Ann's Blog
Ann McCauley is a Pennsylvania women's literature author, who wrote the books Runaway Grandma and Mother Love, both available for sale at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
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09/30/22
September Blog
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.
Later, Ann
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08/31/22
August Blog
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.

Later, Ann


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07/31/22
July Blog
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.

Later, Ann
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06/30/22
June Blog
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.
It is by far the best travel memoir I’ve read, the authors smooth writing style takes you there with none of the hassles of  long foreign travel. I reviewed this book for Story Circle. Click link below to read the review: https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/wherever-the-road-leads-a-memoir-of-love-travel-and-a-van-2/.

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.


Later, Ann
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05/31/22
May Blog
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:
https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/ems-awful-good-fortune/  I really enjoyed the story and learned a lot about other cultures from someone who had lived in several others.

Finding
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.

Later,  Ann
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04/28/22
April Blog
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’ve been an eclectic busy-bee reader, I think maybe I use books as an escape when things are difficult. You can read my review of The Memory of All That, A Love Story about Alzheimer’s by Mary MacCracken, at https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/the-memory-of-all-that-a-love-story-about-alzheimers/.

It is a well written poignant memoir, published in 2022.  


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.

Later, Ann
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03/31/22
March Blog
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: 

Teresa James WAFS Pilot  Gear Up/Gear Down, a P-47 to Newark, can be read at this Story Circle site:  https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/teresa-james-wafs-pilot-gear-up-gear-down-a-p-47-to-newark/
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.

 Later, Ann

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02/28/22
February Blog
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.

Later, Ann
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01/19/22
January Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 3:47 pm
The Christmas decorations are all packed away. I have hearts hanging on the doors and we are blanketed with a heavy snow, that ’s been with us for a few days now. The drifting from Monday afternoon’s strong winds was our biggest problem. Today it started to melt, though it is still beautifully white out there. And with that I wish you all an early Happy Valentine’s Day.

Our first granddaughter who lives in Alabama tested positive for Covid yesterday. We hope it will be a very mild case for her. WiIl there ever be an end to all this man-made virus madness?

I received and read four diverse but all exceptionally good books for Christmas:
Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult. Fiction. 2021. Well, I started our Book Club’s discussion group out last night by apologizing for introducing a book for our monthly read that I had not read, chosen based on online publisher hype. I would not have considered it for our book club had I read it first. But they were all very gracious and told me they were glad they’d read it. It did generate an excellent discussion.It was our first book about Covid from a completely different point of view. It was a good enough book but not one of Picoult’s best by a long shot.

Called to be Creative by Mary Potter Kenyan. 2020. Nonfiction. Familius Publishing. Subtitle: A Guide to Reigniting Your Creativity. The author grew up in a poor, hard-working, large and very close family. Her mother was a regionally renown artist, painting on old barn boards and walls, also quilting, carving wooden statues, drawing with pastels, and in her later years, writing. Mary, being the writer in the family, became the keeper of her mother’s words which included three unpublished manuscripts, dozens of journals, notebooks and a large memory book. The author spent several hours in solitude everyday in the months following her mother’s death in the family home, immersing herself in reading those precious journals and opening up her own long buried creativity. (Remember playing make-believe as a child? And somehow we lost that simple but good creativity.) Her husband became more supportive during this time. All the while she was homeschooling her eight children. The thread that runs through this well written book is her faith and courage to never give up, her resiliency is amazing. Her husband dies suddenly, she is left a bereft and poor mother, some of the older children were married by then. She still had a house full to provide for, and she does. As her mother had never wasted, neither did Mary. Every scrap of food was used and every scrap of fabric from old clothes was used. Her faith is tested when her precious young grandson, Jacob, is ill with cancer and dies after a courageous two year battle. Mary lost three significant members of her family in less than four years. I highly recommend this book, especially in these Covid times, there is much to learn about staying the course, no matter what comes our way. 

The Ride of Her Life, by Elizabeth Letts. 2021. Biography. Ballantine Books. Subtitle:The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America. This book is written chronologically almost as a travelogue, but often reads like a good novel. In 1954, 63 year old Annie Wilkins decides decides to buy a horse,and ride to California from Maine, even though she’d barely ridden in years. Living alone on her family farm which was in arrears for property taxes; her doctor advised her to move to the County Home due to her chronic lung disease - to live out the last 2 to 4 years of her life. Annie quietly leaves her family farm with her newly acquired ex-racehorse, her mutt and an unfailing belief that Americans would treat a stranger with kindness. Her resiliency and determination are documented in her trail diary. It is an amazing story of survival despite weather, geographic and personal health challenges. The author traveled more than 10,000 miles researching the trail taken by Annie in this exceptionally well written biography. Annie became a media darling and even co-led the Cheyenne Rodeo Parade in 1955. I highly recommend this wonderful feel - good - about - America book. 

Summoned, by Megan B. Brown. 2021. Nonfiction Bible study book. Moody Publishers. Subtitle: An 8-week study of Esther   Answering a Call to the Impossible.The author’s contagious enthusiasm and blunt honesty made reading this book an interesting adventure. As a Sunday school teacher for more than 25 years, I felt like I had a pretty good understanding of the Bible. But I knew the frosted over sweet story of Esther and had never studied it in any depth. I never thought of sex traffickers in the Bible, but isn’t that exactly what  King Ahasuerus’s harem was? (Now I wonder if perhaps most of my Biblical knowledge is little more than the frosted over sweet versions?) This is an in-depth Bible study and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in increasing their personal understanding of the Bible.

This was a month with plenty of annoying Wi-Fi issues for us, no house phone service for one week and losing all our streaming contacts for the television, but I finally got all Wi-Fi streaming restarted. We watched two movies this month. One on Netflicks: Being the Ricardos. 2021. It was about a week in the lives of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, plus lots of flash backs and flash forwards. It was a good enough movie, but a bit chopped up and hard to follow the way it was sequenced. But like most Americans, I Love Lucy, and I’m glad we watched it. Living close enough to Jamestown, N.Y. that I’ve visited the Lucy/Desi Museum a couple times. If you haven’t been there, I highly recommend it. They have the actual sets from the first television show. It’s very nostalgic.

