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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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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01/30/21
January 2021 Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 5:03 pm
Good-Bye and Good Riddance 2020! I’ve never felt like this about another year, but 2020 has been so full of angst with the social isolation, ominous clouds of Covid-19 concerns, masks, — not to mention the political unrest and divisions within our beautiful USA. Of course, there were good things that happened in 2020. Most people have learned how to Zoom, though I find it a poor substitute for in-person interaction. And many more people learned to ’stream’ movies and television series. We’ve all had much more time to spend with our housemates, read books and stream shows to watch on television.

It’s been bitter cold with plenty of snow in our area for the last couple weeks… after what my dad always called that the January thaw, the first two weeks were unseasonably warm weather. We kept our Christmas tree and lights up longer than we ever have before, I guess we needed the bright lights to remember to count our blessings during these long dark days of winter. For the last ten years we’ve gone to coastal S.C. for a winter break. We missed that getaway this year.

We had exciting HAPPY news on January 5th, our grandson and his wife, both active duty Air Force, had their first baby, a beautiful healthy almost 6 lb baby boy. He looks so much like his daddy did when he was born. We can’t wait to meet him and hold him. His name is Levi Samuel, the middle name is after his grandpa, our son, Sam. They are in Rapid City, S.D. Maybe after we both get our Covid vaccines we will be able to manage a trip to S.D. I sure hope so. He is our 8th great grandchild; we are blessed.

I’ve had time to read several books this month.

I read Flying Free by Cecelia Aragon. Memoir. 2020. Blackstone Publishing. It’s a fascinating and poignant story. I rated it 5 stars. My review is posted on Story Circle.org @ https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/flying-free/

I also read How to Make a Life by Florence Reiss Kraut. Historical fiction. 2020. She Write Press. It’s a layered story about a Jewish family with many threads woven through this intense story of four generations, starting in Ktovka, Ukraine in 1905 and ends in NYC in 2012. I rated it 5 stars. You can read my review on Story Circle.org @ https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/how-to-make-a-life/

The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay. Memoir. 1956. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York. This book was called a Masterpiece in its day, written in different style than today’s writers use. It is a much appreciated Christmas gift. It truly was… “funny and sad lighthearted and deep, flippant and profound…for it contains passages that show a thorough understanding of both love and faith, and of what happens when they come into conflict.”…Peter Parker, The NY Times (1956)  Another reviewer from the Atlantic Monthly called it: “… a tour de force of sustained comedy.” It did make me laugh out-loud many times while reading. And laughing out-loud is a refreshing experience during these dark days!

The Darling Dahlias and the Voodoo Lily by Susan Wittig Albert. Historical Fiction. 2020. Persevero Press. Albert is a prolific author who has penned many good books, among them three series. This novel is part of a series but can be read alone without any difficulty. Set in a depression-era southern small town, USA. I really enjoyed the layered plot, well-developed characters, the colloquial dialogue suspense and wit.

We Gather Together by Denise Kiernan. Historical Nonfiction. 2021. Dutton. (From inside the book’s jacket: “This is a biography of an idea: gratitude, as a compelling human instinct, and a global concept, more than a mere holiday… It is anchored amid the strife of the Civil War, and driven by the fascinating story of Sara Josepha Hale, a widowed mother with no formal schooling…who campaigned for decades to make a real annual national holiday of thanks.” There’s a whole lot more to the establishment of Thanksgiving Day than the Indians and early Pilgrims sharing a feast together. An important book to read. Another much appreciated Christmas gift.

The Promise of Ankles, A 44 Scotland St. Novel by Alexander McCall Smith. Fiction. 2020. Anchor Books.
This book is part of a series but can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. the plot and and characters are well developed. (Spoiler: there are a lot of characters to keep straight, requires more than average concentration or perhaps a notepad to list them would help, wish I’d thought of that when I was reading it…) But the story is very entertaining, he’s a wonderful writer, there are layers of depth to his characters and I laughed out-loud several times, his wit is such fun. He includes poetry that he gives his characters credit for writing — better poetry than I’ve read in some contemporary poetry books.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. Fiction. 2020. This was an engrossing literary novel. The characters were wonderfully developed, pacing was perfect and the plot had just the right amount of twists and turns to keep me wanting more. It was on of those novels I hated to see end, it was like I’d made new friends and wanted to see what would happen next in their lives. I highly recommend this novel.

Anxious People by Fredrik Blackman. Fiction. 2020. This book was a typical Blackman laugh-out-loud novel with well-developed characters who find themselves in the most unlikely predicament: being held hostage at a real estate apartment open house. Yet Blackman still manages to develop characters with depth as the Stockholm Syndrome takes hold making readers care what will happen to each one of them. Another great book! 
The Mystery of Mrs.Christie by Marie Benedict. 2021. Historical Nonfiction. This book was thoroughly researched by the author, dealing with Agatha Christie’s first marriage to her unfaithful husband Archie Christie. Specifically with her eleven day disappearance in December 1926. All over England newspaper headlines speculated were that Mrs. Christie had been murdered or had committed suicide. Meanwhile she’d been nestled away in a swank spa under the name of her husband’s mistress. She’d planned and plotted her disappearance as carefully as she’d written her books. (*Agatha Christie wrote 82 detective novels, two main series: Hercules Poirot and Miss Marple, 6 romance novels,19 plays and 14 short story collections. Her books have been translated into more than 100 languages, only the Bible and Shakespeare have been translated into more languages. She was born 1890, died 1975.)

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Wares. Fiction-Suspense. 2019. This is our book club book for this month. And I almost forgot to read it!  Rarely do I read suspense that I do not figure out way before getting to the end of the novel. This one surprised me and for that I was grateful. The characters are well developed. The plot is fast moving and twisted. They suggest Ruth Ware is the Agatha Christie of her generation. Those are big shoes to fill, time will tell but she may well be on her way if she can continue to write books as spell-bounding as this novel.

We went to one movie this month, The Marksman, starring Liam Neeson. It was a very good action movie with well developed characters. We had a private showing since we were the only ones in the theater. It is SAFE to go to movies in our town. They have the theater taped off so no one would be close to anyone else even if all the allowed seats are taken. I am happy our theater is open and we try to go as often as we can to watch movies that interest us. They meticulously clean after each viewing. We’re also enjoying reruns of Victoria on PBS and  found two new series that we enjoy, both on PBS: All Creatures Great and Small and Miss Scarlet and the Duke.

I’m finally back to a writing routine and love working on my novel again. More about that as it slowly grows into a completed manuscript.
Till next time, keep reading my friends. Please stay safe and well.

Later,  Ann
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12/31/20
Hoping for a Better Year in 2021
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 1:59 pm
I hope my readers are well and safe, and that you all had a good Christmas, Hanukkah or Winter Solstice, however you celebrate the long winter days. I love the promise, joy, lights and magic of Christmas. But this year everything is so different for all of us. Instead of our normal 25-30 around the table on Christmas Eve, it was just my husband and me. And we were thankful to have each other as well as FaceTime with the family! We watched our favorite Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, on Christmas Eve. After our dinner, we tuned in to PBS and watched three beautiful Christmas concerts: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, St. Olaff University and Belmont Music College of Nashville,Tenn. Of course, they were all from recent past years, no masks and no social distancing. It made us feel like Christmas. On Christmas Day, besides many phone calls, we watched PBS’s Rick Steven’s Christmas Around the World and a wonderful movie, Christmas Angel, we streamed from Prime.

In the weeks before Christmas we watched a few other older Christmas movies, plus a few on the Hallmark channel. I also read two more Christmas novels, The Christmas Star and The Christmas Town by Donna Van Liere. I prefer reading her books much more than watching the Hallmark movies!

Our decorations are still shining brightly and the sight of it makes us feel happy on these long winter days. I’ve been shoveling snow everyday. I don’t want it to get ahead of me, much harder to shovel then. It’s so beautiful to look out the windows with the snow laying softly on the trees and shrubbery like delicate lace.

