June 30, 2019

Faywood, NM (City of Rocks) to Willcox, AZ

Sunday, October 7, 2018
Faywood, New Mexico to Willcox, Arizona
Grande Vista RV Park
Distance: 165  miles
Cost: $40
Duration: 1 night
Weather: Humid and stormy

We woke to a cloudy morning with a storm brewing off in the distance. After checking the weather report, it looked like we were in for some wind and thunderstorms on our drive west. I walked around the park before breakfast, feeling sad that we had to leave such a cool campground. One more day would have been nice.

Another pretty view out our bedroom window.

Here comes the sun!

We hit the road before 10:00 and it was very windy! We saw lots of signs along the highway, warning of high winds and dust storms. We only had to travel 165 miles, but it was a stressful drive. We stopped for some beef jerky, but the rest of the drive was pretty boring (when I wasn't terrified of being blown off the road!). 

Pretty ominous clouds in the rear view mirror.

 Welcome to Arizona!

 Dust beginning to blow on the left side of the highway.

Thankfully, we didn't have to worry about anyone slamming into the back of us in a dust storm! Phew.

Getting closer to San Diego!

We arrived at the RV park mid-afternoon and didn't do much of anything other than relax and read. The sky got very dark, but we only had a few sprinkles, although the temperature dropped quite a bit, which was nice. 

Grande Vista RV Park isn't anything special, especially for $40 a night. Full-hookups, level gravel pads, showers, laundry, WiFi, picnic tables, but not terribly attractive. Good for an overnight, but I wouldn't want to stay any longer.

June 29, 2019

Dear Mrs. Bird

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
2018 Scribner
Finished on June 27, 2019
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

A charming, irresistible debut novel set in London during World War II about an adventurous young woman who becomes a secret advice columnist—a warm, funny, and enormously moving story for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Lilac Girls.

London 1940, bombs are falling. Emmy Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent seem suddenly achievable. But the job turns out to be typist to the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.

Mrs Bird is very clear: Any letters containing Unpleasantness—must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant letters from women who are lonely, may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men and found themselves in trouble, or who can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she is unable to resist responding. As the German planes make their nightly raids, and London picks up the smoldering pieces each morning, Emmy secretly begins to write letters back to the women of all ages who have spilled out their troubles.

Prepare to fall head over heels with Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, who are spirited and gutsy, even in the face of events that bring a terrible blow. As the bombs continue to fall, the irrepressible Emmy keeps writing, and readers are transformed by AJ Pearce’s hilarious, heartwarming, and enormously moving tale of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and ordinary people in extraordinary times.

I wish I could remember where I first read about this novel, as I would like to go back and read whatever it was that inspired me to buy a copy for my mom for Christmas last year. I was eager to read it once she was finished and after seeing that it was recommended to fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Lilac Girls, I was looking forward to a great read. Unfortunately, it was all I could do to finish Pearce's trite story. The writing lacks depth and the overabundant use of capitalized phrases (Bunty said rather too quickly that the army always let you know if something awful had happened so No News Is Good News and then Bill took up the baton and said Don't You Worry, Emmy, Edmund is Made of Very Stern Stuff) was not only a distraction but an annoying method to emphasize a thought or statement. Too sweet, too predictable and dare I say too boring. I couldn't wait to finish and move on to something more compelling.

June 28, 2019

Looking Back - Your Oasis on Flame Lake

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.

Your Oasis on Flame Lake by Lorna Landvik
1998 Ballantine Books
Finished in August 1998
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Best friends fast approaching forty in the small Minnesota town of Flame Lake, Devera and BiDi were recently voted "Least Changed" at their twentieth high school reunion- a label neither one finds very appealing. For each craves a change in her life: Devera desires a break from her humdrum marital routine; BiDi longs to reconnect with her distant fourteen-year-old daughter (the only girl on the high school hockey team), not to mention jump-start a sex drive stuck in neutral. So when Devera's husband decides to fulfill his longtime dream of opening a nightclub in his basement, Your Oasis on Flame Lake arrives not a moment too soon. Nothing fancy, it is just a BYOB joint where you can hang out, sing, dance, tell jokes, and be yourself. But then an unexpected crisis throws both families into chaos, forcing them all to take stock of their lives and learn the power of forgiveness.

My Original Notes (1998):

This is a great book! Even better than Patty Jane's House of Curl. Wonderful characters. It reminded me a little bit of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Funny and sad. I'll certainly read her next book!

My Current Thoughts:

I'm surprised that I have no memory of this novel, in spite of my high rating. I don't own a copy of the book anymore, but it might be fun to listen to it on audio especially since the author is the reader.

June 25, 2019

The Beautiful Mystery

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #8
2012 Minotaur Books
Finished on June 23, 2019
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Québec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as "the beautiful mystery."

But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery's massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. But before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.

(Photo Credit: Author's Website)

(Photo Credit: Author's Website)

(Photo Credit: Author's Website)

After I finished reading A Trick of the Light, I thought I would take a short break from this series, but the pull to read the next installment in Louise Penny's Inspector Armand Gamache series was too great and I couldn't resist the temptation to continue with my binge reading of these wonderful books.

