May 30, 2023

The House in the Cerulean Sea


2020 Macmillan Audio
Narrated by Daniel Henning
Finished on 5/27/2023    
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he's given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is another book that I've seen mentioned all over the blogosphere, Goodreads and Instagram. I decided to give the audiobook a try and enjoyed it pretty well, despite the storyline's predictability. I would have bet big money that Steve Rowley (author of The Guncle) was the narrator for the audiobook, but it's actually Daniel Henning. His sense of humor and sarcastic tone sound very much like that of Rowley's. The writing (particularly the humorous dialogue) also reminds me of Kevin Wilson's in Nothing To See Here.

I'm not sure if Klune's book lives up to all the hype, but it's entertaining and I enjoyed listening during my daily walks. The story is filled with numerous (and not-too-subtle) messages and life lessons about prejudice, intolerance, etc., which I feel was a little heavy-handed. Finally, there is some controversy about Klune's inspiration for the book, but I don't care to dive into that here. Feel free to click here and here for more on that issue.

May 29, 2023

RV Essentials

We've been traveling in our RV for almost six years and are about to embark on our first international road trip. Today we are back on the road, heading to Canada to explore Alberta and British Columbia with some of our RV friends. Cell service will be spotty, so I've drafted several posts to keep this blog alive while we're away. As you might remember, we took a trip to Glacier National Park last fall and yes, I have finally written about that wonderful trip. I plan to schedule those posts (all 22!) to go live while we're on this new trip, but due to lack of connectivity (or simply because we'll be busy having fun), I may not get to your comments in a timely fashion. My hope is to approve the comments when I can, but my replies may be delayed.

Kicking off this series of posts, I'll begin with photos of some of our travel essentials. 

This power supply is great when we're are boondocking (dry camping) and need to charge our phones, camera batteries, or run a fan (when we can't run the generator for the A/C). We keep it at home and it's come in handy during power outages, although it's not powerful enough to run a refrigerator. (And especially not an air fryer. Ask us how we know...) We use it for lights and keeping our devices charged.

Our daughter gave us this oscillating heater a few years ago and it's been great to have with us on our trips. The RV has a furnace, but it runs off of propane and since our electricity is free (while camping at a site with full hookups), why use up our propane if we don't have to? We never run this heater while we're sleeping, but it's great to take the morning chill off, especially in the bathroom.

Over the years, we've experimented with using an Instant Pot, a toaster oven, and an air fryer. The air fryer wins hands down. We prefer to grill outside, but when the weather is uncooperative, I can still get similar results with the air fryer. It's great for burgers, pork chops, salmon, chicken, and even steak. It's also good for tater tots, Trader Joe's hash brown patties, or simply reheating leftover pizza, nachos, or french fries.

We use an RV-specific Garmin GPS device, which takes into account the size and weight of our RV. It warns us of low bridges, steep grades, sharp curves, and traffic delays or accidents. I have our trip planned in RV Trip Wizard, but we rely on the GPS for the actual drive, which may differ slightly in the routing.

I've talked about RV Trip Wizard in other posts, but I have to mention again how helpful it is for planning our trips. Not only does it provide options for routes (and calculates the mileage, as well as when we need to look for a gas station), but I can also research campgrounds & RV parks (with reviews shared on RV Life Campgrounds), and points of interest for the entire trip.

I might have mentioned this book in the past, but it's worth adding to this list. It's been a lifesaver when it comes to having an awareness of steep grades and mountain passes that may or many not be suitable for RV travel. I've annotated my copy with reminders of how our RV handled a particular pass/grade, as well as notes from RV bloggers warning of dangerous situations and roads to avoid.

We used to haul (or buy) firewood & kindling every time we went camping, but the wood was often damp and we would wind up with a smoky fire. This propane fire ring is perfect! It puts out a lot of heat without the annoying smoke, and we can usually use it even where open fires are banned. 

We each have our "work stations," which we can easily stow away when it's time to eat. Rod has a new book contract, so it's important for him to have a place to write, even when we're on the road.

No explanation necessary. 

I'm sure my husband can add dozens of other essential items to this list, but these are my personal favorites.

May 28, 2023

The Housekeeper and the Professor


2009 Picador (first published in 2003)
Finished on May 23, 2023
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem--ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory.

She is an astute young Housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son, who is hired to care for him.

And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor’s mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities--like the Housekeeper’s shoe size--and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.

The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.