I’ve read only a couple other books this month:
McKean County Murders & Mysterious Deaths, by James T. Baumgratz. Nonfiction, 2020. It was an interesting book, probably more so if you live in northwestern Pennsylvania. It’s well researched and well written. I was reading late one night and planned to go to bed as soon as I finished the chapter that ended on page 98. I glanced at page 99 and read the caption under the picture: Col Parker’s tomb near where Roy Himes lost his life. My dad’s name is Roy Himes! You can imagine my shock. Of course, this was not my dad, but it kept me reading till the end of that chapter!

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves. Fiction. Murder/Mystery. 2019. This book was a Christmas gift this year. My friend said she really loved this writer, I’d never even heard of her before and she’s extremely prolific and successful. Two of her book series were made into successful television series: Shetland and Vera. Of course, I haven’t watched them either. BUT I plan to and I will definitely read more of her books. She’s a wonderful writer. This novel is the first one in a new series.

My list of books for this month ends there. My Registered Nursing license expired Oct. 31, 2020. I’d forgotten about it; I had not received notification which usually arrives a month before the expiration. I did receive an email late in November from the PA Office of Professional Licensing, stating the governor had extended the renewal deadline for expired licenses until December 31, 2020 due to the Pandemic. The only thing I had to do was complete 30 hours of CE credits! I felt both hopeful and overwhelmed with the prospect of saving my RN license. I had hardly started wrapping gifts or baking, but my shopping was done. Two college granddaughters came the second Saturday of December and helped me wrap gifts. From then on I concentrated on completing 30 credits. I made it! Dec 29th I submitted my credits, the completed nursing application and the license fee. Whew! Having struggled as a single mother after my divorce many years ago, I know the value of being able to support myself, my nursing license is important to me. As long as I remain healthy, it gives me a sense of security. A girl just never knows.

I received word this morning that my dear Aunt Phyllis, who was like a second mother to me, died last night. She’s suffered with dementia the last couple years and her physical health has declined rapidly since a fall a few months ago.There have been lots of family phone calls this morning, there will be no immediate services due to Covid. I made her famous Date Ball Cookies a few days ago and she’s been on my mind so much lately, perhaps God was getting me ready to say good-by.

Obviously I have not done much writing this month, unless you count 200 Christmas cards. And now I must start writing my Christmas thank-you notes. I’m not complaining; I realize I am blessed.

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

Later, Ann 


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11/30/20
Merry Christmas wishes to all…
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 7:35 pm
I hope each of you are well and safe, and that everyone who wanted a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving had one to eat. We had an unusually quiet Thanksgiving dinner for three, with just us and a dear friend whose family was unable to travel home for that holiday. I’m so thankful for the technology that allows us to see family through Facetime, Zoom, etc. I especially missed the little great-grands so much but their phone hugs on Facetime were sweet. Their boundless energy kept my daughter’s house hoping instead of ours!

We’re wearing face-masks as we’ve been for the past several months, practicing social distancing and washing our hands till they are almost raw. But still Covid has raised its ugly head in our extended family. So far they’ve recovered, one after a week of ICU and the other after a few days at home feeling miserably sick. It is what it is, sums up the situation we all find ourselves living through.

My daughter encouraged me to decorate early for Christmas. I’d never decorated until the day after Thanksgiving before and decided to try it this year. I love it, the days after Thanksgiving were much more enjoyable since the decorating was already completed. I love the pretty decorations and all the cheerful lights. I think we’ll decorate early from now on. 

I have Good News and Bad News. First I’ll share the Bad News: my writing friends and I have mutually agreed to stop our three author/one book project. We remain dear friends but realized it was becoming more challenging the further we advanced the book. We learned why three writers don’t write one book. At first it was such fun, then the more we built the story, the more it felt like we were trying to combine three different books into one. So the Good News is that’s what we are going to do. We will each take the characters we developed and each write our own book, much like we’ve done in the past with our other books.

Okay, I realize this is a bit unusual, BUT since it is my blog and my book - I decided to mention my Christmas novel, Pressure Cooker Christmas, 2017. I know that many of my blog readers have already read this book. I’m also aware that there are those who haven’t taken the time to read it yet. I’m proud of this novel and I encourage you to take time this Christmas season to read it. We all have more time to read this December than any previous ones… since there are no parties to attend this year. It’s available online or through any book-seller. Below is one of the many excellent reviews:
 
  Pressure Cooker Christmas is a charming Christmas story of a large extended family who
celebrates the holiday together.
  It is
centered around a mother who wants to make Christmas perfect until the
pressures of real life affect the family. Choices are made, love is given, and
families unite while finding the true meaning of love, family, forgiveness,
resiliency, and the hope of Christmas. 
This book makes you think of your own holiday expectations and the
pressures women can put on themselves to have that Norman Rockwell portrait of
the perfect family, while living in an imperfect world.  It is a great read for Christmas or any
season of one’s life.”            
Deborah Tippett, Ph.D., Professor, Meredith College,
Raleigh, NC

Pressure Cooker Christmas: Willow Lane, Book 1

 
*I’ve a found a new place to buy books Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, they have a great selection of books, none published this year, but many recent bestsellers are available at rock bottom prices.They have a great selection of high quality children’s books. I’d heard of Ollie’s for years but only recently discovered it for myself. Check it out, you won’t be sorry you did.

My review of Saving Irene has been posted on Story Circle.org. Written by prolific writer Judy Alter. Fiction. 2020. It was a hoot! I loved it. Unforgettable characters, mayhem and plot twists. Please read the entire review by clicking this link:  https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/saving-irene-a-culinary-mystery/

My review of My Name is Layla has also been posted on StoryCircle.org. I also mentioned it on my October blog. You can read the review at this link: https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/my-name-is-layla/
I read a few good books:
All I want for Christmas by Wendy Loggia. Fiction. 2014. I bought this as a Christmas gift for a young adult granddaughter. It is a sweet Christmas novel that will be sure to put readers in a happy mood. (I always read the books I give my grandchildren, so that I can talk to them about the book after they read it, sort of our own little book club.)

Noel Street by Richard Paul Evans. Fiction, 2019. This novel dealt with stubborn family pride, the working poor, wealth, PTSD, racial issues, forgiveness, romance, reconciliation and, of course, Christmas. If you are Richard P. Evans fan, you will love it, if you haven’t yet read one of his books, you should try this one. It is one of his best.

The Christmas Light by Donna VanLiere. Fiction. 2014. It’s another sweet Christmas read with great characters, tears, laughter and plenty of plot surprises. This writer has written dozens of Christmas books and each one that I’ve read is wonderful. I urge you to find one of her novels and find your Christmas glow this December.

How to Make a Life by Florence Reiss Kraut. Fiction. 2020. (Sent to me for review from Story Circle.)This is a fabulous family saga, starting in Ukraine in 1905 and ending in New York City in 2012. It’s an emotional journey that’s worth the time, unforgettable characters who deal with tragedies, triumphs, mental illness, adultery, poverty to riches. The writer takes us on a memorable well-researched and well-written journey through the 20the century. I highly recommend this novel.

We’ve seen three good movies this month:
We watched Let Him Go at our local movie theater. We were the only ones there, so we had a private showing. It was a dramatic western with lots of depth and well developed characters, set in the Dakotas in the1960s. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane starred in this movie. It was a bit dark in content but very good.

On DVD, Gettysburg,1993. many top ranking actors starred in this movie about the most famous battle of the Civil War. it  showed the travesty and heartbreak of war.

On DVD, One Christmas, 2009. Starring Katherine Hepburn and Henry Winkler. It was a sweet movie, “A timeless tale of love and impossible dreams.” We watched it after dinner on Thanksgiving afternoon.

