My long-awaited Christmas novel, Pressure Cooker Christmas, is finally here! *See links below to order e-book. Print version is delayed by a couple weeks. BUT it is coming! It’s been a long endeavor of love, more about that later…
We had a stretch of Indian summer with many sunny HOT days since our cool rainy Labor Day weekend. But we take the weather in our stride, what else can we do? Lately it has been near perfect autumn weather. This is my favorite season. I love the brilliant yellow, gold, orange and red colors of the leaves, framed by the green pines and the bright blue sky. Even on rainy days when the wind gently tosses the leaves through the air. It is just beautiful! Of course, this will be followed by the white wonders of winter. I’ve always loved the changing seasons.
Our oldest grandson married his lovely fiance on September 9th. It was a beautiful afternoon wedding, everyone was happy without a drop of tension anywhere. That’s my kind of celebration! In October the newlyweds spent a week in Sedona, Arizona, and are happy as can be.
I love the way my granddaughter parents. Her four year old daughter started preschool a few weeks ago. The first day was okay. The second day she cried and wanted to go home with her mom. But she stayed at school, without her mom. That night she said, “I cried this morning and my mommy still left me at school.” What a great lesson in learning that tears will not manipulate! That was the only day she cried. She has adjusted well and really likes her preschool now.
Sneak preview of a three reviews: Pressure Cooker Christmas is a charming read for anyone who has ever tried to pull off the perfect Christmas. In a moment of frustration, Marlene O’Malley writes the most honest holiday letter ever, and it falls into the wrong hands. Will she be able to explain herself? Will her children find the happiness that eludes them? And what is her curmudgeon of a husband building in that workshop? McCauley keeps you guessing all the way to the end of this delightful Christmas story. Barbara J. Taylor, author of Sing in The Morning, Cry at Night and All Waiting is Long D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Reviews
Sneak preview of a three reviews:
Pressure Cooker Christmas is a charming read for anyone who has ever tried to pull off the perfect Christmas. In a moment of frustration, Marlene O’Malley writes the most honest holiday letter ever, and it falls into the wrong hands. Will she be able to explain herself? Will her children find the happiness that eludes them? And what is her curmudgeon of a husband building in that workshop? McCauley keeps you guessing all the way to the end of this delightful Christmas story. Barbara J. Taylor, author of Sing in The Morning, Cry at Night and All Waiting is Long
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Reviews
In Ann McCauley’s newest book, four familiar themes–family, friends, food, and faith - combine in a slice of life tale that follows the O’Malley family through the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years in a particularly hectic year. The characters are true to life–we can see ourselves in the stresses and joys of the O’Malley’s as nurse, Marlene O’Malley, recounts them. And in the end, we must agree with her that, “Regardless…we were still family.” Pressure Cooker Christmas is a story to savor while sipping hot chocolate and munching on holiday snickerdoodles.
Linda Newman, M.L.S., retired
And there were several more just as lovely as these, enough to make an author feel like, yes, it was all worth it!
I have watched one very memorable and wonderful movie this month, Maudie, at the Independent Monday Night Series at the Bradford Movie House. Absolutely charming and sweet. AND it was based on real people, it showed them at the end.
We also watched the entire Ken Burn’s Vietnam Series on PBS. Very powerful and enlightening. He spent years with his team working on this project, it was all encompassing, more than 20 hours of viewing. The history of Vietnam, all sides of the conflict and a few individual soldiers were followed to give it more of a human feel that just a documentary. I definitely don’t want to watch it again. BUT I am very glad to have seen it once. Guaranteed you won’t be able to watch the whole thing without shedding at least a few tears. I highly recommend it… Very timely in this day of taking a knee instead of saluting our flag during the National Anthem.
I have read fewer books, because I have had to review so many proofs of my novel. BUT that’s part of the process when a person takes on self publishing! I read:
Glass Houses by Louise Penny. Fiction. Excellent as all her books are, but perhaps a more memorable theme to this novel. It is timely and will stay with the reader long after reading.
We Were Liars by e. Lockhart. Young adult fiction. A gripping plot examines the lives of the privileged trust fund set and their struggles inside their summer homes on a private island off the New England coast. The author is an excellent writer.
Meme Santerre by D Serge Grafteaux, translated from French to English by Louise A. and Kathryn L. Tilly. Memoir.
A quiet little book given to me by my cousin when she downsized. It is deep, simple and often profound. Born in 1891, she lived through the atrocities of WWI and then WWII, all the while just trying to keep a roof over her family. She was the youngest of eleven children. They all learned the art of linen weaving from their parents in their small cottage. Poverty, physical hardship and resiliency made Meme an unforgettable character. I highly recommend this one.
Maureen by Mary E. Trimble. Fiction. This novel was sent to me for review from Story Circle. It is a contemporary western novel. If you’d enjoy learning about modern day ranching, this would be a great book for you. The author shows it is indeed possible to love someone else’s children. A sweet and lovely book.
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
I love these cooler days and nights. We enjoyed our summer, even though there were days that we felt like we were meeting ourselves coming and going! We went with friends to Buffalo one day and visited the Perce-Arrow Auto Museum, I am ashamed to admit that I’d never heard of that brand before. It was a classic that became a legend. I encourage everyone to make the trip to Buffalo, it is an amazing collection! Then we had a guided tour of the Martin House, a lovely, large, ultramodern Frank Lloyd Wright House, near the university. What a story behind it too. It was a fun and worthwhile day. We have traveled often to Buffalo over the years, and we’d never heard or knew about these gems. Better late than never.
We also finally visited the new Marilyn Horne Museum in Bradford, but only because we had guests who were interested in seeing it. We attended the opening ceremony when Marilyn Horne and her family were in town last spring. But it was incredibly cold and we didn’t stay for a tour that day. It’s a magnificent museum and we all loved it. Since then I ordered her Christmas cd with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir from Amazon. It arrived a couple days later, and I listened to a few of the songs, breathtakingly beautiful music!! My husband thinks I should downsize, (i.e. throw away!), all my other Christmas music, but I say, how can I get through a Christmas without, Grandma Got Run Over by Reindeer?
My writer friends came for a Saturday Writers Workshop the first Saturday of August. We accomplished so much and I have been working like a busy bee since…more about that next month!
Our family reunion was on August 13th at the family farm where my mother and all of her siblings were born and raised. All of her generation have passed by now with the exception of Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Elmer, the youngest two siblings. Next year will be our 50th Annual McCauley Family Reunion. We are fortunate that our cousin and his wife, the current farmer/owners, are such gracious warm hosts as they are invaded with dozens of cousins on the second Sunday of August, year after year. They do so much for all of us, even a hayride every year!
I have continued to read, perhaps not quite so many this month as before.( I did break down and buy a Kindle. But it is still an unused novelty for me. Much to learn - yikes!)
Bear Town by Frederic Blackman. Fiction. Very different from his other books, but with great character development and plot. I highly recommend it. You will quickly forget it’s set in Sweden and feel you are reading about a town in Alaska or Canada.
The Girl with Seven Names, Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee. Nonfiction, memoir. A gripping story with much insight into the current lives of the North Korean people. Compelling, chilling and brave. Excellent writing. I highly recommend this one too.
The Japanese Lover by Isabelle Allende. Historical Fiction. Allende is a passionate storyteller, a master of the art. Focuses on two very different survivors of the carnage of WW2. Not my favorite Allende novel but still a good one.
The American Spirit by David McCullough. Nonfiction. A collection of speeches he has given over the years. I can’t remember a time when our country ever seemed quite so divided. This is a book all Americans should read, especially now. “…harked us back to core American values to which we all subscribe, regardless of which region of we live in, which political party we identify with, or our ethnic background. This is a book about America for all Americans that reminds us who we are and helps us to guide us on our way forward.” (–per jacket cover of book.)
The Girl Before by J P Delaney. Fiction. This was a tough book for me to read since I couldn’t make myself care about any of the characters. I am sure there will be readers who like this book. Sadly, I am not one of them.
Exposed by Lisa Scottoline. Fiction. Suspense. Thriller. This book is only a couple notches slower than her last one which places several notches above most writers! Her character development, wit, and plots are amazing and this is one writer I never know what to expect at the end. (I accurately predict the ending of most writers by the middle of their books.) And I’m usually correct. Not so with Lisa Scottoline. I highly recommend this unforgettable novel.
We watched The Light Between the Oceans last week, we got it from Netflicks, it was so well done. I had read the book for Book Club a couple years ago. It’s a story that stays with the reader and a memorable movie too. Sad, complicated and lovely.
The Big Sick, a new movie, it was an excellent movie and should be watched my everyone, it is cross cultural and cross racial…maybe could diffuse some tensions that are rampant in our country at this time. (We saw it on Long Island when we visited our granddaughter who is a student a Stony Brook U. She did an internship there so we visited her since she wouldn’t be home much this summer. She showed us around Long Island. Wow! Some of those single family mansion on the north end of the island look like resorts. Also showed us all around Stony Brook U.)
