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.

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.

 

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!

 

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Title: The Silent Patient, Author: Alex Michaelides The Silent Patient. Finished 8-15-19, fiction, 4.25/5 stars, pub. 2019

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations–a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….  from Goodreads

I listened to the audio way back in August and realized I never shared my thoughts.  It’s been a while, but I still remember the story and the feelings.  This debut thriller was at times a bit boring, but my husband loved it so I continued listening so I could see what all the fuss was about and by the end I got all the buzz and was happy I stuck with it.

Theo is a strange man.  Alicia became a strange woman.  The story was told in a strange way.  All of these things give it extra points for originality.  The fact that I can remember almost all of the details over two months later gives it extra points too. All I know is that I kept thinking that I would not want Theo as my therapist because he seemed creepy, but since his wife was cheating on him I cut him some slack.  You should too and give this one a try, but once you start make sure you make it to the end.

 

Washington Square by Henry James

Title: Washington Square, Author: Henry James Washington Square. Finished 9-10-19, 4/5, classic, 199 pages, pub. 1880

The plot of Washington Square has the simplicity of old-fashioned melodrama: a plain-looking, good-hearted young woman, the only child of a rich widower, is pursued by a charming but unscrupulous man who seeks the wealth she will presumably inherit. On this premise, Henry James constructed one of his most memorable novels, a story in which love is answered with betrayal and loyalty leads inexorably to despair.”  from Goodreads

“Try and make a clever woman of her, Lavinia; I should like her to be a clever woman.”

Mrs. Penniman, at this, looked thoughtful a moment.  “My dear Austin,” she then inquired, “do you think it is better to be clever than to be good?”

“Good for what?” asked the Doctor.  “You are good for nothing unless you are clever.”

But, sadly, Catherine is not clever and never quite manages to gain the respect of her father no matter how much she tries.  She is quiet and meek, but a spinster.  In 1840’s New York City a 21 year old woman has been passed over quite a few times already, especially if her father is a well respected physician and she stands to inherit quite a bit of money someday.  So when Morris Townsend, a handsome family friend, pays attention to her, love comes quick for the young woman.

Dr. Sloper distrusts Morris immediately.  Morris finds that his charm doesn’t  work on the good doctor, but does exceedingly well with Catherine’s companion, her aunt Lavinia.  Catherine is torn between a handsome man and an overbearing one.  What lengths will the two men go to for Catherine’s affection and loyalty?

This slim classic tells a timeless story that is still being played out 140 years later.  Catherine was an unusual heroine given that she had no real sparkle or cleverness.  The end was somewhat unexpected and made me look at her in a different way and I appreciated that considering that I wanted to give a shake more than once while reading.  I liked this one quite a bit.

This is   my 29th selection for the Classics Club challenge.  I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.

Some Firsts

Last month when I read a book a day I decided to give a few series a try.  I read four and although I liked them all I will probably only continue with one or maybe two of them.

Naked in Death (In Death #1) Naked In Death by JD Robb. Finished 9-30-19, 4/5 stars, mystery, pub. 1995

First in the In Death series featuring Eve Dallas.

New York City in 2058 is fairly recognizable.  The skies are full of transports around town and to other planets, but the mechanics of human living are not so different.  Except that guns are no longer the killers they are today.    When guns show up in a new series of murders involving legal ‘companions’ it’s an anomaly and Eve Dallas, ten years in the force is faced with political pressure like she’s never known.  Passion like she’s never known too.

This was great for car listening and I look forward to more of Eve and Rourke.

Borderlands (Inspector Devl... Borderlands by Brian McGilloway. Finished 9-23-19, mystery, 4/5 stars, pub. 2007

First in the Inspector Devlin series.

A girl’s body is found in the borderlands, and area between north and south Ireland where jurisdiction can go either way.  When Inspector Devlin gets the case he must sort through a lot of suspects and events from 30 years ago that touch way too close to home.  He’s has a bit of a roving eye (and lips) but his wife seems able to overlook it, bless her.  The mystery was complicated, but good.

I liked it, but it reminded me a bit too much of the Inspector Rebus series to continue with right now.  (Yes, this is Ireland and Rebus is Scotland, but they feel similar)

A Share in Death (Duncan Ki... A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie.  Finished 9-26-29, 3.5/5, mystery, pub. 1993

First in the Kincaid and James mystery series.

Duncan Kincaid is a Scotland Yard Superintendent, something he wants to keep quiet on his vacation to a Yorkshire timeshare.  But, as sometimes happens, a man is electrocuted in a hot tub and Kincaid is first on the scene.  And while he’s looking into that another person is killed and he’s living in a house of suspects.  He calls is his assistant, Gemma James, for some long distance help and the two try and figure it out before someone else gets murdered.

It was fun and it’s possible I continue, but I may try and read the print if I do and see if I like it better.  There were a lot of people to keep track while I was driving.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox ... The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson. Finished 9-14-19, 3.5/5 stars, YA, 265 pages, pub. 2008

First in the Jenna Fox Chronicles

Jenna is 17 and has just woken from a coma.  She is at home in California, but she has no memory.  Her dad is across the country, her grandmother seems to dislike her a great deal and her mother wants her to watch videos from when she was a child to see if she can remember.  This book addressed a lot of issues about what it means to be human and what a parent would do to keep their child alive.  Is this where we are headed in the future?  It seems like many of these questions are being played out in real life so it’s possible.

I’m glad I read it, but don’t have a desire to continue and even wonder how it could continue given the ending.