We went to the theater to see West Side Story. It was fabulous. But sad that society has made so little progress on the film’s tension topics from the1960’s till now. The acting, music and choreography were excellent. I highly recommend this movie. Now that our Wi-Fi is back up, we want to watch the original West Side Story, just to see how much the same and how different the two are.

We’re also enjoying the sweet and fresh series, All Creatures Great and Small on PBS on Sunday evenings. It was good to see the second season was finally starting. 

I was terribly behind on many of my homemaking tasks. Since the first of the year I’ve been working hard, one project at a time; finally I am ready to start writing again. I’ve made a pledge to myself, my husband, my family as well as my writing friends to start writing 2 hours a day to finish my next book. I will keep you posted on my progress.
 
Till next time, stay safe and well.

Later, Ann
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12/31/21
Happy and Healthy wishes to all for 2022
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 5:27 pm
Christmas has come and gone. We have high hopes for a healthy new year. We feel blessed to have seen so many of our family during the month of December. We’ve set so many extra place settings at our dining room table during the last few weeks that I dare not mention who all for fear of forgetting someone. Each and everyone is so special to us.

My brother recovered for Covid pneumonia, it was a struggle but he is back to work. Our family feels very fortunate. Our hearts and prayers go out to all those who have not been so lucky…

I watched lots of Christmas movies, Hallmark and others. And I have not read nearly as many books as I  usually do.

Kira, Kira by Cynthia Kadohata. Winner of Newbery Medal, 2004. It was an unforgettable story about two Japanese girls and their immigrant family’s struggle to adapt to life in America. I read it before giving it to my great granddaughter for Christmas. It is one of those stories that will stay with me for many years; I look forward to discussing it with her after she reads it.

I am half way through Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult. 2021. I rec’d it as a Christmas gift from my daughter. I recommended it without reading it to my Book Club and it was chosen as our book for January. I never recommended a book without first reading it before… At this point I’m not so sure that was a good idea. I will keep you posted on how this one turns out next month.

Our home has been so beautifully decorated for the holidays, but within the next two weeks, things will be put back to normal. Everything will be packed away for next Christmas season.

Till next month, please keep reading my friends. And stay safe and well.
Later,
Ann
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11/30/21
November Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 10:46 am
It’s a beautiful winter wonderland here in northwestern Pennsylvania. I hope all my readers had a lovely and blessed Thanksgiving. We did, so much to be thankful for, mostly just being together again…despite the free-floating pandemic anxiety that seems to be on everyone’s minds. Maybe especially ours, since while we feasted, my baby brother was still in the hospital on IVs and oxygen; slowly recovering from Covid pneumonia. He was discharged two days later and is still on oxygen at home. His recovery is slow but steady. It really hit him hard.
Our Air Force grandson, wife and 11-month-old son came home for Thanksgiving from South Dakota. It was grand to see them all again. Since it was the first time most of the rest of the family had seen the baby - the minute they walked in the door, someone grabbed the baby and he was so sweet, never cried as he was passed from one to another. I had to wait in line to hold him and I’m the Great Grandma!



We hosted a catered retirement party in our home for 18 people to honor our dear friend and his beautiful wife who recently retired from many years of practice as an orthopedic surgeon. It was truly a magical evening. Another couple co-hosted and split the cost with us.


My husband and I had a pleasant surprise from his cousin in Toronto who sent us a link in an Arabic Google Book Review site about his memoir, The Man From Baghdad. The writer praised his book and even made references to his author wife, “who is a fine writer in her own right.” It was accompanied by a photo of us taken on our front porch a couple years ago with lots of bright geraniums and an American flag. We don’t even remember the photo being taken. Small world!



I have read only three books this month. Two were tedious memoirs I’d never recommend to anyone to read. Of course, I won’t name the titles. I don’t do negative reviews.


The Heiress and the Highwayman by Lindsay Randall. Historical Fiction. 2021. This is a delightful story with many plot twists and likable wonderful characters. It is well researched, set in pre-industrial Gothic England during the 1600’s. The author deftly mixes suspense, danger, wit and romance to create a fast-paced novel you won’t want to stop reading until the last page and then it leaves the reader wanting more. Luckily for us it is the fifth in the To Woo an Heiress Series. It’s easily a stand-alone novel, but could easily entice a reader into wanting to read the first four while waiting for number six!



And movies! What can I say? We’ve been watching Hallmark Christmas movies almost every night. My husband loves them this year. (I attended my high school class reunion in October and when the now retired class genius said he loves to watch Hallmark movies, I thought to myself, if he thinks they are okay, then I will give them a good second look.) Good things about them: you don’t lose sleep over them, they are sweet stories, you don’t have to watch from the beginning and you don’t have to watch the end since you know the formula. But gosh they are nice and may even put a scrooge into a Christmas spirit.


Speaking of Christmas, we are all decorated and for us it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. 


Till next time, stay safe and well.  And keep reading, my friends. I highly recommend everyone read at least one Christmas novel each December, if you don’t know which one to read, then perhaps you could consider my Pressure Cooker Christmas.

Later, Ann
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10/30/21
October Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 2:15 pm
Happy Halloween on a cold rainy day from western Pennsylvania. I’m sitting here in the middle of piles of Christmas gifts bought throughout the year. My days slip by so quickly that I feel a strong urge to get things organized before Thanksgiving this year. My granddaughters have promised to help me wrap gifts, decorate and maybe even do some baking. Whew. I love the holiday season but especially this year I accept that I need a little help from my elves!


I have attended grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s soccer games this month. Luckily it was beautiful weather for each game. It is a delight to see each of them work so hard and get along so well with their teammates. It builds character and a strong work ethic. I admire the dedicated coaches who work so hard with their teams.


I attended my class reunion on October 8th. It was a wonderful evening, an informal picnic at a gracious class-member’s home. When I arrived, they were sitting around a fire pit and I couldn’t help commenting, “Good grief, everyone has white hair.” Someone retorted, “You have white hair too.” I laughed and said, “But I can’t see mine, unless I look in a mirror, and I see all of yours.” It was a great evening. Classmates traveled from California, Florida, Tenn., Colorado and distant parts of PA. Yet there were more than a dozen in the immediate vicinity who chose not to attend. Their loss, and ours too — they were missed. It was a great afternoon and evening, and it went by far too quickly as good times always do.