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
Do your days fly by as fast as they seem to for me?! I feel blessed to have many friends and a big family. But wow, keeping up with everyone requires stamina and organization. It seems it is always someone’s birthday! We enjoyed a week at Myrtle Beach, S.C. with most of our immediate family, six were unable to come, we missed them, though there were still twenty-two of us. We celebrated one birthday and one anniversary in our group that week too. We had three, three bedroom condos, side by side. Time shares come in handy sometimes! It was a laid back relaxing fun time. The excitement and wonder of little children is always refreshing, we had four great-grands under the age of six, one more is due any day!
Our oldest great granddaughter, age ten, loves to read, I took her to Barnes and Nobles after dinner one evening. Her eyes were popping out, she was so excited! It was her first visit to such a large book store. It was truly fun, I bought her a couple books. She chose them, of course. She will give me book reports when I see her next.
We visited family on the way down and back which extended vacation a bit. Traffic was horrendous on I-95 coming home especially. But we had rented an audio book at a Cracker Barrel that helped keep us focused. (Hint-hint, check out the nice selection of audio books available at Cracker Barrel restaurants if you are traveling. It helps take the boredom out of long drives.)
A few nights ago we went to see War, Planet of the Apes. When I parked the van, I accidentally backed too far and bumped into a brick building. My husband said he would check for damages. I put the van in park and hurried back to see how bad. He looked glum and pointed to the right rear fender. I looked at it closely and touched the heavy duty plastic fender, stood back and then very firmly hit the van with my hip. Presto, good as new! There are definite advantages to plastic auto parts. Oh, and we enjoyed the movie, too. Andy Serkis, stars as Caesar, is our cousin’s wife’s first cousin. No, we have not met him but we love his acting.
Story Circle made my day a again by choosing me as Reviewer of the Month. Woo-hoo! Click here: to read my review of Roads by Marina Antropow Cramer. (An excellent book!)http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/roads.shtml http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/newsletters/170721.html
I have read several books this month, I will share the ones I liked best.
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, fiction. Loved this book but then she is one of my most favorite authors. A simple story, lively, comic and poignant. Blurb on cover: “Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Retold.” And as with all her stories, the characters stay with the reader long after reading.
Zero Hour, by David Baldacci, fiction. We listened to this exciting book while driving south. From the John Puller suspense series with layers of government deceit, more murders than we could count, kept us guessing who the good guys were and who all were the bad guys? Great audio for a long trip!
Hope to Die by James Patterson, fiction. An Alex Cross novel, (audio), very exciting with graphic violence, sure keeps one wide awake when driving long distances!
The Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg, Historical fiction. The story of Aurora Dupin, i.e. George Sand. She left her abusive husband and pursued her dream of writing in 19th century France. Berg rose to the occasion, careful research with remarkable insights and empathetic character development created a page turner about a literary giant. Definitely worth reading.
Camino Island, by John Grisham, fiction. This was not his typical legalese novel, it was a about the literary world. A world he knows as well as law after all his best sellers. It includes murders, grand theft, deceptive branches of government and colorful characters. A good summer read.
The Forgotten by David Baldacci, fiction. Another suspenseful novel from the John Puller series. Involves human trafficing, murder and deception, even corrupt police proves Paradise is not all it seems to be. Another great summer read!
The Daughter, by Jane Shemlt, fiction. Suspense, thriller - about a family that projects a wholesome image to the world but behind closed doors are slowly falling apart and away from each other, until one event takes the entire bottom out of their world. Debut novel by a British physician, about a family practice doc who hurries home to fix dinner for her family every day after work, until… Great book! Highly recommend it.
A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline, historical fiction. This was out book club’s choice for the month and what a great choice it was!! One of my favorite books. I liked it even better than The Orphan Train which was wonderful. Christina Olson’s whole life takes place on her remote family farm, sounds boring? But it’s not, not at all, thanks to the skill and character development of this author. The protagonist had a crippling un-named neurological decease, yet she worked harder every day than most people do in three months. She hosted and inspired the artist Andrew Wyeth, for many years. His most famous painting was Christina’s World, which include her looking at her beloved farm in the painting. Wyeth’s wife and Christina’s lost love, plus her parents and brothers are all well developed secondary characters that add depth to the book. It is well worth reading.
IF you haven’t read The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls. Please go to your local library and read it ASAP! It is a gripping unforgettable memoir. It’s coming out as a movie, starring Woody Harrelson on August 8th. I watched the movie preview and can safely say, we finally have a grown up drama to look forward to!
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
I have been spending hours every week with my flowers, mowing, pruning trees, raking, etc. One day last week, I mowed our entire lawn. It was seven hours on the riding lawn mower. Growing up on a farm, it is like second nature to me to want to be outside and involved in the care of our land. Yesterday was our first 90 degree day of the season, and for a change there was no wind. So we decided to burn two brush piles - one at time. It was hard hot work. We were prepared: cell phone on hand, two hoses, three 5 gallon buckets of water on stand by, shovels, garden rake and heavy duty gloves work gloves for each of us. Two lawn chairs, and a cooler of water and diet cokes. I enjoy working outside. And my husband who grew up in a large city does too. I feel a sense of pride when I can see the immediate results of my efforts.
Gardening is so unlike writing. Writing is a constant pressure to meet deadlines, then hoping and waiting for acceptances while most often receiving rejections. A few weeks ago one of our teen granddaughters was helping me with something on the computer, she read a sign I have hanging above my desk: Today we do…what we must. Then someday we can do…what we want! Then she looked at me skeptically and blanched. I asked her if she liked the sign. She nodded, and then hesitantly asked, “How old do you have to be before you can do what you want?” I didn’t know how to answer. I finally said, “It varies from person to person.” As a big birthday is fast approaching … I’ve seriously been wondering.
Busy time of the year. We have hosted and attended several parties and dinners over the last few weeks. Plus district and state competition for our granddaughter who had a great year in Pole Vaulting, made it look easy to fly over the barrier at ten feet with a foot to spare! Our travel plans are always directly related to the availability of kennel space tor our dog. A change of scene is refreshing but coming home is always the sweetest. We spent Memorial Day Weekend in Pittsburgh with dear friends. I took a couple hours and drove across Pittsburgh to meet our grandson for lunch; he’s a hair stylist. His hair was a pretty shade of purple this time. Cute!
While in Pittsburgh, we went to the theater and watched the movie, Gifted. It was wonderful. We have had few movies to watch lately because we like good dramas, and there have been so few.
We binged on the series, Prime Suspect, starring Helen Mirren. Our friends lent us their entire set to bring home. Loved it!
I have read fewer books than usual this month:
No Certain Rest by Jim Lehrere. Interesting and educational historical novel about the Civil War.
Jewels of San Fedele, a wonderful anthology written by a group of fourteen writers who spent a week on an Italian hilltop surrounded by vineyards and orchards. The book is samples of their writing retreat efforts, memoir samples, poetry, essays, short stories and even a segment of novel. A writers dream come true for those lucky fourteen!
King’s Mountain by Sharon McCrumb. Historical fiction about the American Revolution. Well researched, good character development. Another great novel from this much loved Appalachian author.
Roads by Marina Antropow Cramer. Historical fiction about WW2 with a different angle. Well researched and unforgettable characters, the plot takes so many twists that the reader is tied in knots at times trying to imagine how anyone managed to survive at all. There was certainly no need for Weight Watchers during those times!
Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro. Historical fiction. Our book club’s choice for this month. Well written and researched. The protagonist makes several attempts to reinvent herself and then doubts her efforts. Good plot and some of the characters were less then likable. it is hard for me to really love a book if I don’t like the characters!
My review of Jewels of San Fedele is posted on Story Circle: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/jewels.shtml
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
April showers did their work and the early spring flowers were lovely. Then yesterday, May 1, the rains came again. With a vengeance! The downpours continue today and it seems I can almost see the grass growing. Everything is green and beautiful, there have been days that I’ve managed to grab my gardening gloves and get some early gardening done between showers.
Last year I read The Gilded Cage, by Judy Alter. Historical fiction about Potter Palmer and his wife, Cissy and the early days of Chicago, including the great fire and the Columbian Exhibition. It inspired me to see Chicago. My husband had a chance to go to a conference in Chicago. I was excited! We took the train from Buffalo to Chicago for a week in early April. It’s a well organized lovely city, seemingly full of hardworking young people. We did the fascinating Architectural Tour on the Chicago River by boat. Another day we took a city bus tour. We walked the Magnificent Mile. One day we ate lunch at the Palmer House Hilton, and another day we explored on our own and took the El Train for still a different view of the beautiful city. We went to the interactive play, Tony and Tina’s Wedding, that was a fun evening.