We’ve also watched several Hallmark Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel. I can start a movie late and go to bed in the middle of the next one because I can always figure out what happened and how it will end. There are no surprise endings on the Hallmark movies! And they show so many re-runs that the same movies keep popping up over and over. But they’re great for unwinding when life gets too stressful.

Till next time, please stay safe and well.
Keep reading and try to enjoy this most special time of the year.

Later, Ann
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10/31/20
Happy Halloween
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 3:34 pm
We made a round trip journey to Buffalo yesterday, October 30th, (my husband had a doctor appointment), temperatures hovered between 33 and 38. We drove on slushy highways thorough many spitting snow flurries. On the way home at the crest of a hill north of Ellicottville, N.Y. we saw our first snow, just a thin layer of lacy snow on the branches of huge pine trees. It was so beautiful. Snow is predicted for the next two days and I have an appointment to get my winter tires put on November 2. We’ve cancelled our annual  January trip to South Carolina due to Covid.

I’ve started my early Christmas preparations in earnest. Sewing double sided fleece blankets but only 15 this year. Last year I made more than 40. My sewing machine has been a challenge, I’ve had to take it for repair twice in the last 2 weeks. It’s always something!

Our ’sisters writing project’ is progressing slowly, today we tried Zoom but my computer wouldn’t cooperate. So we had a three-way phone conversation, and agreed on a ‘road map’ to continue on through the winter months. It’s a challenge to blend our three different perspectives into one novel. BUT it’s working and worth it!
 
My review of Edith, the Rogue Rockefeller McCormick was posted on Story Circle a couple weeks ago. Just click the link below to read it.
https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/edith-the-rogue-rockefeller-mccormick/.

I’ve read several books in October, a very eclectic list:

When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal. Fiction. 2019. My book club’s choice. A story about two sisters who grew up on the Santa Cruz, CA beaches, until their lives are upended by a ferocious Earthquake and life as they knew is over. One sister becomes an E.R. doctor. The other fakes her death in a train accident in France after drifting around the world in a haze of drugs and promiscuity. She starts her life over in New Zealand with a new identity. It starts a bit slow but quickly becomes a page turner. A very good book. Lots to think about, it should generate a great discussion for our book group.

My Name Is Layla by Reyna Marder Gentin. Teen fiction. 2021. This is an Advance Reader Copy for review. My review should be posted within the week at  https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/  It’s a great little book told in the point of view of a thirteen year old girl. It will show young readers that even when they feel they don’t fit quite right anywhere and even when they make poor choices, there is hope at the end of the tunnel. It will make a wonderful Christmas for our 13 year old great granddaughter. It brought back long ago memories of eighth grade, my least favorite year of school!

The Time of Our Lives by Peggy Noonan. Nonfiction/Essays. 2015. Ms. Noonan was President Reagan’s speech writer and has been a Wall St. Journal weekly columnist since then. She weaves together stories about Margaret Thatcher, Joan Rivers, Tim Russert, 9-11 grief and her own personal rags to riches story as well as personal comments on Reagan. She’s also the author of eight N.Y Times best selling books. This is the first one of her books I’ve read, though I’ve reads some of her columns over the years.

Every Second Tuesday By Elwood
Writers; Jennifer Bryce, Barry Lee Thompson, Helen McDonald and Margaret
McCaffrey. Memoir, Poetry, and Short Fiction. 2020. From the back
cover: A group of writers meet every second Tuesday in a seaside suburb
of Melbourne. They capture points of drama often found in every day
life. Examples:
A man celebrates his birthday alone, content with the solitude.
A woman whimsically irons out the creases of her life.
A couple struggles with the precarious life of their premature baby.
The discovery of a grandfather’s World War I diary, written in the trenches, stirs heart-breaking memories.
It’s
a well written compilation easy to read in snips and pieces, something
to interest almost any reader. I enjoy reading stories with an
Australian human twist. I highly recommend this anthology.

I read two family memoirs by country music stars:
Sister Robbie, True Tales of the Family Band. 2020.  By Willie Nelson and Bobbie Nelson, With David Ritz. It’s the untold story of Willie  Nelson and his sister Bobbie, who, over the years supported each other through personal tragedies and triumphs and forged an unbreakable bond through their shared love of music and family. A fast and interesting read, I am in awe of such gifted musicians. Resiliency is the key word that comes to mind when I think of these fantastic performers. He said of his sister, “…I didn’t understand what was going on, but I trusted Bobbie. She kept saying we were going to win. She had faith. She gave me faith. She promised me that our lives wouldn’t be ruined.”  I could hear the songs in my head as I read some of the stories behind the inspirations to write them. Amazing story.

Me and Patsy Kickin’ Up Dust by Loretta Lynn and her daughter Patsy Lynn Russell. (This daughter is named after Patsy Cline.) Memoir and Tribute to Patsy Cline. 2020. Loretta Lynn arrived in Nashville  sixty years ago, a broke young mother, to take on the country music business. Patsy Cline was already a star. Rather than competing with each other, they forged a friendship and leaned on each other while balancing touring, raising children, writing songs and making dinner. A beautiful up-close and personal portrait of friendship. A very good book,I could almost hear Loretta Lynn’s voice as I read the pages!

We also watched two good movies this month at our local Movie House:

War With Grandpa, starring Robert DeNiro and Uma Thurman. It was good to just sit and laugh out loud at this funny and often silly movie. It was just what we needed. I actually went to see it twice, once with my husband and the second time with a friend who needed a laugh.

Honest Thief starring Liam Neesan. This was a really good movie with surprising clever twists. I highly recommend it. Somehow this familiar actor makes me feel safe and protected even when he plays a thief!

Till next month, stay safe and well my friends.
Keep reading!

Later, Ann



 
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10/01/20
September has slipped away…
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 11:57 am
October sneaked up on me this year! September has been one of our best months since the Covid-19 restrictions changed our lives. Our family gathered to celebrate my birthday over Labor Day weekend; our first gathering since Christmas. We even included an Easter egg hunt for the great-grands, (plastic eggs, of course.) It was great to be together again. Not everyone could come but 22 of us had a wonderful day, and the others were deeply missed. Our large and wonderful family is safe and well; we are ever so thankful for that.
 
I love the cooler brisk weather. Fall has long been my favorite season, and this September has been more like the weather of past Septembers. The autumn leaves in Northwest Pennsylvania have been spectacular the last ten days - contrasts of yellow, orange and red juxtaposed with the evergreens make incredible eye candy, especially when the sun beams on them against a clear blue sky. 

We have visited our two college granddaughters at their campuses and taken them to dinner this week. They are such bright, creative and sweet girls. I’d love them even if they weren’t my granddaughters! They both lament, rightfully so, about so many of their classes being online. And all the regimented rules of order forced on them. But both find plenty of good to be happy about - and are finding their way in this crazy world. 

My ’sister‘ writing partners and I met three Saturday mornings in September. Our project is really coming along. We’ve all invested many hours into it and actually have a printed rough draft manuscript, much tweaking will be done and many more chapters will be written in the coming months. It is still very much an exciting project for all of us. We meet again this Saturday morning. We even have an editor and agent interested in our project.

Story Circle posted two book reviews I wrote this last month. The Other Side of Sanctuary by Cheryl Crabb. Toward That Which Is Beautiful by Marian O’Shea Wernicke. You can read them by clicking these links:
https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/the-other-side-of-sanctuary/

https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/toward-that-which-is-beautiful/.

WPSU’s BookMark taped my review of American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. You can read or listen to it at this link:

https://radio.wpsu.org/post/bookmark-american-dirt-jeanine-cummins

I have read fewer books this month, because I’ve spent many hours winterizing my gardens, almost done, another two hours and I think I will have it wrapped up. All my patio potted plants were frozen by an unexpected heavy frost, I guess there were frost warnings but I was down a rabbit hole with my writing and missed it.

