, 2020. Travel Memoir. If you’ve ever wanted to travel the world and didn’t know how you would have the time or the money, this might be just the right book for you. It’s well documented from letters home, travel journals kept by the honeymoon couple, as well as keen recall for details back in 1972-1973 when they traveled the world for two years in a self-customized green VW van.
The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan. 2019. Historical Fiction. Started a bit slow but after a couple chapters became just as engaging as the author’s debut novel,”The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir.” The characteristics of the protagonists, Mrs Braithwaite and Mr. Norris were totally unlike those of heroes in any other novel. Yet these characters developed throughout the novel - raising the standards for characterizations in all other spy novels, to be more than just physical descriptions of the beyond beautiful and handsome protagonists. The author’s wisdom shines through these characters. It also highlights a seldom mentioned fact that there were many Nazi sympathizers in England during WW2. I highly recommend this fascinating novel.
We’ve been waiting and waiting for a movie at the local movie theater that we ‘d like to to see, none this last month. Meanwhile, we’ve been watching the Longmire series again on television. My husband loves it and really can’t remember seeing any of the shows before. I can barely remember these episodes. They’re good entertainment.
Till next time, keep reading my friends and please stay safe and well.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 2:40 pm
I hope you’ve all had a good Memorial Day weekend. Sadly, there is fear and many broken hearts across our country today as there were 14 mass shootings in the U.S.A. during the last 3 days; 9 lives were lost and 60 were injured by gunfire. I don’t believe this is the freedom our brave veterans fought to preserve throughout our county’s history. I do not have answers but I have many questions. I remember going to a small country public school, most classes had about 110 graduates. Most students found summer work and the boys seemed to find old pick-up trucks to fix up. Every September the student parking lot looked like a used truck lot, there were so many pick-ups parked there each day, mostly with the keys still in the ignitions and unloaded hunting rifles displayed proudly on the back window gun-racks. Yet, we never had any shootings. Guns were treated with respect. There is so much debate about the cause of this lack of respect for human life. To be sure it is a quandary and something needs to be done, but what is the million dollar question.
The month of May is such a busy time for gardeners and those of us with large lawns to mow. I have potted more than a dozen annuals and weeded my perennials, my new red Rhododendron bushes are blooming spectacularly. I’m very happy with them. My largest perennial garden awaits me, and has been badly neglected so far this spring. I hope to have it in tip-top shape by next month’s blog.
My sister is home now. Her husband and son are assisting her to stay there. She’s in a wheel chair and her left side is paralyzed from the stroke. It is a big commitment 100 percent care, 24/7. She’s much happier being home, I think they all are. They converted their dining room into a bedroom and have a downstairs bathroom. Not the way they planned their retirement years for sure. She still has her great sense of humor.
I have not read as many books as usual this month.
Story Circle sent me Em’s Awful Good Fortune by Marcie Maxfield to review. You can read my review at:
Dorothy, by Elizabeth
Letts.Historical Fiction. 2019. This was an
exceptional story about the making of the movie, ‘The Wizard of Oz’,
narrated from the perspective of author Frank Baum‘s widow, Maud. It takes
place in 1938 at MGM studio as Maud, age 77, 19 years after her husband’s
death. Many flashbacks to her early life tell the secrets of the ‘The Wonderful
Wizard of Oz’. It is a fascinating novel; I’d never been a big fan of the movie
but of course had seen it a few times over the years with my children. And I
always loved Judy Garland’s rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow’. I was pleased to
learn that this song was voted the No. 1 song of the 20th century by the
Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment of the
Arts. And I learned from this novel that ‘Over the Rainbow’ was almost cut from
the film because it was so long.
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, 1961. Nonfiction. This is a small book that is not tarnished by time. He wrote it while grieving the death of his beloved wife. Grief is grief, regardless of when it occurs. I bought it for a dear friend who recently lost her husband. I hope it will be helpful to her. The longing for a departed loved one is universal and timeless.
The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, 1942. Fiction. I decided to re-read this book after learning more about the author in recent weeks. It’s impressing in a much different way than it did when I read it back in my 20’s. It’s truly a classic, “A masterpiece of satire on Hell’s latest novelties and Heaven’s unanswerable answer.” Uncle Screwtape writes letter after letter to his nephew, Wormwood, to convince him that Christianity is a passing phase and Hell will triumph in the end. When I was young - I laughed my way through this book. When I read it this time, I laughed very little, time has a way of changing a person’s perspective.