I’ve read a few good books this month:
The Vanishing Half  by Brit Bennett. Fiction. 2020. Riverhead Books of Penquin, Random House LLC. This was a mesmerizing novel, gripping with heartbreaking plot twists, great character development and psychological insights… as it challenges the reader to take a closer look at racism. Desiree and Stella are identical twins, both light blacks who grow up as inseparable soul mates in a Louisiana town where everyone is a light black, they feel it makes them better than the dark blacks but still less than the whites. There are several strong secondary characters who add depth to the story. The twins run away and their lives take them in totally different paths. Stella marries a rich white man… while Desiree marries a very dark black man. Both have daughters whom fate brings together. An unforgettable story, one I’d likely not chosen to read if not for it being my book club’s choice for this month.


My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier. Fiction. 1951. Doubleday & Co. A haunting story full of tension layers of deceit, and characters who were frequently less than likable. Plot twists to the end of the book. Just when the reader thinks he knows where it is heading, it does a u-turn. A great unforgettable novel.


The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate. Historical Fiction. 2020. Ballantine Books/Random House. I’ve come to realize Lisa Wingate is such a strong author than you just know it will be a good book if she wrote it. The Book of Lost Friends is one of her best. The format as per back cover of novel, “…brings to life the startling stories from actual “Lost Friends” advertisements that appeared in southern newspapers after the Civil War, as newly freed slaves desperately searched for loved ones who had been sold away.”  Two stories thread through the novel, one from Louisiana1875 and the other Louisiana1987. The plot twists between the two sets of characters and finally brings it to a very well developed conclusion. I highly recommend this book. It gives the reader lots to think about.


Where I Come From, Stories From The Deep South by Rick Bragg. Memoir Vignettes. 2020. I read this Pulitzer Prize winning writer’s Ava’s Man more than 15 years ago, followed by All Over But the Shout’n, I was hooked. He was awarded the Pulitzer in1996 for his descriptive and insightful stories about contemporary American life while working at the NYT. Ava’s Man was one of two books my mother read twice during the last months of her life. She loved it as did I. Though it’s a gritty and sad memoir of his childhood with soulful storytelling, wit and thought provoking perceptions, his poignant style keeps the reader turning the pages. In Where I Come From as in his other books, his mother is one of his most important characters. His southern writing is often compared to Pat Conroy; interestingly the two were close friends and avowed admirers of each others work. If you haven’t read Bragg yet, you are in for a treat!


We also saw two movies at our local Movie House:
Goldfinger starring Sean Connery. 1964. We planned to go see the new James Bond movie the next night and to get in the mood, I suggested we watch an old James Bond movie. We chose Goldfinger. It’s a terrible movie! I was shocked to think at one time I’d thought it was a good movie. 


No Time To Die, starring Daniel Craig. 2020. I have to say I find Daniel Craig to be a much better actor and James Bond than any of his predecessors. I liked this movie so much more than Goldfinger. It actually had a plot and decent story line, but don’t worry if you like action, plenty of that …  I lost track of the dead body count early in the movie!


Respect, starring Jennifer Hudson. This film profiles the life of Aretha Franklin, and Aretha had hand picked Jennifer Hudson to play herself before her death in 2018. It’s an excellent movie with a star-studded cast, I never knew much about Franklin’s life. Aretha had tremendous talent and came into her own but not without several large bumps in the road. I highly recommend this movie, it is worth watching. Excellent!


Recently we’ve been watching Hallmark Christmas movies again. Guaranteed, these movies won’t keep you awake at night and the endings almost always leave you smiling. Now what could be wrong with that?


Till next time, stay safe and well. And keep reading, my friends.
Later, Ann



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09/28/21
September Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 3:05 pm
As the nights get cooler and the leaves begin to change to the colors of autumn, I smile with anticipation of the changing season. Less yard work and more time to for inside activities, like writing. I’ve been itching to get back to work on my favorite novel I’ve written yet, ( I love the plot and the characters). As usual this month has flown by… I had a birthday party for myself on Labor Day, to celebrate my 74th birthday. Thirty-one family members came - mostly in cars or vans, but a couple in pick-ups and one on a huge motorcycle. Some people raise their eyebrows in dismay, you’re having your own birthday party? I just laugh and say, much better to do that than sit around feeling sorry for myself cause no one came to help me celebrate. It was so much fun! Five of my six granddaughters were here. One with her husband and children, another with her fiance and the three youngest with their boyfriends. The first time any of the boys had been to our home and for us to meet them. We were happily impressed with each one. My oldest grandson and his family were here too. I had phone calls from the two grands who live far away, and my long distance sister and brothers. All the younger ones enjoyed playing volleyball. Everyone enjoyed renewing family ties- there were very few family gatherings in the last year due to Covid, the new guys fit right in. My brother came as well as my sister, her husband, and several members of their extended family. I think everyone had almost as much fun as I did. And everyone brought a dish to share, made it much easier for me.

l also had the privilege of attending a football game for my ten year old great grandson. He shows much promise and takes the game very seriously. It was a fun evening. The following day I was able to travel with my daughter-in-law to watch her daughter play a college soccer game. It was a beautiful warm day and we had a great time. Her team lost but they played a really tough game. We were so proud of her and her teammates.


My review Forget Russia, I mentioned in last month’s blog has been posted on Story Circle. You can read it by clicking:    https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/forget-russia/

I’ve read only three novels this month:

Tender is the Night by F.Scott Fitzgerald. Drama. 1933, Charles Scribner’s Sons Publishing. This was my book club’s choice for September. I am sure I’d never have read it if it hadn’t been chosen. It is a very wordy book with far too many adjectives. It started slow but eventually held my interest, though I never really liked any of the characters, which makes it hard for me to read a book. (In a nutshell:The protagonists are a billionaire’s daughter who is sexually abused by her father, marries her psychiatrist which ruins his promising career. They live a life of luxury and parties in one mansion after another in France. They have two children, taken care of by nannies, and eventually divorce while their children are still young. He ends up practicing medicine where he started, in rural western New York, riding a bicycle to and from work due to his alcoholism.)     *My cousin encourages me to give Fitzgerald another chance and read The Great Gatsby. I probably will since she’s never led me astray on book recommendations.