The day after we arrived home, we had family visitors stay with us for a week. Our daughter and her friend live in Switzerland. He had never been to the U.S.A. before. He was a gracious and happy guest, curious and enthusiastic about all things American. We enjoyed their time with us.
This has been a good month for reading. And writing. Books I have read this month:
In For A Penny and Not a Penny More by southern writer, Kathyrn R. Wall. The first two novels of the Bay Tanner Mystery series. I cant wait to go back to S.C. and buy the next two novels in the series. Fun reads!
The Mirrored World, historical fiction by Debra Dean. It contrasts the opulent lifestyles of the royal class to the destitution of the multitudes. It shows “….the blessing of friendship, the limits of reason and the costs of loving deeply.” I love Russian historical fiction.
Lion, a memoir by Saroo Brierly, was made into an Academy Award winning movie. I was fortunate to have finished reading the book only a day before we watched the movie. The book was so much deeper and meaningful than the movie. It deals with poverty, hope, and examines what makes a family.
Truly, Madly, Guilty, fiction by Liane Moriarty. She is a very talented writer, unpeeling the story for the reader one onion skin at a time.This book dealt with different kinds of relationships on many levels. It is our book clubs choice for May.
The Longest Ride, a novel by Nickolas Sparks, one of his better books. I enjoyed it.
You can read my review of Shame, Shame, I Know Your Name by Heather Harlan on Story Circle at:
You can read my review of The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah by clicking www.writeradvice.com Then click Hooked on Books on the left side column and scroll to the last review. You may also want to read some of the other reviews too, they all sound like great books.
CONTEST ANNOUNCEMENT: **Writer
Advice seeks flash fiction (750 words or less). Open our eyes. Dazzle, delight,
and entice us. Winners receive cash prizes and are published. Low fee for solid
feedback. Deadline: 06/01/17. Fee and details: www.writeradvice.com.
I visited State College last week to record four book reviews for WPSU radio. A good friend went with me. We met my cousins for lunch, and we laughed and enjoyed our time together. After lunch we went to the studio and I recorded reviews for the following four books: (I do not know when they will be aired.)
Shame, Shame I Know Your Name, a thriller novel, by Heather Harlan, I love this series and can’t wait till the release of the third in the trilogy!
Mom, Mania and Me, Surviving and Changing a Volatile Relationship, a memoir by Diane Dweller. “Informative and inspiring, this poignant memoir of coping and changing provides hope to others in dysfunctional relationships.”
Time to Heal, American Epochs Vol 3, historical fiction by Todd McClimans. The same characters, Kristi and Ty are in this time-travel book as in the first two. Each could be a free standing novel but I think they are best if read in order. McClimans is a former elementary history teacher who wants history to come alive for his students. In this book they meet Clara Barton on the battle filed as they help the wounded and dying soldiers. Soldiers who are very close their own ages. I believe these books should be required reading for young history classes. It brings history to life. I loved reading them and I’m way past middle school age!
To The Stars Through Difficulty, historical fiction, by Romalyn Tilghman. This is her debut novel and it is a wonderful read. Three diverse women come to the small Kansas town. Each with her own cross to bear. Then there is the history of the Carnegie Libraries and how they impacted the lives of those early Americans. Interestingly, the title of the novel is the state motto of Kansas.
Till next tine, keep reading my friends!
The first days of spring brought us the worst winter weather of the season. The blizzard like conditions of that first week of spring, brought such horrific road conditions that a young driver lost control and took out our mailbox as well as our two very strong brick pillars. His car was totaled, he and his younger brother were shook up but not hurt. Thank goodness.We’ve been dealing with contractors and insurance since then. And we discovered out how difficult it is to get our mail without a mailbox!
I babysit grandchildren when I have the opportunity, and on Sunday mornings I teach Sunday School, ages 9-11. For the first time ever, this year I have ten girls, no boys.
A couple months ago my three year old great granddaughter walked in looking grumpy. I asked her what’s wrong, she raised her right arm, walked away, ”It’s complicated!” Such a vocabulary for a three year old, she’s so comical!
I continue to work on my Christmas novel. The almost final re-write is close to being finished. I also continue to read and review books.
Longing For Home by Lisa M. Wayman. Historical fiction. It is an excellent book and I highly recommend it. You can read my review at: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/longingforhome.shtml
Time To Heal by Todd McClimans. Historical Fiction/time travel. Middle school through adult. Excellent story, third in his American Epoch series about the same two characters. I also highly recommend this one. I will be recording my review for Bookmark at WPSU. I was scheduled two weeks ago and had to postpone due to weather.
Shame, Shame, I Know Your Name by Heather Harlan, Fiction/Thriller. This is Book 2 of the Marina Konyeshna Thriller Trilogy about international human traffickers. A real page turner with snappy, witty dialogue while danger lurks in the shadows. I have written half the review. More about this one next month.
Hillbilly Ellegy by J.D. Vance, Memoir. Powerful story of passion and the personal analysis of a culture in crisis, that of the white working poor. He gave full credit to his grandmother for keeping him on track as he overcame all odds, joined the USMC, served in Iraq and eventually graduated from Yale Law School. A great read. Highly recommend it.
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon. Nonfiction. Wonderful walk through the gilded years of the British aristocracy and the real history of Highclere Castle. Lots of historic photos and tales of the real families and serving staff who lived there. Actually more interesting than the fiction version so familiar to many of us. It is not a fast read, but oh so interesting!
Don’t Go by Lisa Scottoline. Fiction/ Mystery/Thriller. Wow! I highly recommend this one. I haven’t read Scottoline for several years, and she has ramped her writing up several notches since then. I didn’t see it coming is all I can say. The detailed research and believability of this novel will haunt you long after reading it.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. Historic Fiction. This is an absolutely excellent novel. Inspired by true events, a compelling page turner. You will meet unforgettable characters. This is a unique story, unlike any other you’ve ever read.
*If you think it is odd that I give so many rave book reviews, it is because I do not write negative reviews. I would rather not mention the books I did not like rather than write something ugly. I know all too well how hard authors work and my reviews, are simply my opinions, as are the reviews of all reviewers. Others might like books I do not like and vice versa for the ones I do like.
We have not seen any movies worth mentioning this month. We watched another season of Homeland. So powerful!Mostly we’ve binged on the last two seasons of Longmire. We love this series! It helps that the actor who plays Longmire looks so much like my brother, Mike, who lives in Texas and I don’t often see him anymore. But watching this show makes me feel like I do!
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
It has been the warmest February ever recorded in western Pennsylvania. It’s been so unseasonably warm that nature seems to be confused. I have daffodils and other perennials shooting through the ground. And the weather forecast warns us of a cold blast of winter weather headed our way for the weekend. I will have to cover my budding lilac bush. March appears to be coming in like a lamb, it will be interesting to see if it goes out like a lion!.
We started the month by spending 10 days at Hilton Head with family. We and cousin Maureen each rented a three bedrooms condo unit. We had a great time! Last year we were 7: my sisters and their husbands, a cousin and us. The word spread through the family and this year, we were 12. We stayed up late talking and laughing every night. Such fun! It was sunny and warm everyday. We all went to Savannah one day, and of course had to eat at Paula Deen’s restaurant. Maureen and I went to Beaufort, S. C. one day to visit the Pat Conroy museum. Very interesting. He was a fascinating writer who seems to have left this world too soon. And before we knew it, our week together was over. I wonder how many of us there will be next year? My husband and I stayed a day longer with our friends, Helga and Jafar, who live there each winter.
Last Saturday we hosted a dinner for our family, 20 came. It was a fun time. The three great-grandchildren: ages 1, 2 and 3 kept things lively. It was fun to watch them giggle, run and play hide with each other. Though it did get so noisy that my husband had to take his hearing aids out for awhile! Always wonderful to spend time with family.
My Story Circle review of To The Stars Through Difficulty by Romalyn Tilghman was posted this month at this link: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/tothestars.shtml
My review of In the Context of Love by Linda Sienkiewicz was chosen as Review Of The Month by Story Circle. It’s an unexpected honor. You can read my review at this link: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviewers/mccauley.shtml
Books I have read this month:
Home by Harlan Coban. Fiction, action. An exciting, yet deeply moving thriller about friendship, family and the meaning of home. The story starts a decade after two young boys were kidnapped and their trail has long since gone cold… We listened to audio book as we drove to Hilton Head. (We rented it at a Cracker Barrel restaurant and returned it to another Cracker Barrel when we finished it. A great deal, and it helps pass the time for long drives. *We listened to another audio book on the way home, and it was so bad I won’t even mention the title or author.)
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. Fiction. A floating bookshop on the Seine River, quirky bookshop owner who refuses to sell books to those he decides are not a good match for a book, a lost writer, unique characters with an unforgettable plot.
