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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05/31/24
May Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 10:46 am
Greetings to my blog-reading friends, I hope the last few weeks have been good to you. My life continues to roll on at what often feels like a frantic speed. My husband celebrated another BIG birthday this month, one of our dear friends planned a dinner party for the day after; I asked her if she could include a bit of a celebration of his life at the party. She was more than happy to. I asked for no gifts, just all his friends stand and share a favorite memory with him. It was a wonderful evening for him…and I think everyone else too. Then there were several small family gatherings to wish him well. Our granddaughter, her husband and the new baby were home from SC and we
met sweet little two month old Noah, our newest great-grandchild. Such a
cuddly beautiful baby boy! Another granddaughter is engaged, wedding plans for June 2025. Plus May birthdays celebrated for my daughter, a grandson, a grandson-in-law, a granddaughter, and a daughter-in-law. My mom has been gone for 14 years and I still miss her, especially every May - buying gifts for her birthday and Mother’s Day. (I went to the cemetery and placed flowers on her and Dad’s marker, as well as my brother Bobby’s. He’s been gone for more than 50 years, and still dearly missed by all his siblings.) 


We’ve had several small dinner parties this month, and some wonderful overnight house-guests, too. My credit card was hacked and I had to get new one. What a world we live in! I multi-task as much as possible, as I’m typing this, I’m also vacuuming our bedroom with my little round robot sweeper. Whatever it takes… I’ve made three batches of strawberry jam so far this spring. Sometimes my husband asks me how I manage to do everything, I just smile and tell him, “One foot in front of the other and the tasks at hand get done.” I’ve also potted most of my summer plants.


I’ve read several books but will only mention the better ones. A couple I gave up on and didn’t bother to finish. One of the last things my mom told me was, “Life is too short for bad books.” She was an avid reader her entire life.

One Blood, by Denine Millner, 2023. This was an engrossing book about a young black girl’s survival from tension-filled post-segregation Virginia, raised by her grandmother is shipped north after her grandmother’s passing to live with an ambitious aunt who she never met before. She becomes pregnant, her aunt sells her baby, who is adopted and that child grows up and begins to look for here roots. It’s a powerful story spanning the great migration to the civil unrest of the 1960s to the quest for women’s equality in the early 2000s. I highly recommend this novel. It helps the reader understand the plight of so many blacks…and probably anyone trapped in poverty.

Rain Breaks No Bones, By Barbara J. Taylor, 2024. This is the third in her Scranton Trilogy. The novel is a page-turner, well-researched with wonderful well-developed characters. (This author stayed with us a couple nights while on a book tour for her first novel, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night. She’s a lovely person and such a great writer. We were blessed.) Rain Breaks No Bones is set in Scranton in 1955. The protagonists are a mother and young-adult daughter, Violet and Daisy. Their bond is deep but often tense. It includes a flash flood that is horrifically depicted. A bi-racial couple, madly in love in a relatively small Pennsylvania town in the 1950s. The comradery of women working in glove factory. A widowed grandmother, raising her grandson - she’s also a seer who listens to the voices of the dead and arranges seances for those desperate to speak with their loved ones. Family secrets are painfully revealed. I especially loved the fragments of old hymns that pop up just when the characters need them most.The books are not necessary to read in order, but I think reading them in order adds depth to the poignancy of the stories. The second in the trilogy is All Waiting Is Long. I highly recommend these thought-provoking books with characters who remain with the reader long after the last pages. They are wonderful books.

Kingdom of the Blind, by Louise Penny. 2018. (I found this book at our local bookstore, On The Side Books - new and used books, bigger and better than ever- recently reopened,(WOOHOO!!), it’s been closed since Covid.) Louise Penny’s books are always a good read. Her characters are well-developed,with plot twists and enough tension to keep readers turning the pages. This one has two simultaneous unrelated plots, one a lost dangerous new street drug shipment. The other Inspector Gamache and a neighbor Myrna, are named as executors on an estate of a complete stranger. Nothing is ever easy for Gamache as he learns that even he has blind spots. I highly recommend Penny’s books if you haven’t read any yet, you are missing some great stories. Always set in Three Pines, Quebec, Canada.

Behind the Frame, by Tracy Gardner. 2020. (A Shepherd Sisters Mystery from Hallmark Publishing. I found this book at Barnes & Nobles in S.C. last winter. I was not aware that Hallmark had started its own publishing company and wanted to sample one of their books. If you like Hallmark movies, this would be just your cup of tea.) There is a series of Shepherd Sister Murder Mysteries. But this one easily stands alone, I had no trouble following the characters. From the back cover: “When art in the park leads to murder in the dark, the Shepherd sister have another crime to solve.” Savanna Shepherd, an art expert turned elementary art teacher, is planning and art festival for their small town. She and her sisters are convinced the arrested suspect did not do it, they uncover hidden resentments and find several people could have had motives to  murder the victim. It’s a quick easy read with a good little mystery and likable characters.
 

The Chaos Agent by Mark Greany. 2024. (Amazon: Best mystery, thriller and Suspense.) This was my book club’s choice for this month. It generated an interesting discussion. Artificial intelligence leads to shockingly real devastation. Someone is killing the world’s leading experts on robotics and computers. A desperate Russian scientist approaches Court Gentry and Zoya to ask for their protection, but before they can help, they are attacked by a team of professional assassins. They escape, but wherever they turn, it’s clear that whoever’s tracking them is always going to be one step ahead. With danger at this level, there’s no choice but to attack. There is one man who may hold the answers to all their questions. But he’s gone to ground in a fortress surrounded by a veritable army in Cuba. If that’s not bad enough, he has a new chief of security—Court’s old comrade.


We also have watched a few good movies, but the only one I will mention is… Larry and Marge Go Large with Annette Benning and Bryan Cranston. We watched it twice more this month with our house-guests and friends. It’s so entertaining and well done. I highly recommend this one again. I’d be happy to watch it a couple more times!

Stay safe and well, and keep reading, my friends. 

Later, Ann

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05/01/24
April Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 2:36 pm
A day late with posting my April Blog. Sorry, it seems my time management skills are slipping! I hope all my readers are faring well with spring. In N/W Pa. we’ve had a real mix of all four seasons this month. Though, the last few days have been great and I was able to complete a few outdoor painting projects.That always feels good. We are okay and our family is well, for that we are grateful.

We’ve listened to some very good audible books this month and read some good books and one that was great. Due to limited time I will mention only one this month and tell you about the others in my May Blog.  