 Restless by William Boyd. Fiction. 2006. An exciting, layered and complicated novel with likable well developed characters. This is the first book I have read by this highly acclaimed, successful and prolific British author who lives in France, but it certainly won’t be my last. (It was a birthday gift.)

The Quiet American by Graham Greene. 1955. Fiction. A novel about Vietnam before while the French were still trying to liberate the Vietnamese. It was my first G. Greene novel. I was impressed it with how novel - writing has evolved since those days. It was a complicated and layered about two Americans in Vietnam. I recognized the plot after the first couple chapters. I saw the movie several years ago. The Quiet American was made into a movie in1958 and 2002. (It was also a birthday gift.)

Edith The Rogue Rockefeller McCormick by Andrea Friederici Ross. Biography. 2020. An amazing story of a poor little rich girl who died a poor old lady. A very interesting book, well researched and well written. A review will be posted on Story Circle next week. (Story Circle sent me Edith,etc. to review.)

We watched three good movies this month:
Anger Management. 2002, starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicolson. It was very well done and extremely clever with plot twists and almost slapstick humor at times. Just what we needed, we laughed till we cried at some of their antics. If you haven’t seen it. I highly recommend it.

We Were Soldiers starring Mel Gibson. 2002. A Vietnam war movie. One of the best characters we have seen Gibson perform. The character development and plot twist made a wonderful movie despite the violent war scenes. A very worthwhile movie to watch.

Infidel. 2020. It was good to be back in a movie theater again with popcorn and Diet Coke. It was a gripping movie, with some violent scenes in which I closed my eyes. About an American married couple who end up in the crossfire of an international situation that almost costs the husband’s life. Tense and exciting to  watch. Good character development.

Till next time, keep reading my friends.
Later, Ann
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08/30/20
August Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 4:23 pm
The nights are getting cooler, a few leaves have already started to show off their golden, red and orange colors. I love the change of season, and autumn is my favorite. Especially this year. Yes, we’re still socially distancing and wearing masks. Our church is still not open for services. Our family reunion was even canceled this year. We haven’t had a family gathering with the grandchildren since Christmas. And the list goes on

Even with all the lawn and gardening work this time of the year, with no where to go and no one to see, I have lots of time to read and write. My writing partners and I are still working hard on our writing project. The manuscript is coming along nicely. It can be a bit tricky writing dialogue when two of the characters are not there! But it is still a fun and challenging project.

Story Circle’s new website is up, (please check it out @ storycircle.org); new book reviews are being posted. You can read my review of Bells For Eli at https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/bells-for-eli/   It was author Susan Beckham Zurenda’s debut novel.

Maybe I’ve read too many books this month. It’s an eclectic list as usual. See what you think:
Toward That Which Is Beautiful by Marian O’Shea Wernicke, Fiction. 2020. Debut novel set in summer 1964 in the highlands of Peru. A young American novice nun flees the convent with no money or food, not even a jacket for the cool nights and no destination. She wanted to be anywhere but there. She had her faith and her shame of having fallen in love with a rebellious charismatic Irish priest who served at her mission. A coming of age story with a surprise ending. Very good story, you won’t forget. (*I rec’d an Advance Reader Copy, ARC, of the book from Story Circle to review.)

The Last Flight by Julie Clark. Fiction, 2020. This thriller has so many switch-backs that it made my head spin. A real page turner, very exciting. It was our book club choice for September’s meeting. A good read.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Fiction. 1990. “The author’s unique vision of the horror that was Vietnam. This powerful work presents an arc of fictional episodes that take place in the childhoods of the characters, in the jungles of Vietnam and back home in America two decades later. Each story echoes off the others to form an exhilarating nightmarish and passionate work.”–*Copied almost verbatim from back cover of the novel. **As a reader, I was continually shocked by the stories in this book, it was much more graphic and detailed than any books or the movies about Vietnam I’ve read or watched. I never served in the military. However, I knew many young men who did, I lived on a Marine base, was married to a Marine who had been there and came home changed. They all did. It was hideous unnecessary war.

The Other Side of Sanctuary by Cheryl Crabb. Fiction. 2019. This debut novel has a cast of well developed characters dealing with jealousy, romance, suspicions, secrets, and revenge. A seemingly ordinary family is pushed almost to the brink as extraordinary challenges nearly rip them apart. Plot twists set the pace, you never know quite what to expect. These characters stay with readers long after the last page. An excellent novel!

Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand. Fiction. 2017. This novel is set in the Winter Street Inn on Nantucket Island.If those walls could talk, oh the stories they would tell. But since walls don’t talk, Hilderbrand works her magic and creates an almost believable cast of characters who almost come alive on the pages. The patriarch of the family is in Hospice care, his wife, ex-wife, all their children and grandchildren gather around. The sparks fly and roller-coaster emotions keep the pages turning. It was on the light side but a very entertaining read.

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane. Fiction. 2017. A thriller with suspense, romance and tension and
insight. The protagonist suffers from PTSD as well as agoraphobia after experiencing great loss while working as a reporter from Haiti in the wake of the Earthquakes. She is haunted by nightmarish memories. But slowly overcomes her emotional collapse, only to find her own life has become a nightmare. Many twists and turns, good character development. Author Kristen Hannah states,  “… a master storyteller at the top of his game.” I totally agree.

Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg. Fiction. 2019. Berg has long been one of my favorite writers. This novel is full of empathy and hope, as are all of her stories. It is set in Mason, Missouri, about people forming familial bonds with those they come to love. Retired teacher Lucille Howard is in her upper 80’s and begins teaching small baking classes in her kitchen. (People, Book of the Week) states: “This story celebrates the nourishing comfort of community and provides a delightfully original take on the cycles of life.”

The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg. Fiction. 2019. This is a funny, heartwarming, and inspiring book. Readers will find friendship, community and kindness among the quirky well developed characters and the happy ending. It is definitely a feel good book. I loved it!

We’ve enjoyed two movies during the last month, both rented DVDs:

Military Wives, starring Kristen Scott Thomas was a current-timed setting of a small army base in England. When most of the men are sent on a tour of duty to Afganistan, the two ranking soldier’s wives are responsible for keeping up the morale of the other waiting wives. The two women mixed like oil and water. But after a rough beginning started the Military Wives Club Chorus. It was a feel good movie. I recommend it.

Alive Inside is another music movie, though entirely different. This is a documentary that follows social worker Dan Cohen as he uses music to unlock memory in nursing home patients with Alzheimer’s disease. He and his team downloaded music for patients, particular to their personal preferences derived from family or from documented family history. When they put the headsets on each patient and started the music, it was like a miracle. I highly recommend this movie too.

Till next time, keep reading my friends.

Later,
Ann
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07/30/20
July Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 9:22 am
I hope all my readers are safe and well. What a crazy summer!  The riots in several American cities just go on and on. Meanwhile, the rest of us just keep on doing what we do and hope for the best. Oh yes, and we’re still dealing with the contradicting messages from those in authority about Covid-19: wearing masks while maintaining social distancing. 



2020 will definitely be a year we all remember! Our church is still closed for services. I miss seeing my church friends, and feeling the love and acceptance of our community of faith. BUT on a brighter note, life does go on. Our grandson and his wife, both active duty Air Force, are now stationed at Elsworth Airforce Base in South Dakota, AND they are expecting their first baby, due January 2, 2021! We are over the moon excited! He will be our 8th great grandchild, and we LOVE babies!!



Yard and garden work continues to demand several hours of my attention every week as does walking our dog. He is now fourteen and a half years old, comparable to 101 years in human years!  My husband often complains about his age, he is getting up there. But I always remind him that our dog is still much older than him!



My writing friends and I are making real progress on our novel project about 3 sisters. We are all enjoying it and having a ball! We settled on meeting outside every two weeks around a picnic table to maintain our social distance. So far the weather has been cooperative.



