According to the our calendar, spring is here, but obviously Mother Nature hasn’t received that message yet. I do have an appointment to have my snow tires removed and my summer tires installed this Thursday… and I am hoping it is not too early! This seems to have been a winter for the record books, a winter that just keeps hanging on. Of course, things could be much worse, we have plenty of warm clothes and a cozy home. And we have had a few sunny, though chilly days.
We had a lovely Easter with adult children, grandchildren and great -grandchildren too. Being April 1, it was also a day of jesting April Fools jokes on most of us by the trickier family members. I didn’t hoodwink anyone, though I tried! Our Easter egg hunt had to be in our basement this year. The weather was cold and wet.
We have been binging on Homeland season 6 and loving it. Can’t wait for the next disc to arrive from Netflix! We also saw the movie Red Sparrow. It was pertinent with all the news stories floating around about USA/Russian relations. The ruthless training of their secret agents, and layers of deceit made for a very exciting movie.
We also watched Lady Bird, it was a good movie though not particularly memorable to me. We went because it had been nominated for an academy award.
We also watched Darkest Hour, totally amazing movie. It didn’t feel like we were watching actors, it was great. We plan to watch it at least one more time.
We went to see Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri again. I noticed so many more details that I’d missed the first time we watched it. Wonderful movie even though much of the dialogue is profane.
This month I read Grant by Ron Chernow, the Pulitzer Prize winning biographer. His biography of Grant was well researched and well written. He maintained that Grant was our most misunderstood, underappreciated and one of our finest presidents. He was Lincoln’s most trusted general, Grant proved to be the genius military strategist of the Civil War. He knew all the other generals on both sides, their foibles and strengths, since they were all educated at West Point. Grant kept the North and South together during the tremulous reconstruction period after the war. Political intrigue seemed even worse during that period than today.
Hidden Tapestry by Debra Dean. Historical Biography. Subtitle: Jan Yoors, his two wives and the war that made them one. I loved Dean’s The Madonnas of Leningrad, so much that I jumped at the chance to review her new book. Of course, it was well-written; and definitely a surprise to me to read about such a different lifestyle choice. This artist left a legacy and his two wives exhibited more devotion, forgiveness and tolerance of Mr. Yoors than most men ever get from only one wife! This book was sent to me by StoryCircle.org for review.
Last Dance, Last Chance by Ann Rule. A true crime book. Well written and well researched. Very disturbing story about a bad doctor in Buffalo NY in the 1990s. This was our book club choice for March.
A Chance In The World by Steve Pemberton. Memoir. Another disturbing story, but one that weaves its way through so much heartache and turmoil to give a hopeful ending. I highly recommend it, especially during Child Abuse Awareness month.
I also read Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford. Historical fiction. Well researched with intriguing characters and surprising plot twists. Fascinating insights into lives we would never otherwise encounter, and the difficulties some had to endure to create the world as we know it today. This is our book club choice for April.
I reviewed Nothing Forgotten by Jessica Levine. Historical fiction. Well written and well researched novel with memorable characters and unexpected plot twists. You can read my review at: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/nothingforgotten.shtml
My debut Willow Lane Newsletter is very close, the newsletter is free but only sent to those who request it. IF you want to receive one you can send an email and request to be added to the list. Quite a few of you have already signed up and you are probably wondering what happened. It has taken more time than I ever dreamed would be necessary. But I think it will be worth the wait!
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
Today I was taken aback when a young friend asked me, “How does it feel to always live your life at full throttle?” I smiled and thought for a minute, then shrugged because I don’t know any other way to live, it seems I’ve always balanced umpteen projects at once! And this month that has certainly been true.
We traveled to Hilton Head, S.C. the last week of January and were gone ten days. It was nice to escape the snow for a few days and enjoy the sunshine. There were eight of us in our group this year, all cousins or siblings. We had such a wonderful time, so busy talking and having fun, we barely had time to eat out! This year’s highlight was visiting Daufuskie Island by ferry, it’s about a mile off the coast, midway between Hilton Head and Savannah, GA. Our tour guide was none other than Sallie Ann Robinson, the Gullah Diva. Next year she is going to come to our condo and cook us a Gullah meal. She was one of Pat Conroy’s students when he taught for one year on the island nearly fifty years ago. In fact she wrote the memorial tribute to him for Life magazine in 2016. One of our cousins who was heading to Florida, stayed a day longer to help Sallie Ann’s family and friends clear land to prepare for soon to be delivered prefab home. We stayed a day longer to spend time with our dear friends, the Hamidi’s, who spend their winters in Hilton Head. They are always so gracious and hospitable, she is a phenomenal baker and cook. She served us the best scones I’ve ever tasted. She shared her recipe and I tried to make them when we came home. My scones didn’t even taste like hers…but I will try again! Within a couple days of arriving home, we had to deal to with a couple heavy snowfalls as well as ice.
This month sets off a marathon of grandchildren birthdays. We enjoy watching them grow and become such unique individuals. We feel blessed, even as my office is stacked with boxes to organize for the next five birthdays!
We listened to Rosanne Cash’s music on the ride to and from Pittsburgh last weekend, where we stayed with dear friends. Friday night we went to Heinz Hall for a delicious and elegant dinner. Then to the theater for Beethoven’s Concerto No. 3. A nice relaxing weekend. Saturday afternoon I had lunch with a cousin who lives on The Strip and we enjoyed catching up with each other’s lives as we mourned a favorite aunt who had passed a few days earlier.
We watched a few good movies: The Water is Wide, Pat Conroy memoir - Hallmark. Excellent, especially after having visited Daufuskie Island, and reading his book with same title, so recently.
15:17 to Paris, A true story, produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. Excellent! Starring the three young American men, playing themselves, who thwarted a terrorist attempt on a train bound for Paris a few years ago.
The Hollars, Fiction, family drama and comedy. About a middle aged couple and their two grown sons. Loved it!
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Excellent! (Well, except for the profanity.) The intense story will stay with us long after watching. The acting was top notch.
Phantom Thread. Very good movie. Acting is intense but the story had a disturbing quality, and we did not leave the theater feeling happy. Though by the next day we were glad we’d seen it.
Doris. Very good movie. Sally Field stars in this movie about an older woman who falls for a much younger man. It is a thought provoking - laugh out loud comedy. I really admired Field’s performance.
Books I have enjoyed: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. Fiction. EXCELLENT!! One of the best books I have read in a long time. It’s about women spies working in France during WW1 and WW2, layers of deception, commitment, bravery and near starvation. Fascinating well researched novel. I loved it!
Composed by Rosanne Cash. Memoir. Very good. I didn’t have high expectations and was pleasantly surprised by her intelligence and excellent writing. I’ve bought four of her cds since reading the book and we are now major fans of this very talented singer and writer. One sentence that will stay with me from this book, she wrote it after the death of her parents. ”Lose is the universal equalizer.” How true.
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom, Fiction, excellent book. Music is the protagonist who tells this rather complicated story. It starts out a bit slow but is worth the effort. it is so well written that I had to check twice to see if it was really fiction!
Water is Wide. by Pat Conroy. Memoir, excellent. The story of his year of teaching on the island, after touring the island with our tour guide being one of Conroy’s students, well, needless to say, the book came became more alive to me. It is a pity he passed two years ago.
Still Me by Jojo Moyes. Fiction. Very good story. It is the third or maybe fourth novel about Louisa Clark, a British kooky, yet lovable character. Moyes writes in a refreshing fun style and develops her characters with crisp descriptions, layering tension and suspense along the way.
Resurrection Road and Judas Island. by Kathryn Wall. Fiction, very good books. Wall has written a whole series about Bay Tanner, private investigator on Hilton Head Island. I’ve read several of her books over the years and they are fun, suspenseful page turners. Especially fun to read after being on the island and knowing where many of the places and streets she writes about are located. The local B&N has a huge selection of her books in the Bay Tanner series.
My newsletter has been delayed. Please let me know if any of you would like to read the free monthly or maybe bi-monthly newsletter about the Willow Lane series.
That’s it for this month. Till next time, keep reading my friends.
We had another snow storm last night. I just finished shoveling the sidewalks as well as a path for our dog, Lucas, to do his business behind our home. It is totally beautiful looking out at the winter wonderland but the wind makes it feel soo cold when out there. I’ve been inside for more than half hour and my bones still feel cold!
I realize my New Years greeting is a bit late. Are any of you still trying to keep your New Years Resolutions? This is the first year I did not make one, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort since I never kept one more than a few weeks anyway. I am what I am and that’s the way its going to be.
Since my December blog, I’ve been busy, though my family and friends know that ‘busy’ is sort of my middle name. My interview at WPSU was aired on Sunday morning, December 27th. If you are interested in listening to it, here’s the link: http://radio.wpsu.org/post/bradford-author-pens-christmas-novel
Also Pressure Cooker Christmas received another five star review from a Story Circle Reviewer:
Remember those heart-warming Hallmark Christmas scenes? You know, the ones with the tall tree nicely trimmed, a variety of Christmas cookies frosted and sprinkled, Christmas presents neatly wrapped and stacked, and the extended family gathered closely before a roaring fireplace. I sat down to read Ann McCauley’s Pressure Cooker Christmas one week before Christmas in a family room sorely lacking in such Hallmark ambiance. I hoped this book would provide me with some insight, maybe some humor with which to approach my Christmas to-do list.
Marlene O’Malley is a working wife, mother, daughter, and grandmother. There is husband Bob who is a self-confessed curmudgeon. There are adult children: two daughters and a son and their respective mates and children, as well as a sprinkle of great grandparents. Each adds their own flavor of stress and complications. From a pending divorce to a wedding to addiction recovery to unforeseen accidents, Marlene maintains her cool under pressure. She strives to maintain a schedule that will enable her to celebrate the holiday with family the traditions that make it so special. It’s a juggling act we all try to sustain, but Marlene offers an example of how to do so with humor. It’s not the funny ha-ha kind, but there’s plenty of good humor that supports loved ones and friends with flexibility, grace and dependability.
