The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

Title: Shadowy Horses, Author: Susanna Kearsley The Shadowy Horses. Finished 10-10-19, 4/5 stars, fiction, pub. 1997

Archaeologist Verity Grey is thrilled by the challenge of uncovering an ancient Roman campsite in a small Scottish village. But as soon as she arrives, she senses danger in the air. Her eccentric boss, Peter Quinnell, has spent his whole life searching for the resting place of the Ninth Roman Legion and is convinced he’s finally found it – not because of any scientific evidence, but because a local boy has ‘seen’ a Roman soldier walking in the fields.  from Goodreads

I fell in love with Susanna Kearsley’s storytelling with The Winter Sea which connected to The Firebird which is connected to this one.  They are all standalones, but you’ll recognize the Roman soldiers from this one in The Winter Sea and Robbie from this book appears all grown up in The Firebird.  Just go ahead and read them all (you know you want to).

Verity makes a temporary move from London to Eyemouth, Scotland, a border town with a rich history.  She is to help find evidence that the famed Ninth Roman Legion had been there.  Archeological digs are not that exciting when they’re just starting out, so the slower pace allows Verity to get a feel for the new place and the new people who will feel like family before all is said and done. While most of Kearsley’s stories have contained dual story lines, one in the past and one in the present, this one was different with just a modern story and one active ghost.

Kearsley is one of my favorites. I always enjoy the trip into her magical worlds. This one had history, mystery, danger, just a touch of romance, and some paranormal shenanigans. Do yourself a favor and give her a try.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Title: Ask Again, Yes, Author: Mary Beth Keane Ask Again, Yes.  Finished 9-11-19, 4.5/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2019

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, two rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne—sets the stage for the explosive events to come.

Ask Again, Yes is a deeply affecting exploration of the lifelong friendship and love that blossoms between Francis and Lena’s daughter, Kate, and Brian and Anne’s son, Peter. Luminous, heartbreaking, and redemptive, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story, while tested by echoes from the past, is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.    from Goodreads

It’s been two months since I read this book and amazingly I can still remember many of the details and exactly how it made me feel.  I read this for my book group and I did it in a day.  Not by choice but because I was reading a book a day at the time 🙂  This book left me feeling heavy, with a sense of sadness but also of hope.  I was happy that I set aside the whole day to read it because I really didn’t want to put it down once I started.

Two friends move to the suburbs and live next door to each other.  What sounds like a sweet deal actually puts distance between them as the wives do not get on well together.  On the other hand, their son and daughter do and this leads to trouble and tragedy.  What happens is an unraveling of everyone and their relationships too.  The rest of this family drama was filled with such honesty and real-life complexity that it it was hard to look away.

The story spans 40 years and is all encompassing.  What happens when a parent lets you down?  Or worse?  How can you learn to live and forgive after a life-changing event?  Would you even want to?  This is a story told with compassion about the extraordinarily ordinary family next door.  Loved it.

Mrs. Pollifax twice in a month

I first read Mrs. Pollifax at the urging of a book loving friend about two decades ago.   There are 14 Mrs. Pollifax books and with these two I’ve now read ten.  They are short and cozy and feature a woman in her 60’s that seems to be hitting her prime years as an asset to the CIA.  I just love these quaint books that take me to exotic locales but also to a bit of a simpler time.

Title: Mrs. Pollifax Pursued (Mrs. Pollifax Series #11), Author: Dorothy Gilman Mrs. Pollifax Pursued.  Finished 9-15-19, mystery, 3.5/5 stars, pub. 1995

Mrs. Pollifax series #11

The last thing Mrs. Pollifax expects to find in her closet is a young woman hiding. Kadi Hopkirk insists that that she’s being pursued by two men in a van. Under the cover of darkness, Mrs. P. tries to drive Kadi home to Manhattan, only to have a dark green sedan give them a run for their money and, Mrs. P. begins to suspect, their lives.