We finished watching the first 14 seasons of Heartland for the second time. My husband loves it so much, I think he’d watch it for a third time. But for now we are taking a break. We’ve tried a couple other series and have a list to go through that have been recommended to us. Nothing has clicked with us yet.
We went to see Downton Abbey and Top Gun at the movie theater. Loved them both!
Till next time, keep reading my friends and please do stay safe and well.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 11:50 am
May is almost here and we’ve had days in the high 70’s this April … as well as 8 inches of snow for Easter with several days well below freezing. On one of the sunny warm days, I set out our porch and patio furniture. I’ve never seen so much snow pile up on our colorful summer cushions before. The daffodils and hyacinths are so hardy that they appear to be happy even after being buried in snow for a couple days. Yesterday I planted a healthy red rhododendron bush to replace one that nourished the deer this past winter. I replanted that one away from the house and hope I can nurse it back to health in the next couple of months. Even as I type this blog, there are snow flurries softly dancing their way to the ground.
My little sister has had a very rough few months with various health problems. Then on April 21, she had a serious stroke that’s left her with left side weakness and slurred speech. After several days in ICU, she is on a Physical Therapy Rehab floor of the hospital. Prayers are welcome for our sweet Sue. Sometimes it seems life is not fair.
I finished reading The Most Famous Man in America, The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher by Debby Applegate. 2006. (It was a National Book Critic’s Circle Award Finalist.) Nonfiction. Three Leaves Press. (500 pages) This is an interesting book, though not a page turner at any point. There were pages and pages of unnecessary tedious details but I’m still glad I read it. (Mr. Beecher was the younger brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.) The book starts as he journeys with his wife and many friends on a ship to deliver the unifying speech at Fort Sumter after the Civil War. He was a very well paid, even by today’s standards back in the 1860’s, a charismatic preacher, free spender who never had enough money. A self-absorbed brilliant man who was able to talk his way out many complicated situations during his life. Henry was the son of a famous minister, and the younger brother of several preachers, it seemed that the ministry was the family business. The harshness of pioneer life along the Ohio River in Indiana and back to the east coast, finally landing in Brooklyn with his long suffering wife. The deaths of two of his children in early childhood shook the foundations of his life. He projected himself as a people person, though the author paints a picture of a man who suffered from great loneliness based on the death of his mother when he was a toddler. His views on slavery, politics of the day as well as life in America during the middle and late19th century make this a worthwhile read.
The Melody Lingers On by Mary Higgins Clark. 2015. Suspense, fiction. Thorndike Press. I hadn’t read a book by this author in several years, and I was pleasantly surprised to be reminded as to why she is so successful. This book was a page turner, I remember reading years ago that Mary Higgins Clark got most of her story ideas from reading the newspapers.This one was definitely inspired by Bernie Madoff. It was an excellent story written by a master story teller. i highly recommend The Melody Lingers On.
Never by Ken Follett. 2021. Suspense, fiction.Viking Press.(802 pages.) i have been a Ken Follett fan for many years. His books are amazing and this is one of his best. It is current day, post pandemic; the terms ‘DEFCON 5′, 4, 3 , 2 and 1 become all too familiar as the characters and plot rotate between Chad/Libya, Washington D.C. and China/North Korea. At first it is challenging to keep the large cast of characters straight, but the tension builds quickly from
the beginning. It’s definitely a page turner. I spent many nights reading by the midnight oil and then tossing and turning as I dreamed about what was happening in Never. I highly recommend this novel.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. 2017. Fiction. Washington Square Press. (385 pages) The story of a beautiful ambitious young motherless girl from Hell’s Kitchen, NYC who used her body to get to Hollywood - that was husband number one: Poor Ernie Diaz. Evelyn contacts a famous magazine to request Monique, a relatively unknown writer to do an interview with her. When the interviewer arrives, the aging actress demands she write Evelyn’s biography. And the duo-story unfolds, Evelyn dictates the chronological story of her life as Monique asks probing questions, while dealing with personal issues of her own. This has been a best seller for a couple years, it is our Book Club’s choice for April. I’m hosting Book Club tonight; I’m curious what the reaction will be from the other members. I personally did not like it much, I felt it was another example that being a best seller does not necessarily mean it’s a good book. The ending redeemed the book with me just a bit.
We went to see The Lost City, staring Sandra Bullock. It was a fun evening out with friends, no cooking since the evening included a quick dinner before the show. And we’re still watching Heartland for the second time. My husband just loves the series and we’re noticing so many more details that went over our heads the first time.
