Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 11:50 am
May is almost here and we’ve had days in the high 70’s this April … as well as 8 inches of snow for Easter with several days well below freezing. On one of the sunny warm days, I set out our porch and patio furniture. I’ve never seen so much snow pile up on our colorful summer cushions before. The daffodils and hyacinths are so hardy that they appear to be happy even after being buried in snow for a couple days. Yesterday I planted a healthy red rhododendron bush to replace one that nourished the deer this past winter. I replanted that one away from the house and hope I can nurse it back to health in the next couple of months. Even as I type this blog, there are snow flurries softly dancing their way to the ground.
My little sister has had a very rough few months with various health problems. Then on April 21, she had a serious stroke that’s left her with left side weakness and slurred speech. After several days in ICU, she is on a Physical Therapy Rehab floor of the hospital. Prayers are welcome for our sweet Sue. Sometimes it seems life is not fair.
I finished reading The Most Famous Man in America, The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher by Debby Applegate. 2006. (It was a National Book Critic’s Circle Award Finalist.) Nonfiction. Three Leaves Press. (500 pages) This is an interesting book, though not a page turner at any point. There were pages and pages of unnecessary tedious details but I’m still glad I read it. (Mr. Beecher was the younger brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.) The book starts as he journeys with his wife and many friends on a ship to deliver the unifying speech at Fort Sumter after the Civil War. He was a very well paid, even by today’s standards back in the 1860’s, a charismatic preacher, free spender who never had enough money. A self-absorbed brilliant man who was able to talk his way out many complicated situations during his life. Henry was the son of a famous minister, and the younger brother of several preachers, it seemed that the ministry was the family business. The harshness of pioneer life along the Ohio River in Indiana and back to the east coast, finally landing in Brooklyn with his long suffering wife. The deaths of two of his children in early childhood shook the foundations of his life. He projected himself as a people person, though the author paints a picture of a man who suffered from great loneliness based on the death of his mother when he was a toddler. His views on slavery, politics of the day as well as life in America during the middle and late19th century make this a worthwhile read.
The Melody Lingers On by Mary Higgins Clark. 2015. Suspense, fiction. Thorndike Press. I hadn’t read a book by this author in several years, and I was pleasantly surprised to be reminded as to why she is so successful. This book was a page turner, I remember reading years ago that Mary Higgins Clark got most of her story ideas from reading the newspapers.This one was definitely inspired by Bernie Madoff. It was an excellent story written by a master story teller. i highly recommend The Melody Lingers On.
Never by Ken Follett. 2021. Suspense, fiction.Viking Press.(802 pages.) i have been a Ken Follett fan for many years. His books are amazing and this is one of his best. It is current day, post pandemic; the terms ‘DEFCON 5′, 4, 3 , 2 and 1 become all too familiar as the characters and plot rotate between Chad/Libya, Washington D.C. and China/North Korea. At first it is challenging to keep the large cast of characters straight, but the tension builds quickly from
the beginning. It’s definitely a page turner. I spent many nights reading by the midnight oil and then tossing and turning as I dreamed about what was happening in Never. I highly recommend this novel.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. 2017. Fiction. Washington Square Press. (385 pages) The story of a beautiful ambitious young motherless girl from Hell’s Kitchen, NYC who used her body to get to Hollywood - that was husband number one: Poor Ernie Diaz. Evelyn contacts a famous magazine to request Monique, a relatively unknown writer to do an interview with her. When the interviewer arrives, the aging actress demands she write Evelyn’s biography. And the duo-story unfolds, Evelyn dictates the chronological story of her life as Monique asks probing questions, while dealing with personal issues of her own. This has been a best seller for a couple years, it is our Book Club’s choice for April. I’m hosting Book Club tonight; I’m curious what the reaction will be from the other members. I personally did not like it much, I felt it was another example that being a best seller does not necessarily mean it’s a good book. The ending redeemed the book with me just a bit.
We went to see The Lost City, staring Sandra Bullock. It was a fun evening out with friends, no cooking since the evening included a quick dinner before the show. And we’re still watching Heartland for the second time. My husband just loves the series and we’re noticing so many more details that went over our heads the first time.
Till next time, keep reading friends and please do stay safe and well.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 10:04 am
Hallelujah, spring is finally here! At least that’s what the calendar says...we enjoyed a few beautiful early spring-like days before the official start of Spring. And since then, we’ve had unseasonably cold weather with ice and snow. I delayed making an appointment to have my winter tires changed over to summer tires until next week. And I’m hoping that won’t be too soon. Good grief, such weather we’ve been having. The daffodils are sprouting up to welcome the change of season and that makes me sigh in relief. Enough already!
Our loyal, sweet, playful and delightful little Lhasa Apso dog, Lucas Casanova, age 16, died March 11, 2022. Our home feels empty without him. We have many wonderful memories of our lives with Lucas. He was the best jumper - over ditches, and small hurdles, he had the grace of a professional jumping horse, in miniature, of course.
I have done a fair amount of reading and writing as my life has slowly gone back to our more normal pattern. Reviews of the four books I read this month are below:
It was a wonderful historical biography of one of the original WAFS from 1940. She was a Pittsburgh, PA girl. It is an excellent book that honors the brave women of early aviation. Story Circle sent the book to me for review.
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, (Fiction/Suspense. 2021. Henry Holt& Co, MacMillan Publishing), is similar to several of Moriarty’s other novels as the author cleverly crafts
her stories with subtle and limited clues. The reader expects one thing when
the plot suddenly makes U-turns, when you least expect it. Even the prologue
was like an introduction to a different story, as it seemed to have nothing to
do with Apples Never Fall. The novel started out very slow for me. For
the first 120 pages I did not like any of the characters, but I kept reading since
it was my Book Club’s reading choice for April. And I‘m very glad I finished
reading it, the plot twists of this story will stay with me for a long time. The novel grew on me with each passing
chapter. The teaser line on the cover jacket sums of the intrigue of the novel;
‘The Delaney family love one another dearly – it’s just that sometimes they
want to murder one another…’ The adult Delaney children face a dilemma, their mother
is missing, should they call the police? Even if the most obvious suspect is
their father? It became a real page turner.