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny. Murder/Mystery. 2021. Minotaur Books. Ms. Penny again proves she is a master of her craft. Chief Armand Gamache tackles one of his most difficult assignments yet. All the new characters are suspects at one point or another, as well as one of her original characters. I couldn’t figure out for sure who dunnit until it was finally revealed on the last pages. She develops her characters so well and even though her books unfold according to her well worn formula, each one is fresh and engaging. And her Three Pines returning characters continue to reveal layers of interest that were never known to the readers before. Quoting one paragraph from the book jacket: “Discussions become debates, debates become arguments, which turn into fights. As sides are declared, a madness takes hold.”  The hot topic is euthanasia, to save the government money in the care of the sickest, oldest and most needy patients. *This novel was a birthday gift from my reader-cousin/friend.

Captured By The Captain, A Grayson Brothers Novel. by Wendy Lindstrom and Cali Coleman. Romance/Suspense. 2021. Rustic Studio Publishing. Wonderful plot and likable well-developed characters. These two veteran romance writers have created an exciting novel that will keep readers turning the pages to find out what kidnapped Grace Covington will do, is it Stockholm syndrome or something far better?  Maybe ‘Saved by the Captain’ would be a better
title or not? You will have to read this one to decide for yourself. A host of secondary characters build the story into a rich tapestry set in 1892, when telephones were available to the wealthy and times were changing. An excellent escape book that leaves the reader feeling enriched for taking the time to read it.  *This novel was another birthday gift from my friend, author Cali Coleman.

We finished watching Grace and Frankie and have not yet found another show we want to watch. We also went to the Bradford Movie House and saw Clint Eastwood’s Cry Macho. It wasn’t the greatest or the worst movie either, but it was entertaining and we enjoyed it.

Till next time, stay well and keep reading my friends.

Later, Ann

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08/30/21
August Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 3:31 pm
The lazy hazy crazy days of summer are rolling by with record speed. I’ve put many hours into my flower gardens and keeping our very large lawn mowed this summer. (Psst… please don’t tell anyone but I LOVE driving our lawn tractor!) The frequent rains have kept everything growing with minimal efforts needed to water plants. Yeah! Northwest Pennsylvania is a beautiful lush green panorama. We celebrated our annual family reunion this August 8th,, it was wonderful to see so many family members again, many for the first time in two years due to last years ’shut down’. We’ve had a few visits from friends who returned to the area after moving far away, they’ve all been impressed with the beautiful array greens in our corner of the world. Always good to keep up with old friends.

My husband has been discharged from VNA physical therapy and continues to work hard at his assigned exercises. His recovery has been nothing short of amazing. He even helped mow the lawn last week on the back-up riding mower. What a guy!

I will be part of a panel discussion on Sunday afternoon, September 5th, 2-4, at the Watershed Book Store in Brookville, PA. We will be discussing building a writing platform, publishing and marketing. I’m looking forward to it and my two multi-published award winning author-friends, ’sisters from different mothers’ are going with me. We will have a fun day.

I’ve read several books this month:
Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith. Fiction. 2009. Polygon, British Publisher. This is another entertaining novel packed with lots of McCall Smith’s typical quirky characters. It is light reading with a some deep messages, delivered by the most unexpected sources. The plot is simple and fresh. The characters, once you get them all sorted out are mostly likable. The title is the nickname given to a genteelly crumbling mansion block in London’s vibrant Pimlico district. The author’s trademark wit, charm and lightness of touch make this another fun read.

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen. Fiction. 2018. Random House. A simple yet layered story about a middle-aged woman and her empty nest marriage, their family and a tight knit NYC neighborhood. It provides us country folks with a peak at every day life in NYC. The author creates a situation that could happen anywhere and shows that people are basically the same wherever they live in this modern world.
The characters are likable and believable. The plot unfolds surprises that will stay with the reader long after reading the last page.

Murder at the Bus Depot - #4 in Blue Plate Mystery series by Judy Alter. Fiction/Mystery. 2018. Alter Ego Press. If you enjoy fast paced mysteries full of quirky likable characters, this is the book for you. Murder at the Bus Depot has tension between the big city developer who sees the potential for big profits in a small town and the residents who want to preserve their history as well as their low key lifestyle. A 30 year old unsolved murder, and a new murder thickens the plot. Recurring Blue Plate series characters Kate Chandler and her beau David lead the action. Yet this novel can easily be read as a stand alone, though I suspect you will likely want to read other novels about these characters once you get started. Definitely a fun read!

Forget Russia by L. Bordetsky-Williams. Fiction. 2020.Tailwind Press. This is a deeply serious book that will expand your understanding of Russia and that of an immigrant’s psyche. In1980, Anna, a naive American college student is about to leave for Moscow for her senior year of college when her mother tells her, “Your problem is you have a Russian soul.” Anna is a second generation American/Russian Jew; she has a secret agenda to find out what happened to her great grandmother, Zlata, in Revolutionary Russia in 1918. The plot moves smoothly from one time period to another throughout the novel. The characters are well developed and the pacing keeps the reader turning the pages as layers of deception unfold. This is a worthwhile and important book to help us understand WHY so many oppressed people have wanted to come to America in the past - including all our ancestors. And why the oppressed still try to come here… the USA is their last great hope. There is simply nowhere else like America.

Two Sisters - A Father and Their Journey Into the Syrian Jihad by Asne Severstad. Nonfiction. 2016. Farrar, Strous & Giroux.(Translated from Norwegian by Sean Kinsella.)
This a disturbing BUT very important book for anyone is who is shocked at the daily news of what is happening in Afghanistan. It is not about Afghanistan but much of the book is about ISIS. The mentality of radical Islamic thinking is beyond the imaginations of most Americans. (I had bad dreams for several nights while reading this book.) This is a true story about an immigrant Somali family, who became Norwegian citizens. Two Muslim teenage sisters transform from being ‘typical western teens’ to radical Islamic teachings in a matter of months. Their mother and a group of other Somali mothers worried about their children’s lack of cultural and religious influence.They hire a charismatic young Islamic scholar to teach their children. Unbeknownst to them he is a devious Islamic radical. The two sisters drop their western attitudes and start wearing full cover hijabs. At ages 16 and19, they carefully plan and travel to Syria during the height of the Al Qaida, ISIS uprising.
Their father begged and borrowed to make many trips to Syria to bring his daughters home. They both marry Islamic terrorists and start families. The father is obsessed with rescuing his daughters who do not want to be rescued. It tears their family apart. Mom returns with their two young sons to Somalia. Generous Norwegian welfare money keeps them going for awhile, until their situation is discovered by the Norwegian authorities. Neither parent works. The teenage son is left behind in Norway on his own. This is a well researched work by an award winning Norwegian journalist who has covered war zones for many years. The author covers the sisters and their family from every possible angle. This book is layered, perceptive and places the problem of radicalization in human terms. Pacing and plot make it read like a thriller. I highly recommend this book.
 
