June 30, 2024



Sandwich by Catherine Newman
Finished on June 27, 2024
Rating: 5/5 (Excellent)

Publisher's Blurb:

From the beloved author of We All Want Impossible Things, a moving, hilarious story of a family summer vacation full of secrets, lunch, and learning to let go.

For the past two decades, Rocky has looked forward to her family’s yearly escape to Cape Cod. Their humble beach-town rental has been the site of sweet memories, sunny days, great meals, and messes of all kinds: emotional, marital, and—thanks to the cottage’s ancient plumbing—septic too.

This year’s vacation, with Rocky sandwiched between her half-grown kids and fully aging parents, promises to be just as delightful as summers past—except, perhaps, for Rocky’s hormonal bouts of rage and melancholy. (Hello, menopause!) Her body is changing—her life is, too. And then a chain of events sends Rocky into the past, reliving both the tenderness and sorrow of a handful of long-ago summers.

It's one precious week: everything is in balance; everything is in flux. And when Rocky comes face to face with her family’s history and future, she is forced to accept that she can no longer hide her secrets from the people she loves.

I loved this novel! After reading We All Want Impossible Things last year, I couldn't wait for the release of Catherine Newman's new book, which came out earlier this month. I rarely buy newly published books, but I wasn't going to wait for this one to come out in paperback. I knew if I borrowed it from the library, I'd wind up buying a copy for a re-read anyway. My only regret is that it wasn't longer. Like Rocky, the week-long vacation with her family went far too quickly.
"It's only Monday!" I say. I say this every year. This is the part of our vacation where I feel like the week will never end. Like it's just going to stretch out luxuriously this way for the rest of time. It won't last, though. Later I'll cry, "How is it already Friday?" and everyone will nod and sigh because I ask this every year.
Coincidentally, I started reading Sandwich while my brother's family was visiting our coastal home for a full week. "How is it already Friday?" echoed my feelings as our week drew to a close. Newman's setting is vivid, and if I squint my mind's eye, I can almost imagine Rocky's vacation home here on our bluff in Little Whale Cove. Of course, instead of lobster dinners and mini-golf windmills, we have crab cakes and whale watching, but it's really not so different!

Little Whale Cove

Years ago, when I read Nora Ephron's hilarious book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, I had not quite reached the age to which she was referring, but I still enjoyed her essays, knowing my time would come when my wrinkled neck would annoy me. (Spoiler alert: It has!). Conversely, Newman's protagonist is in the middle of menopause, while thankfully, my experience of hot flashes and emotional outbursts ended over a decade ago.
I'm looking in the mirror at my hair. My hair! What on earth? It used to hang down in heavy, glossy waves, and now it sticks out of my head like a marshful of brittle autumn grasses. It is simultaneously coarse and weightless in a way that seems like an actual paradox, as if my scalp is extruding a combination of twine, nothing, and fine-grit sandpaper.
Despite the age difference, I found Rocky's thoughts and experiences relatable and validating. I also found her relationship with her two adult children, specifically with her twenty-something-year-old daughter, enviable, albeit not without its flaws.
And this may be the only reason we were put on this earth. To say to each other, I know how you feel. To say, Same. To say, I understand how hard it is to be a parent, a kid.
Followers of this blog know that my favorite genres are memoir and fiction, specifically those centered around family, marriage, mother-daughter relationships, and aging women. Sandwich checks all the boxes. As with We All Want Impossible Things, I found Newman's latest novel humorous and tender. Reading late in the night, I disturbed my husband's sleep as I laughed aloud on numerous occasions. 

I'm happy to have purchased a copy of the book for my keeper shelf and look forward to reading it again later this summer. Fans of Anna Quindlen, Joyce Maynard, Stewart O'Nan, Abigail Thomas, and Kelly Corrigan are sure to enjoy this gem. Highly recommend!

June 19, 2024

Meredith, Alone


Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander
Narrated by Freya Mavor
Finished on June 17, 2024
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Meredith Maggs has everything a person needs.

A best friend in Sadie.
A beloved cat in Fred.
Jigsaws to fill the time.
Recipes to perfect.
Even a weekly visit from the Tesco delivery guy.