There was a lot of buzz about The Housekeeper and the Professor a decade or so ago. Many of my blogging friends raved about this thoughtful novel, and when I came across it while browsing in a favorite independent bookstore (Cloud & Leaf Bookstore in Manzanita, Oregon), I decided it was time to finally buy a copy. The book is only 180 pages, and can be read in a day or two, but I chose to savor this quiet novel, which is very readable despite the vast array of mathematical equations and formulas. You don't need to be a math whiz to enjoy this story, nor do you have to care about baseball, the latter of which was unexpected and an added bonus! 

As noted in the publisher's blurb, the Professor suffers from memory loss, living with only eighty minutes of memory. And yet, he is fully capable of solving (and teaching) complex mathematical equations, bringing him joy and comfort. 
Soon after I began working for the Professor, I realized that he talked about numbers whenever he was unsure of what to say or do. Numbers were also his way of reaching out to the world. They were safe, a source of comfort.
In addition to helping the Housekeeper's son with his homework, the Professor shares an interest in baseball with his new friends. None of the three have ever been to a game in person, so the Housekeeper decides to treat them to a Tigers game against Hiroshima. 
As we reached the top of the stairs that led to the seats above third base, all three of us let out a cry. The diamond in all its grandeur was laid out before us--the soft, dark earth of the infield, the spotless bases, the straight white lines, and the manicured grass. The evening sky seemed so close you could touch it, and at that moment, as if they had been awaiting our arrival, the lights came on. The stadium looked like a spaceship descended from the heavens.
I love it when a book forces me to slow down and pause, making me think more deeply about the actions and connections between characters. Not only did I feel this way about The Housekeeper and the Professor, but I noticed that I was reflecting on similar novels such as The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama (another lovely, quiet Japanese novel) and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Perhaps it's the tender bond that develops between strangers, kindness expressed, patience observed, ultimately growing into close friendships, or even love, that links these works of literary fiction. Or, maybe it's the simplicity of beautiful writing, not a single wasted word.

Highly recommend. I loved it.

May 27, 2023

20 Books of Summer - 2023


It's completely out of the question for me to resist Cathy's 20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge. This will be my fourth year participating and while I have a very busy summer ahead (a 5-1/2-week RV trip to Canada, plus two or three families coming to visit after our return), it's impossible for me to not put together a couple of stacks of potential reads for the upcoming months. Having specific books lined up for the challenge helps keep me focused, which is why I tend to look for older titles that have been lurking on my shelves for several years. This year I've chosen to combine mysteries with lighter novels, completely ignoring the top shelf of my TBR bookcase (which is overflowing with top recommendations from 2022--I'll get to those this fall!). I forgot to include audiobooks, but I'm sure a few of those will nudge their way into the final results. 

Have you read any of these? Which would you start with?

For past posts (and results) about this challenge, click here.

May 26, 2023

Looking Back - The House on Olive Street

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.

1999 Mira Books
Read in November 2001
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

The loss of their close friend draws four women together. And a summer spent sorting through personal effects offers the perfect challenge—and the perfect escape. 

Sable—Her bestselling novels have made her a star, but the woman who has everything, in fact, has nothing but a past she is desperate to hide.

Elly—The intellectual who has hidden herself within the walls of academia, afraid to admit she is tired of being alone. 

Barbara Ann—The talent behind twenty-six romance novels wakes up one day to discover she's lost control of her career, her sanity and her family. 

Beth—Her popular mysteries have become the only way she can fight against the secret tyranny of an abusive husband. 

In The House on Olive Street, away from their troubles, the four women discover something marvelous: themselves. And along the way they realize a dream. For, in telling the story of a remarkable woman, their own lives begin to change.

My Original Thoughts (2001):

Reminiscent of The Book Club (Mary Alice Monroe) and The Saving Graces (Patricia Gaffney). Self-discovery. Started out very "fluffy," but I warmed up to it. Perfect airplane read. Brain candy. Women's fiction.

My Current Thoughts:

There was a time when I read a lot of this sort of light fiction. Robyn Carr has quite a following, but her books hold no appeal for me at this point in my life.

May 23, 2023

No Two Persons


2023 St. Martin's Press
Finished on May 21, 2023
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

One book. Nine readers. Ten changed lives. New York Times bestselling author Erica Bauermeister’s No Two Persons is “a gloriously original celebration of fiction, and the ways it deepens our lives.”

