Ann's Blog
Ann McCauley is a Pennsylvania women's literature author, who wrote the books Runaway Grandma and Mother Love, both available for sale at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
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02/28/20
February Blog, 2020
Filed under: General
Posted by: Ann @ 3:15 pm
 What a month it has been! We spent two relaxing and fun weeks at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. I love that H.H. has a large and welcoming B&N.
My two sisters and their husbands joined us, as did two of our cousins. It was a such a good time. We also have dear friends who spend their winters at H.H. Together and singularly we had fun, and made more great memories. Sadly my youngest sister’s husband had a death in his family and they had to leave early. So, coming home we were driving north on I-95, (my least favorite highway in the USA!), when an accident brought both lanes to a sudden stop. I managed to avoid rear ending the car in front of me, swerved to the then empty right lane and we were hit by a car that was hit by the car behind it. Then a tractor trailer came barreling in between our van and the right lane! Screeching brakes and the smell of burning rubber filled the air. And wouldn’t you know, the man who hit us gave us fake info. Good grief. The next day we made it to my sister’s home near Baltimore to pay our respects in the passing of our brother-in-law’s sister.   We were not hurt, though there was $5000.00 in damage to our van, it was still drivable.
My sisters and cousin and I went for some wonderful long walks on HH. We did some unexpected exploring when we lost our way a couple times. But that only makes it more interesting! We read books, went to a few good movies and cooked very little. So many restaurants and so little time! Our friend who lives at Sea Pines gave my cousin and me a walking tour of Deer Island that is connected to Sea Pines by a one-lane bridge. There were thirty to forty round “tree” houses built on 10 or 12 foot stilts, maybe higher. There was a thick over-growth of tropical forest that kept each one somewhat secluded from their neighbor. I’ve heard our friend talk about Deer Island for several years and it was fascinating to finally see it.
One afternoon my husband and I went to see Knives Out movie, we got the last two seats in the theater, far left, front row! Not the best seats in the house, for sure. But what a fun and great movie! It had been along time since we went to  see a movie that the entire audience applauded as the credits rolled.We want to see it again on Netflix when it’s available.
Another day my cousin and I went to see Just Mercy. It was a wonderful thought provoking movie. I had read the book and the writer had actually been to our local university to speak a few years ago. I’d been unable to attend but had heard he was an exceptional speaker.   
My husband and his friend went to see 1917. He told me enough about it that I chose not to see it, too violent and too sad. They both said it was an excellent movie. 
We all went to see Ford vs Ferrari. I am not really into cars, other than what color is it? My brother-in-law cried twice during the movie, at times we all laughed and could hardly believe we’d been sitting for two hours when it was over, it was so good and so exciting! Even better because it was based on a true story. I’d really never heard of Shelby before. My brother called us the next morning and told me about the time he’d seen Shelby in his Las Vegas museum/store. It had been a momentous joy for him to be in the same room with that man. After seeing the movie, I understand why. (My brother is definitely a car guy!) I watched it a second time since coming home, it was just as good as it had been the first time!

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

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

By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank. 2018. Fiction. I loved her cast of
characters, especially her protagonist Lady Di. I always think her lead
characters must have a lot of her personality traits. Ms. Frank’s subtle wit
threads through this novel as it does all the others. The deep familial love
between siblings Diane and Floyd, and their parents is beautifully written.
Though they annoy each other at times they always have each other’s backs. (The
gentle teasing was a sweet reminder to me of growing up in a large farm family
that showed no mercy whenever there was a chance to tease one another.) Diane’s
son, Fred falls in love with a wealthy city girl. The contrast of his
Lowcountry peach farm and her million-dollar Chicago lifestyle couldn’t have
been farther apart. Ms. Frank weaves a touching story and ultimately all
characters become empathetic in the reader’s eyes. Nothing is as it seems to
be. The transformation of the characters is believable. It’s a hoot as well as a make-you-feel-good book.
  *I was sad to learn Dorothea Benton Frank died September
2019. Thank goodness she wrote
her novels for readers to enjoy for generations to come!
 
The Giver of Stars by JoJo
Moyes. 2019. Historical Fiction.
Every now and then, I read a book that is exceptionally
GREAT. The Giver of Stars is one of those. JoJo Moyes works her magic,
like a breath of fresh air to this page-turning suspenseful historical novel
with unforgettable characters and enough plot twists to keep the reader
guessing until the last page. Moyes’ trademark wit keeps the dark themes that
thread through the novel from becoming too melancholy.
The English protagonist, Alice Wright, has enough spunk and
determination to survive her loveless marriage to the only son of the wealthy mine
owner in the forlorn fictional coal mining town of Baileyville, Kentucky. Her
source of purpose and inspiration is volunteering to be part of Eleanor
Roosevelt’s new traveling library. These Packhorse Librarians venture through
the hollers and mountains, in all kinds of weather and get to know the secluded
mountain people. They teach those who do not know how to read the basics of
reading. This was a time when mountain folks did not have telephones, radios or
televisions. Reading was there one and only entertainment, connection and
source of information to life beyond their rugged mountain homes.
After her father-in-law savagely beats Alice on her first Christmas day in America, a battered bleeding Alice walks out into the cold, and never
returns. Margery offers her refuge and their friendship becomes a welcome
relief for both of them.
Margery, a notorious deceased bootlegger’s daughter, is the
lead librarian and becomes Alice’s best friend. Three other strong independent
women join them; though only Margery knew she was strong and self-sufficient
before they got started. These brave women refused to be intimidated by men or
the social norms of their times. They learn to depend on each other with a new
found sense of loyalty, justice and humanity, while the men they love are
supportive and often in awe of their women’s courage.
This is a well-researched novel about true events from
America’s past. The Giver of Stars will likely become a modern classic.
It is unmatched in its range and riveting larger-than-life storytelling, humor,
and heartaches.

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

The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher. 2018. Historical fiction. It is the story Kathleen ‘Kick’ Kennedy, the brilliant beautiful second daughter of Rose and Joe Kennedy starting in 1939 while her father was the U.S. Ambassador to England until four years after WW2. The Kennedys are portrayed as hard working, passionate, intelligent, entitled hard Irish drinkers with a clannish loyalty to each other. It is a well researched book but not classified as biographical. If you have a even a slight interest in the Kennedy years, this might be a just the book for you. I learned a lot about the mysterious Kathleen who had close relationships with her older brothers, Joe and Jack. Knowing all the heartache that lay ahead for this family as I read the book made me feel sad for them, despite all their privilege and wealth.
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan. 2017. Debut novel. Historical Fiction. WW2 England. It is was a sweet read, well researched with likable 
characters. The plot was not suspenseful. The book was cleverly written with multiple voices in the form of letters or journal entries. It reminded me a good bit of The Guernsey Isle Potato Peel Society. A very nice companion book for a cold winter nights.

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

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


Later. Ann


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