The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory. Fiction based on History. 2001. Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen,
already married to a young officer who serves the king. As one of the Queen’s
‘ladies in waiting’, she unwittingly catches the wandering eye of the handsome
and charming Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary believes for a while that
she’s fallen in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as
unofficial queen. She bas two illegitimate babies with the king and eventually
realizes she’s a pawn in her family’s ambitious plots as the king’s interest
begins to wane. Mary is forced to step aside for her sister, Anne. Her loyalty
to the original Queen never falters as she comes to understand the travesties of the
royal court. With her own destiny suddenly unknown, Mary realizes that she must
defy her family and take fate into her own hands. The Other Boleyn Girl is a
riveting historical drama. It brings to light a woman of extraordinary
determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most exciting and
glamorous court in Europe. How she survived a treacherous political landscape
by following her heart. A compelling novel of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue
surrounding the Tudor court of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and the infamous Boleyn
family. Excellent reading.
The Girl From the English Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat. 2020. Historical fiction. Graydon House Publishing. This is the author’s debut novel; she was born and grew up on Jersey. Both sets of her grandparents were involved in resistance activities during the German occupation; this background provided her with first-hand information and added layers of authenticity to the novel. Her descriptions of the effects of starvation on the body were the most poignant I’ve ever read. The extraordinary story starts in 1940 on Jersey, the largest island in the British Channel Islands, still only an area of nine by five miles. It follows protagonist Hedy and her friends as they struggle for survival, including the role played by a German officer in the occupying army. They sometimes regretted not evacuating as many of the Channel citizens did in the weeks before the Nazi invasion. Hedy felt she was a tiny bit safer staying on Jersey than she would taking her chances on the European continent since she was Jewish. Author Jenny Lecoat developed great personalities for her cast of characters who were real people during WW2, as were many of the events. Her plot twists in this well researched book, a page turner on the very first page.
We went to see the movie, DOG, and enjoyed it. It’s a feel good movie. Not a great movie, but a solid entertaining show. We’re still enjoying Heartland for the second time. We are getting much more out of it this time, many innuendos and dialogue we’d missed the first time. And all the beautiful horses, ahh…its a total delight.
I wish you all a blessed and Happy Easter.
Till next time, stay well and safe…and keep reading, my friends.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 6:55 pm
I look out at the snow covered landscape and count my blessings that we are cozy and warm in our home, this is about the time of the year when we all start to yearn for spring in a big way. We were fortunate to have spent January 21 through February 5 at Hilton Head, S.C. It was sunny almost everyday and the temps ranged from high 50s to the low 70s. My husband and I went for several walks around the resort grounds and pools. We shared a condo with my sister and her husband, we also have friends who live there every winter. The days went by so quickly. We attended an amazing Comedy Magic Show one night. We all visited the Pat Conroy Literary Museum in Beaufort, It was wonderful; I highly recommend it to any book lovers who are in that area. Beaufort is a beautiful small southern town with a host of great seafood restaurants. (My sister and I went to see a movie that I will not mention because we both disliked it so much. It had wonderful reviews and we felt absolutely cheated…) On our last night on the island, we went to see the play, A Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night -Time. I’d read the book several years ago and loved it. The play was well done and we both loved it. I read several books, (that I will share below), and it was a relaxing break for all of us.
I hate to admit but my goal of writing two hours each day has not yet come to fruition. We’ve a had a family emergency that trumped all else in our lives. Prayers are welcome…
Books I read this month are:
The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley. Historical Fiction. 2021. This novel was written by a prolific writer with a large following. It was my first time to read one of her books and I’m hooked. I definitely want to read more of her work. This novel was set in 1707 when the Borderlands to the Scottish Highlands join forces to protest the new Union with England. Discontent and political unrest was rampant, somewhat similar to today’s. A young widow’s attempt to collect her husband’s lost wages comes under suspicion. An investigation uncovers multiple layers of romance, endurance, adventure, and the courage to hope. Plot twists abound and the characters are well developed. It is not only a matter of justice, but of lost love and a nation betrayed. This is a truly remarkable story and if you enjoy historical novels, this may be just the book for you.
West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge, Historical Fiction. 2021. This was a fun read, reminiscent of Water For Elephants.The narrator is 105 years old Woodrow Wilson Nickel, who finds himself recalling unforgettable experiences he cannot take to his grave. It was 1938 and the Great Depression was still a reality for far too many people. He begins, “Few true friends have I known and two were giraffes…” It’s part adventure, part historical saga, and part coming-of-age love story. If you liked Water For Elephants, then I believe you will love West With Giraffes. It explores what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time and a story told before it was too late. I highly recommend this book, it’s a feel-good and informative novel based on true events of the first giraffes to be trucked from the east coast to San Diego after surviving a hurricane at sea. It was a story that caught the world weary public’s heart in 1938.
Angels Flight, by Michael Connelly. Murder/mystery. 2001. (I bought this audio book at a consignment store to listen to as we drove home from Hilton Head.) An activist attorney is killed in a small L.A. trolley called Angel’s Flight. The case is so explosive that Harry Bosch is appointed the lead investigator. the dead mans’ enemies inside the LAPD are many and it falls to Harry to solve it. The streets are vibrating with tension and Harry’s year old marriage unravels. As the hunt for the killer leads Harry to another high profile murder case, one where every cop had a motive. The question is, “Did any have the guts? A great who-dun-it novel!
The Maid by Nita Prose. Fiction. 2022. This delightful novel was my book club’s choice for February. And I loved it. (Though circumstances prevented me for attending the discussion. I’m sure it was well received by the other members.)
The protagonist, Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her Gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules to live by. Molly is a high functioning Autistic who loves to clean. She is proud of her job at a classy hotel, loves her maid uniform and views everything in concrete terms. She is trying to follow her grandmother’s rules in the months following Gran’s death. But when Molly finds a dead body in a hotel room she is supposed to clean, she is suddenly in over her head; unexpected plot twists and great characters kept me turning the pages as I rooted for Molly. This debut novel was written with wit and wisdom. The Maid has already been bought for a movie. It also made me keenly aware of hotel maids. I tipped much better when we stayed in hotels on the way to and from Hilton Head.