Finally Kadi shares the startling truth: her friend, Sammy, is the son of the assassinated president of an African country, and unbeknownst to the young man’s bodyguard, he passed her something important during a recent meeting. Ever resourceful, Mrs. P. puts in a call for help to her CIA colleague, Carstairs, who installs them in a safe house—at a carnival!   from Goodreads

Kadi sure is lucky that the house she chose to hide in belonged to Mrs. Pollifax who has friends in high places.  The carnival that served as their safe house was a lively addition to a mostly stateside story. As two stories intertwine Emily finds herself in the middle of a worldwide scandal and, as always, she proves she’s tough enough for the job.

Title: Mrs. Pollifax, Innocent Tourist (Mrs. Pollifax Series #13), Author: Dorothy Gilman Mrs. Pollifax, Innocent Tourist. Finished 10-20-19, mystery, 3.5/5 stars, pub. 1997

Mrs. Pollifax series #13

Working with her retired CIA friend John Farrell, Mrs. Pollifax must smuggle a manuscript out of Jordan, a document that encodes the shocking truth of Saddam Hussein’s reign.

Hardly are the two airborne when the coils of Middle Eastern intrigue begin to unwind. Mrs. Pollifax’s seatmate is not the affable Arab businessman he pretends to be. It is not imagination that persuades Mrs. P. that wherever they go, she and Farrell are followed. To elude their pursuers in such a politically volatile country isn’t easy. In fact, it can be downright deadly…     from Goodreads

I always love the different places that Mrs. Pollifax finds herself in and I was equally happy to find an old friend, John Farrell.  The two of them share a friendship borne out of danger, trust, and respect.  The Jordan setting was perfect for some insight into the people and the international stage.  Mrs. Pollifax is at her best when learning new things and engaging with new people.  I aspire to be just like her when I’m in my 60’s 🙂

 

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Title: Sarah, Plain and Tall, Author: Patricia MacLachlan Sarah, Plain and Tall.  Finished 9-19-19, 4.25/5 stars, kids classic, pub. 1985

Set in the late nineteenth century and told from young Anna’s point of view, Sarah, Plain and Tall tells the story of how Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton comes from Maine to the prairie to answer Papa’s advertisement for a wife and mother. Before Sarah arrives, Anna and her younger brother Caleb wait and wonder. Will Sarah be nice? Will she sing? Will she stay?

This children’s literature classic is perfect for fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books, historical fiction, and timeless stories using rich and beautiful language. Sarah, Plain and Tall gently explores themes of abandonment, loss and love.    from Goodreads

I picked up this Newbery Award winner because I needed some short classics for my challenge and I’m so happy that I did.  It gave me all of the feels of a different place and time and tugged at the motherly heartstrings.  I’m a city girl, always have been.  I like being surrounded by trees and neighbors and within walking distance to something social.  This book took me to a different place, a lonely yet beautiful place, where you only need a loving family and a bail of hay to make happy memories.

I had no idea until I finished that there are four more books about this sweet family and I’m looking forward to checking them out.  They are easy enough to read to Gage fairly quickly so I may give that a try too.

Loved this short kids classic and it’s   my 31th selection for the Classics Club challenge.  I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50. (Yes, I realize this is not going to happen, but I’m still pretending I can do it :))

 

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

Title: The Secrets We Kept, Author: Lara Prescott The Secrets We Kept. Finished 11-6-19, rating 4/5 stars, fiction, 344 pages, pub. 2019

At the height of the Cold War, two secretaries are pulled out of the typing pool at the CIA and given the assignment of a lifetime. Their mission: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, where no one dare publish it, and help Pasternak’s magnum opus make its way into print around the world. Glamorous and sophisticated Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world–using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, and under Sally’s tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents.

The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story—the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who was sent to the Gulag and inspired Zhivago’s heroine, Lara—with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk. From Pasternak’s country estate outside Moscow to the brutalities of the Gulag, from Washington, D.C. to Paris and Milan, The Secrets We Kept captures a watershed moment in the history of literature—told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail. And at the center of this unforgettable debut is the powerful belief that a piece of art can change the world.    from Goodreads

Are you a Dr. Zhivago fan?  If so this will fascinate you.  Never read or watched Dr. Zhivago?  It doesn’t matter – this novel is about so much more.  There was a time in the not too distant past that the United States government felt that great literature could change the world.  There were people devoted to making sure that books like Animal Farm, 1984 and yes, Dr. Zhivago made it into the hands of those behind the closed door of communist countries.  While Boris Pasternak’s epic novel was written in Russia it was not allowed to be printed there.

