July 31, 2023

Thank You for Listening


Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan
2022 HarperAudio
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Finished on July 28, 2023
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger.

On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her.

As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.

If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.

From the author of My Oxford Year, Julia Whelan’s uplifting novel tells the story of a former actress turned successful audiobook narrator—who has lost sight of her dreams after a tragic accident—and her journey of self-discovery, love, and acceptance when she agrees to narrate one last romance novel.

I rarely read romance novels, but this month I wound up reading two simultaneously! The tropes aren't exactly the same as those in The Lost and Found Bookshop, but as I listened to Whelan's novel I had to remind myself which characters were in her book and which were in Susan Wiggs'. Both protagonists struggle with the age-old question of "Should I stay or should I go?" and both stories include an aging grandparent with dementia. I'm a big fan of books narrated by Julia Whelan and it was fun listening to her read her own novel, which she swears is not autobiographical despite similarities to her own life and career. In spite of the over-abundance of tropes and predictability (and a couple of steamy sex scenes), Whelan's book has more substance than Wiggs'. It was fun getting a glimpse into audiobook production, and there's nothing better than laughing out loud while listening to a book. Recommend!

July 29, 2023

The Lost and Found Bookshop


The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs
Bella Vista Chronicles #3
2020 William Morrow
Finished on July 27, 2023
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

There is a book for everything . . . 

Somewhere in the vast Library of the Universe, as Natalie thought of it, there was a book that embodied exactly the things she was worrying about.

In the wake of a shocking tragedy, Natalie Harper inherits her mother’s charming but financially strapped bookshop in San Francisco. She also becomes caretaker for her ailing grandfather Andrew, her only living relative—not counting her scoundrel father. 

But the gruff, deeply kind Andrew has begun displaying signs of decline. Natalie thinks it’s best to move him to an assisted living facility to ensure the care he needs. To pay for it, she plans to close the bookstore and sell the derelict but valuable building on historic Perdita Street, which is in need of constant fixing. There’s only one problem–Grandpa Andrew owns the building and refuses to sell. Natalie adores her grandfather; she’ll do whatever it takes to make his final years happy. Besides, she loves the store and its books provide welcome solace for her overwhelming grief.

After she moves into the small studio apartment above the shop, Natalie carries out her grandfather’s request and hires contractor Peach Gallagher to do the necessary and ongoing repairs. His young daughter, Dorothy, also becomes a regular at the store, and she and Natalie begin reading together while Peach works.

To Natalie’s surprise, her sorrow begins to dissipate as her life becomes an unexpected journey of new connections, discoveries and revelations, from unearthing artifacts hidden in the bookshop’s walls, to discovering the truth about her family, her future, and her own heart.

Books about books (or bookstores) are always a big draw for me. The Lost and Found Bookshop is part contemporary fiction and part romance, the latter of which I rarely ever read, but this one caught my eye. I didn't think I had read anything by Susan Wiggs, but glancing at her title list, I remembered that I had read one (Table for Five) many years ago. Like Table for Five, Wiggs' more recent novel is predictable with familiar romantic tropes (single parent; love triangle; grieving lover) although there are some surprises sprinkled in here and there. Who doesn't enjoy literary references that have you adding more titles to your TBR list? Throw in the bookstore setting and it's a perfect brain-candy choice for a hectic summer. My only complaint is that the end of the story felt rushed, with a couple of jarring inconsistencies to Natalie's character, but overall, a decent read for the genre. 

July 18, 2023



Exiles by Jane Harper
Aaron Falk, #3
2023 Flatiron Books
Finished on July 17, 2023
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

At a busy festival site on a warm spring night, a baby lies alone in her pram, her mother vanishing into the crowds.

A year on, Kim Gillespie’s absence casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather deep in the heart of South Australian wine country to welcome a new addition to the family.

Joining the celebrations is federal investigator Aaron Falk. But as he soaks up life in the lush valley, he begins to suspect this tight-knit group may be more fractured than it seems.

Between Falk’s closest friend, a missing mother, and a woman he’s drawn to, dark questions linger as long-ago truths begin to emerge.

An outstanding novel, a brilliant mystery and a heart-pounding read from the author of The Dry, Force of Nature, The Lost Man and The Survivors.

I've read all of Jane Harper's books and I liked this one better than The Survivors, but not as much as The Dry or The Lost Man. Exiles is a very, very slow burn and I was tempted to give up (the plotting is tedious and lacks tension), but I eventually grew more interested, eager to see if my early assumptions were correct. If you're a patient reader, and have enjoyed Harper's earlier works, borrow this one from the library. It's not one I'll read twice.

July 14, 2023

Looking Back - The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

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 Simon & Schuster
Finished on January 11, 2002
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio introduces Evelyn Ryan, an enterprising woman who kept poverty at bay with wit, poetry, and perfect prose during the "contest era" of the 1950s and 1960s. Stepping back into a time when fledgling advertising agencies were active partners with consumers, and everyday people saw possibility in every coupon, Terry Ryan tells how her mother kept the family afloat by writing jingles and contest entries. Mom's winning ways defied the Church, her alcoholic husband, and antiquated views of housewives. To her, flouting convention was a small price to pay when it came to securing a happy home for her six sons and four daughters. Evelyn, who would surely be a Madison Avenue executive if she were working today, composed her jingles not in the boardroom, but at the ironing board.