The Pulpwood Queens Celebrate 20 Years edited by Susan Cushman, introduction by Kathy Murphy. 2019. This was an interesting anthology of essays, written by dozens of writers who are part of Kathy Murphy’s Pulpwood Queen Book Clubs and most are also Girlfriend Weekend, tiara wearing participants. It was fun read and their enthusiasm is a bit contagious. I bought it at Pat Conroy’s Literary Museum. He and his wife, Casandra King, were involved with the Pulpwood Queens, his wife still is.
We’ve started watching Heartland again and are enjoying it even more the second time around!
Till next time, stay safe and well. And keep reading my friends.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 3:07 pm
I hope this blog finds all my readers in good health, and feeling a bit more optimistic as we begin May 2021… than we were last year, facing May 2020. Since we’d both rec’d the Covid injections and with blessings from my husband’s doctor, we felt so optimistic that we took a road trip on I-90 to Rapid City, S. D. We left the day after Easter and returned April 14th. It did us both a world of good and was easy driving since we stayed on the same highway for the entire round trip, (3,670 miles). We chose our destination because that’s where our grandson, his wife and infant son live.They are both in the Air Force. We had a wonderful time. The baby is 3 months old, so alert, sweet, and cuddly. He also has the cutest laughter, straight from his little tummy! They have a lovely home and were gracious hosts; they’re both working hard to complete their bachelor degrees while on active duty. I spent hours on the rocking chair with the baby, singing him the same songs I’d sang to his daddy and granddaddy. They also drove us to see the local attractions which included, the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, small herds of wild buffalo free-roaming on state park lands, as well as the Badlands. The weather was cool and very windy in S.D. but no snow and decent driving weather.
I’ve read only three books this month:
News of the World by Paulette Jiles. 2016. Historical Fiction. (My book club’s book choice for this month.) A well researched, layered and powerful novel about a ten year old girl who was captured by the Kiowa when she was six, after witnessing the massacre of her parents and siblings. She’d forgotten the ways of the white people; and behaved like a captured Indian girl. The elderly Captain Kidd was given the task of returning her to her childless aunt and uncle. The Captain made his living traveling throughout northern Texas in the perilous unsettled years after the Civil War with a stack of newspapers from the east, London, Europe and beyond. It is beautifully written, descriptive and full of insight. I highly recommend this novel.
The Second Battle Of The Alamo by Judy Alter. 2020. Historical Nonfiction. (I won this book on an online giveaway contest, I never win contests so I was excited to read it!) It is another well researched book about Texas. The feisty preservationist and historian Adina De Zavala and heiress Clara Driscoll are bigger than life, real Texas women, who lived in the late 1800’s to the middle of the1900s.This wonderful book tells the story of how these two very different women reluctantly joined forces to save the Alamo,Texas’s most famous landmark.This was a great book to dabble into US /Texas history. I thought I was pretty good on my historical facts until I started reading this gem of a book.I highly recommend The Second Battle Of The Alamo.
Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins. 2019. Contemporary fiction. This was a wonderful book that kept me burning the midnight oil several nights. It is a real page turner, a family saga dealing with four generations, rich and poor, well developed believable characters and many plot twists. I highly recommend this novel, it is my first Kristan Higgins book, but it will not be my last. I don’t know how I missed her, she’s a N Y Times best selling writer with more than twenty books plus three series to her name. Wow!
Story Circle published my review of Dignity in Death: Accepting, Assisting and Preparing for the End of Life by Barbara Frandsen. You can read the enter review by clicking:
We’re still binge watching Heartland, and totally loving it. We are in the middle of Season 11. Prime now also provides Season 12, but not 13 yet. Season 14 is currently available as a weekly show on Canadian TV. and the good news is, Season 15 is currently being filmed. Lots of good television shows to anticipate in the future. We have so many friends and family who are also enjoying nightly viewings of Heartland!
We’re also enjoying Atlantic Crossing on PBS. It’s an excellent series about Norway in WW2.
On Monday my Mother Love, Willow Lane, Book 2 will go live on for another BookSweeps Mother’s Day Giveaway. **I will send you more info about that Monday evening or Tuesday.**
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 4:49 pm
With a great deal of relief I’m glad to say we’ve both had our Covid vaccines. I hope any of my readers who want the vaccine have been able able to get it or will be able to soon. And for those of you who do not want it, I hope you’ll think it over very carefully, and possibly reconsider. But the last I checked, we still live in a free country and we must respect each other’s decisions. Regardless of which side of the Covid vaccine debate you are on, both sides are adamantly sure they are right, we must take a collective deep breath and carry on. After all isn’t that the corner-stone of a working democracy?
Another month has flown by, and I’ve been busy preparing for our family Easter celebration. The weather looks like it will cooperate for an outdoor Easter egg hunt. We will have 24 for our Easter dinner, give or take one or two. After the lonesome holidays of 2020, we feel blessed. Hallelujah!
We’re still binging on Heartland and loving it, though I get so angry with Tim sometimes that I shout at the smart television to warn new characters about him. But they never listen. We are on Season 8. Prime only has up to and including season 9. Then we’ll have to find a new source. ( I can’t help being hooked since the grandfather reminds me so much of my dad.)
Due to our extended television viewing this past month, I’ve read fewer books:
Dignity in Death by Barbara Frandsen. 2020. Self-Help. This is an essential guidebook, full of necessary facts, though not the kind of information we relish thinking or talking about. That is probably why so many people leave this world without having their houses in order. The author makes a good case for preparing for the end before we are at the end; Dignity in Death is 137 pages of straightforward guidelines to help simplify the quandary for those we leave behind. We all know we will not live forever, that death is a universal experience. I especially loved her suggestion that we write letters to be opened after we are gone. What a treasure that would be for our survivors. I highly recommend Dignity in Death as THE simple self-help go-to guidebook for everyone. My complete review will soon be posted on Story Circle.
The Return by Nicholas Sparks. 2020. Fiction. This was an exceptionally good book by Sparks. It was evident that lots of research into PTSD, war injuries and psychiatry had been done before he started writing it. The plot and characters were so engrossing that I was hard pressed to keep up with some of my daily chores while reading it. I recommend this novel with two thumbs up.