As always, the writing is exquisite. 
Armand Gamache had expected to need a few moments to adjust to the dark interior. He hadn't expected that he'd need to adjust to the light.
Far from being dim, the interior was luminous.
A long wide corridor of gray stones opened up ahead of them, ending in a closed door at the far end. But what struck the Chief, what must have struck every man, every monk, who entered those doors for centuries, was the light.
The corridor was filled with rainbows. Giddy prisms. Bouncing off the hard stone walls. Pooling on the slate floors. They shifted and merged and separated, as though alive.
The Chief Inspector knew his mouth had dropped open, but he didn't care. He'd never, in a life of seeing many astonishing things, seen anything quite like this. It was like walking into joy. 
One after another, the monks walked in, singing. Frere Simon. Frere Raymond. And then, at last, Frere Luc.
And everything changed. His voice, not a tenor, not a baritone. Neither, yet both, joined the rest. And suddenly the individual voices, the individual notes were connected. Joined. Held in an embrace, as though the neumes had lengthened and become arms. and were holding each monk and each man listening.
 It became whole. No more wounds. No more damage. The holes became whole. The damage repaired.
Frere Luc sang the simple chant, simply. No histrionics. No hysteria. But with a passion and fullness of spirit that Gamache hadn't noticed before. It was as though the young monk was free. And being freed, he gave new life to the gliding, soaring neumes.
Gamache listened, struck dumb by the beautify of it. By the way the voices claimed not just his head, but his heart. His arms, his legs, his hands. The scar on his head, and his chest, and the tremble in his hand.
The music held him. Safe. And whole.
Frere Luc's voice had done that. The others, alone, were magnificent. But Frere Luc elevated them to the Divine. What had he told Gamache? I am the harmony. It seemed the simple truth.
Beside Gamache on the bench, Jean-Guy Beauvoir had closed his eyes, and felt himself slip away to that familiar world, where nothing mattered. There was no more pain, no more ache. No more uncertainty.
Everything would be fine.
And then, the music stopped. The last note died away. And there was silence. 
I was quickly drawn into the mystery and setting, happy to be back in the company of Gamache and Beauvior, both of whom continue to struggle with their own demons from a previous situation. However, as the story progressed, I found that I missed the characters from Three Pines and hoped the detectives would have reason to return. The narrative lost some of its tension midway through the novel, but eventually picked up again toward the latter part of the book. Ending with a bit of a cliffhanger, I'm eager to move forward and start reading How the Light Gets In. I'm also planning to do some further reading (and Youtube searches) on the Benedictine and Gilbertine monks and Gregorian chants, which sound very soothing and meditative. I wonder if the audio book includes any chants and especially look forward to re-reading this book on audio.

June 21, 2019

Looking Back - Babyhood

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.

Babyhood by Paul Reiser
1997 Avon
Finished in August 1998
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

The classic New York Times bestseller from actor/comedian Paul Reiser, a book that the San Francisco Chronicle calls “an out-loud laugh on every page,” is now available in trade paperback for the very first time. For fans of Reiser’s long-running sitcom Mad About You, with Helen Hunt and Hank Azaria, for readers of comic memoirs like Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and “for the couple considering parenthood as well as for parents who are decades past their days of diaper changing…this book hits home and hits the funnybone" (Chicago Tribune).

My Original Notes (1998):

Good, but not nearly as funny as Couplehood. I didn't laugh as much.

My Current Thoughts:

Certainly not a book I care to read again, especially since it wasn't as humorous as its predecessor. 

June 17, 2019

A Trick of the LIght

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #7
2011 Minotaur Books
Finished on June 15, 2019
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

"Hearts are broken," Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. "Sweet relationships are dead."

But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow's garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara's solo show at the famed Musee in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Surete du Quebec, is called to the tiny Quebec village and there he finds the art world gathered, and with it a world of shading and nuance, a world of shadow and light. Where nothing is as it seems. Behind every smile there lurks a sneers. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart. And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they've found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light.

Another very good mystery by Louise Penny. I may have liked it a little better had I not just finished Bury Your Dead, which was outstanding. This one wasn't as suspenseful, but Penny's dry wit, particularly with Ruth Zardo's character, was top-notch in this installment. I laughed out loud several times! This is a highly addictive series, and as tempted as I am to grab the next book, I'm going to take a short break so that the individual plots remain separate in my memory. 

June 15, 2019

City of Rocks SP - Faywood, NM

Saturday, October 6, 2018
City of Rocks State Park
Faywood, New Mexico

Other than some coyotes yipping nearby, it was a very quiet night. The sunrise was lovely so I headed out for an early walk to take some pictures. 

This rabbit was much larger than he looks!

The view out our back window.

A few sites with electric & water. 
We preferred our spot, hidden in the rocks.

Cows grazing in the distance.

Had a nice chat with the owner of this Escape.

Love these trees!

Believe it or not, this is a botanical garden!

I wish I could share pictures of the beautiful dark sky, full of more stars than I have ever seen. I spotted two shooting stars while gazing up at the sky. It was the perfect ending to a very peaceful day.