April 22, 2018

Lost Lake

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
2015 St. Martin's Griffin (first published 2014)
Finished on August 29, 2017
Rating: 2/5 (OK)

Publisher's Blurb:

An enchantingly romantic and magical novel by the New York Times bestselling author of GARDEN SPELLS and THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON.

It happens one morning - Kate finally wakes up from the slumber she's been in since her husband's death a year ago. Feeling a fresh sense of desire to take control of her and her young daughter's life, she decides to visit Suley, Georgia - home to Lost Lake. It's where Kate spent one of the happiest summers of her life as a child. She's not sure what she expects to find there, but it's not a rundown place full of ghosts and other curious oddities. Kate's Aunt Eby, Lost Lake's owner, wants to sell the old place and move on. Lost Lake's magic is gone. As Kate discovers that time has a way of standing still at Lost Lake, can she bring the cottages - as well as her heart and the hearts of all the guests - back to life? Because sometimes lost loves aren't really lost. They're just waiting for you to find them again.

I read this on and off for two months. It was an easy enough read (and could have been read in two days rather than two months!), but it just didn't pull me in enough to keep me reading while on vacation or hosting guests during the summer months. I was glad to finally finish! I've only read one other by this author (Garden Spells) and I think I had a similar reaction. Good, but nothing great. 

*Just checked my review for Garden Spells and it looks like I enjoyed it quite a bit more than this one!

April 14, 2018

Under the Harrow

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry
2016 Penguin Books
Finished on August 20, 2017
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

When Nora takes the train from London to visit her sister in the countryside, she expects to find her waiting at the station, or at home cooking dinner. But when she walks into Rachel’s familiar house, what she finds is entirely different: her sister has been the victim of a brutal murder.

Stunned and adrift, Nora finds she can’t return to her former life. An unsolved assault in the past has shaken her faith in the police, and she can’t trust them to find her sister’s killer. Haunted by the murder and the secrets that surround it, Nora is under the harrow: distressed and in danger. As Nora’s fear turns to obsession, she becomes as unrecognizable as the sister her investigation uncovers.

A riveting psychological thriller and a haunting exploration of the fierce love between two sisters, the distortions of grief, and the terrifying power of the past, Under the Harrow marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer.

I waited too long to write this review and now I only have a vague recollection of the plot. I'm not even certain of how it ended, but I do know that I thought it was a very good psychological thriller. It kept me guessing (and second-guessing) all the way to the end. I also remember that it was very creepy in the opening pages and the atmospheric setting added to the tension. I'm looking forward to Berry's next release, A Double Life, which is due out this summer.

April 13, 2018

Looking Back - A Lesson Before Dying

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
1993 Vintage
Finished in September 1997
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A Lesson Before Dying is set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940s. Jefferson, a young black man, is an unwitting party to a liquor store shoot out in which three men are killed; the only survivor, he is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Grant Wiggins, who left his hometown for the university, has returned to the plantation school to teach. As he struggles with his decision whether to stay or escape to another state, his aunt and Jefferson's godmother persuade him to visit Jefferson in his cell and impart his learning and his pride to Jefferson before his death. In the end, the two men forge a bond as they both come to understand the simple heroism of resisting and defying the expected. Ernest J. Gaines brings to this novel the same rich sense of place, the same deep understanding of the human psyche, and the same compassion for a people and their struggle that have informed his previous, highly praised works of fiction.

My Original Notes (1997):

A well-written novel about racism and injustice in the 1940s. Lots of imagery. This is the type of book to be taught in high school. Very moving. Stays with you long after you finish reading it.

My Current Thoughts:

This would be a good book to read and discuss in conjunction with Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.

April 6, 2018

Looking Back - The Rapture of Canaan

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds
1995 Berkley Books
Finished on September 23, 1997
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Members of the Church of Fire and Brimstone and God's Almighty Baptizing Wind spend their days and nights serving the Lord and waiting for the Rapture--that moment just before the Second Coming of Christ when the saved will be lifted bodily to heaven and the damned will be left behind to face the thousand years of tribulation on earth. The tribulation, according to Grandpa Herman, founder of Fire and Brimstone, will be an ugly time: "He said that we'd run out of food. That big bugs would chase us around and sting us with their tails . . . He said we'd turn on the faucet in the bathroom and find only blood running out . . . He said evil multitudes would come unto us and cut off our limbs, and that we wouldn't die . . . And then he'd say, 'But you don't have to be left behind. You can go straight to Heaven with all of God's special children if you'll only open your hearts to Jesus . . .'"

Such talk of damnation weighs heavy on the mind of Ninah Huff, the 15-year-old narrator of Sheri Reynolds's second novel, The Rapture of Canaan. To distract her from sinful thoughts about her prayer partner James, Ninah puts pecan shells in her shoes and nettles in her bed. But concentrating on the Passion of Jesus cannot, in the end, deter Ninah and James from their passion for each other, and the consequences prove both tragic and transforming for the entire community.