This is a feel-good book and highly recommended as a realistic window on a contemporary woman trying to do it all.
The week after Christmas I purposely took time to unwind, reading and relaxing with a toasty fire, visiting family and friends and no book promotions at all. We saw the movie, The Greatest Showman, it was wonderful! There were lots of previews for good movies that will be released in the coming weeks but mostly all the movies available to see in our area were geared to a far younger audience than us. We did finish binging on Longmire, season five and now we have to wait until season six is released. We love that show and can hardly wait!! The actor who plays Longmire, reminds me so much of my brother, Mike, that I sent him season one for Christmas. He loved it!
I received and read several good books for Christmas:
Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival by Jennifer Chiaverini, Historical fiction. A good book, I learned so much about the political intrigue of that era, in some ways –not so different from today’s politics! This author is an excellent writer, and researcher. She makes history come to life. Socialite Kate Chase had it all and then made a marital choice that turned her life upside down. The reader sees it coming and wants to shout into the pages, “NO, no…don’t do it.” But of course it doesn’t work that way. I highly recommend this book. It was a much appreciated Christmas gift.
Finding Refuge in World War II by Penelope S. Easton. Memoir. A wonderful slice of Americana, the writer was over 90 when she wrote this book. Her recall of details from so long ago is amazing and the adventures she shares makes this a must read slice of history to savor. Penelope’s positive attitude helped her cope with challenges. Her small-town common sense and values gave her the confidence to demand respect for her skills and knowledge. This is her second memoir, an extraordinary book. It was a much appreciated Christmas gift.
Promise Me ,Dad, by Joe Biden. Memoir. I loved this book. I have always been an admirer of the way Joe Biden has lived his life, his resilience through tragedy, and the depth of his family values. (I was a bit afraid this book would be all politics. Something I try hard to avoid!) I was happily surprised that politics were only a backdrop and it was a touching story of family love. It was a much appreciated Christmas gift.
Winter’s Tales, by Isak Dineson. Anthology- fiction. I haven’t quite finished this one yet, the author also wrote Out of Africa. I like the diversity of the characters in the stories I have read so far. It is nice to read a complete story or two during a short break. It is a very good book. Another much appreciated Christmas gift.
Saints for All Occasions, by J. Courtney Sullivan. Historical fiction. I loved this one, I felt it was delicious and I couldn’t read it fast enough to see what was going to happen to the characters during all the plot twists…and then I felt disappointed when I finished the book. I did not want the book to end! I liked this writer so much, I looked her up online and ordered her other three novels. Another much appreciated Christmas gift.
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan. Fiction. This novel was layered with multiple unique characters whose depth and diversity kept me turning the pages, and oh the plot twists! It was complicated to follow, BUT worth the effort. I admire this young author who is so talented skilled. I bought this one myself. (Today her other two books arrived, so you can guess what I will be reading next!)
**BLOG READERS: In an effort to start 2018 as professionally as possible, I have two requests:
1. IF you would prefer NOT to receive this blog each month, please reply back and say PLEASE REMOVE MY NAME FROM YOUR LIST.
2. I am starting a Willow Lane Newsletter that will be emailed monthly through a news feed. If you want to receive this Newsletter, please send me your email address. All who receive the monthly blog will NOT automatically receive the Newsletter. Only those who sign up will receive it. Pressure Cooker Christmas was the first in the new Willow Lane series.
That’s all for now, please keep reading my friends!
It’s seven days until Christmas and I just might be ready on time. Maybe. What a whirlwind my life has been! The Christmas cards have been mailed. Most of the shopping is done and most of the gift wrapping is done. All the packages have been sent or delivered. Cookies are baked and packed. Today was the Sunday School pageant and it was lovely. I visited two sick aunts who are in nursing homes, two hours away, last Friday. Another aunt passed away last week, I made a condolence visit to my cousins in upstate New York. Whew! As if that’s not enough, all the promos I had to do for my new novel, Pressure Cooker Christmas, have been great but really put me under a lot of pressure. Ironic, huh?
Anne Holliday interviewed me for Bradford’s WESB’s Liveline. Click on this site: http://wesb.com/liveline-ondemand/ and go to Nov.30, 2017, and you will hear my interview about the NOT a cookbook, Pressure Cooker Christmas.
I was interviewed at State College’s WPSU by Intern Adison Haley Godfrey, graduate student, on Dec. 8. It’s all fun but exhausting.
On December 15, I did an impromptu interview at WWCH radio in Clarion PA. I stopped to donate three copies for the station to do call-in giveaways and they insisted on a quick interview to go with the call-ins.
My apologies for the formatting of the reviews I copied and pasted to this blog. It makes the blog appear much longer than it really is!
Pressure Cooker Christmas feedback and reviews have been outstanding.
Pressure Cooker Christmas Reviews:
Click: http://www.writeradvice.com/hooked-on-books to read Blynn Goodwin’s review, scroll down to the last review on the page. It’s worth it.
“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,
“Ann McCauley’s done it again! In Pressure
Cooker Christmas, ‘tis the season of flu, family feuds, cookies and
crackling wit. Just as our heroine
Marlene gets her Scrooge-ish husband through one Christmas event, she has to
manage another. Then a real disaster
strikes. But she makes it through with
grit, determination and gingerbread.”
D Ferrara, writer, editor, screenwriter and publisher
“McCauley takes readers on a
behind-the-scenes tour of a seemingly-Christmas letter-perfect family and reminds
us the true joy of the season doesn’t lie in to-do lists and obligations, but
in the simple pleasures of togetherness.”
Heather Harlen, author of Shame, Shame, I Know Your Name
“Pressure Cooker Christmas may hold a holiday theme, but it’s
safe to say that it is like no other Christmas book. In fact, even the
protagonist admits this possibility in her reflections about the
quickly-approaching holiday: “I
promised myself this Christmas would be different. But already my life felt
like a runaway train, and it was only the day after Thanksgiving.”
For one thing, Christmas efforts and
traditions don’t feel as joyful to Marlene as they should be… Where is her holiday spirit hiding? As
dysfunction, family ties, and pressure ramps up, readers are treated to a solid
description of very different perspectives about the holidays dosed with a warm
set of dreams that neatly juxtaposes the challenges leading up to Christmas
Day. The dialogue is crisp and involving, different characters’ perspectives
are nicely laid out, and the challenges of the season are outlined using a
blend of quirky observation and involving insights.
It’s the twelve days of Christmas
with a big difference. Readers who enjoy holiday stories with angst added into
the mix will find Pressure Cooker
Christmas a fine tale offering more realistic twists and turns than most,
tempering idealism with despair and adding an injection of warmth just when one
comes to believe that all may be lost, this particular holiday season. It’s a
holiday read like no other, especially recommended for women’s fiction
enthusiasts and served up as a satisfyingly realistic contrast to the usual
sanguine Christmas story.”
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Reviews
Charming novel about the joys and travails of
an ordinary and not so ordinary Christmas. The O’Malley family lives in north
central or north western Pennsylvania, the parents, Marlene and Bob, are
getting on in years and starting to wonder about what will happen with their
three kids. One son, finally sober after being kicked around by the bottle for
many years, lives above their garage and seems fundamentally unable to make a
living, though he is a good man and father himself. A daughter lives in Atlanta
and is in the midst of a divorce from her philandering husband. Another
daughter lives locally, and is pregnant.
This is a
well told story about the pressures and realities and happiness of a busy
family during the holiday season. Big things happen, but they flow from the
small events of a life well lived. The lead character Marlene, is particularly
well written, and the family events, and the yule tide happenings, all are seen
through her eyes. Her love for Christmas, her husband Bob’s lack of interest in
Christmas, and Marlene’s inability to say no her family or anyone else seeking
assistance makes for an interesting and challenging dynamic. Highly recommended
for fans of Christmas stories and family novels. It was amazing.
GOODREADS, Oct 20, 2017, Terje Fokstuen, CA. attorney, *Five Star Review
… Ann McCauley’s writing is honest and suspenseful, but peppered with her humor. The protagonists reputation of being a rock, an anchor for everyone in time of trouble, is in danger of crumbling.
More than the usual Christmas story of magic, the reader is plunged into the realistic holiday flurry that mothers and grandmothers get into when they set high standards for themselves… Unlike any other Christmas novels…
Joan Martin, Book Reviewer, Baytown News, Baytown, Texas
I thought this story would strike a chord with readers, that this unexplored slant on Christmas could well be a universal theme. Reader feedback has been amazing, women I don’t even know, come up to me and say, “How did you know that about me? I loved your book, I felt like it was about me and my family!”
Sales have been strong and though it will soon be packed mostly away until next fall, Pressure Cooker Christmas will be an Evergreen Novel that comes back year after year as it continues to pick up steam.
I reviewed a novel, Maureen, for Story Circle: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/maureen.shtml
I’ve read several books in the last two months, I read the first six on my new Kindle, while traveling:
THE STORYTELLER by Jodi Picoult. Historical Fiction. About the holocaust and its effect on two families in the proceeding generations. Excellent!
After the Lie by Kerry Fisher. Historical fiction set after post WW2 in rural England and Ireland. Excellent!
The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher. Historical fiction set in England post WW2. Another excellent well told story.
The Letter by Kathryn Hughes. Historical fiction set in England before and during WW2. Amazing story, I wanted to get inside the pages and help the victims of the writer’s sometimes cruel imagination. Excellent!
The Secret by Kathryn Hughes. Historical Fiction set in England. Compelling family secrets become revealed decades later, after a trauma. Great story, likable characters, another excellent read!
Kuchen Up a Killing, (The Schnitzel Haus Mysteries Book 1), by Lauren Nichols. Set in small town near fictional elk reserve, loveable well developed characters and plot twists to keep the reader wanting more. Excellent story.