Nine of Us, Growing Up Kennedy by Jean Kennedy Smith. Nonfiction. A sweet fascinating portrayal of the Kennedy family by the youngest daughter and only survivor of the original family. The children had chores and were driven to make every day count by their parents. The author shared many anecdotal memories with her parents and siblings. And, of course, as with any Kennedy book, there were great photos.
The Whistler by John Grisham. Fiction. A fast paced action story about corruption, in native Indian casinos on the Florida panhandle coast, and a judge who bends the law for big money bribes. It was typical Grisham with determined protagonists who risk everything to do the right thing.
The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig. Historical Fiction. It was a fascinating novel though sometimes a bit hard to follow. Three women in three different eras are linked together but not the way I expected as the book concluded. A great novel to spend relaxing evenings after long tiring days.
What Happens to Rover When the Marriage is Over by Patti Lawson. Nonfiction. Humorous, common sense and legalese help for all dog owners. The author is a working lawyer and active dog enthusiast. It is definitely worth reading for all dog owners. You don’t have to be heading for a divorce to enjoy and benefit from reading this book!
Longing For Home by Lisa M. Wayman. Historical Fiction. A book sent to me by Story Circle for review. I was totally absorbed in this gripping story of the hardships of the early American immigrants who bravely left all they knew and loved behind to come to this unknown land with no safety nets, few ever saw their country of origin or their loved ones left behind again. Many plot twists and turns, great characters. Review will be ready within the week.
We also watched a few good movies.
La La Land. We loved it! The dancing, singing and special effects photography were magical.
Miss Sloan. Great movie about lobbyists in Washington D.C. Fantastic characters and plots. Excellent acting too.
Hacksaw Ridge. WWII movie about Medic Desmond Doss who served the battle of Okinawa, refused to carry a gun. became the first man in American history to win a Medal of Honor without firing a shot.
Hidden Figures. Yes again, loved it just as much the second time!
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
Or maybe I should say Happy Groundhog Day! I have removed the Christmas wreath from our front door and hung a glittering Valentine heart. (I can honestly say I do not own even one groundhog decoration, and I was in Punxsutawney, PA just last Friday to visit one of my favorite aunts who is in the hospital there…) All our Christmas decorations are packed away until next December, seasons come and seasons go and soon another year slips away. And with each one we gain more memories and become another year older. We returned a short time ago from our granddaughter’s basketball game, she will be eighteen in three weeks. Why is it that our grandchildren’s childhoods seem to pass so much faster than our own did? It seems like only last year she was a sweet little toddler and now she is a beautiful young lady.
I have a book review published at StoryCircle.org. A memoir, Mom, Mania and Me by Diane Dweller. Click this link to read it: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/mommaniaandme.shtml
The anthology that includes my short story, The Callahan Sisters, was delayed by a few weeks. We hope it will be released in February.
This month I’ve also read several other books:
Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. A contemporary novel. It was a deep and sad story full of deception, loss with an unexpected ending.
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia Machneal. An historical novel. A novel about WW II like none other I have ever read. At first I had a bit of trouble keeping track of all the characters but it was worth the effort to keep them all sorted out. The protagonists brilliant mathematical mind makes her a gifted code breaker at a pivotal time in history. Great plot and memorable characters. I highly recommend this one.
Librerace’s Filipino Cousin by David R. Brubaker. Travel essays. This is an insightful book about the author’s travels in the Philippines over a period of twenty years. Even if you’ve never felt compelled to travel there, it is worth reading. Brubaker introduces the reader to a different culture in a nonjudgmental way. It is a witty fun book that will very likely change your attitude about the Philippines.
Two by Two by Nickolas Sparks. Contemporary novel. It is well written with a similar plot to some of his other books. The protagonists grows from being a doormat to a successful and likable character. An good read for cold winter nights.
Moonglow by Michael Chaban. A memoir. This was a Christmas gift and my first experience with this award winning author. it did not grab me from the start but I forced myself to stay with it and I am glad I did. His disclaimer started, “I have stuck to the facts except when facts refused to conform with memory…” Chaban is an outstanding writer, he moved his life story along with wit, enough action and plot twists to have been an excellent novel.
We have seen four worthwhile movies that I highly recommend:
Patriots Day with Mark Wahlberg, etc. about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Excellent!
Snowden The NSA’s illegal surveillance techniques are leaked to public…is he an hero or traitor? Watch the movie and then decide, excellent!
Miracles from Heaven with Jennifer Garner, etc. A family dealing with the fatal illness of their young daughter, excellent!
Hidden Figures with Octavia Spencer, etc. Historical NASA about the early days of the space exploration and the rivalry with Russia. And the black women who worked behind the scenes doing the difficult mathematical equations necessary for the launches. All the while having to drink for colored only drinking fountains and using colored only restrooms. Excellent!!
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
We had a white Christmas, and then a few days later - all the snow melted. Yesterday it started to snow again. Today we are in the middle of a major lake affect snow storm, when I walked our dog this morning, the snow was up to my knees and I am tall. It’s been snowing all day and my tracks are already covered. But we still love snow. It is so beautiful to see the tree branches laced with snow. It gives me a feeling of peace.
I love December with all the hub-bub and gatherings of friends and family. I really do. While at the same time it leaves me exhausted. Some nights I don’t get to bed until one A.M. As I am busy doing all the little extras that make the holidays extra special, and are noticed only if not done. This year I fear I may have forgotten to send some people a Christmas card, and very likely sent others two cards! Our church Christmas Pageant was beautiful, as always. Even though it included a purple camel. Don’t ask!
We hosted a Christmas dinner party for nineteen dear friends on December 21st, which included a special toast to one of our group who had passed away too soon … due to the cruelty of cancer.
Then on Christmas Eve the family gathered and we hosted a dinner for another nineteen of our favorite people, most of our immediate family. But not all, and we missed those who were unable to join us. My favorite part of Christmas Eve is after the dinner is cleaned up and we turn out all the lights except the Christmas tree. Everyone holds a lighted candle and we sing Christmas Carols, there’s always someone who grumbles about singing BUT I believe most of them like it as much as I do. One of the last songs they sing and with too much enthusiasm is, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. Of course, our closing song is Silent Night. Followed by lights on, collected candles and opening gifts. We had three great-grands with us under the age of five. Little ones make Christmas extra-fun!
We have seen several good movies this month:
Christmas Of Many Colors: Circle of Love by Dolly Pardon. We loved this one so much we bought a copy. It is the second part to Coat of Many Colors that she produced last year. The same cast, just wonderful.
Manchester by the Sea, starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams. Fantastic and haunting movie.
Fences, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Another emotionally charged and unforgettable movie.
From Netficks we watched three noteworthy movies this month:
Australia, starring Nicole Kiddman and Hugh Jackson. An Historical fiction about cattle wars in the Australian outback pre - WW II. A good movie.
All The Way, an historical movie about LBJ and Lady Bird. I don’t remember the actors names but it was well done and definitely worth watching.
Sweet Bean, a Japanese movie with English translation to read. It started out a bit slow but we soon became engrossed and forgot we were reading the dialogue. Another movie worth watching with a story that will long stay with you. (I didn’t realize it was a foreign movie when it started and had set up to finish the ironing, so my husband had to read the all the verbal interactions to me for the first half hour. I just can’t iron and read at the same time.)
And, of course, we watched, Its A Wonderful Life, as we do every Christmas. LOVE that movie, and every year I notice some thing that I hadn’t remembered from previous viewings.
I also made time to read several books: (I love to read Christmas novels in December.)
Christmas Town by Donna Van Liere.An inspiring story about creating family when we are willing to take a chance. *Donna Van Liere sets the bar high in creating meaningful Christmas stories.
Starry Night by Debbie Macomber. (A Christmas Gift.) A lovely quick read to help the reader feel like Christmas.
A Cup of Christmas Tea, by Tom Hegg. A beautiful Christmas book I’ve had for years. Can be read in thirty minutes but has a story that will stick for years.
Tidings of Comfort & Joy, by T. Davis Bunn. Another book I’ve had for years. Historical fiction post WW II, a teenage girl reluctantly
spends Christmas with her elderly grandmother. They
share a part of the past and a part of the future together, and discover a gift that gives
true meaning to Christmas.
Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult. This is the best book Picoult has ever written. Not at all like her other novels, which were all above average. She tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice and compassion with empathy and intelligence. I highly recommend this one!
A Time to Heal, by Todd McClimans. (Advance copy for review, the third in his American Epochs Series.) This time travel novel takes the same two characters, Kristi and Ty, to the Battlefields and Hospitals of the American Civil War. The characters growth are portrayed realistically with great research, wit, surprise plot twists and great writing.
Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout. (Library book) An earlier Strout novel before Olive Ketteridge, another memorable story with good character development and plot twists. A brilliant minister marries a wealthy spoiled beauty, they settle with their new baby in a parsonage in small New England town that has only one church.
my grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry, by Fredrik Backman. (A Christmas gift.) Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and a little crazy. She’s also Elsa’s only friend. Her grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, and the adventure begins. Backman’s writing holds the same comic accuracy as in A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death, and the right to be different.
As I wrote this blog, it occurred to me that maybe all those movies and books could also be reasons for my late nights!
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
It is hard to believe it’s November 30th already. I hope everyone had a good month and a wonderful Thanksgiving. This is the time of the year when we all get so busy that it sometimes feels like we can meet ourselves coming and going.
We had a dinner party for sixteen of our favorite people ten days before Thanksgiving. Our oldest granddaughter came and helped us with serving and clean -up. She’s a gem and it made everything so much more fun and easier.
Then we had 16 cherished family members with us for Thanksgiving this year, including four great-grandchildren under the age of five. Our home was a lively place for a few hours! I ate too much like I always do on Thanksgiving.
We missed the nine immediate family members who were unable to be with us this year. At least five more of them will be with us for Christmas. Our Stony Brook U. granddaughter, Hayley, will be home for Christmas, and our Air Force grandson Ethan will arrive back from Japan on December 8th. Yeah!
Our granddaughters, ages fourteen and seventeen came on the two Sunday afternoons after Thanksgiving to help us decorate for Christmas. The second Sunday they were joined by their 12 year old cousin. Christmas music blasting and a few fresh decorating ideas…almost everything is done. What would we ever do without these awesome grandchildren!?
You can read my review of the Context of Love, posted on Story Circle in early November, please click the following link to read it: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/contextoflove.shtml
ALSO I had good news from the Story Circle anthology. (Needless to say this made my day!):
“I’m truly glad to tell you that your fiction entry, The Callahan Sisters, will appear in both the print and online
editions of Real Women Write: Sharing Our Stories, Sharing Our Lives,
volume 15. You’ve created an evocative and moving look at an experience that
many women share. It is on schedule to be published in January. It’s a strong addition to this year’s
I have had less time to read this month. But I did manage to read a few books:The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse Historical fiction. This was a beautifully written, powerful coming of age novel set in Nazi occupied France during WWII. A gripping page turner, unforgettable characters.
View From the Rigging, Memoir of a Coast Guard Career by Captain Richard J. Marcott. The author lives in our home town, and we’ve known him during his retirement years from the military. It is an impressive and exciting book. *If you need a gift for a retired military person or for a young person considering a military sea career, this would be a perfect gift! I am glad his daughter encouraged him to write his life story, and you will be too after reading this compelling memoir.
Stella Bain by Anita Shreve Historical Fiction. It started out a bit slow for me but soon picked up speed and I soon loved this old fashioned novel. Set in the United States, England and France during WWI. It dealt with PTSD when it was still called Shell Shock, amnesia, and domestic abuse when women had no rights. Layered complicated plot with great characters.
There are lots of good movies to be released within the next few weeks but it seems most of them will by-pass our neck of the woods. Having a dog, we are not able to make extended trips to nearby cities to watch a movie. Too long for our Lucas in the dog crate! We watched The Boys from Brazil (1978), starring Gregory Peck playing Dr Josef Mengele. A truly excellent movie, though Aticus Finch he certainly was not!! (Netflicks) We also watched a couple other movies from Netflicks but they are not
even worth mentioning. We didn’t didn’t even finish one of
On Thanksgiving evening, after the family went home and everything was sort of back to order, we collapsed in front of the television and watched two wonderful movies on PBS, Anne of Green Gables and Pollyanna.
Please take a few moments to remember WHY we celebrate Christmas. And it’s definitely NOT the glitz or the commercialized Black Friday shopping hoopla.
Till next time my friends, keep reading. I suggest a Christmas novel to help you find your Christmas spirit!
I sit to write this blog as the witching hour draws near… I hope you’ve all had a Happy Halloween! We returned from dinner and a movie, Florence Foster Jenkins, a few minutes ago. It was a nice evening with good friends. The movie was funny and sweet, and oh how we laughed!
I joined the Bradford Literary Club this month. I’ve considered doing this for years and finally made the commitment.
They meet every Friday afternoon from October through March. They have interesting programs three times a month and a card day once a month. It should be fun and all the ladies are friendly and nice.
This afternoon I finished wrapping our bushes in netting to protect them from the deer this winter. Tomorrow is to be warmer, and I plan to sand and scrap our little wooden bridge. I will also pack away our Halloween decorations, inside and out. We have prepared our gardens for winter. I swear every day seems to slip by faster than the one before it. I love the change of seasons and find myself looking forward to colder weather and a chance to hibernate inside with more time for my writing.
Two weeks ago I realized that I had nearly missed renewing my PA registered nursing license, but I hustled with the extra continued credit requirements and renewed my license just under the deadline of October 31. What a relief! I also maintain my N.Y. state license since we live so close to the NY state border. A person never knows what lies ahead and my nursing licenses are my safety net…just in case.
I was privileged to be a guest and do a reading at the Warren Women’s Club on October 10, what a lovely group of ladies. They own a beautiful mansion where they hold their luncheon meetings and other events. I autographed and sold many books, it was a great day for me.
I have read several good books this month:
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, fiction. (I loved it but then I am a bit partial to this writer, though I’ve never met her. She put her money where her heart is and bought a book store in Tennessee. And despite online competition manages to keep it thriving.) This story spans five decades of the lives of two intertwining families, the plot is layered and deals with with ties that bind us together, even at times unwillingly.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz’s debut novel, in the context of LOVE, was an unforgettable coming of age story. When the protagonist discovers a devastating family secret, she makes a series of bad life choices and pays the consequences. Story Circle sent this novel to me to review. I will add the review link later, I haven’t had time to finish the review yet.
On War and Politics by Arnold L. Punaro and David Poyer. Punaro’s memoir was heavier reading than my usual choices. It is well written, interesting recent history and behind the scenes details on wheeling and dealing at the highest levels of our government. While reading, there were times I wished I was reading fiction!
Bruce Springsteen’s memoir, Born to Run, was outstanding. I was never particularly a Springsteen fan, probably because as he rose to fame, I was up to my ears with babies and diapers. (That was back when we did not have disposable diapers.) His book was enlightening; his commitment to his craft and music, his family, and the final paragraph of the memoir knocked my socks off!
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. This coming of age novel is a wonderful and truly unforgettable story. It started out a bit slow for me but a few chapters in, I was really hooked. It was one of those I stay up late reading, ( and then wonder why I have dark circles under my eyes!) The prose was at times lyrical, the point of view voice was honest and intelligent, the characters were well developed and believable and the plot suspenseful and layered. It is my book club’s choice for the November meeting.
I discovered a new painter, Robert Duncan, I adore his work. I have three small prints and two larger ones from his vast collection of paintings. He paints country realism. He has been painting since age 11 and has received many awards. I’d guess he’s painted for more than 40 years now. Click for more information:
One bright sunny October day we made a road trip with friends from Pittsburgh. We visited the Kinzua Bridge Visitors Center. It is absolutely fabulous! It’s not far from us but we had not been there in years. Then we stopped at Lynn Hall near Port Allegany and had a tour of the historic restoration-in-progress of the Frank Lloyd Wright style house. It is the house that Wright modeled Falling Water after. He actually hired the architect, Walter Hall, who built Lynn Hall to build Falling Water. We continued on to St Marys where we enjoyed a delicious lunch at a small non-chain family owned restaurant before driving on to the Benezette Elk Visitors Center. It was late in the day and we saw at least fifteen elk in the wild and relatively close. It was awesome!
We also went to see a few good movies: Magnificent Seven, Deepwater Horizon and The Accountant, also The Last Interview from Netflicks. We are also enjoying Longmire, a modern western series. So far we’ve watched the first one and half seasons, only three and a half to go.
Till next time, keep reading my friends and make every day count.
Another month has slipped away. I spent the first half of this month at home recovering from a nasty fall. Then busy helping our granddaughter, her husband and children get settled into their new home. They were lucky to find a beautiful secluded home that the bank had foreclosed two years ago. That made it affordable for our young family, though sad for the previous owners. It even included a sturdy big wooden swing set with slide in the back yard. Everyone in our family helped as much as they could.
We attended a lovely wedding in Grove City, PA. on September 24th. It always gives us hope for the future to see a wedding party of fine young people having so much fun while upholding the values so many of us believe in, and the newlyweds, not being afraid of true love, and making commitments to each other.
We went to see the movie, Sully. It was wonderful! We saw it the first day it was released and the entire packed audience sat in silence for a minute before everyone started to applaud. It was that good. I’ve only been to one other movie where that happened, and it was a Tom Hanks movie too, Forrest Gump.
Of course, I continue to read books. Raven Black by Ann Cleeves. Fiction, suspense/mystery. It was my first Cleeves book, though it will not be my last. It kept me guessing until the last page!