The Women by Kristin Hannah. 2024. Historical fiction. It was our book club’s choice for April and it generated an in-depth and emotional discussion. It began in 1966 with a young registered nurse, ‘Frankie’ McGrath, joining the Army Nurse Corps, serving in Vietnam. Initially signing up to follow her older brother - who ended up being killed in a helicopter accident. Her fellow nurses, with several months experience, guide her and protect her. They become like sisters to her for the rest of her life. Frankie is overwhelmed by the chaos and destruction of war, yet becomes one of the lucky, the brave, the broken and the lost. But the war is only the beginning, maybe even the easy part, as she and her veteran friends return to a divided America that wants to forget Vietnam. Even the VA denies her help since no women served in Vietnam! I fear I do not do this novel justice in my brief description. It’s an incredible story written by one of the best writers I’ve ever read.

We’ve also watched a few good movies on television.The best one:  Jerry and Marge Go Large on Prime. It’s based on a true story and very well done. My husband complained of feeling tired and wanted to go to bed early. I encouraged him to give the movie a try. He soon forgot he was tired as he sat in his chair laughing at the antics of the movie. But it was not just a comedy. It gave us plenty to think about as well as a good nights sleep.

Till next month, keep reading my friends. Stay well and a count your blessings.

Later, 
Ann
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03/29/24
March Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 12:29 pm
Happy Spring and Happy Easter to all my blog readers. I trust you are well and managing the lingering cold winter-like weather. As a daily dog-walker, I have to say, snow is much prettier in November than March! We did have a few beautiful sunny warm days several weeks ago. Obviously they were only teaser spring days. Here we are preparing for Easter, I have 118 plastic eggs ready for our great-grandchildren’s annual Easter egg hunt. I hope the weather will cooperate for an outdoor hunt, but what will be, will be. Our Easter will be considerably smaller this year. One son and his family are in SC awaiting the birth of their first grandchild, her water broke early this morning and she’s in labor as I type. It’s hard to concentrate as my thoughts and prayers are with our beautiful granddaughter… This will be our 10th great-grandchild. Each one is so very precious and special. SPECIAL UPDATE: Noah was born while I was writing my blog. He’s 10 lbs. 3 oz, 23 1/2 inches. Can’t wait to meet him, he’s adorable!
My library visit on Thursday evening, March 21 was fun and well-enough attended. The library’s interviewer, Janelle, asked excellent questions during a very relaxed interview-format type of program. It was cozy and I enjoyed it very much. Now I’m motivated to somehow find the time to get my next book edited and published.
I’ve read a few good books this month, by chance two of them were about American women in Vietnam in the 1960s:
The Women by Kristin Hannah. 2024. Historical fiction. (It’s our Book Club’s choice for April.) This is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. Frankie and her cohorts, all the military nurses in the Vietnam War, prove over and over again that women can be heroes. Frankie follows her older brother to Vietnam, as a freshly graduated registered nurse, much to her parents dismay. She’s as green and inexperienced as the young men who are drafted to fight for our freedom in Vietnam. She’s overwhelmed with the bedlam of the field hospital’s surgery triage, the high drama of chaos and makes every day feel like she’s on the precipice of life and death. Friendships became sisterhoods for the battlefield nurses. But Frankie and her veteran friends found there real battle is transitioning back to civilian life - being spit on in the airport when she first arrives to a changed and divided America, angry protestors, and her distraught parents who never really accepted her decision to go to Vietnam. The family’s unresolved grief over her brother’s death in a jungle helicopter crash, it’s an unforgettable story of deep friendships and bold patriotism.


Absolution by Alice McDermott, 2023. The next book I read was ironically and unbeknownst to me also about Vietnam an in the same time period. It was also a good book but the characters were less likable and believable for me. This is a story about the military officer’s wives and their efforts to create lives conducive to their ambitious husband’s successful military and government agency careers. Conniving and distorted facts were the pillars of the wary alliance between the characters. Trisha is a shy newlywed; Charlene is a practiced corporate souse and mother of three. Sixty years later Charlene’s daughter reaches out to Tricia, after an encounter with a Vietnam vet.

The Whistler by John Grisham. 2016. I realized I’d read this book several years ago when I was well into it again. But I still enjoyed it and found I remembered little about the plot from back then. (I find that is the case with most thrillers I read.) The heroine, Lacy Stotlz, investigates a corrupt judge in Florida that has links to the local coast mafia, a casino, multiple businesses and hotels. Her partner is murdered and her life is on the line but she survives with a little help from her loud obnoxious brother and the FBI. A fun read.


The Judge’s List by John Grisham. 2021. This is another novel about investigator Lacy Stotlz from The Whistler. She still has the same job and is tiring of it. Then is contacted by a mysterious woman who uses several aliases - her father was murdered 20 years ago and the case is unsolved and forgotten by all except her. Proving the guilt of a serial killer judge who is forensics, police procedure and the law requires cunning fortitude, patience and seems almost impossible. Even better than The Whistler. Another fun read.


The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghase. 2024. We listened to this fabulous audio book driving home from SC last month and through many meals and short trips after returning. It’s a very long book but so very worthwhile. The author is the narrator and he does an excellent job. It’s a saga about a rural Christian Indian family in India through three generations. It helps westerners better understand Indian culture and see the similarities as well as the many differences. I will paraphrase a statement made by a Hindu passenger on a train car early in the story, six passengers were sharing the compartment and all came from different religions, social stations and areas. “Isn’t it amazing how we can all share the same compartment for a long journey. No one cares about the other’s political or religions- we are just traveling companions and get along well.” (I thought to myself, how sad it is not that way in our lives today as we watch the deep political divides in our own country seem to get deeper with each passing month.) This is a fantastic and worthwhile book to read or listen to, the author is a genius as the story twists and turns and the wonderful characters interact with each other. Loved this book!


The Edge by David Baldacci. 2023. This s A 6:20 MAN Thriller. I hate to admit it but his one kept me awake a couple nights. The characters were so well developed and the plot so twisted, I suspected every person in the large cast of characters of the murder…A CIA operative is killed in her rural hometown Potter, Maine. Her laptop and phone are missing. national security is at risk. But agent ex-army Ranger Travis Devine learns that small towns hold secrets. As he mixes in with the locals, he feels more and more like the outsider he is. The local police are mostly uncooperative and resent his part in the investigation. There’s a long history of secrets, and someone will stop at nothing to keep them from being exposed. Travis does not know who to trust and who wants him dead.
We’ve also watched some good movies:
 
Oppenheimer was excellent. We had to watch it after it swept the Academy Awards.
We also watched Cleopatra, the Roman Empire and Alexander on Netflix documentary series. Currently we’re watching Moses. All are excellent and well done.
Till next time, please keep reading my friends and stay well.
Later, 
Ann
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02/29/24
February Blog 2024
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 4:55 pm

Thunder and
lightning woke me this morning. First time ever to experience that in February!
I hope all my readers are well and thriving. I’m typing this blog as a document
since my blog site is not functioning today.