I have read a few good books this month, in no particular order, they are: 

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Fiction. 2013. Shadow Mountain Publishing. This is a unique story of a community who manage to survive in the massive city dump in Phnom Penh, Cambodia after the revolution. And even there, they had to pay rent to stay in the hovels they pieced together from other people’s trash. It s a story of hope, second chances and the luxury of learning to read. It is a an easy to read thought provoking novel that supports the age-old concept: Life isn’t fair.. I highly recommend it!



Side Trip by Kerry Lonsdale. Fiction. 2020. Lake Union Publishing. This is a fun summer read that offers readers a break from the terrible news we are forced to hear every time we tune into a radio or tv station. And trust me, sometimes a fun read is just the escape we need! The protagonist, Joy Evers, plans a Route 66 driving trip, form California, across the USA. She’s fulfilling her deceased sister’s bucket list. Joy soon discovers life doesn’t always come or conform to directions.. It is a heart warming love story between opposites who fall in love somewhere between Flagstaff and Chicago. You won’t regret reading this unforgettable, well written story. Many plot twists and great characters. I highly recommend it!



28 Summers by Elin Hildebrand. Fiction. 2020.Little Brown Publishers.  A summer escape beach read by a master story teller. Even includes Covid-19, plot twists galore and wonderful likeable characters. It is loosely based on the movie, Same Time, Next Year. But remember, books are always better than movies. I highly recommend it! 



Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini. Historical Fiction. 2019.Harper Collins Publishers. This is a complex novel with several protagonists. it is well written and with many likable characters living during the time of Hitler’s rise to power and then WW2 Berlin. The unthinkable becomes the new norm over and over until normal becomes hell. The brazen bravery of the lead characters is laudable, even though we already know the outcome is near hopeless. It is a fantastic journey through tyranny and deception. I also recommend this novel.





The only movie we have seen worth mentioning is a 1 hour documentary, Alive Inside. Social Worker, Dan Cohen uses music to unlock memory in nursing-home patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Well known neurologist, Oliver Sacks assist Cohen to transform the quality of life for the afflicted. By using headsets and I-pods, loaded with music form the patient’s primary music days, it awakens something in the brains of people who hadn’t spoken a word in years to where many were singing along to songs buried deep in their brains. It is an uplifting video of hope, it made us cry. Even so, I highly recommend it. We rented it from Netflix.



Till next time, keep reading my friends.

Later, Ann
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06/29/20
June Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 11:51 am
Is anyone out there as tired of masks, social distancing, closed churches, etc. as I am? (I feel such empathy for those workers who must wear masks for 8 hours or more.)  This new normal is so difficult to adjust to, it wasn’t so bad when we thought it would be for only a few weeks, but now the long term implications are so discouraging. My husband says it’s because I am a hyper-social person. Well first of all I am NOT hyper-social! The inability to see loved ones, and even causal friends is almost grueling. But we are all in this together and we will survive with patience and fortitude.





This has been a month of ups and downs, one of our dearest friend’s health has declined to the point that he’s now under Hospice Care at home.  





I have embarked on an exciting writing project with my two writing friends. I will keep you posted as we move forward on the project. We are doing it socially distanced around our patio table every week or two and the rest by many emails flying back and forth. The worst is when one of our email gets stuck in cyber-space!





I have read a variety of good books this month. Mostly from my stack of books to read some day.  





The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. Historical Fiction, 2019. This was our book club read for this month. It was a delight, a gritty story about Roosevelt’s Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project. Troublesome Creek is a real place. The fictitious librarian Cussy Mary Carter was one of the Kentucky blue-skinned people. It is a story of human resiliency, courage and dedication. Cussy confronts dangers and prejudice as old as the Appalachias. A story that shows how important a good mother and father are for children to develop the necessary strength to survive. I highly recommend this novel. It is a wonder!



All The Single Ladies by Dorothea Benton Frank. Fiction, 2015. I love this writer’s wit, her characters and plot. She was consistently insightful, clever and empathetic. It is sad she passed away last year. I am glad there are still a few more of her books I missed reading. This one was deep and yet lol funny at times. It is obvious this writer knew a thing or three about interpersonal relationships, family drama and greed. three forty something Suzanne, Lisa and Carrie are the three lead characters. Each have back stories as different as could be. Suzanne lived on the beach with her 99 year old piano playing grandmother, Miss Trudie. This was a page turner with suspense, mystery, romance and many plot surprises. A fun summer read.





Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson. Nonfiction, 1999. A  page turning account of the devastating hurricane that destroyed the city of Galveston, Texas on September 8, 1900, killing more than 6,000. 9This was set up in the same pattern as his recent book about Churchill, well researched.) Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S.Weather Bureau, missed the importance of the deep-sea swells and strange winds that greeted the city that morning. A few hours later a monster hurricane with winds of 200 miles an hour and an angry sea that tore through even the storm-proof houses. The winds and water were almost characters It was the worst natural disaster in American history. It shows what can happen when human arrogance meets with uncontrollable forces of nature. A worthwhile read.






The Longest Trip Home by John Grogan. Memoir, 2008. This was such an interesting book; I usually do not like to read memoirs. (He’s the author of Marley and Me, a best seller dog-lover book and a wonderful dog lover movie.) Grogan is a fabulous writer and weaves his childhood creative mischief adventures through his teenage near delinquent escapades with wit and wisdom. All this while being raised by devout Catholic parents who always believed in him, his two brothers and sister. By the end of the book, he’s a happily married father of three. There were times the reader did not expect him to achieve any kind of stability at all!






Gone So Long by Andre Dubus III. Fiction, 2018. (I bought this novel because I loved his novel, House of Sand and Fog.) He’s another great author. This is a haunting story I will always remember. There are three protagonists: An 18 year old man who falls in love with beautiful 16year old girl, who gets pregnant and  they marry. They have a sweet baby girl whom they both adore. He becomes obsessive and jealous, kills his wife in a rage when the baby is 3 years old. The second protagonist is the adult daughter. The third is her maternal grandmother who raised her. It is a gritty story with foul language and to me the most sympathetic character was the killer! But it was a worthwhile thought-provoking novel.





In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park. Memoir, 2015. This is a powerful story of the human resiliency of a North Korean family’s escape from tyranny, starvation and walking past dead bodies on the street. Where neighbors and friends disappear without warning. She, her mother and sister escape to China out of desperation on the frozen Yalu River and are captures by human traffickers. Finally after two years of peril they escape from China to Mongolia and finally South Korea. It is a page turner, not like any other memoirs I’ve read. 




We watched only one movie this moth as we haven’t ventured out to the local the movie theater yet and our television died, only 2 and a half years old! Our tv guy is in the process of replacing it for us. On the bright side, it gives us much more time to read and we don’t have to watch the pathetic news channels for awhile! The movie we watched was Fathers and Daughters. I thought it would be a nice movie for my husband for Fathers Day. It wasn’t. It was well acted but a very heavy and dark movie. I believe it did show the importance of a good father in a girl’s life. A gritty story. Maybe worthwhile.





My lawn mower is beckoning me… 
Till next month, keep reading, my friends!

Later,  Ann  
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05/31/20
May Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 2:54 pm
We are finally in the green phase in Northwestern Pennsylvania. I have an appointment to get my hair cut and my nails done tomorrow morning. Yeah!! Both appointments are greatly needed.



This month the weather has been a bit freaky in our part of the world. We had three snow falls in the first two weeks of May, followed by lots of rainy windy days and then two days near 90 degrees. As if all the disruptions brought on by Covid-19 to normal life as we knew it weren’t enough! Today is a cool sunny day. Amazingly all the stores sold out of window air conditioners rather quickly after just two hot humid days.