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman. Magical Fiction. Our book club’s choice for January. I read it early since one of the girls had finished the library copy. I quickly read it and returned it to the library. It was exciting and well written though not my cup of tea!
I AM THE MESSENGER by Markus Zusak. Present day, Australia. Protagonist/narrator is a 19 year old male cab driver. At times hilarious. Very different from Zusak’s first novel, The Book Thief. But nonetheless a pretty good book.
The Whip, by Karen Kondazin. Historical fiction. Based on a real person, Charley Parkhursts, was an orphan, suffered terrible loss as a young mother and wife. While seeking revenge, she shifted her gender to survive the lawless west in the late 1800s as a stage coach driver. Based on a true story. Excellent well written story.
I read a few others but not worth mentioning. Remember I only write about the good books I have read.
Movies we have seen:
Murder on the Orient Express, I know some reviews have not been I kind to it, but we loved it and wouldn’t mind seeing it again.
SW8, The Last Jedi was not exactly our cup of tea, but was well acted and engaging. Lots of special effects. I’m quite sure there will be a SW9!
Love is All You Need, Pierce Brosnan co-starred in this sometimes subtitled Danish film we rented from Netflicks. It was a sweet movie that made us feel happy. I recommend it to you if your are looking for a fun sweet movie.
We are also enjoying Season 5 of Longmire from Netflicks. And, of course, this time of year, Christmas movies galore!
Till next time, keep reading my friends!
WOW, so many changes since my last blog entry…. Pressure Cooker Christmas is finally available at this site: https://www.amazon.com/Pressure-Cooker-Christmas-Ann-McCauley-ebook/dp/B076B6V8PY/ref=sr_1_1ie=UTF8&qid=1511299739&sr=8-1&keywords=Pressure+Cooker+Christmas
Sales are have been strong, it seems to be a story many readers can identify with. The McKean County Historical Society hosted an Open House Book Signing on November 16, 2017.
On Friday November 17, I was guest speaker of The Bradford Literary Club, okay, I am a member of the club! It was fun and I sold many autographed copies of Pressure Cooker Christmas.
There will be an official Book Launch of Pressure Cooker Christmas at On The Side Books, Kennedy St, Bradford, PA on Friday, December 1, 2017 from 3-6 P.M. IF you are in the area, please stop by. Light refreshments will be served.
I will be at the Main St. Mercantile Home Town Christmas Shopping Day, Bradford PA on Saturday, December 9, 2017, signing books from 11A.M. - 2 P.M.
I will be at the Olean, N.Y. Public Library on Wednesday, December 13 at 6:30 P.M. to read a short excerpt from Pressure Cooker Christmas and discuss the process of writing. Autographed copies will be available. Light refreshments will be served.
I will speak at the Smethport Rotary Club on December 12. I still have a few dates open if you need a last minute speaker for your organization in December. Please leave a message in the comment section after this blog.
We were on a three week visit to Europe from October 15 through November 5. It was wonderful, we spent the first week in Basil, Switzerland with our oldest daughter. We ate breakfast in Switzerland every morning, then drove a few miles for lunch in Germany, returned to her house for the afternoon and then drove a few miles in the opposite direction and had dinner in France. Basil is in the magic triangle of those three countries.
The second week we took a Viking River Cruise from Basil for seven days snaking through Germany, France and into the Netherlands, arriving in Amsterdam on the seventh day. Another wonderful week, we met so many vibrant interesting fellow-passengers on the ship, and made happy memories that we will never forget. It was so much more relaxing than large ship cruises.
The third week we flew from Amsterdam to London where our grandson, age 21, met us at the airport with his girlfriend, first time we met her, very pretty and smart girl. They are both in the US Air Force, stationed at Lakenheath Air Base. We had a couple fantastic days with them, then he drove us N/W to Leicester where we stayed until Saturday. We spent several days with my husband’s niece and her family, we’ve been there many times over the years and it was great to see them all again. His nephew who lives in Dubai even flew to England to see his uncle for a few days. On Saturday our grandson and his girlfriend drove to Leicester again and spent several hours with the family there, that evening he drove us back to his home. Early Sunday morning he drove us back to the airport and we flew home, tired and happy travelers!
Two days after we returned, UPS delivered a large shipment, my Pressure Cooker Christmas novels finally arrived. The first time I hold one of my new novels in my hands, I can only compare it to the thrill of holding each of my children that first time after they were born. Of course, the babies were a more spectacular thrill but it is a similar feeling.
I bought a Kindle to read books on the trip. After I became accustomed to it, it was great. Though I still prefer real books with actual pages to turn! More later about the books I read while traveling.
Meanwhile, keep reading my friends!
My long-awaited Christmas novel, Pressure Cooker Christmas, is finally here! *See links below to order e-book. Print version is delayed by a couple weeks. BUT it is coming! It’s been a long endeavor of love, more about that later…
We had a stretch of Indian summer with many sunny HOT days since our cool rainy Labor Day weekend. But we take the weather in our stride, what else can we do? Lately it has been near perfect autumn weather. This is my favorite season. I love the brilliant yellow, gold, orange and red colors of the leaves, framed by the green pines and the bright blue sky. Even on rainy days when the wind gently tosses the leaves through the air. It is just beautiful! Of course, this will be followed by the white wonders of winter. I’ve always loved the changing seasons.
Our oldest grandson married his lovely fiance on September 9th. It was a beautiful afternoon wedding, everyone was happy without a drop of tension anywhere. That’s my kind of celebration! In October the newlyweds spent a week in Sedona, Arizona, and are happy as can be.
I love the way my granddaughter parents. Her four year old daughter started preschool a few weeks ago. The first day was okay. The second day she cried and wanted to go home with her mom. But she stayed at school, without her mom. That night she said, “I cried this morning and my mommy still left me at school.” What a great lesson in learning that tears will not manipulate! That was the only day she cried. She has adjusted well and really likes her preschool now.
Sneak preview of a three reviews: Pressure Cooker Christmas is a charming read for anyone who has ever tried to pull off the perfect Christmas. In a moment of frustration, Marlene O’Malley writes the most honest holiday letter ever, and it falls into the wrong hands. Will she be able to explain herself? Will her children find the happiness that eludes them? And what is her curmudgeon of a husband building in that workshop? McCauley keeps you guessing all the way to the end of this delightful Christmas story. Barbara J. Taylor, author of Sing in The Morning, Cry at Night and All Waiting is Long D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Reviews
Sneak preview of a three reviews:
Pressure Cooker Christmas is a charming read for anyone who has ever tried to pull off the perfect Christmas. In a moment of frustration, Marlene O’Malley writes the most honest holiday letter ever, and it falls into the wrong hands. Will she be able to explain herself? Will her children find the happiness that eludes them? And what is her curmudgeon of a husband building in that workshop? McCauley keeps you guessing all the way to the end of this delightful Christmas story. Barbara J. Taylor, author of Sing in The Morning, Cry at Night and All Waiting is Long
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Reviews
In Ann McCauley’s newest book, four familiar themes–family, friends, food, and faith - combine in a slice of life tale that follows the O’Malley family through the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years in a particularly hectic year. The characters are true to life–we can see ourselves in the stresses and joys of the O’Malley’s as nurse, Marlene O’Malley, recounts them. And in the end, we must agree with her that, “Regardless…we were still family.” Pressure Cooker Christmas is a story to savor while sipping hot chocolate and munching on holiday snickerdoodles.
Linda Newman, M.L.S., retired
And there were several more just as lovely as these, enough to make an author feel like, yes, it was all worth it!
I have watched one very memorable and wonderful movie this month, Maudie, at the Independent Monday Night Series at the Bradford Movie House. Absolutely charming and sweet. AND it was based on real people, it showed them at the end.
We also watched the entire Ken Burn’s Vietnam Series on PBS. Very powerful and enlightening. He spent years with his team working on this project, it was all encompassing, more than 20 hours of viewing. The history of Vietnam, all sides of the conflict and a few individual soldiers were followed to give it more of a human feel that just a documentary. I definitely don’t want to watch it again. BUT I am very glad to have seen it once. Guaranteed you won’t be able to watch the whole thing without shedding at least a few tears. I highly recommend it… Very timely in this day of taking a knee instead of saluting our flag during the National Anthem.
I have read fewer books, because I have had to review so many proofs of my novel. BUT that’s part of the process when a person takes on self publishing! I read:
Glass Houses by Louise Penny. Fiction. Excellent as all her books are, but perhaps a more memorable theme to this novel. It is timely and will stay with the reader long after reading.
We Were Liars by e. Lockhart. Young adult fiction. A gripping plot examines the lives of the privileged trust fund set and their struggles inside their summer homes on a private island off the New England coast. The author is an excellent writer.
Meme Santerre by D Serge Grafteaux, translated from French to English by Louise A. and Kathryn L. Tilly. Memoir.
A quiet little book given to me by my cousin when she downsized. It is deep, simple and often profound. Born in 1891, she lived through the atrocities of WWI and then WWII, all the while just trying to keep a roof over her family. She was the youngest of eleven children. They all learned the art of linen weaving from their parents in their small cottage. Poverty, physical hardship and resiliency made Meme an unforgettable character. I highly recommend this one.
Maureen by Mary E. Trimble. Fiction. This novel was sent to me for review from Story Circle. It is a contemporary western novel. If you’d enjoy learning about modern day ranching, this would be a great book for you. The author shows it is indeed possible to love someone else’s children. A sweet and lovely book.
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
I love these cooler days and nights. We enjoyed our summer, even though there were days that we felt like we were meeting ourselves coming and going! We went with friends to Buffalo one day and visited the Perce-Arrow Auto Museum, I am ashamed to admit that I’d never heard of that brand before. It was a classic that became a legend. I encourage everyone to make the trip to Buffalo, it is an amazing collection! Then we had a guided tour of the Martin House, a lovely, large, ultramodern Frank Lloyd Wright House, near the university. What a story behind it too. It was a fun and worthwhile day. We have traveled often to Buffalo over the years, and we’d never heard or knew about these gems. Better late than never.