The 1950’s mission to get Dr. Zhivago out into the world is the stage but it’s really the stories of three women who carry the story.  In alternating chapters we hear from Olga, Pasternak’s mistress, who went to the Gulag for 3 years for her loyalty to the author, Sally, a seasoned CIA spy,  and Irina, who was chosen to do more than just type because of her Russian ancestry.  There was a fourth ‘narrator’, a woman from the typing pool who was able to fill in the details about the role of accomplished women in the CIA offices.

We read this for our book group last week and it led to great discussion about career women in the 50’s, the role of literature, hiding sexuality to keep your job, and many other issues that stemmed from these.  These women impressed me with their strength and intelligence.  I’m happy that I was able to read about this time in history when women were coming into their own and changing the world.  Now I need to go watch Dr. Zhivago again, or better yet read the book.

 

Let’s talk about Marianne

Any horror fans out there?  For some reason Jason and I have been drawn to them this past year, at least the series that run on Netflix.  We binged our way through The Haunting Of Hill House and recently made our way through the eight episode French horror series, Marianne, even quicker.  It’s not often that scary movies disturb me or disrupt my sleep, but for a few nights this woman did.

 In this scene she is taking teeth out of her mouth to wrap in some skin to send to Emma, a young bestselling author who has been making millions by writing about her extraordinary  experiences growing up in the small village of Elden.

Elden is not nice place.  When Emma returns it’s hard to know why so many of her childhood friends had stayed.  Emma herself is an outcast even though she’s earned much fame.  As her story unfolds you start to see the other side to the demanding, independent young woman and you start to root for her making it through Marianne’s antics.  Marianne is a very old witch.

We watched it because Stephen King recommended it and he wasn’t wrong.  The series was edge of your seat tense.  I thought the first half of the series was quite a bit better than the last few episodes, but if they come around for another season, I’m in!

Have you seen it?  Any other binge-worthy shows that you’ve seen lately?

October’s Movies

What about you?  What did you see this month that you’d recommend?

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Abominable (2019 poster).png Abominable, 2019 (Voices-Chloe Bennet, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, Tsai Chin, Michelle Wong)    Grade B+

Magical yeti loves his friends.

The Current War.png The Current War, 2019 (Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Katherine Waterston, Tom Holland, Tuppence Middleton, Matthew MacFayden, Nicholas Hoult)     Grade B

Edison, Westinghouse, Tesla electricity drama.

GeraldsGameFilm.jpg Gerald’s Game,  2017 (Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood)   Grade C

Sexy handcuffs can be boring.

Two worthwhile devotionals

As part of my year of healthy changes I’ve started reading a devotional book every morning.  Some are Christian, some just inspirational and yet others are in the Buddhism tradition.  Often I’ll start one and abandon it after a few days if it doesn’t speak to me, but these two I finished and was lifted up every day.

Title: My Soul in Silence Waits: Meditations on Psalm 62, Author: Margaret Guenther My Soul in Silence Waits: Meditations on Psalm 62 by Margaret Guenther. Finished 8-26-19, 4.25/5, 152 pages, pub. 2000

 In these reflections on Psalm 62 Margaret Guenther provides the foundation for a time of reflection and retreat without ever leaving home. The book’s first chapter introduces us to ways of making a retreat wherever we are, at a place apart or in the midst of our daily lives. Guenther then offers eight meditations on Psalm 62, with its themes of waiting on God’s presence with patience, trust, and expectation.   from Goodreads

I love devotional books that start with a verse or even story in the Bible and then expounds on what that means for my daily life.  I admit that I’m pretty picky because so many of these types of books do not inspire or cause me to grow, but this one did both.  Here’s something I marked from one of the eight chapters,

In the realm of enemy voices, fearfulness is a close relative of self-doubt and self-contempt.  We persuade ourselves that it is better to stick with the tried and true.  As the old Scottish saying puts it, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”  Change for the sake of change and risk for the sake of risk can be foolish and imprudent.  But unwillingness to stretch and risk and grow is also a kind of death wish.