Till next time, keep reading friends and please do stay safe and well.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 10:04 am
Hallelujah, spring is finally here! At least that’s what the calendar says...we enjoyed a few beautiful early spring-like days before the official start of Spring. And since then, we’ve had unseasonably cold weather with ice and snow. I delayed making an appointment to have my winter tires changed over to summer tires until next week. And I’m hoping that won’t be too soon. Good grief, such weather we’ve been having. The daffodils are sprouting up to welcome the change of season and that makes me sigh in relief. Enough already!
Our loyal, sweet, playful and delightful little Lhasa Apso dog, Lucas Casanova, age 16, died March 11, 2022. Our home feels empty without him. We have many wonderful memories of our lives with Lucas. He was the best jumper - over ditches, and small hurdles, he had the grace of a professional jumping horse, in miniature, of course.
I have done a fair amount of reading and writing as my life has slowly gone back to our more normal pattern. Reviews of the four books I read this month are below:
It was a wonderful historical biography of one of the original WAFS from 1940. She was a Pittsburgh, PA girl. It is an excellent book that honors the brave women of early aviation. Story Circle sent the book to me for review.
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, (Fiction/Suspense. 2021. Henry Holt& Co, MacMillan Publishing), is similar to several of Moriarty’s other novels as the author cleverly crafts
her stories with subtle and limited clues. The reader expects one thing when
the plot suddenly makes U-turns, when you least expect it. Even the prologue
was like an introduction to a different story, as it seemed to have nothing to
do with Apples Never Fall. The novel started out very slow for me. For
the first 120 pages I did not like any of the characters, but I kept reading since
it was my Book Club’s reading choice for April. And I‘m very glad I finished
reading it, the plot twists of this story will stay with me for a long time. The novel grew on me with each passing
chapter. The teaser line on the cover jacket sums of the intrigue of the novel;
‘The Delaney family love one another dearly – it’s just that sometimes they
want to murder one another…’ The adult Delaney children face a dilemma, their mother
is missing, should they call the police? Even if the most obvious suspect is
their father? It became a real page turner.
The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory. Fiction based on History. 2001. Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen,
already married to a young officer who serves the king. As one of the Queen’s
‘ladies in waiting’, she unwittingly catches the wandering eye of the handsome
and charming Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary believes for a while that
she’s fallen in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as
unofficial queen. She bas two illegitimate babies with the king and eventually
realizes she’s a pawn in her family’s ambitious plots as the king’s interest
begins to wane. Mary is forced to step aside for her sister, Anne. Her loyalty
to the original Queen never falters as she comes to understand the travesties of the
royal court. With her own destiny suddenly unknown, Mary realizes that she must
defy her family and take fate into her own hands. The Other Boleyn Girl is a
riveting historical drama. It brings to light a woman of extraordinary
determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most exciting and
glamorous court in Europe. How she survived a treacherous political landscape
by following her heart. A compelling novel of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue
surrounding the Tudor court of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and the infamous Boleyn
family. Excellent reading.
The Girl From the English Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat. 2020. Historical fiction. Graydon House Publishing. This is the author’s debut novel; she was born and grew up on Jersey. Both sets of her grandparents were involved in resistance activities during the German occupation; this background provided her with first-hand information and added layers of authenticity to the novel. Her descriptions of the effects of starvation on the body were the most poignant I’ve ever read. The extraordinary story starts in 1940 on Jersey, the largest island in the British Channel Islands, still only an area of nine by five miles. It follows protagonist Hedy and her friends as they struggle for survival, including the role played by a German officer in the occupying army. They sometimes regretted not evacuating as many of the Channel citizens did in the weeks before the Nazi invasion. Hedy felt she was a tiny bit safer staying on Jersey than she would taking her chances on the European continent since she was Jewish. Author Jenny Lecoat developed great personalities for her cast of characters who were real people during WW2, as were many of the events. Her plot twists in this well researched book, a page turner on the very first page.
We went to see the movie, DOG, and enjoyed it. It’s a feel good movie. Not a great movie, but a solid entertaining show. We’re still enjoying Heartland for the second time. We are getting much more out of it this time, many innuendos and dialogue we’d missed the first time. And all the beautiful horses, ahh…its a total delight.
I wish you all a blessed and Happy Easter.