I don’t know if you are familiar with BookBub. It is a resource used by more than ten million readers throughout the world. I’ve been a member for almost two years, and have been regularly reviewing books. You can look at my eclectic list of book reviews by clicking:
Till next time, please stay safe and well.
And keep reading my friends.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 3:05 pm
What a month of winter weather we’ve had! The ice and show are finally starting to melt, and none too soon, even for a snow-lover like me. I love the change of seasons and after this month, I admit that I’m ready for spring! I trust you’ve all survived the worst of this winter, too. Our tribulations with cold weather have been minimal compared with that of Texans this past couple weeks. I have two brothers and their families who live near Dallas,Texas. They had temps of minus 14 degrees. And they had as much snow as we did, though we still have lots of snow, and their snow has melted. We’ve not had any temps below zero this winter, just steady cold - in the low digits, teens and 20s day after day after day. We’re prepared for it and expect cold weather. Those Texas folks are definitely not accustomed to such extreme cold weather and heavy snow. It was a real hardship for so many of them.
I am hopeful spring will be the start of new beginnings for all of us. In January and February my husband had both his Covid vaccinations. I had my first Covid vaccine early February and will get my second one March 3. By St Patrick’s Day, we will feel safer re-establishing a more normal lifestyle. A new normal that will still include mandatory masks and continued social distancing.
A dear friend sent me a newspaper report on Watershed Book Store last week. A few days later I traveled to Brookville, PA and visited this charming book store. I joined The Watershed Journal Literacy Group and look forward to interacting with this group of regional writers. I encourage anyone who is in the area to visit this wonderful book store.You can check out the book store’s hours at THEWRITERSHEDJOURNAL.ORG or THEWATERSHEDJOURNAl@GMAIL.COM. (If you cut and paste these to the internet, they pop right up.)
I’ve read several books this month, as usual an eclectic mix:
Greenlight by Mathew McConaughy. 2020. Memoir. Crown Publishing. I’m mostly not a fan of memoirs, but this one caught my eye. And no, I’m not a rabid Mathew McConaughy fan. I liked him before I read this memoir and after reading it, I still do. Greenlight is a love letter to life. It’s also a guide to catching more greenlights - but he reminds us that yellow and reds eventually turn green too. McConaughy is a born story teller and has journaled since he was a boy.His straightforward rowdy stories, and hard-earned wisdom make for a very interesting and thought-provoking read. His writing often takes a lyrical style, as in, “…getting wet while trying to dance between the raindrops.” He values family and faith, as many of us do. I highly recommend this memoir.
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara 1974, Historical fiction. Winner of the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. A friend shared this novel with me, I’d never read it before and I was totally absorbed in the story. It’s an exceptional novel, one of the best I’ve ever read. I watched the movie several months ago. The novel is soo much more. It takes the reader into the minds of the Gettysburg generals on both sides of the battle. The meticulous research this author did to write this book is apparent from the first page. I highly recommend this historical novel.
On Traigh Lar Beach by Dianne Ebertt Beeaf. 2020. Fiction. She Writes Press. You can read my review of this novel at Story Circle.org by clicking: https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/on-traigh-lar-beach/ I gave it a five star rating. The first half of On Traigh Lar Beach (Traigh,
pronounced ‘try”, is Gaelic for sandy, and Lar means floor),is about a Scottish writer who travels with her husband to their favorite beach for a week’s vacation to celebrate her winning the prestigious British Comstock Writing Contest. Erica’s elation is short lived as self-doubts and feelings of inadequacy overwhelm her. Her husband refuses to accept her pessimism. She can’t imagine what to write about next until the last day when they come across a tangle of seaweed and flotsam on the beach, she creates a unique story about each of the thirteen different items in the debris. But then, how could she not with her husband telling her every day, “You can do this Erica.” The second half is a novella, Fan Girls.This is a well-developed engrossing plot involving four women of similar ages from totally different backgrounds who are obsessed with the lead singer in an 80s rock band. On Traigh Lar Beach is a fun engrossing anthology.The pacing keeps readers turning the pages and these characters will stay with readers long after the last page. It will appeal to anyone whose ever been a super-fan, as well as those who like to read a variety of genres, this book combines fourteen excellently crafted stories.
The American Spirit by David McCullough. 2017. Anthology: historical speeches. If you have not read any of David McCullough’s books, I encourage you to start as soon as possible. He makes history come alive on the pages of his books. And learning about the sacrifices our forefathers made to create the USA is necessary to truly appreciate the great country we live in today. Mr. McCullough has won two Pulitzer Prizes and was nominated for a third. This was his eleventh book. I’ve read seven, with plans to read the others in the near future. His books are unforgettable treasures. After finishing The American Spirit, it became obvious to me that we’re all transient in this life, just passing through. I see in my grandchildren the same invincibility that I felt as a young person. As the years have quickly slipped away, I’ve joined ranks with the elderly. I solemnly realize now that every generation has likely had their youthful fantasy of invincibility that metamorphoses into a resolute acceptance of our transient existence in this world.
Finding Mrs. Ford by Deborah Goodrich Royce. 2019. The reader is immediately absorbed in the flashbacks between the steamy summer of 1979 in suburban Detroit with warring gangsters.Thirty-five years later in the upscale snooty world of Watch Hill, R.I., a wealthy widow ’s world is turned upside down. Plot twists, excellent pacing, and good character development make this debut novel a great read. It will certainly take your mind off the political conflicts of the day. I enjoyed reading this novel.
The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin. 2019. Harper Collins. The Last Romantics is a one-of-a-kind novel, one of the best I’ve read in recent years. It begins in 2079, narrated by the wise 102 year-old Fiona Skinner. The story moves flawlessly from past to present and back again. Fiona is four when her dentist father suddenly dies. Her life as well as her two older sisters and her older brother were turned upside down.They lose their comfortable middle-class home and are forced to live in a small shabby rental house many blocks away. Their mother falls into and untreated deep depression, referred to as a ‘two-year Pause’ through-out the novel. The oldest sister was 11 ad did her best but there were still nights they went to bed hungry. The Skinner children were on their own. The pace of The Last Romantics is perfect as it examines the many dimensions of love. The relationships of the siblings throughout their lives are full of convoluted ins and outs with plenty of give and take that are necessary for families to work. he wonderful character development and carefully created multifaceted plot will evoke and reform your understanding of family. Beautiful conclusion. I loved this book!