That was the beauty of books, wasn’t it? They took you places you didn’t know you needed to go…

Alice has always wanted to be a writer. Her talent is innate, but her stories remain safe and detached, until a devastating event breaks her heart open, and she creates a stunning debut novel. Her words, in turn, find their way to readers, from a teenager hiding her homelessness, to a free diver pushing himself beyond endurance, an artist furious at the world around her, a bookseller in search of love, a widower rent by grief. Each one is drawn into Alice’s novel; each one discovers something different that alters their perspective, and presents new pathways forward for their lives.

Together, their stories reveal how books can affect us in the most beautiful and unexpected of ways—and how we are all more closely connected to one another than we might think.

Well, as the title states, no two persons read the same book. One of my blogging friends raved about Erica Bauermeister's latest novel, so I quickly made a request for it at my library. I was in the middle of another book when it arrived, so I let my mom read it first and she loved it. I enjoyed the novel and the premise of nine individuals encountering the same book, but it didn't live up to my expectations. While not a collection of short stories, the focus of each chapter is devoted to one of the main characters (with a hint of overlap between characters), and the impact of Alice's novel on their lives. 

I enjoyed the references to reading (do authors know how much these appeal to booklovers and that they'll probably quote them in their reviews?) and especially those mentioned by one of the characters who is a bookseller. There are so many aspects that I loved about working in a bookstore. One of my favorite jobs was spending time in Receiving where we unpacked and sorted all the incoming merchandise. The best day was always Tuesday (Laydown/Strict-on-Sale day) when we got to see all the new releases. I set displays with those new books and it always felt like Christmas.
If the back room was supposed to be a punishment, it never worked that way. In all the steps needed to take a story from writer to reader, the unpacking of a box in a bookstore was a ridiculously small one, and yet to Kit it always felt like being at a party where the books were the guests of honor. He liked to take each one from the box, raising it slightly in the air.

May I present the honorable Great Gatsby/Snow Child/Olive Kitteridge... 

On Remarkable Books:
It was something she would tell her son later, when he was learning to read himself--how your first read of an extraordinary book is something you can only experience once. The most fitting analogy might be losing one's virginity with the perfect partner--but that wasn't a comparison she was going to use with a four-year-old.

"It's like eating the best ice-cream cone of your life on a hot day," she told him. "You want to eat it fast, but have it never end." 

On Audiobook Narration:
A narrator has to be able to inhabit a myriad of ages and accents, both genders and all their various permutations, without ever relying on the visual of a crooked eyebrow, the mood enhancement of a musical score. And, unlike screenplays, where stage directions were generally clear and directions stood at the ready, a book required the narrator to hunt for clues.

I enjoyed No Two Persons, but it was a lighter read than I'd anticipated. I read the print edition, and I'll bet the audio is great with its full cast of narrators (Barrie Kreinik, Braden Wright, Carol Jacobanis, Cassandra Campbell, Gabra Zackman, George Newbern, Jesse Vilinsky, Max Meyers, Rachel L. Jacobs, and Stephen Graybill). 

May 21, 2023

The Pure in Heart


Simon Serrailler #2
2007 The Overlook Press (first published in 2005)
Finished on May 17, 2023
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A little boy is snatched as he stands with his satchel at the gate of his home, waiting for his lift to school. A severely handicapped young woman hovers between life and death. And an ex-con finds it impossible to go straight. The Pure in Heart is a crime novel arising from character and circumstances, about the psychology of crime, something more enthralling than plain thrillers or whodunits. In Lafferton, Serrailler's town, Susan Hill has brilliantly created a community with detail so sharp and true to life that readers feel that these people are their own neighbors and friends. But there is terror and evil in their very midst. There are no easy answers in The Pure of Heart, a magnificent novel about the realities of police work and the sometimes desperate humanity of family. Haunting and truthful, gripping and convincing, it is a thrilling achievement.

I recently re-read The Various Haunts of Men (the first in the Simon Serrailler series), and I plan to read all twelve installments over the course of a year. As with Deborah Crombie's Kincaid/James series, I've quickly come to care about Simon and his co-workers and extended family. The fictional cathedral community of Lafferton (as well as the cast of characters) is fully drawn, and as in Crombie's books, a detailed map of the town and surroundings is included in the endpapers. 

It took me a few chapters to get engrossed in the mystery, as various characters are introduced and their plights established, but once hooked, I couldn't put the book down, savoring the final chapters. I'm pleased to report that The Pure in Heart is equally as entertaining as The Various Haunts of Men. I'm eager to start The Risk of Darkness!