**My blog site was GONE when I tried to write my February Blog. So, I sent this blog as an email to all my subscribers. I’ve spent several hours with my blog site provider. The blogs for October, November and December-2023 have been lost, as well as January 2024. I was able to retrieve the July and August/September blogs, 2023 but they copied over in a very unsatisfactory format. If any of you have copies of the lost blogs, PLEASE send them to me. Thank you!

We spent
three weeks in Hilton Head, South Carolina since my January Blog. It was
relaxing and fun. During our travels we visited with my sister and her husband
in Columbia, Md and then they joined us for a week in Hilton Head. We had lunch
with my cousin and his son, then his son joined us for a week in HH with his
wonderful girlfriend. We had dinner on the way down and breakfast on the way home
with our granddaughter and her husband in Summerville, SC. They visited us in
HH the first Saturday and everyone had a great time. We had a three-bedroom
condo for the first week and moved to a one-bedroom for the last two weeks.
Jafar and Helga Hamidi, our dear friends spend winters there and we spent lots
of time with them, while the family was with us and then when it was just us.
It was a very relaxing and fun time.
 On
our way south. we also had lunch with dear friends from Bradford who relocated
to Summerville, SC about a year before our granddaughter moved there.

 We arrived
home on Sun evening, Feb 18thand picked up our dog as soon as we
made enough room in the van for his crates, etc. He barely missed us, he had so
much fun with all his ‘dog cousins’, he stayed with family while we were away.
He’s much better behaved since we came home, I think it was good for him to be around
other dogs. We’ve been swamped with family activities since returning home, and
getting caught up with our life here at home.
  
 

 *I will
be the Visiting Author at Bradford Public Library on Thursday evening, March 21
at 6:30. I’d love to see as many of you who can make it come join us for a fun
evening talking about reading, writing and books.

 I’ve read
some good books this month, vacation allows me more reading time. Here are the
ones worth mentioning:

 The
Excitements
by CJ
Wray. 2024. Fiction. Publisher-HarperCollins. A British novel, full of humor
and suspense as two sisters, both WW II veterans in their late 90s, and always
looking for their next “excitement”. Their devoted great-nephew Archie, a
historian always believed his aunties had minor roles in the Women’s Royal
Naval Service and the Frist Aid Nursing Yeomanry, but that’s only half the
story. There’s a reason sweet Auntie Penny can dispatch a would-be mugger with
an umbrella. It’s a delightful entertaining quick read.

 George
and Laura
by
Chritopher Andersen. 2002. Nonfiction. Biography. Publisher-HarperCollins-Doubleday.
You don’t have to be a Republican to enjoy this book. It starts with parallel
stories of George and Laura’s childhoods and how they came to meet when in
their early 30s.
 It helps the reader understand
the pressures of life in a fish bowl. Being President and First Lady has its
upside and downside as well. Both sides are covered as well as many experiences
in between. I loved the first paragraph before the Preface. “The best decision
I ever made was asking Laura to marry me. I’m not sure the best decision she
ever made was saying yes. But I’m glad she did…” George W. Bush   *Pertinent
and timely, this being an election year.

 Never by Ken Follett. 2021. Fiction. Penguin.
(We listened to this on Audio while we traveled. We’d listened to this one a
couple years ago and loved it even more the second time around.) It’s a very
complicated story and requires careful listening. There are multiple
protagonists. Two in the Sahara in Northern Africa, both intelligence officers,
one French and the one USA. Another main one in Beijing, China. And another,
the first woman President of the USA. *A retired government official said it
was too real for comfort. I highly recommend this one, it’s a thriller suspense
novel…we loved it.

 All Good
People Here
by
Ashley Flowers. 2022. Fiction. Suspense. Publisher- Bantam. What are your
neighbors capable of when they think no one is watching? Everyone in Wakasa,
Indiana remembers the murder of January Jacobs, a six-year-old twin. No one was
charged. The town believed her mother got away with murder. The mother believed
her six-year-old son, the other twin, killed his sister. It’s an intense
page-turner. Protagonist Margot Davies, an investigative reporter, returned to
take care of her elderly widower Uncle Luke who had helped raise her. His dementia
had worsened considerably since his wife had died a year earlier. A cliff-hanger
ending. Excellent book!

 Daylight by David Baldacci. 2022. Fiction. Thriller.
Grand Central Publishing. FBI Agent Atlee Pine’s search for her missing twin sister
clashes with military investigator Army CID’s John Puller’s parallel
investigation. Leading them both into international conspiracy from which
neither will escape unscathed. Atlee has been tormented for 30 years by her sister’s
kidnapping at age 6. She and Puller had worked on cases together in the past
and respected each other. It is a complicated, layered, page turning thriller.
A reader can’t go wrong with a Baldacci novel. Another excellent story!

 We
also went to see four movies while on vacation. One was bad, I fell asleep
during the movie- not once but twice! And I’m not normally a napper. It was so
boring. But I won’t mention its name.

 American
Fiction
was a wonderful movie. About
a widowed mother’s dementia and her three accomplished adult children and their
dysfunctional family dynamics. Very well written and performed. This movie won
Best Feature, Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting
Actress for the 2024 Independent Spirit Awards. It’s expected to be nominated
for some Academy Awards this spring. Excellent movie!

 Beekeeper,
an action thriller - we lost body
count within the first half hour. But then, “it was just a movie”, right? It
was a good movie in that it held our attention and almost kept us on the edge of
our seats. The plot was a bit original and the performers were excellent in
their roles.

 One
Love
, The Bob Marley Story,
was wonderful. Well-acted, good music and kept us interested. We were not
familiar with much of his music or his life. (His album, Exodus was
deemed the Best Album of the 20th Century by the NY Times.) It was
about his early life, his wife who was also one of his back-up singers, his relationship
with his band and managers. And then his rise to international fame. We will
definitely see this movie again. I highly recommend this movie.

 We
also watched a couple Netflix movies that were okay but not worthy of my blog.

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

Later, Ann

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August/September Sept. 27, 2023
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 4:24 pm
Hello my blog-reading friends. I
hope you’ve all had a good summer and transition into fall. Just when I
thought life couldn’t get any busier, it did! We’ve had several
delightful house guests over the last few weeks, as well as some
memorable events. Our granddaughter’s wedding on August 12 was
absolutely beautiful, especially the bride. It was so much fun - no one
wanted to go home! She had seven attendants, and a great DJ from
Rochester, New York. It was in a lovely rustic restored barn with
wonderful accommodations for the wedding party and guests in Frewsburg,
NY, near Jamestown. My son and his wife certainly did a great job
raising their three daughters; her two younger sisters were beautiful
co-maids-of-honor. We were so happy and proud to share that special day
with them and all the extended family and friends who attended.