We watched The Little Things, starring Denzel Washington at our local Movie Theater a couple weeks ago. It was another edge of your seat thriller. The kind of movie that our young grandson, Ethan used to remind me, “Nana, its just a movie!” And now Ethan is daddy to a handsome baby boy who looks just like he did as a baby. (What did I say about time marching on?)
We’ve been streaming some interesting and entertaining television shows. We watched two seasons of Jack Ryan for the second time and got much more out of it than the first viewing. We regret there are only two seasons. We’re on the second season of a Canadian series, Heartland, about a family horse farm. I love it. Perhaps since I grew up on a farm with lots of animals, including plenty of riding horses, this show is like a comfort blanket to me. My daughter told me its a very long series, fourteen seasons completed already.
Till next time, keep reading my friends. And please stay safe and well.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 5:03 pm
Good-Bye and Good Riddance 2020! I’ve never felt like this about another year, but 2020 has been so full of angst with the social isolation, ominous clouds of Covid-19 concerns, masks, — not to mention the political unrest and divisions within our beautiful USA. Of course, there were good things that happened in 2020. Most people have learned how to Zoom, though I find it a poor substitute for in-person interaction. And many more people learned to ’stream’ movies and television series. We’ve all had much more time to spend with our housemates, read books and stream shows to watch on television.
It’s been bitter cold with plenty of snow in our area for the last couple weeks… after what my dad always called that the January thaw, the first two weeks were unseasonably warm weather. We kept our Christmas tree and lights up longer than we ever have before, I guess we needed the bright lights to remember to count our blessings during these long dark days of winter. For the last ten years we’ve gone to coastal S.C. for a winter break. We missed that getaway this year.
We had exciting HAPPY news on January 5th, our grandson and his wife, both active duty Air Force, had their first baby, a beautiful healthy almost 6 lb baby boy. He looks so much like his daddy did when he was born. We can’t wait to meet him and hold him. His name is Levi Samuel, the middle name is after his grandpa, our son, Sam. They are in Rapid City, S.D. Maybe after we both get our Covid vaccines we will be able to manage a trip to S.D. I sure hope so. He is our 8th great grandchild; we are blessed.
I’ve had time to read several books this month.
I also read How to Make a Life by Florence Reiss Kraut. Historical fiction. 2020. She Write Press. It’s a layered story about a Jewish family with many threads woven through this intense story of four generations, starting in Ktovka, Ukraine in 1905 and ends in NYC in 2012. I rated it 5 stars. You can read my review on Story Circle.org
The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay. Memoir. 1956. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York. This book was called a Masterpiece in its day, written in different style than today’s writers use. It is a much appreciated Christmas gift. It truly was… “funny and sad lighthearted and deep, flippant and profound…for it contains passages that show a thorough understanding of both love and faith, and of what happens when they come into conflict.”…Peter Parker, The NY Times (1956) Another reviewer from the Atlantic Monthly called it: “… a tour de force of sustained comedy.” It did make me laugh out-loud many times while reading. And laughing out-loud is a refreshing experience during these dark days!
The Darling Dahlias and the Voodoo Lily by Susan Wittig Albert. Historical Fiction. 2020. Persevero Press. Albert is a prolific author who has penned many good books, among them three series. This novel is part of a series but can be read alone without any difficulty. Set in a depression-era southern small town, USA. I really enjoyed the layered plot, well-developed characters, the colloquial dialogue suspense and wit.
We Gather Together by Denise Kiernan. Historical Nonfiction. 2021. Dutton. (From inside the book’s jacket: “This is a biography of an idea: gratitude, as a compelling human instinct, and a global concept, more than a mere holiday… It is anchored amid the strife of the Civil War, and driven by the fascinating story of Sara Josepha Hale, a widowed mother with no formal schooling…who campaigned for decades to make a real annual national holiday of thanks.” There’s a whole lot more to the establishment of Thanksgiving Day than the Indians and early Pilgrims sharing a feast together. An important book to read. Another much appreciated Christmas gift.
The Promise of Ankles, A 44 Scotland St. Novel by Alexander McCall Smith. Fiction. 2020. Anchor Books.
This book is part of a series but can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. the plot and and characters are well developed. (Spoiler: there are a lot of characters to keep straight, requires more than average concentration or perhaps a notepad to list them would help, wish I’d thought of that when I was reading it…) But the story is very entertaining, he’s a wonderful writer, there are layers of depth to his characters and I laughed out-loud several times, his wit is such fun. He includes poetry that he gives his characters credit for writing — better poetry than I’ve read in some contemporary poetry books.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. Fiction. 2020. This was an engrossing literary novel. The characters were wonderfully developed, pacing was perfect and the plot had just the right amount of twists and turns to keep me wanting more. It was on of those novels I hated to see end, it was like I’d made new friends and wanted to see what would happen next in their lives. I highly recommend this novel.
Anxious People by Fredrik Blackman. Fiction. 2020. This book was a typical Blackman laugh-out-loud novel with well-developed characters who find themselves in the most unlikely predicament: being held hostage at a real estate apartment open house. Yet Blackman still manages to develop characters with depth as the Stockholm Syndrome takes hold making readers care what will happen to each one of them. Another great book!
The Mystery of Mrs.Christie by Marie Benedict. 2021. Historical Nonfiction. This book was thoroughly researched by the author, dealing with Agatha Christie’s first marriage to her unfaithful husband Archie Christie. Specifically with her eleven day disappearance in December 1926. All over England newspaper headlines speculated were that Mrs. Christie had been murdered or had committed suicide. Meanwhile she’d been nestled away in a swank spa under the name of her husband’s mistress. She’d planned and plotted her disappearance as carefully as she’d written her books. (*Agatha Christie wrote 82 detective novels, two main series: Hercules Poirot and Miss Marple, 6 romance novels,19 plays and 14 short story collections. Her books have been translated into more than 100 languages, only the Bible and Shakespeare have been translated into more languages. She was born 1890, died 1975.)