Note: I've only read two installments, but I strongly suggest that this series is read in order, unless the revelation of major spoilers isn't an issue.

May 19, 2023

Looking Back - Coldwater

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.

2001 Doubleday
Read in November 2001
Rating: 3/5 (OK)

Publisher's Blurb:

A beautiful and mesmerizing debut, Coldwater is the tale of three sisters, the dangers of isolation, and the explosive repercussions when seemingly absolute power is challenged.

Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Wolf live on Coldwater, a penal colony off the coast of Australia, where their father, Captain Wolf, rules the household with the same unyielding sternness he imposes on the inmates. The young women rarely venture beyond their corner of the island and meet no one but the prison guards. Their imaginations, however, know no boundaries, and together the three conjure up complex and magical lands. They vow to become novelists, dreaming of literary fame and of lives far from the harsh desolation of Coldwater.

As governor of the convict island, Captain Wolf is working on a masterpiece of his own–the perfect prison. His theories of prison management have proven remarkably effective: During his tenure, not one prisoner has escaped. The arrival of an unusual convict from famine-stricken Ireland seems an opportunity to create a model prisoner–until one of his daughters becomes obsessed with the handsome young man and the delicate balance the family has constructed is shaken beyond repair.

This remarkable story grew from the author’s lifelong curiosity about the Brontë sisters and their classic novels. Taking the few seeds that history reveals about Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Brontë, McConnochie has skillfully reimagined their lives and created a work of fiction as imbued with passion as their novels and as psychologically riveting as any contemporary thriller.

Mardi McConnochie’s first novel, told through the eyes of the Wolf sisters, is an unforgettable portrait of the love and fear, the trust and betrayal, and the potential for freedom in one extraordinary family.

My Original Thoughts (2001):

I'm savoring this one! Lots of passages I want to mark. Alternating POVs. Definitely a book I'd like to own to read again...Well, that's how I felt at the beginning of the book, but it fizzled out at the halfway mark. Flat characters. No connection to anyone. Easy to put down. 

My Current Thoughts:

It's too bad this wasn't a more even story, since I enjoyed the first chapters so well.

May 17, 2023

Wordless Wednesday

"Sailing by Starlight takes what could have easily be­come
 one more nondescript sailing-around-the-world tale 
and makes it into a thoroughly researched and well-written book 
that’s as much about problem-solving and strength of character
 as it is about adventure." 
(Sailing Magazine)

May 15, 2023



2010 Blackstone Audio (first published in 1965)
Narrated by Robin Field
Finished on May 14, 2023
Rating: 2/5 (OK)

Publisher's Blurb:

William Stoner is born at the end of the nineteenth century into a dirt-poor Missouri farming family. Sent to the state university to study agronomy, he instead falls in love with English literature and embraces a scholar’s life, so different from the hardscrabble existence he has known. And yet as the years pass, Stoner encounters a succession of disappointments: marriage into a “proper” family estranges him from his parents; his career is stymied; his wife and daughter turn coldly away from him; a transforming experience of new love ends under threat of scandal. Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude.

John Williams’s luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. William Stoner emerges from it not only as an archetypal American, but as an unlikely existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforgiving world.

It's been at least a decade since I first heard about Stoner, most likely by reading several reviews by fellow bloggers. I decided to give the audio production a try, and Robin Field does a decent job with the narration, but this may have been one to read in print; the melancholy tone is at times overwhelming, adding to the bleakness of the story. Stoner is a quiet novel, and while I came to care about the main character, the book failed to live up to my expectations. It brought to mind The Winter of Our Discontent (Steinbeck), and Stoner's neurotic wife, coincidentally, reminded me of Cathy, the despicable character in another Steinbeck novel, East of Eden

May 12, 2023

Looking Back - Skipping Christmas

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.

2001 Doubleday
Finished in November 2001
Rating: 2/5 (OK)

Publisher's Blurb:

Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded shops, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That's just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they'll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on the street without a rooftop Frosty the snowman; they won't be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren't even going to have a tree. They won't need one, because come December 25 they're setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences - and isn't half as easy as they'd imagined.

A classic tale for modern times, Skipping Christmas offers a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that has become part of our holiday tradition.