Highly recommend it.

Title: Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, Author: Joan Chittister Illuminated Life:Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light by Joan Chittister.  Finished 9-30-19, 4/5, 143 pages, pub. 2000

So many of the books that I have loved this year have really centered on finding the magical and profound in every day.  From the introduction…

Religion is about rituals, about morals, about systems of thought, all of them good but all of them incomplete. Spirituality is about coming to consciousness of the sacred.  It is in that consciousness that perspective comes, that peace comes.  It is in that consciousness that a person comes to wholeness.  

This book chooses a theme for each letter of the alphabet, awareness, beauty, community, dailiness, enlightenment, faith, growth, humility, justice, kindness…  The beginning of each section is very short story followed by ways to bring true meaning into your life.  It focuses on the contemplatives and what we can do to understand not only God but our role in the universe.  I loved this one!

 

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

Title: Clock Dance (B&N Exclusive Edition), Author: Anne Tyler Clock Dance. Finished 8-15-19, 3.5/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2018

Unabridged audio 9 CDs narrated by Kimberly Farr

Willa Drake can count on one hand the defining moments of her life: when she was 11 and her mother disappeared, being proposed to at 21, the accident that would make her a widow at 41. At each of these moments, Willa ended up on a path laid out for her by others.

So when she receives a phone call telling her that her son’s ex-girlfriend has been shot and needs her help, she drops everything and flies across the country. The spur-of-the moment decision to look after this woman – and her nine-year-old daughter, and her dog — will lead Willa into uncharted territory. Surrounded by new and surprising neighbours, she is plunged into the rituals that make a community, and takes pleasure in the most unexpected things.    from Goodreads

I love stories that take a main character from one life to another.  Willa gets a phone call from a neighbor of her son’s ex-girlfriend asking for help and Willa…hops on a plane.  She is married and has two grown sons, but is unfulfilled.  She convinces her husband to fly across the country with her, but after an extreme amount of patience he decides to head back to his real life while Willa stays.  At first she stays because she is needed, but then continues to stay because she likes living in the small house with mother and daughter in a close knit neighborhood with interesting people.  I liked the relationships and the people, but Willa was hard for me.

I think Anne Tyler has a gift writing recognizable people, stories and relationships.  I always feel some spark of understanding who the people are in her books.  This one was mixed for me because while I liked everything else Willa’s motivation and choices were hard to accept as something that could happen.  And the end didn’t help anything in that regard.  If you like Tyler you’ll probably like this one, but it wasn’t one of my favorites.

 

 

 

What’s so great about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll?

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland.  Finished 9-30-19, classic, 3/5 stars, 175 pages, pub. 2015

Beautifully illustrated by Anna Bond.

It’s been 150 years since Lewis Carroll penned Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the story which has become a favorite of children and adults the world over. Now, in a deluxe hardcover edition from Puffin, Alice’s story comes to life for a whole new generation of readers through the colorful, whimsical artwork of Anna Bond, best known as the creative director and artistic inspiration behind the worldwide stationery and gift brand Rifle Paper Co. Lose yourself in Alice’s story as she tumbles down the rabbit hole, swims through her own pool of tears, and finds herself in a rather curious place called Wonderland. There, she’ll encounter the frantic White Rabbit, have a frustrating conversation with an eccentric caterpillar, and play croquette with the hot-headed Queen of Hearts. Follow Alice on her wild adventure through the eyes of the artist in this definitive gift edition.  from Goodreads

So, I’m continuing my curmudgeonly thoughts with another childhood classic.  Let me start by saying that I LOVED this edition.  Anna Bond’s illustrations were the only saving grace when I read this.  They were modern, colorful and fun.  None of which I am going to say about Alice.  Maybe you have to be a child or reading to a child to like this one?  Maybe I should try reading it to Gage to test this theory.  I found Alice to be a bit on the insufferable side, but I’m old (just had a birthday a few weeks ago that proves it).

You tell me, what’s so great about Alice?

This is   my 30th selection for the Classics Club challenge.  I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.