We’ve enjoyed watching all three seasons of The Kominsky Method, starring Michael Douglas who gave up trying to look young for this role. It was recommended to us by my sister and her husband, and to be honest, we didn’t like it much for the first couple of episodes. And then we were hooked. It was a fun show to watch.

Now we’re watching Grace and Frankie, (or is it Frankie and Grace?), starring Lilly Tomlin and Jane Fonda. It is downright funny in a bit of a sick way. I have avoided Jane Fonda movies for years, because of her actions during the Vietnam War… and I feel a bit guilty watching this show because of that. BUT it’s really funny and we’re enjoying it. My sister recommended this  one too.

Until next time, please keep reading my friends. And stay safe in these troubled times.
 
Later,
Ann
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07/30/21
July Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 4:55 pm
I’ve been trying to start this blog for the last eight hours. It has been the kind of day. First our computer guy who’s had some serious health issues for the last few weeks had time to do all the accumulated computer updates on my pc. That took a couple hours before lunch, then the medic alert I ordered a few days ago from Amazon arrived and needed charged. The activation and registration took more than an hour. Plus the Occupational Therapist from VNA was here to work with my husband this afternoon. My husband’s daughter from Switzerland is visiting for the first time in two years, (due to the pandemic), she’s an incredible help. Throw in a few short family phone calls…it’s been a busy day! My husband is doing so much better now than he was a month ago. Thank God!

We have not had to water our gardens due to the frequent and generous amounts of rain. The weather has remained warm though not like the dreadful heat waves of June. We spent a week at time share condos at Treasure Lake with my sisters and their husbands. My youngest brother and his wife came over for Sunday dinner, they are both still working, not retired like us oldsters. We enjoyed talking, laughing and spending time with various grandchildren and watching them interact and make friends with each other, their second or would it be third cousins? Even though it was a rainy week, we had sunshine for at least four or five hours everyday, except Tuesday, and that day we used the indoor pool and crafts with the grandchildren at the condo. The pool was wonderful and one of our highlights was a long boat ride on Treasure Lake with my sister’s son-in-law driving my daughter’s boat - as the sun sparkled off the water. The week passed far too quickly.

I’ve read only three books this month. Looking back, I wonder how I even found time to do that! I’m also in the middle of two more that I didn’t find time to finish yet- more about those two books next month.
Falling by T.J. Newman, thriller/fiction. Debut novel. Avid Readers Press, Simon & Schuster, Inc. 2021. WOW! This is not a book I’d recommend to anyone who is about to take a flight. The author was an airline stewardess for ten years, that experience provided her access to the nuances of the routines of the long haul flights and the working relationships between the onboard staff. Her what-ifs built this debut novel into a suspenseful edge-of-your-seat thriller. Authenticity, crisp descriptive writing with a great plot and characters you really care about- it’s s all there.  Newman even manages to make the bad guys likable which of course complicates the story. A fantastic novel. Her biggest problem will be coming up with a strong second novel in the long deep shadows of the success of Falling.

We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet. Historical fiction. 2019. Putnam. Rave reviews in enticed me to buy this novel at Walmart last week. It was a good read but I certainly was not dazzled as the The Guardian, (UK), said the reader would be. It is set in England from 1932 through 2010, though the novel actually begins in December 1940. It moves smoothly from one time frame to another and is easy to follow. The characters are well developed and very likeable. The English stiff upper lip spirit has been well researched and used through out the novel with great skill. The author takes still another view of how WWII effected the English citizens. Definitely a worthwhile read.

MURDER at Peacock Mansion, A Blue Plate Cafe’ Mystery, by Judy Alter. Murder mystery/fiction. 2015. Alter Ego Publishing. I’ve fallen in love with books by Judy Alter. I ordered this one from Amazon and was certainly not disappointed. It’s part of a series but can easily be read as a stand alone novel. Some of her characters are a bit quirky, yet they are believable and mostly likeable. The plot keeps you guessing and if you live in a city, her small town stories may just make you decide to try life in the slow lane. It’s good for light summer reading.

I was happily surprised to receive my copy of the summer edition of The Watershed Journal, An Extremely Local  Literary Magazine and find my short story, The Callahan Sisters had been included. I’d completely forgotten about submitting it. It made my day!

We’ve not found another series we love enough to stream or been to any movies. But we’ve read about a few good movies that will soon be released.

I hope you all stay well and enjoy the rest of your summer. 
Till next time, keep reading, my friends, it can bring peace to your soul.

Ann

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06/29/21
June Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 3:05 pm
What a month it’s been… My husband fell and broke his right arm on June 4, he tripped on our small dog and fell straight back from our back door step. As a result, he lost his ability to walk for several days. (Yes, he broke his arm and then couldn’t walk!) My nursing skills were quickly put to use, 24/7. (So much different from taking care of patients for 8 or 12 hour shifts in a health care setting.) He is doing much better. The local emergency room staff was professional and kind for the hours of treatment he received while there. Our wonderful occupational therapist neighbor and friend was here to help as needed, and trust me she was especially needed that first week. He slowly regained his ambulation and was even able to go on a long-planned family beach vacation to Bethany Beach, Delaware just two weeks after the fall. The family was helpful and he made fantastic strides toward total recovery while there. The change of scene did us both a world of good. He is home and impressing his VNA physical therapist, as well as his occupational therapist. He continues to work hard with his assigned exercises, now uses his cane more than his wheel chair. 

I might also add that vacation was great, we shared a large house with up to 22 family members at times, it turned out to be a fluid visit for some who could only come the beginning of the week, others only the last part of the week, etc. There were 8 children under the age of ten…and there were times my husband happily removed his hearing aids. Lots of stories told, lots of hugs and laughter - wonderful memories.