My Original Thoughts (2001):

Quick read, although at times tedious. Could have been condensed and still made its point. Another departure from Grisham's legal thrillers, yet not nearly as literary as A Painted House. Predictable, sentimental, and anti-climactic. Mediocre. I'm glad I didn't waste my money on this one.

My Current Thoughts:

Christmas can be very hectic and stressful, so I can see the appeal of skipping the holiday. We usually have a large gathering for Thanksgiving, but our Christmas celebration is low-key, which is kind of nice. As far as Grisham's book goes, if you're interested, borrow it from the library. It's not one I'll ever read again. 

May 9, 2023



2023 St. Martin's Press
Finished on May 2, 2023
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Maame (ma-meh) has many meanings in Twi but in my case, it means woman.

It’s fair to say that Maddie’s life in London is far from rewarding. With a mother who spends most of her time in Ghana (yet still somehow manages to be overbearing), Maddie is the primary caretaker for her father, who suffers from advanced stage Parkinson’s. At work, her boss is a nightmare and Maddie is tired of always being the only Black person in every meeting.

When her mum returns from her latest trip to Ghana, Maddie leaps at the chance to get out of the family home and finally start living. A self-acknowledged late bloomer, she’s ready to experience some important “firsts”: She finds a flat share, says yes to after-work drinks, pushes for more recognition in her career, and throws herself into the bewildering world of internet dating. But it's not long before tragedy strikes, forcing Maddie to face the true nature of her unconventional family, and the perils—and rewards—of putting her heart on the line.

Smart, funny, and deeply affecting, Jessica George's Maame deals with the themes of our time with humor and poignancy: from familial duty and racism, to female pleasure, the complexity of love, and the life-saving power of friendship. Most important, it explores what it feels like to be torn between two homes and cultures―and it celebrates finally being able to find where you belong.

I fell in love with Maame and wanted to reach through the pages and give Maddie a big hug and tell her it gets better. While her mother is busy living her own life in Ghana, and her older brother James has no time for family obligations, twenty-five-year-old Maddie is left alone to care for her ailing father who suffers from Parkinson's disease. Struggling with self-esteem issues, first dates as an adult, moving out of her family home and learning how to live with flatmates, as well as trying to establish herself as a valuable employee in the world of publishing, Maddie is overwhelmed with life. Fortunately, she has two friends whom she can lean on and who help her work through the challenges of life as a young adult. And, when all else fails, she relies on Google searches to fill in the gaps: How to prepare for a first date? Jobs with the happiest employees? What do you do when you've been fired? Back pain in mid-twenties? Why can't I sleep? Can you get pregnant if you're on the pill? Stages of grief?

On Love: 
"Many assume love is straightforward," Angelina continues, "when really it is the most complicated of things. There is a right way, a preferred way, for each individual, to love and be loved by someone--but there isn't only one way. I believe the difficulty of life has much to do with understanding and then navigating how the people you love both express and receive love themselves. It cannot be your responsibility, your burden, to reshape people into someone you'd like them to be. Ultimately, you must either accept a person for who they are, how they behave, how they express themselves emotionally, and find a healthy way to live with them, or let them go entirely. Either way, you must release yourself from that responsibility."
Maame is a wise and powerful story about family dynamics and first loves. It's an examination on grief, as well as finding a career that provides more than just a paycheck. Though at times heartbreaking, I enjoyed watching Maddie navigate her way through life's disappointments, as well as the joys, often laughing at her naive inner conversations as she learns how to stand up for herself.

Jessica George has penned a delightful story; I would have never guessed this is a debut novel! Highly recommend.

May 6, 2023

I Have Some Questions for You


2023 Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Narrated by Julia Whelan & JD Jackson
Finished on May 2, 2023
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A successful film professor and podcaster, Bodie Kane is content to forget her past—the family tragedy that marred her adolescence, her four largely miserable years at a New Hampshire boarding school, and the murder of her former roommate, Thalia Keith, in the spring of their senior year. Though the circumstances surrounding Thalia's death and the conviction of the school's athletic trainer, Omar Evans, are hotly debated online, Bodie prefers—needs—to let sleeping dogs lie.

But when the Granby School invites her back to teach a course, Bodie is inexorably drawn to the case and its increasingly apparent flaws. In their rush to convict Omar, did the school and the police overlook other suspects? Is the real killer still out there? As she falls down the very rabbit hole she was so determined to avoid, Bodie begins to wonder if she wasn't as much of an outsider at Granby as she'd thought—if, perhaps, back in 1995, she knew something that might have held the key to solving the case.