So what if she hasn't left the house in 1,214 days? That her memories are treacherous, and it's getting harder to ignore the estranged sister knocking at her door.

How long can one woman keep the world out?
How long before she invites in what's out there?
And how long does it take to discover the person you were meant to be?

I really enjoyed this novel! At the heart of the story are Meredith and her sister, Fiona. Raised by a single mother who is incapable of love, throwing verbal abuse their way at every opportunity, both sisters are eager to leave home as soon as possible. Surprisingly, Meredith's awful childhood and upbringing isn't the source of her agoraphobia, although it isn't difficult to discern the cause, given several clues in the early chapters of the book.

Meredith is such a likeable, well-drawn character. I came to care about her, as well as her new friends, Tom and Celeste, who not only give her emotional support and confidence to overcome her situation, but also unconditional love, which she is so desperately in need of. The story's conclusion is not predictable or sappy, but ultimately hopeful and uplifting. Fans of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine are sure to enjoy this satisfying, character-driven story. And the audiobook is outstanding! I was eager to listen at every chance I had, and I fell in love with the narration by Freya Mavor, a Scottish actor with whom I'm not familiar. I look forward to Claire Alexander's second novel, which is due out in 2025. 


I received a complimentary copy from Libro.fm. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

June 16, 2024

Family Family


Family Family by Laurie Frankel
Finished on June 14, 2024
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

“Not all stories of adoption are stories of pain and regret. Not even most of them. Why don’t we ever get that movie?”

India Allwood grew up wanting to be an actor. Armed with a stack of index cards (for research/line memorization/make-shift confetti), she goes from awkward sixteen-year-old to Broadway ingenue to TV superhero.

Her new movie is a prestige picture about adoption, but its spin is the same old tired story of tragedy. India is an adoptive mom in real life though. She wants everyone to know there’s more to her family than pain and regret. So she does something you should never do—she tells a journalist the truth: it’s a bad movie.

Soon she’s at the center of a media storm, battling accusations from the press and the paparazzi, from protesters on the right and advocates on the left. Her twin ten-year-olds know they need help–and who better to call than family? But that’s where it gets really messy because India’s not just an adoptive mother…

The one thing she knows for sure is what makes a family isn’t blood. And it isn’t love. No matter how they’re formed, the truth about family is this: it's complicated.

I was so excited when I spotted a copy of Family Family, Laurie Frankel's latest novel on the new release shelf at my library. I had recently compiled my stack of books for the 20 Books of Summer Reading challenge, but decided to put that on pause so I could first read this highly anticipated book. Sadly, it wasn't the hit I had hoped for. 

The story starts off well, and I quickly came to enjoy the snappy dialogue between India and the supporting cast of characters. I was taken aback by the turn of events about halfway into the book, but happy for an unpredictable plot and interesting themes about the structure of families. At that point, though, the book began to bog down, became unrealistic, and what was once entertaining dialogue, became tiresome. (If you've watched The Gilmore Girls, India's conversations and behavior reminded me of Lorelai, who is entertaining, but exhausting.) I was ready to finish the book and move on to my next read.

Family Family is the third book of Frankel's that I've read in the past few years. Prior to this recent release, I read One Two Three, which was also a challenge to finish. The first, and my favorite, is still This Is How It Always Is. I gave that novel a perfect 5-star rating, and it's one that I look forward to reading again. I'm sorry her more recent works haven't lived up to my expectations.

June 14, 2024

Looking Back - Of Mice and Men

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.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Fiction - Classic
Finished on March 6, 2002
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

“I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why.”

They are an unlikely pair: George is "small and quick and dark of face"; Lennie, a man of tremendous size, has the mind of a young child. Yet they have formed a "family," clinging together in the face of loneliness and alienation. Laborers in California's dusty vegetable fields, they hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. But George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own.

While the powerlessness of the laboring class is a recurring theme in Steinbeck's work of the late 1930s, he narrowed his focus when composing Of Mice and Men, creating an intimate portrait of two men facing a world marked by petty tyranny, misunderstanding, jealousy, and callousness. But though the scope is narrow, the theme is universal: a friendship and a shared dream that makes an individual's existence meaningful.