We also finally visited the new Marilyn Horne Museum in Bradford, but only because we had guests who were interested in seeing it. We attended the opening ceremony when Marilyn Horne and her family were in town last spring. But it was incredibly cold and we didn’t stay for a tour that day. It’s a magnificent museum and we all loved it. Since then I ordered her Christmas cd with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir from Amazon. It arrived a couple days later, and I listened to a few of the songs, breathtakingly beautiful music!! My husband thinks I should downsize, (i.e. throw away!), all my other Christmas music, but I say, how can I get through a Christmas without, Grandma Got Run Over by Reindeer?
My writer friends came for a Saturday Writers Workshop the first Saturday of August. We accomplished so much and I have been working like a busy bee since…more about that next month!
Our family reunion was on August 13th at the family farm where my mother and all of her siblings were born and raised. All of her generation have passed by now with the exception of Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Elmer, the youngest two siblings. Next year will be our 50th Annual McCauley Family Reunion. We are fortunate that our cousin and his wife, the current farmer/owners, are such gracious warm hosts as they are invaded with dozens of cousins on the second Sunday of August, year after year. They do so much for all of us, even a hayride every year!
I have continued to read, perhaps not quite so many this month as before.( I did break down and buy a Kindle. But it is still an unused novelty for me. Much to learn - yikes!)
Bear Town by Frederic Blackman. Fiction. Very different from his other books, but with great character development and plot. I highly recommend it. You will quickly forget it’s set in Sweden and feel you are reading about a town in Alaska or Canada.
The Girl with Seven Names, Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee. Nonfiction, memoir. A gripping story with much insight into the current lives of the North Korean people. Compelling, chilling and brave. Excellent writing. I highly recommend this one too.
The Japanese Lover by Isabelle Allende. Historical Fiction. Allende is a passionate storyteller, a master of the art. Focuses on two very different survivors of the carnage of WW2. Not my favorite Allende novel but still a good one.
The American Spirit by David McCullough. Nonfiction. A collection of speeches he has given over the years. I can’t remember a time when our country ever seemed quite so divided. This is a book all Americans should read, especially now. “…harked us back to core American values to which we all subscribe, regardless of which region of we live in, which political party we identify with, or our ethnic background. This is a book about America for all Americans that reminds us who we are and helps us to guide us on our way forward.” (–per jacket cover of book.)
The Girl Before by J P Delaney. Fiction. This was a tough book for me to read since I couldn’t make myself care about any of the characters. I am sure there will be readers who like this book. Sadly, I am not one of them.
Exposed by Lisa Scottoline. Fiction. Suspense. Thriller. This book is only a couple notches slower than her last one which places several notches above most writers! Her character development, wit, and plots are amazing and this is one writer I never know what to expect at the end. (I accurately predict the ending of most writers by the middle of their books.) And I’m usually correct. Not so with Lisa Scottoline. I highly recommend this unforgettable novel.
We watched The Light Between the Oceans last week, we got it from Netflicks, it was so well done. I had read the book for Book Club a couple years ago. It’s a story that stays with the reader and a memorable movie too. Sad, complicated and lovely.
The Big Sick, a new movie, it was an excellent movie and should be watched my everyone, it is cross cultural and cross racial…maybe could diffuse some tensions that are rampant in our country at this time. (We saw it on Long Island when we visited our granddaughter who is a student a Stony Brook U. She did an internship there so we visited her since she wouldn’t be home much this summer. She showed us around Long Island. Wow! Some of those single family mansion on the north end of the island look like resorts. Also showed us all around Stony Brook U.)
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
Do your days fly by as fast as they seem to for me?! I feel blessed to have many friends and a big family. But wow, keeping up with everyone requires stamina and organization. It seems it is always someone’s birthday! We enjoyed a week at Myrtle Beach, S.C. with most of our immediate family, six were unable to come, we missed them, though there were still twenty-two of us. We celebrated one birthday and one anniversary in our group that week too. We had three, three bedroom condos, side by side. Time shares come in handy sometimes! It was a laid back relaxing fun time. The excitement and wonder of little children is always refreshing, we had four great-grands under the age of six, one more is due any day!
Our oldest great granddaughter, age ten, loves to read, I took her to Barnes and Nobles after dinner one evening. Her eyes were popping out, she was so excited! It was her first visit to such a large book store. It was truly fun, I bought her a couple books. She chose them, of course. She will give me book reports when I see her next.
We visited family on the way down and back which extended vacation a bit. Traffic was horrendous on I-95 coming home especially. But we had rented an audio book at a Cracker Barrel that helped keep us focused. (Hint-hint, check out the nice selection of audio books available at Cracker Barrel restaurants if you are traveling. It helps take the boredom out of long drives.)
A few nights ago we went to see War, Planet of the Apes. When I parked the van, I accidentally backed too far and bumped into a brick building. My husband said he would check for damages. I put the van in park and hurried back to see how bad. He looked glum and pointed to the right rear fender. I looked at it closely and touched the heavy duty plastic fender, stood back and then very firmly hit the van with my hip. Presto, good as new! There are definite advantages to plastic auto parts. Oh, and we enjoyed the movie, too. Andy Serkis, stars as Caesar, is our cousin’s wife’s first cousin. No, we have not met him but we love his acting.
Story Circle made my day a again by choosing me as Reviewer of the Month. Woo-hoo! Click here: to read my review of Roads by Marina Antropow Cramer. (An excellent book!)http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/roads.shtml http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/newsletters/170721.html
I have read several books this month, I will share the ones I liked best.
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, fiction. Loved this book but then she is one of my most favorite authors. A simple story, lively, comic and poignant. Blurb on cover: “Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Retold.” And as with all her stories, the characters stay with the reader long after reading.
Zero Hour, by David Baldacci, fiction. We listened to this exciting book while driving south. From the John Puller suspense series with layers of government deceit, more murders than we could count, kept us guessing who the good guys were and who all were the bad guys? Great audio for a long trip!
Hope to Die by James Patterson, fiction. An Alex Cross novel, (audio), very exciting with graphic violence, sure keeps one wide awake when driving long distances!
The Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg, Historical fiction. The story of Aurora Dupin, i.e. George Sand. She left her abusive husband and pursued her dream of writing in 19th century France. Berg rose to the occasion, careful research with remarkable insights and empathetic character development created a page turner about a literary giant. Definitely worth reading.
Camino Island, by John Grisham, fiction. This was not his typical legalese novel, it was a about the literary world. A world he knows as well as law after all his best sellers. It includes murders, grand theft, deceptive branches of government and colorful characters. A good summer read.
The Forgotten by David Baldacci, fiction. Another suspenseful novel from the John Puller series. Involves human trafficing, murder and deception, even corrupt police proves Paradise is not all it seems to be. Another great summer read!
The Daughter, by Jane Shemlt, fiction. Suspense, thriller - about a family that projects a wholesome image to the world but behind closed doors are slowly falling apart and away from each other, until one event takes the entire bottom out of their world. Debut novel by a British physician, about a family practice doc who hurries home to fix dinner for her family every day after work, until… Great book! Highly recommend it.
A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline, historical fiction. This was out book club’s choice for the month and what a great choice it was!! One of my favorite books. I liked it even better than The Orphan Train which was wonderful. Christina Olson’s whole life takes place on her remote family farm, sounds boring? But it’s not, not at all, thanks to the skill and character development of this author. The protagonist had a crippling un-named neurological decease, yet she worked harder every day than most people do in three months. She hosted and inspired the artist Andrew Wyeth, for many years. His most famous painting was Christina’s World, which include her looking at her beloved farm in the painting. Wyeth’s wife and Christina’s lost love, plus her parents and brothers are all well developed secondary characters that add depth to the book. It is well worth reading.
IF you haven’t read The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls. Please go to your local library and read it ASAP! It is a gripping unforgettable memoir. It’s coming out as a movie, starring Woody Harrelson on August 8th. I watched the movie preview and can safely say, we finally have a grown up drama to look forward to!
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
I have been spending hours every week with my flowers, mowing, pruning trees, raking, etc. One day last week, I mowed our entire lawn. It was seven hours on the riding lawn mower. Growing up on a farm, it is like second nature to me to want to be outside and involved in the care of our land. Yesterday was our first 90 degree day of the season, and for a change there was no wind. So we decided to burn two brush piles - one at time. It was hard hot work. We were prepared: cell phone on hand, two hoses, three 5 gallon buckets of water on stand by, shovels, garden rake and heavy duty gloves work gloves for each of us. Two lawn chairs, and a cooler of water and diet cokes. I enjoy working outside. And my husband who grew up in a large city does too. I feel a sense of pride when I can see the immediate results of my efforts.
Gardening is so unlike writing. Writing is a constant pressure to meet deadlines, then hoping and waiting for acceptances while most often receiving rejections. A few weeks ago one of our teen granddaughters was helping me with something on the computer, she read a sign I have hanging above my desk: Today we do…what we must. Then someday we can do…what we want! Then she looked at me skeptically and blanched. I asked her if she liked the sign. She nodded, and then hesitantly asked, “How old do you have to be before you can do what you want?” I didn’t know how to answer. I finally said, “It varies from person to person.” As a big birthday is fast approaching … I’ve seriously been wondering.
Busy time of the year. We have hosted and attended several parties and dinners over the last few weeks. Plus district and state competition for our granddaughter who had a great year in Pole Vaulting, made it look easy to fly over the barrier at ten feet with a foot to spare! Our travel plans are always directly related to the availability of kennel space tor our dog. A change of scene is refreshing but coming home is always the sweetest. We spent Memorial Day Weekend in Pittsburgh with dear friends. I took a couple hours and drove across Pittsburgh to meet our grandson for lunch; he’s a hair stylist. His hair was a pretty shade of purple this time. Cute!