I have mostly neglected my current writing project, we have a large lawn and I’ve been very busy mowing, mulching and potting flowers. Add to that a health crisis with my husband and one scary night sitting in the E.R. waiting room, the days flew by. He is doing well enough now, but as my brother reminds me, after three score and ten, we’re all living on borrowed time! We celebrate lots of family birthdays in May. And I can’t help it, Mother’s Day makes me sad since my mother has passed ten years ago.




I have read a few good books this month. Two of them were technically Young Adult novels. (What does my little brother know about borrowed time when I’m young-in-heart enough to read YA novels!?) 


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. 2016, Historical Fiction. Set in 1945, fate brought four refugees together as the Soviets plundered their way through the forests of Northern Europe towards Germany. The four main characters were well-developed, their personal tragedies threaded through the novel in such a compelling manner that kept me turning the pages as fast as I could. It was also the story of sinking of the Wilhelm Gustoff, 9,000 people died, many of them young children, the worst Maritime accident in history. This was such a good book that I want to read more books by this prolific writer.




The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. 2020. Fiction. (The prequel to the Hunger Games series.) I loved the Hunger Games novels and then the movies. This novel does not disappoint, the characters and plot are well-developed with many unexpected turns. Another page turner.




Dead Man’s Bones by Susan W. Albert. 2005. Fiction. Book #13 China Bayles Mysteries.This is a free standing novel, it is not necessary to read them in order. The author grabs the reader on the first page and never lets go, the intrigue and innuendoes are plentiful and fun.The plot and characters are well developed with surprises when you least suspect them. Moves female sleuths to new level. I have read three other books by this prolific author and plan to read many more.





Blue Marlin by Lee Smith. 2020. Fiction. A witty and wise novella about a 13 year-old girl who goes to Key West with her parents on a physician prescribed geographic fix for her parents marriage. Her father ended his lusty affair and the estranged family find their way with the help of Cary Grant, Tony Curtis and a few friendly strippers. A good book!  




White Trash, The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg. 2016. Nonfiction. The author surveys political rhetoric and policy and popular literature, and scientific theories over four hundred years. She attempts to destroy assumptions about America’s class-free society-where liberty and hard work were meant to ensure real social mobility. There were numerous statements throughout the book that showed the author’s bias but overall it was certainly a worthwhile read.




We only watched one good movie this month, Knives Out, for the second time. We enjoyed it even more this time! Then we shared it with friends before returning the DVD to Netflix. We also watched the series on PBS, World on Fire about WW2’s effect on several European families. It was very good and we look forward to season 2 next fall. 



Stay well, my friends. And please do keep reading. 

Later, Ann
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04/30/20
April Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 2:51 pm
At a time like this I hardly know what to think; let alone know what to write. Under quarantine with most businesses closed, doctor visits via facetime or skype. Dealing with an invisible enemy, Covid-19, makes it hard to plan anything. I miss my grandchildren and great grandchildren terribly, thank goodness for facetime! We usually host an Easter dinner with more than 24 family members here. This year it was just my husband and me, with lots of phone calls. Many people volunteer working for “the cause”, like my friend who made and gave away over 700 face masks. I made 44 and called it quits. And then there are the food drives. Everyone wants to do something to help. The experts say the longer the lockdown stays in place, the safer we will be. It is also true that the longer the shutdown lasts, the closer many people will be to bankruptcy. We now have higher unemployment than even during the Great Depression. Government bailouts are like band-aids on gushing wounds. And with our national debt already sky- high, where are they getting all these billions for these giveaways? I am sure many of you share my concerns about the strange times we are all living through.









I remember sitting beside my great grandmother in the back seat of my parent’s car when I was 9 years old, Mom was driving. As we drove past an old farm house on the left side of the road a mile or so down the road from Old Grandma’s house, she told me about the family who had  lived there back in 1918 when they all got the Spanish Flu. Everyone was under quarantine. No one in our family caught it, Someone in that family did. Within one week, the six children, the parents and the grandparents who lived there died. All of them in seven days! I don’t remember the family name but I never forgot the story, and I think of it at least once each year when we drive past it to attend our family reunion, still held on the family farm all these years later.





After careful consideration, I decided last month to stop my Willow Lane Newsletter.it was a hard decision but I know it was the right one for me. It required more time and money than I wanted to invest in it any longer. I felt so relieved when I realized I was free of it. Really successful writers who have newsletters rarely do their own, they have assistants who do them - so they can continue to write more books. I will continue to write my monthly blog. And now I have more time to finish the book I’m working on.




The winner of a free e-book of Mother Love, Willow Lane, Book 2 in the BookSweeps Giveaway was Nancy S. of New Mexico. Congrats Nancy!

I now have 394 followers on BookBub, it’s a phenomenal site for book lovers. I would love to have more BookBub followers. A hundred more would be great! If you are interested, please click the following link:  https://www.bookbub.com/profile/ann-mccauley?list=about   you can then click the green icon in the FOLLOW box, on the top right of the profile page. Thanks to any of you who will check this out!  You can also use this link to explore the Book Bub site. If you love books, it is definitely worth your time!



Good books I’ve read this month are: 
The Plaque by Albert Camus, Fiction.   I am not sure if reading this novel during a pandemic with orders for social distancing and shelter in place was a great idea. It was written in 1947 about an attack of the plaque in a city in northern Africa, in the early part of the 1900s. The politicians initially tried to ignore what was happening. Even as truck load after truck load of dead rats had to be gathered from the city every morning, The political powers tried to divert the attention of the masses away from the obvious. While the doctors tried to help the sick and dying. Oops, does that sound like what’s happening today. The similarities were beyond striking. The quarantines, the treatment centers where the sick were taken from their families, with no visiting allowed. The story was told in third person past tense, the narrators voice was not revealed until the last pages of the novel. The loneliness and isolation of the well developed characters threaded throughout the book. The plaque was almost a like a character itself. I am glad I read this important, yet disturbing novel. it seems history does repeat itself. The plaque has been around for centuries and outbreaks have come and gone over the years. And still, two of the most effective standards of care are mitigation and quarantines. Albert Camus wrote this novel in French and it was translated into many other languages,, including English. 






The Unquiet Grave by Sharon McCrumb, Fiction. 2017.I have read many of Sharyn McCrumb’s novels She has long been known as THE go-to Appalachia historical author. I liked them all. BUT this one stands out above all the others. Her years of writing have enabled her to write this suspenseful masterpiece, exemplifying the complications of ’simple’ mountain people. The characters were well developed, the dialogue so realistic and the mountain scenery described as if by a master painter with words. The plot had many surprising twists. I’d recommend this book to any lover of great historical southern novels. Ms. McCrumb is now toted as one of today’s best southern writers, no longer just THE Appalachia writer.




Testimony by Scott Turow, Fiction, 2017 An exciting legal thriller, the protagonist handles his mid-life crisis by walking out on everything he’d thought was important to him: his wife and two young adult sons, his law career and his home. He ends up in Brussels working for the International Criminal Court. And the adventures begin, it is a page turning thriller. Layers of deception create unforgettable characters and the plot shifts create palpable tension. It was  good book to read while being housebound. Mr.Turow is an excellent a writer, Testimony took me on a wild and exciting adventure for a few days.




The Splendid And The Vile’ by Erik Larsen. Nonfiction. 2019. This historical book reads like a an exciting novel, highly researched using hundreds of diaries to build the scenes with accurate dialogue and emotions as the story unfolds. Winston Churchill deservedly went down in history as a strong stubborn leader. This 503 pages, (not counting the 83 pages of documented research and bibliography), of lively detailed history reveals Churchill as we’ve never known him before. His family, marriage and the British citizen’s depth of courage during the German Blitz read like a thriller rather than well written history. It was my book club’s wise book choice for this month, or I probably would not have attempted to read it. I’m so glad I did.