A unique perspective on life's hardships, this story has achieved the status of timeless classic due to its remarkable success as a novel, a Broadway play, and three acclaimed films.
My Original Thoughts (2002):

I read this with the Banned Book Group (online). Quick novella. It's been awhile since I've read anything by Steinbeck. I enjoyed this straight-forward story about George & Lennie. I'm sure I read it in high school, but didn't remember any of the details except the scene with Lennie and the mouse.

My Current Thoughts:

I'm surprised I gave this book such a high rating. It's not one of my favorites by Steinbeck, and I doubt I'll read it again. Someday, I would like to make time to reread The Grapes of Wrath, though.

June 8, 2024

A Change of Circumstance


A Change of Circumstance by Susan Hill
Simon Serrailler #11
Finished on June 6, 2024
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

In this newest installment of Susan Hill’s electrifying crime series, Simon Serrailler finds himself in devastating new territory as a sophisticated drug network sets its sights on Lafferton.

Susan Hill is back with A Change of Circumstance, the eleventh book in the acclaimed mystery series featuring the enigmatic and brooding chief police inspector Simon Serrailler. DCS Serrailler has long regarded drugs ops in Lafferton as a waste of time. The small-time dealers picked up outside the local high school can’t—or won’t—turn in any valuable names, so they're merely given a fine and the trail runs cold. But when the body of a 22-year-old drug addict is found in neighboring Starley, the case pulls Serrailler into the underbelly of an elaborate drug running operation that pushes narcotics out from the cities, into the suburbs, and right down to villages. The foot soldiers? Vulnerable local kids like Brookie and Olivia, whose involvement gives Serrailler a bitter taste of this new landscape. It’s a harsh winter in Lafferton, and with struggles both at home and on the job, Serrailler soon learns that even the familiar can hold shocking surprises. . . .

With A Change of Circumstance, Hill delivers yet another gripping piece of the Serrailler canon. Written in the tradition of the fabulous mysteries of Ruth Rendell and P. D. James, this newest case is sure to enthrall new fans and surprise old ones in what is a captivating new addition to a highly acclaimed series.

I have spent the past year or so reading this entertaining series by Susan Hill and I am finally caught up. As with most mystery series (Louise Penny's, Deborah Crombie's, etc.), some installments are better than others. Regrettably, this most recent book was not my favorite. The first half of the book was plodding and uneven, and at times I grew weary of Simon's tortured inner thoughts about life and where he was heading. The mystery was fine, and as usual, the familial relationships played front and center, but even those left me bored and wanting more depth. Hill leaves her readers with yet another cliffhanger that had me shaking my head in frustration. It's been over two years since her last publication, and I can't help but wonder how many more she has remaining to write. Sadly, A Change of Circumstance was somewhat of a disappointment. 

June 6, 2024



Drowning: The Rescue of Flight 1421 by T.J. Newman
Narrated by Steven Weber and Laura Benanti
Finished on June 5, 2024
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Flight attendant turned New York Times bestselling author T. J. Newman—whose first book Falling was an instant #1 national bestseller and the biggest thriller debut of 2021—returns for her second book, an edge-of-your-seat thriller about a commercial jetliner that crashes into the ocean, and sinks to the bottom with passengers trapped inside, and the extraordinary rescue operation to save them.

Six minutes after takeoff, Flight 1421 crashes into the Pacific Ocean. During the evacuation, an engine explodes and the plane is flooded. Those still alive are forced to close the doors—but it’s too late. The plane sinks to the bottom with twelve passengers trapped inside.

More than two hundred feet below the surface, engineer Will Kent and his eleven-year-old daughter Shannon are waist-deep in water and fighting for their lives.

Their only chance at survival is an elite rescue team on the surface led by professional diver Chris Kent—Shannon’s mother and Will’s soon-to-be ex-wife—who must work together with Will to find a way to save their daughter and rescue the passengers from the sealed airplane, which is now teetering on the edge of an undersea cliff.

There’s not much time.

There’s even less air.

With devastating emotional power and heart-stopping suspense, Drowning is an unforgettable thriller about a family’s desperate fight to save themselves and the people trapped with them—against impossible odds.