I only read three books this month, looking back, I wonder how I manged that; most days I barely had time to read the newspaper.

Stargazer by Anne Hilliman. 2021, Harper Pub. Fiction. The sixth book in the Leaphorn and Chee series, but it is not necessary to read the first books in the series before reading this one. I had no difficulty in jumping in on this most recent book and it is a strong stand-alone novel, though I’ll likely read the first five since this one was that good. It’s a book about murder, deception the Navajo culture. A real page turner set in the beautiful landscape of the American southwest.

It’s Never Too Late by Kathy Lee Gifford. 2020. Thomas Nelson Pub. Memoir. You may think you know Kathy Lee due to her many years of television exposure. I did but I was so wrong. This witty and chatty book starts out with a beautiful foreword by Dolly Parton. Kathy Lee’s strong Christian faith is evident from the first chapter throughout the entire book. Her love and respect for her family is equal to her faith. It’s an uplifting book and I highly recommend it.

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan. 2009, Hatchett Pub. Memoir. My neighbor loaned this one to me. The author is an excellent writer, her love of family is apparent from the beginning and she uses her wit and insight to weave a fabulous story that is uniquely her own. “A cancer survivor’s memoir with a welcome twist. Warm, funny and a touch bittersweet.”  — Kirkus Reviews

We also finished watching The Crown on Netflicks. It was fabulous. The portrayal of Princess Dianna and Prince Charles was heartbreaking. And I gained a great respect for Queen Elizabeth, that woman has grit.

Now we’re streaming the 14th season of Heartland on the UP faith and family site. We’re so happy to be able to watch the current season. It is televised in Canada each Thursday evening, we can stream it the following Friday. This season is full of surprises.

Till next time, stay safe and well, and keep reading my friends.

Later,  Ann

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05/30/21
May Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 2:19 pm
Another month has passed by so quickly. The following quote seems to fit this occasion: “A day can really slip by when you’re deliberately avoiding what you’re supposed to do.” — Bill Watterson. Except that I don’t intend to avoid my tasks at hand, I just seem to run out of time before getting to it all. Okay, I admit that sounds like an excuse but I believe it to be the truth. I’ve been very busy preparing our lawn and gardens for spring and summer. Lots of potted plants completed and a few more to go. And lots of hours spent on the riding lawn mower which I admit to rather enjoying. My writing projects are still mostly still inside my head. But they are very much alive and well there!

We spent time with our family which is always a joy for us, the grands and great grands are so full of life and adventures. Each family member is a treasure and so much fun!

I’ve read a few good books this month:
Dead Letters by Jessica Weible, Historical nonfiction. 2020. This was well researched and well written book by one of the founders of The Watershed Writers Group of N/W Pennsylvania as well as co-editor of The Watershed Journal. Dead Letters provides a birds eye view of early rural mail delivery in the USA, historical facts about the post office and wonderful stories about the ancestors and descendants of the writers of a forgotten box of letters rescued from an  abandoned building that was about to be demolished. Her thorough research connected generations of those writers. Dead Letters is a wonderful book, the kind you can read more than once and be thankful the writer took the time to complete this awesome project.

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline. Historical fiction. 2020. If you’re even slightly fascinated by Australia, this may be just the book for you. I’ve read other books by Australian writers that went into different depths on the early Anglo/prisoners and their endured hardships in settling Australia. The Exiles follows the story of a young pregnant orphaned girl who is falsely accused and sent off to Australia on a slave ship. It is a beautifully written novel that quickly pulls the reader in .(Even though there were Aboriginal people who inhabited Australia for fifty thousand years, in the1840s the British government considered it uninhabited and untamed. Sounds a bit like the settling of the America in the 1700’s.)  A very good book.

Eleanor, by David Michaelis. Historical biography. 2020. I’ve watched the Ken Burn’s FDR mini series on the Roosevelts but that was about my total knowledge on the Roosevelts besides a few American history classes over the years. Eleanor was very well researched and very well written. The first couple of chapters started slow but I really loved it after that and it was a page turner. I gained much respect for Eleanor Roosevelt. (As a child, I remember my great grandmother telling me unkind things about Eleanor, my great grandma was a staunch Republican and I’m sure she believed those statements to be totally true at the time!) I highly recommend this educational and informative biography, it reads like a good novel after you get into it.

The Paris Library, by Janet Skeslien Charles. Historical fiction. 2021. This was my Book Club’s choice for this month, and I didn’t have time to attend this month’s meeting, though I heard they had an excellent discussion about the book. The Paris Library is yet another WW2 novel that goes back and forth in from 1940s to present time. It had some interesting plot twists and some of the characters were very well developed. But it was much like several other books I’ve read on WW2.

We finished watching all the available Heartland episodes and are anxiously waiting the release of Season 14 later this year. We watched a couple action movies on Prime that were not particularly memorable but entertaining. Now we are re-watching The Crown and loving it.

I wish you all a good Memorial Day holiday. As a child I accompanied my mother and aunts to the cemeteries of our deceased grandparents, great aunts and uncles. Now I live away from the area and my sister takes care of that. I am forever thankful for her diligence.

Til next time, keep reading my friends.
Later,
Ann
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04/30/21
April Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 3:07 pm

I hope this blog finds all my readers in good health, and feeling a bit more optimistic as we begin May 2021… than we were last year, facing May 2020. Since we’d both rec’d the Covid injections and with blessings from my husband’s doctor, we felt so optimistic that we took a road trip on I-90 to Rapid City, S. D. We left the day after Easter and returned April 14th. It did us both a world of good and was easy driving since we stayed on the same highway for the entire round trip, (3,670 miles). We chose our destination because that’s where our grandson, his wife and infant son live.They are both in the Air Force. We had a wonderful time. The baby is 3 months old, so alert, sweet, and cuddly. He also has the cutest laughter, straight from his little tummy! They have a lovely home and were gracious hosts; they’re both working hard to complete their bachelor degrees while on active duty. I spent hours on the rocking chair with the baby, singing him the same songs I’d sang to his daddy and granddaddy. They also drove us to see the local attractions which included, the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, small herds of wild buffalo free-roaming on state park lands, as well as the Badlands. The weather was cool and very windy in S.D. but no snow and decent driving weather.