The next day was our annual McCauley
Family Reunion at the McCauley Farm in Clarion County, PA. It’s such a
feeling of peace and belonging to sit under the shade trees, reminiscing
and laughing with cousins and their spouses who after all these years
feel like cousins too. We only have one elderly uncle left and two
aunties. We used to have grandparents and seven sets of aunts and
uncles… We were tired as we drove home but it was such a good weekend,
worth all the effort.

We hosted my husband’s much smaller
family reunion at our home over Labor Day weekend. It was also fun with
many trips down memory lane. Everyone helped with food preparations and
clean-up. One of our guests was from Basel, Switzerland and was keen to
learn to drive a lawn tractor and cut grass. He caught on quickly and
ended up mowing the entire lawn for us during the days of his visit. It
saved me from mowing during my birthday week. This reunion was followed
by my birthday with lots more family gatherings. These were mostly in
restaurants, with me treated like a queen for a few days.

Of course, as usual we had several doc
and dentist visits during the last few weeks. And I spend at least 6
hours a week cutting grass. Maybe that’s why I love fall so much. I’ll
be trimming back my gardens for winter soon. The perennial and annual
flowers are all
beginning to show
end of the season starkness. And I’ll only mow maybe one or at the most
two more times before winter. Woo-hoo!  The leaves are already changing
to the beautiful reds, orange and gold of fall. Plus cooler nights and
days, what’s not to like? I love the change of seasons, but fall is always my favorite.
 
Our granddaughter who just started her
career as a professional registered nurse, on the Intensive Care Unit
in a large hospital, had the misfortune of passing out during her twelve
hour shift last Friday night, she fell backwards and fractured her
skull, was rushed to ER and after many tests, was sent back to Intensive
Care as a patient. Not the way she planned her shift that night! The
tests cleared her of all the bad things that could have caused her to
pass out. She will see her neurologist this week for a follow-up. She
says she feels okay, except her head and neck hurt. She takes only
Tylenol for the discomfort. Thank goodness. Her eight-year-old son’s
bedtime prayer on Saturday night: “Thank you Jesus for not letting my
mom die today. Amen.”  Amen.

Life has come full circle for me in a
way. I have joined a Bible Study where I’m learning so much. Fifty seven
years ago I had my first child, a beautiful daughter. I cherished her
and raised her the best I could, which included teaching her about the
Bible and taking her to church and Sunday School regularly. Now she is the leader of the Bible Study I’m attending. She is such a good teacher and my faith is growing again.

I’ve read several books during my absent weeks from blogging. I reviewed The Sheriff’s Daughter for Story Circle, it was a fun and interesting read. I highly recommend it. Memoir. You can read my review by clicking:
https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/stories-from-the-sheriffs-daughter/

Home Front by Kristin Hannah.
2012. Fiction. This was our book club choice for August. It’s a
fantastic story, one of Hannah’s best. It generated one of our best book
discussions ever. The protagonist had a very unhappy and unstable
childhood, her alcoholic mother died while she was a senior in high
school, she manged to graduate living alone the last few months of her
senior year. She joined the army and eventually became a helicopter
pilot. Later she married had two daughters and a handsome successful
husband who resented her army life - she stayed on in the National
Guard, playing soldier one weekend a month. The tension builds
with every page, the characters are well developed and believable.
Several of our members have or had sons or grandsons in the military so
it was a poignant read for us.
Pay Dirt Road by Samantha Jayne Allen. 2022. Fiction - Murder/Mystery. Pay Dirt Road
is her debut novel. It is Book One in a three-part Annie McIntyre
Mystery Series. It was awarded the Best Mystery - Thriller - Suspense
last year.  The protagonist, Annie McIntyre has a love/hate relationship
with her hometown, Garnett, Texas. She just graduated from college and
is back home waitressing. Her grandfather is a private investigator.
Annie is ambitious but has no idea how to jump-start her future. The
complicated
plot is
tricky; the characters are well developed. This is an excellent coming
of age novel, even for those of us who are already ‘of age!’

Girls Like Us by Christina
Alger. 2019. Fiction - Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Suspense. FBI
agent, Nell Flynn hasn’t been home in ten years. She and her dad,
Homicide Detective Martin Flynn never had much of a relationship. When
her father dies in a motorcycle accident, Nell returns to the house she
grew up in to scatter his ashes and close his estate. Worlds collide
when she investigates a string of grisly murders on Long Island that
raise impossible questions.
But she
doesn’t like the answers she finds and narrowly escapes with her own
life. An excellent book, I want to read more of this author’s books.
(*Based on the Gilgo Beach murders that took place in Long Island, NY in
2010.)

The Lost Ticket by Freya
Sampson. 2022. Fiction.  Protagonist Libby is a brokenhearted young
woman who feels her life is in tatters; she boards a bus in London and
meets 
elderly
Frank. He tells her about the time in 1962 when he met a girl on the 88
bus, with beautiful red hair like hers.They’d made plans for a date at
the National Gallery art museum, but Frank lost the bus ticket with her
number on it. For the past 60 years he’s ridden the same bus, trying to
find her, but with no luck. Libby is inspired to help Frank find his
love just one more time, though it’s a race against time with his
dementia progressing daily. This is a beautifully written uplifting
novel about how a shared common experience among strangers can transform
lives. The quirky characters and poignant plot kept me turning the
pages.

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood. 2020. Fiction.
( Ms. Woods is an Australian author.) My sister gave me this book to
read. It certainly did not grab me early on. But she encouraged me to
stay with it. I did and it’s a book I will never forget. Three women in
their seventies reunite one last, life-changing weekend in the beach
house of their late friend. Can their friendship survive without her?
Another powerfully poignant novel.

Civil Blood by Ann McMillan.
2001. Historical Fiction. A few pages into this novel and I realized I’d
read it many years ago, but I kept reading because it was very good and
I couldn’t remember how it would end. It’s well-researched and the
characters are well-developed. A complicated detective story, full of
interesting insights into the divided loyalties and conflicting beliefs
of the times. Takes place in Richmond  in 1862, dealing with germ
warfare of a smallpox semi-epidemic.

We are currently streaming Three Pines
on Netflix. Based on Louise Penny ’s Three Pines mystery series. The
characters are almost as good as in her books. It’s light fun and almost
cozy to watch.