Ugh. Once again, had I been reading the print edition of Drowning, I probably would have quit after a few pages, but since I was listening to the audio, I stuck it out and finished the book. On the other hand, maybe if I had been reading the print copy, the story wouldn't have felt so melodramatic and soap opera-ish. It didn't help that the second reader (Laura Benanti) was too emotive and that her voice grated on my nerves. (I also have a hard time believing an eleven-year-old with a peanut allergy would mistake a cracker with peanut butter for one with cheese...) 

I listened to Falling (T.J. Newman's debut) in 2021, and thought it was very good, but her latest suspense novel was a big disappointment. I don't plan to read her upcoming release, Worst Case Scenario, which comes out in August. I've had my fill of plane crash stories for a while.

I received a complimentary copy from Libro.fm. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

June 3, 2024

A Month in Summary - May 2024

Little Whale Cove
Depoe Bay, Oregon
May 2024

This is my most favorite time of year! The days are getting longer, the temps are getting warmer, the rain isn't as frequent, and between visitors, we're getting out for some short road trips. Life is good! Meanwhile, my reading is holding steady, and I'm excited about my summer reading plans. We'll see if I can actually read all 20 books on my list, but I'm hopeful! I enjoyed most of what I read in May, and was pleased that the book I chose to reread was as good the second time around.

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

The Road to Dalton by Shannon Bowring (4/5)

Devorgilla Days by Kathleen Hart (4/5)

The Women by Kristin Hannah (2/5)

The Hours by Michael Cunningham (4/5) - reread

Movies & TV Series:

The Gentlemen - Odd and violent, yet witty, this Tarantino-esque series was surprisingly good.

Sugar - We enjoyed this series! Unfortunately, I came across a spoiler early on, so be careful and skip all reviews if you want to be surprised. I hope there's going to be a second season. 

Why Didn't They Ask Evans - Entertaining series!

All the Light We Cannot See - I watched this by myself and initially wasn't impressed, but decided to stick with it. The last two episodes redeemed this four-episode mini-series from a complete disappointment, mainly due to the introduction of Hugh Laurie as Uncle Etienne. Nonetheless, the book was much better than this adaptation.


We celebrated two birthdays in May. Rod turned 72 and my mom turned 91!

Doesn't my mom look great?!


My aunt and uncle (Mom's brother) came out for a visit from Durham, N.C. and thankfully, the sun came out for part of their visit.

My brother and sister-in-law were here at the beginning of the month to help celebrate the birthdays, as well. This may be the first time I didn't take any photos while they were here! I did get a shot of this other visitor, however.


We spent the last week of May camping at one of our favorite parks on the Oregon Coast. Nehalem Bay State Park is only two hours from home, which makes it nice for a quick get-away. Our neighbors and camping buddies joined us for three of the four days we were there. Good times!

We missed the aurora borealis at the beginning of the month (I went back inside too early!), but I love this shot of Depoe Bay, which I took earlier that night. 

And, Rachel, who is always in our hearts...

February 17, 1981 to May 28, 2005

June 2, 2024

The Hours


The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Finished on May 29, 2024
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that became a motion picture starring Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman, directed by Stephen Daldry from a screenplay by David Hare.

Passionate, profound, and deeply moving, The Hours is the story of three women: Clarissa Vaughan, who one New York morning goes about planning a party in honor of a beloved friend; Laura Brown, who in a 1950s Los Angeles suburb slowly begins to feel the constraints of a perfect family and home; and Virginia Woolf, recuperating with her husband in a London suburb, and beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway. By the end of the novel, the stories have intertwined, and finally come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace, demonstrating Michael Cunningham's deep empathy for his characters as well as the extraordinary resonance of his prose. 

After reading Michael Cunningham's latest novel (Day) this past March, I was inspired to pick up my copy of The Hours (which I read in 2002) and give it a second reading. It was as enjoyable as the first time I read it, and I was just as surprised with the twist at the end of the novel as I was the first time around! I'm now eager to re-read Mrs Dalloway and re-watch the movie adaptation of The Hours, which as I recall was outstanding. I am also, once again, motivated to start reading The Measure of Life: Virginia Woolf's Last Years by Herbert Marder, which has languished on my shelves since 2007!