While in Pittsburgh, we went to the theater and watched the movie, Gifted. It was wonderful. We have had few movies to watch lately because we like good dramas, and there have been so few.
We binged on the series, Prime Suspect, starring Helen Mirren. Our friends lent us their entire set to bring home. Loved it!
I have read fewer books than usual this month:
No Certain Rest by Jim Lehrere. Interesting and educational historical novel about the Civil War.
Jewels of San Fedele, a wonderful anthology written by a group of fourteen writers who spent a week on an Italian hilltop surrounded by vineyards and orchards. The book is samples of their writing retreat efforts, memoir samples, poetry, essays, short stories and even a segment of novel. A writers dream come true for those lucky fourteen!
King’s Mountain by Sharon McCrumb. Historical fiction about the American Revolution. Well researched, good character development. Another great novel from this much loved Appalachian author.
Roads by Marina Antropow Cramer. Historical fiction about WW2 with a different angle. Well researched and unforgettable characters, the plot takes so many twists that the reader is tied in knots at times trying to imagine how anyone managed to survive at all. There was certainly no need for Weight Watchers during those times!
Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro. Historical fiction. Our book club’s choice for this month. Well written and researched. The protagonist makes several attempts to reinvent herself and then doubts her efforts. Good plot and some of the characters were less then likable. it is hard for me to really love a book if I don’t like the characters!
My review of Jewels of San Fedele is posted on Story Circle: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/jewels.shtml
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
April showers did their work and the early spring flowers were lovely. Then yesterday, May 1, the rains came again. With a vengeance! The downpours continue today and it seems I can almost see the grass growing. Everything is green and beautiful, there have been days that I’ve managed to grab my gardening gloves and get some early gardening done between showers.
Last year I read The Gilded Cage, by Judy Alter. Historical fiction about Potter Palmer and his wife, Cissy and the early days of Chicago, including the great fire and the Columbian Exhibition. It inspired me to see Chicago. My husband had a chance to go to a conference in Chicago. I was excited! We took the train from Buffalo to Chicago for a week in early April. It’s a well organized lovely city, seemingly full of hardworking young people. We did the fascinating Architectural Tour on the Chicago River by boat. Another day we took a city bus tour. We walked the Magnificent Mile. One day we ate lunch at the Palmer House Hilton, and another day we explored on our own and took the El Train for still a different view of the beautiful city. We went to the interactive play, Tony and Tina’s Wedding, that was a fun evening.
The day after we arrived home, we had family visitors stay with us for a week. Our daughter and her friend live in Switzerland. He had never been to the U.S.A. before. He was a gracious and happy guest, curious and enthusiastic about all things American. We enjoyed their time with us.
This has been a good month for reading. And writing. Books I have read this month:
In For A Penny and Not a Penny More by southern writer, Kathyrn R. Wall. The first two novels of the Bay Tanner Mystery series. I cant wait to go back to S.C. and buy the next two novels in the series. Fun reads!
The Mirrored World, historical fiction by Debra Dean. It contrasts the opulent lifestyles of the royal class to the destitution of the multitudes. It shows “….the blessing of friendship, the limits of reason and the costs of loving deeply.” I love Russian historical fiction.
Lion, a memoir by Saroo Brierly, was made into an Academy Award winning movie. I was fortunate to have finished reading the book only a day before we watched the movie. The book was so much deeper and meaningful than the movie. It deals with poverty, hope, and examines what makes a family.
Truly, Madly, Guilty, fiction by Liane Moriarty. She is a very talented writer, unpeeling the story for the reader one onion skin at a time.This book dealt with different kinds of relationships on many levels. It is our book clubs choice for May.
The Longest Ride, a novel by Nickolas Sparks, one of his better books. I enjoyed it.
You can read my review of Shame, Shame, I Know Your Name by Heather Harlan on Story Circle at:
You can read my review of The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah by clicking www.writeradvice.com Then click Hooked on Books on the left side column and scroll to the last review. You may also want to read some of the other reviews too, they all sound like great books.
CONTEST ANNOUNCEMENT: **Writer
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and entice us. Winners receive cash prizes and are published. Low fee for solid
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I visited State College last week to record four book reviews for WPSU radio. A good friend went with me. We met my cousins for lunch, and we laughed and enjoyed our time together. After lunch we went to the studio and I recorded reviews for the following four books: (I do not know when they will be aired.)
Shame, Shame I Know Your Name, a thriller novel, by Heather Harlan, I love this series and can’t wait till the release of the third in the trilogy!
Mom, Mania and Me, Surviving and Changing a Volatile Relationship, a memoir by Diane Dweller. “Informative and inspiring, this poignant memoir of coping and changing provides hope to others in dysfunctional relationships.”
Time to Heal, American Epochs Vol 3, historical fiction by Todd McClimans. The same characters, Kristi and Ty are in this time-travel book as in the first two. Each could be a free standing novel but I think they are best if read in order. McClimans is a former elementary history teacher who wants history to come alive for his students. In this book they meet Clara Barton on the battle filed as they help the wounded and dying soldiers. Soldiers who are very close their own ages. I believe these books should be required reading for young history classes. It brings history to life. I loved reading them and I’m way past middle school age!
To The Stars Through Difficulty, historical fiction, by Romalyn Tilghman. This is her debut novel and it is a wonderful read. Three diverse women come to the small Kansas town. Each with her own cross to bear. Then there is the history of the Carnegie Libraries and how they impacted the lives of those early Americans. Interestingly, the title of the novel is the state motto of Kansas.
Till next tine, keep reading my friends!
The first days of spring brought us the worst winter weather of the season. The blizzard like conditions of that first week of spring, brought such horrific road conditions that a young driver lost control and took out our mailbox as well as our two very strong brick pillars. His car was totaled, he and his younger brother were shook up but not hurt. Thank goodness.We’ve been dealing with contractors and insurance since then. And we discovered out how difficult it is to get our mail without a mailbox!
I babysit grandchildren when I have the opportunity, and on Sunday mornings I teach Sunday School, ages 9-11. For the first time ever, this year I have ten girls, no boys.
A couple months ago my three year old great granddaughter walked in looking grumpy. I asked her what’s wrong, she raised her right arm, walked away, ”It’s complicated!” Such a vocabulary for a three year old, she’s so comical!
I continue to work on my Christmas novel. The almost final re-write is close to being finished. I also continue to read and review books.
Longing For Home by Lisa M. Wayman. Historical fiction. It is an excellent book and I highly recommend it. You can read my review at: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/longingforhome.shtml
Time To Heal by Todd McClimans. Historical Fiction/time travel. Middle school through adult. Excellent story, third in his American Epoch series about the same two characters. I also highly recommend this one. I will be recording my review for Bookmark at WPSU. I was scheduled two weeks ago and had to postpone due to weather.
Shame, Shame, I Know Your Name by Heather Harlan, Fiction/Thriller. This is Book 2 of the Marina Konyeshna Thriller Trilogy about international human traffickers. A real page turner with snappy, witty dialogue while danger lurks in the shadows. I have written half the review. More about this one next month.
Hillbilly Ellegy by J.D. Vance, Memoir. Powerful story of passion and the personal analysis of a culture in crisis, that of the white working poor. He gave full credit to his grandmother for keeping him on track as he overcame all odds, joined the USMC, served in Iraq and eventually graduated from Yale Law School. A great read. Highly recommend it.
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon. Nonfiction. Wonderful walk through the gilded years of the British aristocracy and the real history of Highclere Castle. Lots of historic photos and tales of the real families and serving staff who lived there. Actually more interesting than the fiction version so familiar to many of us. It is not a fast read, but oh so interesting!
Don’t Go by Lisa Scottoline. Fiction/ Mystery/Thriller. Wow! I highly recommend this one. I haven’t read Scottoline for several years, and she has ramped her writing up several notches since then. I didn’t see it coming is all I can say. The detailed research and believability of this novel will haunt you long after reading it.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. Historic Fiction. This is an absolutely excellent novel. Inspired by true events, a compelling page turner. You will meet unforgettable characters. This is a unique story, unlike any other you’ve ever read.
*If you think it is odd that I give so many rave book reviews, it is because I do not write negative reviews. I would rather not mention the books I did not like rather than write something ugly. I know all too well how hard authors work and my reviews, are simply my opinions, as are the reviews of all reviewers. Others might like books I do not like and vice versa for the ones I do like.
We have not seen any movies worth mentioning this month. We watched another season of Homeland. So powerful!Mostly we’ve binged on the last two seasons of Longmire. We love this series! It helps that the actor who plays Longmire looks so much like my brother, Mike, who lives in Texas and I don’t often see him anymore. But watching this show makes me feel like I do!
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
It has been the warmest February ever recorded in western Pennsylvania. It’s been so unseasonably warm that nature seems to be confused. I have daffodils and other perennials shooting through the ground. And the weather forecast warns us of a cold blast of winter weather headed our way for the weekend. I will have to cover my budding lilac bush. March appears to be coming in like a lamb, it will be interesting to see if it goes out like a lion!.
We started the month by spending 10 days at Hilton Head with family. We and cousin Maureen each rented a three bedrooms condo unit. We had a great time! Last year we were 7: my sisters and their husbands, a cousin and us. The word spread through the family and this year, we were 12. We stayed up late talking and laughing every night. Such fun! It was sunny and warm everyday. We all went to Savannah one day, and of course had to eat at Paula Deen’s restaurant. Maureen and I went to Beaufort, S. C. one day to visit the Pat Conroy museum. Very interesting. He was a fascinating writer who seems to have left this world too soon. And before we knew it, our week together was over. I wonder how many of us there will be next year? My husband and I stayed a day longer with our friends, Helga and Jafar, who live there each winter.