The Rapture of Canaan is a book about miracles, and in writing it, Reynolds has performed something of a miracle herself. Although the church's beliefs and practices may seem extreme (sleeping in an open grave, mortifying the flesh with barbed wire), its members are complex and profoundly sympathetic as they wrestle with the contradictions of Fire and Brimstone's theology, the temptations of the outside world, and the frailties of the human heart.

My Original Notes (1997):

Very good! I really enjoyed this novel. I was furious with the religious fanaticism and the cruel punishments, but what an interesting story. I particularly liked the characters of Ninah and Nana. Grandpa was so easy to hate. I'd like to read her other two books now.

My Current Thoughts:

I only have a slight recollection of this book, but I do know that I went on to read A Gracious Plenty by Reynolds. She's written others, but I haven't read anything else by her.

April 4, 2018

Wordless Wednesday

Highway 1 (north of Bodega Bay)
Sonoma County, California
April 2, 2018

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

March 31, 2018

A Month in Summary - March 2018

Depoe Bay, Oregon
March 2018

Other than a couple of duds, I had a very good month of reading. I loved This Is How It Always Is, The Soul of an Octopus, and The Woman in the Window. I can't wait to read more by these great authors! We watched several movies and TV series, but only worked on one puzzle, which we gave up on before finishing - it was terrible because so many of the pieces fit where they didn't belong! The weather is beginning to feel more like spring and we were able to get out for a bike ride at South Beach (south of Newport, OR) and I was also able to meet up with a blogmate (Robin of A Fondness for Reading) for lunch, which was great fun! With all the preparations for our 3-week road trip to Northern California and a few social events (including book club, where we discussed The Soul of an Octopus, which everyone enjoyed), the month flew by far too quickly.

Books read in March:

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

First Lines:

I am death cleaning, or, as we call it in Swedish, döstädning. Dö is "death" and städning is "cleaning." In Swedish it is a term that means that you remove unnecessary things and make your home nice and orderly when you think the time is coming closer for you to leave the planet. (The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning)

But first, Roo was born. Roosevelt Walsh-Adams. They had decided to hyphenate because— and in spite—of all the usual reasons but mostly so their firstborn could have his grandfather's name without sounding too presidential, which seemed to his parents like a lot of pressure for a six-pound, two-ounce, brand-new tiny human. (This Is How It Always Is)

On a rare, warm day in mid-March, when the snow was melting into mud in New Hampshire, I traveled to Boston, where everyone was strolling along the harbor or sitting on benches licking ice cream cones. But I quit the blessed sunlight for the moist, dim sanctuary of the New England Aquarium. I had a date with a giant Pacific octopus. (The Soul of an Octopus)

They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible. But it is never easy. (On Chesil Beach)

Her husband's almost home. He'll catch her this time. (The Woman in the Window)

Movies & TV Series:

Mark Felt - I wasn't expecting to like this movie, but Liam Neeson was outstanding (he was the "Deep Throat" of the Watergate scandal) and I quickly became engrossed.

Endeavour - Still enjoying this series! I think we have one more episode in season four and then we'll have to wait for the release of season five, which hopefully won't be too much longer.

The Man Who Invented Christmas - Clever, sweet, nice glimpse into Charles Dickens' life as an emerging author. Dan Stevens and Christopher Plummer were thoroughly entertaining!

The Bridge - We're trying out a new Scandinavian series, which is gritty yet compelling. The lead characters are both flawed and I'm curious to learn more about their backgrounds. We watched episodes 1-3 of the first season. 

Love and Mercy - I didn't have high hopes for this biographical drama about Brian Wilson, but I grew up on The Beach Boys and loved their music, so I decided to give it a try. It didn't disappoint. John Cusack does a great job of portraying Brian Wilson as an adult.


Robin (of A Fondness for Reading) lives a few hours away from me, so we decided to meet up for lunch in McMinnville. We found a great restaurant (new to both of us) and had a lovely time visiting over our delicious salads.  After lunch, we strolled up and down the main street of McMinville, stopping for a little while in a yarn store and Third Street Books. (Too bad it isn't a little closer to home -- I would love to work there!) The weather couldn't have been any nicer and the spring flowers were gorgeous. We hope to make this a regular outing since we both enjoy each other's company so well. 


I am so happy to have found a place to ride our bikes that is not only close by, but near the beautiful Yaquina Bay Bridge, Yaquina Bay and the Oregon State University Hatfield Marine Science Center. The weather was cool, but sunny and there were a lot of people out crabbing from the docks and digging for clams along the bay. As we rode along the path that took us out to the wetlands, we saw several great blue heron which were probably fishing, as well. We also got to try out our awesome new bike rack (1Up), which came highly recommend by a bunch of Escape owners. I love how easy it is to load and secure the bikes and don't worry about them falling off behind us with every little bump in the road. 