We watched two excellent movies this month:
First: Painkillers, a 6 part
mini series on Netflix, it’s so powerful and important that we ended up
binging on the on all six shows in one evening. It deals with the opiod
epidemic, oxycodone and Purdue Pharmaceuticals. Mathew Broderick is one
of the actors. I highly recommend it.

The second powerful movie we watched, at the local theater was Sound of Freedom.
It deals with the kidnapping and sex trafficking of young girls and
boys. It ’s a very important and disturbing film but should be seen by
all. I have always wondered why in police busts, etc. over the years for
prostitution that only the sex workers were arrested. What about all
their customers? Weren’t they as guilty of the crime as the sex
workers?  And when adult males are involved with underage sex workers…
WHO is the real law-breaker?

Well, that’s all for now. Till next time, please stay safe and keep reading, my friends. 
Later, Ann

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July Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 4:16 pm
Gosh, I wish I could figure out where time
goes. All I know is - it seems to slip through my hands even faster than
money. And believe me - with the ever increasing price of gas and
groceries, these days money goes very fast… We’ve had another super busy
month, lots of appointments. And thankfully lots of visits with adult
children and grandchildren, as well as other family members and friends.
It’s hard to keep up with them all but its fun trying to.

We’ve had 25 dead ash trees cut from the field
directly above and behind our home this month. We’re hoping the tree
cutter keeps his promise to finish the job soon, there are still 5 more
to cut down. My son cut 3 trees down in front of the our house, near the
rock garden on Memorial Day. Seems there is always something
happening. I do lots of lawn mowing and weeding with all my flower
gardens. Summer days start early and end late at our home. I also sanded
and painted a cute and very heavy wooden patio table and two chairs. I
learned to use an electric sander, moving up in the wolrd!

Last week we went to a program at the Bradford Public Library featuring author David Poyer who spoke about his new book, Writing in the Age of AI. It
was very interesting and a bit frightening to consider the ways AI can
and will assist and threaten writers. I’m anxious to start this book.
I’ll keep you posted in my August Blog. It was also good to see David
again, he’s an old friend from my Creative Writing days at Wilkes
University. 

 Four books to tell you about this month: 

The best one is The Secret Book of Flora Lea by
Patti Callahan Henry. 2023. Historical Fiction. The novel is about two
sisters, Hazel, age 14 and Flora, age 5, who were part of England’s
Operation Pied Piper in 1939. Can you imagine 800,000 children evacuated
from the cities to rural England carrying only small backpacks with
identity and
contact information inside as well as a change
of clothes - within four days of the decree. Train loads of children
headed to safety to escape the German bombs. Many were taken into lovely
safe  country homes. ( Three and a half million children were moved to
safety.) The sisters landed with a kind woman and her teenage son. A few
months later, Flora was  playing near the river that flowed through the
fields near their caretaker’s home and she disappeared. Flora was
pronounced dead from drowning a few weeks later. Hazel was tormented by
guilt for twenty years, blaming herself for not watching her sister more
closely. She’s working in a cozy rare bookstore in London when she
opens a mysterious children’s book that contained long-held secrets from
her and Flora’s childhood spent in the English countryside during WWII.
I don’t want my review comments to be spoilers…I will close by sharing
with you: this was the best book I’ve read in a very long time and I
will definitely read more of P.C. Henry’s books.

Bluebird by Sharon Cameron. 2021.
Historical Fiction. I read this book a few months ago and missed sharing
it with you. The story is set in 1946 with Eva, a young German girl
crossing the Atlantic under the pretense of starting a new life.
There are flashbacks to bad times during the war. Her
purpose is to find the escaped Nazi and bring an end to Project
Bluebird. She finds a temporary room in a group home for displaced
people. She is befriended by a kind young man who volunteers at the
home. this book is exceptionally well-researched and the character
development is is extraordinary. I highly recommend this book too, its
an unforgettable story.

Identity by Nora Roberts. 2023. Fiction.
This was my book club’s choice for July, it is also the first Nora
Roberts book our group has ever chosen. Amazon lists it as one of the
best books of 2023… I dare to disagree with such platitudes for this
book. I expected more about Identity theft and less about serial
killers. I felt it was predictable and the characters could have used
more depth. But it was interesting and if you are Nora Roberts fan, this
might be something you’d enjoy. 

I also reviewed Acts of Atonement, you can read the review by clicking the following link: 
https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/acts-of-atonement/

I also read a memoir of a famous author, I
picked it up at a garage sale for 50 cents. I’m glad I didn’t pay any
more than that for it and only sorry I wasted several hours of my life
reading it. No, I won’t mention the title or author.

We watched two good movies on Netflix this month: The Highwaymen, starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson. It’s an older movie but was well done with lots of food for thought.

The Identicals, Loosely based on what if Elvis’s
twin brother had not died at birth and instead was adopted by a
minister and his wife? Its an entertaining movie with good actors and
singers.

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

Later, 

Ann

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06/30/22
June Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 2:30 pm
Wow!  Another month has slipped by; it seems like we were celebrating Memorial Day just a few days ago, and already it’s June 30. We’ve had some lovely summer weather, a few very hot days but mostly mild temps, with just the right amount of rain to keep everything green and lush- I love Pennsylvania’s green beauty. We’ve been busy with lots of picnics and family time, also lawn care and gardening. Thanks to my young neighbor/helper all our small and medium size flower beds are ready for summer and looking quite pretty

We attended our youngest grandchild’s high school graduation in St. Marys, PA. She’s lovely, bright, and a very nice girl - with plans to attend the U. of Pittsburgh, Main Campus, (she loves cities), majoring in premed. She took dance classes for 15 years and is an exceptionally talented dancer, ballet to hip-hop to tap. It’s been fun to watch her dance recitals over the years.

My computer was down for almost a week, I almost felt like a part of me had been amputated to not be able to use it at all. Finally got it back up today. 100s of emails to sort and mostly delete. My printer is still not working, I hope to get it back on track today. I never thought I’d see the day that technology would be such an important part of my life!

I’ve read some interesting books this month, finding read-time has been a challenge, I’ve forced myself to exist with less sleep - the books have been so worth it!

Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand, 2021. Fiction. This was my book club’s choice for June and it was a perfect summer read. There were many plot twists and layer upon layer of interpersonal family drama. Plus the guardian angel, Martha, helping the newly deceased protagonist use her three nudges, (i.e. like wishes), wisely. The wit and wisdom along with the character development kept the pages turning. The themes of this novel will stay with readers long after the last page.