 

 

 

Inspector Rebus

Last year I read Knots and Crosses, the first Inspector Rebus mystery and really fell in love with the dark side of Edinburgh.  I loved Rebus as well, but was concerned about his health, mental and physical.  Then author Ian Rankin came to town and charmed me into reading the next in the series, Hide and Seek and, well, a fan was born.  I actually thought both of these next in the series were better than the first two.

Tooth and Nail by Ian Rankin Tooth & Nail. Finished 9-2-19, 4.25/5 stars, mystery, 277 pages, pub. 1992

Inspector Rebus #3

Drafted down to the Big Smoke thanks to a supposed expertise in the modus operandi of serial killers, Inspector John Rebus is on a train south from Edinburgh. His Scotland Yard opposite number, George Flight, isn’t too happy at yet more interference. It’s bad enough having several Chief Inspectors on your back without being hounded at every turn by an upstart Jock. Rebus is going to have to deal with racial prejudice as well as the predations of a violent maniac. When he’s offered a serial killer profile of the Wolfman by an attractive lady psychologist, it’s too good an opportunity to turn down. But in finding an ally, he may have given his enemies an easy means of attack.   from Goodreads

It was fun see see Rebus take Edinburgh to London to track down a serial killer.  He also let himself get into a bit of hot water with a beautiful woman who has insinuated her way into the case.  I liked seeing Rebus form a friendship with one of the good guys and a real relationship with his distant daughter.

 

Strip Jack by Ian Rankin Strip Jack. Finished 9-13-19, 4.25/5 stars, mystery, 269 pages, pub. 1992

Inspector Rebus #4

When respected MP Gregor Jack is caught in a police raid on an Edinburgh brothel and his flamboyant wife Elizabeth suddenly disappears, John Rebus smells a set-up. And when Elizabeth’s badly beaten body is found, Rebus is suddenly up against a killer who holds all the cards..    from Goodreads

This one has a lot of connected people and their relationships held the key to figuring out what was behind the raid of a brothel that caused a pristine politician to be caught up in the snare.

Tommy and Tuppence

A few years ago I signed up for the reading challenge where I thought I was going to read all the Agatha Christie novels.  In order of publication.  Yes, 80 of them including her short story collections.  I didn’t get very far, but I remember reading the first Tommy and Tuppence book, The Secret Adversary, and loving it.  So, my own challenge to myself was to read the rest of those.  After reading two last month I only have one left.

Title: Partners in Crime (Tommy and Tuppence Series), Author: Agatha Christie Partners in Crime. Finished 9/2019, 4.25/5 stars, mystery, 347 pages, pub. 1929

Tommy and Tuppence Beresford were restless for adventure, so when they were asked to take over Blunt’s International Detective Agency, they leapt at the chance. After their triumphant recovery of a pink pearl, intriguing cases kept on coming their way: a stabbing on Sunningdale golf course; cryptic messages in the personal columns of newspapers; and even a box of poisoned chocolates.  from Goodreads

They’ve been married six years and Tuppence is bored.  Tommy still works for the agency, but Tuppence wants more out of her life.  And, out of nowhere, an opportunity to aid their country appears and the two become sleuths, ‘owners’ of their own detective agency.  This was a series of short mysteries they solved, each while taking on the persona of a classic detective.  It was fun.

Title: N or M? (Tommy and Tuppence Series), Author: Agatha Christie N or M. Finished 9/2019, 4.25/5 stars, mystery, 304 pages, pub. 1941

The final words of the dying man…the code names of Hitler’s most dangerous agents…the mysterious clue that sends Tommy and Tuppence to a seaside resort on a mission of wartime intelligence. But not as husband and wife. As strangers, meeting by chance, setting an elaborate trap for an elusive killer.  from Goodreads

Tommy and Tuppence are older, with grown children now.  Tommy is asked to go north to investigate potential wartime spies, solo this time.  Tuppence doesn’t take kindly to this and as Tommy arrived at the inn he finds her already ensconced with a new identity.  I loved the seaside inn setting and loved their kids having no clue as to how their parents serve their country.

 

 

The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose by Oprah Winfrey

Title: The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life's Direction and Purpose (B&N Exclusive Edition), Author: Oprah Winfrey The Path Made Clear. Finished 6-21-19, 4/5 stars, inspirational, pub. 2019

Unabridged audio read by Oprah Winfrey and so many others, including Thich Nhat Hanh, Eckhart Tolle, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Elizabeth Gilbert, Mitch Albom, Joe Biden, Goldie Hahn, John Bon Jovi, Stephen Colbert…  3 hours.

In her latest audiobook, The Path Made Clear, Oprah shares what she sees as a guide for activating your deepest vision of yourself, offering the framework for creating not just a life of success, but one of significance. The audiobook’s ten chapters are organized to help you recognize the important milestones along the road to self-discovery, laying out what you really need in order to achieve personal contentment, and what life’s detours are there to teach us.

Oprah opens each chapter by sharing her own key lessons and the personal stories that helped set the course for her best life. She then brings together wisdom and insights from luminaries in a wide array of fields, inspiring listeners to consider what they’re meant to do in the world and how to pursue it with passion and focus. These renowned figures share the greatest lessons from their own journeys toward a life filled with purpose.   from Goodreads

I loved this audio.  It was inspiring and thought-provoking and just a positive way to spend time in the car.  Oprah is the author, but she calls upon so many people to share their insight, sometimes as quip from a speech, other times in interview form.

Will it change your life?  Probably not.  But any one of the featured players may get you started on a new way of thinking and that can be a very powerful thing.  I loved hearing all the different voices.

If you like Oprah you’ll probably like this audio sampler (it’s only 3 hours after all).