Last Saturday we hosted a dinner for our family, 20 came. It was a fun time. The three great-grandchildren: ages 1, 2 and 3 kept things lively. It was fun to watch them giggle, run and play hide with each other. Though it did get so noisy that my husband had to take his hearing aids out for awhile! Always wonderful to spend time with family.
My Story Circle review of To The Stars Through Difficulty by Romalyn Tilghman was posted this month at this link: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/tothestars.shtml
My review of In the Context of Love by Linda Sienkiewicz was chosen as Review Of The Month by Story Circle. It’s an unexpected honor. You can read my review at this link: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviewers/mccauley.shtml
Books I have read this month:
Home by Harlan Coban. Fiction, action. An exciting, yet deeply moving thriller about friendship, family and the meaning of home. The story starts a decade after two young boys were kidnapped and their trail has long since gone cold… We listened to audio book as we drove to Hilton Head. (We rented it at a Cracker Barrel restaurant and returned it to another Cracker Barrel when we finished it. A great deal, and it helps pass the time for long drives. *We listened to another audio book on the way home, and it was so bad I won’t even mention the title or author.)
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. Fiction. A floating bookshop on the Seine River, quirky bookshop owner who refuses to sell books to those he decides are not a good match for a book, a lost writer, unique characters with an unforgettable plot.
Nine of Us, Growing Up Kennedy by Jean Kennedy Smith. Nonfiction. A sweet fascinating portrayal of the Kennedy family by the youngest daughter and only survivor of the original family. The children had chores and were driven to make every day count by their parents. The author shared many anecdotal memories with her parents and siblings. And, of course, as with any Kennedy book, there were great photos.
The Whistler by John Grisham. Fiction. A fast paced action story about corruption, in native Indian casinos on the Florida panhandle coast, and a judge who bends the law for big money bribes. It was typical Grisham with determined protagonists who risk everything to do the right thing.
The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig. Historical Fiction. It was a fascinating novel though sometimes a bit hard to follow. Three women in three different eras are linked together but not the way I expected as the book concluded. A great novel to spend relaxing evenings after long tiring days.
What Happens to Rover When the Marriage is Over by Patti Lawson. Nonfiction. Humorous, common sense and legalese help for all dog owners. The author is a working lawyer and active dog enthusiast. It is definitely worth reading for all dog owners. You don’t have to be heading for a divorce to enjoy and benefit from reading this book!
Longing For Home by Lisa M. Wayman. Historical Fiction. A book sent to me by Story Circle for review. I was totally absorbed in this gripping story of the hardships of the early American immigrants who bravely left all they knew and loved behind to come to this unknown land with no safety nets, few ever saw their country of origin or their loved ones left behind again. Many plot twists and turns, great characters. Review will be ready within the week.
We also watched a few good movies.
La La Land. We loved it! The dancing, singing and special effects photography were magical.
Miss Sloan. Great movie about lobbyists in Washington D.C. Fantastic characters and plots. Excellent acting too.
Hacksaw Ridge. WWII movie about Medic Desmond Doss who served the battle of Okinawa, refused to carry a gun. became the first man in American history to win a Medal of Honor without firing a shot.
Hidden Figures. Yes again, loved it just as much the second time!
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
Or maybe I should say Happy Groundhog Day! I have removed the Christmas wreath from our front door and hung a glittering Valentine heart. (I can honestly say I do not own even one groundhog decoration, and I was in Punxsutawney, PA just last Friday to visit one of my favorite aunts who is in the hospital there…) All our Christmas decorations are packed away until next December, seasons come and seasons go and soon another year slips away. And with each one we gain more memories and become another year older. We returned a short time ago from our granddaughter’s basketball game, she will be eighteen in three weeks. Why is it that our grandchildren’s childhoods seem to pass so much faster than our own did? It seems like only last year she was a sweet little toddler and now she is a beautiful young lady.
I have a book review published at StoryCircle.org. A memoir, Mom, Mania and Me by Diane Dweller. Click this link to read it: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/mommaniaandme.shtml
The anthology that includes my short story, The Callahan Sisters, was delayed by a few weeks. We hope it will be released in February.
This month I’ve also read several other books:
Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. A contemporary novel. It was a deep and sad story full of deception, loss with an unexpected ending.
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia Machneal. An historical novel. A novel about WW II like none other I have ever read. At first I had a bit of trouble keeping track of all the characters but it was worth the effort to keep them all sorted out. The protagonists brilliant mathematical mind makes her a gifted code breaker at a pivotal time in history. Great plot and memorable characters. I highly recommend this one.
Librerace’s Filipino Cousin by David R. Brubaker. Travel essays. This is an insightful book about the author’s travels in the Philippines over a period of twenty years. Even if you’ve never felt compelled to travel there, it is worth reading. Brubaker introduces the reader to a different culture in a nonjudgmental way. It is a witty fun book that will very likely change your attitude about the Philippines.
Two by Two by Nickolas Sparks. Contemporary novel. It is well written with a similar plot to some of his other books. The protagonists grows from being a doormat to a successful and likable character. An good read for cold winter nights.
Moonglow by Michael Chaban. A memoir. This was a Christmas gift and my first experience with this award winning author. it did not grab me from the start but I forced myself to stay with it and I am glad I did. His disclaimer started, “I have stuck to the facts except when facts refused to conform with memory…” Chaban is an outstanding writer, he moved his life story along with wit, enough action and plot twists to have been an excellent novel.
We have seen four worthwhile movies that I highly recommend:
Patriots Day with Mark Wahlberg, etc. about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Excellent!
Snowden The NSA’s illegal surveillance techniques are leaked to public…is he an hero or traitor? Watch the movie and then decide, excellent!
Miracles from Heaven with Jennifer Garner, etc. A family dealing with the fatal illness of their young daughter, excellent!
Hidden Figures with Octavia Spencer, etc. Historical NASA about the early days of the space exploration and the rivalry with Russia. And the black women who worked behind the scenes doing the difficult mathematical equations necessary for the launches. All the while having to drink for colored only drinking fountains and using colored only restrooms. Excellent!!
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
We had a white Christmas, and then a few days later - all the snow melted. Yesterday it started to snow again. Today we are in the middle of a major lake affect snow storm, when I walked our dog this morning, the snow was up to my knees and I am tall. It’s been snowing all day and my tracks are already covered. But we still love snow. It is so beautiful to see the tree branches laced with snow. It gives me a feeling of peace.
I love December with all the hub-bub and gatherings of friends and family. I really do. While at the same time it leaves me exhausted. Some nights I don’t get to bed until one A.M. As I am busy doing all the little extras that make the holidays extra special, and are noticed only if not done. This year I fear I may have forgotten to send some people a Christmas card, and very likely sent others two cards! Our church Christmas Pageant was beautiful, as always. Even though it included a purple camel. Don’t ask!
We hosted a Christmas dinner party for nineteen dear friends on December 21st, which included a special toast to one of our group who had passed away too soon … due to the cruelty of cancer.
Then on Christmas Eve the family gathered and we hosted a dinner for another nineteen of our favorite people, most of our immediate family. But not all, and we missed those who were unable to join us. My favorite part of Christmas Eve is after the dinner is cleaned up and we turn out all the lights except the Christmas tree. Everyone holds a lighted candle and we sing Christmas Carols, there’s always someone who grumbles about singing BUT I believe most of them like it as much as I do. One of the last songs they sing and with too much enthusiasm is, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. Of course, our closing song is Silent Night. Followed by lights on, collected candles and opening gifts. We had three great-grands with us under the age of five. Little ones make Christmas extra-fun!
We have seen several good movies this month:
Christmas Of Many Colors: Circle of Love by Dolly Pardon. We loved this one so much we bought a copy. It is the second part to Coat of Many Colors that she produced last year. The same cast, just wonderful.
Manchester by the Sea, starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams. Fantastic and haunting movie.
Fences, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Another emotionally charged and unforgettable movie.
From Netficks we watched three noteworthy movies this month:
Australia, starring Nicole Kiddman and Hugh Jackson. An Historical fiction about cattle wars in the Australian outback pre - WW II. A good movie.
All The Way, an historical movie about LBJ and Lady Bird. I don’t remember the actors names but it was well done and definitely worth watching.
Sweet Bean, a Japanese movie with English translation to read. It started out a bit slow but we soon became engrossed and forgot we were reading the dialogue. Another movie worth watching with a story that will long stay with you. (I didn’t realize it was a foreign movie when it started and had set up to finish the ironing, so my husband had to read the all the verbal interactions to me for the first half hour. I just can’t iron and read at the same time.)
And, of course, we watched, Its A Wonderful Life, as we do every Christmas. LOVE that movie, and every year I notice some thing that I hadn’t remembered from previous viewings.
I also made time to read several books: (I love to read Christmas novels in December.)
Christmas Town by Donna Van Liere.An inspiring story about creating family when we are willing to take a chance. *Donna Van Liere sets the bar high in creating meaningful Christmas stories.
Starry Night by Debbie Macomber. (A Christmas Gift.) A lovely quick read to help the reader feel like Christmas.
A Cup of Christmas Tea, by Tom Hegg. A beautiful Christmas book I’ve had for years. Can be read in thirty minutes but has a story that will stick for years.
Tidings of Comfort & Joy, by T. Davis Bunn. Another book I’ve had for years. Historical fiction post WW II, a teenage girl reluctantly
spends Christmas with her elderly grandmother. They
share a part of the past and a part of the future together, and discover a gift that gives
true meaning to Christmas.
Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult. This is the best book Picoult has ever written. Not at all like her other novels, which were all above average. She tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice and compassion with empathy and intelligence. I highly recommend this one!
A Time to Heal, by Todd McClimans. (Advance copy for review, the third in his American Epochs Series.) This time travel novel takes the same two characters, Kristi and Ty, to the Battlefields and Hospitals of the American Civil War. The characters growth are portrayed realistically with great research, wit, surprise plot twists and great writing.
Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout. (Library book) An earlier Strout novel before Olive Ketteridge, another memorable story with good character development and plot twists. A brilliant minister marries a wealthy spoiled beauty, they settle with their new baby in a parsonage in small New England town that has only one church.
my grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry, by Fredrik Backman. (A Christmas gift.) Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and a little crazy. She’s also Elsa’s only friend. Her grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, and the adventure begins. Backman’s writing holds the same comic accuracy as in A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death, and the right to be different.
As I wrote this blog, it occurred to me that maybe all those movies and books could also be reasons for my late nights!
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
It is hard to believe it’s November 30th already. I hope everyone had a good month and a wonderful Thanksgiving. This is the time of the year when we all get so busy that it sometimes feels like we can meet ourselves coming and going.
We had a dinner party for sixteen of our favorite people ten days before Thanksgiving. Our oldest granddaughter came and helped us with serving and clean -up. She’s a gem and it made everything so much more fun and easier.
Then we had 16 cherished family members with us for Thanksgiving this year, including four great-grandchildren under the age of five. Our home was a lively place for a few hours! I ate too much like I always do on Thanksgiving.
We missed the nine immediate family members who were unable to be with us this year. At least five more of them will be with us for Christmas. Our Stony Brook U. granddaughter, Hayley, will be home for Christmas, and our Air Force grandson Ethan will arrive back from Japan on December 8th. Yeah!
Our granddaughters, ages fourteen and seventeen came on the two Sunday afternoons after Thanksgiving to help us decorate for Christmas. The second Sunday they were joined by their 12 year old cousin. Christmas music blasting and a few fresh decorating ideas…almost everything is done. What would we ever do without these awesome grandchildren!?
You can read my review of the Context of Love, posted on Story Circle in early November, please click the following link to read it: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/contextoflove.shtml
ALSO I had good news from the Story Circle anthology. (Needless to say this made my day!):
“I’m truly glad to tell you that your fiction entry, The Callahan Sisters, will appear in both the print and online
editions of Real Women Write: Sharing Our Stories, Sharing Our Lives,
volume 15. You’ve created an evocative and moving look at an experience that
many women share. It is on schedule to be published in January. It’s a strong addition to this year’s
I have had less time to read this month. But I did manage to read a few books:The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse Historical fiction. This was a beautifully written, powerful coming of age novel set in Nazi occupied France during WWII. A gripping page turner, unforgettable characters.
View From the Rigging, Memoir of a Coast Guard Career by Captain Richard J. Marcott. The author lives in our home town, and we’ve known him during his retirement years from the military. It is an impressive and exciting book. *If you need a gift for a retired military person or for a young person considering a military sea career, this would be a perfect gift! I am glad his daughter encouraged him to write his life story, and you will be too after reading this compelling memoir.
Stella Bain by Anita Shreve Historical Fiction. It started out a bit slow for me but soon picked up speed and I soon loved this old fashioned novel. Set in the United States, England and France during WWI. It dealt with PTSD when it was still called Shell Shock, amnesia, and domestic abuse when women had no rights. Layered complicated plot with great characters.
There are lots of good movies to be released within the next few weeks but it seems most of them will by-pass our neck of the woods. Having a dog, we are not able to make extended trips to nearby cities to watch a movie. Too long for our Lucas in the dog crate! We watched The Boys from Brazil (1978), starring Gregory Peck playing Dr Josef Mengele. A truly excellent movie, though Aticus Finch he certainly was not!! (Netflicks) We also watched a couple other movies from Netflicks but they are not
even worth mentioning. We didn’t didn’t even finish one of
On Thanksgiving evening, after the family went home and everything was sort of back to order, we collapsed in front of the television and watched two wonderful movies on PBS, Anne of Green Gables and Pollyanna.
Please take a few moments to remember WHY we celebrate Christmas. And it’s definitely NOT the glitz or the commercialized Black Friday shopping hoopla.
Till next time my friends, keep reading. I suggest a Christmas novel to help you find your Christmas spirit!
I sit to write this blog as the witching hour draws near… I hope you’ve all had a Happy Halloween! We returned from dinner and a movie, Florence Foster Jenkins, a few minutes ago. It was a nice evening with good friends. The movie was funny and sweet, and oh how we laughed!
I joined the Bradford Literary Club this month. I’ve considered doing this for years and finally made the commitment.
They meet every Friday afternoon from October through March. They have interesting programs three times a month and a card day once a month. It should be fun and all the ladies are friendly and nice.
This afternoon I finished wrapping our bushes in netting to protect them from the deer this winter. Tomorrow is to be warmer, and I plan to sand and scrap our little wooden bridge. I will also pack away our Halloween decorations, inside and out. We have prepared our gardens for winter. I swear every day seems to slip by faster than the one before it. I love the change of seasons and find myself looking forward to colder weather and a chance to hibernate inside with more time for my writing.
Two weeks ago I realized that I had nearly missed renewing my PA registered nursing license, but I hustled with the extra continued credit requirements and renewed my license just under the deadline of October 31. What a relief! I also maintain my N.Y. state license since we live so close to the NY state border. A person never knows what lies ahead and my nursing licenses are my safety net…just in case.
I was privileged to be a guest and do a reading at the Warren Women’s Club on October 10, what a lovely group of ladies. They own a beautiful mansion where they hold their luncheon meetings and other events. I autographed and sold many books, it was a great day for me.
I have read several good books this month:
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, fiction. (I loved it but then I am a bit partial to this writer, though I’ve never met her. She put her money where her heart is and bought a book store in Tennessee. And despite online competition manages to keep it thriving.) This story spans five decades of the lives of two intertwining families, the plot is layered and deals with with ties that bind us together, even at times unwillingly.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz’s debut novel, in the context of LOVE, was an unforgettable coming of age story. When the protagonist discovers a devastating family secret, she makes a series of bad life choices and pays the consequences. Story Circle sent this novel to me to review. I will add the review link later, I haven’t had time to finish the review yet.
On War and Politics by Arnold L. Punaro and David Poyer. Punaro’s memoir was heavier reading than my usual choices. It is well written, interesting recent history and behind the scenes details on wheeling and dealing at the highest levels of our government. While reading, there were times I wished I was reading fiction!
Bruce Springsteen’s memoir, Born to Run, was outstanding. I was never particularly a Springsteen fan, probably because as he rose to fame, I was up to my ears with babies and diapers. (That was back when we did not have disposable diapers.) His book was enlightening; his commitment to his craft and music, his family, and the final paragraph of the memoir knocked my socks off!
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. This coming of age novel is a wonderful and truly unforgettable story. It started out a bit slow for me but a few chapters in, I was really hooked. It was one of those I stay up late reading, ( and then wonder why I have dark circles under my eyes!) The prose was at times lyrical, the point of view voice was honest and intelligent, the characters were well developed and believable and the plot suspenseful and layered. It is my book club’s choice for the November meeting.
I discovered a new painter, Robert Duncan, I adore his work. I have three small prints and two larger ones from his vast collection of paintings. He paints country realism. He has been painting since age 11 and has received many awards. I’d guess he’s painted for more than 40 years now. Click for more information:
One bright sunny October day we made a road trip with friends from Pittsburgh. We visited the Kinzua Bridge Visitors Center. It is absolutely fabulous! It’s not far from us but we had not been there in years. Then we stopped at Lynn Hall near Port Allegany and had a tour of the historic restoration-in-progress of the Frank Lloyd Wright style house. It is the house that Wright modeled Falling Water after. He actually hired the architect, Walter Hall, who built Lynn Hall to build Falling Water. We continued on to St Marys where we enjoyed a delicious lunch at a small non-chain family owned restaurant before driving on to the Benezette Elk Visitors Center. It was late in the day and we saw at least fifteen elk in the wild and relatively close. It was awesome!
We also went to see a few good movies: Magnificent Seven, Deepwater Horizon and The Accountant, also The Last Interview from Netflicks. We are also enjoying Longmire, a modern western series. So far we’ve watched the first one and half seasons, only three and a half to go.
Till next time, keep reading my friends and make every day count.
Another month has slipped away. I spent the first half of this month at home recovering from a nasty fall. Then busy helping our granddaughter, her husband and children get settled into their new home. They were lucky to find a beautiful secluded home that the bank had foreclosed two years ago. That made it affordable for our young family, though sad for the previous owners. It even included a sturdy big wooden swing set with slide in the back yard. Everyone in our family helped as much as they could.
We attended a lovely wedding in Grove City, PA. on September 24th. It always gives us hope for the future to see a wedding party of fine young people having so much fun while upholding the values so many of us believe in, and the newlyweds, not being afraid of true love, and making commitments to each other.
We went to see the movie, Sully. It was wonderful! We saw it the first day it was released and the entire packed audience sat in silence for a minute before everyone started to applaud. It was that good. I’ve only been to one other movie where that happened, and it was a Tom Hanks movie too, Forrest Gump.
Of course, I continue to read books. Raven Black by Ann Cleeves. Fiction, suspense/mystery. It was my first Cleeves book, though it will not be my last. It kept me guessing until the last page!
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny. Fiction, murder/mystery. It is Penny’s12th novel in the Armand Gamache series. This New York Times best selling author visited Bradford number of years ago, she was delightful and humble. I encourage you to check out her mystery series. But they are also stand alone stories and you don’t have to read them in order. I believe this one is her best yet. I usually can tell who dunnit when reading a mystery but this one kept me guessing until the end.
Black River and Devil’s Key by Elizabeth Graves. Fiction, supernatural thrillers. Both are Florida stories of black magic, conjuring and suspense. The characters are well developed with complicated plots that create unforgettable tales. As one reviewer said, “Not a book to curl up with late at night…not if you want to get any sleep.” Yet so worth reading!