Run, Rose, Run by Dolly Parton and and James Patterson. 2022. Fiction. I’ve loved Dolly Parton’s music and song writing for many years. When I discovered Dolly was one of the readers on Audible, it was a no-brainer. The characters were well developed and the plot kept the story moving: a young country singer and her harrowing struggles to survive. It was fun to listen to Dolly read, her speaking voice is not reminiscent of her singing voice. She sounds more like a regular person than a singer. And that fits perfectly for the story. When I read a book that’s co-written, I always try to figure out who wrote which part. With this one it was quite obvious and it was another fun book.

Eternal by Lisa Scottoline. 2021. Historical Fiction.This was a much more serious novel by this prolific author than any of her other books I’ve read. It was well researched; the characters were extremely well developed. There were many layers of tension threaded throughout the 463 pages of the novel. Takes place in Rome, beginning in 1937, follows three best friends and classmates, Elisabetta, Marco and Sandro from high school and the next twenty years. The exceptional plot twists through the streets of Rome and as Sondra, a young male Jewish Math wizard, Marco a handsome charming athletic man who can’t read and drops out of school. He rises quickly through the highest echelons of Mussolini’s officers. Both are in love with beautiful Elisabetta who is reeling in despair as her mother abandons her and her alcoholic father. Intrigue and suspense keep the pages turning as fast as a reader can read. It is a great book!

Wherever the Road Leads, A Memoir of Love, Travel and a Van, by K. Lang-Slattery, 2020. Travel Memoir. If you’ve ever wanted to travel the world and didn’t know how you would have the time or the money, this might be just the right book for you. It’s well documented from letters home, travel journals kept by the honeymoon couple, as well as keen recall for details back in 1972-1973 when they traveled the world for two years in a self-customized green VW van.
It is by far the best travel memoir I’ve read, the authors smooth writing style takes you there with none of the hassles of  long foreign travel. I reviewed this book for Story Circle. Click link below to read the review: https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/wherever-the-road-leads-a-memoir-of-love-travel-and-a-van-2/.

The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan. 2019. Historical Fiction. Started a bit slow but after a couple chapters became just as engaging as the author’s debut novel,”The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir.”  The characteristics of the protagonists, Mrs Braithwaite and Mr. Norris were totally unlike those of heroes in any other novel. Yet these characters developed throughout the novel - raising the standards for characterizations in all other spy novels, to be more than just physical descriptions of the beyond beautiful and handsome protagonists. The author’s wisdom shines through these characters. It also highlights a seldom mentioned fact that there were many Nazi sympathizers in England during WW2.  I highly recommend this fascinating novel.

We’ve been waiting and waiting for a movie at the local movie theater that we ‘d like to to see, none this last month. Meanwhile, we’ve been watching the Longmire series again on television. My husband loves it and really can’t remember seeing any of the shows before. I can barely remember these episodes. They’re good entertainment.

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


Later, Ann
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05/31/22
May Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 2:40 pm
I hope you’ve all had a good Memorial Day weekend. Sadly, there is fear and many broken hearts across our country today as there were 14 mass shootings in the U.S.A. during the last 3 days; 9 lives were lost and 60 were injured by gunfire. I don’t believe this is the freedom our brave veterans fought to preserve throughout our county’s history. I do not have answers but I have many questions. I remember going to a small country public school, most classes had about 110 graduates. Most students found summer work and the boys seemed to find old pick-up trucks to fix up. Every September the student parking lot looked like a used truck lot, there were so many pick-ups parked there each day, mostly with the keys still in the ignitions and unloaded hunting rifles displayed proudly on the back window gun-racks. Yet, we never had any shootings. Guns were treated with respect. There is so much debate about the cause of this lack of respect for human life. To be sure it is a quandary and something needs to be done, but what is the million dollar question.

The month of May is such a busy time for gardeners and those of us with large lawns to mow. I have potted more than a dozen annuals and weeded my perennials, my new red Rhododendron bushes are blooming spectacularly. I’m very happy with them. My largest perennial garden awaits me, and has been badly neglected so far this spring. I hope to have it in tip-top shape by next month’s blog.

My sister is home now. Her husband and son are assisting her to stay there. She’s in a wheel chair and her left side is paralyzed from the stroke. It is a big commitment 100 percent care, 24/7. She’s much happier being home, I think they all are. They converted their dining room into a bedroom and have a downstairs bathroom. Not the way they planned their retirement years for sure. She still has her great sense of humor.

I have not read as many books as usual this month.
Story Circle sent me Em’s Awful Good Fortune by Marcie Maxfield to review. You can read my review at:
https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/ems-awful-good-fortune/  I really enjoyed the story and learned a lot about other cultures from someone who had lived in several others.

Finding
Dorothy
, by Elizabeth
Letts
.Historical Fiction. 2019. This was an
exceptional story  about the making of the movie, ‘The Wizard of Oz’,
narrated from the perspective of author Frank Baum‘s widow, Maud. It takes
place in 1938 at MGM studio as Maud, age 77, 19 years after her husband’s
death. Many flashbacks to her early life tell the secrets of the ‘The Wonderful
Wizard of Oz’. It is a fascinating novel; I’d never been a big fan of the movie
but of course had seen it a few times over the years with my children. And I
always loved Judy Garland’s rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow’. I was pleased to
learn that this song was voted the No. 1 song of the 20th century by the
Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment of the
Arts. And I learned from this novel that ‘Over the Rainbow’ was almost cut from
the film because it was so long.

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, 1961. Nonfiction. This is a small book that is not tarnished by time. He wrote it while grieving the death of his beloved wife. Grief is grief, regardless of when it occurs. I bought it for a dear friend who recently lost her husband. I hope it will be helpful to her. The longing for a departed loved one is universal and timeless.

The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, 1942. Fiction. I decided to re-read this book after learning more about the author in recent weeks. It’s impressing in a much different way than it did when I read it back in my 20’s. It’s truly a classic, “A masterpiece of satire on Hell’s latest novelties and Heaven’s unanswerable answer.” Uncle Screwtape writes letter after letter to his nephew, Wormwood, to convince him that Christianity is a passing phase and Hell will triumph in the end. When I was young - I laughed my way through this book. When I read it this time, I laughed very little, time has a way of changing a person’s perspective.

We finished watching the first 14 seasons of Heartland for the second time. My husband loves it so much, I think he’d watch it for a third time. But for now we are taking a break. We’ve tried a couple other series and have a list to go through that have been recommended to us. Nothing has clicked with us yet.

We went to see Downton Abbey and Top Gun at the movie theater. Loved them both!