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Wares. Fiction-Suspense. 2019. This is our book club book for this month. And I almost forgot to read it! Rarely do I read suspense that I do not figure out way before getting to the end of the novel. This one surprised me and for that I was grateful. The characters are well developed. The plot is fast moving and twisted. They suggest Ruth Ware is the Agatha Christie of her generation. Those are big shoes to fill, time will tell but she may well be on her way if she can continue to write books as spell-bounding as this novel.
We went to one movie this month, The Marksman, starring Liam Neeson. It was a very good action movie with well developed characters. We had a private showing since we were the only ones in the theater. It is SAFE to go to movies in our town. They have the theater taped off so no one would be close to anyone else even if all the allowed seats are taken. I am happy our theater is open and we try to go as often as we can to watch movies that interest us. They meticulously clean after each viewing. We’re also enjoying reruns of Victoria on PBS and found two new series that we enjoy, both on PBS: All Creatures Great and Small and Miss Scarlet and the Duke.
I’m finally back to a writing routine and love working on my novel again. More about that as it slowly grows into a completed manuscript.
Till next time, keep reading my friends. Please stay safe and well.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 1:59 pm
I hope my readers are well and safe, and that you all had a good Christmas, Hanukkah or Winter Solstice, however you celebrate the long winter days. I love the promise, joy, lights and magic of Christmas. But this year everything is so different for all of us. Instead of our normal 25-30 around the table on Christmas Eve, it was just my husband and me. And we were thankful to have each other as well as FaceTime with the family! We watched our favorite Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, on Christmas Eve. After our dinner, we tuned in to PBS and watched three beautiful Christmas concerts: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, St. Olaff University and Belmont Music College of Nashville,Tenn. Of course, they were all from recent past years, no masks and no social distancing. It made us feel like Christmas. On Christmas Day, besides many phone calls, we watched PBS’s Rick Steven’s Christmas Around the World and a wonderful movie, Christmas Angel, we streamed from Prime.
In the weeks before Christmas we watched a few other older Christmas movies, plus a few on the Hallmark channel. I also read two more Christmas novels, The Christmas Star and The Christmas Town by Donna Van Liere. I prefer reading her books much more than watching the Hallmark movies!
Our decorations are still shining brightly and the sight of it makes us feel happy on these long winter days. I’ve been shoveling snow everyday. I don’t want it to get ahead of me, much harder to shovel then. It’s so beautiful to look out the windows with the snow laying softly on the trees and shrubbery like delicate lace.
I’ve read only a couple other books this month:
McKean County Murders & Mysterious Deaths, by James T. Baumgratz. Nonfiction, 2020. It was an interesting book, probably more so if you live in northwestern Pennsylvania. It’s well researched and well written. I was reading late one night and planned to go to bed as soon as I finished the chapter that ended on page 98. I glanced at page 99 and read the caption under the picture: Col Parker’s tomb near where Roy Himes lost his life. My dad’s name is Roy Himes! You can imagine my shock. Of course, this was not my dad, but it kept me reading till the end of that chapter!
The Long Call by Ann Cleeves. Fiction. Murder/Mystery. 2019. This book was a Christmas gift this year. My friend said she really loved this writer, I’d never even heard of her before and she’s extremely prolific and successful. Two of her book series were made into successful television series: Shetland and Vera. Of course, I haven’t watched them either. BUT I plan to and I will definitely read more of her books. She’s a wonderful writer. This novel is the first one in a new series.
My list of books for this month ends there. My Registered Nursing license expired Oct. 31, 2020. I’d forgotten about it; I had not received notification which usually arrives a month before the expiration. I did receive an email late in November from the PA Office of Professional Licensing, stating the governor had extended the renewal deadline for expired licenses until December 31, 2020 due to the Pandemic. The only thing I had to do was complete 30 hours of CE credits! I felt both hopeful and overwhelmed with the prospect of saving my RN license. I had hardly started wrapping gifts or baking, but my shopping was done. Two college granddaughters came the second Saturday of December and helped me wrap gifts. From then on I concentrated on completing 30 credits. I made it! Dec 29th I submitted my credits, the completed nursing application and the license fee. Whew! Having struggled as a single mother after my divorce many years ago, I know the value of being able to support myself, my nursing license is important to me. As long as I remain healthy, it gives me a sense of security. A girl just never knows.
I received word this morning that my dear Aunt Phyllis, who was like a second mother to me, died last night. She’s suffered with dementia the last couple years and her physical health has declined rapidly since a fall a few months ago.There have been lots of family phone calls this morning, there will be no immediate services due to Covid. I made her famous Date Ball Cookies a few days ago and she’s been on my mind so much lately, perhaps God was getting me ready to say good-by.
Obviously I have not done much writing this month, unless you count 200 Christmas cards. And now I must start writing my Christmas thank-you notes. I’m not complaining; I realize I am blessed.
Till next time, please stay safe and well.
And do keep reading.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 7:35 pm
I hope each of you are well and safe, and that everyone who wanted a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving had one to eat. We had an unusually quiet Thanksgiving dinner for three, with just us and a dear friend whose family was unable to travel home for that holiday. I’m so thankful for the technology that allows us to see family through Facetime, Zoom, etc. I especially missed the little great-grands so much but their phone hugs on Facetime were sweet. Their boundless energy kept my daughter’s house hoping instead of ours!
We’re wearing face-masks as we’ve been for the past several months, practicing social distancing and washing our hands till they are almost raw. But still Covid has raised its ugly head in our extended family. So far they’ve recovered, one after a week of ICU and the other after a few days at home feeling miserably sick. It is what it is, sums up the situation we all find ourselves living through.
My daughter encouraged me to decorate early for Christmas. I’d never decorated until the day after Thanksgiving before and decided to try it this year. I love it, the days after Thanksgiving were much more enjoyable since the decorating was already completed. I love the pretty decorations and all the cheerful lights. I think we’ll decorate early from now on.
I have Good News and Bad News. First I’ll share the Bad News: my writing friends and I have mutually agreed to stop our three author/one book project. We remain dear friends but realized it was becoming more challenging the further we advanced the book. We learned why three writers don’t write one book. At first it was such fun, then the more we built the story, the more it felt like we were trying to combine three different books into one. So the Good News is that’s what we are going to do. We will each take the characters we developed and each write our own book, much like we’ve done in the past with our other books.