.
The Lost Man  by Jane Harper. Fiction. 2019 This family saga is about the Bright brothers, Nathan, Cameron and Bob, their widowed mother, Liz, Nathan’s son, 16 year old Xander, as well as Harry, the dedicated lifelong ranch foreman, along with Ilse, Cameron’s widow and the mother of two captivating young girls, Sophie, age 8, and Lois, age 6, make up the principle cast of characters. Nothing is as it first appears and no one is quite what you expect based upon early introductions. Bob and Nathan had not met in months, though they are each other’s closest neighbors. It is still three hours to drive from one cattle ranch to the other. They try to make sense of the situation as their brother, Cameron, lay dead at their feet, beside the stockman’s grave, along-side the boundaries of their ranches. All the characters develop slowly with layers of depth, as do their interpersonal relationships. Vivid memories of Carl Bright, the father haunts the two surviving brothers as well as their mother. An unforgettable story.






The Faraway Horses by Buck Brannaman and William Reynolds. This is the tale of an  extraordinary life and the extraordinary man who lives it. This rich and rewarding memoir is a roadmap for living a harmonious and honorable existence with horses and humans. (As a teen,  I rode in area western horse shows and even got a registered quarter horse, ‘Princess’, for my 16th birthday.) It is an inspiring and wonderful book. 





We have also watched these worthwhile good movies: 
The Art of Racing in the Rain, based on the book by Garth Stein. (He was one of our One Book Bradford authors a few years ago.) It is a wonderful movie about a dog who loves riding in race cars, relationships, loss and love. It follows the book very closely. (Netflix)




The Good Liar, starring Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen. There are many twists and turns in this entertaining thought-provoking movie about a retired financially comfortable widow and a hustling elderly con man. Well worth watching. (Netflix)






Lean on Pete, an excellent movie that gives viewers much to think about. It is about a dysfunctional family, an orphaned 15 year old boy who steals an old race horse to save it from being sold to an unsavory future while he sets off across several western states to find his long last aunt. (Netflix)







Buck, the story about the cowboy who inspired the book and movie The Horse Whisperer. Buck Brannaman overcame his abusive childhood, spent  his teen years learning ranch skills while living with his foster family. who are like his real family, even to this day. His is an unlikely life as a horseman celebrity, he travels through horse country ten months out of every year, as thousands sign up for his horsemanship clinics. Nicholas Evans, author of the Horse Whisperer said, “His skill,understanding and his gentle-loving heart have parted the clouds for countless troubled creatures. Buck is the Zen master of the horse world.”  (Netflix)





We are currently streaming The Crown, it’s about Queen Elizabeth as a child with her sister, her marriage to Prince Phillip, her coronation and her dealings with Prime Ministers and her family as the Queen. The actress who plays her looks much like photos of the young queen. We are really enjoying it. (Netflix)





Stay well, my friends.. And please do keep reading.

Later, Ann
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04/13/20
BookSweeps April Give-away
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 1:39 pm

 BOOKSWEEPS CONTEST

There are only 3 more days left to enter for a chance to win a free e-book or a new e-reader. 

In this time of social distancing, with libraries closed,
book stores have been forced to close their doors too. Maybe you’ve run out of
books to read. And with all the uncertainties about the near future, perhaps
you don’t want to spend money online buying books. Well, here’s your chance to
win a free book by inspired writers that could possibly help take your mind off
the latest bad news. If you haven’t read Mother Love, Willow Lane, Book 2, you can enter for a chance to win it on BookSweeps today. Mother Love is not your typical romance novel, though it
certainly has a bit of romance. It’s also packed with family drama,
adventure and suspense. There are 30 other authors of Sweet Contemporary Romance offering you a chance to win one of their books too.

Here’s the link http://bit.ly/SweetRom-Apr2020   😍   Contest ends at midnight on Wed, April 15th.

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03/24/20
March Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 5:05 pm
What a difference a month can make! Before the Shelter-in-Place orders from the government, I drove in town nearly everyday. Tomorrow will only be day 5 of our quarantine, it feels longer. We are fortunate to have wonderful neighbors who did my banking and post office run this week. We had stocked up on most everything we could, but we will need more fresh bananas by the end of the week. Never before did buying bananas seem like an important task! 


Last Friday, we picked up our van from the repair shop, (see last month’s blog about our accident), and returned the rental SUV we’d been driving. The van looks brand new. (Woohoo!) We stopped at the grocery store, bought a few things and ordered Fish Fries to go. We were waiting for our order when I suddenly had to cough, I carefully coughed into the sleeve of my sweater. No one said. “Bless you”. But everyone took a step away from me and glared at me maliciously. I don’t blame them. It is a nuisance residual dry cough from a bad cold I had a few weeks ago.



Each day I tackle another neglected corner of our home, and even spent a couple days reorganizing files on my computer. If this Shelter-in-Place lasts long enough, I might have everything organized the way I only dreamed it would be someday! I am also making good progress on Willow Lane book 3, 
so far untitled. 



We’ve only seen one movie worth mentioning this month, from Netflicks, “A Million Little Pieces“. It is a very well done movie about addiction. We were quite impressed with it, we’d both worked with addicts before we retired from health care. Interestingly, it is based on the novel by James Frey, he’d wanted to fiction, (based loosely on his own life.) His publishers insisted it be listed as a memoir, and Oprah chose it for her book of the month. Then she famously trashed his book on national tv for not being a true memoir! It is a very good movie about addiction, not for children or the weak of heart. 



I’ve read a few interesting books this month: 
Songcatcher by Sharon McCrumb. Penquin, 2012. Historical Fiction. It is a fascinating story of the of the Scots settlers and their own special music passed down form one generation to generation in southern Appalachia, from 1700s through 2000s. There is suspense, great characters and surprise plot twists. I like historical fiction because its educational as well as entertaining. Ms. McCrumb holds the honor of telling the tales of these fiercely private mountain people in the many books she’s written over the last 20 plus years. I’ve read several and they never disappoint me.



Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. Knopf. 2013. Fiction. This novel was chosen as one of the Best Books of the Year by NY Times, Washington Post, & Chicago Tribune. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Its written with raw honesty, wit and heart-wrenching agony, deals with poverty, middle class  and wealth, reflecting the immigrant’s American experience, leaving Nigeria ’s middle class and returning twenty years later. The protagonist, Ifemelu’s and Obinze’s struggles, are universal. It is a powerful novel, well worth reading.    



The Last Letter From Your Lover, by Jo Jo Moyes. Penquin. 2010. Fiction.This novel begins in 1960, moves ahead to 2010, and back again. Jo Jo Moyes always has the year at the beginning of the chapter when the year changes. This  helps readers stay with the story when she move back and forth. It has plenty of the wit and realistic dialogue that Moyes fans expect. Characters are well-developed and the plot is full of surprises. I loved it!



The Girl You Left Behind, by JoJo Moyes. Penquin. 2012. Historical Fiction. Another Moyes book! I can’t help it, I love her books! When I bought it at B&N on vacation, I didn’t realize I’d read it when it first came out. There are so many twists and turns to this plot that I loved it even more the second reading. The research is spot-on and the characters are wonderful. It starts out in German occupied France during WW1. And ends in London in 2012. Two sisters survive under duress while their husbands are off in the French army. Stolen French art, wartime sacrifices, orphaned children, widowhood are weaved together with empathy and skill by this gifted writer.


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

Later, 
Ann

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02/28/20
February Blog, 2020
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 3:15 pm
 What a month it has been! We spent two relaxing and fun weeks at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. I love that H.H. has a large and welcoming B&N.
My two sisters and their husbands joined us, as did two of our cousins. It was a such a good time. We also have dear friends who spend their winters at H.H. Together and singularly we had fun, and made more great memories. Sadly my youngest sister’s husband had a death in his family and they had to leave early. So, coming home we were driving north on I-95, (my least favorite highway in the USA!), when an accident brought both lanes to a sudden stop. I managed to avoid rear ending the car in front of me, swerved to the then empty right lane and we were hit by a car that was hit by the car behind it. Then a tractor trailer came barreling in between our van and the right lane! Screeching brakes and the smell of burning rubber filled the air. And wouldn’t you know, the man who hit us gave us fake info. Good grief. The next day we made it to my sister’s home near Baltimore to pay our respects in the passing of our brother-in-law’s sister.   We were not hurt, though there was $5000.00 in damage to our van, it was still drivable.