By entering contests wherever she found them -- TV, radio, newspapers, direct-mail ads -- Evelyn Ryan was able to win every appliance her family ever owned, not to mention cars, television sets, bicycles, watches, a jukebox, and even trips to New York, Dallas, and Switzerland. But it wasn't just the winning that was miraculous; it was the timing. If a toaster died, one was sure to arrive in the mail from a forgotten contest. Days after the bank called in the second mortgage on the house, a call came from the Dr Pepper company: Evelyn was the grand-prize winner in its national contest -- and had won enough to pay the bank.

Graced with a rare appreciation for life's inherent hilarity, Evelyn turned every financial challenge into an opportunity for fun and profit. From her frenetic supermarket shopping spree -- worth $3,000 today -- to her clever entries worthy of Erma Bombeck, Dorothy Parker, and Ogden Nash, the story of this irrepressible woman whose talents reached far beyond her formidable verbal skills is told in The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio with an infectious joy that shows how a winning spirit will triumph over the poverty of circumstance.

My Original Thoughts (2002):

This started out so well! Laugh out loud humor. Strong narrative. I read the first 60 pages in less than an hour. Unfortunately, the book didn't maintain that intensity for the remaining pages. It was good, but not a great book. I thought it became repetitious and the humor wasn't as prevalent in the second half.

My Current Thoughts:

In addition to reading this memoir, I also watched the 2005 movie (starring Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson), which is based on the book. It was pretty good, as I recall. 

July 12, 2023

Deluxe Brewing Company - Albany, Oregon

Glacier National Park Road Trip (Fall 2022)
October 1, 2022
La Pine to Albany, Oregon
Daily Mileage: 161
Site: Boondocking
Duration: 1 night
Cost: Free (Harvest Host)
Weather: Sunny with light rain one morning (70s)

We could have made it home from La Pine in one day, but we wanted to hit the Costco in Albany, so we found a Harvest Host location for the final night of our trip. There were only two other RVs on site when we arrived, and we were able to park down toward the end of the parking area, which was quiet after the brewery closed for the night. 

Resurrection Pre-Prohibition Pilsner
 and a Dunkel Dark Lager



Bike Path and the Willamette River

Little did we know this guy was going to have a heart attack one week later (although, looking at that "dinner," I'm not sure why we were so surprised). Thank goodness we were home and not somewhere in the middle of nowhere!

July 11, 2023

La Pine State Park - La Pine, Oregon

Glacier National Park Road Trip (Fall 2022)
September 27-30, 2022
Burns to La Pine, Oregon
Daily Mileage: 194
Site: #114 (ideal sites #139 and #149)
Duration: 4 nights 
Cost: $26 per night + $8 reservation fee
Weather: Sunny with light rain one morning (70s)

It's always a little bittersweet to reach the tail end of a road trip, so we planned to spend four nights at one of our favorite campgrounds in Oregon. We got lunch in Bend the day we arrived, wandered around Sun River on another day, and met up with friends for lunch in Sisters. 

This was our second visit to this state park and we reserved the same site as last time. It's quite large with a lot of space between us and our neighbors. There's no WiFi in the park, but we were able to get a weak cell signal that we bumped up with our new WeBoost (cellular booster), resulting in 2 bars for Verizon and 1-2 for T-Mobile. The shower facilities were clean and private (individual rooms) with plenty of hot water (and no annoying push button to keep the water flowing). We had full hook-ups and the dump station is located at the entrance of the park. 

Note: The Costco in Bend does not have a fuel center. However, there is a Fred Meyer with a fuel center, but don't confuse it with Fred Meyers Road when loading the search in your GPS. (Ask me how I know...)

 Hwy 20 (Burns to Bend) is 
very straight & extremely windy!

Brewed Awakenings in Sunriver

Small inventory, 
but look at all those face-outs!

Found something I couldn't live without.

July 10, 2023

Crane Hot Springs - Burns, Oregon

Glacier National Park Road Trip (Fall 2022)
September 26, 2022
Garden City, Idaho to Burns, Oregon
Daily Mileage: 185
Site: Greenbelt #7 dry (6,7,8 dry all look great)
Duration: 1 nights 
Cost: $35.50/night
Weather: Sunny & hot (84 degrees)

A thousand miles from nowhere...

We were offered a dry (no hook-ups) site with a gravel (perfectly level!) pad, table and fire ring. For one night, it was perfect. The wide open views of the mountains in the distance, and the pretty pond with birds & ducks, made for a peaceful setting. The sunset, night sky, and sunrise were spectacular. 

We forgot to pack our swimsuits, so we weren't able to enjoy the hot springs, but they sure looked inviting. This area is pretty isolated, but the solitude and quiet make up for the dry, dusty area. The flies were obnoxious, but it didn't matter much, because it was too hot to sit outside until the sun went down anyway. 

Very peaceful morning with only the sound of the birds. We will definitely return.

July 9, 2023

Boise, Idaho - Daytrip

Glacier National Park Road Trip (Fall 2022)
Boise, Idaho Daytrip
September 25, 2022

After polling our friends on social media, we chose Big City Coffee in Boise for lunch and coffees. We were not disappointed! The restaurant is very popular (and noisy!), so we opted to eat outside. The flies were annoying, but the food was delicious.

Mexican Mocha for me!

We got one of their famous cinnamon rolls to take back to the RV to have for breakfast the next day. They were HUGE! Before I cut it up, this one was about the size of a styrofoam take-out container. We also got a peach pie scone that was devoured before I could get a picture. We would definitely return, if we're ever in Boise again.

Pretty artwork near Big City Coffee

Another friend recommended a visit to the World Center for Birds of Prey. We didn't get to watch one of the outdoor demonstrations, but I did meet a 3-year-old hawk-eagle, which was pretty cool.

I also got to see a Harpy Eagle, a Barred Owl, and a Peregrine Falcon. 

Fun day!