Okay, I realize this is a bit unusual, BUT since it is my blog and my book - I decided to mention my Christmas novel, Pressure Cooker Christmas, 2017. I know that many of my blog readers have already read this book. I’m also aware that there are those who haven’t taken the time to read it yet. I’m proud of this novel and I encourage you to take time this Christmas season to read it. We all have more time to read this December than any previous ones… since there are no parties to attend this year. It’s available online or through any book-seller. Below is one of the many excellent reviews:
“Pressure Cooker Christmas is a charming Christmas story of a large extended family who
celebrates the holiday together. It is
centered around a mother who wants to make Christmas perfect until the
pressures of real life affect the family. Choices are made, love is given, and
families unite while finding the true meaning of love, family, forgiveness,
resiliency, and the hope of Christmas.
This book makes you think of your own holiday expectations and the
pressures women can put on themselves to have that Norman Rockwell portrait of
the perfect family, while living in an imperfect world. It is a great read for Christmas or any
season of one’s life.” Deborah Tippett, Ph.D., Professor, Meredith College,
*I’ve a found a new place to buy books Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, they have a great selection of books, none published this year, but many recent bestsellers are available at rock bottom prices.They have a great selection of high quality children’s books. I’d heard of Ollie’s for years but only recently discovered it for myself. Check it out, you won’t be sorry you did.
I read a few good books:
All I want for Christmas by Wendy Loggia. Fiction. 2014. I bought this as a Christmas gift for a young adult granddaughter. It is a sweet Christmas novel that will be sure to put readers in a happy mood. (I always read the books I give my grandchildren, so that I can talk to them about the book after they read it, sort of our own little book club.)
Noel Street by Richard Paul Evans. Fiction, 2019. This novel dealt with stubborn family pride, the working poor, wealth, PTSD, racial issues, forgiveness, romance, reconciliation and, of course, Christmas. If you are Richard P. Evans fan, you will love it, if you haven’t yet read one of his books, you should try this one. It is one of his best.
The Christmas Light by Donna VanLiere. Fiction. 2014. It’s another sweet Christmas read with great characters, tears, laughter and plenty of plot surprises. This writer has written dozens of Christmas books and each one that I’ve read is wonderful. I urge you to find one of her novels and find your Christmas glow this December.
How to Make a Life by Florence Reiss Kraut. Fiction. 2020. (Sent to me for review from Story Circle.)This is a fabulous family saga, starting in Ukraine in 1905 and ending in New York City in 2012. It’s an emotional journey that’s worth the time, unforgettable characters who deal with tragedies, triumphs, mental illness, adultery, poverty to riches. The writer takes us on a memorable well-researched and well-written journey through the 20the century. I highly recommend this novel.
We’ve seen three good movies this month:
We watched Let Him Go at our local movie theater. We were the only ones there, so we had a private showing. It was a dramatic western with lots of depth and well developed characters, set in the Dakotas in the1960s. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane starred in this movie. It was a bit dark in content but very good.
On DVD, Gettysburg,1993. many top ranking actors starred in this movie about the most famous battle of the Civil War. it showed the travesty and heartbreak of war.
On DVD, One Christmas, 2009. Starring Katherine Hepburn and Henry Winkler. It was a sweet movie, “A timeless tale of love and impossible dreams.” We watched it after dinner on Thanksgiving afternoon.
We’ve also watched several Hallmark Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel. I can start a movie late and go to bed in the middle of the next one because I can always figure out what happened and how it will end. There are no surprise endings on the Hallmark movies! And they show so many re-runs that the same movies keep popping up over and over. But they’re great for unwinding when life gets too stressful.
Till next time, please stay safe and well.
Keep reading and try to enjoy this most special time of the year.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 3:34 pm
We made a round trip journey to Buffalo yesterday, October 30th, (my husband had a doctor appointment), temperatures hovered between 33 and 38. We drove on slushy highways thorough many spitting snow flurries. On the way home at the crest of a hill north of Ellicottville, N.Y. we saw our first snow, just a thin layer of lacy snow on the branches of huge pine trees. It was so beautiful. Snow is predicted for the next two days and I have an appointment to get my winter tires put on November 2. We’ve cancelled our annual January trip to South Carolina due to Covid.
I’ve started my early Christmas preparations in earnest. Sewing double sided fleece blankets but only 15 this year. Last year I made more than 40. My sewing machine has been a challenge, I’ve had to take it for repair twice in the last 2 weeks. It’s always something!
Our ’sisters writing project’ is progressing slowly, today we tried Zoom but my computer wouldn’t cooperate. So we had a three-way phone conversation, and agreed on a ‘road map’ to continue on through the winter months. It’s a challenge to blend our three different perspectives into one novel. BUT it’s working and worth it!
I’ve read several books in October, a very eclectic list:
When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal. Fiction. 2019. My book club’s choice. A story about two sisters who grew up on the Santa Cruz, CA beaches, until their lives are upended by a ferocious Earthquake and life as they knew is over. One sister becomes an E.R. doctor. The other fakes her death in a train accident in France after drifting around the world in a haze of drugs and promiscuity. She starts her life over in New Zealand with a new identity. It starts a bit slow but quickly becomes a page turner. A very good book. Lots to think about, it should generate a great discussion for our book group.
My Name Is Layla by Reyna Marder Gentin. Teen fiction. 2021. This is an Advance Reader Copy for review. My review should be posted within the week at https://www.storycircle.org/book_review/ It’s a great little book told in the point of view of a thirteen year old girl. It will show young readers that even when they feel they don’t fit quite right anywhere and even when they make poor choices, there is hope at the end of the tunnel. It will make a wonderful Christmas for our 13 year old great granddaughter. It brought back long ago memories of eighth grade, my least favorite year of school!
The Time of Our Lives by Peggy Noonan. Nonfiction/Essays. 2015. Ms. Noonan was President Reagan’s speech writer and has been a Wall St. Journal weekly columnist since then. She weaves together stories about Margaret Thatcher, Joan Rivers, Tim Russert, 9-11 grief and her own personal rags to riches story as well as personal comments on Reagan. She’s also the author of eight N.Y Times best selling books. This is the first one of her books I’ve read, though I’ve reads some of her columns over the years.