I’ve read only three books this month:
News of the World by Paulette Jiles. 2016. Historical Fiction. (My book club’s book choice for this month.) A well researched, layered and powerful novel about a ten year old girl who was captured by the Kiowa when she was six, after witnessing the massacre of her parents and siblings. She’d forgotten the ways of the white people; and behaved like a captured Indian girl. The elderly Captain Kidd was given the task of returning her to her childless aunt and uncle. The Captain made his living traveling throughout northern Texas in the perilous unsettled years after the Civil War with a stack of newspapers from the east, London, Europe and beyond. It is beautifully written, descriptive and full of insight. I highly recommend this novel.

The Second Battle Of The Alamo by Judy Alter. 2020. Historical Nonfiction. (I won this book on an online giveaway contest, I never win contests so I was excited to read it!)  It is another well researched book about Texas. The feisty preservationist and historian Adina De Zavala and heiress Clara Driscoll are bigger than life, real Texas women, who lived in the late 1800’s to the middle of the1900s.This wonderful book tells the story of how these two very different women reluctantly joined forces to save the Alamo,Texas’s most famous landmark.This was a great book to dabble into US /Texas history. I thought I was pretty good on my historical facts until I started reading this gem of a book.I highly recommend The Second Battle Of The Alamo.

Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins. 2019. Contemporary fiction. This was a wonderful book that kept me burning the midnight oil several nights. It is a real page turner, a family saga dealing with four generations, rich and poor, well developed believable characters and many plot twists. I highly recommend this novel, it is my first Kristan Higgins book, but it will not be my last. I don’t know how I missed her, she’s a N Y Times best selling writer with more than twenty books plus three series to her name. Wow!
Story Circle published my review of Dignity in Death: Accepting, Assisting and Preparing for the End of Life by Barbara Frandsen. You can read the enter review by clicking:
https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/dignity-in-death-accepting-assisting-and-preparing-for-the-end-of-life/        It
deals with forgiveness, getting your house in order, - the power of
family, love, faith and despair. It is a powerful little book and should
be a must read for all.  *This review was chosen as Review of the Month  by Story Circle.
   
We’re still binge watching Heartland, and totally loving it. We are in the middle of Season 11. Prime now also provides Season 12, but not 13 yet. Season 14 is currently available as a weekly show on Canadian TV. and the good news is, Season 15 is currently being filmed. Lots of good television  shows to anticipate in the future. We have so many friends and family who are also enjoying nightly viewings of Heartland!
We’re also enjoying Atlantic Crossing on PBS. It’s an excellent series about Norway in WW2.

On Monday my Mother Love, Willow Lane, Book 2 will go live on for another BookSweeps Mother’s Day Giveaway. **I will send you more info about that Monday evening or Tuesday.**

Till next time, keep reading my friends.

Later,
  Ann
 

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03/30/21
March Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 4:49 pm
With a great deal of relief I’m glad to say we’ve both had our Covid vaccines. I hope any of my readers who want the vaccine have been able able to get it or will be able to soon. And for those of you who do not want it, I hope you’ll think it over very carefully, and possibly reconsider. But the last I checked, we still live in a free country and we must respect each other’s decisions.  Regardless of which side of the Covid vaccine debate you are on, both sides are adamantly sure they are right, we must take a collective deep breath and carry on. After all isn’t that the corner-stone of a working democracy?

Another month has flown by, and I’ve been busy preparing for our family Easter celebration. The weather looks like it will cooperate for an outdoor Easter egg hunt. We will have 24 for our Easter dinner, give or take one or two. After the lonesome holidays of 2020, we feel blessed. Hallelujah!

We’re still binging on Heartland and loving it, though I get so angry with Tim sometimes that I shout at the smart television to warn new characters about him. But they never listen. We are on Season 8. Prime only has up to and including season 9. Then we’ll have to find a new source. ( I can’t help being hooked since the grandfather reminds me so much of my dad.)

Due to our extended television viewing this past month, I’ve read fewer books: 
 
The Sound Between the Notes by Barbara Linn Probst. 2021. Fiction. I loved this unusual novel. Please read my review at:  https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/the-sound-between-the-notes/
 
Dignity in Death by Barbara Frandsen. 2020. Self-Help. This is an essential guidebook, full of necessary facts, though not the kind of information we relish thinking or talking about. That is probably why so many people leave this world without having their houses in order. The author makes a good case for preparing for the end before we are at the end; Dignity in Death is 137 pages of straightforward guidelines to help simplify the quandary for those we leave behind. We all know we will not live forever, that death is a universal experience. I especially loved her suggestion that we write letters to be opened after we are gone. What a treasure that would be for our survivors. I highly recommend Dignity in Death as THE simple self-help go-to guidebook for everyone. My complete review will soon be posted on Story Circle.

The Return by Nicholas Sparks. 2020. Fiction. This was an exceptionally good book by Sparks. It was evident that lots of research into PTSD, war injuries and psychiatry had been done before he started writing it. The plot and characters were so engrossing that I was hard pressed to keep up with some of my daily chores while reading it. I recommend this novel with two thumbs up.
 
I don’t know if you are familiar with BookBub. It is a resource used by more than ten million readers throughout the world. I’ve been a member for almost two years, and have been regularly reviewing books. You can look at my eclectic list of book reviews by clicking:
https://www.bookbub.com/profile/ann-mccauley?list=reviews  After reading my pages, you can check out the phenomenal BookBub website. Enjoy!

Till next time, please stay safe and well.
And keep reading my friends.

Later, Ann
.

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02/27/21
February Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 3:05 pm
What a month of winter weather we’ve had! The ice and show are finally starting to melt, and none too soon, even for a snow-lover like me. I love the change of seasons and after this month, I admit that I’m ready for spring! I trust you’ve all survived the worst of this winter, too. Our tribulations with cold weather have been minimal compared with that of Texans this past couple weeks. I have two brothers and their families who live near Dallas,Texas. They had temps of minus 14 degrees. And they had as much snow as we did, though we still have lots of snow, and their snow has melted. We’ve not had any temps below zero this winter, just steady cold - in the low digits, teens and 20s day after day after day. We’re prepared for it and expect cold weather. Those Texas folks are definitely not accustomed to such extreme cold weather and heavy snow. It was a real hardship for so many of them.