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

Later,  Ann
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04/28/22
April Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 11:50 am
May is almost here and we’ve had days in the high 70’s this April … as well as 8 inches of snow for Easter with several days well below freezing. On one of the sunny warm days, I set out our porch and patio furniture. I’ve never seen so much snow pile up on our colorful summer cushions before. The daffodils and hyacinths are so hardy that they appear to be happy even after being buried in snow for a couple days. Yesterday I planted a healthy red rhododendron bush to replace one that nourished the deer this past winter. I replanted that one away from the house and hope I can nurse it back to health in the next couple of months. Even as I type this blog, there are snow flurries softly dancing their way to the ground. 

 My little sister has had a very rough few months with various health problems. Then on April 21, she had a serious stroke that’s left her with left side weakness and slurred speech. After several days in ICU, she is on a Physical Therapy Rehab floor of the hospital. Prayers are welcome for our sweet Sue. Sometimes it seems life is not fair

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

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


I finished reading The Most Famous Man in America, The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher by Debby Applegate. 2006. (It was a National Book Critic’s Circle Award Finalist.) Nonfiction. Three Leaves Press. (500 pages) This is an interesting book, though not a page turner at any point. There were pages and pages of unnecessary tedious details but I’m still glad I read it. (Mr. Beecher was the younger brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.) The book starts as he journeys with his wife and many friends on a ship to deliver the unifying speech at Fort Sumter after the Civil War. He was a very well paid, even by today’s standards back in the 1860’s, a charismatic preacher, free spender who never had enough money. A self-absorbed brilliant man who was able to talk his way out many complicated situations during his life. Henry was the son of a famous minister, and the younger brother of several preachers, it seemed that the ministry was the family business. The harshness of pioneer life along the Ohio River in Indiana and back to the east coast, finally landing in Brooklyn with his long suffering wife. The deaths of two of his children in early childhood shook the foundations of his life. He projected himself as a people person, though the author paints a picture of a man who suffered from great loneliness based on the death of his mother when he was a toddler. His views on slavery, politics of the day as well as life in America during the middle and late19th century make this a worthwhile read.
 
The Melody Lingers On by Mary Higgins Clark. 2015. Suspense, fiction. Thorndike Press. I hadn’t read a book by this author in several years, and I was pleasantly surprised to be reminded as to why she is so successful. This book was a page turner, I remember reading years ago that Mary Higgins Clark got most of her story ideas from reading the newspapers.This one was definitely inspired by Bernie Madoff. It was an excellent story written by a master story teller. i highly recommend The Melody Lingers On.

Never by Ken Follett. 2021. Suspense, fiction.Viking Press.(802 pages.) i have been a Ken Follett fan for many years. His books are amazing and this is one of his best. It is current day, post pandemic; the terms ‘DEFCON 5′, 4, 3 , 2  and 1 become all too familiar as the characters and plot rotate between Chad/Libya, Washington D.C. and China/North Korea. At first it is challenging to keep the large cast of characters straight, but the tension builds quickly from
the beginning. It’s definitely a page turner. I spent many nights reading by the midnight oil and then tossing and turning as I dreamed about what was happening in Never. I highly recommend this novel.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. 2017. Fiction. Washington Square Press. (385 pages)  The story of a beautiful ambitious young motherless girl from Hell’s Kitchen, NYC who used her body to get to Hollywood - that was husband number one: Poor Ernie Diaz. Evelyn contacts a famous magazine to request Monique, a relatively unknown writer to do an interview with her. When the interviewer arrives, the aging actress demands she write Evelyn’s biography. And the duo-story unfolds, Evelyn dictates the chronological story of her life as Monique asks probing questions, while dealing with personal issues of her own. This has been a best seller for a couple years, it is our Book Club’s choice for April. I’m hosting Book Club tonight; I’m curious what the reaction will be from the other members. I personally did not like it much, I felt it was another example that being a best seller does not necessarily mean it’s a good book. The ending redeemed the book with me just a bit.
                                                                                                    
We went to see The Lost City, staring Sandra Bullock. It was a fun evening out with friends, no cooking since the evening included a quick dinner before the show. And we’re still watching Heartland for the second time. My husband just loves the series and we’re noticing so many more details that went over our heads the first time.

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

Later, Ann
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03/31/22
March Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 10:04 am
Hallelujah, spring is finally here! At least that’s what the calendar says...we enjoyed a few beautiful early spring-like days before the official start of Spring. And since then, we’ve had unseasonably cold weather with ice and snow. I delayed making an appointment to have my winter tires changed over to summer tires until next week. And I’m hoping that won’t be too soon. Good grief, such weather we’ve been having. The daffodils are sprouting up to welcome the change of season and that makes me sigh in relief. Enough already!
 
Our loyal, sweet, playful and delightful little Lhasa Apso dog, Lucas Casanova, age 16, died March 11, 2022. Our home feels empty without him. We have many wonderful memories of our lives with Lucas. He was the best jumper - over ditches, and small hurdles, he had the grace of a professional jumping horse, in miniature, of course. 

I have done a fair amount of reading and writing as my life has slowly gone back to our more normal pattern. Reviews of the four books I read this month are below: 

Teresa James WAFS Pilot  Gear Up/Gear Down, a P-47 to Newark, can be read at this Story Circle site:  https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/teresa-james-wafs-pilot-gear-up-gear-down-a-p-47-to-newark/
It was a wonderful historical biography of one of the original WAFS from 1940. She was a Pittsburgh, PA girl. It is an excellent book that honors the brave women of early aviation. Story Circle sent the book to me for review.
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, (Fiction/Suspense. 2021. Henry Holt& Co, MacMillan Publishing), is similar to several of Moriarty’s other novels as the author cleverly crafts
her stories with subtle and limited clues. The reader expects one thing when
the plot suddenly makes U-turns, when you least expect it. Even the prologue
was like an introduction to a different story, as it seemed to have nothing to
do with Apples Never Fall. The novel started out very slow for me. For
the first 120 pages I did not like any of the characters, but I kept reading since
it was my Book Club’s reading choice for April. And I‘m very glad I finished
reading it, the plot twists of this story will stay with me for a long time. The novel grew on me with each passing
chapter. The teaser line on the cover jacket sums of the intrigue of the novel;
‘The Delaney family love one another dearly – it’s just that sometimes they
want to murder one another…’ The adult Delaney children face a dilemma, their mother
is missing, should they call the police? Even if the most obvious suspect is
their father? It became a real page turner. 