Every Second Tuesday By Elwood
Writers; Jennifer Bryce, Barry Lee Thompson, Helen McDonald and Margaret
McCaffrey. Memoir, Poetry, and Short Fiction. 2020. From the back
cover: A group of writers meet every second Tuesday in a seaside suburb
of Melbourne. They capture points of drama often found in every day
A man celebrates his birthday alone, content with the solitude.
A woman whimsically irons out the creases of her life.
A couple struggles with the precarious life of their premature baby.
The discovery of a grandfather’s World War I diary, written in the trenches, stirs heart-breaking memories.
a well written compilation easy to read in snips and pieces, something
to interest almost any reader. I enjoy reading stories with an
Australian human twist. I highly recommend this anthology.
I read two family memoirs by country music stars:
Sister Robbie, True Tales of the Family Band. 2020. By Willie Nelson and Bobbie Nelson, With David Ritz. It’s the untold story of Willie Nelson and his sister Bobbie, who, over the years supported each other through personal tragedies and triumphs and forged an unbreakable bond through their shared love of music and family. A fast and interesting read, I am in awe of such gifted musicians. Resiliency is the key word that comes to mind when I think of these fantastic performers. He said of his sister, “…I didn’t understand what was going on, but I trusted Bobbie. She kept saying we were going to win. She had faith. She gave me faith. She promised me that our lives wouldn’t be ruined.” I could hear the songs in my head as I read some of the stories behind the inspirations to write them. Amazing story.
Me and Patsy Kickin’ Up Dust by Loretta Lynn and her daughter Patsy Lynn Russell. (This daughter is named after Patsy Cline.) Memoir and Tribute to Patsy Cline. 2020. Loretta Lynn arrived in Nashville sixty years ago, a broke young mother, to take on the country music business. Patsy Cline was already a star. Rather than competing with each other, they forged a friendship and leaned on each other while balancing touring, raising children, writing songs and making dinner. A beautiful up-close and personal portrait of friendship. A very good book,I could almost hear Loretta Lynn’s voice as I read the pages!
We also watched two good movies this month at our local Movie House:
War With Grandpa, starring Robert DeNiro and Uma Thurman. It was good to just sit and laugh out loud at this funny and often silly movie. It was just what we needed. I actually went to see it twice, once with my husband and the second time with a friend who needed a laugh.
Honest Thief starring Liam Neesan. This was a really good movie with surprising clever twists. I highly recommend it. Somehow this familiar actor makes me feel safe and protected even when he plays a thief!
Till next month, stay safe and well my friends.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann
@ 11:57 am
October sneaked up on me this year! September has been one of our best months since the Covid-19 restrictions changed our lives. Our family gathered to celebrate my birthday over Labor Day weekend; our first gathering since Christmas. We even included an Easter egg hunt for the great-grands, (plastic eggs, of course.) It was great to be together again. Not everyone could come but 22 of us had a wonderful day, and the others were deeply missed. Our large and wonderful family is safe and well; we are ever so thankful for that.
I love the cooler brisk weather. Fall has long been my favorite season, and this September has been more like the weather of past Septembers. The autumn leaves in Northwest Pennsylvania have been spectacular the last ten days - contrasts of yellow, orange and red juxtaposed with the evergreens make incredible eye candy, especially when the sun beams on them against a clear blue sky.
We have visited our two college granddaughters at their campuses and taken them to dinner this week. They are such bright, creative and sweet girls. I’d love them even if they weren’t my granddaughters! They both lament, rightfully so, about so many of their classes being online. And all the regimented rules of order forced on them. But both find plenty of good to be happy about - and are finding their way in this crazy world.
My ’sister‘ writing partners and I met three Saturday mornings in September. Our project is really coming along. We’ve all invested many hours into it and actually have a printed rough draft manuscript, much tweaking will be done and many more chapters will be written in the coming months. It is still very much an exciting project for all of us. We meet again this Saturday morning. We even have an editor and agent interested in our project.
Story Circle posted two book reviews I wrote this last month. The Other Side of Sanctuary by Cheryl Crabb. Toward That Which Is Beautiful by Marian O’Shea Wernicke. You can read them by clicking these links:
I have read fewer books this month, because I’ve spent many hours winterizing my gardens, almost done, another two hours and I think I will have it wrapped up. All my patio potted plants were frozen by an unexpected heavy frost, I guess there were frost warnings but I was down a rabbit hole with my writing and missed it.
Restless by William Boyd. Fiction. 2006. An exciting, layered and complicated novel with likable well developed characters. This is the first book I have read by this highly acclaimed, successful and prolific British author who lives in France, but it certainly won’t be my last. (It was a birthday gift.)
The Quiet American by Graham Greene. 1955. Fiction. A novel about Vietnam before while the French were still trying to liberate the Vietnamese. It was my first G. Greene novel. I was impressed it with how novel - writing has evolved since those days. It was a complicated and layered about two Americans in Vietnam. I recognized the plot after the first couple chapters. I saw the movie several years ago. The Quiet American was made into a movie in1958 and 2002. (It was also a birthday gift.)
Edith The Rogue Rockefeller McCormick by Andrea Friederici Ross. Biography. 2020. An amazing story of a poor little rich girl who died a poor old lady. A very interesting book, well researched and well written. A review will be posted on Story Circle next week. (Story Circle sent me Edith,etc. to review.)
We watched three good movies this month:
Anger Management. 2002, starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicolson. It was very well done and extremely clever with plot twists and almost slapstick humor at times. Just what we needed, we laughed till we cried at some of their antics. If you haven’t seen it. I highly recommend it.
We Were Soldiers starring Mel Gibson. 2002. A Vietnam war movie. One of the best characters we have seen Gibson perform. The character development and plot twist made a wonderful movie despite the violent war scenes. A very worthwhile movie to watch.
Infidel. 2020. It was good to be back in a movie theater again with popcorn and Diet Coke. It was a gripping movie, with some violent scenes in which I closed my eyes. About an American married couple who end up in the crossfire of an international situation that almost costs the husband’s life. Tense and exciting to watch. Good character development.
Till next time, keep reading my friends.