I wound up with audio editions of both The Great Believers and I Have Some Questions for You, courtesy of After reading several reviews for this latest novel of Rebecca Makkai's, and as one who likes to save the best for last, I decided to start with I Have Some Questions for You since many readers have mentioned that it isn't as good as her previous work. I was entertained and enjoyed the mystery, but it won't hit my "Best of 2023" list and I probably won't remember too many details with the passage of time. It's a long book (14 hours on audio), and while I never grew weary or bored with the story (as usual, Julia Whelan does a fine job with her narration), it didn't call to me at every waking moment. I certainly wouldn't categorize it as a thriller. I hope I haven't set my sights too high for Makkai's The Great Believers, which I understand it a meaty, literary work of fiction rather than a wanna-be crime novel.

I received a complimentary edition from All thoughts and opinions are my own.

May 5, 2023

Looking Back - The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LaBlanc

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.

2001 William Morrow
Finished in November 2001
Rating: 2/5 (OK)

Publisher's Blurb:

It's a steamy June afternoon in Louisiana, circa 1956, and Sissy LeBlanc is sitting on her front porch, wondering -- half seriously -- if she could kill herself with aspirins and Coca-Cola. She's been living in stifling old Gentry since the day she was born and trapped in a sham of a marriage to PeeWee LeBlanc since she was only seventeen. In short, she's fed up, restless, and ready for an adventure. Sissy just never imagined temptation would come into her life that breathless summer day as she sat smoking on her porch swing. For although she may have been fixated on the taut muscles of the lineman shimmying down the telephone pole across the street, she hadn't allowed herself to imagine that he'd be none other than her high school sweetheart, Parker Davidson, who left town fourteen years before without so much as a wave good-bye. But suddenly, here he is, leaning in for a kiss that will stir up more excitement than Sissy could ever have imagined...

My Original Thoughts (2001):

Picked this book up for its cover. I thought it was going to be another Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, but I was wrong! An easy read, but I spent the entire time wondering why I kept reading it. Don't recommend!

My Current Thoughts:

I'm glad I no longer feel compelled to finish a book I'm not enjoying. 

May 2, 2023

A Month in Summary - April 2023

Astoria, Oregon
April 2023

While many of you have already experienced summer-like weather, we are just now beginning to see temps in the upper 50s. After several months of rain (and more hail than we have ever seen here on the coast), the sun has finally stuck around long enough to dry things out. I even played pickleball on the outdoor courts yesterday for the first time!

It's been a busy month, but I managed to read seven books. Two were outstanding, two were very good, and the others were good, but not great. 

Books Read (click on the title for my review):

We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman (5/5)

Dinosaurs by Lydia Millet (4/5)

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen (3.5/5)

Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson (3/5)

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (4/5)

Recursion by Blake Crouch (5/5)

Go As a River by Shelley Read (3/5)

Movies & TV Series:

New Amsterdam (Season 4) - New cast members and creative writing keep this show from turning stale, but it does border on sappiness.

Deadly Seasons - 4 episodes. French with subtitles. Each case is solved at the end of the episode. Don't remember any of them! 

The Current War - I haven't read The Last Days of Night, but thoroughly enjoyed this movie about Edison, Westinghouse, and Tesla.

Dead Lucky - Enjoyable four-part Australian crime show. I hope to see a second season of this show. Fun fact: After watching the first episode, it finally dawned on me that Rachel Griffiths (who plays the lead) was in Six Feet Under.

The Night Agent - We enjoyed this series, but agree that it could have been half the length. Not the best acting, but some twists and one particularly surprising scene. 

Road Trips:

After our trip to Glacier National Park last fall, we parked the RV for the long, cold winter. With our upcoming road trip to Canada, we wanted to take a short trip in the RV to make sure everything was working properly, so we drove up to one of our favorite state parks (about 2 hours north of us) where we camped for four nights. The rain and wind were relentless, but we did have one afternoon of nice weather, which worked out well since we needed to drive a little further north to Astoria to make a Costco run. We also enjoyed a visit to the Columbia River Maritime Museum, followed by a good lunch at the Astoria Brewing Company. Heading home, we always make time to stop at Pacific Roots for mini-donuts along the Nehalem River. Delicious!


My mom turns 90 on Sunday! We hosted a gathering for her with friends and neighbors this past weekend, and I plan to share more photos later, but here are a few favorites.