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny. Fiction, murder/mystery. It is Penny’s12th novel in the Armand Gamache series. This New York Times best selling author visited Bradford number of years ago, she was delightful and humble. I encourage you to check out her mystery series. But they are also stand alone stories and you don’t have to read them in order. I believe this one is her best yet. I usually can tell who dunnit when reading a mystery but this one kept me guessing until the end.
Black River and Devil’s Key by Elizabeth Graves. Fiction, supernatural thrillers. Both are Florida stories of black magic, conjuring and suspense. The characters are well developed with complicated plots that create unforgettable tales. As one reviewer said, “Not a book to curl up with late at night…not if you want to get any sleep.” Yet so worth reading!
Don Juan in Hankey, Pa. by Gale Martin. Fiction, comedy. This is a laugh out loud tale of the misadventures of the Hankey, Pa Opera Guild. The characters are delightfully believable as Martin takes us on fun romp behind the scenes in this charming intelligent novel. It is posted on Story Circle Book reviews at: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/donjuan.shtml
My review of Dimestore: A Writer’s Life by Lee Smith was published in this quarter’s issue of Writer Advice. You can read it at www.writeradvice.com and then click Hooked On Books.
I drove to State College, PA. yesterday to record four book reviews for BookMark. My sister and her husband went with me. We met three cousins for lunch at Bonfattos, in Bellefonte. Great food and fun! Then we went to WPSU studio at 1:30 and I recorded these reviews: (Each of these novels has a Pennsylvania connection.)
Don Juan in Hankey, Pa. by Gale Martin
Hope You Guess My Name by Heather Harlan
Trace by Randy Valentine
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
*BookMark airs each week at 5:45 p.m. on Thursday and again at 9 p.m. on Sunday.
My book club, Book Friends, voted to read Louise Penny’s A Great Reckoning as our October book. We had a great discussion last week about our September book, Everything I Never Told You.
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
On this rainy August 31, the temperature is a bit cooler and fall is in the air. And the still-student grandchildren are back in school. We are anticipating hosting my husband’s family, (and after all these years my family, too), for the Labor day weekend. It is an annual thing and we always have a great time. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, then you know family time is what life is all about for me!
I had the privilege of attending the Wilkes Writers Workshop on August 5- 6th. I was on a panel, Pennsylvania Fiction: What it is and What it Does, with fellow writers Chris Campion, Heather Harlan and Barbara Taylor, moderated by David Poyer. My long-time friend and fellow writer, Susan, went with me. We had a wonderful time, and it was good to reconnect with old writing friends and make new ones at the workshop. The writing community at Wilkes U. is so invigorating!
Books I have enjoyed reading this month are:
Crave, Sojourn of a Hungry Soul, by Laurie Jean Cannady. She’s new to the Wilkes U. faculty. Her memoir is poignantly honest, packed full of details about growing up in the projects and escaping that life through education. I highly recommend this one to increase our understanding of a sub-culture that is an important part of our country.
Hope You Can Guess My Name, by Heather Harlan Debut thriller novel that soars from page one. You can read my review on Story Circle Book Reviews at http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/guessmyname.shtml
Six Car Lengths Behind an Elephant, Undercover & Overwhelmed as a CIA Wife and Mother, by Lillian McCloy
The author is a natural story teller and shares her wonderful memoir, packed with details, poignant honesty and sharp wit. You can read my review on Story Circle Book Reviews at:
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Nonfiction. This was our book club’s book for this month. It dealt with the judicial system in the US, and prompted a long and stimulating discussion. Another book I recommend to promote increased understanding of poverty, race and a side of life in the U.S. that is not familiar to most Americans.
Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading by Maureen Corrigan. Memoir. I met her after she spoke at the Writer’s Workshop. She is down to Earth and witty …as well as, oh so knowledgeable about books! And she never forgot her blue collar roots.
I mentioned In Robin’s Nest in my July blog, it was posted on Story Circle after I had already posted my blog.You can read it at: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/inrobinsnest.shtml
My review of Tipping Point by David Poyer was on air twice last week WPSU’s BookMark, you can listen to it at: http://radio.wpsu.org/programs/wpsus-bookmark
We have felt a real void this summer for good movies. We did see Jason Bourne, and it was an exciting action movie, though unmemorable. the good news is, according to the previews, there are some good ones coming in the next few months. We also watched God is Not Dead on Netflicks, and really loved it. Honestly, I did not expect it to be so good.
Until next month, keep reading and always take time to smell the roses!
On this hot and humid July day, I went shopping for a birthday gift for my 93 year old aunt. I was surprised, as I am every year at this time - to find the stores are ready for back to school shoppers. Meanwhile we’re all trying to enjoy our short Pennsylvania summer. You would think I’d have learned by now that is just the way it is, but I am a stubbornly optimistic soul. I am sure come October I will be unhappy again to see Christmas sales before Halloween!
We enjoyed a long weekend in Baltimore area last weekend. We visited my sister, Linda, and her husband who live in Columbia, Md. My sister, Sue, and her husband met us there. On Saturday we all went to Annapolis for a boat ride across the beautiful Chesapeake Bay to St Michael’s Island. It was a record breaking HOT sunny day, we visited the lovely quaint village and a wonderful air-conditioned Maritime Museum. Then to a great air-conditioned bay-side restaurant with a fantastic view of the harbor and super delicious seafood. On the way back to the boat we stopped at a few tourist shops, but it was way too hot to shop.
On Sunday morning two of us went to church with Linda who had taught Vacation Bible School there last week. It was a great service! Then we helped un-decorate the church from the leftover rather elaborate Bible School decorations. Sunday afternoon some of us went to their local Barnes & Noble Bookstore. We live in rural N/W Pennsylvania and don’t have ready access to a book store, I was in book heaven for a couple hours! That evening we went to a dinner theater and saw the play Hairspray. The food was delicious and we all had a good time!
This month I have read a few good books:
The Rainbow Comes and Goes, nonfiction by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt. A mother/son story that gives a close look at the lives of the rich and famous. Yes, they have had their share of trials and tribulations.
The Girl You Left Behind, novel by Jo Jo Moyes. It was another gritty WWII story about how the French civilians suffered at the hands of the Nazis. But also a paralel story about a young widow in England fifty years later, whose husband had given her a mysterious beautiful painting on their honeymoon, they had found it at a street sale.
In Robin’s Nest, debut novel by Elizabeth Sumner Wafler. I wrote a review for Story Circle. It would make a great summer read with characters and plot that will stay with you long after reading the novel.
Poldark, by Winston Graham. A rich historical fiction set in Cornwall, England, in the 1770s. There are many characters to keep straight. This historical fiction was our book club read for July, everyone agreed it a was a great story, with well developed characters and engaging plot. It is also a PBS series, the second season will start Sunday, September 4th. The PBS series closely follows the W. Graham books; there are thirteen book in the series.
When Breath Becomes Air, nonfiction by Paul Kalanithi, *the forward was written by Abraham Verghese. The author begins his haunting story after he is diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, at age thirty-five just as he is ready to graduate as a certified neurosurgeon. In fact his wife, also a physician had to write the epiloge. A story of heart breaking courage and strength. (*An early birthday gift from my sister.)
Invivsible Influence, The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior, nonfiction by Jonah Berger. This is an insightful book about the choices we make everyday.Without our realizing it, others have a huge influence on everything we do. It is well researched and eye-opening.
The Wright Brothers, nonfiction by David McCullough. Absolutely wonderful! I knew so little about them before reading this book. Daredevils they were not. Brilliant engineers and inventors they were!
*Last week we also went to Chautauqua Institute to listen to David McCullough talk about his The Wright Brothers book. He’s an amazing writer, as well as a good speaker. He introduced his wife of 60 some years, she was lovely and feisty, good character combinations.
We have watched a few unmemorable Netflick movies this month, usually when I have lots of ironing to do. That works well except when it is a foreign film and I have to read captions! We went to the movies one night and saw The Free State of Jones with Mathew McConaughey. (My husband was in shock when I declined movie popcorn!) It was a great movie that gave us lots to think and talk about.
Our local library also hosted David Poyer last week. He read from his new novel, The Tipping Point, and discussed the business and art of writing. An audience of about fifteen people were attentive and involved in conversation with the author. It was definitely a worthwhile evening.
I will be at the Wilkes Writers Workshop, Aug. 5 and 6. I will be on a panel with four other Pennsylvania writers, all who write fiction about Pennsylvania, discussing what makes Pennsylvanians unique. You can check online to see if there is still time to register for the workshop. Jay Parini, author of several excellent books will be a featured speaker, his most famous novel was The Last Station, made into an Academy Award-nominated film. Maureen Corrigan of NPR’s Fresh Air will also be a featured speaker.
Add in a few dinner parties and picnics with family and friends, and it would be safe to a say we’ve had a busy month!