I am hopeful spring will be the start of new beginnings for all of us. In January and February my husband had both his Covid vaccinations. I had my first Covid vaccine early February and will get my second one March 3. By St Patrick’s Day, we will feel safer re-establishing a more normal lifestyle. A new normal that will still include mandatory masks and continued social distancing.

A dear friend sent me a newspaper report on Watershed Book Store last week. A few days later I traveled to Brookville, PA  and visited this charming book store. I joined The Watershed Journal Literacy Group and look forward to interacting with this group of regional writers. I encourage anyone who is in the area to visit this wonderful book store.You can check out the book store’s hours at THEWRITERSHEDJOURNAL.ORG or THEWATERSHEDJOURNAl@GMAIL.COM. (If you cut and paste these to the internet, they pop right up.)

I’ve read several books this month, as usual an eclectic mix:  

Greenlight by Mathew McConaughy. 2020. Memoir. Crown Publishing.  I’m mostly not a fan of memoirs, but this one caught my eye. And no, I’m not a rabid Mathew McConaughy fan. I liked him before I read this memoir and after reading it, I still do.  Greenlight is a love letter to life. It’s also a guide to catching more greenlights - but he reminds us that yellow and reds eventually turn green too. McConaughy is a born story teller and has journaled since he was a boy.His straightforward rowdy stories, and hard-earned wisdom make for a very interesting and thought-provoking read. His writing often takes a lyrical style, as in, “…getting wet while trying to dance between the raindrops.”  He values family and faith, as many of us do. I highly recommend this memoir.

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara 1974, Historical fiction. Winner of the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. A friend shared this novel with me, I’d never read it before and I was totally absorbed in the story. It’s an exceptional novel, one of the best I’ve ever read. I watched the movie several months ago. The novel is soo much more. It takes the reader into the minds of the Gettysburg generals on both sides of the battle. The meticulous research this author did to write this book is apparent from the first page. I highly recommend this historical novel.

On Traigh Lar Beach by Dianne Ebertt Beeaf. 2020. Fiction. She Writes Press. You can read my review of this novel at Story Circle.org by clicking:  https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/on-traigh-lar-beach/  I gave it a five star rating. The first half of On Traigh Lar Beach (Traigh,
pronounced ‘try”, is Gaelic for sandy, and Lar means floor),is about a Scottish writer who travels with her husband to their favorite beach for a week’s vacation to celebrate her winning the prestigious British Comstock Writing Contest. Erica’s elation is short lived as self-doubts and feelings of inadequacy overwhelm her. Her husband refuses to accept her pessimism. She can’t imagine what to write about next until the last day when they come across a tangle of seaweed and flotsam on the beach, she creates a unique story about each of the thirteen different items in the debris. But then, how could she not with her husband telling her every day, “You can do this Erica.” 
   The second half is a novella, Fan Girls.This is a well-developed engrossing plot involving four women of similar ages from totally different backgrounds who are obsessed with the lead singer in an 80s rock band.     On Traigh Lar Beach is a fun engrossing anthology.The pacing keeps readers turning the pages and these characters will stay with readers long after the last page. It will appeal to anyone whose ever been a super-fan, as well as those who like to read a variety of genres, this book combines fourteen excellently crafted stories.


       The American Spirit by David McCullough. 2017. Anthology: historical speeches. If you have not read any of David McCullough’s books, I encourage you to start as soon as possible. He makes history come alive on the pages of his books. And learning about the sacrifices our forefathers made to create the USA is necessary to truly appreciate the great country we live in today. Mr. McCullough has won two Pulitzer Prizes and was nominated for a third. This was his eleventh book. I’ve read seven, with plans to read the others in the near future. His books are unforgettable treasures. After finishing The American Spirit, it became obvious to me that we’re all transient in this life, just passing through. I see in my grandchildren the same invincibility that I felt as a young person. As the years have quickly slipped away, I’ve joined ranks with the elderly. I solemnly realize now that every generation has likely had their youthful fantasy of invincibility that metamorphoses into a resolute acceptance of our transient existence in this world.


    Finding Mrs. Ford  by Deborah Goodrich Royce. 2019. The reader is immediately absorbed in the flashbacks between the steamy summer of 1979 in suburban Detroit with warring gangsters.Thirty-five years later in the upscale snooty world of Watch Hill, R.I., a wealthy widow ’s world is turned upside down. Plot twists, excellent pacing, and good character development make this debut novel a great read. It will certainly take your mind off the political conflicts of the day. I enjoyed reading this novel.


The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin. 2019. Harper Collins. The Last Romantics is a one-of-a-kind novel, one of the best I’ve read in recent years. It begins in 2079, narrated by the wise 102 year-old Fiona Skinner. The story moves flawlessly from past to present and back again. Fiona is four when her dentist father suddenly dies. Her life as well as her two older sisters and her older brother were turned upside down.They lose their comfortable middle-class home and are forced to live in a small shabby rental house many blocks away. Their mother falls into and untreated deep depression, referred to as a ‘two-year Pause’  through-out the novel. The oldest sister was 11 ad did her best but there were still nights they went to bed hungry. The Skinner children were on their own. The pace of The Last Romantics is perfect as it examines the many dimensions of love. The relationships of the siblings throughout their lives are full of convoluted ins and outs with plenty of give and take that are necessary for families to work. he wonderful character development and carefully created multifaceted plot will evoke and reform your understanding of family. Beautiful conclusion. I loved this book!

We watched The Little Things, starring Denzel Washington at our local Movie Theater a couple weeks ago. It was another edge of your seat thriller. The kind of movie that our young grandson, Ethan used to remind me, “Nana, its just a movie!” And now Ethan is daddy to a handsome baby boy who looks just like he did as a baby. (What did I say about time marching on?)

We’ve been streaming some interesting and entertaining television shows. We watched two seasons of Jack Ryan for the second time and got much more out of it than the first viewing. We regret there are only two seasons. We’re on the second season of a Canadian series, Heartland, about a family horse farm. I love it. Perhaps since I grew up on a farm with lots of animals, including plenty of riding horses, this show is like a comfort blanket to me. My daughter told me its a very long series, fourteen seasons completed already.

Till next time, keep reading my friends. And please stay safe and well.

Later, Ann


 

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