 The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory. Fiction based on History. 2001. Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen,
already married to a young officer who serves the king. As one of the Queen’s
‘ladies in waiting’, she unwittingly catches the wandering eye of the handsome
and charming Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary believes for a while that
she’s fallen in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as
unofficial queen. She bas two illegitimate babies with the king and eventually
realizes she’s a pawn in her family’s ambitious plots as the king’s interest
begins to wane. Mary is forced to step aside for her sister, Anne. Her loyalty
to the original Queen never falters as she comes to understand the travesties of the
royal court. With her own destiny suddenly unknown, Mary realizes that she must
defy her family and take fate into her own hands. The Other Boleyn Girl is a
riveting historical drama. It brings to light a woman of extraordinary
determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most exciting and
glamorous court in Europe. How she survived a treacherous political landscape
by following her heart. A compelling novel of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue
surrounding the Tudor court of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and the infamous Boleyn
family. Excellent reading.


The Girl From the English Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat. 2020. Historical fiction. Graydon House Publishing. This is the author’s debut novel; she was born and grew up on Jersey. Both sets of her grandparents were involved in resistance activities during the German occupation; this background provided her with first-hand information and added layers of authenticity to the novel. Her descriptions of the effects of starvation on the body were the most poignant I’ve ever read. The extraordinary story starts in 1940 on Jersey, the largest island in the British Channel Islands, still only an area of nine by five miles. It follows protagonist Hedy and her friends as they struggle for survival, including the role played by a German officer in the occupying army. They sometimes regretted not evacuating as many of the Channel citizens did in the weeks before the Nazi invasion. Hedy felt she was a tiny bit safer staying on Jersey than she would taking her chances on the European continent since she was Jewish. Author Jenny Lecoat developed great personalities for her cast of characters who were real people during WW2, as were many of the events. Her plot twists in this well researched book, a page turner on the very first page.


We went to see the movie, DOG, and enjoyed it. It’s a feel good movie. Not a great movie, but a solid entertaining show. We’re still enjoying Heartland for the second time. We are getting much more out of it this time, many innuendos and dialogue we’d missed the first time. And all the beautiful horses, ahh…its a total delight.

I wish you all a blessed and Happy Easter.

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

 Later, Ann

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02/28/22
February Blog
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 6:55 pm
I look out at the snow covered landscape and count my blessings that we are cozy and warm in our home, this is about the time of the year when we all start to yearn for spring in a big way. We were fortunate to have spent January 21 through February 5 at Hilton Head, S.C. It was sunny almost everyday and the temps ranged from high 50s to the low 70s. My husband and I went for several walks around the resort grounds and pools. We shared a condo with my sister and her husband, we also have friends who live there every winter. The days went by so quickly. We attended an amazing Comedy Magic Show one night. We all visited the Pat Conroy Literary Museum in Beaufort, It was wonderful; I highly recommend it to any book lovers who are in that area. Beaufort is a beautiful small southern town with a host of great seafood restaurants. (My sister and I went to see a movie that I will not mention because we both disliked it so much. It had wonderful reviews and we felt absolutely cheated…) On our last night on the island, we went to see the play, A Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night -Time. I’d read the book several years ago and loved it. The play was well done and we both loved it. I read several books, (that I will share below), and it was a relaxing break for all of us.



I hate to admit but my goal of writing two hours each day has not yet come to fruition. We’ve a had a family emergency that trumped all else in our lives. Prayers are welcome…



 Books I read this month are:

The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley. Historical Fiction. 2021. This novel was written by a prolific writer with a large following. It was my first time to read one of her books and I’m hooked. I definitely want to read more of her work. This novel was set in 1707 when the Borderlands to the Scottish Highlands join forces to protest the new Union with England. Discontent and political unrest was rampant, somewhat similar to today’s. A young widow’s attempt to collect her husband’s lost wages comes under suspicion. An investigation uncovers multiple layers of romance, endurance, adventure, and the courage to hope. Plot twists abound and the characters are well developed. It is not only a matter of justice, but of lost love and a nation betrayed. This is a truly remarkable story and if you enjoy historical novels, this may be just the book for you.



West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge, Historical Fiction. 2021. This was a fun read, reminiscent of Water For Elephants.The narrator is 105 years old Woodrow Wilson Nickel, who finds himself recalling unforgettable experiences he cannot take to his grave. It was 1938 and the Great Depression was still a reality for far too many people. He begins, “Few true friends have I known and two were giraffes…”  It’s part adventure, part historical saga, and part coming-of-age love story. If you liked Water For Elephants, then I believe you will love West With Giraffes. It explores what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time and a story told before it was too late. I highly recommend this book, it’s a feel-good and informative novel based on true events of the first giraffes to be trucked from the east coast to San Diego after surviving a hurricane at sea. It was a story that caught the world weary public’s heart in 1938.



Angels Flight, by Michael Connelly. Murder/mystery. 2001. (I bought this audio book at a consignment store to listen to as we drove home from Hilton Head.) An activist attorney is killed in a small L.A. trolley called Angel’s Flight. The case is so explosive that Harry Bosch is appointed the lead investigator. the dead mans’ enemies inside the LAPD are many and it falls to Harry to solve it. The streets are vibrating with tension and Harry’s year old marriage unravels. As the hunt for the killer leads Harry to another high profile murder case, one where every cop had a motive. The question is, “Did any have the guts? A great who-dun-it novel!



The Maid by Nita Prose. Fiction. 2022. This delightful novel was my book club’s choice for February. And I loved it. (Though circumstances prevented me for attending the discussion. I’m sure it was well received by the other members.)
The protagonist, Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her Gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules to live by. Molly is a high functioning Autistic who loves to clean. She is proud of her job at a classy hotel, loves her maid uniform and views everything in concrete terms. She is trying to follow her grandmother’s rules in the months following Gran’s death. But when Molly  finds a dead body in a hotel room she is supposed to clean, she is suddenly in over her head; unexpected plot twists and great characters kept me turning the pages as I rooted for Molly. This debut novel was written with wit and wisdom. The Maid has already been bought for a movie. It also made me keenly aware of hotel maids. I tipped much better when we stayed in hotels on the way to and from Hilton Head.



The Pulpwood Queens Celebrate 20 Years edited by Susan Cushman, introduction by Kathy Murphy. 2019. This was an interesting anthology of essays, written by dozens of  writers who are part of Kathy Murphy’s Pulpwood Queen Book Clubs and most are also Girlfriend Weekend, tiara wearing participants. It was fun read and their enthusiasm is a bit contagious. I bought it at Pat Conroy’s Literary Museum. He and his wife, Casandra King, were involved with the Pulpwood Queens, his wife still is.



We’ve started watching Heartland again and are enjoying it even more the second time around!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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



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


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



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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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

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


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

I’ve read only three novels this month:

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

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

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

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

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

Later, Ann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Later,  Ann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Til next time, keep reading my friends.
Later,
Ann
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