Till next time, keep reading my friends and enjoy the lazy hazy days of August!
This being Father’s Day makes me think of my dad who has now been gone for two years and six days. My five siblings and I, ages 49 through 67 at the time, have been orphans since then. We were lucky to have had our parents as long as we did. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to be alone in his world, without parents as a child or even as a young adult. Our mother passed four years before Dad, both ravaged by cancer. I believe family is important, and parents set the tone for family interactions. So, even if you are approaching retirement and still wondering what you want to do when you grow up, remember to those of the younger generations, we are the adults and it is our responsibility to set an example for what our family time will be. Hint- hint: Family time is always better without minds and tongues being lubricated with alcohol!
I have had less time for reading this month due to gardening and outdoor work. I have read only three books, but they were all memorable.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng The first line grabbed me by the collar, “Lydia is dead. But hey don’t know it yet.” It is the story of a Chinese American family living in 1970s small town Ohio. a beautifully crafted study of dysfunction and grief, that resonates with anyone who has had a family drama. That should be just about everyone, right?
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica (My book club’s choice for the month.) It is low key suspense with many twists and turns. It’s been compared to Gone Girl, but I think the plot, characters and structure are so much better. A wealthy girl is abducted by a man who had been stalking her. She is rescued and returned many weeks later, a different person than the girl who was taken. Her socialite mother’s character also transforms.
The Black Count by Tom Reiss (Winner of 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.) My husband recently finished this book, and raved about it so much during the reading that I am currently reading it. It’s a fascinating story, carefully researched and brilliantly written.
My review of The Gilded Cage is on Story Circle at: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/gildedcage.shtml
We went to a wonderful movie last week. Jo Jo Moyes’, Me Before You, was beautifully done. She also wrote the screenplay, so the movie stayed quite true to the book.
Enjoy these lazy hazy days of summer…and keep reading my friends.
I have read poignant messages about the sacrifices made by our service men and women this Memorial Day. At this time they account for only 7% of the USA population. They serve for old-fashioned patriotic values like honor and country. My father served in WW2, as did almost all the father’s of my friends. My youngest brother served for more than twenty years in the Marines. Our oldest grandson served four years in the Marines. We currently have another fine grandson in the Air Force in Japan. Obviously our family has a higher percentage of service than many families — which may influence my belief that those in the military should be honored every day, one day a year does not cut it with me. We need to show respect when we meet those in uniform, maybe buy a coke or a cup of coffee for a soldier next time you are delayed at an airport, bus depot or train station.
And then there’s Mothers Day, celebrated May 8th this year. As a mother, I appreciate the day of honor, but honestly, haven’t most Mothers earned a bit more than one day a year?! If you still have a mother, take time to honor her with regular visits and phone calls. You won’t regret it. My mother has been gone for six years now and I still miss her dearly. A few days ago over breakfast, my husband looked at me thoughtfully and said, “You’re looking more like your mother everyday.” I smiled, and answered, “I know. First thing every morning I see her when I look in the mirror.” Yikes!
I have read fewer books this month because I’ve been busy planting flowers, etc. It’s that time of year. Also lots of school concerts, spring plays, recitals, soccer games and track meets to attend for the granddaughters. Each event has been exceptional, just like the granddaughters we go to admire!
Books I have enjoyed this month are:
‘The Hit’ by David Baldacci. Fiction. Two government assassins form an unlikely alliance to stop anarchy plot to overthrow the U.S. government. Exciting!
‘After You’ by JoJo Moyes. Ficiton. A good sequel to ‘Me Before You’, though a bit exasperating at times. Especially at the beginning.
‘City of Women’ by David R. Gillham. Fiction. A story of women behind the lines in Berlin, 1943. The protagonist joins the underground to help save as many Jews as she can form being sent to the camps. A thriller!
‘A Lesson Before Dying’ by Ernest J. Gaines. Historical Fiction. Haunting story of racial tension in a small Cajun community in the late1940’s leads to the execution of a falsely accused young man. A rich sense of place and time, with well developed characters and plot.
‘The Gilded Cage’ by Judy Alter. Historical fiction. Early Chicago and the people who made it what it is. The Chicago fire, the early labor movement, and great wealth in the hands of a few. You don’t have to be a Chicagoan to love this book!
‘The Accidental Tourist’, ‘Breathing Lessons’ and ‘Searching for Caleb’, all by Anne Tyler. Fiction. I love her books! They are in a class by themselves. She received the Pulitzer Prize for ‘Breathing Lessons’ in 1989, it was made into a Hallmark movie starring Joanne Woodward and James Garner. ‘Accidental Tourist’ was made into an Oscar winning movie starring Geena Davis and William Hurt. I watched those movies years ago and decided I wanted to read the books, a good decision. Both were much better than the movies which were wonderful!
We watched only one movie worth mentioning, ‘Grace of Monaco’, starring Nicole Kidman. It was excellent. Portrayal of the struggles the Princess with the perfect life dealt with to achieve happily ever after. We ordered it from Netflicks.
My review of ‘All Waiting is Long’ by Barbara J. Taylor, for WPSU’s BookMark can be read or listened to at:
A Blog Reminder:
IF you have a sense of humor and a strong interest in writing, you can receive one of the best writing newsletters available FREE, just submit your email address to Maggie at: email@example.com
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
Here in northwestern Pennsylvania, we’ve had a cooler than usual April. Some sunny warm days, followed by cold wind and rain. Our biggest snow fall of the winter season came on April 8th. Luckily, it didn’t last long, and we were enjoying another trip to one of our favorite places, New York City. We took our youngest granddaughter for a long weekend to celebrate her twelfth birthday, as we’ve done for each one of our ten grandchildren. We traveled by train from Buffalo to Penn’s Station, under Madison Square Garden. An older granddaughter, who is a student a Stony Brook U. on Long Island, spent two nights in the city with us. The girls skated together in Rockefeller Center. ( Later, I explained to the younger one that even though her cousin seems much older now, when they are grown up, they will feel like they are the same age, and they’ll always remember skating under the lights in the center of N.Y.C.) The twelve year old is a dancer extraordinaire, and we had registered her for the Rockettes Experience which included a tour of Radio City Music Hall, as well as a three hour dance session with two Rockettes… and forty other girls. She did so well and loved it. We toured the city, visited museums and saw two Broadway shows, Matilda and Finding Neverland. We all had a wonderful time. Everything went smoothly until we returned to Buffalo by train and I fell exiting the train, with my 40 pound luggage hitting my lower left leg. It was raining and I slipped on the top step; I was humiliated, embarrassed and bruised. I will be wearing a boot/cast on my leg at least until May 16, to help the tendons heal. I was lucky to have no torn ligaments or broken bones.
I have read several books this month, and all have been quite good.
Learning to Like Mukluk, An Unlikely Explorer in Territorial Alaska, 1948-1950 by Penelope S. Easton. Nonfiction. Mukluk is strips of whole skin and blubber. A stable in the winter for native Alaskans. Ms. Easton made four more trips to Alaska after her retirement between 1996 and 2005.
Digging to America, by Anne Tyler. Fiction. Two Baltimore families adopt Asian children and become friends. I always love Anne Tyler novels.
Dimestore, A Writer’s Life, by Lee Smith. Nonfiction. I highly recommend this one, Lee Smith is a prolific southern writer who was a born writer and has developed her craft to a science. A great read!!
Death in the Garden, by Elizabeth Ironside. Fiction. A multilayered British detective story, the plot twists will keep you guessing to the end.
The Confession by Charles Todd. Fiction. An Inspector Ian Ruteledge Mystery, flawlessly written by a mother and son writing team. I like books that I haven’t figured out who did it. These authors did!
Miller’s Valley, by Anna Quindlen. Fiction. “Home is a place that is just as easy to feel lost as it is to feel contented.” Another powerful family novel with secrets, leaves the reader guessing and wondering…it would be for great Book Club discussions.
Look Again, by Lisa Scottoline. Fiction. The best novel I’ve read by this author. Unexpected plot twists and well
developed characters that stay with the reader long after reading.
All Waiting is Long by Barbara J. Taylor it is the sequel to the author’s debut novel, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night. I loved it. My review for Story Circle is posted:
It will not be released until July, it is definitely worth the wait. I recommend putting it on your summer reading list.
My article, Worse Than Writers Block was published in the bi-monthly newsletter www.workingwriters.com.
We have also watched five good movies, all from Netflicks. I miss going to the movies BUT lately there hasn’t been anything we’ve been interested in going to see. All five of these movies are great in there own right:
Testament of Youth, The Martian, Trumbo, Lady in the Van, and Tangerine.