My sisters and cousin and I went for some wonderful long walks on HH. We did some unexpected exploring when we lost our way a couple times. But that only makes it more interesting! We read books, went to a few good movies and cooked very little. So many restaurants and so little time! Our friend who lives at Sea Pines gave my cousin and me a walking tour of Deer Island that is connected to Sea Pines by a one-lane bridge. There were thirty to forty round “tree” houses built on 10 or 12 foot stilts, maybe higher. There was a thick over-growth of tropical forest that kept each one somewhat secluded from their neighbor. I’ve heard our friend talk about Deer Island for several years and it was fascinating to finally see it.

One afternoon my husband and I went to see Knives Out movie, we got the last two seats in the theater, far left, front row! Not the best seats in the house, for sure. But what a fun and great movie! It had been along time since we went to  see a movie that the entire audience applauded as the credits rolled.We want to see it again on Netflix when it’s available.
Another day my cousin and I went to see Just Mercy. It was a wonderful thought provoking movie. I had read the book and the writer had actually been to our local university to speak a few years ago. I’d been unable to attend but had heard he was an exceptional speaker.   
My husband and his friend went to see 1917. He told me enough about it that I chose not to see it, too violent and too sad. They both said it was an excellent movie. 
We all went to see Ford vs Ferrari. I am not really into cars, other than what color is it? My brother-in-law cried twice during the movie, at times we all laughed and could hardly believe we’d been sitting for two hours when it was over, it was so good and so exciting! Even better because it was based on a true story. I’d really never heard of Shelby before. My brother called us the next morning and told me about the time he’d seen Shelby in his Las Vegas museum/store. It had been a momentous joy for him to be in the same room with that man. After seeing the movie, I understand why. (My brother is definitely a car guy!) I watched it a second time since coming home, it was just as good as it had been the first time!

I’ve read several books since my last blog, as usual I will mention only the ones I liked. (I bought two and disliked them so much, despite their publisher’s big pre-pub marketing that I returned them and told B&N why. Their campaigns hooked me into buying them BUT couldn’t make me keep them when they were so weak and poorly written.) One of the last things my Mother said to me was, “Life is too short for bad books.”   

 The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. 2019. Debut novel. Set in north London. A powerful, thought-provoking with more plot twists than any novel I’ve ever read. A psychological thriller  about violence, obsession and the dark side of passion. David Baldacci said, “The pages will burn with the friction from your hands turning them.” Ironically, my husband read it after me, and was very impressed, found it amazing and had no idea what was going on throughout most of the novel, just like me. He’s a retired psychiatrist who trained in London in the 1960s; he completed his psychiatry residency in the Tootenbeck Hospital that’s part of this story. Small world.

By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank. 2018. Fiction. I loved her cast of
characters, especially her protagonist Lady Di. I always think her lead
characters must have a lot of her personality traits. Ms. Frank’s subtle wit
threads through this novel as it does all the others. The deep familial love
between siblings Diane and Floyd, and their parents is beautifully written.
Though they annoy each other at times they always have each other’s backs. (The
gentle teasing was a sweet reminder to me of growing up in a large farm family
that showed no mercy whenever there was a chance to tease one another.) Diane’s
son, Fred falls in love with a wealthy city girl. The contrast of his
Lowcountry peach farm and her million-dollar Chicago lifestyle couldn’t have
been farther apart. Ms. Frank weaves a touching story and ultimately all
characters become empathetic in the reader’s eyes. Nothing is as it seems to
be. The transformation of the characters is believable. It’s a hoot as well as a make-you-feel-good book.
  *I was sad to learn Dorothea Benton Frank died September
2019.
Thank goodness she wrote
her novels for readers to enjoy for generations to come!
 

The Giver of Stars by JoJo
Moyes. 2019. Historical Fiction.
Every now and then, I read a book that is exceptionally
GREAT. The Giver of Stars is one of those. JoJo Moyes works her magic,
like a breath of fresh air to this page-turning suspenseful historical novel
with unforgettable characters and enough plot twists to keep the reader
guessing until the last page. Moyes’ trademark wit keeps the dark themes that
thread through the novel from becoming too melancholy.
The English protagonist, Alice Wright, has enough spunk and
determination to survive her loveless marriage to the only son of the wealthy mine
owner in the forlorn fictional coal mining town of Baileyville, Kentucky. Her
source of purpose and inspiration is volunteering to be part of Eleanor
Roosevelt’s new traveling library. These Packhorse Librarians venture through
the hollers and mountains, in all kinds of weather and get to know the secluded
mountain people. They teach those who do not know how to read the basics of
reading. This was a time when mountain folks did not have telephones, radios or
televisions. Reading was there one and only entertainment, connection and
source of information to life beyond their rugged mountain homes.
After her father-in-law savagely beats Alice on her first Christmas day in America, a battered bleeding Alice walks out into the cold, and never
returns. Margery offers her refuge and their friendship becomes a welcome
relief for both of them.
Margery, a notorious deceased bootlegger’s daughter, is the
lead librarian and becomes Alice’s best friend. Three other strong independent
women join them; though only Margery knew she was strong and self-sufficient
before they got started. These brave women refused to be intimidated by men or
the social norms of their times. They learn to depend on each other with a new
found sense of loyalty, justice and humanity, while the men they love are
supportive and often in awe of their women’s courage.
This is a well-researched novel about true events from
America’s past. The Giver of Stars will likely become a modern classic.
It is unmatched in its range and riveting larger-than-life storytelling, humor,
and heartaches.

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher, 2019. Novel - Suspense, Mystery. This novel is never what you think it is. The narrator is unreliable and every time you think you know what’s happening, the table turns upside down. It’s definitely a page turner that you won’t soon forget. 

The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher. 2018. Historical fiction. It is the story Kathleen ‘Kick’ Kennedy, the brilliant beautiful second daughter of Rose and Joe Kennedy starting in 1939 while her father was the U.S. Ambassador to England until four years after WW2. The Kennedys are portrayed as hard working, passionate, intelligent, entitled hard Irish drinkers with a clannish loyalty to each other. It is a well researched book but not classified as biographical. If you have a even a slight interest in the Kennedy years, this might be a just the book for you. I learned a lot about the mysterious Kathleen who had close relationships with her older brothers, Joe and Jack. Knowing all the heartache that lay ahead for this family as I read the book made me feel sad for them, despite all their privilege and wealth.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan. 2017. Debut novel. Historical Fiction. WW2 England. It is was a sweet read, well researched with likable 
characters. The plot was not suspenseful. The book was cleverly written with multiple voices in the form of letters or journal entries. It reminded me a good bit of The Guernsey Isle Potato Peel Society. A very nice companion book for a cold winter nights.

I was fortunate to read an Advance Reader Copy of American
Dirt
by Jeanine Cummins last November. I immediately pre-ordered my own
copy. It is an amazing novel that knocked my socks off. The first page starts
off with a literal bang and every page thereafter is so full of tension that it
was almost a one-night book. 
Like many other readers, I was stunned with the protests of some Latino writers American Dirt was released on January 20. This was followed by retractions by some reviewers who had praised American Dirt before its release. The author even had to cancel her book tour due to death threats. Accusing Cummins of not suffering the real immigrant experience. Good
grief, do writers have to kill someone to write a murder story? That’s what
research is for. It seemed more like professional jealousy than protesting
authenticity.

Well that ’s all for this month. Till next time,  keep reading my friends. 


Later. Ann






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