Don Juan in Hankey, Pa. by Gale Martin. Fiction, comedy. This is a laugh out loud tale of the misadventures of the Hankey, Pa Opera Guild. The characters are delightfully believable as Martin takes us on fun romp behind the scenes in this charming intelligent novel. It is posted on Story Circle Book reviews at: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/donjuan.shtml
My review of Dimestore: A Writer’s Life by Lee Smith was published in this quarter’s issue of Writer Advice. You can read it at www.writeradvice.com and then click Hooked On Books.
I drove to State College, PA. yesterday to record four book reviews for BookMark. My sister and her husband went with me. We met three cousins for lunch at Bonfattos, in Bellefonte. Great food and fun! Then we went to WPSU studio at 1:30 and I recorded these reviews: (Each of these novels has a Pennsylvania connection.)
Don Juan in Hankey, Pa. by Gale Martin
Hope You Guess My Name by Heather Harlan
Trace by Randy Valentine
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
*BookMark airs each week at 5:45 p.m. on Thursday and again at 9 p.m. on Sunday.
My book club, Book Friends, voted to read Louise Penny’s A Great Reckoning as our October book. We had a great discussion last week about our September book, Everything I Never Told You.
Till next time, keep reading my friends.
On this rainy August 31, the temperature is a bit cooler and fall is in the air. And the still-student grandchildren are back in school. We are anticipating hosting my husband’s family, (and after all these years my family, too), for the Labor day weekend. It is an annual thing and we always have a great time. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, then you know family time is what life is all about for me!
I had the privilege of attending the Wilkes Writers Workshop on August 5- 6th. I was on a panel, Pennsylvania Fiction: What it is and What it Does, with fellow writers Chris Campion, Heather Harlan and Barbara Taylor, moderated by David Poyer. My long-time friend and fellow writer, Susan, went with me. We had a wonderful time, and it was good to reconnect with old writing friends and make new ones at the workshop. The writing community at Wilkes U. is so invigorating!
Books I have enjoyed reading this month are:
Crave, Sojourn of a Hungry Soul, by Laurie Jean Cannady. She’s new to the Wilkes U. faculty. Her memoir is poignantly honest, packed full of details about growing up in the projects and escaping that life through education. I highly recommend this one to increase our understanding of a sub-culture that is an important part of our country.
Hope You Can Guess My Name, by Heather Harlan Debut thriller novel that soars from page one. You can read my review on Story Circle Book Reviews at http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/guessmyname.shtml
Six Car Lengths Behind an Elephant, Undercover & Overwhelmed as a CIA Wife and Mother, by Lillian McCloy
The author is a natural story teller and shares her wonderful memoir, packed with details, poignant honesty and sharp wit. You can read my review on Story Circle Book Reviews at:
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Nonfiction. This was our book club’s book for this month. It dealt with the judicial system in the US, and prompted a long and stimulating discussion. Another book I recommend to promote increased understanding of poverty, race and a side of life in the U.S. that is not familiar to most Americans.
Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading by Maureen Corrigan. Memoir. I met her after she spoke at the Writer’s Workshop. She is down to Earth and witty …as well as, oh so knowledgeable about books! And she never forgot her blue collar roots.
I mentioned In Robin’s Nest in my July blog, it was posted on Story Circle after I had already posted my blog.You can read it at: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/inrobinsnest.shtml
My review of Tipping Point by David Poyer was on air twice last week WPSU’s BookMark, you can listen to it at: http://radio.wpsu.org/programs/wpsus-bookmark
We have felt a real void this summer for good movies. We did see Jason Bourne, and it was an exciting action movie, though unmemorable. the good news is, according to the previews, there are some good ones coming in the next few months. We also watched God is Not Dead on Netflicks, and really loved it. Honestly, I did not expect it to be so good.
Until next month, keep reading and always take time to smell the roses!
On this hot and humid July day, I went shopping for a birthday gift for my 93 year old aunt. I was surprised, as I am every year at this time - to find the stores are ready for back to school shoppers. Meanwhile we’re all trying to enjoy our short Pennsylvania summer. You would think I’d have learned by now that is just the way it is, but I am a stubbornly optimistic soul. I am sure come October I will be unhappy again to see Christmas sales before Halloween!
We enjoyed a long weekend in Baltimore area last weekend. We visited my sister, Linda, and her husband who live in Columbia, Md. My sister, Sue, and her husband met us there. On Saturday we all went to Annapolis for a boat ride across the beautiful Chesapeake Bay to St Michael’s Island. It was a record breaking HOT sunny day, we visited the lovely quaint village and a wonderful air-conditioned Maritime Museum. Then to a great air-conditioned bay-side restaurant with a fantastic view of the harbor and super delicious seafood. On the way back to the boat we stopped at a few tourist shops, but it was way too hot to shop.
On Sunday morning two of us went to church with Linda who had taught Vacation Bible School there last week. It was a great service! Then we helped un-decorate the church from the leftover rather elaborate Bible School decorations. Sunday afternoon some of us went to their local Barnes & Noble Bookstore. We live in rural N/W Pennsylvania and don’t have ready access to a book store, I was in book heaven for a couple hours! That evening we went to a dinner theater and saw the play Hairspray. The food was delicious and we all had a good time!
This month I have read a few good books:
The Rainbow Comes and Goes, nonfiction by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt. A mother/son story that gives a close look at the lives of the rich and famous. Yes, they have had their share of trials and tribulations.
The Girl You Left Behind, novel by Jo Jo Moyes. It was another gritty WWII story about how the French civilians suffered at the hands of the Nazis. But also a paralel story about a young widow in England fifty years later, whose husband had given her a mysterious beautiful painting on their honeymoon, they had found it at a street sale.
In Robin’s Nest, debut novel by Elizabeth Sumner Wafler. I wrote a review for Story Circle. It would make a great summer read with characters and plot that will stay with you long after reading the novel.
Poldark, by Winston Graham. A rich historical fiction set in Cornwall, England, in the 1770s. There are many characters to keep straight. This historical fiction was our book club read for July, everyone agreed it a was a great story, with well developed characters and engaging plot. It is also a PBS series, the second season will start Sunday, September 4th. The PBS series closely follows the W. Graham books; there are thirteen book in the series.
When Breath Becomes Air, nonfiction by Paul Kalanithi, *the forward was written by Abraham Verghese. The author begins his haunting story after he is diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, at age thirty-five just as he is ready to graduate as a certified neurosurgeon. In fact his wife, also a physician had to write the epiloge. A story of heart breaking courage and strength. (*An early birthday gift from my sister.)
Invivsible Influence, The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior, nonfiction by Jonah Berger. This is an insightful book about the choices we make everyday.Without our realizing it, others have a huge influence on everything we do. It is well researched and eye-opening.
The Wright Brothers, nonfiction by David McCullough. Absolutely wonderful! I knew so little about them before reading this book. Daredevils they were not. Brilliant engineers and inventors they were!
*Last week we also went to Chautauqua Institute to listen to David McCullough talk about his The Wright Brothers book. He’s an amazing writer, as well as a good speaker. He introduced his wife of 60 some years, she was lovely and feisty, good character combinations.
We have watched a few unmemorable Netflick movies this month, usually when I have lots of ironing to do. That works well except when it is a foreign film and I have to read captions! We went to the movies one night and saw The Free State of Jones with Mathew McConaughey. (My husband was in shock when I declined movie popcorn!) It was a great movie that gave us lots to think and talk about.
Our local library also hosted David Poyer last week. He read from his new novel, The Tipping Point, and discussed the business and art of writing. An audience of about fifteen people were attentive and involved in conversation with the author. It was definitely a worthwhile evening.
I will be at the Wilkes Writers Workshop, Aug. 5 and 6. I will be on a panel with four other Pennsylvania writers, all who write fiction about Pennsylvania, discussing what makes Pennsylvanians unique. You can check online to see if there is still time to register for the workshop. Jay Parini, author of several excellent books will be a featured speaker, his most famous novel was The Last Station, made into an Academy Award-nominated film. Maureen Corrigan of NPR’s Fresh Air will also be a featured speaker.
Add in a few dinner parties and picnics with family and friends, and it would be safe to a say we’ve had a busy month!
Till next time, keep reading my friends and enjoy the lazy hazy days of August!
This being Father’s Day makes me think of my dad who has now been gone for two years and six days. My five siblings and I, ages 49 through 67 at the time, have been orphans since then. We were lucky to have had our parents as long as we did. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to be alone in his world, without parents as a child or even as a young adult. Our mother passed four years before Dad, both ravaged by cancer. I believe family is important, and parents set the tone for family interactions. So, even if you are approaching retirement and still wondering what you want to do when you grow up, remember to those of the younger generations, we are the adults and it is our responsibility to set an example for what our family time will be. Hint- hint: Family time is always better without minds and tongues being lubricated with alcohol!
I have had less time for reading this month due to gardening and outdoor work. I have read only three books, but they were all memorable.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng The first line grabbed me by the collar, “Lydia is dead. But hey don’t know it yet.” It is the story of a Chinese American family living in 1970s small town Ohio. a beautifully crafted study of dysfunction and grief, that resonates with anyone who has had a family drama. That should be just about everyone, right?
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica (My book club’s choice for the month.) It is low key suspense with many twists and turns. It’s been compared to Gone Girl, but I think the plot, characters and structure are so much better. A wealthy girl is abducted by a man who had been stalking her. She is rescued and returned many weeks later, a different person than the girl who was taken. Her socialite mother’s character also transforms.
The Black Count by Tom Reiss (Winner of 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.) My husband recently finished this book, and raved about it so much during the reading that I am currently reading it. It’s a fascinating story, carefully researched and brilliantly written.
My review of The Gilded Cage is on Story Circle at: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/gildedcage.shtml
We went to a wonderful movie last week. Jo Jo Moyes’, Me Before You, was beautifully done. She also wrote the screenplay, so the movie stayed quite true to the book.
Enjoy these lazy hazy days of summer…and keep reading my friends.