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
We had 70 degrees and sunshine for Easter and Christmas this year in northwestern Pennsylvania. You can’t beat that for pleasant weather. Especially when we are entertaining twenty to thirty people…and that’s just part of our immediate family! This Easter we had twenty four, and four of them were under the age for five. We truly enjoy young children. I will never forget the look of sheer joy on the face of our beautiful two year old great granddaughter when she found her Easter eggs, one by one. (The young adult early birds had tossed the eggs randomly around the yard.) Our teenagers decided to sun themselves, including an exchange student from San Paulo, Brazil. A sweet and very bright girl, I asked her when she speaks English, which she does flawlessly, if she thinks in English or Portugese, and then has to translate. She said she thinks in the language she’s speaking, but then looked a bit perplexed and said, “But I’m not sure when I dream which language I dream in.” She is living with our son and family this semester. We will all miss her when she returns to Brazil.
My brother’s daughter, Hannah, sang a solo with her choir from Texas A&M at Carnegie Hall in N.Y.C. on March 12th. When he told me it was coming up, I said, “Oh, I wish I could go but I am so busy, etc.” A few days later I told my husband I really wanted to go, but he wasn’t interested in going at all. I realized I’d always regret not going, no one from our family has ever performed at Carnegie Hall before, and who knows if it will happen again. My new motto, ‘If Not Now, When?’, propelled me into action! I called my brother for the Carnegie tickets discount info. Our daughter-in-law, Suzie, and their two girls plus the Brazilian exchange student signed on, as well as our oldest granddaughter whom we picked up two hours down the road. I drove my van to Manhattan with no difficulty, thanks to Suzie’s outstanding GPS navigation/guidance. Their daughter, who is attending Stony Brook on Long Island, and her roommate met us at our hotel, it was the first day of their spring break. The weather was beautiful. We stayed two nights, and had two rooms, with two double beds in each room, two people slept in each bed. But we were not in the rooms much more than to sleep and get ready to see the city. Friday night we ate at ‘Bubba Gump’s‘ in Time Square. it was delicious and so much fun! (HINT: If you go there, brush up on your Forrest Gump trivia.) Saturday night we ate with my brother and his wife at ‘Planet Hollywood’, also on Time Square. It was another delicious and fun place to eat. We walked to Carnegie Hall from there. After the show we all walked to a cafe a few blocks down the street for ice cream, Hannah joined us. It was a short but memorable trip that none of us will ever forget. We had such a great time!
I read several books this month. I found Mrs.Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin in a dollar sales bin, (I love bargains!) It was a fascinating book, so well written and researched. I have met Melanie, a bright and personable woman, and have read her, The Aviator’s Wife. Also a very good book.
I read A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott, it was an interesting period novel about the making of Gone With the Wind and the behind the scenes maneuvers of movie making.
Brushed by the Sacred by Lee Beckes, is poignant, inspirational poetry. It is beautifully written, something for everyone and you don’t have to be heavily into poetry to be touched by his poems.
I am reading Anne Tyler’s Digging to America now and loving it, as I do all of her books.
Our book club book this month was The Nightingale by Kristine Hannah. I read it a year ago and was happy it was chosen. It generated a great discussion with the wonderful characters and all the layers of intrigue the author created.
We are reading Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes for our April book.. It is a poignant, thought provoking novel with lots of British wit.
We watched the movie, Room. It was so well done that we felt like peeping toms watching real life through someone’s window! I had read the book and I was impressed that the author, Emma Donoghue also wrote the screenplay.
I’ve been mostly busy with helping my husband edit his memoirs, for the last few years he’s been writing random essays and thoughts about his life. I am helping him organize it into a chronological memoir, and sorting out the repetitions. It will still be in his words, of course, because after all, it is his story. And trust me on this, he has led a compelling one of a kind life!
Also I keep submitting my work… and I have started my next novel.
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
March sneaked up on me this year. And I even had an extra day in February, such procrastination! This morning when I walked our dog, I noticed the first shoots of daffodils have made their way above ground. Our winter has been mild in PA this year, especially compared to last year…but it is still a thrill to see the first signs of spring.
We spent two weeks in Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach in February and another week going and coming home with cousins and friends along the way. My sisters and their husbands went with us and we had a ball. We rented a three bedroom condo through our timeshare at H.H. The weather was lovely. Bicycling on the beach was fabulous. Spending time with family is something special, especially since none of us live geographically close to each other as adults. It rained one day, so we drove to Savannah, Georgia and ate lunch at Paula Deen’s The Lady and Her Sons Restaurant. The food was delicious and it was a fun day. One sister is a huge Paula Deen fan!
In M.B., it was just my husband and me. We had a very nice one bedroom timeshare condo, it was cold and rainy most of the week, so we did indoor things. Lots of reading and movies. And we went to our first ever political rally, (we were there the week before the S.C. Republican primary.) Neither of us had ever been to one before, so when Jeb Bush was just a few miles down the road, we decided to go. We were not really supporting any of the candidates at that time and didn’t have high expectations. Local and national media were on site. When Jeb entered the building, the crowd erupted in applause and cheering. He has a presence that demands respect. He spoke fluently in detailed plans about his proposed platform. He interacted warmly with the crowd and had a genuine sense of humor. (There was such a huge turnout that hundreds of overflow people were sent to a nearby church. Jeb visited them for an hour before coming to our building.) He was definitely worth the wait. Interestingly, when we later went back to our condo, we watched the Local News at 11. Coverage of his rally was beyond poor, a few phrases were taken out of context, and no rapport with his audience was shown. I looked at my husband, and said, “It is hard to believe that’s the same rally we were at tonight.” We were saddened to hear he had dropped out after that primary.
We saw the following movies: The Big Short, A fast paced complicated movie that we want to see it again.
Brooklyn, A beautiful sweet movie. Creed, a good story and who can resist an older Rocky? The Well Digger’s Daughter, (on Netflicks), A sweet French movie, with captions. Serena, (on Netflicks), An early Jennifer Lawrence movie, the fourth one I’ve seen her play opposite Bradley Cooper. Haunting, I’d like to NOT remember it so well!
Race, The Jesse Owens story about the 1936 Olympics. Excellent movie. I was surprised to read the negative reviews after we’d seen it. Trust me it is a great movie! We will see Spotlight, this year’s academy award winner for best movie, on Monday at our local independent movie series.
I’ve read several books: Me Before You, by Jo Jo Moyes, British author great character and plot development. An unforgettable story. All Waiting is Long, by Barbara J. Taylor, An advance review copy, will be released in July, great story–a follow up to the Morgan sisters, from Sing in The Morning, Cry at Night, twenty years later. A Man Called Ove, debut novel by Swedish author, Fredrik Blackman, An engaging story, great fun, different style of writing, refreshing new characters and plot. Tipping Point by David Poyer, A naval sea adventure from the Dan Lenson series. Exciting! Trace by Randy Valentine, Thriller, debut novel, most reminded me of the Da Vinci Code, though the story is completely different. Leaving Time by Jodi Piccoult, another mother/daughter story that she is so good at creating. I also read a few others but did not write all titles and authors down as I read them, I need to get better organized!
We are dreading and anticipating the final show of Downton Abbey this Sunday evening…it is really the only show we watch all week and we can’t imagine another show of its quality coming along any time soon.
Now for my good news/bad news: In 2015 there were 395, 586 books published in the U.S., that’s 32, 966 books per month! Most of them were self published. I am still hoping to find a literary agent and then a publisher for my novel and book of short stories. Yesterday I received another very kind and encouraging rejection letter from an agent I had submitted my work to. I remember all too well the years I spent submitting manuscripts that were ignored or on occasion receiving impersonal form-letter rejections. So, it seems I’m really moving up in the publishing world!
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
Another month has come and gone, it has been a peaceful, more restful time with the hustle of the holiday season behind us. We were lucky in northwestern PA last weekend when the big blizzard blew its way east - way south of us. We’ve had a very mild winter so far, I’ve only had to shovel snow a couple times. Mostly the broom does a fine job sweeping our snow dust off the sidewalks. It just occurred to me that I mostly start my blog with comments on the weather…which reminds me of my dad. As a farmer the weather was always foremost on his mind, I guess this apple didn’t fall too far from the tree!
We watched Me, Earl and The Dying Girl last night. It was simple and poignant, one we will not soon forget. We’ve also been super enjoying Downton Abbey this year. And to think we did not start watching it until three years ago, shortly before the fourth season, we binged on the first three seasons of the show and were totally hooked. We’ve been watching some older movies for the second time and finding them entertaining, especially right before going to bed.
I’ve read several books this month, my favorites have been Sara Gruen’s At Water’s Edge. (Her Water for Elephants has been one of my favorites ever since I first read it.) David Poyer’s Tipping Point was also an exceptionally good read.
My Maternal Grandparents, a short story I wrote was published in Story Circle Journal last month. I am still waiting on good news about my novel. I rec’d another rejection today, but at least I am getting really nice personal rejections now.
Till next time, keep reading my friends.