Coming Soon! - I just learned about these new books by the authors of two of my all-time favorite books. I plan to buy these in hardcover. Whoohoo!

We are now four days into our road trip through Northern California, camping at the Benbow KOA for one last night. Tomorrow we head to Santa Rosa, followed by Bodega Bay, Carmichael, Red Bluff, then back up Hwy 101 to Benbow and Brookings. We're having a great time!

Click on images to enlarge them.

March 30, 2018

Looking Back - Their Fathers' God

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Their Father's God by O.E. Rolvaag
1983 Bison Books (first published in 1931)
Finished in September 1997
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Susie Doheny, an Irish Catholic, and Peder Holm, a Norwegian Lutheran, fall in love and marry in South Dakota in the 1890s. Soon their marriage is tested by drought, depression, and family bickering. Susie believes they are being tested by their fathers' God. Peder blames Susie for the timidity of her beliefs; Susie fears Peder's pride and skepticism. When political antagonism grows between the Norwegian and Irish immigrant communities, it threatens to split their marriage.

Against a backdrop of hard times, crisscrossed by Populists, antimonopolists, and schemers, Rölvaag brings the struggle of immigrants into the twentieth century. In Giants in the Earth the Holm family strained to wrest a homestead from the land. In Peder Victorious the American-born children searched for a new national identity, often defying the traditions their parents fought to uphold. In Their Fathers' God, Rölvaag's most soul-searching novel, the first-generation americans enter a world of ruthless competition in the midst of scarcity.

My Original Notes (1997):

OK, but not as good as Giants in the Earth. Rolvaag spent the entire book showing his readers how the conflict of an interfaith marriage can lead to destruction of that marriage. It was the Irish Catholic vs. Lutherans. Constant problems arose between the couple and they acted so juvenile throughout their marriage. I found the book boring and tiresome.

My Current Thoughts:

I must have been bound and determined to try the third in this series, in spite of not enjoying Peder Victorious (#2) as much as Giants in the Earth (#1).

March 29, 2018

Olympic Peninsula Trip - Day Twelve (Part One)

Thursday, September 28, 2017
Brinnon, Washington
Dosewallips State Park

We awoke fairly early (any time before 7:30 is early for us while camping) and I wonder if it was due to the road noise from Hwy. 101, which picked up with the morning traffic, or if I subconsciously wanted to spot some elk grazing nearby. Sadly, there were none to be seen and there wasn't a view of the sunrise either, so I decided to head across the highway to the day-use parking lot, which has a view of the Hood Canal. 

Still quiet in the campground, so we weren't the only ones to sleep late.

You can see the cabins in our loop, most of which were vacant during the week.

This shot gives you an idea of how much green space we had behind the trailer. It's a great site!

The sun was already up, but it was still very pretty. 

I walked through the dry camp area and down to the river, where I spotted TWO eagles perched in the tree with the nest! Of course, I didn't think to bring my good camera, but got a few shots with my phone.

I also spied a salmon swimming upstream to lay its eggs!

Found this nice site in the dry camp area, which would be great if you didn't need hookups. There were several others that looked like they would be nice, too. The ones along the river would be perfect once the salmon were gone. Pretty smelly while they're spawning.

Fun mural underneath the bridge leading back to the main campground.

Ah, the elk were nearby! After breakfast, we learned from another camper that the herd was back behind the ranger station, so I decided to go check it out (with the good camera in hand!). Sure enough, there were maybe 30 or so bedded down in the shade by the picnic tables. So cool to see them so close! I took a lot of shots and have culled them down to just a few.

At first glance, these guys almost look like large boulders behind the picnic tables.

You can easily see the strength in those legs and body! Roosevelt's cows weigh up to 600 lbs., while the bulls can reach 900 lbs. 

According to the Elk Network, the Roosevelt's Elk is the "largest in body size of all subspecies, but not antler size."
Roosevelt’s elk: Ghosts of the Jungle - Amidst the dark, looming cedars and firs lurks a large shadow of an animal. It’s the Roosevelt’s elk of the Pacific Northwest. These elk hide out in the thick coastal rainforests where they easily eluded early hunters. Roosevelt’s plump up on berry bushes and willows all winter, munching more grasses and small leafy plants in spring and summer giving them the largest bodies of any elk. They also have the darkest coats, which help them blend into their shady environment.

I was definitely being watched and took all of these photos with a zoom lens. 

I decided to head back to the river to see if the eagles were still around, which they weren't, so I headed back to the trailer. 

I took my journal and laptop out to the picnic table to join Rod, who was busy working on an editing project. It was so lovely to sit and relax outside. I even read for a little while (Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck), before fixing lunch. It was a great morning!