Till next time, stay well and safe…and keep reading, my friends.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 6:55 pm
I look out at the snow covered landscape and count my blessings that we are cozy and warm in our home, this is about the time of the year when we all start to yearn for spring in a big way. We were fortunate to have spent January 21 through February 5 at Hilton Head, S.C. It was sunny almost everyday and the temps ranged from high 50s to the low 70s. My husband and I went for several walks around the resort grounds and pools. We shared a condo with my sister and her husband, we also have friends who live there every winter. The days went by so quickly. We attended an amazing Comedy Magic Show one night. We all visited the Pat Conroy Literary Museum in Beaufort, It was wonderful; I highly recommend it to any book lovers who are in that area. Beaufort is a beautiful small southern town with a host of great seafood restaurants. (My sister and I went to see a movie that I will not mention because we both disliked it so much. It had wonderful reviews and we felt absolutely cheated…) On our last night on the island, we went to see the play, A Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night -Time. I’d read the book several years ago and loved it. The play was well done and we both loved it. I read several books, (that I will share below), and it was a relaxing break for all of us.
I hate to admit but my goal of writing two hours each day has not yet come to fruition. We’ve a had a family emergency that trumped all else in our lives. Prayers are welcome…
Books I read this month are:
The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley. Historical Fiction. 2021. This novel was written by a prolific writer with a large following. It was my first time to read one of her books and I’m hooked. I definitely want to read more of her work. This novel was set in 1707 when the Borderlands to the Scottish Highlands join forces to protest the new Union with England. Discontent and political unrest was rampant, somewhat similar to today’s. A young widow’s attempt to collect her husband’s lost wages comes under suspicion. An investigation uncovers multiple layers of romance, endurance, adventure, and the courage to hope. Plot twists abound and the characters are well developed. It is not only a matter of justice, but of lost love and a nation betrayed. This is a truly remarkable story and if you enjoy historical novels, this may be just the book for you.
West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge, Historical Fiction. 2021. This was a fun read, reminiscent of Water For Elephants.The narrator is 105 years old Woodrow Wilson Nickel, who finds himself recalling unforgettable experiences he cannot take to his grave. It was 1938 and the Great Depression was still a reality for far too many people. He begins, “Few true friends have I known and two were giraffes…” It’s part adventure, part historical saga, and part coming-of-age love story. If you liked Water For Elephants, then I believe you will love West With Giraffes. It explores what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time and a story told before it was too late. I highly recommend this book, it’s a feel-good and informative novel based on true events of the first giraffes to be trucked from the east coast to San Diego after surviving a hurricane at sea. It was a story that caught the world weary public’s heart in 1938.
Angels Flight, by Michael Connelly. Murder/mystery. 2001. (I bought this audio book at a consignment store to listen to as we drove home from Hilton Head.) An activist attorney is killed in a small L.A. trolley called Angel’s Flight. The case is so explosive that Harry Bosch is appointed the lead investigator. the dead mans’ enemies inside the LAPD are many and it falls to Harry to solve it. The streets are vibrating with tension and Harry’s year old marriage unravels. As the hunt for the killer leads Harry to another high profile murder case, one where every cop had a motive. The question is, “Did any have the guts? A great who-dun-it novel!
The Maid by Nita Prose. Fiction. 2022. This delightful novel was my book club’s choice for February. And I loved it. (Though circumstances prevented me for attending the discussion. I’m sure it was well received by the other members.)
The protagonist, Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her Gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules to live by. Molly is a high functioning Autistic who loves to clean. She is proud of her job at a classy hotel, loves her maid uniform and views everything in concrete terms. She is trying to follow her grandmother’s rules in the months following Gran’s death. But when Molly finds a dead body in a hotel room she is supposed to clean, she is suddenly in over her head; unexpected plot twists and great characters kept me turning the pages as I rooted for Molly. This debut novel was written with wit and wisdom. The Maid has already been bought for a movie. It also made me keenly aware of hotel maids. I tipped much better when we stayed in hotels on the way to and from Hilton Head.
The Pulpwood Queens Celebrate 20 Years edited by Susan Cushman, introduction by Kathy Murphy. 2019. This was an interesting anthology of essays, written by dozens of writers who are part of Kathy Murphy’s Pulpwood Queen Book Clubs and most are also Girlfriend Weekend, tiara wearing participants. It was fun read and their enthusiasm is a bit contagious. I bought it at Pat Conroy’s Literary Museum. He and his wife, Casandra King, were involved with the Pulpwood Queens, his wife still is.
We’ve started watching Heartland again and are enjoying it even more the second time around!
Till next time, stay safe and well. And keep reading my friends.